But there's an east wind coming all the same; such a wind as never blew on our battlefield yet. It will be cold and bitter, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's His own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared...
... What a crock of shit.
I'm having trouble renewing what amounts to "blind faith" these days. Though I've never been one for abandoning my own paradigms and throwing caution to the wind in the name of belief, it's certainly proving difficult to summon anything more than a sliver of hope. Sunshine? Is that supposed to be a bloody joke? This conflict is getting darker than it's ever been, and yet the Tall Gentleman stands, forever unchanging....
And what a forecast of doom and gloom we've had lately! If anyone wears a hat of grey in this moralistic spat, I'm sure they've been finding recent developments rather entertaining. They're also a giant prat, if anyone's asking, but that's besides the point. Analysis of information is slow and on-going, because it seems that we have about five false feeds for every legitimate one (and yet the Organization refuses to acknowledge that there's even a chance of an infiltrator within our midsts! Truly, every single day they find new ways to astound and surprise their ever so loyal employees.); because of that, it is up to whomever has a speck of free time to bite the figurative, but possibly soon to be literal, bullet and sort out what is true and what isn't. As talented as some of us are, humanity has its limitations, though I'm sure some of you out there have doubts to how much humanity we of the Tall Gentleman possess.
Humanity is certainly a topic, however, that I'd rather not bring up at the moment. My trip to examine the workings of a Cult town were, at best, disturbing. If anything, they're efficient, but you'll have to excuse my disgust for a system that is effectively Battle Royal de-fictionalized, with additions of A Clockwork Orange and perhaps a little sliver of Dr. Joseph Mengel.
Yes, it is that bad. Not that I didn't have warning; granted, "Maybrick", (alternatively Tom O'Harra, one of the only other Handlers in the Hyperion District; that being the one I belong to, of course) did offer some words of advice before I set off.
"You're not going to like what you see, Sherlock." Was the first thing I heard upon going into head office to pick up my orders; a bustling place, looking completely like a normal, busy office space. Granted, I wasn't exactly privy to the fact that the female voice I was currently hearing belonged to Ms. O'Harra herself, nor was I made aware that Ms. O'Harra was, in fact, a Miss. I felt myself whirl around, instantly on guard, hand hovering on my combat knife beneath my coat. Facing me was a tall woman in a perfectly tailored suit set, hair pulled into a truly impeccable bun, not one strand out of place.
"Oh? And why is that...?" I must admit I raised an eyebrow as I zeroed in on a stack of paperwork tucked under her arm - and the signature that was on it. The issue of her identity now reasonably solved, I was able to finally focus on her response.
"You're not exactly known for your lack of emotional response in situations like these." She sighed, not even looking at me as she set down the stack on one desk, not even pausing before she picked up another. "I know every little dirty secret about you, after all. Well..." She stopped, holding up an overstuffed file. "I know whatever is in this thing, anyways."
I have to admit, I didn't actually expect her to abuse her position, if you could consider such a thing abuse. Everyone in the district knows that Tom - my apologies, "Maybrick" - is almost the unofficial office junkie out of all of us. Certainly, it would be impossible for the other Handlers to function without her, as her assistance is what keeps the district organized, up, and running; but the thought of her using her power to get the scoop on the rest of us didn't even cross my mind. In hindsight, this was incredibly stupid of me, and Ms. O'Harra must have recognized my shocked expression. Her short tut was enough to snap me out of my contemplative daze; she took to straightening my loose tie, signalling to another office-attire clad proxy (or at least I assumed them to be proxies; after further study, I have concluded that may not have been the case) to go get something, a short wait later, revealed to be coffee.
"That being said, you've got an annual due in fifteen days, three reports due in seven, and two sets of transfer paperwork that need to be in as soon as possible. That's on top of your progress reports on the Moriarty issue and the write up on your current mission." Her expression softened as I reacted to the reminder with wide eyes and tense shoulders.
"... Hey, relax, alright...? [REDACTED] and I will help you through this. I should call you Bambi, for heaven's sake..." My breath hitched, and she turned her head; I caught crow's feet on the edge of her eyes. "It'll be fine, Holmes. Trust me."
And with that, she tightened my tie with expert efficiency, and the moment was gone. I muttered a "Thank you" and "I'm sorry, It'll get done soon" under my breath, and walked out without another word.
I think the overwhelming normalcy of the Cult was what surprised me the most. Because I've seen what, or more accurately who was a result of such a system, I, perhaps, expected some sort of, I don't know, a coliseum of sorts? Perhaps a picturesque village, complete with total silence and patches of rust upon the ground that, yes, may be blood? No, the place I was lead to certainly looked... ordinary. Instead of horrible visions of horror and suffering, I was instead treated to what seemed to be a well built and rather nondescript compound. Trees flanking all sides of the camp aside from the road outwards, it almost seemed like a resort, or vacation spot. Somewhere you'd take your elderly parents and kids.
But the air of this place... it's hard to describe as anything other than completely wrong. Like it's too thick to be in your lungs, like it's crawling down your throat, invading you, drowning you; and the light seems oversaturated and unnatural, casting over everything, as if it was a stifling blanket that made every single surface look painted, surreal.
That was simply my initial impression. What followed was somewhat unnerving; though it certainly was fascinating in a morbid sense. I was shown around the compound by Deus, the current leader of Cult Operations. "I, of course, only hold any sort of sway if you so allow it, Sir." He offered as we walked, but I informed him that I wanted little to nothing to do with this place. He gave a robotic nod, then proceeded to enthusiastically describe each and every torture that they put their trainees through in each area.
I saw the "Nurturing compound"; rows upon rows of blank faced, swollen bellied mothers, seemingly unaware that they were effectively cattle.
I saw the trainees themselves; either scrawny, almost feral in nature, or unnaturally calm and expressionless.
I saw the execution grounds, the nooses on trees for those deemed not good enough to be of service, the bloodied axe and chopping block for those who broke the rules, the single concrete wall marked by bullet holes, for those who could not be controlled or killed by simpler means.
All while Deus chattered in my ear, telling me of the great "Servants of God" they've produced, how much pride they have in their work, and how effective their methods are.
I met Harpole, who watched over the trainees most, a young man with a bright smile and dead eyes.
I met Sycora, who would regularly send trainees to their deaths, her full lips constantly drawn into a thin line.
I met Fairfax, who cared for the cattle and catered to their every need - which never went beyond food and water.
I met Costanzo, who existed solely to break the trainees who rebelled; a man with so many scars on his arms that the raised white skin almost made up their entirety.
It's truly difficult to understand the scope of this operation until you see it. They need none of my help or guidance. The system is self sustained. They live, breathe, and produce; thinking nothing of consequence or morality. And the proxies sent to us from such a place will fight until they die, or will be able to weave worlds out of nothing. It's truly amazing, in my opinion.
It will be allowed to operate as usual. I will do nothing to stop it. The Organization, after all, needs soldiers, and who better to die in a war than those who grew up wanting nothing more than to die...?
... and after I left