“There are only four Dark Acolytes in the [Neuschwanstein] castle,” says Olis. “They arrived and stealthily entered the castle about two hours before the opening time for visitors. After entering, they immediately made their way to one of the servants’ rooms, which they are using as their base of operations within the castle.
“Ashanti and I arrived at the castle about two hours before the robed ones, and we did an extensive search of the entire building. We discovered that the castle’s security system had been breached, and that hair-thin video equipment had been strategically placed throughout the castle. We assume the equipment was positioned some time earlier in the week. Having activated the equipment when they arrived this morning, the Dark Acolytes have been able to visually monitor all activity inside the castle from their makeshift control center inside their chosen servants’ room.”
“They, no doubt, are trying to observe you now,” says Ashanti, “but of course they can’t penetrate your NAPAV defenses. We are at a convenient location on the same floor and have debugged our room. However, the four robed ones are unaware that we have bugged their room with audio and video equipment, and that we see and hear everything they see and hear, as well as everything they do or say. But make no mistake. These guys are good. They haven’t uttered a word since they arrived. From all of this, I conclude three things. First, this is a reconnaissance mission for them, nothing more. They have made no attempt to contact their eight other comrades. Second, this, therefore, is not intended as a trap for us. Third, they, in turn, are quite vulnerable to an attack from us.”
“Excellent work, you guys,” says Helena, looking at her fellow Titans for confirmation. “We agree with your assessment.”
“This may be our best, and perhaps last, viable opportunity to isolate some of the individuals in their group and obtain needed information. How do you suggest we proceed?” N’Kosi asks.
“Let’s overpower them in the room they are in now,” says Olis. “Ashanti and I can’t leave our location yet, because they will see us before we are ready. We are reluctant to activate our Electromagnetic Shields on the off chance their equipment may pick up or receive interference from our shield’s electronic signature. All of you should finish eating your sandwiches and then casually proceed to our floor as though you are resuming your tour of the castle. When you get here, the acolytes will see you. Make sure that they also can hear you coming down the hall. About ten seconds after you start down the hall, Ashanti and I will exit our room and join you. When we are outside the door to their room, we will enter en masse. Having seen all of us in the hallway, I am sure the robed ones will be hiding somewhere in the room when we enter.”
“By the way, I have a master lock card, so if the door is locked, we will not have a problem gaining entry,” says Ashanti. “Let’s do this.”
“Sounds like a plan,” says Helena. “We will leave the Bistro in about twenty minutes. Look for us.”
“NAPAV out,” says N’Kosi.
“There they are,” Ashanti says to Olis, as she looks at the view screen in their room that is connected to all the electronics in play. “I’m starting the countdown. Ten seconds ... three, two, one—let’s go!”
Olis and Ashanti leave their room to join forces with their comrades in the hallway outside the selected servant’s room.
N’Kosi and Petrov prepare to rush in as soon as the door is opened. Olis quietly turns the door knob. Nothing happens. The knob will not turn. The door is locked.
Everyone looks to Ashanti, who passes the master lock card to Olis. Then, in a series of quick coordinated motions, Olis uses his left hand to insert the card into the card reader receptacle. The light flashes green. He turns the door knob clockwise with his right hand. He steels himself and lunges forward, blasting the door open with his left shoulder.
N’Kosi and Petrov rush in, followed closely by Omari, Humberto, and Zeno. Helena, Ashanti, Fredrika, Immanuela, Wei, and Lalitha follow directly behind them.
The room looks empty.
Olis signals for the group to surround the closet door in a semi-circle. Ashanti quickly swings the door open wide. Four robed individuals come streaming out of the closet at full speed. They fight like possessed and cornered animals, but the battle is short-lived. The Twelve outnumber them, twelve to four. The robed ones are subdued and tightly restrained by three Titans for each of the four Dark Acolytes.
Time seems frozen for a moment. Ashanti removes a black hood from one of the four captives. What the Twelve see is not at all what they expected. They see a white, male, blond-haired, twenty-something-year-old with no unusual features. In outward appearance, there is absolutely nothing sinister looking about him. He looks completely ‘clean cut.’ Definitely not what they expected.
A second hood is pulled off, revealing an Asian male of about the same age. Again, he looks as normal as the other.
Hoods are removed from the other two individuals. Once again, surprise. Two more very normal looking twenty-something males, one Hispanic and one Black. All four look like they just graduated from some Ivy League school and are on their way to religious services.
“In a crowd, none of these four would stand out as raising any particular outward concern, whatsoever,” says Wei.
“Let’s take their robes off,” says Olis.
“Look at that,” says Ashanti, after removing the robe from one of the four and rolling up his short shirt sleeves over his shoulders. “This one has a special tattoo on his left side deltoid shoulder area. The design consists of ...”
“His right side deltoid shoulder area has a strange two-line tattoo... below it,” continues Ashanti. “What do these tattoos mean?”
“This one has the same tattoo markings,” says Fredrika, after removing a second robe.
“They all do,” says Immanuela, after robes of the other two are removed.
“What do your tattoos symbolize?” Ashanti asks the four.
There is no response from any of them, only expressionless looks that are a bit unsettling. It is as though these four are mentally in their own world, completely unaware that the Twelve even exist. Suddenly, they close their eyes, as though they are making peace with themselves...