Description: There's someone in Metro University who professes to be an expert on the occult in general, and the creatures known as darkstalkers in specific. The half-spider, self-proclaimed Doctor Tessitore decides to find out just what sort of assumptions this Dr. Brandt is operating under.
Metro University occupies a space the size of a large, luxury neighborhood in the suburbs of Metro City, a competitive state university known for both its parties and the affordability of a higher education. You can find rich, middle class, and poor alike there, native and foreigner, liberal and conservative, all churning together in a tumultuous mix. Although classes have been closed for this fall semester with the disaster in the city nearby, classes plan to re-open for the spring, once another tough east coast winter season is past. The academics that teach there specializing in the actual education aspect of the school, along with much of the administration, are preparing classes and coming to class occasionally. Others, like Dr. Brandt, PhD of Leipzig University in Germany, are involved in actual research work. Brandt has already made his name as eccentric but brilliant...And some of the more rational professors dare call him a pseudo scientist, even after the observable events caused by Jedah Dohma.
The top floor of a ten story tower has been set aside for Brandt and his dig team, with promising future archaeologists, theologians, historians, and zoology experts making up an elite cadre of specialists drawn together to study the Darkstalkers. The entire world was watching in horror, except for these brave young men and women, who wanted to make their name on the biggest discovery so far in the 21st century. Magic, real? An entire new field of study. One Brandt, descended from the Thul Society of Nazi Germany and its blasphemous witchcraft amid the Second World War, was not surprised by. And frankly, many professional fighters were not surprised either, having long shared a connection with spiritual or otherworldly forces.
Brandt is in his small office in the center of the tower, a short stroll away from the primary bank of elevators. He's narrow, gaunt, pale, and sports long black hair tied into a ponytail behind him. A pair of round spectacles sit on the bridge of his narrow nose, and he wears a brown suit with patches over the elbows, in the orthodox style of an early 20th century elite professor. He's presently at his desk, sitting, reviewing reports from dig teams. So far, they've recovered a few interesting artifacts. Bones of creatures, fragments of weapons used by them, eye witness reports, pictures of Darkstalker wounds from the triage teams. But nothing staggering yet. But everyone here knows, they're on the verge of a big discovery by merely monitoring the city. There are various terms for this. But Brandt, with the knowledge passed down by centuries of German pagans, knows the real term. Leylines.
Around this time last year, Fio Tessitore was a grad student at the University of Genoa, one of the largest universities in Italy. She was on track for graduation in almost every way, save for a rather implacable disagreement with her academic advisors over her planned thesis. A disagreement of ethics, to say the least.
And now, she muses to herself as she walks through the wide plaza leading to Dr. Burghardt Brandt's office, she's back on a school campus. Today she's chosen to wear a microfiber vest, a pair of jeans, and a fur-lined parka, and fur-lined boots to match. One could probably suggest that the young grad student wear a size larger -- though none of the students in her vicinity would dare to, nor would they care to.
The lightly-tanned Italian fingers the cinnamon-colored frames of her eyeglasses as she steps off the elevator, looking around. Her nose wrinkles at the smell, though from the smile that spreads across her lips, it seems like she enjoys the change in odor that comes with the artifacts. One finger twines itself in the curls of her black tresses as she stops before an array of darkstalker bones, clearly a work in progress.
But she does not beg for the attention of the doctor. It's not her style. She just reaches up and plucks a bone off the table, eyes crossing as she examines it with a mirthful smile. Some nerve!
A nearby young man, looking to be from the Balkans, shorter than average and with long hair and glasses, looks at Fio carefully as she approaches the bones. Then, as he picks one up, he quietly puts his clipboard down, and steps out of the room, briskly power walking to Dr. Brandt's office. There are some brief words exchanged in English, both of them with different accents, before Brandt puts his reports down and stands up. He pushes his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and tugs at his jacket, before he steps out of the office. The Balkan grad student points down the hallway at the office Tessitore is in, and Brandt moves languidly in that direction, lips puckered in annoyance ever so slightly.
"Can I help you?" comes Brandt's German accent, with a somewhat arrogant tone, as he stands in the doorway to the laboratory Fio is in, as if having just appeared there without any previous noise. Brandt is quite sneaky when he needs to be, something he picked up young, around his father driven alcoholic by living in East Germany for so long, and his own early childhood under Soviet rule before the Berlin Wall fell. He makes no motion to do anything yet, merely gauging the situation. His hands are in the pockets of his jacket, holding his cellphone in his left hand in case he needs to phone building security.
Fio has pretty exceptional hearing: one could say it's like spider-senses. But if he is, indeed, walking, she doesn't make any sign of hearing it, nor does she even acknowledge that the somewhat arrogant-sounding man standing behind her is even present. Waiting just enough time to keep from being written off as deaf, she shakes her head.
"Mmmm... I doubt it..." she begins, drawing her syllables out in as lazy and languorous a manner as possible, in stark contrast to the irritable, daresay -hostile- attitude presented her by the well-esteemed professor. She sets the bone back where she found it, just in a different orientation.
The back of the Italian's coat ripples slightly as she turns to face the doctor. She cocks her head to a fair angle as she gives the good doctor a once-over, taking note of the bearing and attitude of the man. "Oh, maybe you -are- the man I've been looking for. Tell me a little about this..." She gestures with both hands to indicate the work spread about. "... field of study...?"
Amusement plays across her features as the grad student stuffs her hands into her parka pockets. "Hee-hee. And don't feel like you have to sugar coat it, I -do- have a degree in comparative animal biology... and I may have information of interest to you!"
Dr. Brandt's eyes narrow faintly behind his glasses as he's dismissed so readily, before softening as he discovers she's looking for him. Eccentricity amongst academics is something he's used to. His mouth slides into a flat line as he listens, before nodding slowly and pulling his hands out of his pockets, free of his cellphone. "You could call it many things," he stays, slowly walking into the room, a faint shuffle to his heels now that he's no longer being careful. "This particular section would be close to your field of study. Cryptozoology would be the easiest term, although some knowledge of world mythology is necessary." He picks up a jaw bone, with razor sharp teeth along the bottom half. "This, for example, is the jaw of a werewolf, a creature long thought mythical until this year's earlier..." He sucks on his tongue briefly, trying to be neutral and sterilized. "Disturbance." He sets the bone down.
"I got my degree years ago, studying just such things. Many considered me mad for specializing in my field...The theology of the occult...But I have been vindicated." He offers her a smile, before spreading his hands and walking around to the other side of the table she stands before. "We are also studying the effects of their adapted weapons on humans and comparing them to legends, and searching for various relics they may have left behind here, so we can trace just what part of the world each type of creature comes from. At the present, we are not equipped for live samples for psychologists to observe, but..." He puts his fingers together, interlacing them with his palms up. "Who knows." The smug look communicates all he needs to, without giving away any obvious secrets. "So. How do you wish to get involved with Metro University, Miz...?"
As eccentricity goes, Miss Tessitore scores top marks. She casts her eyes down to the werewolf jaw, eyeing the form, the shape... the relative intactness of its teeth.
It's definitely not one of hers.
A slender finger prods the glasses up along the bridge of her nose as she shifts her focus to the good doctor. His tact is admirable: she assesses that he must be -quite- used to defending his preferred course of study to those who do not agree with him. She makes a point of rewarding his tact with a very slight frown -- borderline disapproval -- in order to mesh with that assessment.
Toying with the doctor, in other words. He speaks of the occult, and his fervor in following it, as if it were some victory to be won, rather than the simple way of things as she understands it. He's preaching to the choir, but for the moment, she doesn't want him to know that: she's lapping up his passive-aggressive hostility towards the educational establishment as if it were the nectar of the gods themselves. His smug attitude tells her everything she needs to know, really.
"You can call me Fio," she responds, her capricious attitude taking a turn for the bitter for a moment. "And I don't particularly care for the university itself, but I wonder if I might peruse your research on the occult at some point. I assure you, it's out of sheer educational curiosity."
She offers a tight smile at that, taking a step back. Her hands haven't left her pockets, though the shoulders of her parka appear to shrug somewhat. "And how do you manage to secure -funding- for your field of study, anyway? It does not seem like a particularly... interesting field of research." From the tilt of her head, the arachnidian expression on her face suggests that, despite the word selection's connotation of disapproval, she may actually be in favor of Dr. Brandt's research.
"Come with me," Dr. Brandt says, motioning at her to follow him as he moves out of the laboratory and down the hallway, the young grad student stepping back into the room to go about his work now that the interruption is finished. "I specialize at Europe, although I have made it my business to study the world's various legends and myths, from the Bastet cult of Egypt to the spider demons of the deep Amazon basin," he says, not facing her as he slowly moves along, back towards his office. "My first work, however, was that of my native Germany. This field of interest has been in my family since the time of the Holy Roman Empire, when my ancestor, a German monk, was assigned by the Holy See to study the various unusual creatures in the mountains of the German tribes."
"And the funding, of course, is from a number of wealthy patrons of academics abroad with such an interest in these things. Along with a decent grant from the United Nations to study the Majiken incident here, and gather our team from the world. Amassed at this project is knowledge in practical fields combined with every sort of national legend that's been passed down since ancient times," Brandt explains, stepping into his office. He moves to his bookshelf, and withdraws a slim volume in black, offering it to her. The front reads, in English, 'Daemonology of the German Peoples', with himself listed below the title as the other. 'Doctor Burghardt Brandt'. "This is my first volume, which is a collection of the various lore my family has gathered through the years. The Vatican graciously allowed me a chance to use it, in exchange for assisting with an exorcism."
Fio Tessitore smiles at the notion that he's a specialist in Europe: a good sign. Legends and myths, also good ... Egypt, and the spider demons, even better. But aside from his mention of Europe, the actual specimens seem to be from all over the freaking place. Not surprising, since it seemed that people would rather prefer to disavow the existence of darkstalkers entirely -- going so far as to -destroy- examples of their existence. As if you can banish a race by destroying existence of their dead.
As Fio follows along, she takes quiet note of her surroundings. She smiles vapidly at the students as they look up from their work, amused by the looks passed her way by some of the more sheltered students of the university.
Receiving the slim volume, she nods appraisingly as she opens the cover. The aroma of a freshly bound book, she notes; she hazards that few people other than the doctor himself have leafed through this volume before her. Her study is cursory -- to stand and read more than a few lines would be rude, after all, so she flips through for the pictures. "Exorcism, I see... Was it successful...?" A sly smirk crosses her lips for just a moment, as she thumbs through a few more pages
But... after receiving the responds, she returns to an earlier topic broached by the doctor. "United Nations," she repeats, with her amicable smile fading away to nonexistence. "Did they mention anything about a particular field of study they'd like you to pursue? Perhaps... plans to -destroy- the darkstalkers with this knowledge you're providing them?"
Eyeglasses glint in the light as she pivots her head. "It is, after all, understandable considering the risk to human lives..." She's testing, prodding for a reaction; for this, like anything else Fio undertakes, is an investigative experiment.
The book's illustrations are entirely drawings, depicting everything from vampires consorting with witches to Spring Heeled Jack being chased by the Gestapo in occupied Prague. "I ruled out demonic or ghostly possession after observing the girl's signs. Merely an unusual manifestation of her latent abilities combined with a frail psychological state. A martial arts instructor trained in such things sufficed. The Vatican found her an excellent tutor, and last I heard, she is a member of a German counter-terrorism unit." Dr. Brandt moves around to his desk to put some distance between himself and Fio, placing his left hand's fingertips on its battered wooden surface.
"The United Nations has funded us an exploratory committee. The entity, being, or individual calling himself 'Jedah Dohma's claims of peace were set back quite considerably after the incident during the Halloween fighting exposition. The Vatican, and many different religious organizations have pressured us to find some manner of weapon of easily destroying them, but..." Brandt watches her, noting the smile fading away. He's interacted with several religious cults in his time, mostly existing alongside them, but he can spot the signs easily. Proceeding cautiously, he merely hazards, "Our study is merely exploratory at this time, as per United Nations mandate. At least one of our graduate students, a specialist in Hebrew numerology from Israel, has put forth the theory that they, being intelligent, may be...Conflicted, and not all under the sway of Dohma. A distinctively Judeo-Christian position, admittedly."
Fio continues leafing through the book as she listens, idly perusing the drawings. She can agree that a lot of research has been put into it, but with no plans to read the work, she feels it would be disingenuous to show any more interest in it at the moment. Folding the book closed and setting it upon the desk, she takes her seat upon one of the couple of chairs available for such purpose. Crossing her legs in a leisurely fashion, she leans backwards into the chair.
Her face adopts a distinctively sunnier disposition as she laces her fingers together, resting her elbows upon the armrests. "Simple exploration is good. It is probably best to leave the wars to the non-intellectuals, wouldn't you agree?"
Her eyebrows arch up afterwards, at the suggestion that the darkstalkers might not be under the sway of Dohma. "Well, I'd hate to disagree, but I'd be happy to look over his sources. In my experience, there's very little evidence suggesting that Judeo-Christian beliefs have much at all to do with these creatures. And much less suggesting that Dohma has ... no sway upon them at all, hmm?"
Her eyes glance away for a moment, to the volume upon the professor's desk. And then she lifts her gaze back to him. "But perhaps, if it helps your student contextualize his study, the notion of a Savior does seem to be prevalent. It might be more accurate to suggest that the Savior is Jedah Dohma, himself. To them, there is no 'conflict,' for the hand of God is scarcely more obvious than when it is observed in the flesh. The power to make, or unmake, performed right before you."
She smiles alluringly, leaning forward upon her elbows. "Reading about miracles is one thing, but actually -observing- them? Your numerologist would go mad!"
Dr. Brandt listens quietly, taking a seat behind his desk and steepling his fingers in front of him, with his fingertips facing Fio. He purses his lips at this. "I must disagree. The Hebrews derive much of their myth from their neighbors. Zoroastrian fire cults that divided the metaphysical world into angels, beings of light, and demons, beings of fire...The Sumerian chthonic gods...And of course, the Egyptian beings that were both animal and human, and ruled over entire societies." Brandt swivels in his chair, and moves to a small refrigerator tucked in the corner, withdrawing a bottle of Coca-Cola, in a glass bottle. A simple pleasure he's held over from childhood, when it used to be quite expensive on the East German black market. When something is a luxury so young, the taste for it rarely goes away.
Using a bottle opener atop the desk to open the bottle, Brandt takes a sip to cool his pallatte and refresh it for more discussion. He is, admittedly, not used to lectures, which is something he will have to adjust to come spring. "It would be entirely possible if these creatures are real, that what we've discerned from our modern religious mores is in fact a more primitive human mind's interpretation of events. A benign 'Darkstalker', which is the term that's been used, may have been regarded as an angel, a familiar, even a deity. Versus a malevolent one, being a demon, a monster, a devil."
Doctor Brandt raises a finger, bottle in the same hand. "The question is, how do we respond to this? At the very least, proof of other dimensions beyond ours has been presented. And perhaps, proof of conflicts that may be so ancient that they date beyond recorded history. That is mainly for our historians to research. The earliest traditions happen to be in India and China, so, naturally, this is an area of interest." Brandt, practicing his academic rhetoric, poses a single question.
"Is Jedah Dohma what we'd call a wrathful God, or is he the ruler of Hell itself? It is quite the metaphysical question, that has caused much debate among many scholars."
If Fio's level of interest throughout the conversation were to be plotted on a chart, the line would start at 0 from the beginning, and would escalate rapidly to 40% or so, with a steady gradation upwards ever since. But there would be a marked precipice as soon as the fine details of her analogy are questioned into insignificance. She cares not of beings of light or chthonic gods, and has no idea how they even relate to the man known as Jedah Dohma -- other than that it's how people -relate- to the creatures she now considers family.
No, what bothers her is the way the professor reaches into the refrigerator and grabs himself a bottle of Coca-cola without so much as an offer to share. Sure, the bottles don't exhort the purchaser to share with a friend like their vulgar aluminum brethren, but geez. Fio can be a bit petulant at times, and this gesture brings out a frown from the young woman.
"These so-called scholars are wasting their time, then, if that's the best question they can muster. Do you define Hinduism in terms of Christianity? Or Buddhism in an Aboriginal language? It's useful from a comparative aspect, but without actually conversing with the worshippers of a religion, can you truly understand it?"
Fio draws in her breath, closing her eyes. Her shoulders heave -- though it is not in a way which would normally be associated with something a human can do.
She places her hands as if holding a box upon her left knee. "The God you know is omniscient, omnipotent, and unfathomable. He is, quite literally, unknowable." She moves her hands to suggest a box upon her right knee. "Whereas you can speak to Jedah Dohma himself. Hear his gospel, and his plan for the fate of humanity, and post-humanity, firsthand."
Fio looks back at Dr. Brandt as if he had been speaking German the past few moments. "The way you're handling this research reminds me of the three blind men describing an elephant to one another."
Dr. Brandt notices the frown, and does not regret the least bit his refusal to share his Coca-Cola supply with her. In his subconscious, it is still a precious taste of the West that multiple people, some of them his own family, risked their lives for, most likely for Christmas. His expression is soft, at first, but hardens as she continues to speak. As his eyebrows knit together at her, he realizes that his first instinct was correct, that she is a cultist, worshipping Dohma. He's glad he still has the cellphone on him. This time, he won't call campus security, or even the police department. No, this call is going straight to Stray, if he needs to use it. His left hand creeps back slightly, as he prepares his retort.
"In that case, it would appear that Jedah Dohma is what a European would call the Prince of Darkness," he says caustically, with his words sliding from between tightly moving teeth, before his jaw clenches shut. He sips his Coca-Cola, appraising her for her reaction. To Brandt, Fio is now held in a lower regard than those academics and scientists and laymen that questioned his life's work. No, she's not only questioned it, she's opted to place herself at the tip of his rapier. He watches her tensely, his chin tilted upward, both to sip his bottle, and in an expression of pure arrogant hatred.
Dr. Brandt's behavior is suspicious -- she'd noticed him keeping his hands in his pockets before, and Fio is not, in fact, as stupid as her childishly impulsive behavior might connote.
She exhales slowly, making an obvious attempt to collect herself. She has a button of her own she can use, but would really rather not... Though he -is- showing a certain manicness of his own. He's hiding something, she can tell.
She smiles sweetly, and spreads her hands wide. "Doctor, Doctor. I'm not attempting to question your methods, or your research, but to illustrate that your picture is simply... incomplete...! That your research suggests the views of closed-minded people who want to define reality in their own terms, rather than those of a true believer."
Fio stands up, at this point. "Humanity is afraid of what it cannot put on an examining table. But moreover... afraid to embrace its own potential. But it's really not that difficult to understand, when you look back at the animal world. There are those who evolve. And the rest are lunch." She tips her chin towards the Doctor -- as condescending a gesture as she can effectively manage to someone so arrogant as he. She holds her hands up, demonstrating clearly that they are empty, before folding them before her as a measure of obsequience. "I leave you for now. But, just so you know, the Prince of Darkness is someone else entirely."
She turns to walk away, flicking her wrist at the desk in what seems to be a careless, dismissive gesture -- and it would be, if not for the sudden blur of motion. The desk shudders as a small cocoon of silk appears in the center, close enough to shock but not unduly threaten the doctor. "Good luck in your research."
If he peels the cocoon apart, he'll find a business number for a Doctor Fio Tessitore, along with a local Metro cell number.
Dr. Brandt lowers his Coke bottle, considering Tessitore's words carefully, listening to her. She seems quite intelligent, despite being completely devoted to Dohma and whatever place the monstrosities emerged from to terrorize Metro City. To Burghardt, it's just a misfortune of building your city at such a vortex of paranormal energy. Always listen to the natives, they know the area best. And he applies that rule here, as he listens to Fio's speech on humanity's fears. He says nothing else, merely jerking backwards at the cocoon of silk. He raises an eyebrow, watching her as she leaves, before pulling out a letter opener and a pair of forceps from his desk. He daintily opens the cocoon, before using the forceps to pull the card out. Stray will have to see this.
Log created on 19:50:45 12/05/2015 by Dr. Tessitore, and last modified on 11:02:10 12/06/2015.