Jebest4781: This was great and love how it turned out. Enjoyed the humor as always and loved what you did with including Rick and Morty in a sense as that world is on the very edge of the finite curve. Can't wait to see what you'll do on the upcoming arcs.

Re: I hadn't planned for it to take until after I saw the Rick & Morty Season 5 Finale to update, but the Central Finite Curve did play into DC's (and Marvel's) Multiverse; I'd never even considered that Canonically, the Citadel would've "walled off" their own little spiral of the Multiverse from anything that could be a threat to them, though from an (un)ethical standpoint it makes perfect sense.
And you just know that "Evil" Morty is going to appear in a bunch of new Crossover FanFics given the means he took to leave his own sliver of the Multiverse. Season 5's Finale did half the work for writers. And given he could pull one over "the Rickest Rick"…

JackOhLantern: This was a great chapter, and I really enjoyed that "Rick and Morty" bonus element you add. I didn't even realize that the drunkle character might be Rick. Awesome work.

Re: Really? I thought I was pretty on-the-nose with his description and him being named "Rick", with "Grunkle" being an easy Gravity Falls reference.

Fallendemon248: Ah man I was kinda hoping virgil and Rick would finish their fight but hey it was cool while it lasted

Re: Do you really think Virgil would be able to beat a version of Rick smart-enough to hide in Project Phoenix's "Morphing Grid" until the Finite Central Curve collapsed?
I mean sure, the cybernetics had dummy ammo, but Ricks are notoriously difficult to kill unless you completely blindside them.

Blaze1992: Virgil's mind is completely in the right to shut down after that.
Also nicely done with happened to SM by Brick, any chance that was on camera so the girls can watch and laugh their a** off for all time?

Re: Unfortunately, Brick's smack-down happened too-quickly~
I was going to have a hockey stick shoved up his ass as he hung head-down in the dumpster, but I thought that'd "needlessly antagonize" the guy and make him more-likely to attack the Fortune Hunters, and thusly get killed in retaliation.

*FETCH QUEST*

FoxCry Bunker
November 30, 6:31 EST

"Carolina, I hear you've been cleared to take missions again," Agent York hummed as he sat across from Carolina that morning at breakfast.

"Yeah…"

"You don't sound very enthused about it."

"It's just… My first mission back in the field is going to be looking after the kid… And what he said about me back in October…"

" . . . You know, there's an old saying my mom used to tell me whenever I messed something up," York hummed. "If you burn your eggs making breakfast, all you have to do, is make them again."

" . . . So you're saying I should just bite the bullet?"

"It wouldn't hurt to apologize too."

"Yeah… I guess you're right."

"So, where you and the kid going out to?"

"Assuming he lets us lean on him, we'll be infiltrating an Argus facility."

"Well now… Let's hope things stay civil then," York said with a blink.

"One can only hope…"

*FETCH QUEST*

Moxxxi's Red Light
November 30, 7:29 EST

"Work training?" Athena blinked that morning at breakfast.

"Something like that," Virgil replied, having gotten the encoded dispatch order over Codec, and what he'd need to bring with him, as soon as he'd woken up.

He wouldn't put it past the mad scientists that made the Nanosuit, to have a way of tracking his biometrics at-range so they could contact him at the earliest waking moment.

"How long will you be gone?" Shaula asked, Thanksgiving on her end having gone off more or less 'without a hitch'.

That the Fortune Hunters had a shiny new mobile home for Scooter to live in was definitely a step up, all things considered.

"Don't know. That's what I'm going to find out," the brunette replied, finishing his food before re-tying his shoes. The jog from home to work, even in a place like Bludhaven, was like a literal walk in the park compared to a foray of equivalent distance in the Red Zone, so even bereft of a car, he had no problem making the trip on-foot. And if it were time-sensitive, he figured they'd send a car.

" . . . Good luck," Athena nodded. Wherever he was really going, sending him off with a smile, was all she could really do for him at the moment.

Hopefully with the Holo-Table she'd gotten from Tony, she'd be able to catch the eye of whoever was filling his coffers for his real job, and be able to help him more-directly.

She wanted to say more to him… but she couldn't bring herself to just yet.

*FETCH QUEST*

FoxCry Bunker: War Room
November 30, 8:04 EST

Virgil, taking his seat and donning the AR glasses that were waiting for him, found the holographic image of the Colonel appearing before him.

"Colonel," Virgil greeted with a nod.

"Snake, it's good to see you again. How was your Thanksgiving?"

"I wound up killing a Mountain Lion. Apart from that, it was dandy."

"That's… good to know," the man hummed as he digested the words, wondering just what this "child soldier" had gotten up to since the "Atom Debacle". "Anyhow, I have a mission for you; one that only you, in your unique circumstance, can carry out."

"I'm listening," Virgil responded, straightening in his seat and eager to get back to work, hoping it wouldn't turn pear-shaped like the last one.

Of course, hoping for something, didn't mean he was banking on a favorable outcome; but it wasn't healthy to have no hope at all either. Hope, luck, and a million other things had been all that'd carried him through the Red Zone until he'd acquired the Nanosuit and his eventual departure.

He hoped that by the time he was strong-enough to return to the Red Zone, that Dana would still be there… It was why he was going to put everything he had into this next mission, and the one after that, and the one after that. Because as long as weird shit like radioactive Russians, monster cows, and evil Speedsters from the future could give him pause, there wasn't any way he could walk back into Alex Mercer's stomping grounds and hope to leave alive…

It was a bit early, but his New Year's Resolution was that he would intensify his training, make himself at least as strong as any "boy sidekick", so that there was even a chance he could take Mercer out.

"The objective for this mission will be this; the Renard Blade," Colonel stated as another hologram appeared in the space between them.

A European longsword, right out of an Arthurian legend with a cruciform hilt and a grip for two-handed use, the crossguard bent toward the blade, which itself possessed a rippling pattern like water with a jet-black meteoric stone in the pommel. The scabbard was a dark-red color decorated with silver enamel in wider rippling patterns.

Now, Virgil didn't know squat about medieval weaponry, but the fact that the weapon was listed as being so-light, despite its size, seemed strange to him. Or at least it would've if the composition wasn't labeled as Nth Metal, the extraterrestrial alloy that Hawkman and Hawkwoman made use of, possessing anti-magic and anti-gravitic properties.

"As I'm aware you've gotten a taste of, the presence of magic on the battlefield, should it become commonplace, threatens to undo every technological advancement of the last hundred years. For that purpose, you'll be retrieving this magic-dispelling weapon from The Black Room, an A.R.G.U.S. repository for all the magical and mystical objects officially collected by the United States for protection from those who might misuse them, for the purpose of reverse-engineering its magic counteracting properties."

"And you think because I can use a little magic, that I can just walk in and out just like that?" Virgil asked incredulously, snapping his fingers. "Colonel, I don't know who you think I am in my 'Wildcard' persona, but it sure as hell ain't Arsene freakin' Lupin."

"Oh, don't worry about that, you won't be stealing it. A.R.G.U.S. will be giving it to you."

" . . . . . . Eh?"

"Agent Carolina will explain in further detail en-route, as she's done work for A.R.G.U.S. in the past, and as such, knows the most about the facility you'll be infiltrating," Colonel continued. "Situated in the folder in front of you is the new identity that has been prepared for your usage. Because Homo Magi are so-secretive, it won't be all that strange for your credentials to be so few. As long as you keep your Glamour active, what happens on this mission should remain insulated from your civilian identity; just the way you like it, as I've been led to understand."

Virgil, looking down at the innocuous-looking manilla folder placed before him, flipped it open to see a few sheets of paper, and a brand-new driver's license.

" . . . Oh that is such bullshit!"

-is what he wanted to say when he read the name.

What actually came out of his mouth, was a lot more mundane…

"How the hell did you get this picture?"

*FETCH QUEST*

"Carolina."

"Virgil…" Carolina replied to the brunette's curt greeting in The Bunker's motor pool. "Um, listen, about what happened before-"

"I'm over it. Let's just focus on the mission at hand," he said opening the door for her with the courtesy he could dredge up.

"Uh, yeah, that's probably for the best…" the red-head nodded. Getting in the car, Carolina would've been shocked at the sight of an unfamiliar white-haired teen climbing in next to her, if it weren't for the fact that she'd already been briefed on the connection he'd established with Giovanni Zatara on what was supposed to be a vacation from the fallout of a gang war gone completely sideways.

Even seeing the proof of it before her very eyes, she was still shocked and amazed that so-soon after getting in the mercenary business, so-soon after inheriting the moniker of "Snake", that he'd been able to ingratiate himself into one of the most-powerful, as well as most-secretive communities in the world. Sure, the Justice League already contained members of the US Armed Forces in the likes of Nathaniel C. Adams and John Stewart, but as far as they knew, no-one was an outright spy.

Well, "spy" might've been over-selling what Virgil had become. At the most, he'd only agreed on passive surveillance, and only if he fell any deeper down the rabbit hole. But even if he weren't delving for tactical weaknesses, having an ear to isolated ground was still immensely valuable. Having some forewarning about a Justice League member, or just any of their young wards, on the verge of going "postal" held as-enormous an amount of significance as forewarning of a terrorist biological weapon attack.

If even one person had been able to see the second coming of Mercer, well… coming, maybe the complete and total ruination of New York could've been prevented.

Because make no mistake, despite how-valuable the land was, with Manhattan looking the way it did now, no sane person would want to live there for at least a hundred years after the whole thing blew over.

If, it blew over.

*FETCH QUEST*

"Colonel says you've worked with Argus before."

"That's right."

"Then maybe you can tell me why exactly they'd hand over the McGuffin to me of their own volition," Virgil asked once Bludhaven was behind them, York at the wheel of a quote/unquote "anonymous" black van with tinted windows.

Carolina for her part didn't like the way he'd called a magic-busting weapon a "McGufffin"… only to realize from his perspective that's exactly what it was to him.

"Argus, the 'Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-humans', acts to support the United States' super-human individuals, undertake government research, oversee U.S. responsibilities involving super-humans, and respond to small-scale metahuman threats. One such responsibility, since the Cold War, was the study of the more 'esoteric' in this country's future."

"Magic, basically."

"Yes. As for why they're going to give us the Renard Blade for when we leave, it's because research data on 'new' magi is an extremely valuable commodity for training the United States' 'Mage Corps' or whatever they're going to call it."

"Soooo… what? I'm a test bed for the best way to raise up 'combat-ready' magic users in a timely and cost-effective matter?"

"In as many words. The official story if you've read between the fine print, is that you're a ward of Foxhound after your parents were killed by Satanic cultists in the deep-south. That's why we were able to negotiate for 'any one (1) item from the Black Room Arcane Object Repository able to be carried out by hand' as payment for your cooperation in their non-invasive testing."

"So the Renard Blade is going to be payment then."

"It'll actually be 'an unrelated material gift to promote goodwill between A.R.G.U.S. and FOXHOUND', at least on-paper. The bean-counters would get pretty steamed if they just gave their magical loot away."

"So a fancy word for 'bribe' then," he mused. " . . . I can see how an anti-magic weapon would be useful. Nth Metal bullets sound good on paper, but they can be lost very easily while a weapon can be used over and over again. Even modified into an HF Blade," he mused, remembering what he'd read about Raiden and his near-magical blade that could cut through literally anything.

The only real constraint against that kind of weapon was the power source, which is why they were typically only used by "cyborg ninjas" who were specially modified with internal power cells dedicated specifically for such weapons.

"That… actually is going to be the plan, if this operation goes off without a hitch," Carolina nodded. "Technically speaking, any melee weapon can be augmented with HF technology, but the better the 'crafting' material, the more 'Legendary' the end-result becomes."

"I see…"

"There is a catch however."

"Because of course there is."

"The contract doesn't explicitly stipulate what you'll be carrying out of the Black Room, only that you will be going in to 'retrieve' it. For all they know, they think you'll pick up the first 'shiny spoon' without looking for the 'diamond in the rough'. However, the only reason we know that the Renard Blade is in the Black Room in the first place, is because we knew Argus was the one to 'collect' it initially; we don't actually have a manifest of what's in the Black Room at-present."

"So what happens if the Renard Blade is gone by the time I get there?" Virgil asked warily.

There was a huge difference between knowing about a secret repository, and knowing what was in said 'secret repository'. If Foxhound dug too deep, Argus would patch any leaks that Foxhound might need to exploit in the future, so negotiating for 'any one (1) item from the Black Room' instead of 'the Renard Blade' explicitly, was the smarter play.

At least in his cracked, paranoid mind.

"That is an eventuality we've considered," Carolina admitted. "If that turns out to be the case, Colonel and the Director have agreed that you should use your own judgement and acquire an object that is a blend of 'useful', 'powerful', and 'safe' that we wouldn't be able to get our hands on otherwise."

"They'd really let me wander out with something potentially dangerous?"

"Well, you'll have an escort familiar with the room's contents who will keep you away from the 'radioactive material'. Like I said, we know of the Black Room, but not its contents, so there could be just about anything in there. Your Primary Objective, upon 'infiltrating' the Black Room, is to acquire the Renard Blade for Foxhound. If that isn't possible, your secondary objective will be to acquire the best 'treasure' you can find."

"I see…" Virgil said fingering his Glamour; the lynchpin of the whole operation and the only thing keeping his professional life from leeching over into his private life.

According to the little handbook Zatanna had given him, Glamour not only altered the user's appearance, they also concealed themselves from cursory notice. As long as no-one suspected you were under disguise via Glamour, and you didn't wear the damn thing out in the open for everyone to see like a complete and total jackass, the Glamour was functionally flawless as an infiltration tool.

After all, how-useful would Glamour charms be if everyone knew-about and were on-the-lookout-for them, if they didn't come with their own form of concealing magic?

"So… Are we driving all the way there?"

"We'll swap vehicles halfway there," Carolina answered. "York will be going back to base, but I'll be going along with you as your 'chaperone' to make sure nothing… untoward occurs."

"Yeah, I can imagine what you'd consider as 'untoward'."

You only need to wake up on a laboratory slab against your will with a murder-bot hanging over you once for your mind to always go there when the word 'untoward' came up in conversation.

"So, in the meantime, you wanna hit this with me?" Carolina groused holding up a familiar electronic cigar.

"EVIL!" Virgil yelped slapping the Phantom Cigar from her hand like it were horrendously expired candy.

*FETCH QUEST*

Virgil, wisely turning down Carolina's offer of mind-altering, time-dilating drugs, instead chose to leaf through the little grimoire that Zatanna had given him. Apart from the most minor of elemental magics which would be used to build up to much grander feats, there wasn't anything overtly dangerous in there.

At least, not unless you dug deeper. While the majority of what he had been given would be considered "domestic magics", the sort of thing you'd expect a wizard to use in Harry Potter to make their lives easier in lieu of fancy electronics, even the seemingly weakest of spells, when applied with guile and precise timing, could prove incredibly potent. A single mutterance of "Slip" in-reverse could completely annihilate a Speedster's footing. A hastily called out "Grip" would let you grapple a greased pig. At the moment he only had enough confidence in his magical reservoir for single-word incantations; but given how many words there were in the English language, assuming he could slog through a volume of Websters without completely zonking out, there was a lot of potential to be found with the Zatara family style of Reverse Incantation.

Provided of course, that he used the right word, at exactly the right moment. And don't even get me started on remembering all those words.

If he used "Defenestrate", his favorite word of all time on a person, would they be magically thrown out the window like a Force Push, or would fate align things so they threw themselves out a window "by complete accident"? If he used it in a room without windows, would the spell not work, would they plow through however-many walls it took for them to find a window, or would it be a case of the above?

Questions for another day he supposed.

The turnover a couple of hours later went off without a hitch. Aside from his magical ring, Glamour, and book, anything else he needed for the duration would be provided by Argus.

When the van eventually carried them into the District of Columbia, with its iconic monuments visible outside his window including but not limited to the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and a good chunk of the Smithsonian… that's when Virgil realized shit just got real.

'It's okay… It's okay… Just don't blow your cover and you'll be fine…'

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters
November 30, 11:52 EST

'In all honesty… I was kind of expecting this…' Virgil hummed to himself as the van he'd arrived at DC in descended down a freight elevator beneath what looked like a miscellaneous government warehouse on the outside.

Wasn't any less conspicuous than a freight elevator under a garage for armored vehicles.

"So, any advice?" Virgil asked subvocallly?

"You can relax, for one. They're all friendlies," Carolina returned.

"And if they stop being friendly?"

"Kill anything that moves between us and the carpool."

"You answered that way too quickly."

"Shut up, we're here," she replied as the freight elevator jostled to a stop.

'Alright… Time to get into character,' Virgil nodded as the door was opened for him.

*FETCH QUEST*

At around the same time, two men made their way down a wide hallway toward the motor pool.

The first was a Caucasian man, clean-shaven and ruggedly handsome, his blond hair trimmed in a crisp military cut, his eyes an intense shade of blue. He was clad in green army fatigues, and was over six feet tall with a muscular body; the embodiment of the masculine military ideal. At the moment, he was armed with an ordinary-looking sidearm.

The second was less overtly-masculine, though still fit, and quite handsome with regal European blood; a real lady-killer with his coifed black hair, finely-groomed mustache, and slate blue eyes. His attire consisted of a fine double-breasted suit colored black, a white ascot at his neck. Though unarmed, to those initiated in the ways of magic, he was absolutely brimming with power, and not someone to cross carelessly.

"Hmmm…" the blond hummed, eyeing a sparse file as they walked. "The kid's credentials are pretty scarce."

"Yes, well, the boy is a ward of Foxhound, so that was bound to be the case," the more-handsome of the two replied with a wave of his hand, a copy of the contained driver's license fluttering up into his hand as though by magic. "You should know by now how-secretive Magi can be, and the supernatural in general. Hell, we still don't know where she comes from, and your government's been combing the Aegean Sea since World War Two."

"And you're sure we should be dealing with these guys?" the blond replied. "Foxhound tends to be filled with some rather… eccentric characters."

Not to mention terrifying. Psycho Mantis was allegedly the most-powerful Telepath of his age, Revolver Ocelot's marksmanship was unsurpassed in all the modern world, Solid Snake had taken out an Abrhams tank with nothing but a handful of grenades and a Metal Gear with a rail gun that he carried by hand. And those were just the Foxhound members people outside the organization knew about…

"Pot, meet kettle."

"You know what I mean," the blond sighed.

"Well it isn't like we have fresh mages willing to cooperate with a corrupt and racist government lining up around the corner to help with our research. Pickings are slim, and last I checked, Team 7 needs all the help it can get; certain princess dignitaries notwithstanding."

"We are not using child soldiers," the blond growled.

"Which is why we'll use what we learn training him, to train adults to be magical soldiers instead," the handsome man said rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Christ, we've had this conversation… how many times?"

"Too many to count," the blond sighed, the man beside him waving his hand and causing the doors in front of them to part. "Showoff."

"If I really wanted to show off-"

"Alright, I get it," the blond sighed as they entered the motor pool, an unmarked black van with tinted windows disembarking from the freight elevator and coming up towards them before turning, the passenger doors facing them.

"Remember to smile for god's sake. You don't want to scare off another one~"

"Zip it you sonofa-Greetings!" the man said changing tact as the door opened, a shock of white hair and pale skin greeting him as a fit teen with crimson eyes garbed in casual attire stepped out into the artificial lighting. "Welcome to Argus HQ. I trust you had a pleasant trip?"

"The trip was fine," the boy from the file replied to him, his English possessing the faintest traces of a French accent as he offered a hand to the person sitting next to him; a tall, muscular, gorgeous woman with shoulder-length crimson hair and fair skin garbed in combat boots, tight-fitting jeans, a teal-colored shirt, and a black leather jacket, the glint of a sidearm in a shoulder holster catching his eye. "I am sure you were already briefed on my identity, but propriety dictates I introduce myself regardless. My name is William Descartes, but you can call me 'Will' for short; I'll be in your care for the next few weeks."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Will. I'm Steve Trevor, 'secret agent'~ The 'fancy lad' over here is Sebastian Faust. He will primarily be in charge of your 'coursework' during the course of your stay."

"Steve Trevor…? As in that Steve Trevor?!" Will gawked incredulously.

"No, no, that was Steve Trevor Senior. I'm Steve Trevor the Third," the now-named Steve Trevor III replied in a practiced tone; he'd obviously been mistaken for his grandfather many times. "I can understand why you'd think that, though. The Trevor bloodline just… doesn't want to let go apparently," he chuckled scratching his cheek.

"Ah, I see…" Will hummed. "The resemblance is rather uncanny."

"I have to say, your English is quite good," Sebastian nodded. "Though you don't sound like you're from Louisianna."

"This is my 'Louisianna accent'," Will replied brusquely. "Just so we're all on the same page here, I'm here to help you experiment with developing a 'magical education plan' for later use?"

"In a nutshell," Steve replied. "We'll begin tomorrow. Right now, we'll get you two some security credentials and let you get settled in, give you the grand tour."

"For someone you just met?" Will blinked.

"We're hoping to foster working relations with Foxhound for the future. Agent Carolina here has worked with Team 7 in the past, though I will admit, it's the first time I've ever seen her face~"

"Save it for the princess, soldier boy," Carolina returned brusquely.

"Yes, well, Steve's infatuation with his grandfather's old flame does precede him~" Sebastian chuckled while Steven sputtered. "I'll see you in the morning, Mr. Descartes. Here's the itinerary for your duration here. In future visits, your schedule will be a little more free-form," he said conjuring a piece of paper with a twirl of his fingers, floating it into the Louisiana-native's hand.

08:00 – Wake Up Call
08:30 – First Meal (Breakfast)
09:00 – Test Period
12:00 – Second Meal (Lunch)
13:00 – Free Period
14:00 – Test Period
18:00 – Third Meal (Dinner)
19:00 – Free Period
21:00 – Curfew

*FETCH QUEST*

In hindsight, Virgil should've seen it coming the moment he put on a mask and costume.

Wildcard.

Wild Card.

Will Descarte.

William Descartes.

A real freaky coincidence that the "name" and his alias could match so well…

Oh well. At least "Will" was less wordy than having Zatanna and M'gann calling him "Wildcard" all the time. Descartes being a French surname meant having him be Louisianna-born also made sense. Sure, most of it was Tourist Traps and charlatans, but there was bound to be some real magic thrown in the mix too. Hell, with what the Colonel had told him, cryptids and other mystery swamp creatures in the region were probably real too.

It kind of sucked that he had to "insulate" himself like this in order to hang out with Zatanna outside a private setting, but Zatanna hanging out with "Vincent Valentine" who happened to never be around her other male friend, "Wildcard", was would undoubtedly arouse suspicion. Having himself a second secret identity actually worked like a double-negative cover-up when he thought about it, because if "Wildcard" was able to reveal his face and identity, no one would think that "William Descartes" was secretly another person who masqueraded as yet another person.

Of course, all the layers made his head hurt, so Virgil stopped thinking too-deeply into it before they'd arrived at Argus HQ, which looked like your typical "secret government facility"; white walls, linoleum tiles, artificial lighting, and echoes like a massive underground complex.

The first security checkpoint had him worried the most, but his Glamour went completely ignored by the staff, so all that really needed to be checked was "William's" wallet which held a Louisianna state driver's license, a number of unmarked bills with non-sequential serial numbers, and little else.

It had initially surprised him when he was greeted by the guy from the history books that hung around with Wonder Woman and the American All-Stars during World War II, but it made much more sense for this Steve Trevor to be the grandson of the original, as opposed to being the Real McCoy.

As for Sebastian, the surname "Faust" brought about bad memories for him, but he wasn't about to condemn the man just because his father was a supervillain. The fact that he'd never even heard of Sebastian Faust before then was proof that he'd chosen to fall far from the tree and serve America as a government agent. He wasn't sure if the hair-standing was because he could sense the man's magic, or if it was just his paranoia, girding his loins for battle, but Sebastian seemed reasonable-enough, and it couldn't hurt to learn a little more about magic, both in its application and management.

Not that he planned on becoming a "Cape" full-time, but if nothing else, he'd at least keep Zatanna and M'gann from following the folly of their mentors.

There were a lot of things about the superhero community he couldn't stand, things he couldn't do anything about, so at the very least, he could weigh in on what he could do something about.

"You did very well," Carolina replied via Codec as she scratched at her face. "Just act how you think 'Will' would, and you'll be just fine."

"I'm not nervous. This is just another job," Virgil replied as he scratched his throat, growing used to the French accent that continued to fall out of his mouth like word vomit, playing things off since they were being watched by a litany of security cameras. "Just don't beat anyone up that you shouldn't, and we should be able to get through all this unmolested."

"Hey, I said I was sorry."

"And I got over that 'isolated incident', but I don't know how you comport yourself on a regular basis."

"So uh… you two know each other, then?" Steve asked in front of them as he led them along.

"Only through work," Carolina replied. "This little troublemaker made some rather interesting friends a while back, so we want to make sure he's properly trained. And if we can help Argus out along the way, two birds with one stone."

"Ah, that makes sense," Steve nodded. "Anyway, to your left is the mess hall…"

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters: Lecture Hall
December 1, 09:00 EST

Following breakfast and much idle chatter, Virgil, or 'Will' as everyone else saw him both literally and metaphorically, was escorted into a large classroom-like space with a whiteboard and a few stacks of books on the nearby tables. Virgil was largely by himself, with Carolina standing outside the room, Sebastian Faust in front of him, and the technician who'd attached a webwork of data-collecting electrodes to his body vacating the room.

"Since ancient times, the gods have despised those aligned with fire," the man began as 'Will' pulled his shirt back down. "Prometheus was tied to a boulder and accosted by flesh-eating eagles for giving fire back to man; Izanami no Mikoto was burned to death by the birth of her final son, Katutsuchi; Surtur the Fire Demon of Muspelheim is fated to initiate the fall of Asgard and the destruction of the Nine Worlds at Ragnarok. In spite of all this however, Fire Magic has incredible purifying properties, and can dispel Evil."

'A little wordy, but it makes sense,' Virgil thought, remembering all the times in stories and movies where "kill it with fire" had to be the go-to. Thematically, fire did dispel "the darkness", and it was what allowed man to steadily grow into the world-conquering species it was today.

"Because Fire Magic is the most basic of the elemental magics, that is what we will be experimenting with first. That being said, we hope that by applying a scientific understanding of the physical world in these and future lessons, that the 'MP Cost' of your magics will be reduced. This is to compensate for those not born of powerful magical bloodlines, like the Zatara family, amongst other who will not be named. Now, what is your current understanding of thermodynamics?"

"The same as any high schooler, I assume. Heat, Fuel, and Air form the 'Fire Triangle'; if you're lacking in any one, you can't get a fire going," 'Will' replied.

"I assume you have been versed in the most-rudimentary of Fire Magic?"

" . . . Ardescat," he intoned with a snap of his finger, conjuring a lighter-sized flame to life at the end of his finger.

"Alright… And how much do you think the 'cost' of using this magic is?" Sebastian asked.

"I guess… 'a pinch'," Virgil hummed. "I've thrown around bigger magics, but those were all out of desperation. I… might've 'gotten into the game' a bit late, though circumstance forced me to delve into this world of consequence."

"Ah, so you've been given 'the speech', then?"

"Yeah; because Hecate, Goddess of Magic was betrayed at some point in the past, there's a 'karmic retribution' for using magic. I suspect, at the least, that mine makes me a 'trouble magnet'."

"To be fair, galivanting around in tights and a cape will do that as well."

"Pheh. At least I do it with a little class, instead of wearing my underwear on the outside of my pants."

"Fair enough," Sebastian nodded. "I don't know how-closely you and I will be working together in the future, but from what I saw of you at the Hoover Dam, at the least you comport yourself above such crass vigilantism."

" . . . So how will we make my Fire Magic stronger?"

"By further refining your understanding of thermodynamics, and giving you a place to safely train. Now, when it comes to Fire Magic…" he said as he began writing on the board.

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters: Mess Hall
December 1, 12:05 EST

"My brain hurts…" Virgil groaned with his forehead on the cafeteria table, Carolina bringing him his lunch which went largely ignored.

"Hey, at least it's safer than Hogwarts," Carolina said, trying to make a joke.

"I feel like if I went to Hogwarts, it'd just make me dumber…"

"Yeah… Dumbledore really mismanaged the DADA class in Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets," Carolina hummed idly. "Still, that was some pretty intense lecturing going on in there. That was practically Masters Degree stuff."

"I mean sure, if I were aiming for a doctorate in Arson with a minor in-"

"Alright, we get it," Carolina said lifting his head from the table and shoving some food into his mouth. "Fuel up. You've got four more hours of this before dinner."

"Yayyyyyy…"

" . . . I smuggled in some aspirin, if you're int-"

Virgil responded by snatching the small plastic bottle out of her hands and upending the contents into his palm.

Seeing that only three small pills fell out to greet him, he just shrugged his shoulders and downed them all before turning back to his meal.

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters: Library
December 1, 13:24

"Didn't think you'd be doing schoolwork in your free time," Carolina hummed as she sat across from 'Will', who looked infinitely better than he had at lunch.

"I just want to make the most of my time here. If 'knowledge is power', then ignorance is weakness," Virgil said pouring over a spiral notebook filled with the science of Thermodynamics, and the 'science' of Fire Magic. As some of the source material he'd studied in the Lecture Hall under Sebastian's supervision, it all came across as somewhere between a technical manual and a How-To book.

If Argus planned on training a small army of mages from non-magical bloodlines, this was definitely the place to start…

"So… What do you think of the US making a 'Mage Corps'?" she hummed after a moment.

"Army… Navy… Air Force… Marines… If not a 'Space Force', then a 'Mage Corps' is the next logical branch in the US Armed Forces," Virgil hummed idly, scribbling some notes of his own on scrap paper. "If some magic-wielding yahoo manages to kill a congressman, or God forbid the President, because there isn't a protective agency to combat that…"

"So what, you think the next 'Cold War' will be over magic?"

"Both sides experimented with ESP, PSI, and the supernatural during the Cold War, so it isn't like America's the only one doing this. Hell, China has its 'Great Ten' to America's Justice League, it's just that most people refuse to see Magic as 'its own thing'."

Sure, some of the information on the Great Ten came across like propaganda to a Western perspective, but given there were aliens and literal Amazons out there, he was more-than-willing to believe in the supernatural. Just because something had an "explanation" didn't mean it wasn't still magic.

"I didn't take you for a patriot."

"I don't worship superheroes, so I might as well put my time and energy into something; and I might as well make that 'something' the country I'm living in," he hummed brusquely. "Not that I'm going to 'jump ship', but having competent people in my network can only be a good thing in the long run."

"And what about those kiddos who're sweet on you~?" she teased. "You got you a soft spot for cute girls~?"

" . . . I don't know why I want to protect them like I do… but if anything, the fact that I can still get close to people, means I'm not completely dead inside," he scowled, Carolina wincing, realizing she'd struck a raw nerve. "And besides, just because I'm a critic of the superhero system and people's dependency on it, doesn't mean I can't take advantage of it to vent my frustrations on some of the garbage our society pumps out. After all…~" he chuckled deprecatingly. "If Flying Nocturnal Rodent Man can get away with beating the ever-loving shit out of people for years and years despite being a literal nutcase, why can't I~? I mean… What's even the point if they don't learn their lesson, heh heh hehhhh…~"

'Note to Self: Get this kid a shrink,' Carolina thought to herself as 'Will' continued to scratch notes and mutter to himself. 'Addendum to Previous Note: Get this kid a really, really good shrink'

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters: Danger Room
December 1, 17:27 EST

"Llaberif! Llaberif! Llaberif!" Virgil shouted as he once-again launched basketball-sized fireballs at holographic targets whirling around in a large dome-shaped space with chromed walls and flooring, a disc-shaped control room suspended overhead by the rear wall.

At the very beginning he'd just experimented with making fire, holding fire, raising the temperature, shaping it, and receiving long-winded lectures about fire safety. Other topics of the day included but were not limited to, the melting point of most common construction materials were, how much energy it took to literally incinerate a person to ash for a "clean" kill, how to properly cauterize a wound, how thermodynamics worked on a chemical level, and lastly for the day, putting all that knowledge into practice.

Turned out, magic or not, making fireballs spin like a bullet out of rifling gave them a lot more stability and control when you relied on pure ballistics. There wasn't anything wrong with his aim per-se, but fireballs weren't "point and shoot" like guns, nor did they conform to gravity like arrows. You'd think that fireballs the size of coins would go faster, but turns out that made them "burn out" quicker too, and at his current skill level, if he wanted any sort of distance he had to make his fireballs as large as a basketball. Every time he actually hit one of the moving or stationary targets, a readout would show the estimated temperature, as well as speed, and how-close to the center his non-seeking shot had been. Seeking spells would be covered at a later date.

Something else Virgil noticed when he started using fireballs en masse, was that the more of his "MP" he exhausted, the worse the onset of "heat exhaustion" became. Sebastian had said he could use Fire Magic to shield himself as well, but doing so while shooting fireballs required a level of multi-tasking he didn't yet possess, so right now he was being tested on how-long he could lob fireballs before he couldn't do so anymore.

Though with how much he'd been sweating, his electrodes fell out before he could reach his upper limit; but only just.

"Agh…!" Virgil hissed as he looked down at his palms, the skin reddened, but not yet burnt.

He'd tried lining up fireballs with his fingertips, but using Dragonball Z as his mental image, it was just easier to make decent-sized fireballs with arm thrusts and open palms.

"You're a fast learner," Steve hummed, watching alongside Sebastian, Carolina, and the nearby lab techs who monitored his vitals and his fireballs' physical (and metaphysical) properties.

"So you say," Virgil panted, wiping his sweaty brow, a fresh towel tossed on his head a moment later.

"Alright Mr. Descartes, let's take a break from target practice for the moment and see if we can't up the temperature a little further," Sebastian said post-throw. "Remember, magic is as-much about the science as it is the art of magic. But beyond all that, it's also the feeling; sometimes the what isn't as important as the why? 'Why are you conjuring this spell?' 'What is your motivation?'"

'So I keep hearing…' Virgil thought to himself, wiping his body down and checking his electrodes before he bent his knees for stability, cupping his hands at his side. 'Create the flame… Surround it with a bubble of air… Fill the bubble with oxygen and hydrogen… Feed the flame' he thought to himself as the flickering red flame between his hands became a luminous ball of blue.

It totally did not resemble an iconic technique from a legendary anime which shared the name of the ruler of the now-defunct Kingdom of Hawaii.

'More…! More, more, more, MORE…!' he told himself as the flames between his hands burned brighter, spinning them with his thoughts for stability, imagining what he wanted to incinerate 'more than anything' like Sebastian had told him. "HADOOOKENNN!"

Thrusting his arms forward, his declaration lost to the roaring of the flames, the brilliantly-blue fireball grew as it readily devoured the air it passed through. As soon as it struck a stationary target, the temperature readout jumped almost a full 1,000 degrees Celsius from his previous putout. Splashing against the far wall and bursting like a flower blossom, all that remained was a black scorch mark surrounding reddened metal.

"Whoa. Wouldn't wanna get on the business end of that," Steve hummed while Will fell to his knees, panting with a fresh layer of sweat drenching him from head to toe, his electrodes popping off much to the consternation of the lab techs.

"C'mon kid, cool your head a little, you're literally overheating," Carolina said walking up to him, a water bottle in hand.

Virgil for his part, flushed red and dry-mouthed, snatched it out of her hand and emptied the contents over his head.

'I still have half an hour left' he thought to himself. 'Let's keep going,' he told himself even as whatever part of his body "channeled" magic groaned in protest.

*FETCH QUEST*

After his first day of magical theory and practical testing had concluded, the lab techs compiling all their data and Sebastian filing his report to his superiors, Virgil didn't have any energy for anything other than soaking his aching muscles in a bath during his break before curfew. Sure, all the exertion was mental in nature, but since the brain in a resting state consumed about 20% of the body's energy despite constituting only roughly 2% of its full mass, imagine how-taxing that was on an active body transforming conscious thought and will into real Magic. He'd attacked his dinner at the food court like a ravenous animal before Carolina managed to drag him away, practically losing a finger in the process.

It was only by some small miracle that he hadn't needed to be tazed, and it was already evident that concessions for an increased budget toward foodstuffs would be negotiated if he'd felt the need to devour that much after only one day.

'Christ, and I have… how many more days of this…?' he asked himself as he laid back with the water up to his chin.

Feeling the water starting to chill after several minutes, Virgil sat up, extending his hand away from his tender areas and conjured a ball of flame away from his palm. The warm-colored flame manifested briefly before the surrounding water smothered it, but his weakened fire magic did a good-enough job of heating the water back up. It wasn't like having a hot tub or a sauna in his ensuite, but it was good-enough.

'I mean sure, I could always just pour in more from the faucet, but come on, that's just wasteful,' he thought to himself as though he needed to justify the frivolous action.

The water warm but not too warm, he once again laid back, only to groan irritably.

'Ugh, dammit, I think those aspirin were defective…' he groaned rubbing the spot between his eyes.

*FETCH QUEST*

A.R.G.U.S. Headquarters: Motor Pool
December 1, 22:13 EST

As the only part of Argus' underground headquarters directly connected to the surface, the Motor Pool was the only place you could take a smoke break without setting off the rest of the base's top-of-the-line smoke detectors. While smoking was frowned upon at Argus, because of the highly-dangerous nature of the work they were doing, the stress of failure placed upon non-field agents still 'counting', it was an unspoken rule that such behavior should be waved off as an 'occupational hazard'.

At the moment, Carolina was taking advantage of one such liberty, her electronic Phantom Cigar in front of her lips as she looked into one of the Motor Pool's security blind spots.

"Carolina, did you have any issues delivering the Transcription Factor?" Dr. Yumeno whispered into her ear via Codec.

"He didn't take the smoke, so I had to go with the backup," she answered, her stomach still twisted in knots. "When… When will the changes take place?" she asked guiltily, Phantom Cigar scarcely held in trembling fingers.

"They started the moment his mucous membranes were exposed to the drug. He's always been a 'fast learner', so he shouldn't even notice that he's 'changing' with how-gradual the transition has been projected to be."

"And you aren't going to tell him?"

"We'll tell him when he's grown a little more into his role. Until then-"

"I know, I know. Don't break nondisclosure," she sighed, taking a low-potency drag.

"Excellent. Also, the other Freelancers should be cleared for field work by the time you get back, so your babysitting duties will be over soon."

"I see…" she hummed. "All this magic he's throwing around… Do I need to worry about his little passengers?"

"In all likelihood, no. The nanotech's matrix is both organic and synthetic in nature instead of purely artificial. However, if you have reason to suspect there are side-effects, make an excuse to exfiltrate him. We can retrieve the Renard Blade at another time, but there's only one of 'him' left in the entire world."

"Roger that…" Carolina hummed as she felt the Codec go radio dark. 'Virgil… I hope you can forgive me for what I've done to you…' she sighed guiltily, taking a heavy drag from her Phantom Cigar and slipping into the flow of dilated time to escape her raging conscience.

To Be Continued…