Knock, knock, knocking on Sergeant Hemelshot's door, Yiska calls out, "Sarge? Got a moment?"
"Always, Karuk. What can I do for you?"
Yiska Steps into Hemelshot's office, glancing behind nervously and closes the door. "Ah, well, not me personally. Jama and I were discussing some things in the Hospital after Omega Sector, and, well, she's been on my case about this." Yiska glances around. "Uhm... Can we talk somewhere outside of prying ears, eyes, and minds?"
Hemelshot pauses for a moment, then nods. He picks a few pieces of electronics from within his desk, holsters his pistol from where it's been lying on the desktop and gestures to the door. "The balconies on the upper stories of the XSWAT tower are as secure as I can get. I've a white-noise generator to prevent electronic surveillance, there are no windows to bounce a laser and there's virtually nobody else up there to overhear a conversation. Will that do?"
"I was actually thinking of someplace off-base..." Yiska turns to leave and opens the door. As they step outside into the corridor, they see Jama, her arms laden with books and a very "You boys are being silly about this secrecy stuff" look on her face as she sees Hemelshot with the noise generator. "I'm not sure Jama's research will appreciate a windy balcony."
Hemelshot suppresses a laugh, but poorly. "Point." He glances at his office. "I don't know about IA, but I have security sweep my office every two or three weeks. They were last here a few days ago, so if you're comfortable with other XSWAT personnel possibly overhearing us, we're better here than most places outside. We could head to Hal's office if you're worried about computer security." He gathers Karuk and Renuka with a questioning look. "Just how secret are you wanting? Carpenter might be willing to let us use his greenhouse—and verify that there's only one guy listening in."
Jama glances over her shoulder and then up at the ceiling. "Some place the Director isn't."
"That would be appreciated, yes," says Yiska. "I'm not sure how well Carpenter will take this information."
They agree on a small Asian Tea Cafe that Jama frequents with her studies, so being there won't attract much attention.
"Sarge," Yiska starts, "I'm not going to dodge the subject with long introductions or whatever. I'm sure both you and Jama would appreciate that. In Omega Sector, when Hope was asking for us all to give something up, and then afterwards she allowed me to look beyond the door...
"...What I saw there will never leave me. A field of white extended before me and then came to an edge. Beyond that edge black darkness that seemed to drain away at the light and life of my soul existed. Within that darkness I saw several Red Stars. Similar to what we saw when the sky was opened over Rio. The Red stars exhibited an almost tangible amount of malice that crashed over me in waves.
"What was different in Omega was that there was a woman clothed in white who was singing a beautiful song. When she became aware of my presence, she turned around and smiled at me. That's when I... I recognized her. That woman is Director Cadbury."
Hemelshot looks on expectantly for a moment, then realizes that there isn't any more. He settles back in his seat, picks up his coffee and sips it, never taking his eyes off Karuk. He blinks, then lowers his eyes and contemplates his drink.
"So. You're in Omega Sector—part of Angelus—and perceive a mighty defender against a sea of evil." He pauses. "That person looks like the director of XSWAT—who is pretty much the figurehead of the defenders of the city that millions of Angelus citizens know." He puts his cup down and looks to Renuka.
"You had a theory about magic and belief and reality that went way over my head. Something about collective belief reshaping reality in its own image. Assuming that you," he glances to Karuk, "weren't hallucinating, tricked or superimposing your personal interpretation on what you saw," he holds up his hand to forestal Karuk's objection, "you're telling me that Cadbury could be a divine/superpowerful being standing between us and an onrushing horde of evil.
He again raises his hands to stave off rising objections. "What I mean is, what does it matter? You're seeing Cadbury as a symbol of a supreme defender of reality—and she actually is the Director of a combat force defending the city against evil. And the city is the collective reality that millions of citizens accept. Does it really matter if she's human or not? If she is, she's doing a hell of a good job. If she's more that that, she's still doing a hell of a good job, and either way apparently knows how to integrate more-than-normal people into an effective fighting force.
Hemelshot leans back and picks up his coffee once again. "You've got a nice theory. I repeat—so what, and what do you want to do about it?"
"I don't want you to do anything, Sir," Jama replies. "But I want to know more about Cadbury. Who she is, where she comes from, and how she ended up as Director. If what Karuk saw was more than symbolic imagery, what does Cadbury know about the Entities? And why doesn't she tell us more?" She pauses and takes a sip of tea, her expression one clearly indicating she isn't through talking.
"At times, we seems to be fighting blind, reacting only to Entity appearances. I'd like to be able to stop Entities before they show up... and I'd like to know more about that they are, so I... we, can develop better weapons against them. And I have to wonder if Cadbury knows more then she's told us so far."
"I agree, it was no coincidence that she sent us on a 'vacation' to Rio to 'conveniently' interfere with another portal to hell being opened." Yiska pauses to stare into his cup, "Although... she seems taxed herself. When I looked through the door, she turned to smile at me, and that simple act seemed to weaken whatever barrier she had constructed."
"I'm not wondering so much what Director Cadbury can do for us, but what we can do more for Director Cadbury."