Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by January
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20 AUGUST 2050


The Tipsy Temptress was always bright and busy in the evenings, and this Saturday night was no exception. Daevas bickered over a pool table while doting couples sipped drinks coquettishly at each other. The bartender, a Mal’Akh who had been working at the location for longer than he’d care to admit, poured orders with a swift hand, juggling several conversations across the bright varnish of the bar top tables. The elegant chandelier lights reflected off the clean wooden floors and walls, kept magically pristine with a touch of imbued green tea scent. The owner thought it would be refreshing for the customers, and cozy when paired with the plush lounge chairs and sofas ringing a stage near the back where anyone brave or drunk enough could request a karaoke number. Catchy tunes rotated on the tracklist by default when the stage wasn’t in use and people swayed to the beat on the nearby dance floor. Servers took orders for tables that often needed to be booked ahead of time and the clattering of alcohol glasses and kitchen hands working in the background made for a minor, pleasant backdrop to the music and buzz of conversation.

A magitech frame walked through the wide, double doors of the establishment sometime around midnight, just when things were becoming the liveliest. The svelte and clearly mechanical soldier drew some eyes, but it was the custom of the Tipsy Temptress to not ask unnecessary questions. Quasi-humanoid in shape and with a unique silhouette as a result of the various magitech parts equipped on his body and hovering around him in a steady rhythm, the frame was clearly higher on the AI hierarchy than the usual semi-intelligent models favored by lower rung franchises.

“Room in the back?” the bartender offered helpfully.

“No, thanks,” the mechanized voice responded, though the inflections in tone sounded too real to be a machine. The long, mechanical tail flicked to point towards the far side of the bar. “I’ll just have a glamour,” he nodded towards the shelf specialized in magically enhanced drinks. It was a one-of-a-kind service of the Tipsy Temptress that certain magical tonics could provide their effects without needing to be imbibed. Often imitated, but never properly replicated.

“Sure thing. Any preference?”

“Surprise me.”

Within seconds a crystalline orb floated towards him, glimmering white and blue with its package of magical energy. He crushed it with a hand and the pseudo-glass dissipated into pinpricks of light. The energy inside surged into his circuits, pulsing briefly when the pin lights of his eyes blinked rapidly in acclimatization. When the hum of its effects settled across his system, the frame seemed to finally relax, settling its weight fully onto the bar stool.

“Been in it long?” the bartender asked after a moment away to pour another drink.

“A few months. Still not used to the way it moves,” the machine replied, flexing the lithe, dangerous digits of his hands as if to test the flexibility once more.

“As long as you’re feeling all right.”

“Can’t feel bad about it anyway. It’s not like I can go back to my original body.”

The mood sobered for a moment, but the bartender was quick to smile the atmosphere away. His long, white hair moved aside by itself as he turned to take another order, the modern conveniences of precision magic having made life vastly more bearable for the majority of the population. The frame watched him move deftly about the counter, hands graceful despite their speed. The Mal’Akh’s iridescent white wings were as large as his torso, with longer, hanging feathers trailing down from the undersides, each distinctive feather patterned in colorful curvilinear lines.

It was likely the effect of the glamour that he felt the feathers seemed a bit mesmerizing the way they flicked and shifted like strands of silk.

The magitech frame remained where he was until closing, then left as quietly as he had come. When he was still a Daeva, the bar and restaurant had been his favorite haunt. It was only some months after the magical transplant operation into a magitech frame that he had realized how much he had missed being able to feel the sting of strong alcohol sliding down his throat, and the savory aftertaste of the highest quality drinks.

​​The frame had different ways of perceiving the world. For living beings, life was a cacophony of sensory data, of unceasing and chaotic processes that drove their flesh. For his new body, there was nothing left but the neatly arranged information generated in his UI and the quiet hum of efficiency; science had trimmed away his faults and weaknesses, while magic had created miraculous processes to replace evolution’s probability. Down to his very last cells, his purpose was made clear.
​​
​​But perhaps, at a price too great. Perhaps he had taken his original body for granted. Thankfully, even regret came out muted now, and he found it almost bearable.
​​
​​His UI beeped once again, informing him of the chilly night air (15 degrees Celsius) and rising dampness (25%). A gentle breeze hit him (3.5 m/s), carrying the stench of industrial taint and rotting garbage down the alley. He flicked the information away absentmindedly, frustration already a distant memory, and hurried out to the main street. The corner of 1st and Waverley might be relatively safe in the morning, but at this hour, even the police patrols gave it a wide berth. They were never far, though, as indicated by the occasional sirens in the distance.
​​
​​It was a bit too late for buses, and he did not fancy calling on the remote vehicle for a drive, so he walked. It was almost an hour’s walk from his downtown apartment, but exhaustion was also a thing of the past for him, along with impatience and irritation.
​​
​​He passed a small groups of thugs, a little bit later. Not an uncommon sight in the grimy heart of New York these days, when civilisation’s complacency was beginning to crack and mend in strange ways and people went seeking other forms of order. They eyed him, just as his UI had already pulled their rap sheets from the NYPD database. Grunts, the lot.
​​
​​“What’cha lookin’ at, tin man?” One of them shouted, voice carrying easily through the empty street.
​​
​​He stopped, wordlessly, just because he could. Trained as he was, these situations used to get his blood pumping before, his body gearing up for a fight. But now, only statistics remained: calculations and angles and measurements dancing before his eyes. Instead of a thumping heart, his chest felt empty: the silence of a loaded gun.
​​
​​Even pity had turned into a mere concept; something cerebral and cognitive and intangible.
​​
​​“Hey, don’t.” The thug in the back spat out his joint on taking a second look, suddenly fidgety and pale. His UI calculated a high probability of fear. “He’s one of them magitech ‘borgs. Fancy model, too. Ain’t gonna mess with that.”
​​
​​It didn’t take long for them to slink away into the narrow alley, shooting glances backwards all the while, and so he moved on. It seemed that the intel on his government combat frame was a poorly kept secret. Perhaps on purpose, too, but he did not dwell on it. He would leave the scheming to the schemers.
​​
​​The rest of his walk remained uneventful and soon he found the skyscraper that housed his current apartment. A stark contrast to the poorer neighborhood, this suburb was fancy and clean. Hardly surprising, New York had always been a city of contrast, and Calamities would not change that. He stared up at the stoic building with its bright light and glass skin, the shimmer of magic coating its surface with security and vanity. He felt nothing.
​​
​​Was the class consciousness in him ideology or feelings? Concepts learned or reactions to the struggles of a life lived? Or one and the same, and thus cannot exist without the other?
​​
​​He almost felt like laughing, but the actual feeling eluded him. The entrance, however, did not, so he just went inside.
​​
​​His room was on floor 21, three doors down to the right.
​​
​​The interior was sinfully spacious and opulent, quite different from any military bases that he had been stationed at before. One thing that had never changed, though, was the combat equipment and weapons scattered throughout the space. The tools of the trade never changed, even if magic and ingenuity made them look or feel different.
​​
​​At the other side of the room, near the balcony, was a massive machine. It took up far more space than even the Californian king bed, but then he supposed he would use it far more than a bed anyway. As he approached, the lights on the machine flickered, and it opened up with a robotic greeting:
​​
​​“Welcome back, Sentinel. Please enter your command.”
​​
​​“Calibration, please,” he responded, the polite addendum a habit he hadn’t yet broken. Immediately, all the lights lit up and a soft whirling filled the room.
​​
​​“Preparing. Please stand by.” One of the hatch flipped over to reveal a small screen, which displayed a progress bar. “Preparing the calibration process.”
​​
​​That should take a couple of minutes.
​​
​​He wandered over to his work desk, carelessly tossing off his jacket. Even then, his body calculated the gesture, and the jacket landed neatly onto the nearby coat rack.
​​
​​There was a stack of files on his desk, conveniently in physical form even when his permissions allowed free access to the digital copies. They were his targets for this mission, Starweavers marked for recruitment. The reason why they picked him for this, though? He couldn’t even guess, sensing more machinations running underneath that he was not privy to. At best, it was just an easy job to help him reintegrate into the government workforce, especially after several months of tests and rehabilitation in his new body. Regardless, he picked up the files and started going through them.

The message to send was simple enough:

“The CIA is recruiting for a specialized task force. The subject of investigation is the Antarctic anomaly. Public recruitment campaigns have been issued, but individualized invitations offer higher benefits packages and larger compensations for services with terms to be discussed on acceptance of the offer. Non-pecuniary compensation will only be offered through these individual invitations and will be assessed in accordance with federal and state laws, including but not restricted to, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949.

To accept, sign on the dotted line with your registered magitech signature. The agent assigned will inform you of further steps should you accept. This message is confidential and will self-delete within 48 hours. Any attempt to publicize these offers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

It was reaching the CIA’s targets that was the real problem.
​​
​​Daniel Telem, a Starweaver with power to induce a deadly and viral condition. Previously involved with law enforcement, a modern-day pandemic at the tip of his fingers. The dossier had the boy’s address on file so it was a mere three thoughts away before a magitech missive was already digitally packaged, magically materialized, and instantaneously delivered to the boy’s mailbox by way of teleportation spell. It was a premium service that would have cost a pretty penny for most, but came free with his frame’s various financial perks.

Noelle Hodge, a Faye-blooded magician and sometimes, private military contractor. Power: time manipulation, utility: high, recruitment priority: essential. There were also pages detailing the many projects that she was involved in. Most of them? Highly confidential. Legality? Not so much. Eckehard Köhler, dwarf, engineer, witness of two World Wars. Previous involvement with Soviet military projects. Employed by NASA and worked extensively with space technology. Current status: retired. These two were far easier to contact, but far harder to distinguish himself from the veritable avalanche of requests and jobs they were offered on a daily basis. He pulled a few strings digitally, sending his e-mail to the top of their inboxes and magically materializing it in front of their computer screens, to be found the next day. It was a backdoor permission only the highest of government authorities had and rarely used outside of national emergencies. Given what they were being recruited for, Sentinel’s system found this an acceptable use of the privilege. His UI had already filed the paperwork for the usage clearance and his status allowed automatic approval unless overturned by a higher authority on review. The system calculated a 0.001% chance of a cancellation.

Ragneka Qroarae, Fletcher Patel’s pet project. The file included extensive details of the project, along with related interviews and footages. Another testament to mankind’s hubris? Or progress, this time? Was already under observation by a different team, and he found that to be the least amount of work, with his higher authority allowing him to issue orders unimpeded to her assigned team. He passed the message and moved on.

Savyna Liu, a runaway test subject that had only been recently located following the discovery of the illegal Hong Kong laboratory’s remnants. A rare, if only partial, success in magical genetic engineering, she was of particular interest for the upper brass and several prominent governemnt researchers had already made clear to the government their interest in her abilities and had their eyes on her performance. It was the instability of her powers that worried most of them, and the cunning of a politician that offered the Antarctic investigation as a trial run. If she died, she wouldn’t be a problem anymore and they would have a corpse to study. If she lived, all the better. A similar message was sent her way, and Sentinel also notified the interested parties that the offer had been placed.

Luka Krasnoff, Daeva, Starweaver and on government welfare. Recently returned from Siberia, though was never officially part of the forces stationed at Fort Yakutsk. Father Michail Krasnoff, KIA. There was a landline number and address to a PO box, but both had been crossed out. A sticky note on the physical files read: ‘find in person’. P.O. box was flagged as having been accessed only once by him in the last year—when it was created.

Jagannath Yaunten; human? Unlikely. Remote biometric readings at a maximum of 70% accuracy, minimum at 20%—data matches 63% with archived information of draconic powers. Further investigation required. Extensive criminal records in India and South East Asia. Most recently, involvement with the Mun Ji Dong. Suspect of multiple homicides, amongst many, many other crimes. Footnote: approach with caution. Jagganath’s location was also variable and the person himself seemed unlikely to respond to a missive, no matter how important it looked. Another one onto the list of manual acquisition.

Juān Bái, immigrant from Hong Kong. Also a typical rap sheet of criminal activities. Suspected involvement with various Hong Kong gangs. Aside from that, the dossier seemed sparse. Had been laying low ever since the intelligence agency had tracked her escape from the chaos she had stirred up in Hong Kong. With current reports of a person matching her description within the lower end of New York, it seemed he would need to tack on a bit of reconaissance to the workload. The system had calculated, based on reported sightings, a small area of activity in which the Fae seemed to operate, so he hoped the matter could be settled in a day.

Morgan Berion, outcast son of the Berion family with tenuous connections to the Vulcan Company. More importantly, a teleporter without messy ties. The file went into detail on Morgan’s activities since abandoning his duties with Vulcan, but most of it was observational busywork. There was nothing of note, and thus nothing to complicate the process of sending another glaringly obvious message.

“Calibration and diagnostic check ready,” the machine behind him gently informed.

He hadn’t even remembered to sit down, even if that motion was now a useless relic of a past life.

Obediently, Sentinel stepped between the various floating plates of the loadout station, positioning himself on the slightly raised dais in the center of the machine. As the rectangular plates rotated around him in various speeds, he deactivated the motor functions of his body and settled his mental processes into a dazed, almost oneiric state. It was the closest he ever got to the memory of sleep these days.



Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by January
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21 AUGUST 2050



Cities were loud.

Too many people in too little space, it seemed. Not that Luka minded them. Much like the rumblings of waterfalls and the howling of wind, the noises could be tuned out. But, at the cost of vigilance. And Father had never tolerated sloppiness.

So Luka found himself paying a little bit too much attention, sometimes. He would eavesdrop, often at the Temptress. A conversation here, a shouting match there. Not much information registered, because he was very much a stranger to this city, but at least he knew that his senses were still sharp.

Today, though, he was not at the Temptress. He’d rather be, but Uncle Vadim found him again, and the old man wanted to ‘help him make some fat stacks’. He was not really hurting for money, but he supposed Vadim was. He had some free time, so he would help.

The bar Vadim took him to was packed. Uncomfortably so, unlike the Temptress. Cheap drinks and heavy body heat assaulted his senses, and he couldn’t help but wrinkle his nose. It was sweat and blood and metal here. Like a butcher shop, or the aftermath of a battlefield.

“Just win, Luka,” Vadim said with barely contained excitement, as he fiddled with the lock to the cage. It was a huge one, dented and rusty and positioned over a raised platform surrounded by wired posts. Luka didn’t recognise what it was until he stepped inside and the gate closed behind him: a fighting ring.

It was packed dirt under his feet, and everything smelled of iron. He wrinkled his nose again and looked around, watching the quickly gathering audience: hard men with harsh faces and harsher liquors. A voice boomed from a megaphone above his head, announcing...something. The sound quality was so bad that he actually did not catch the specifics.

But then, something else caught his attention, a twinge of power that raised the hair on his neck. Something familiar, something that he had felt before.

Starweavers.



Jagganath hated America. It wasn’t anything in particular that he hated, just the accumulation of small annoyances. He lingered on this thought bitterly as he chewed on the filter of his cigarette. Americans even made smoking into a nuisance; he couldn’t smoke in bars, he couldn’t smoke casinos, he even got hassled for trying to smoke while he walked down the street. Jagga felt a growl escape his throat just thinking about it, and realizing that his current cigarette was burnt down to a nub, and decided he needed another one. He sucked the butt of his cigarette into his mouth, felt the tiny hiss of the cherry being put out against the roof of his mouth, chewed it up, and spat it out on the floor.

He sat down as he prepared to light another smoke, and realized he was sitting on a pallet of frozen meats. His lip curled as he lingered on another annoyance; how bad the food was here. It was all flavorless, frozen crap like this. He kicked at one of the iced-over packages of hamburger meat, which skidded to the other end of the freezer. He didn’t mind that it was probably processed grasshopper meat, just that it was always prepared so poorly. No spice, no flavor, just bland garbage to be sucked down by the ton by lazy Americans. Living in Hong Kong had been a bizarre experience, but at least the food had been good. He held his fresh cigarette in his mouth, and pinched the end of it, channeling his body heat into his fingertips to light it.

He blew out the first drag, which came with a massive exhalation of steam as his breath condensed in the cold air of the freezer. This was his usual haunt between fights, partly because the cold of the commercial freezer helped him regulate his body temperature, but mostly because no one ever came in to bother him. It hadn’t taken him long to fall back into old habits here. First he borrowed a little money, then he lent out a little money, until before he knew it he was tied up in knots with half the loan sharks and other petty crooks in the city. In this, America was very much like everywhere else Jagganath had lived so far, but he resented it for that too. If he had to deal with all of these nuisances all of the time, there should at least be a benefit he was getting out of it. Instead, here he was, trying to suck down a cigarette in peace, standing in a restaurant freezer, waiting for his turn to brutalize the next idiot that got dragged in front of him.

That was another thing that annoyed him. These cockfights he found himself involved in again; he always knew if he was fighting an American, or a foreigner like himself. Reason being that Americans gave up the fastest. Their lives were too easy, too comfortable, and this sort of thing was what they did for kicks. Usually it was some rich asshole with bad tattoos who wanted to take his impotent aggression out on somebody. Jagga assumed they had a lot of pent-up rage over their plastic wives cheating on them, or not getting the raise they wanted at their computer job so they couldn’t afford this year’s Mercedes. While he got some satisfaction out of dismantling these people, he would rather just get a decent fight. Sometimes the Americans brought their dregs out in front of him, the truly desperate that were fighting for their lives, but they were usually weak and toothless and that made Jagga all the more frustrated.

A knock on the heavy freezer door woke him from his reminisces. Before Jagganath could answer, one of the bookies came in, shutting the door behind him. One more American that Jagga hated, between his cheap suit, his combover, and the way sweat collected under his double-chin turned to frost in the freezing air. Jagga briefly entertained a fantasy of the man roasting over a fire like a pig.

“Jags, Jaguar, baby,” the man said, clearly trying to seem composed despite standing in a small, cold room with Jagganath, “I’ve been lookin’ for ya for hours, what the hell are you doing in here?”

Jagganath took another drag of his cigarette before answering, “Avoiding nuisances.” His voice was dry and dark, his accented English making him seem all the more alien compared to this piggy little man.

The man paid no heed to Jagga’s implicit warning, “Fine, whatever, but listen for a second. This next guy we got for ya, he’s some devil outta Russia, doesn’t even speak fuckin’ English I’m pretty sure. Anyway, a mark, a total rube, he’s got no idea what he’s in for. Half the other guys downstairs are already writing obituaries for him. The spread is completely fucked.”

Jagga stared at the man, malevolence written plain in his flame-yellow eyes as he fantasized about turning the bookie into an ugly stain on the wall. “Get to the point.” He said bluntly.

“Well,” the bookie said, dropping his voice and stepping close to Jagga, “I can cover the other end if you, y’know…” He trailed off, gesturing vaguely.

“I don’t… know.” Jagga said, his voice lowered into a growl. His sudden proximity to this man, and the stink of him that persisted in the cold air, was quickly draining his patience.

The bookie, oblivious, sighed and wiped the chilled sweat from his face, before looking back to Jagganath with exasperation. “Take a dive, throw the match, you know, give the guy the win. It’ll be well worth your while, I can assure you.”

“Take a dive,” Jagga said, imitating the man’s voice mockingly. Then, he was on his feet, lifting the bookie off of his by his shirt, and holding him up against the freezer wall, “Take a fucking dive, huh? How about you take a dive, off a fucking bridge you son of a whore!” He shouted in the man’s face, essentially blasting him in the face with condensed steam.

“Okay, alright!” The bookie cried, cowering and shielding his face with his hands, “I get it, I’m sorry, Christ almighty!”

“Your Christ isn’t here.” Jagga said, no longer shouting but still as close to the man’s face as he could bear. “The next time you have a good idea like that, just stick it up your ass, or save it for some other idiot.” He dropped the bookie on his ass, and the man immediately scrambled to the freezer door to escape Jagganath’s wrath.

The man fled as soon as he could get the door open, and Jagga paced about the freezer, still upset that what little time he got to himself had been so rudely interrupted. He picked up his cigarette that he had dropped, and sucked down what was left of it with one powerful inhale. He exhaled the great plume of smoke out through his nostrils, like a fire-breathing beast of legend.

“Fine then,” he said to himself, quietly, as he gathered his things and exited the freezer, “Let’s meet this Russian.”



Among the crowd, there was an observer who experienced the exact same realization as Luka had. Accompanying it was a much more unexpected shock of recognition – the so-called Jagga was someone she’d encountered before, if only in a circumstance eerily similar to the present moment.

Now, this wasn’t one of the usual haunts for Juān, but she’d gone too long without betting, especially on something as thrilling as a cage fight. It just wasn’t such a common thing in New York – or perhaps just better hidden. Still, she fit right in, a cheap whiskey on the rocks in hand, mingling among others who were as sweaty and eager to see blood as she was.

She sipped at her drink, which wasn’t as sharp as she’d liked, though the taste was surprisingly decent, if somewhat watered down by the ice. Slipping in between the gaps of others where she could, and casually shoving a clear path in front of her where she couldn’t, Juān made her way to one of the front rows now that both opponents had finally made their way in. When the bet-collector was passing by, she snagged the guy by the arm, and tersely said, “Fiver for the redhead,” handing over a crumpled note she’d taken from a zipped jean pocket.

Juān wasn’t happy about betting on a guy who may or may not be an enemy (what if he was after her, despite how unlikely it seemed?), but she didn’t feel like losing her money on the clueless idiot newbie either. She did determine to cheer on the poor underdog, maybe he’d clue in then. Though they were both Starweavers – which really should make for an interesting fight – she knew Jagga was experienced at this. No way he’d lose. The folks she could overhear were in agreement, and Juān morosely thought she’d at most get an extra dollar out of her bet. She’d nearly be happier to lose at this point if it meant a good fight. She threw back the rest of her drink, set the glass aside onto the floor, and peered at the ring.



Juān eagerly leaned forward in her seat when the cage was locked and the announcer started hyping up the fight.

“Greetings and welcome, everyone, new and old! Here you have a fight of the ages; will it finally be the long awaited upset or another in a long string of wins for our favourite Demi champion?! On one side, we have the tall and powerful Jagganath, Crusher of Men and Beast a–like!! Just one look and you know he means business! And on the other side of him, we have a newcomer – but one with great potential! A Russian Bear-wrestler, this man has bulldozed though the local wildlife and nearly driven it to extinction! How will he fare against a fellow Daeva? His muscles and claws are surely not just for show! Observe and enjoy, and bet on your favourite! Nooow, BEGIN!”

Jagganath stepped into the ring, and the heavy gate was locked behind him. The announcer was yammering about something or another over his megaphone, probably coming up with some new demeaning nickname for him. Jagga tried to tune him out, otherwise he would probably be too distracted by his desire to kill the loudmouth and wouldn’t focus on his fight. Jagga’s skin felt electric, his heart was hot and pounding, and he had no idea why. There had been times when had this feeling before, usually at random in public, but he had assumed it was nothing. He did his best to ignore it now.

Pacing around his opponent like a predator, Jagga sized the other man up. He didn’t look like much, clearly not dressed for a fight, unlike Jagganath, who was shirtless and barefoot, really only wearing a pair of athletic short-pants. As the bookie had said, he was a Daeva, one of the devil-folk, and he looked completely clueless. Jagga almost felt bad about what he was about to do to this man; he had probably ended up here by accident, or on some drunken dare.

“Are you the Russian I was told about?” He called out, before remembering he was also told that the other man didn’t speak English. He had to think for a- moment if he knew any Russian; Jagga knew several languages, at least to a conversational level, but Russian wasn’t one of them. “Vodka?” He offered, giving the other man a sinister smile. “Vodochny?”

There was some hooting, whistling, and jeering among the onlookers, Juān’s voice among them. “NEWBIE! Don’t let ‘im talk you down!” She didn’t care if he understood or not, it wasn’t about that.

Just as the stranger was watching him, Luka was watching him right back. He smelled of tobacco smoke and liquor, and very much like everything else in this place. Maybe he worked here? Luka didn’t think it mattered much, at this point.

“Russian?” He gave a toothy smile when the strange attempted to speak the language, then responded in slightly accented English. “I don’t speak Russian. I’m American.”

Jagga merely shrugged, still also smiling slightly, and said, “Well, fuck it then.”

Without another word, Jagga attacked, to the delight of the crowd. He launched himself with all of his unnatural strength toward the newcomer, ready to pull him down to the ground as soon as he was in arm’s reach. He wasn’t sure how his opponent would react to such a sudden and direct attack, and this was more of an exploratory strike to find out. More skilled or reserved fighters might have circled and tested their opponent for a while to learn about their foe, but Jagganath was not interested in having a long and drawn-out battle.

Luka side stepped, then circled around the stranger. He was no longer smiling.

“I think there has been a misunderstanding.” He said quickly, his tail flicking behind him, “I’m not here to fight.”

There was a shout from an interfering, impatient fae. “Stop talking, for fuck’s sake!”

Fighting rings were not a rare occurrence in Siberia, especially when those at the fort needed to let off steam. But, Father disapproved.

As the stranger avoided Jagga’s charge, he halted his advance and did his best to redirect his momentum into a spinning kick at the man behind him. Under normal circumstances, he would be disappointed but indifferent toward someone backing out of a fight. An unwilling opponent was worse in most cases than having none at all. However, something compelled him to keep attacking, the same tingling in his skin and thudding in his chest egged his attacks on.

“Then quit!” Jagga shouted between strikes. “Go on, you’re an American,” he said, laughing, “Take a dive!”

At this, there was a sudden clamor among all the patriotic spectators, who riotously booed Jagga, and a definite spike in support for Luka. Juān was one of the rare ones who laughed at the joke, the chuckle surprised out of her.

Luka dodged another flurry of strikes, his eyes narrowing. For a human, the stranger was very fast. Or was he?

“The gate’s locked.” Luka put some more distance between them, before gesturing to the gate that he came in with.

Jagga was beginning to become frustrated with how easily this stranger was dodging his attacks. He bore down on him, doing his best to anticipate how the man would dodge, trying to get one of his burning-hot strikes to connect. Finally, a challenge. He wasn’t about to let it slip away. He could feel his heart heating up, and he felt his flesh beginning to shift into its more metallic state. It had been so long since a fight had challenged him like this, that he had almost forgotten the feeling.

“Guess you’re just out of luck.” He said, grunting from the exertion of his attacks.

“Hey, YOU EEL, don’t just run!” came a shout of encouragement for Luka. Contrary to her words, Juān was amused that the famous ‘gladiator’ was having so much trouble just getting a hit in.

It seemed his opponent truly wanted this fight. Maybe he needed it to get paid, like Vadim. Still, while Luka wanted to help if he could, he would not just lie down and take a few punches for it. The stranger did not look like he was playing around, and his punches looked painful.

He could even feel the searing heat near his face, when one of the punches nearly caught up. Was this what Starweavers really fought like?

Distance, then. At least he could still stay ahead with his speed.

Ducking another blow, Luka went low, then scrambled out of reach again. This time, he latched onto the cage and climbed up with the agility of a startled house cat. It wasn’t that high above, but it would do. For the entirety of it, he never took his eyes off the stranger, ready for his next move.

“Jump! Down the hunk!!” Juān was understandably also getting tired of the antlered guy doing nothing besides trying to escape. He obviously had skills, but wasn’t properly employing them to duke it out yet. What’d he even come for, one couldn’t help but wonder.

Jagga watched as his opponent scrambled up the side of the pit like a bug, earning the jeers of the crowd, as well as a considerable amount of thrown garbage and drinks. Meanwhile, Jagganath bounced from foot to foot, thinking over his next move. Clearly the man was just trying to avoid him, and succeeding with his superior speed. Jagganath had no choice but to close the ability gap between them.

Focusing on his breathing, Jagganath tensed his body, locking his yellow eyes with his opponent’s. His heart beat faster and harder in his chest, as Jagganath focused on building up heat. He took another deep breath, but this time his exhalation contained tiny flecks of glowing embers, like a jet engine’s afterburners spooling up. The center of his chest began to glow with the power he was building up, and a heat-shimmer manifested around his searing-hot flesh.

Finally, with a savage cry Jagganath released the power he was building and took off toward his opponent like a rocket. The built-up energy exploded under him, propelling him like a supersonic missile toward where his opponent hung. The ground under him immediately liquified into molten glass, the building shook from the force of his propulsion, and the weaker onlookers in the closest seats developed a sudden sunburn on their exposed skin. The stronger ones merely cheered louder, eager for some real damage.

“FUCK YEA! DON’T STOP YET!!” even against a background of hollering, Juān’s was one of those few voices that could be heard clearly.

The blow almost caught Luka by surprise. He swung himself off the cage, just in time to dodge the brunt of the attack, but the searing heat still burned where it touched him. He landed with a thud, before rolling to a stop with his momentum.

When he lifted his head, the cage around them had almost completely disintegrated. The heat lingered, smothering.

“Ooah, fuck that cage!” the fae clapped happily. The newcomer got injured, but there was this glint in his eye that Juān rather liked. “READY TO START, NEWBIE?!” she urged him on.

The burn on his forearm wept red. Luka lifted it to his mouth and licked, tasting his own blood. He had never fought Starweavers before; he did not know their power could be this potent. It stirred him, and he wondered if it was time he stopped running.

Then there were gunshots. Sharp and loud, they rang through the packed building, cutting even the ding of the crowd. Those were hardly rare in this part of the city, which meant most locals already knew well enough how to deal with them. They dispersed. It could be the cops, it could be the corps. Either way, no one really wanted to stick around to find out.

During the avalanche of people heading out towards the main entrance, Juān lifted herself into the air, and swiftly flew to the nearest cover, which was behind the bar. The employees glared at her, but she shrugged and mimed a shushing motion. She warily eyed the machine that walked in, intending to escape now that the crowd had left and she wouldn’t be in its eyesight.

Soon enough, the bar was almost empty, save for the owner and a couple of workers who were wisely crouching behind the counter.

A man, or rather an approximation of one, strolled in. The metallic glint of his skin and his machine-milled features declared what he was: a magitech frame. Even in these darkest reaches of the city, people had heard of things like him. Consequently, one of the staff members spat out his cigarette, swore quietly, then left.

Fortunately for them, the magitech frame’s interest seemed to lie with the Starweavers. He walked right up to them, though each step was slow and calibrated and measured, much like someone reaching out for wild animals.

“Hello.” The frame greeted simply, with a smile that his facial plates were incapable of showing. “How unfortunate that I have found all of you here.”

“All of you?” Juān muttered from where she’d vaulted herself over the bar, and was hovering silently towards the exit. Her eyes were on the machine, fingers itching to unleash not only all of her elemental fury, but also to activate her Starweaver ability. And that kind of thinking was too dangerous (which was precisely also the draw of it), which was why she was inching towards the exit.

Jagga was sat smoldering in a small, glowing crater that his landing had created. He was literally incandescent with rage, heat boiling off of his metal skin. Shots rang out, but he didn’t care; Jagganath had a fight to finish. As the strange metal creature marched up to him, Jagga did his best to shove it aside as he continued to march toward his opponent with single-minded determination. Yet, the frame did not budge.

Luka caught the movement quickly, even when his attention was still on the metal man. He backed away fast, leaping atop the bar in one smooth motion and staying there.

“Damit, why’d you come this way,” Juān swore under her breath when the antlered Daeva landed where she’d been but moments before. She landed onto the floor with a soft clunk where her hooves met the floor, and glowered at everyone, but especially the suspicious newcomer. She was ready to stand her ground, and was eyeing the ring fighters calculatingly. If the three of them jumped this pompous military guy...

“Mr. Yaunten.” The magitech frame insisted, unwavering even when in the presence of three Starweavers. “A word, if I may.”

“You may.” Jagganath’s voice seemed inhuman, a metallic groan like a building about to collapse. “After I finish here.” His eyes were like twin suns in his skull, staring directly at the white-haired Daeva as he marched steadily toward where he stood on the bar. Meanwhile, Luka looked very much like he was going to bolt at any moment.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. Whatever happened between you and Mr. Krasnoff will have to continue at another time.” The magitech frame got in the way once again. If anything at all, he sounded a touch exasperated. “Sentinel, recruitment specialist for the CIA. I come with an offer for all three of you.”

“CI-” The name of the federal agency stopped Jagganath in his tracks, as his criminal experience took control of him from his bloodlust. “Shit,” he said, exasperated, before stamping a massive, molten fissure into the floor. He then pointed his chin up and released a billowing gout of heat from his mouth, scorching the ceiling and turning the support beams overhead a glowing red. He looked back at the agent, his skin and eyes somewhat cooler and merely asked, “Alright, am I under arrest? I want a lawyer.”

Juān also froze, tension growing. Yeah, ‘shit’ was about right. She didn’t know what the special agent knew about her, but also didn’t want to reveal her own cluelessness. “What. Offer,” she bit out, tone surly.

“I’ll cut to the chase.” Sentinel seemed unconcerned with the reckless display of power. After all, he expected nothing less. “We’re putting together a task force of Starweavers to investigate a delicate situation in Antarctica. So, I’d like to invite each of you here,” he was sure to turn his face to all of them, his way of making eye contact, “to join us.”

Then he continued, without missing a beat, “I can assure you, the terms of employment are very attractive for this particular contract. We can discuss these in detail tomorrow at the Tipsy Temptress. Come at 10 in the evening, ask for my name.”



Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Jing
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Jing

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Morgan

21 AUGUST 2050



"So how did your date go?"

"Uh well..." the bespectacled man sitting across Morgan was taken aback by the sudden question. "It was good. I mean, we didn't really talk and it wasn't really a date, but-" Morgan smiled as he continued listening to Andrew trying to coherently make a response. He wasn't planning to invite the bashful journalist for lunch, but he had some extra time, he was curious if Andrew actually mustered the courage asking his co-worker out, and there was a specific topic he wanted to talk about.

"...Anyway, thanks for that restaurant suggestion. Maria liked it! I think she did. She didn't seem like she hated it-" Morgan raised his hand, stopping Andrew from talking in circles again. "You're welcome. I just figured you two needed a break. After all, the fog must've added a lot to your workload, right?" Andrew stared at him for a moment before realizing what Morgan meant by that.

It wasn't an task that needed immediate attention, but Morgan asked about the fog whenever he could. Unfortunately, all he ever got as of late was mild indifference or annoyance at losing some prospective business deals in Antarctica. Everyone was anticipating something happening with bated breath, but after a few weeks without any change, things generally went back to normalcy. But who he didn't ask yet was a certain reporter who might have some answers regarding the incident.

"You'd think so." Andrew started, adjusting his glasses. He showed a more serious attitude now, completely different from the anxious man from before. "But it's been pretty calm on my side. After the initial uproar, we've just been reporting on the same old same old." Morgan quietly nodded in response. It was unfortunate, but it looked like he'd have to wait for any new information on the fog.

But there was another way he supposed. He could join one of the many groups investigating Antarctica. But he felt the public campaigns, as well the few private organizations that gave him an offer, were ineffective. He entertained the idea of asking Vulcan, but it seemed like they weren't part of any current investigations, and that was even assuming they would hire him in the first place. Still, he considered joining the next offer presented to him. Better than never fully knowing what his strange connection to the fog was.

But seeing as the two exhausted that particular topic, Morgan went back to his usual small talk. The rest of their lunch was spent in relative peace. As the two finished their meal, Morgan stood up, paying the bill along with leaving a generous tip.

"Thanks for joining me Andy, tell me how it goes with Maria later, alright?" As Morgan left a flustered Andrew behind, he checked his phone for messages. There were a couple of new texts, all of which were invitations to somewhere, for various reasons. Looking over his choices, he politely declined all but one. It was just hanging out at some local bar and getting a few drinks. He thought it would be a nice way to end the day.


Morgan groaned as he sluggishly got up from the couch. Looking around the dark room, he realized it was probably close to midnight when he woke up. He rubbed his temples for a while before finding a silhouette of letters on the nearby coffee table. As it turned out, getting roped into a drinking contest with a Daeva was a bad idea. Luckily however, not only did he remain coherent enough to call a taxi to go home, he even managed to pick up the mail on his way up. Figuring he wouldn't be able to sleep for a while after waking up, he started checking them.

"Bill, payment, bill, birthday party..." he shuffled through each one, already knowing what most of them were at a glance. He stopped on the last one, a letter that looked unfamiliar from the usual. Opening it, he could barely make out the wording in the dark and in his disoriented state.

"Investigation...Antarctic anomaly..." Morgan skimmed through the letter. All he made out was an investigation offer in typical legal jargon. But seeing as it looked legitimate, he signed it without much thought and left it on the table. As he finished sorting, Morgan collapsed on the couch, immediately drifting off to sleep. He can deliver the letter later he thought. It probably wasn't that urgent.
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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Scribe of Thoth
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Scribe of Thoth It's Pronounced "Thot"

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FBI OPERATIONAL REPORT: AUGUST 20, 2050《


SWAT gear was too heavy. Daniel wasn't sure if it was for protection or just so he'd look the part, but he was pretty sure it accomplished neither. He looked like a shut-in cosplayer trying desperately to look like some military character in a bulletproof vest, and the fact that his shoulders felt like they had an elephant sitting on them wasn't helping him avoid any fireballs. At least nobody tried to hand him a rifle this time.

The inhabitants of the lobby seemed to disagree with his assessment on his appearance; everyone was on edge the moment he stepped in the door. They were probably assuming 'crazy shooter' and not 'wimpy-looking fed' though, so he wasn't totally wrong. He swept a lidded gaze across the room in search of any security rushing to detain him, then made his way toward the front desk. Better to avoid a panic if at all possible.

"Agent Telem, FBI," He announced as he flashed a badge at the flustered desk worker, "I need access to the penthouse floor."

"Team is entering through the balcony right now," Daniel's earpiece helpfully chimed in while the woman was floundering for a key behind the desk. Even if she was paid off and alerted the inhabitants, it'd be too late. The worker sheepishly handed him one of housekeeping's spare keys that the boy took with an impassive mumble of gratitude. He approached the elevator at a leisurely pace - preferably, he'd like to arrive after the other agents had done their work - and he could blame it on the elevator being slow if needed.

When he stepped inside, any worries he had evaporated upon looking at the panel of buttons. Fifty-four floors, good god this guy lived way too high up. A key needed to be turned for the elevator to ascend to the top five floors, and with any luck it'd be a direct trip up. Surely VIPs didn't have to deal with forty-eight floors of people stopping the elevator to get in.

"Status report," Daniel muttered to the microphone wedged inside his respirator.

"No shots fired," The agent on the other end of the line - Miller - informed him, "they surrendered peacefully and are cooperating."

"Who's 'they'?"

"Two bodyguards with him, suspected fellow gang members. Maid's not working today."

"What do we have on this guy?"

"Nothing that'll hold up in court. I could barely get the search warrant we do have."

"Then why am I here?" He slumped back against the wall, watching the floor number tick higher and higher. If he went through a whole fifty-four floor elevator ride for nothing, he was going to be seriously irritated. He was thrown into this operation on short notice and with minimal briefing; if they just wanted to search this guy's house, Daniel shouldn't have been contacted at all.

"I'm sure he moved anything incriminating out of his suite after our last few visits. We're skipping the courts; you're authorized to execute."

"So I'm your patsy when this gets uncovered."

"We'll handle the fallout, don't worry. The penthouse is secure, you're clear to move in."

The elevator opened into a spacious entryway decorated with tacky art pieces that led into the suite proper. The furnishings were sleek and fashionable, if a bit drab, aiming to state the owner's wealth without outright flaunting it. Telltale signs of a search were strewn about, though it hardly looked thorough or complete. An extravagant wall-to-wall window looked out over the balcony and pool, and before it was a cozy parlor where three well-dressed men were being cuffed at gunpoint by Mal'akh SWAT officers.

"Oh great, more of them," The central, slightly pudgy man snarled, "I already told you, I'm not talking without my lawyer! You got nothing on me - I'll have you and your bosses ass-deep in lawsuits for this! You- Fuck." The man paused when Daniel finally stepped into his field of view. Evidently the guy recognized him, by the way his blustering stopped and he sunk in on himself like a toddler caught stealing from the cookie jar. That made things easier. Unfortunately, Daniel couldn't say the same. What was this guy's name again? The mal'akh had barely gotten a chance to look over his file. Some big name narcotics distributor. It didn't matter now, he supposed; the guy would cease to be anything more than an obituary header soon enough.

Daniel stood before the kneeling man and let out a long exhale, forcing a hiss out of his mask. Some of the agents told him it was intimidating, made him come off more inhuman, more robotic; like he was ready to execute his job with cold pragmatism unhindered by frivolous concepts like mercy or compassion. Daniel thought it made him sound like a cheesy movie villain, but Drug Lord Chucklefuck certainly jumped when he heard it. "Let's not make this difficult. Tell me where the drugs are."

One of the bodyguards swiveled his head around in confusion, evidently trying to fathom why his boss had been rendered speechless by some scrawny kid that looked like he'd lose a fistfight with a wet paper bag. The other bodyguard, a stonefaced daeva, simply hung his head, whether in resignation or simple nonchalance. The rest of the agents slowly backed away, though their rifles were kept trained on the men. Daniel suspected they'd been given orders to remain until his starmark flared.

"No idea? That's okay, I didn't need a confession out of you anyway," He continued humorlessly when his demand was met with silence. Narco clearly knew as well as Daniel did that his operation hadn't been compromised and he was facing no consequences here. He needed to change that.

"I... I don't know what you're talking about," The man stammered at last. Daniel needed only to shift his arm forward listlessly to send the man collapsing onto his back as he squirmed to get away. "Wait! Wait! Y-you can't do that to me! I've done nothing wrong!"

"Please back away," Daniel requested politely, taking his eyes off the man before him briefly to speak to the surrounding agents, "This could get dangerous."

"I'll talk, I'll talk- I'll tell you everything you wanna know! Please!" No conviction, typical. How this man was considered 'ruthless', Daniel would never know. Terrorists met their fate fearlessly, choking out 'Death to America' even as they drowned in their own blood. Common criminals just begged like dogs in the end. "The warehouse down on 25th Avenue! It's under a proxy company's name!"

"D'you get that?" Daniel asked into the microphone.

"Confirmed." Agent Miller responded after a short delay, "Take them out."

The mal'akh regarded the man coldly as he knelt down beside him. The fat bastard was halfway to a heart attack, judging by the way he was panting; his eyes darted about rapidly in search of any threat from the diminutive Starweaver as sweat pooled on his greasy brow. He obviously hoped - prayed - that Daniel had simply moved to pick him up and drag him into custody. He was wrong. A crimson light emerged above Daniel's brow at the apex of his starmark and slowly traced the rest of the shape downward, like spilled blood trickling down a surface. He clamped his hand over the unfortunate victim's mouth in an uncharacteristically lively movement, barely giving him a chance to yelp before his fate was sealed. The soon-to-be former drug lord thrashed wildly on the floor like a restrained animal, screaming muffled agonies into Daniel's palm as infectious gas was pumped into his lungs.

"You ca- you can't do this to me!" He gasped after Daniel released him, still floundering uselessly against the magitech restraints on his wrists. The other agents swiftly made their exit and retreated to the balcony, content to watch the show from behind the window rather than risk any chance of exposure.

"I coopera-" The man started before he was cut off by a sudden coughing fit. A cloud of gaseous death emerged from his wheezing to consign his two associates to the same grave. Ever the stoic one, the daeva followed soon after, doubling over in weakness and pain as symptoms started manifesting. The final bodyguard managed to force himself to his feet and staggered toward the door, though the starmark above his head made it quite obvious that last bit of rebellion was futile.

Daniel flexed his tattered wings and chambered his hand at his side to ready a spell. Ribbons of light swirled about his fingers and the air turbulently rippled before the boy's palm; it wasn't much, but it'd be enough to knock the fleeing gangster over. He couldn't let this guy leave, but if Miller ordered them killed by Contagion, he probably didn't want bullets involved. Too many questions they wouldn't be able to answer during the autopsy. When the vibrations reached their crescendo, the mal'akh thrusted his hand toward the fleeing man to send a bolt of kinetic force into his back and force the poor damned soul back to the ground for execution. "You're already infected. Running accomplishes nothing."

He'd learned to tune out the screams and pleading by now, but it brought him no joy that he would have to stay at least until the trio was too sick to even struggle. Quite frankly, he wanted out of this vest - it really was too heavy. Settling for a short rest instead, Daniel made his way back to the entryway and took a seat on a chair he'd passed on the way in.

"Good work. The cleanup crew is waiting for the all-clear," Daniel's earpiece alerted him.

"Isn't he more valuable alive and in custody? He did confess," The Starweaver pondered allowed for Agent Miller's benefit.

"We bent too many rules here having you threaten him like that, and this guy has enough pull with local prison gangs that locking him up won't stop him. It's safer this way; forensics wants nothing to do with your targets. Once we have the warehouse, their whole operation will collapse anyway."

The mal'akh audibly sighed. He was still convinced Miller dragged him into a river of shit for an anticlimactic payoff. Probably had a promotion riding on taking down the dealers around here and felt cocky enough to skirt the law to get it.

"Don't give me that attitude," Agent Miller continued, "The higher-ups are extremely impressed with your work. I heard the CIA pulled your file; you might be due for reassignment."

"The CIA? Great." Just what he needed, to get shipped off to take part in bioterrorism in Nowhere-istan. Maybe that was the plan all along and the feds just finally decided he could keep a secret; he certainly sat through enough lectures on discretion the first time he got a security clearance. Daniel shot a glance back to the men writhing on the floor in the other room. They'd started developing pustules by now; he was certain if he could still smell through his mask, the telltale metallic tang of blood would be heavy in the air. As disheartening as it was, there was probably little difference between his current work and any tasks he'd be assigned from the CIA. They knew he wouldn't refuse anyway.


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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Helios J Mears
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Helios J Mears

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NOELLE HODGE

New York City
21st of August, 2050


Noelle's morning was, as usual, entirely mundane. Her alarm clock, a loud, shrill thing, met with its usual fate at precisely 6:30am, landing in a shattered, smouldering heap on the floor only to return to its perch, still crowing, some nine seconds later. She crawled out of bed a good ten minutes later, as she did most days, and stumbled to the washroom with a groan to splash some water over her face in an attempt to wake up. At 7 o'clock precisely, a slightly more composed Noelle, now clothed in a loose button-down one of her exes had left and a pair of baggy shorts, ambled into her apartment's kitchen and flicked on the radio to listen to the morning news while she made herself a cup of hot tea. As the same old New York gossip drifted past her still-bleary ears, she set about mindlessly cooking breakfast, a snap of her fingers yielding a flame to heat the pan (She wasn't worried about power costs, but it was good, mindless practise).

Her cup of lifeblood in one hand and a Full English in the other, she eventually made her way through to her lounge, flicking on the lights with a smack of her head against the switch. Tiredly, she flopped down onto the sofa, and downed half her mug in one go before flicking on the television. Like every other Sunday, there Soap Opera omnibus on almost every channel, so she flicked to the least annoying for some background noise and ate her breakfast with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. Time was, when she'd first settled down here some months prior, that she'd have been beside herself simply for a familiar living space and some alone time; nowadays, she couldn't help but feel bored.

She finished the last of her Bacon as some catfight broke out on her programme, and she chuckled half-heartedly before, finally, picking up her phone from the coffee table, where it had been left charging as usual. It was packed with the usual guff, along with a long-winded, insubstantial message from her father that she only half read, and, at 8 o'clock, she finally gave in and decided to get some work done. Her office was a small space to the side of the flat, sequestered in what used to be a storage cupboard. (She liked how snug it was). The computer was some fancy, top-of-the-line garbage that a sales assistant had flogged her for far more than it was probably worth, and it booted quickly, bringing her face-to-face with a loudly flashing priority e-Mail notification which she promptly ignored. She'd had the like a few times before, and, frankly, it was too bloody early to deal with governmental bullshit.

The best part of an hour was spent doing some cursory research into an esoteric fire spell her dad had suggested she look at a few weeks ago. It took a few passwords she maybe shouldn't have had access to, but hey, payment was payment, and she came out of it with a new project to work on! That done, she took a moment to write out a decent reply to her dad before deciding she'd procrastinated enough. With a sigh, she opened up her e-Mail and, leaving the pop-up for last, began her daily review of the hundreds of job requests that regularly flooded her inbox. It was largely the usual: new magitech reactors needing an overseer, a couple of private live-fires, an experiment into the effect of pain on a Daeva's natural abilities from some new-age group in Tokyo (which was swiftly ignored), and a few British civil servants requesting her help on the security front, which she flagged up as potentials. (As unique as her Time Slip was, she always appreciated being recognised for her more standard talents). There was also a high-paying job as a stunt supervisor for a nearby film shoot, and the money seemed good, so she added that to the shortlist. Only after a good twenty minutes of this routine did she finally reach the end of the list and, with some reluctance, turn her attention to whatever the CIA wanted from her this time.

When she left her office, there was an uncharacteristically cheerful look on her face, and she hummed thoughtfully to herself as she made her second cup of tea that morning.

"Well, this should spice up my month."
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by AdmrlStalfos19
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AdmrlStalfos19 Undead. Not Updated

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22 AUGUST 2050


Ragneka Qroarae had been through quite the handful of CIA operatives during the past week, who'd been interviewing her non-stop ever since she, her mother Naomi Qroarae and Professor Fletcher Patel, the lead researcher for the project in which she'd been the lead test subject for all her life, had all immigrated from the heart of London to the depths of New York. The interviews regarding said project had been conducted by a total of four of such operatives; a beautiful bespectacled woman who, judging by the color of her skin, had to be of African American descent, a tall man with a stocky build and a double chin, a morbidly obese woman who'd require two chairs in order to properly seat herself, and a somewhat nerdy man who seemed to be shorter than all the other operatives that Ragneka had seen thus far; even the other two women. Today it looked like Ragneka would get the obese woman again; Leia Webster if she recalled her name correctly. The interview would go on for hours, as per usual, but unlike all the previous times, Ragneka didn't have much of a chance to reveal anything new. Just the same old slop that they should've known already.

"Is there anything else you want to ask of me?" the poor Mal'Ahk asked drearily, as Leia continued to write notes.

"Er, no, I actually think that's everything. You're free to..." just as she was about to say the word 'go', Leia glanced over at her phone, only to bite her lip as an epiphany came across her mind, "Sorry; no you're not free to go just yet. Remember that meeting I told you about last time? With one of our men at another department? We have to leave right now so we can get there on time."

"Oh... right..." Ragneka tried to sound surprised, but the overwhelming lethargy was evident in her voice.

Leia could only sigh and roll her eyes. She could tell that Ragneka had a long day, and yet here the poor girl was, expected to attend a meeting that would take place at a time that other children her age would've already been tucked into their beds and fast asleep. On top of that, it was at a bar of all places; not exactly the best place to take a young girl into. Had the being known as Sentinel not outranked her, Leia could probably done something about this situation; like... she didn't know, shift the meeting to the morning at some time when Ragneka would be more awake to hear about it. Still, at least this bar was one she often frequented. Supposing there was nothing for it, Leia held Ragneka's hand and walked with her to her SUV, a Cadillac Escalade that would always slightly askew itself over to the front right corner every time she sat down in the driver's seat, most likely due to her sheer weight.

...

Sure enough, Leia and Ragneka arrived at the Tipsy Temptress with 10 minutes to spare before the meeting was set to begin. But first, Leia would have to get a drink for the currently sleeping beauty so that she could stay awake. As she hopped out and walked over to open the passenger side's door, Leia undid Ragneka's seat belt and carried her in her arms before walking inside. The noise from the bar's usual hustle and bustle was enough to cause a stir within Ragneka, but her eyes had only opened approximately half the amount. She did notice, however, that Leia had brought her all the way up the bar, and was in the process of sitting her down on one of the two only stools available when a Mal'Akh bartender came over serve the two of them, whilst Leia herself elected to stand.

"Ah, welcome back, Ms. Webster," the bartender greeted, "What can I do you for?"

"The usual for me," Leia ordered, "Oh, and could you make a cola for this lil' angel? She kinda needs the caffeine so she can get through the meeting she has to attend tonight."

"Coffee would be the healthiest source you can give me," Ragneka advised.

"Well... that's true, but we don't sell coffee, unfortunately," the bartender informed, "Would you still be willing to settle for the cola?"

"If it'll suffice, then by all means. Could you add some lime juice to it please?"

"Certainly."

In just a few minutes, Ragneka's special order of lime-juice-infused cola was ready to drink, while Leia had been down shot after shot of vodka. The bartender had to have just poured her fifth shot when Ragneka noticed his hesitation to give it. Then she looked at Leia herself, who was merely eyeing it up with eager anticipation.

"You don't intend to drive again by chance, do you, Ms. Webster?" asked the bartender.

"I, uh..." judging by her lack of certainty, it was clear that Leia hadn't thought about that; she did took the time to look through her phone before giving the bartender an answer, "On second thought, I'll see if I can get a co-worker to pick me up,"

Seemingly satisfied, the bartender laid the drink he held in front of Leia. However, now Ragneka's curiosity was piqued.

"Who did you have in mind?" she asked Leia.

"I dunno; guess I'll give Garrika a call..." Leia answered, before realizing that Ragneka was unfamiliar with the name. "Garrika Anthony? The black woman with the hot bod?"

"Oh! Was she the one with the abnormally large breasts?" Ragneka queried, now that said woman was now starting to come back to her memory, "That reminds me; I should probably apologize to her for having stared at them for as long as I did that first time around."

"Daw, c'mon; I'm sure that must be water under the bridge by now," Leia reassured Ragneka, "Anyway, I better go make the call. Just stay here with the nice bartender until... that robot picks you up, I guess..."

With that, Leia went outside with her phone held to her ear, while Ragneka was quietly sipping away at her cola.



Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Vermicelli
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Vermicelli Facilis Descensus Averni

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“It’s gonna rain today.”


Savyna’s elbow rested firmly on the counter, with her hand supporting her chin as she pried her eyes away from her magazine for just a moment to glance out the window. “I don’t see a single cloud in the sky,” she observed, her free hand twirling a pen between her fingers. ”What makes you think it’s going to rain?” Savyna circled an item in the catalogue she had been eyeing, and flipped to another page. She gave her co-worker her attention, but her eyes couldn’t be bothered to look at him and continued to skim through the magazine without pause or care.

“I’m never wrong about this,” her co-worker responded, chewing a wad of gum and counting the bills in the register. “It’s like a premonition or something. Always happens right on cue after I have this specific recurring dream.”

”Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. It’s one of those dreams where you’re suddenly back in high school again – and you’re running late to class. I make it in by a hair and get to my seat. Then a teacher I never had says, ‘Alright everyone, please turn in your homework.’ I then get up, and pull out a square of lasagna from my pocket and I hand it to him-“

”As one does.”

“Well y’know, it’s a dream. My brain doesn’t really question the semantics of why I’m giving this man a damn lasagna when I’m dreaming. Anyway, he then gives us a quiz where all the questions are in braille.”

”So what does this have to do with it raining?”

“I dunno, but every time I have this dream, it rains on the same day.”

”Whatever you say, Bryce. My shift’s about over, by the way.” Savyna grabbed a set of keys from a metal hook and tossed it over to her co-worker. ”Your turn to close today.” She grabbed her bag and made her way to the door, before she was stopped.

“You dropped something,” Bryce called out, pointing at an envelope on the floor. Savyna slouched over to pick it up, giving Bryce a nod of thanks. “So… what is it?” Bryce asked, ever so sensible, and ever so nosy. The enclosed letter specified that the addressee remain confidential about the contents, else face legal ramifications. Savyna was not keen on sharing too many details either way.

The letter had been on Savyna’s mind all day, with the implications causing for concern. Had she finally been discovered after all these years? She left Hong Kong to avoid the scrutiny of those that wanted to exploit her, and now she had the attention of the CIA. If they knew what she knew, then there wouldn’t be a chance that they’d let her walk. She turned to face Bryce, a tinge of nervousness in her otherwise listless voice. “I can’t really get into it too much, but it’s uh… a job offer.”

“You gonna take it?” Bryce responded, still chewing on the same piece of gum.

”I don’t know. It’s likely that they’re giving benefits and paying me more than this place.”

“Then take it.”

”At the same time, it’s just as likely that it’s dangerous work. They’re asking me to relocate.”

“So don’t take it then.”

”Well it’s complicated, alright? I kinda don’t want to, but at the same time I don’t really think I can easily turn something like this down. Probably best for me to sleep on it.”

Bryce shrugged and fetched a broom to begin sweeping the aisles. “I mean, do you really want to work in a dingy place like this forever? Some days I just wake up and feel like I’m getting crushed by the weight of all the people I could be. Instead, I’m just regular-ass Bryce workin’ the grind at this convenience store and writing online reviews on how terrible movies like ‘The Key of Blackwater’ are.”

”Hey, that’s my favorite shitty movie. Only I can talk shit about it,” Savyna refuted. ”Also, working here isn’t so bad. It’s actually kind of cozy when you aren’t dealing with shitty customers.”

“So like twenty percent of the time it’s alright here, then.”

”I mean… well… yeah.”

“I’ve probably bent your ear enough, I don’t mean to hold you up. Though if you end up not wanting that job, maybe put in a good word for me, yeah?”

”I’ll think about it,” Savyna promised. At the very least, taking the job would give her a chance to observe the ones watching her. She went out to her motorcycle parked by the back of the building and revved it up. With a heavy sigh, Savyna placed on her helmet and began riding home.

It began to rain heavily.
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22 AUGUST 2050


The course had been chosen, the way set, now he only needed the will to follow through. He expected the same of his soon-to-be collegues.

Sentinel arrived to the meeting room exactly on time. In fact, he made his way through the staff door at exactly 9:58 PM, taking into account the average walking time between the door and the back room, and his system immediately started the analytic parameters of the interior. Ragneka Qroarae was there already, accompanied by a slightly inebriated agent Leia Weber who was downing drinks as if she wasn’t on the clock. Which explained the car outside badly in need of an axle repair. Weber’s work had always been sloppy, even to his then organic standards. He remembered his dislike, once upon a time. Now, he barely turned his head for a greeting. Around that time, the Mal’Akh at the bar was replaced by a Fae bartender who rushed in from another back entrance looking like he had just woken less than an hour ago. From what Sentinel could hear of the sheepish conversation, that seemed to be the case. The large, white fox tails and ears of the graveyard shift bartender smoothed themselves down neatly as he adjusted his vest and cuffs and took his place behind the bar, politely notifying current guests along the length of the table that he would be taking over now. The Fae glanced towards the magitech frame already weaving its way through the throngs of people who immediately gave it a wide berth on notice, but his expression remained professional. He continued polishing the glasses the Mal’Akh hadn’t finished as he watched the frame approach the bar, the slightest shift of its head nodding towards a large woman sitting near the end of the counter.

Sentinel didn’t gesture for the agent and Ragneka to follow as he passed by the bar counter, but he left the door to the meeting room in the far corner open as he entered.

His current loadout looked markedly different from the civilian set, with ready, rectangular components hovering quasi-magnetically around his left arm, the magic prepped to instantly form a weapon at the speed of his circuits’ processing power. What looked like a long mane of hair swept back from the crown of his mechanical head was actually the result of decades of research into replicating the energy storage capability of Mal’Akh wings, with the completed product copied into magically forged fibers light enough to nearly float. It was purely the frame development team’s aesthetic choice to leave the excess strands attached and protruding like hair while the bulk of it was folded, pressed, and woven deep into Sentinel’s entire body. The newly fitted form had been enhanced with armor plating that looked far weaker than it was, the lightweight but powerful material a result of many unethical tests on Daevas’ hardened durability and the rare dwarven fortifications. In a way, he was also one of many achievements of humanity, and it was only a matter of time before they figured out some way to mass-produce his level of magitech frame. For now, though, it was both a blessing and a curse that only wealthy countries were able to research and develop the higher end of magitech soldiers, ones capable of hosting an entire consciousness.

Customarily, his system lit up to scan the meeting room for tapping devices and any other abnormalities. This time, his combat regalia offered additional information: traces of explosive substances, signs of ambushes or tampering, magical signature and residue detection. So far, nothing yet. The Tipsy Temptress was generally considered a safe haven even in the often violent nights of NYC, but recent developments had changed that.

A string of grisly murders had been linked to the long-simmering anti-Starweaver terrorist group by the name of ‘Foci’. Their activities had been recorded internationally for a few years now; the spread and inconsistency of incidents might have suggested a general, decentralised anti-Starweavers sentiment that spread through viral chat boards and obscure forums. But these recent murders were targeted and serial, with a seemingly uniform M.O. and message. The victims were almost always law enforcement and the group’s calling card, a lily of the valley, was always found at the scene. It could have been a copy cat killer, using the group’s name for their own ends, perhaps even a minor branch of the organization. Or, Foci was finally getting serious after all these centuries.

Rumors had spread that the enigmatic owner of the Tipsy Temptress was actively investigating some of the incidents that had occurred near the smaller venues of New York, but the breadcrumb trail of information ended there. As always, the Temptress’s owner kept a frustratingly low profile. Sentinel doubted the name and face attached to the license registration of the bar and restaurant chain had anything to do with the Starweaver in charge of it all. They couldn’t stay off the grid perfectly, with the world as connected as it was now both technologically and magically, but at best all anyone had managed to find of the franchise owner was a blurry, poorly angled snapshot of a distant lanky male in a black turtleneck, turned away from the camera, speaking to someone completely obscured behind an open door. It was interesting to note that the location in the image did not seem to match anywhere in New York, and thus far internet sleuths had been unable to find any place at all that looked similar to what was photographed. The account that had uploaded the image onto an image hosting site had also mysteriously deactivated several days later. It was the strangeness of it all that prevented many from declaring the photo an elaborate attempt to farm some internet clout. Who the photographer was and how they knew this was the Temptress’s owner was another unsolved mystery that the obsessives of the net had been orbiting around for years now. It was easier to dismiss the image as a random person, so many others gave up and did just that.

Either way, it was beneath his jurisdiction and thus, his notice. NYPD had also seemed to prefer keeping information confidential right now, which often meant they did not welcome meddlers unless they were forced to.

Sentinel only adhered to the heightened alert level and recommended procedures as suggested by his system.

Once the location was deemed safe enough to host the meeting, Sentinel fired off a notification to his supervisors and took his seat at the head of the table. The staff had helpfully arranged food and drinks for them, and he contemplated taking one of the hovering orbs of glamour for himself. But the thought faded quickly, with no urge nor desire to tether it.

He settled for leaving the space in front of him empty, then waited.



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