Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – Meet & Greet

“Meet & Greet” is the fourth 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. In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu.

Now, two operatives from the Canadian Security Establishment’s Vault join up with their assigned team in India.


Five: Meet & Greet

Two days after getting assigned to “Task Force 12,” Madison Sinclair found himself in India. Not New Delhi, not Mumbai, no place cosmopolitan or exciting. No, Mads found himself in an old factory in Raxaul, on the Indian side of the Nepal-India border. It looked like a stock location from some gritty film noir or gangster-on-the-run flick. The wide open space on the ground floor had the prerequisite detritus of machinery and battered furnishings.

Madison sat in an old metal chair with flattened cushioning at a scarred and pitted folding table in the centre of the second floor office, its windows blacked out. Heather sat with him. Her pale, strawberry blond hair tied in a ponytail. She wore non-descript hiking gear, just like everyone else, including Mads.

When he was being honest with himself, Mads had to admit that he had a crush on Heather. Who didn’t? She wasn’t supermodel hot, but she was attractive. She had a healthy, athletic build. Smart, confident, experienced–if she didn’t scare the shit out of him, Mads would have jerked off to her nightly. Instead, Mads had grown a strange kind of dispassionate crush. The more he got to know her, the more he respected her, the less he daydreamed about her naked body and the things he could do with it.

He knew she was hot, but he also knew he’d never end up in bed with her. He respected her, liked her.

They had become friends, all Mads’ lewd intentions to the contrary.

On the other side of Heather sat Lieutenant Evan ‘You-Can-Call-Me-Walker-Everyone-Does’ Walker. Walker hadn’t talked much on the trip, except about the mission. He looked East Indian and talked pure Toronto. He had all the commando gear, from the tricked out assault rifle to the ninja-cool tactical harness.

The CIA man doing the talking had been identified only as Hitch, though that was apparently short for Hitchens. A beefy guy who may have been athletic once but who had let himself slide, Hitch’s loose cotton shirt had sweat marks and the legs revealed by his shorts glowed like a red beacon. This guy wasn’t used to India yet. He wouldn’t know anything about local conditions except what he had been fed.


He droned on in a slightly bored voice. He only occasionally made eye contact. When he did, he would turn away quickly. Mads wondered what he might be feeling guilty about. If it was a bad omen, Mads figured it was only one of many, so don’t get too hung up on it.

Hitch turned back to the photos tacked to the wall. He didn’t have anything fancy like a projector and a screen. Nothing high tech to be seen. With his pointer, he tapped the picture of the guy Heather had called Rourke, now called Boyle. “And so, this information suggests a conspiracy reaching from China,” the pointer moved to a picture of Boyle at a table with an Asian female, “and into SOCOM.” The pointer rested on the attractive, buff Asian female.

Lt. Rebecca Park.

Mads knew her as Becca, the special forces chick he had met in Germany a year back. The one with whom he had “fraternized.”

Things kept getting better and better.

“And there is at least one unknown.” Another photo had Becca sitting down with a solidly built Caucasion male with a deep tan, a weathered face of sharp features, and slightly greying, very short hair. “Russian? Eastern European? Hard to say. We photographed him in Monrovia meeting with Lt. Park. He’s definitely involved, and he’s likely to make an appearance in Kathmandu.”

If he hadn’t been busy worrying about Becca and what his involvement with her could mean, he might have asked the question Heather finally did. “If this guy is an unknown, how do you know he is involved and how do you know he’s coming to Kathmandu?”

Hitch looked at her, then looked down at his notes. Guilty. It was the only way Mads could describe it. Nothing about the whole assignment sat right for him. They were being bullshitted. “I’m not at liberty to say right now, but our intelligence is solid.”

“So we go in, we grab Boyle, we get out, right?” That was Dyck, which ended up as Dick–or the Dick–more often than not. Tall, thin, and American, his short sleeved knit shirt revealed arms of thickly corded muscles, and the deep, dark tan of his craggy face spoke of lots of time in the outdoors.

“Boyle needs to be removed from the picture, one way or the other.” Hitch’s eyes moved over everyone in the room and then back to his notes. “Totally deniable, and all your governments have agreed to that. There are sanitized weapons–no markings, untraceable, and modified by our armourer.”

“Listen, we all know Lt. Park’s in the Advanced Tactics Action Company.” Walker took a sip of his coffee, a nice dramatic pause.

It gave Hitch time to reply. “I, of course, can’t confirm that.”

Walker acted like he had heard nothing. “She’s in ATAC, so we need to know if she’s post-human. Is she Oberon? She an ESPer or anything?”

This time, Hitch didn’t even bother to glance at Walker. “I can’t confirm Lt. Park’s specific assignment. I can’t confirm if Lt. Park has been enhanced in any way.”

“Yeah, she’s post-human.” Walker shook his head. “This should be fun.”

“What is, uh . . .” Mads wanted to ask the question, but he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer. “What is Lt. Park’s relationship with Boyle? I mean, what’s their connection?”

Hitch frowned, and when he met Mads’ eyes, he didn’t look away. “We know of your encounter and relationship with Lt. Park. Her relationship with Boyle was not of that variety.”

Mads’ eyes narrowed. “How the fuck would you know about me and Becca? How long have you guys been tracking her?”

“Lt. Park had to report the situation to her commanding officer, considering her position and yours.” Hitch tapped his notes. “The information came to light when we backgrounded her.”

“And that’s why I’m here?” Mads rose a little out of his chair. “You think I’m going to  . . . What? What am I going to do?”

“I’ve been told you’re here because of your capability with strategic analysis.” Hitch considered the picture of Becca. “Happy coincidence I suppose.”

“Still leaves the question of Lt. Park’s relationship with Boyle,” Heather said. “Sounds professional. If so, shouldn’t that be in her file as well?”

“Much like your encounter with Boyle posing as a member of the Army Ranger Wing, Lt. Park’s operational encounters with Boyle were while, . . .” Hitch cleared his throat. “While Boyle maintained a cover identity.”

“See, that’s what I don’t understand,” said Mads. “You don’t just walk into a military camp or base, say that you belong to the special forces, and get given the secret handshake. There’s an intro somewhere along the way. Someone vouched for him. In the Balkans, Boyle came in with the Irish special forces, so it’s kind of natural to assume the guy is Irish special forces. So, what of that trail? What does it lead back to?”

“That’s been considered, of course, and we’re working on it,” Hitch said. “Right now, priority is to get Boyle and remove him from the equation.”

“Nice.” That came from a black guy with a swimmer’s build and an accent like Sharpes on BBC. His nimble fingers worked a military-style laptop as he spoke. Everyone in the room called him Flick. Madison didn’t know why. “You want assassins, you can come do this yourself. I’m here to assist and all, but I’m not about to clean the CIA’s laundry.”

“No one here is on a kill mission, right?” The sandy-blonde Kiwi who went by the oh-so original title of Digger–though everyone just called him Digs–lounged on a faux-leather couch that looked very 70s Soviet-style. “Flick isn’t. I’m not. You need this guy buried, Hitch, the CIA has got plenty of guys that’ll do just that.”

“When I got the call on this, I was told capture or kill,” Dyck said. “I’m going for the capture. Seems to me like we need to know how this Boyle character blacked out Kathmandu. This guy is somehow blocking ESPers. That’s got me a little worried. Yeah, I’m going for the capture, but if my back is up against the wall, I’m putting this fucker down.”

“Oh, I think we can all agree on that.” Digs levered himself into a sitting position. “But why us? I mean, I’m talking to the CIA here. Wouldn’t the spooks be better doing their spooky thing?”

Flick’s fingers stopped their tap tapping. “When the SIS needs dirty deeds done, they get special forces to do it for them. My bet is, same thing here. They don’t want to lose any of their people, so they dump the shit assignment on us.”

“This group was assembled based on advertised talents,” Hitch said. “I’ve been led to believe that we couldn’t put together a group as capable and likely to complete the mission with success on such short notice.”

“More flies with honey, yeah.” Walker stood up, walked over to the end of the table, and started gathering up Hitch’s notes. “Let your bosses know we’re on this. We’ll formulate our own plan. We’ll do this our way. Then we’ll deliver up the goods. This being deniable and all, I figure once we’re in Nepal, we’re on our own. No cavalry coming, right?”

“That would be the case.” Hitch watched as Walker took each of the photos tacked the the wall and slid them into the folder jammed with documents. “Given that this is a CIA mission, Captain Dyck has command.”

“No offence to the good captain, but we’ll decide who’s in command of what.” Digs removed himself from the couch to take a seat at the table. “Like Walker said, we’ll be doing things our own way. You don’t offer support, you don’t get to call the shots. Stay by your phone and we’ll let you know when the delivery is on.”

Hitch opened his mouth. He might have had something he wanted to say. No words came. He scratched his throat, nodded, then left. No one spoke as they all watched him cross the floor of the abandoned factory, or warehouse, or whatever it was.

“Packages are all in the other room,” Dyck said. “Locally available and common weapons only, but we’ve tried to meet your kit requests.”

Walker dumped the folder in the middle of the table. Flick closed the laptop’s lid. Mads even sat a little straighter.

“So how the fuck are we going to find a spook that’s been ghosting since the Soviets were in Afghanistan?” Dyck asked. “How do we find a guy that seems to have his fingers in everybody’s pies, who’s now apparently fronting the Chinese?” Dyck pulled out the picture of the unknown man from Monrovia. “How do we stop a guy who has the fucking invisible men on his payroll.”

“He’s no invisible man.” Walker stood by the window looking into the empty factory. “That’s Alexander Scott. He’s with Drift. I met him in Afghanistan in 2006. For an old guy, he moves fast. Good shot. Real high-speed.”

Mads hated being the guy not knowing. He didn’t want to ask the question, but if he didn’t they’d all talk around it. “Isn’t Drift some kind of enhanced SERE training group?”

“They are now,” said Heather. “But before the end of the Cold War, Operation Drift was the foremost extraction unit in NATO. They could get anyone out of anywhere. They got turned into a training unit, which retained institutional memory and skills, but some of the crew liked the field. A lot still got dirty.” She turned to Walker. “But Alex isn’t with Drift any more. Not for at least a year now.”

“Maybe so, but to me, this still goes back to NATO again.” Dyck scratched his chin. “What’s Scott’s angle? How do you figure he got involved in all this?”

Walker leaned against the window sill. “No angle I can see. Scott was a good guy. I don’t buy him being part of some conspiracy. It sounds more like the CIA not having all the necessary information and just slotting him in as a bad guy.”

“Then what about Becca?” Mads leaned forward, over the table, rifling through the CIA file. “I mean, the only thing they’ve got is that she’s gone on ops with this Boyle, and then she recently took leave. Could be a coincidence.”

“Monrovia?” Flick rolled a pen along his knuckles, his chair tipped slightly back. “Wasn’t there something about a CIA black site there? Or possibly next door, in Cote d’Ivoire?”

“This whole thing stinks.” Heather considered Alex’s photo. “Why no records on Alex? I mean, he was in the Canadian military before joining Drift. I can’t believe the CIA couldn’t find anything.”

“Between you and me, he was in the Security Reconnaissance Group, grandfather to Det 7,” Walker said. “His Canadian records would have disappeared around that time. And once he got into Drift? No one would be too keen on starting a file. CIA found nothing because there’s likely nothing to find.”

Mads rubbed his forehead. “So if Scott is a good guy, and Becca is a good guy, and they’re all linked to Boyle, what does that tell us?”

“We’re getting one up the chute without a reach around.” Digs slid back down to a lounging position on the couch. “Of fucking course.”

“We still need to apprehend Boyle,” Dyck said. “That’s still our mission, unless you’re all talking mutiny.”

“Apprehend, yes,” said Walker. “Apprehend, put on ice, and get some answers. After that, well, I don’t work for the CIA.”

Dyck frowned. “Neither do I, Walker. If they’re trying to get us to bury an inconvenient, I’ll be happy to build the petard to hoist them with.”

Mads brightened, a smile on his face. “Oh, I like that. I truly do.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “the Russian.”

Mundus Novit: Alex and the Spoilers

And so the fourth episode of Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons is out. I’m hoping everyone is enjoying it so far. It’s a little bit of a mutant, as it serves more purposes than most of my writing. Not only does it need to be entertaining, but it is introducing people to a role-playing game setting. These early episodes are also introducing readers to a rather extensive cast of characters.

There’s lots of stuff in this fiction that is not presented in the setting itself. For example, while Kathmandu going “dark” is part of the setting’s secret history, there is no explanation of the cause and no mention of TANGIBLE STREAM. In fact, TANGIBLE STREAM makes no appearance in the source book at all. Plenty of other black projects and clandestine units, but no Stream. By the time the serial fiction runs its course, there will be enough information to include the Stream in a Mundus Novit game. There will also be a write-up following the format from the source book.

Mission Unlikely” included another facet of the setting hinted at in the source book, but never explicitly stated. I call them “spoilers,” and not the way one might think. Alexander Scott is a spoiler. In “Mission Unlikely,” when asked “Aren’t you Oberon?” Alex answers: “I was different since birth.”

Spoilers are people that have exhibited post-human abilities before the release of the Oberon virus. In case it’s not clear, the Oberon virus is the result of a cover super-soldier project. Out in the open, the virus infects people, then effects them — changing them. Most of the theories regarding post-humans in Mundus Novit blame it on Oberon, but if it’s all Oberon, how do you explain Alex? He’s a spoiler, he and those like him spoil the theories. The pre-Oberon post-human torpedoes all the Oberon talk.

But that’s left for your game. It’s not explicit in Mundus Novit, because the campaign is supposed to be infinitely tweakable. Sure, the source book includes secret histories that explain the existence of magic, parapsych (psionics), and Oberon post-humans, but you don’t need to use those. Just as you can ignore the existence of magic in Mundus Novit, you can ignore the existence of spoilers.

For me, it was fun to include spoilers. Sure, maybe the few spoilers out there are the exceptions that prove the rule. Maybe they are the evolutionary step, the slow introduction of natural post-humans that explodes with the accidental release of Oberon in 2003. Maybe they are something else entirely. Do you want aliens in your Mundus Novit? Awesome. The spoilers were the first alien-human hybrids.

They are whatever you want them to be. That’s the whole point of Mundus Novit. Here are the tools. Now you can build your house.

Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – the Bedouin

“The Bedouin” is the fourth 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. In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle.

And now a further player enters the game.


Four: The Bedouin

He sat at the antique style writing desk, his feet upon it. Propped up on one arm, she lounged on the bed. It had posts and a canopy, like something out of a movie. He could only guess at the cost per night for the room. Their host had a reputation for extravagance, a reputation which Kyle now believed.

The Bedouin sipped at his coffee, then leaned back into the sofa, his eyes on Meredith. She held his gaze. Kyle always had trouble placing Meredith’s age. He knew she must be in her forties, given her history with Prospero. She didn’t look it. She had an Olympic athlete’s shape. He considered her attractive–not gorgeous, more like exotic.

“For the price you are asking, we will expect your loyalty,” she said to the Bedouin.

“My loyalty?” The Bedouin offered a patronizing grin, almost a sneer. “Loyalty is not purchased. You will have my fidelity. I will meet the terms of the contract. You will have my discretion. No one will know of our business nor will any other be privy to the information I obtain for you. But loyalty? I would expect an agent of Propsero to be smarter than that.”

“Did I say we were from Prospero?” Meredith’s voice came as a purr. Fitting. She had a certain feline quality to her.

The Bedouin waved off the comment. “You did not need to. I know of you, much as you know of me. I would wager, though, that I know more of you.”

Kyle might have accepted that wager from anyone else. The other part of the Bedouin’s reputation, the part of the reputation that brought Kyle and Meredith to the hotel, was that the Bedouin knew more and could learn more about anything than any other intelligence source known.

“We know as much about you as is necessary.” Meredith removed a single sheet, folded once, from her jacket pocket. “This is our contract. This is what we require. This is the price we offer.” She slid it toward him.

The Bedouin rose and took the paper. He sat down on the bed beside Meredith.

His file gave the Bedouin’s name as Ahmed Zeghida. He wasn’t a Bedouin, rather he was an Algerian. He had worked for the British Secret Intelligence Service and India’s Research and Analysis Wing before going freelance in 2004. Nothing explained how an Algerian without British residency began to work for MI6, or then moved on to work in India. Nothing explained how he became such a high priced security and intelligence consultant.

“Kathmandu?” The Bedouin crumpled up the paper in one hand, and it disappeared. Amusing parlour trick, except Kyle hadn’t caught the usual movements or misdirections. Perhaps the Bedouin had resources that reached beyond information and secrets?

“We want to know what happened,” Meredith said. “Or at least, what some of the possibilities are. We need a trail, some starting point to find the answer.”

The Bedouin turned to Kyle. “And you will find the answer, will you?”

Kyle only shrugged.

“The strong silent type.” The Bedouin returned to the sofa and his coffee. “That stereotype is long since past. The figure that you offer is acceptable. I will garner what intelligence I can and communicate it in the manner requested. I will tell you this now, different fingers point to Narcissus, to the Special Bureau, and to SD8.”

Meredith sniffed. “All the big players.”

The CIA’s ESPers, the Chinese telepaths, and Russia’s psychics–everyone suspected one of those three. Some suspected them all. This was not intelligence worth payment.

“Yes, but here is your first clue, the first step on your trail.” The Bedouin winked at Kyle. “None of them were involved, at least not directly. Someone else was. Someone who had crossed the Stream.”

“What stream?” Meredith asked. “Somewhere in Nepal?”

The Bedouin’s smile exuded a certainty of superiority. “Not a place. You know of the Stream, even if you do not know who they are.”

“Tangible Stream?” Kyle said. “The Stream is involved? You know this?”

“Right now, nobody is certain of anything, but I can tell you that a top unit from the Stream was in Kathmandu.” The Bedouin leaned forward. “The only information I have now is that the Stream followed a weapon.”

“Wait, Tangible Stream doesn’t do anti-proliferation,” said Kyle. “The Stream doesn’t go after weapons smugglers.”

“I was precise in my choice of words, even if English is not my mother tongue.” The Bedouin’s eyes narrowed. “The Stream followed a weapon to Kathmandu.”

Meredith’s intake of breath was almost a gasp, though she controlled it. “A weaponized post-human?”

Kyle tried to sort it through in his head. Any post-human could be considered a weapon. The Stream only involved itself in aberrant and destabilizing uses of post-humans. “A purpose built post-human?”

“Until now, everything has been chance,” the Bedouin said. “No one can say who the Oberon virus will infect, who it will effect, and how it will effect. Were one to learn how to build what one wished, that would be Trinity all over again.”

Trinity. The atomic bomb. Yes, it could be just that much of a paradigm shift. Post-human weapons, purpose built by states. Was Kathmandu the test case? Was this the test detonation?

“At this time, I have only conjecture, based on the information received from contacts in Kathmandu.” The Bedouin threw up his hands. “It could all be so much fairy dust. But the fact remains, the Stream was in Kathmandu when it went dark. That is no coincidence.”

“I agree,” said Meredith. “We will expect further intelligence and analysis as per the contract, delivered on the date and method designated.”

“As I said, you have my fidelity.” The Bedouin finished his coffee. He carefully placed the cup on the saucer, and held it there for a moment. When he released it and looked up, he had a smile on his face. “I will waive my fee for the answer to one question.”

Meredith glanced at Kyle. She had a question in that glance. What could he say? She was the liaison. She was the lead. Did she really want his opinion, or maybe just his support. He nodded. She turned back the Bedouin, but before she spoke, he did.

“Does Denton Heath truly run Prospero?”

That made Meredith sit up on the bed. It made Kyle put his feet on the floor. The Bedouin smiled. “Well, definitely from Prospero, then. So, Mr. Heath, does he run Prospero or is he a figurehead?”

Meredith shook her head. “I don’t know.”

The Bedouin turned to Kyle.

Kyle opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. What should he answer? The Bedouin did not seem impatient nor perturbed at his silence. Kyle finally found an answer. “I can’t say.”

“Ah. Can’t say or won’t say?”

This time, Kyle smiled. “Knowledge is power, isn’t it? So that’s worth something to an information peddler like you. Who knows what, right?”

“C’est ça.” The crumpled ball of the contract reappeared in the Bedouin’s hand. “Answer me truthfully and I waive my fee.”

“I can’t say because I don’t know.” Kyle didn’t flinch from the Bedouin’s steady stare.

The crumpled ball ignited in flames, quickly consumed, leaving only a puff of smoke and not a mark on the Bedouin’s hand. He rose. “I suppose it is important that life retain some mysteries.” He offered each a short, curt bow. “You will be hearing from me.”


Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “Meet And Greet.”