. Shadows Angelus—Meanwhile



On the screen, Nina Yamashita sat alone behind the news anchor desk, her normally prim and oh-so-marketable look perhaps a bit frazzled around the edges. "...and we're all looking forward to seeing the brand new Armatech float for the Christmas parade." She smiled as she segued into the final section of the current story. "It's supposed to be quite impressive, and I, for one, am expecting to be pleasantly surprised."

A black bar across the bottom of the screen contained various other news items that scrolled on a continuous loop. Currently, it read: Experts are predicting that this season will exceed all prior expectations for consumers. CorpWatch has listed this holiday season as the best prospect in ten years for strong market growth.

The holographic station logo expanded, morphing into a video clip that showed the front of the Silverhills Mall, smoke boiling out of the upper windows as emergency crews comforted various people in the foreground. Nina frowned. "The terrible tragedy at the Silverhills Mall earlier this month continues to be a source of controversy. Subversive elements in the city insist that evidence presented about the situation is, in fact, a cover up." The woman's eyes dart to the left for a moment, and she swallows. "Naturally, this station would like to assure you that these allegations are entirely baseless. We have many experts who are willing to go on the record to explain exactly what happened and why the separatists chose to act as they did. Stay tuned for our in-depth coverage, coming up at twelve."

"The separatists could hardly have picked a more vulnerable time for our great city." Nina continues, seeming to warm to her subject. "Riots continue to plague large areas of Rho and Iota sector." The holographic image alters once more to show tumbled bricks, a rising smoke column, and large groups of people shouting and hurling bottles. "Outbreaks of violence are confirmed to have broken out in nearly every other sector across the city in the last few weeks."

The holographic screen expands, displaying a bespectacled individual with balding gray hair and a goatee. Thin letters underneath his visage read: Dr. Edric Breen, director of the Angelus Asylum for the Mentally Ill.

"These sudden demonstrations of psychotic hysteria and mass hallucinations are entirely new to us in the profession." He explains, sitting at his ease in a large leather chair. "There's no rhyme or reason—it's totally incomprehensible. The only explanation that makes any sense is..." he pauses significantly. "Esper manipulation." He shrugs. "I know it's an unpopular opinion, but the theory fits the facts."

The holographic screen shrinks back down to its normal proportions, revealing Nina ready to pick up the thread. "Rumors abound that rogue Espers are gathering in Phi sector, and have been for some time." She smiles indulgently. "Some locals have begun calling the region 'Psi Sector'—a name that may bode ill for the residents of our fair city." Nina's face grows more serious. "Citizens are strongly urged to remain indoors, make sure all entrances are securely locked, and to limit visits outside."

She smiles once again, however, as she moves into the next phase of her report. "And with weather like we've been having lately, who wants to go outside anyway?" Scenes of rain and wind are shown on the smaller inset screen as the scrolling tape below lists the upcoming weather conditions—high wind, rain, severe thunderstorm warnings.

The screen was washed out for a moment, replaced by a statuesque model showing off an ankle-length, fur-trimmed cloak the color of warm butter. "Armatech's new line of personal protection items now includes the Armani Stormcrow line." The model smiled through the voice-over, showing off her mammalian talents along with the flow of the cloak's material. "Stormcrows are an all-new all-weather cloak that contains both sintered armorgel AND integrated heating packs. It sheds both water AND bullets like a duck's back!"

Nina returned after the ad, her hands clasped in front of her on the desk. "In other news," She began, clearing her throat. "Citizens throughout Angelus have been reporting a mysterious rash of missing pets. Most have...." She quickly shook her head, 'breaking character' as her shoulders sagged. "Well, actually, my neighbor this morning...." her voice grows very tight and hoarse. "I saw her, in the front yard, a pack of wild dogs had... I guess they went crazy, and...." Just then, the screen blanked, replaced by a standard signal reading "TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES—Please Stand By".