* * * * *

Later that day, Mitch stopped by to check on the Crash Team. Didi had already checked out. Lorraine had been moved to a different room following a 'blow-up' of some sort. The hospital staff didn't like the situation at all, but Mitch did a bit of damage control and assured them that she'd just been 'disoriented', it wouldn't happen again, etc. (He kept his fingers crossed, just in case.)

Mitch decided to go straight to Nic's room—he could check on Lorraine and Chrysine afterwards. (Unlike Didi, they weren't going to take off.) Upon arriving, he paused in the hallway before knocking at the door.

Did Nic know he was here, at this very moment? Somehow, he always seemed to know. Wait for it....

"The door is unlocked, you can enter at your leisure" Nicodemus said from the small table in his room. He had reading over some random bit of information he had pulled from the network through his databand and he looked to the door expectantly.

Mitch smiled and walked inside. He walked over to the table and nodded. "Hope you're feeling better, Nic."

Nicodemus stood up, his face seeming to almost smile, but the man rarely if ever did that. That lukewarm neutrality was the closest he normally got. "Greetings Mister Brogan. I appreciate that you are taking the time to stop by so quickly."

The Lieutenant waved a hand, shaking his head. "It's nothing really—I wanted to see how you were doing here, anyway. Sounds like there's a lot on your mind." Mitch took a seat by the table and motioned for Nic to join him. "No need to get up, Nic. You're still in recovery, so relax. What's up?"

Nicodemus gave a nod as he sat back down in reply to Mitch and looked to his chest. "My wounds are healing suitably. But you are correct, at least in part. There is a lot on my mind, but this is not something that is particularly new."

He paused and took a deep breath, held it and in doing so, gave all the appearance of making a final decision and settling upon it. Exhale. "Mister Brogan, in light of our current operations and duties of the Crash Team as well as our current activities and the results of our most recent action, I feel that a great degree of transparency is in order. I know why 'The Breaker' has taken an increased interest in our team—specifically in attempting capture instead of simply eliminating us."

Mitch stopped smiling. He gave Nicodemus a serious look. "They cuffed you... I wondered about that. But I'm not sure they weren't trying to kill the rest of us... specially Chrysine and Lorraine. And they were throwing everything they had at Didi... I'm not even sure how she survived, really."

There was a pause, as if Nicodemus were suddenly considering a change of mind. "I cannot speak for all members of the squad... but I can assure you that they want me. They want me in specific at any rate. Their desire to acquire other team members, including yourself, is an unknown possibility at this juncture, but I know that they at least want me alive and are most likely willing to do whatever it takes to do it."

Mitch closed his eyes for a moment, drew a breath, released it. To no one in particular he said "This just keeps getting better." Facing Nicodemus squarely, he shook his head. "We're not gonna let that happen, Nic. Now, you want to tell me why they're after you?"

Nicodemus nodded just slightly. "That is precisely why I asked you to come here." He took a deep breath and exhaled again. "Quite simply, they want me because of what I know. I am certain that my recent medical history has not eluded you—I spent a significant amount of time in the hospital shortly before I joined XSWAT due to grievous injuries, that I should have, by all rights, perished from. Those injuries were inflicted upon me by The Breaker and his associates due to their interrogations. They tried to force me to tell them what I knew... and I refused."

Mitch gave him a slight nod, and looked away for a moment, trying to put the details out of his mind. "Yeah, I know what the Breaker did. Whatever they wanted to know—is it something you can talk about, or am I better off not knowing?"

"It is safe to say that it is best for your sanity that I maintain silence. To be honest, I do not know what they were trying to get out of me exactly, but I doubt that anything in particular is much of an issue, for they could cull as much information about any arcane or metaphysical secret they wanted if they had me under their sway. I also know that they would prefer that I remain alive as well, as I am a... unique... resource."

"Nic, you're not just a 'unique resource', you're an XSWAT officer." Mitch looked at Nicodemus once again, his face set with determination. "They won't get hold of you again without going through the rest of the Crash Team. Trouble is, they don't seem to have much of a problem with that."

Nicodemus shook his head slightly. "Mitch... you must understand something. I am a unique resource... to XSWAT, to the Yakuza to anybody who has even a hint or a rumor about my existence." He paused for a moment and steepled his fingers. "To better explain myself, you must understand a few things about me. Things that are not to leave this room except, perhaps, to inform the other team members if you or I think that they can handle it. I am telling you because you are the leader of this such, you require as much information as possible to fill your role appropriately."

"Understood...whatever you need to say, it'll go no further. I'm listening."

"Excelent." Nic replied. "How much do you know about history and mythology Mitch? Have you heard of Atlantis? The 'War in Heaven" or of any stories about an elixir of eternal life?"

Mitch thought for a moment. "Atlantis, I've heard of—but only in legend... or rather, a couple of conflicting versions of the legend. As for the rest..." He shrugged. "'s rather outside my specialty."

"I ask these things because they are important in understand that this place, this event and this object all existed at one time. Also, before I go too far, you may question my veracity. This is understandable and expected. However, you should know that any manners of lie-detection, truth serums or similar means will either tell you that I am, in fact telling the truth or that I at least believe it. I told your wife the same thing at one point in time as well."

Nicodemus' hands changed from being steepled to interlacing themselves. "You have eluded that my sanity is... fleeting. I assure you that this is not the case, rather my perspective is quite simply incalculably different than your own. This is simply a fact. Normally, I would engage in a little verbal repartee, riddle telling and similar mind games as a test of sorts. Our current situation lacks that luxury, I think."

He sat back and sighed, a final internal debate with himself. It was too late to go back now. "Mitch, my medical records are not entirely truthful. My real name is not Nicodemus Tsanthos, and I am not thirty five years old. Giving you my actual name is completely irrelevant. As far as my age, well... I stopped counting my life by the passing of years and decades. I now count it by centuries and millennia."

Mitch took all this in with no reaction. He'd heard all manner of strange tales over the years, so what was one more? "Nic, sanity's pretty much optional in this outfit, anyway. Anything I don't believe, I check with HQ. But for the moment, let's say I'll just take your word for it." He motioned with one open hand, politely inviting Nicodemus to continue.

A nod is given in reply. "There are legends and myths, many are incredibly ancient, crafted well before men were writing. I say this, because there is a lot of truth in many myths and legends... if you know where to look for them." Nicodemus shrugged slightly. "In any event, I am about fifteen thousand years old. It is my agelessness that many people and organizations seek me Mitch. They want the knowledge that I possess—either to have it for themselves or to quite simply ensure that they can control it.

"Much of what I know cannot be taught in a man's lifetime." He paused. "Let me restate that. I can teach anybody what they want to know, but at the cost of their minds... if not their very souls. What I cannot teach in a man's lifetime are the ways to guard oneself against whatever hazards such knowledge, with or without understanding, would inevitably bring.

"The Breaker wants me because of what I know, what I can teach and divulge. I do not know exactly what they want, but I know that it is not for the betterment of man. If it were, they would leave me alone."

"Alright..that explains a few things." Mitch paused a moment to think it through. "But why risk facing them at all? What brought you to Angelus to begin with?" He half-dreaded hearing Nic's answer; this was getting weirder by the minute.

"A valid question." He murmured in reply. "The short, simple answer, is that I came here in part to acquire the Grimorium Esperanza and return it to where it belongs—out of the casual and public eye, and as far from those who would misuse it as possible. That book is dangerous in the wrong hands Mitch. That was the direct cause of your so-called "Van Goran Incident" and a partial cause of the invasion of being known as Gurzorath."

Mitch took a deep breath. "Yeah... I've been briefed on the Grimorium. Nic, you're going to find there are very powerful people in Angelus who think that book is safest right where it is. Perhaps you've met them already. But, ah... if you're determined to get hold of it, you'll be here a while. My concern is keeping you safe until then."

Nicodemus gave a slight, barely noticeable hint of a smile. "Actually, I have spoken with the current holder of the Grimorium, and I found that they are not lacking. Unfortunately, the current custodian cannot hold it forever. I understand and accept this. When the time comes that the current holder is unable to maintain custody, then I will put it where it belongs. Time is not a factor in this respect Mitch... I have waited fifteen thousand years, I can wait a little longer."

His face and tone took a more serious turn then. "But you are correct about the more immediate goal as well. My attachment to your squad forces an additional threat upon you and the rest of the team that would not exist otherwise. I trust that you will do whatever is necessary to ensure my safety, but understand that I am in as much danger as anyone else on this team so please do not play favorites."

"Not at all. I'm taking extra precautions for the whole squad, including the clamshell armor you e-mailed me about, if I can get it. And I'll see what I can do about our weaponry. There'll be some changes, soon." Mitch smiled and nodded in what he hoped was a reassuring manner.

"Excellent" A rare, though genuine smile was given. "In speaking of acquiring equipment," The smile vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. "I think that I should make it known that I do not trust Ms. Messenger. I cannot put my finger on it, as I have not heard or felt anything adverse. But my instincts tell me that there is more to her and those she works for than she would like us to believe. I am not necessarily suggesting any dark and sinister forces are afoot here, but there are too many questions about her mission and operation that I would like answers to. I am... concerned for the future of XSWAT's operations."

Mitch stood up to leave as he replied to Nic's warning. "Great minds think alike, I guess. I'm going to find out all I can, Nic, and try to keep her out of our way at the same time. Wish me luck. Now, I really think I should be going. Get some rest, okay?"

Nicodemus gave a slight nod in reply. "I will do so. You should do the same when the opportunity presents itself."