Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – Mission Unlikely

“Mission Unlikely” is the third episode of serial fiction set in Mundus Novit.

In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese. In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic.

Something very bad is happening.


Three: Mission Unlikely

Alex sat with his back to a wall, a good view of the street, and a stand with a potted plant offering some small cover should the shit hit. The canopy over the few tables in front of the small café shielded him from the sun. Things moved slow along Randall Street that day in Monrovia. The locals knew him pretty well. They didn’t stare at the Caucasian sipping coffee. They stared at the woman he had agreed to meet as she made her way toward him.

She moved on the side of the paved street, waves of heat rising from it. People lounged in front of the shops and patios, the businesses and warehouses. She moved with confidence, at a deliberate pace. If she noted the eyes that followed her, she made no indication of it.

Sitting at a rickety metal table on an equally worn metal chair, Alex wore comfortable clothes and hiking boots. His loose shirt hid the Para-Ordnance LDA autoloader pistol at his back. Within easy reach, the open rucksack on a chair at his right held his silenced Heckler & Koch MP7 personal defence weapon. He watched the woman approach from behind sunglasses. She stopped at his table .

He had been told she was a Korean-American. She certainly looked Asian, but big–stocky. She had a thick neck for a woman and broad, strong shoulders. Though she wore a loose jacket, he marked the pistol in a shoulder holster. He guessed a nine millimetre, probably a Glock.

“You asked me to come here,” he said. “Here I am.”

She brushed a loose strand of her dark hair away from her face. “What’s happening in Kathmandu? Boyle told me if things went south, I should contact you.”

Alexander Scott had to laugh. “Boyle was in Kathmandu? You haven’t heard from him, then?”

She shook her head. Alex gestured to an empty chair across from him. She still stood.

“You called me,” Alex said. “Remember?”

“I know, and I used the number Boyle left.” She looked away for a moment.

She would have so obvious a tell, would she? Alex reminded himself she wasn’t a trained operator. Not that kind of operator. He removed his sunglasses. “Don’t feel bad that you don’t trust me. Boyle told me he used to call you Becca for short.”

Her eyes returned to him, but there wasn’t much in there looking like trust.

“When he wanted to piss you off, he’d call you Becks. He said you hated that.”

She hovered for a moment longer, but finally Rebecca Park took the offered chair.

Alex sipped at his coffee. “He was in Kathmandu when this happened?”

“As far as I know, yeah.” Becca didn’t look at Alex. She clasped her hands on the table.

Putting down his cup, Alex leaned back. “If you’re not comfortable sharing this, leave it. Boyle was in Kathmandu, now he’s gone, and everything’s a mess. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Listen, it’s not that I don’t trust you, but . . .” Becca waved her hand, as if trying to dismiss a thought.

Alex put on his friendly smile, the one he used to put interrogation subjects at ease. “Becca, you don’t trust me. That’s fine. I’m not in that world any longer. I know a lot about you. I seem to be the only person Boyle speaks to. I mean really speaks to.”

That got her attention. “What do you know about me?”

“You mean other than the mundane?” Alex counted out facts on his fingers. “You’re a lieutenant with a combined NATO special operations force. You met Boyle during an op in Sarajevo that went farther south than the pole. Boyle has brought you in on missions in Algeria and Turkey. You killed a top ESPer in Shanghai last year. That saved Boyle’s life.”

He started counting down the fingers he held up. “You had a physically abusive relationship with a commanding officer before deployment to NATO. You’ve been exposed to the Oberon virus. You are very worried what it’s going to do to you. You look up to Boyle as a kind of father figure and mentor. Boyle thinks you have potential.” He paused, still pointing to the last finger that went down. “That one’s not really about you, more about Boyle.”

Becca’s eyebrows rose a fraction. “He talks about me that much?”

“He talks shop that much.” Alex shrugged. “Well, with me at least. No family. Piss all for a social life. We talk shop. He talked a lot about you, especially since Shanghai. Even for an Oberon, you had potential.”

She frowned. “Oberon increased my potential. I’m faster and stronger than ever before.”

“Maybe in the body.” Alex went for the theatrical and tapped his temple. “I’m talking about the mind. I don’t know what it is, but Oberon seems to mess people up. Schizophrenia? Meglomania? I don’t know what it is, but every Oberon effected I’ve met either wants to save the world or control it. They just aren’t normal people any more. Maybe it’s the power. You know the saying.”

“Maybe so.” Becca let out a slow, contemplative breath. “Maybe so. But maybe it’s because after Oberon, we can make a difference.”

“The world doesn’t need the ubermensch to effect change. People have been making a difference long before Oberon.”

She gestured to Alex with her chin. “And what about you? Aren’t you Oberon?”

His sly smile replaced his sincere. “I was different since birth. Took me a while to notice it. Took others longer. Did Boyle tell you anything about me?”

“Only that he trusted you.” She paused. She stared into his eyes. Trying to gauge him? Judge him? “That you were something special. Something dangerous.”

“Not someone dangerous?” Alex weighed his coffee cup in his grip. “Yeah, that’s how he’d say it. So where does that leave us?”

“On the way to Kathmandu.” Becca slipped an envelope across the table. “First class, of course.”

Alex took the envelope–flight tickets from Monrovia’s Roberts International to London and London to Delhi. “Bus from Delhi?”

“The only option these days. But we’ll be going in clean.”

“Maybe you will.” Alex slid the envelope back to her. “If Boyle told you anything about me, you’d know getting in and out of places is a speciality of mine. We can meet in Kathmandu. I know a place.” Taking out his notebook from his rucksack, he wrote the name and address of the tourist hostel, ripped out the page and handed it to her. “You know this is all being filmed and photographed, right? You know they’ll be tracking you the whole way.”

She leaned in, over the table. “Who is? Who’s ‘they’?”

“They’re your people.” Alex zipped up his rucksack, leaving it open enough to reach in and get his weapon. “They’re CIA or DIA, I don’t know which. I’m guessing someone from your unit as well. I tagged at least three teams, so there might be another player I missed. You’re AWOL, right?”

At least she didn’t turn around, didn’t try to seek out the watchers. She knew that much. Still, her eyes seemed a little vacant, her confident poise deflated a touch. “I’m on leave.”

He rose, dropped money for the coffee on the table. “What’s the point? What’s their interest?”

“I heard a rumour that there’s a kill order out for Boyle. I heard that, and I knew I had to get to him. ”

“And you were going to tell me this when?” Alex slipped his rucksack over his arm. He felt the weight of the MP7. If it came down to it, he was fairly certain he could shoot his way out. From what Boyle had said, Becca could as well. “Forget I asked. They follow you all the way from Germany?”

“Must have.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. “I figured they’d try to use me to find him,but I thought I’d lost them. Thought I’d dumped them in Conakry.”

“You came through Guinea? That’s a long haul. They must be pretty good.” Alex made a point to wave to each of the three teams he had tagged. He’d be really embarrassed if he missed one. “Right now they’re running me through the databases. And that should make them shit.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they won’t find anything.” Alex patted her shoulder as he left. “Don’t worry about it. Meet you in Kathmandu. Burn that note once you’ve memorized the information.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “The Bedouin.”

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – the Vault

The Vault is the second episode of serial fiction set in Mundus Novit.

In Dark Horizons – the Stream, a team of TANGIBLE STREAM clandestine contractors has an encounter with a group of locals that may or may not be working for the Chinese military. The STREAM parapsych is “ambushed,” but quick action by her team-mates shut the locals down. The STREAM contractors go to ground, sensing something has gone wrong.


Two: The Vault

“Kathmandu’s gone dark.”

The statement made Heather mentally freeze. After a heartbeat, she blurted out the first question that came to her. “What the hell do you mean, dark?”

Madison smiled his annoying little smile of superiority. A lot of the staff in the Vault were smart, some of them geniuses, but Madison also had an uncanny knack for understanding complex situations; how they developed, how they evolved, and how they inevitably exploded. He had always been marked as someone special. Everyone wanted him, and he had decided he wanted  the Vault.

He gestured to her monitor. “Call it up.”

Heather stared hard at him for a moment. He had a dry sense of humour that few in the Vault really appreciated. Was this a joke? He seemed sincere. She turned to the docked laptop hidden by the mountains of files in her cramped office. She clicked a couple of times on her mouse, bringing up the area then the city.

Nothing. No traffic. No radio, no cellphone, no transmissions of any sort. She glanced out the glass doors to the operations centre. Nepal was up on the big screen. Activity everywhere it should have been except for a big black hole around Katmandu.

“All those satellite dishes suddenly cried out in terror as they were suddenly silenced.” Madison was an unabashed geek as well.

Unlike the rest of the Communications Security Establishment–and the Canadian intelligence community–the Vault monitored more than just wave transmissions. With a third click, Heather brought up the psy-count. Dark as well.

“We know there are psych-assets in Kathmandu?” Heather knew the answer, but she had to ask.

“Absolutely.” Madison moved around to her side of the desk. He leaned. “Just before darkness fell, we were tracking at least seven assets in the area. We had one tagged TANGIBLE STREAM.”

“Perfect.” Heather rubbed her forehead.

The Vault had tagged a specific psychic frequency–one of the ESPers actually called it a perfume–a kind of signature that had been linked three times to actions in which the operators from TANGIBLE STREAM were implicated. Defence Intelligence had first brought the STREAM to the Vault’s attention, but they didn’t have much. And who had fed DI the STREAM information? Best guess was the CIA, but everyone in the secrets business was busy keeping secrets, even when it was counter-productive, so no one knew for certain.

If anyone really knew what TANGIBLE STREAM was, other than a rumour and a ghost, they weren’t saying. DI considered the STREAM a black ops, wetwork unit, specific for post-humans–anything from ESPers to enhanced. Of the three known STREAM cases, one had ended in the death of a post-human freelance assassin–physically enhanced by the Oberon virus.

And Kathmandu goes black after TANGIBLE STREAM, the reputed Oberon killers, arrive.

“Absolutely perfect.” Heather covered her eyes.

“Yeah, then this.” Madison dropped a thin file folder onto her desk. “CIA is shouting to anyone that’ll listen that they want some guy named Boyle–important to the CIA but otherwise invisible. Boyle was in Kathmandu. We think he was with the STREAM sig we were tracking. Then, bang! Darkness. And the CIA wants his head.”

Heather scanned the files. Again the information had come through the office of the Chief of Defence Intelligence. CDI answered to the same boss as CSE, but the two still competed. “So why is everyone so generous today?”

Madison tapped the top of the page. “Keep reading.”

Heather skewered Madison with her most threatening glare. She didn’t like what she read and didn’t believe it. “Mads, tell me this is a joke.”

“Nothing of the sort.” Madison raised his hand to halt her. “I had nothing to do with this.”

“Secondment to some kind of special forces team?” Heather shook her head. “It’s been a long time since you’ve been in the field.”

“Me?” Madison chuckled. “Read to the end.”

“You’ve gotta be shitting me.” Heather closed the folder. She sat back in her chair. “You have got to be shitting me. Why me?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Madison looked around her room with a theatrical display of innocence. “A decade in the military with all sorts of crazy training the boys didn’t think a girl could handle and then becoming a top intelligence analyst.” Madison gave her a wink. “And here’s a chance to show the boy’s club that they were wrong, that a girl can take all their names and kick all their asses.”

“C’mon, Mads, you’re supposed to be the genius,” Heather said. “This is about something else.”

“Like what?” Madison raised an eyebrow. “Listen, I know Taylor, I know his crew. They can be bastards some times, but it’s not like they are trying to sell us up the river or anything.”

Major Taylor had a small team of of “specialists” working in the CDI. They had a better working relationship with the Vault than the rest of the regular forces boys. Taylor’s name was also all over the Kathmandu file. He wouldn’t be riding with them, but one of his would be.

No, it wasn’t Taylor. It wasn’t his crew. It likely wasn’t anyone in CDI. But this didn’t sit right with her. Madison had his talents, she had hers. She wasn’t Spidey, but something was tingling.

“Come with me.” Heather snatched up the file and slammed open her door. In three long strides, she was at the Chief of Operations’ door. He also worked in an aquarium–an office with glass walls. His glass cage bordered the metal walls that gave the Vault its name.

Encased in a barrier proofed against both electronic and parapsychic eavesdropping, the Special Investigations Directorate operated inside a large metal box–hence, the Vault.

Heather all but kicked the Chief’s door open. “Bill–”

Holding up his hands, the Chief didn’t give her a chance to rage. “Not my call, Heather.” He clicked his mouse a couple of times, then turned the monitor so Heather could see it. “Apparently you know the guy.”

The black and white picture revealed a man of late middle age with a strong jaw, very short dark hair, hooded grey-blue eyes and stubble. Heather knew him, but couldn’t say where from. It took a moment of searching before it came to her. “That guy from the Balkans. Wasn’t he Irish? Army Ranger Wing?”

“This seems to be Michael Rourke, that guy from the Balkans.” The Chief turned the monitor back to face him. “But he’s not Rourke, he wasn’t ARW, and it’s possible he’s not Irish. He goes by Boyle now, and Boyle is with the STREAM.”

“So, what, they think he’s going to give himself up to me for old times?” Heather growled that out. “There weren’t any ‘old times,’ Bill. He never trusted me. We worked together, but we weren’t a team. He sees me, he knows who I work for.”

The Chief gestured to Madison, who closed the door. “Here’s the deal; this comes down from on high. I don’t know how high, but it’s way over anyone who will talk to me. The Americans want you. The Brits want you. Hell, far as I know, even the French want you.”

“Have they heard her French?” Madison’s nose wrinkled. “Oh so bad.”

Heather flipped him the bird. “Don’t forget, you’re coming with me.”

Madison shrugged. “My French is impeccable.”

“Not sure what they want with you, Mads, but I wouldn’t be happy in your place,” said the Chief. “I’ve got marching orders for the two of you, and it isn’t a tropical paradise. You’ll need to see the medic about vaccinations.”

“Bill, seriously, Mads is no field agent, and I’m way off my game.” Heather struggled to find more reasons to cancel her participation, to get Madison out of the fire and back into the frying pan. “Bill, come on. You owe me.”

The Chief frowned, his eyes getting dark. “You don’t need to remind me, Ms. Jeffries. But this is over my head. It’s orders. I follow orders. You follow orders. It’s what we do.”

“Fuck, I’m sorry, Bill.” Heather shook her head. “This just smells bad. There’ve got to be other people still in the field that have met this guy. Are you sure they just didn’t find the most expendable cypher to try to bring him out of the woodwork? Am I going out there as bait?”

“I wouldn’t let you two go out there without someone to watch your back,” the Chief said. “I believe you’re both familiar with Lieutenant Evan Walker?”

Madison’s smile drained from his face. “Walker’s with Detachment 7. Aren’t those guys black ops or something? You’re sending along a ninja?”

Heather shook her head. “Walker isn’t like that. He’s special operations all right, but he’s not some kind of contractor or spook. He’s a good guy. If he’s along, I’ll feel better.”

“He’s coming along.” The Chief leaned back in his chair. “I had that much pull, but nothing more. I wanted at least a section to cover for you, but they only gave me one guy. Walker volunteered. He’s done plenty of intel work and has close personal protection experience as well.”

“You’ve got a bad feeling too?” Heather asked.

“I’ve always got a bad feeling,” the Chief said. “You see the shit we see? Always a bad feeling.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “Mission Unlikely.”

Mundus Novit Update for June

Things are moving along nicely now with Mundus Novit. You may have noticed the first chapter in Dark Horizons, the Mundus Novit serial fiction, already published on the site. I thought I’d give you all a quick update, as some things have changed.

The work to bring Mundus Novit to fruition was daunting, and frankly I needed help. So, as previously planned, Mundus Novit will be released through Dark Quest Games. It will initially be a PDF, though there is talk of getting it to print. It will be released later this year. It is being updated and slightly changed.

The plan now is to release the setting as a systemless source book first, followed by the first system supplement–that one for the Modern version of the world’s most popular role-playing game. More supplements may follow, possibly published by Dark Quest Games and possible published by SEP.

SEP will be releasing a collection of adventure frameworks. These will no longer be titled “the Osiris Files.” As envisioned, the Osiris Files don’t fit perfectly into Mundus Novit, so they will be reworked and released under a different title. The format may be reworked slightly, but they will remain frameworks, more like the plot points campaigns from Savage Worlds than an adventure module like the Qalashar Device.

Another change that may happen is releasing Dark Horizons chapters weekly. My biggest concern with that is that I won’t be able to get the proofread and edited as well as I am right now. It’s a lot to ask friends to fire through 1500 words (on average) and provide critiques and line edits every week. So while the frequency would increase, the quality likely would. Anyone have any thoughts on that?