| Papal State Affairs Special Operations Section|
Arcanum Cella Ex Dono Dei (AX)
Emblem of the AX
- "When a situation cannot be resolved by words, the Special Operations Department of the Ministry of Holy Affairs is called into action—more commonly known as the AX… In other words, us [AX agents]."
- ―Noélle Bor[src]
The Papal State Affairs Special Operations Section (Latin: Arcanum Cella Ex Dono Dei; 教皇庁国務聖省特務分室) is a special division of the Ministry of Holy Affairs—the department responsible for the international relations of the Vatican Papal State. It is also known by several different names such as the Special Operations Department of the Ministry of Holy Affairs, the Special Operations Department of the Division of State Ecclesiastical Affairs, and the Ministry of Holy Affairs Special Duty Division. The department is most commonly referred to as the AX, although it is also called the AX Agency. The AX base of operations is the Palazzo Spada, the Foreign Affairs office at the Vatican headquarters in Rome—the capital of the Vatican Domain and center of the Catholic Church. The head of the AX is Minister of Holy Affairs Cardinal Caterina Sforza, Duchess of Milan, who also serves as one of the chief advisers to Pope Alessandro XVIII.
The AX is composed of a special forces group of elite priests and nuns, all of whom report directly to Cardinal Sforza. Members of the AX are designated as AX agents, although they are also referred to as AX operatives or Deputy Enforcers. Due to the secrecy of their organization, each AX agent is assigned their own unique codename. They are trained in various arts of combat in order to perform unconventional missions, and possess unique abilities granted to them by the lost technologies.
As a special department of the Ministry of Holy Affairs, the AX is primarily responsible for resolving international situations that the Ministry deems too volatile for peaceful solutions. They are also often sent to investigate issues relating to or involving vampires. As an organization affiliated with the Vatican and the Church, the AX is primarily composed of Terran members. However, a few non-Terrans are permitted to serve in the AX ranks due to their special abilities, including a witch and a Crusnik.
- "Our task is difficult with the current world condition being so unstable."
- ―Noélle Bor, referring to the role of the Ministry of Holy Affairs and its special department, the AX[src]
The Papal State Affairs Special Operations Section was created as a special operations unit, and therefore trained to undertake unconventional assignments. The unit, more commonly known as the AX (Latin: Arcanum Cella Ex Dono Dei), is led by Caterina Sforza—the Minister of Holy Affairs, a member of the College of Cardinals, and elder half-sister of Pope Alessandro XVIII. As an instrument of the Catholic Church, the state religious organization of the Vatican Papal State, the AX is primarily composed of members belonging to the Catholic clergy, typically priests. However, the AX also recruits members of religious communities, such as nuns, who demonstrate the potential to become an AX agent. Due to the covert nature of the AX's role in the Ministry of Holy Affairs, AX agents are given their own unique codename to protect their public identities.
The training of an AX agent is rigorous and unrelenting; fresh recruits are encouraged to dedicate themselves to their new lives in order to become fully-trained members of the AX. Attached to the Ministry of Holy Affairs, the Church's equivalent of a foreign ministry, the AX base of operations is located in the Palazzo Spada, the Foreign Affairs facility at the Vatican headquarters in Rome—the capital of the Vatican Domain. As a special operations department of the Ministry of Holy Affairs, the AX is responsible for responding to international situations that the Ministry is unable to resolve through peaceful resolutions. This responsibility is considered a difficult task by the AX, given the present world situation in which the international community is maintained by a delicate equilibrium. Due to the threat that the Methuselah generally pose to the Terran community, AX domestic and international missions often relate to or involve vampires.
Formation of the AXEdit
- "The Vatican designed a special agency with the express purpose to fight us. They are the only organization that has the power to go against our Orden."
- ―Isaak Fernand von Kämpfer, referring to the formation of the AX and its conflict with the Rosencreutz Orden[src]
In March 3055 AD, newly-promoted Cardinal Caterina Sforza became the head of the Ministry of Holy Affairs following the accession of her younger half-brother, Alessandro XVIII, to the Papacy. A month later Sforza and the recently ordained Abel Nightroad were involved in the suppression of a rebellion against the Vatican Papal State; Professor Gepetto Garibaldi engineered ten HC Series "Killing Dolls" which he used in his revolt against the Catholic Church. The professor and his cyborgs captured the Castle of San Angelo, but ultimately failed to withstand the Vatican counterattack. In the aftermath of the failed rebellion, the professor had committed suicide and eight of his machines were destroyed; of the surviving two, HC-IIX was appropriated by the Department of Inquisition, and HC-IIIX was taken into Sforza's service.
By May Caterina Sforza and several of her closest colleagues in the Vatican, including Abel Nightroad and Tres Iqus—the cyborg formerly designated as HC-IIIX—created the Papal State Affairs Special Operations Section ("AX") as a special operations department of the Ministry of Holy Affairs. Aside from Sforza, who served as the head of the department in addition to her role as the minister of Holy Affairs, the original founding members of the AX included the following: the priests Abel Nightroad ("Crusnik"), Tres Iqus ("Gunslinger"), Vaclav Havel ("Know Faith"), William Walter Wordsworth ("Professor") and Hugue de Watteau ("Sword Dancer"); and the nun Kate Scott ("Iron Maiden").
Over the next few years the AX expanded its organization with additional recruits. Sister Noélle Bor ("Mistress") joined the AX in 3056 AD. Leon Garcia de Asturias ("Dandelion"), a felon convicted for the murder of his wife and thirty clergymen, was conscripted into the AX by 3058 AD. In return for his service to the Vatican, the AX agreed to use its influence with the Vatican judiciary system in order to shorten Garcia's one thousand year prison sentence by a certain number of years—the exact number depending on the mission at hand—per each of his missions.
The AX continued to grow with additional agents. Kaya Syokka ("Gypsy Queen") the youngest member to join the AX to date, was recruited for her personal loyalty to Sforza and the Catholic Church. As with Garcia, the AX conscripted another prisoner whose talents outweighed the severity of their crimes. The witch Monica Argento ("Black Widow") was apprehended and placed in Vatican custody following her failed assassination attempt against Sforza. Despite Argento's failure, Sforza was impressed by the witch, and therefore enlisted her would-be assassin as an AX agent. In order to ensure Argento's loyalty, an explosive device was built as a necklace and placed around Argento's neck; any attempt to tamper with or forcefully remove the device would result in detonation, killing Argento in the process.
- "Take him [Gunslinger] and do what you can to support the Crusnik. Try to limit passenger casualties to fifty percent."
- ―Caterina Sforza, to Kate Scott[src]
In January 3060 AD the civilian airship Tristan was traveling to Rome from Londinium, the capital of the Kingdom of Albion. Unknown to its crew and passengers at the time of departure, the Tristan had been secretly infiltrated by Alfred, Duke of Meinz—the alleged leader of the Methuselah terrorist group Fleur du Mal. The duke hijacked the Tristan, killing the bridge crew along with most of the passengers in the process. He then contacted the Holy See and threatened to crash the airship into the Vatican headquarters unless the Church released its prisoners who had ties to the Fleur du Mal. However, Meinz's plot was ultimately prevented from succeeding by Abel Nightroad.
Nightroad, who had been traveling aboard the Tristan at the time of its hijacking, activated forty percent of his Crusnik abilities in order to defeat the Methuselah terrorist. Prior to killing Meinz, Nightroad briefly interrogated the severely wounded vampire, and learned that the terrorist attack was subcontracted to the Fleur du Mal by the Rosencreutz Orden, another rogue faction noted for its acts of terrorism. By then the Vatican had already launched a thrust bomb—a missile based on the lost technology of the ancient world—at the Tristan in self-defense and at the insistence of Cardinal Francesco di Medici. Unwilling to allow her half-brother's action to potentially damage diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Albion, Sforza secretly dispatched Tres Iqus, who used Kate Scott's battleship, the Iron Maiden, to intercept and destroy the missile before it could reach its target. With the help of Jessica Lang, a flight attendant and pilot-in-training, Nightroad guided the Tristan to Rome with the Iron Maiden serving as an escort for the rest of the journey.
- "I have my orders—should Elise Wasmayer make any attempt at escape, I have been instructed to terminate her without hesitation. The girl is a living weapon, and cannot be allowed to remain at large. She poses far too great a threat."
- ―Tres Iqus, to Abel Nightroad[src]
The AX deployed several agents to hunt the remaining members of the Fleur du Mal, having prevented their attempt to destroy the Vatican headquarters in Rome. With the aid of Kate Scott, agents Nightroad and Iqus tracked some of the terrorists to one of their safe houses, only to discover all of the vampires in a deceased and mutilated state. An investigation of the crime scene revealed that Elise Wasmayer, a child witch wanted by the Department of Inquisition, was responsible for the deaths of the terrorists who were forced to commit collective suicide by way of Wasmayer's contact touch ability. Wasmayer was taken into AX custody; when she tried to escape, Iqus threatened to kill her in accordance with the instructions of Cardinal Sforza, who believed that the AX could ill afford to allow a powerful mutant such as Wasmayer to be captured by enemies of the Vatican.
However, Nightroad refused to stand by and allow Iqus to execute Wasmayer. By obstructing Iqus' attempt to execute Sforza's orders, the priest had broken Canon Law Article 188 and Ministry Duty Regulations, enabling Iqus to target both Wasmayer and Nightroad after erasing the latter's enemy-ally identification. After a brief shootout, Nightroad temporarily deactivated the AX cyborg by attacking him with electric cables. He then inadvertently placed Wasmayer in the custody of the Fleur du Mal, who had sent Mireille Manson—a Methuselah terrorist disguised as Sister Louise of the Convent of Saint Rachel—to retrieve the young witch. Upon learning of his error, Nightroad and a reactivated Iqus pursued Manson and her prisoner with the help of William Walter Wordsworth, who had secretly planted a tracking device on Waymayer as a precaution against losing her. The AX followed the Fleur du Mal to another safe house where Iqus killed all of the vampires, including Manson. He had also chosen to spare Wasmayer's life, much to the relief of Wasmayer and Nightroad.
Working with the EmpireEdit
- "By the way, Viscountess of Odessa, this operative on the other side who assisted you… It would seem that you have developed some affection for him."
"Wait, affection? No, no… I just meant that, for a Terran, he was actually quite helpful."
- ―Augusta Vradica and Astharoshe Asran, referring to AX agent Abel Nightroad[src]
In the interest of improving diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the New Human Empire, the two governments conducted a joint-mission to hunt Enderle Kudza, Count of Zagreb, a Methuselah fugitive who was wanted by Imperial authorities for the murder of over three hundred Terrans. The AX and Empress Augusta Vradica contributed a single agent to the mission—Abel Nightroad and Astharoshe Asran, Viscountess of Odessa, respectively. Though their investigation was complicated by Asran's impetuousness and intolerance of Terrans, the two agents tracked Kudza to Venice where the criminal owned a gambling establishment. During their pursuit of Kourza, Asran accidentally killed several Terran bystanders. The incident nearly undermined Cardinal Sforza's attempt to improve Vatican-Imperial relations, although it also caused Asran to reevaluate her opinion of Nightroad and Terrans in general out of remorse for her actions.
They later learned that Kudza's objective in Venice was to assassinate Pope Alessandro XVIII. Together they prevented Kudza from carrying out his plot, mortally wounding him in the process. With the death of Kudza, the Vatican and the Empire had taken the first step in the establishment of peace between their two nations.
Massacre in AmsterdamEdit
- "Amsterdam happens to be one of the four cities that fall under the watch of the four counts. I needed someone who was familiar with it to go in—someone that would not draw suspicion for being an outsider."
"And what happens when he puts his own personal agenda over the assigned mission?"
"If that happens, I'll send Gunslinger."
- ―Caterina Sforza and William Walter Wordsworth, referring to AX agent Hugue de Watteau[src]
In February of 3060 AD, roughly a month after the Tristan incident, the AX deployed Hugue de Watteau to Amsterdam with orders to investigate the massacre of clergymen at the Oude Kerk. Sforza's decision to send de Watteau was made out of necessity; Amsterdam was one of the four member city-states of the Four-City Alliance. As a native of Antwerp, another member city-state of the Alliance, de Watteau less likely to draw suspicion from the local population and regional government as opposed to a foreigner. Nevertheless, Wordsworth was concerned that Watteau's personal vendetta against vampires would interfere with his ability to complete the mission. Sforza was prepared to deploy Tres Iqus to Amsterdam if Watteau proved unreliable in his assignment.
The Count Four—a Methuselah conglomerate and the governing body of the Alliance's criminal underworld—launched its own inquiry into the killings. Fearing that the Vatican would blame the Methuselah for the murder of members of the clergy on holy ground, the council was determined to ascertain the identity of the murderer before the Vatican had the chance to act. Shortly after arriving in Amsterdam, Watteau killed Sir Peter van der Verf, who had attempted to abduct the sole survivor of the massacre, Sister Agnes de Watteau. They were later captured by the slain vampire's brother, Carrel van der Verf, Count of Amsterdam, who learned from Agnes' interrogation that one of his colleagues in the Count Four, Hans Memlink, Count of Antwerp was the murderer. He then forced Hugue to fight for his life to the amusement of the Methuselah in Amsterdam. Agnes, refusing to allow Hugue to die, retrieved his staff and threw it to him—an act which caused Carrel to stab Agnes in retaliation.
By wounding Agnes, the count inadvertently sent Hugue into a murderous rage. Unwilling to allow the Methuselah to harm or kill more Terrans, Hugue purged the vampires from Amsterdam before rescuing Agnes. With the nun safe and recuperating in a hospital, the AX agent departed from Amsterdam, intending to confront the vampires of Antwerp. Upon learning of the annihilation of the vampires in Amsterdam, Sforza instructed Kate Scott to recall their wayward agent to Rome. Though displeased by Hugue's conduct, which she judged to be extreme, Sforza was willing to dismiss the matter entirely if Hugue complied with her orders.
Never Land IncidentEdit
- "I don't have this kind of money! I took a vow of poverty. How am I supposed to pay for this?!"
"You took a vow of poverty? I'm still doing time. I don't have any money at all. You idiot. Why didn't you think this through?"
"Me?! What about you?! I thought maybe you'd think of something for change. Why do I have to think of everything?!"
- ―Abel Nightroad and Leon Garcia de Asturias[src]
The North Sea came under investigation by the AX after the Vatican received numerous reports of vampires raiding cargo ships off the coast of the Kingdom of Albion. The investigators for this task were Abel Nightroad and Leon Garcia de Asturias. In return for Garcia's cooperation, the AX offered to subtract twenty years from his sentence. Their mission led them to Barrieland Island, an island and the site of an orphanage founded by Professor James Barrie. The former head of the University of Londinium Medical School and a member of the Albion nobility, Barrie adopted several orphans in order to use them as test subjects for his experiments. As a result, the orphans were transformed into "fairies;" a subspecies of the Methuselah, fairies acquired their vampirism through means other than birth. By the time Nightroad and Garcia discovered Never Land, Barrie was gone and presumed dead. The new caretaker of the orphans was Wendy, a fairy who possessed the appearance of an adolescent girl.
The AX agents soon learned that Wendy and the orphans were distrustful of adults in general, given their past experience with Barrie. They therefore presumed that Nightroad and Garcia were threats to both the orphanage and Never Land. Through the Tinker Bell Coordination System developed by Barrie, Wendy exercised psychological control over the other fairies, enabling her to control their thoughts and actions. The link between Wendy and the orphans was severed when Garcia destroyed the lighthouse containing the Tinker Bell. However, he was persuaded to spare Wendy's life by Peter, another orphan and one of Barrie's failed experiments. Afterward, Nightroad and Garcia chartered a cargo freighter that brought Wendy, Peter and the rest of the children to the New Human Empire.
Upon their return to Rome, the agents personally provided Caterina Sforza with a report of their mission's history and outcome. However, they omitted the details concerning the exact fate of the fairies. Without specific information pertaining to the cargo that was shipped to the Empire, the Vatican deferred the cost of the voyage to Nightroad and Garcia, both of whom were astonished by their failure to anticipate the consequence of their action. As a priest sworn to poverty, Nightroad lacked the adequate financial means to pay the bill. Garcia, a convicted felon who was still serving time in prison, had no money at all. Their surprise at this turn of events quickly turned into a bitter argument regarding which of the two was responsible for their predicament.
- "Well, one of our clients requested a perfect weapon so Barrie developed it here [Sagrada Família]. Barcelona proved to be a successful testing ground."
"The palace. Then you're responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people."
- ―Isaak Fernand von Kämpfer and Abel Nightroad[src]
The AX deployed Abel Nightroad and Noélle Bor to the Duchy of Catalonia where they were instructed by Caterina Sforza to investigate the unexplained collapse of the National Palace in Barcelona. After initially failing to find any evidence of foul play, Bor convinced Nightroad to explore the city with her before returning to Rome. By sunset an inebriated Bor tried to confess her feelings for Nightroad, who gently rejected her advances. They later resumed the investigation; at the behest of Kate Scott, Bor and Nightroad parted ways to search for clues in two separate locations—the Dominic Pharmacy and the Sagrada Família, respectively.
Through an analysis of the pharmacy's abandoned facility, Bor learned that the pharmacy was a front owned by Professor James Barrie, whose remains were discovered beneath the ruins of the Sagrada Família by Nightroad. By then the priest was confronted by Isaak Fernand von Kämpfer, a high-ranking member of the Rosencreutz Orden. Von Kämpfer revealed that the Rosencreutz were responsible for the destruction of the National Palace; its collapse caused by the Silent Noise system. The Silent Noise was designed by the late Barrie as a weapon of mass destruction. Though it could be used to destroy a specific target, such as the National Palace, its range could cover the area of an entire city. In order to demonstrate the power of the Silent Noise, von Kämpfer utilized the system's capabilities on Barcelona, resulting in the destruction of large sections of the ancient city. Nightroad destroyed the system, but failed to prevent von Kämpfer's escape.
In the devastation, Bor was killed while attempting to warn Nightroad about a plot against the Vatican. Prior to her death, she had discovered evidence indicating the Rosencreutz's plan to use the Silent Noise against Rome, including blueprints of an obelisk and the Vatican headquarters. After the incident in Barcelona, Kaya Syokka located Bor's body with the evidence still clutched in her hand. As a final act of service to the Church, Bor posthumously provided the AX with the clues that were vital to the survival of Rome and the Vatican.
Operation Silent NoiseEdit
- "We checked every bell in the city [Rome]. But did we check every bell in the Vatican?"
"William, I understand the importance of being thorough but you can't mean—"
"The bell donated by Archbishop Alfonso… It was just brought in today."
- ―William Walter Wordsworth, Kate Scott and Vaclav Havel[src]
Following the attack on Barcelona, Archbishop Alfonso d'Este of Cologne returned to Rome after five years of self-imposed exile. The brother of the late Pope Gregorio XXX, d'Este offered to reconcile with his brother's children, whom he bitterly resented after losing the papal election to his nephew, Alessandro XVIII. As a sign of his sincerity, the archbishop presented two gifts in honor of the greater glory and majesty of Rome—an obelisk to symbolize Rome's status as the keystone of the Christian faith, and a new bell to represent the Church's dream of perpetual peace. These gifts were accepted by Cardinals Medici and Sforza on behalf of their half-brother, the Pope. The obelisk was placed in the center of the San Pietro Plaza, and the bell in the San Pietro Cathedral.
All available AX agents were recalled to Rome in preparation for d'Este's visit and the upcoming celebration of the Combined Mass. In light of the recent discovery of the Silent Noise weapon in Barcelona, including the fact that a bell was one of its primary components, the AX conducted a city-wide investigation in order to ensure that none of the bells in Rome were part of the weapon. The only bell that had not been examined was the one that d'Este donated to the Vatican. Although Kate Scott believed that a high-ranking member of the Church was unlikely to be involved in a conspiracy against the Vatican, William Walter Wordsworth became suspicious of the archbishop and his "gifts."
Meanwhile, Sforza was distracted by personal matters. In addition to the loss of Noélle Bor, Abel Nightroad returned to Rome in a depressed state of mind. Saddened by his failure to protect Bor, Nightroad offered his identification card and sidearm to Sforza as a sign of his resignation from the AX. The cardinal did not accept his resignation, but the priest walked away from the Vatican and the AX nonetheless, unable to cope with the death of his friend and colleague.
Sforza later confronted d'Este in the papal throne room while in the presence of her half-brothers and other members of the clergy. After essentially accusing the archbishop of high treason, d'Este refuted Sforza's claims and rang the Vatican bell, which did nothing to harm the Eternal City. Humiliated and speechless, Sforza was accused of blasphemy by Medici and subsequently placed under house arrest. With Sforza removed from power, di Medici called for the disbandment of the AX. Despite the arrest of the head of their department, AX operatives continued to investigate d'Este in the hope of vindicating Sforza's suspicions of her uncle.
The blueprints that Bor discovered shortly before her death were vital clues that ultimately revealed the true purpose of the obelisk. The bell was a decoy; the obelisk was actually a facade for the principal component to the Silent Noise weapon. By then d'Este had revealed his treachery to the AX. He had no intention of reconciling with his family; rather he resolved to destroy the Vatican, Rome and by extension, the Holy See. It was also d'Este who hired the Rosencreutz Orden to use Barcelona as a test site for the Silent Noise device. D'Este, by now an apostate to the Church, intended to create a "new Vatican" ruled by himself as pope.
Meanwhile, Isaak Fernand von Kämpfer—initially disguised as d'Este—approached Sforza with an offer to make the Duchess of Milan a member of the Rosencreutz Orden. Sforza refused just as Abel Nightroad arrived to rescue her. Nightroad, having returned to uphold his promise to protect Sforza, activated eighty percent of his Crusnik form. At this stage of his true form, he was able to overpower the Rosencreutz agent. However, Nightroad was unable to kill Kämpfer as a result of his vow to never take another life again unless absolutely necessary.
The Silent Noise caused some degree of damage to Rome, but the intervention of the AX resulted in the deactivation of the weapon. With Rome saved and d'Este's plan ending in failure, Kämpfer retreated from the Eternal City. In the aftermath of the Silent Noise incident in Rome, Nightroad rejoined the AX and Caterina Sforza was cleared of the charges of blasphemy leveled against her.
Star of SorrowEdit
- "The city of István serves as a buffer zone between the Holy See in the west and the Empire in the east. You might say it's fallen between the cracks of the human and vampire worlds. If either nation attempts to assert control it would represent a dangerous shift in the balance of power—a shift which both sides are determined to prevent at any cost—even war."
"So, to keep that from happening I've been sent to this fair city in search of the Star [of Sorrow]."
- ―Kate Scott and Abel Nightroad[src]
By late November of 3062 AD Abel Nightroad was dispatched to István, the capital of the Marquisate of Hungaria. As a Vatican priest he was sent to replace Laura Vitez, the late Bishop of István, at the Church of St. Matthias. However, his true assignment as an AX operative was to ensure that Hungaria remained a buffer state between the Holy See in the west and the Empire in the east. By this time the Vatican had reason to believe that Gyula Kádár, Count of István, intended to bring Hungaria into the Empire. The fact that he was the Marquis of Hungaria and a Methuselah aristocrat further served to enhance the Vatican's suspicions about Kádár.
Nightroad's assignment led him to meet Esther Blanchett, a novice nun who was raised by Vitez until the bishop's death. The loss of Vitez, who was murdered by Kádár, enraged Blanchett. With the help of Dietrich von Lohengrin, a Terran technician employed by Kádár, Blanchett plotted to assassinate the marquis as an act of vengeance for Vitez. Upon discovering Blanchett's intentions, Nightroad made every effort to prevent the nun from committing murder. The two later discovered that Kádár was indeed planning to initiate a new war between Terrans and the Methuselah, mainly by supporting Hungaria's annexation into the Empire. He also intended to launch the first attack by utilizing the Star of Sorrow—a pre-Armageddon UN satellite—as a weapon against the Vatican and the entire Terran community.
Unknown to both Blanchett and Kádár at the time, von Lohengrin was a secret member of the Rosencreutz Orden. Through his skills as a computer technician, von Lohengrin programmed the Star of Sorrow to target the capitals of the Vatican and the Empire—Rome and Byzantium, respectively. Faced with the threat of the annihilation of Terrans and the Methuselah, Nightroad was forced to utilize his Crusnik abilities to defeat Kádár in order to disarm the Star of Sorrow. He then destroyed the ancient satellite by triggering its self-destruct mechanism via his access codes as a former lieutenant colonel in the United Nations Aerospace Force. Following the destruction of the Star of Sorrow, Kádár committed suicide. His remaining security forces in István were killed by Tres Iqus, who was sent by the AX along with the Iron Maiden to assist Nightroad.
With Kádár's death and Hungaria secured as a neutral state between the Vatican and the Empire, Nightroad was allowed to return to the Vatican headquarters in Rome. By then Blanchett had come to regret her desire for vengeance. As a penance for initially losing her way, she followed Nightroad to Rome with the intention of becoming an agent of the AX. Though initially overwhelmed by her first visit to the Eternal City, Blanchett ultimately became accustomed to her new life in Rome. She was commended by Sforza for her participation in the István incident, who also welcomed her as the newest member of the Ministry of Holy Affairs and the AX.
- "Someone tried to deliver a message last night. Perhaps an Imperial command."
"As in… From the Empress?"
- ―Caterina Sforza and Abel Nightroad[src]
The Silent Noise incident in Rome, instigated by former archbishop Alfonso d'Este, undermined the confidence of the clergy, which in turn spread unrest among the laity. In 3063 AD Caterina Sforza embarked on a foreign tour to restore public confidence in the Vatican's leadership. By then the Vatican intelligence community learned that Sforza was the target of an assassination plot involving vampires. Francesco di Medici implored his half-sister to end her foreign tour and return to Rome where she would be secure, but Sforza insisted that the tour was too important to cancel. While residing at the Vatican embassy in Carthage, an explosion was triggered in the compound, forcing the embassy into a state of lockdown. The timing of the attack on the embassy coincided with the secret arrival of Ion Fortuna, an Imperial aristocrat who approached Sforza with a decree from Empress Augusta Vradica. Just then Tres Iqus entered Sforza's chamber and mistook Fortuna for a vampire assassin. He succeeded in wounding the Methuselah with a silver bullet, although Fortuna managed to escape.
Fortuna's attempt to make contact with Sforza was interpreted by the Vatican as an assassination attempt due to the extremely short amount of time that passed between the Bombing of the Vatican Embassy in Carthage and Iqus' discovery of Fortuna in Sforza's private chamber. As a display of the Vatican's military might, di Medici deployed a contingent of the Department of Inquisition to Carthage with instructions to protect Sforza and exterminate her would-be "assassin." However, Sforza believed that Fortuna had not intended to harm or kill her. As such, she ordered Abel Nightroad to find and protect Fortuna so that the Empire and the Vatican could resume their progress towards a new and peaceful relationship.
By the time Nightroad found the Methuselah hiding in an Imperial safe house, the new AX operative Esther Blanchett had attempted to kill Fortuna. Though he saved Blanchett's life from Radu Barvon, Fortuna's childhood friend and foster brother, he physically reprimanded Blanchett for blatantly disregarding his order to not interfere in this matter. Before he could fully explain that the incidents in the embassy and the safe house were misunderstandings on both sides, the Inquisition discovered the Methuselah's location and proceeded with a direct assault on the area. Nightroad ordered Blanchett to guide the Imperial diplomats to safety while he distracted the Inquisitors, who were led by Petros Orsini and Paula Souwauski—the chief and vice chief of the Inquisition, respectively. Nightroad initially held off Orsini's attack, but his failure to take the duel seriously led to his defeat. The Inquisition mistakenly assumed that the AX agent had died after falling into the sea.
While attempting to escape from the Inquisition, Blanchett and Fortuna were betrayed by Barvon. A secret critic of the Empress' desire for peace between Terrans and the Methuselah, Barvon had sabotaged the Vatican-Imperial negotiations by causing the explosion at the Vatican embassy. After shooting Nightroad, who had returned to the group with a boat, Barvon was attacked and heavily wounded by Orsini and Souwauski. Blanchett and Fortuna used the distraction as an opportunity to escape on Nightroad's boat, but Orsini managed to board their vessel. Though he initially intended to kill the trio, they ultimately persuaded him to help reestablish negotiations between Fortuna and Sforza.
Souwauski, who believed that Orsini had been abducted, placed Sforza under house arrest and directed the Inquisition to establish martial law in the city of Carthage. Shortly afterward, Barvon seized control of the Inquisition's air battleships with the aid of the Rosencreutz operative Dietrich von Lohengrin. As the cyber-hijacked battleships bombarded Carthage, Nightroad, Blanchett and Orsini made another attempt to bring Fortuna to Sforza. On their way to the embassy the group encountered Barvon, who confronted them in one of the Inquisition's Goliath electric tanks. They barely managed to survive a direct attack from the Goliath's main cannon, leaving Fortuna and Orsini too injured to defend themselves. Barvon's actions enraged Nightroad who, by feeding on the spilled vampire blood of Fortuna, activated eighty percent of his Crusnik form. With his enhanced abilities, the Crusnik destroyed the Goliath and killed Barvon. When he approached Blanchett and Fortuna, Blanchett thought that Nightroad intended to feed on the rest of Fortuna's blood. Her screams of fear brought Nightroad back to his senses; horrified by his nature as a Crusnik, Nightroad despairingly begged God for forgiveness.
By the next day, Fortuna and Sforza resumed negotiations between their respective nations. In order to reach the next stage in their diplomatic talks, Fortuna requested that Nightroad and Blanchett accompany him to Byzantium as representatives of the Vatican. Sforza granted Fortuna's request, hoping that her two AX agents would accomplish more in diplomacy in their upcoming audience with Empress Augusta Vradica.
Fortuna and his Vatican companions, Nightroad and Blanchett, reached Byzantium by early November of 3063 AD, roughly three months after the incident in Carthage. They journeyed to the mansion of Ion's grandmother, Mirka Fortuna, Duchess of Moldova, seeking her assistance in arranging a meeting with the Empress. By the time of their arrival, however, a group of autojägers—undead soldiers with vampiric abilities, created by the Rosencreutz Orden—murdered the household servants and presumably assassinated the duchess as well. They defeated the assassins, but by doing so they also inadvertently triggered the autojägers' self-destruct mechanism, causing their C-4 packs to explode and destroy the evidence of the Rosencreutz's involvement in the attack. Though they survived the explosion, the three were confronted by the Yenceri, the Empress' royal guards. Baybars, Duke of Khartoum and captain of the Guard, accused Ion of murdering his own grandmother. After escaping the guards, they sought refuge at the mansion of Astharoshe Asran, Nightroad's former acquaintance and one-time partner from the Empire.
A member of the Papal State Affairs Special Operations Section is designated as an AX agent, also referred to as an AX operative or Deputy Enforcer. AX agents normally operate alone, although they occasionally work in groups of two or more when the situation warrants more than one operative. As well, given the role of the AX as an international affairs department, agents are often sent abroad to foreign countries. It is therefore rare for most or all of the AX personnel to be located in the same area, such as the Palazzio Spada. In certain situations all available AX agents are recalled to Rome, usually for the purpose of security or if the AX perceives a threat to the capital.
The following is a list of all known AX operatives:
- Abel Nightroad – Oddball priest; AX Agent "Crusnik"
- Tres Iqus – Android priest; AX Agent "Gunslinger"
- Kate Scott – Holographic nun; AX Agent "Iron Maiden"
- Hugue de Watteau – Noble priest; AX Agent "Sword Dancer"
- Noélle Bor – Nun, Saint Mercedes Convent; former AX Agent "Mistress"
- Leon Garcia de Asturias – Gargantuan priest; AX Agent "Dandelion"
- Vaclav Havel – Bohemian priest; AX Agent "Know Faith"
- William Walter Wordsworth – Albion priest; AX Agent "Professor"
- Kaya Syokka – Nun; AX Agent "Gypsy Queen"
- Monica Argento – Witch nun; AX Agent "Black Widow"
- Esther Blanchett – Former nun and AX Agent; current Queen of the Kingdom of Albion
Notes and referencesEdit