Ear-splitting mind-numbing silence.

How long had it been?

Impossible to tell anymore. People who count time by weeks, years, sometimes decades easily lose track of just when something happened to them last. When was the last time they smelled that rose? Heard the cry of someone in need? Felt the smooth caress of a cat? Tasted the zest of a mango or seen the vast expanse of the mountains? It would all depend on who was asked, and what they were asked to remember. Some never had certain experiences, others had them all the time while those who had felt those experiences could not tell you when the last time they had them was.

Humans, in their painfully short lives had painfully short memories.

When was the last time that felt silence? I don’t remember, and yet my memory is long. I stopped counting time by weeks and decades long ago. I count time by centuries and millennia now.

My memory is long and precise.

I see the Fall just as clearly today as it happened twelve thousand years ago. I was there when the early prophets and philosophers began their dialogues. I watched the great Library of Alexandria burn to the ground. I remember when the ancient tribes of South America first began constructing their temples in the jungles. I can recall these events and many, countless more with perfect clarity as if they had happened only but scant seconds before…

…Yet I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t plagued by the Voices. Voices that were always whispering something in my ear…

Nicodemus sat up in his hospital bed with a sudden start, breathing heavily. What time is it? He reached groggily towards the small nightstand, his fingers eventually taking hold of the silver pocket watch. He checked the time that the ancient, archaic device counted and closed the cover with a sigh. He did not need to remember where he was; he was in the XSWAT wing of the Angelus General hospital. He did not need to recall why he was there; he had been shot. The armor piercing “Cop-Killer” bullets that the Yakuza used made short work of any protection that he had, the bullet itself, lodged somewhere in his chest. Fortunately, there was no permanent damage…but he was forced to spend almost a week in the hospital recovering.

He was no strangers to hospitals by any means. He had actually taken some amusement in noting the transformation that healing had taken over the centuries. Some methods were far more effective than others, and outside full-blown magical healing, this was the best in the world.

It was then as he sat there, Nicodemus questioned why he had woken up as he had in the first place. He looked down to the thick, gauzy bandage that covered the still-healing bullet wound and noted that although it hurt, the pain was dull and easily ignored. It also could not be the fact that he was in a hospital; he had frequented far too many places over his long life to find them disturbing.

Nicodemus sat in silence pondering, trying to find reason for the disturbance when it dawned on him that the very silence was the reason why he was pulled from his rest. No. Not total silence. There were still the ambient sounds of Angelus going about its daily activities outside of his window, the tones and subtle hum of technology at work. But it was all subdued, tailored to ensure comfort for those whom are recovering. Even the constant gibbering of those from Beyond seemed quiet and distant here. Of course! Nicodemus grabbed for his black-lensed glasses and put them on, now that his mind was fully alert.

He took in his surroundings carefully and soon found his suspicions were correct; the very nature of what XSWAT officers had to deal with on a regular bases made metaphysical threats a very real possibility. What better place to attack an XSWAT officer than when they are most helpless especially in a location that was filled with wounded? He had surmised that there were various wards and abjurations put in place to help shield against such assaults. It was those very wards that pushed the voices he was so accustomed to hearing in his ears and mind to the furthest recesses of his senses. He could still hear them, just they were far away and easily ignored, just like the dull pain in his chest.

And that was what he had found so uncomfortable and disquieting. Nicodemus had spent so long in the company of these whispering voices that he had forgotten what it was like to be without them.

After pondering recent events, Nicodemus pulled himself out of bed and made his way carefully to the chair where his uniform had been laid out for him. It did not take him very long to find the small notebook he carried with him, nor the XSWAT-issue databand. He looked at the device and then the notebook. So vastly different, and yet they are the same in every appreciable way. He smiled wryly to himself. He knew that only those that could appreciate the similarities between a computer and a book would acknowledge those thoughts.

Nicodemus activated the databand and paged through its numerous features until he found the electronic documents for submitting a digital report. He sighed as he began to key in the requested pertinent data. It was quite simple, and almost painfully easy to input the information from the altercation that occurred on the first. For a brief moment, he considered appending data that he had acquired since the incident had passed, but thought better of it. At least for now.

The second report, the one detailing the events at both the dance studio as well as the orphanage would be a little more difficult. Mostly because a portion of that confrontation he had spent out of action, while the rest of it seemed to glower hatefully at him.

As he composed the report, the glaring evidence of a trap was readily apparent; the constant Entity calls almost immediately after the squad he was with foiled a Yakuza operation which resulted in at least one Entity being returned to where it came from—meaning that it was summoned, as well as hundreds of thousands credits worth of weapons, ammunition and drugs being confiscated by XSWAT. The calls were consistent, and it had been mentioned that “a scary looking guy in a limo just watched and grinned” by more than one team that had been sent out.

Nicodemus shook his head. I will have to be more astute in the future. It is painfully obvious that the established methods of operation are insufficient. I cannot take only myself into account any longer; rather, I must alter my scope to encompass the entire team if we are to survive.