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The trouble with helping mankind achieve its full potential was that people had the potential to be complete bastards. When Hammersmith's machine had exploded and released its AEtheric radiation it hadn't selected any one particular moral character. While AEon had gathered many who worked for the betterment of all mankind, other organizations had been focused on personal power and profit. The resulting global gang war between the Contedorri and the Ubiquitous Dragon Tong had led to the grim circumstances Annabelle Lee Newfield was facing in the Emily Mercer Memorial Clinic in Chicago.

AEon had battled both criminal organizations for years and the Contedorri had managed to land a telling blow at last. Dr. Primoris had been stricken by a malady that AEon's best had yet to cure. The Contedorri were attempting to blackmail AEon with his life. They would provide the means to drive their engineered malady dormant  so long as AEon  let them have their way. AEon stood for the betterment of mankind, they could not allow the Contedorri to grind the world beneath their heel. Annabelle had seen the strain on everyone's faces as they weighed the life of a dear friend against the fate of thousands. They had hoped for so long that they could find a way to save him without accepting that devil's bargain, but it was becoming horribly clear that they were running out of time.

It was unsettling seeing him lying there pale and unconscious. Primoris had shrugged off poisons that would kill a hundred men and blows that could cut a man in half, but this invisible foe was slowly claiming his life. It was hard on all of AEon's founding members to see a dear friend brought low, but Annabelle was losing the man she loved. She'd never told him that of course, as it was clear he did not return her feelings and likely never would. Nevertheless ,she reasoned that he knew.  Anabelle grimaced, subtlety had never been her strong suit and she feared her feelings for him had been glaringly obvious.  It was a wound that wouldn't heal and sometimes she wanted nothing more than to be able to hate him instead. 


They say that love is blind


She couldn't hate him, not for that.   Dixon hadn't slept for days, trying to find a solution, and Annabelle had gone to visit Primoris after yet another unsucessful treatment.  She thought she could almost feel Primoris's life slipping through her fingers as she rested a hand on his arm. In the end it didn't matter if he felt the same way. She couldn't let him die, even if the price was everything. 


I will make a deal with the devil for thy sake. 


Primoris needed time and Annabelle would buy it by making her own deal with the Contedorri. She would betray AEon, her second family, to save the man she loved. They say that deals with the Devil are signed in blood and Annabelle suspected that dealing with the Contedorri would be no different. The only question was who's blood and how much of it would be required to meet their price. 


Is bending a sign of weakness or of strength? 



**********************************************************************************************************************************************

August 12, 1938,


A deal had been struck in the end. The Contedorri wanted a device that could create earthquakes, a device that had been in the hands of the Ubiquitous Dragon Tong. Annabelle had assisted in its acquisition and now only its final setup underground remained.  The Contedorri didn't trust her of course, they would have had to be fools to trust a traitor . They did have leverage in the form of Primoris's life, and that had reassured them enough to have her  help guard the machine while it was being assembled by Dr. Zvarich in its new location underneath Rome. Unfortunately for Dr. Zvarich,  Annabelle had made another bargain.

She wasn't entirely certain how Marcello had found her, but he had made an offer that she could not refuse. He was thin and delicate looking, with an uncanny knack for getting into and out of places without being seen. Annabelle had nearly shot him when he seemed to appear out of thin air shortly after she arrived in Rome. She remembered how the angry and bitter young man had made his offer.

" I do not trust money, but I will make you an offer for blood. A life for a life. Dr. Zvarich took my sister from me, take his life, and I will see that your young man gets the true cure for what they have given him."

Marcello wouldn't say what Zvarich had done to earn himself a spot in Hell, but Annabelle could guess. The lives of the poor and indigent were cheap,and more than one scientist had done unspeakable things to other humans in the name of research. Marcello had joined the Contedorri to gain information on his sister's killer only to find him within their ranks. Marcello claimed he could get into the laboratory with the cure easily enough (they had no reason to suspect treachery from him) while the Contedorri would destroy the cure rather than let Annabelle get anywhere near it. In return, Annabelle's skill in battle, which Marcello lacked, would give her access to the lab and Zvarich. 

Annabelle checked her weapons one last time before heading underground. One way or another Zvarich would be dining with the Devil tonight. 





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