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This and Mama were such dark tracks. Really goes to show that the 80's didn't change Genesis entirely. Peel back the layers and there was still some amazing, sonically dense and complex tracks to be found.

Sometimes I enjoy power metal...

Power Metal is easy to enjoy when Tommy Karevik is on vocals.

The walk home had been a pleasant one in spite of the days events and the unshakable feeling that there was far, far more to the situation than what could be taken at face value. Nothing reminded him of that more than the permeating smell of dirty smoke wafting up from his clothes.
Quint was craving a cold shower, and then after that an even colder drink. It didn't take him long to reach his modest apartment. The living space was certainly not much to brag about, but for just him it suited his needs perfectly. It was moderate and unassuming, a place where work took up a minuscule place. Best to keep work and home separate after all. If his apartment ever got raided, MorSec would find sweet fuck all.
Thankfully, thus far, nothing of the sort had happened. Still, no reason to let down ones guard.

He took his time in the shower, as he liked to do. The white noise of the water striking tile was a fine veil obscuring everything outside the glass and it gave him time to breathe and clear his head. It was a little ritual that had slowly become habit, owing to a necessary measure of calm required to deal with ham-fisted MorSec border security and angry patrol men. Not to mention your average Eden socialite...insufferable bunch of pricks they tended to be.

It was roughly an hour later that he made his way to the Floating Lotus. The familiar neon glow felt more like home than his apartment did and he felt a small smile creep onto his face. He was sure Esperanza would have started by now.
He approached the door, the familiar bouncers going about their clockwork routine of making sure only the right folks made up the Lotus' clientele.
He didn't notice Connor Sullivan storming out of the building at first, he was moving like a man possessed.
"Well, hey Sully. Long time no s..." Sully brushed straight past him as if Quint wasn't even there. Clearly he had more important matters to attend to than small talk. Quint could hardly blame him...he despised small talk.
"Alright then, catch you later I guess," Quint said to nobody in particular.

He approached the door and positioned himself for a pat down.
"Evening Quint, how's it hanging?" One of the men asked, familiarity easing into his voice.
"Can't complain, I guess. Awful business in town today, huh?"
"Yeah. Mr Sullivan was looking real mad."
"Well, woe betide the guy who gets in his way, right?"
"Heh, you said it Quint. Alright, you're all good. I don't have to tell you the rules."
"No sir. Hey, catch me later and I'll buy you a beer."

Quint took a moment to observe Miguel and a cadre of Unseen escorting...Ret fucking Shuzu into the back? Now just what in the hell was that little spy doing here? That anxious knot in his stomach was back again, and with a vengeance. The Unseen wouldn't call Ret unless they needed to find someone, and they didn't need to find someone unless that someone needed dealing with.
Don't even think about it, Casey. That's Unseen business, not yours.
Taking his own advice, Quint resumed his otherwise clockwork routine. Approach the bar, order a drink, pay for drink, find seat with good view of Esperanza, drink and enjoy.
Life wasn't all bad in Korven. But it's just like the locals always said.
Things can always be worse.

Quint breathed a sigh of relief when they found the girls parents. Both that their search was over and that they were alive to be reunited with their child.
He let the squirming child down and watched her run towards the man and woman. He decided to stay back and let Esperanza handle things, she was clearly better at it than he was. Sure, he could bluff his way past border guards, security checkpoints and even fool sniffer dogs, but here he was out of his element somewhat. Situations like this were more within Esperanza's skill set.

As they parted ways, Quint waved as they left to go and take in the unknown. Today was just another way Korven chewed people up and spat them out, but at least they were here and not in Lisden.

"What an exciting day, huh?" she asked playfully, heading toward the back of the crowd. It seemed that things at the scene were well under control. "Better yet I get to work later. Will you be coming by for a visit?" she asked, tilting her head to the side. She paused at the sidewalk which would toward her home.

"Yeah, to say the least. Something about this doesn't feel like an ordinary electrical fault. Sully and your Brother seemed tense..."
Quint shook his head and turned back to Esperanza, no sense worrying too much about it. It was Unseen business, apparently. If Quint was needed for anything he would be there, but until they asked there was no getting involved. He respected The Unseen, and knew their practices well enough to know what kind of distance he should keep.
"Oh, you better believe I'll be there. I need a drink to get the taste of smoke out of my mouth," he said as he realized how the smell had gotten into his clothes as well.
"Do you want me to walk with you?" He asked her. Asides from his genuine fondness for her company, he knew what kind of grubs came out of the woodwork during times like these. There were always small-time crooks looking to take advantage of the panic, and if one or more of them were to see a lone woman with one leg walking on her own they would be like sharks to blood.
Esperanza was tough as nails, and anyone who knew her brother would know not to fuck with her, but Quint wasn't going to be the guy in the torture seat for letting anything happen to her.
All that aside, Esperanza was one of the closest friends Quint had in a world where he really had few people to truly count on.


I have not been able to stop listening to Ayreon Universe

Quint did as he was asked and slipped his arm around Esperanza's waist. The scene around them was pandemonium, the chances of finding the little girls parents were slim. He hoped dearly that they weren't caught in the fire. Morvai had enough orphans to speak of, Quint knew too well. He also knew what happened to the kids that didn't make it into an orphanage.
Thankfully he had the sound of Esperanza's ambrosia voice to take those morbid thoughts away. They were soon behind the cover of buildings, blocking the sight and some of the sound.

Quint couldn't help but be amazed at how Esperanza was handling the situation. He was known to keep his cool while staring down the barrel of guns, but in this instance he was clueless. It was little wonder the kid wasn't completely freaking out, Esperanza just had that effect on people.
At last she had convinced Anika to cooperate with them, and she approached Quint with her arms up. He dutifully stooped down to pick her up and she took up a very similar position to how Esperanza had held her.
"Well, I guess we'll be doing this the old fashioned way, huh? We've gotta go out into that crowd and find them," Quint turned to speak to the girl in a soft, calm voice, "Don't you worry at all sweetheart. We'll find them."
I really hope they're still alive anyway...

"Wonderful to see you again Quint. It has been a bit." He held up a finger and ordered himself a beer. "I do indeed. And as we both know, a friend in need is a friend indeed. A friend with cash."

"Well, that's the most important part, isn't it?" Quint offered casually. As well-mannered and pleasant as he seemed, he still had to pay the rent. Besides, one does not gain a reputation for quality without attaching an appropriate value to their skills.

"We can discuss business in a moment though, how have you been since the last time I saw you?" He turned in his bar stool, leaning slightly against the bar. He was a very open, warm sort of person. His smile was never faltering and manner of speech genuine. "Been by the Lotus recently?" He sipped his drink again.

"Oh, you know. Keeping out of trouble, making sure I don't step on too many toes. Did a job for your boss about a month ago, had a bug up his ass about some creep." Of course, Quint was none the wiser that Connor "Sully" Sullivan had just wet his fists with said "creeps" blood only a short time ago, but such was the nature of Quint's work. Don't ask too many questions. People expected a certain amount of discretion, and he made sure his guarantee was airtight. He liked his and Sully's relationship. It was professional, respectful and almost never difficult.
"Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to hit the Lotus as often as I like, but I'm sure I'll be around sooner or later."
It had been far too long since he had the pleasure of hearing Esperanza sing, or the pleasure of her company in a more private setting. He liked her a lot, but he knew that any sort of romantic pursuit was a fools game. He could try and believe there was something there, but once all was said and done and the money transferred it was all over. Besides, as cordial as he and Miguel were, he did not think the overprotective brother would approve.

As Quint responded to him, Miguel's phone began to ring. He subtly pulled it from his pocket to see who it was that called. Work. "I sincerely apologize, my good friend, but I must take this. When the boss calls, you know." He winked before answering the device.

Quint waved it off casually, "Business as usual, far be it from me to get in the way." He sat alone again and drank his beer, savoring the cool, crisp taste of it. He really should pay a visit to the Lotus sometime soon. Normally he wasn't too picky about his watering holes, but nothing beat air-conditioning and good entertainment.

"Sorry Quint. There's a fire nearby. The boss man wants all hands on deck. I'm afraid we'll have to postpone our chat a bit. Of course, if you would like to come along and help you will certainly be compensated."

As calm as Miguel seemed, Quint could see the worry in his eyes. If it was enough for everyone to be called in to help, then it had to be serious. There was more than that, though. Miguel had the look about him that somebody important to him was in danger, and that could only mean one thing. Suddenly Quint had a vested interest as well.
"Of course," he said, wasting no time in springing to action. There was no need to stop by the bartender, he always pre-paid his drinks if it was a business meeting. He hated the interruption, and it made the client feel more comfortable knowing they had his full attention.

In no time at all, they arrived at the scene. Smoke billowed from the building and countless displaced, tear streaked faces milled about not knowing what to do or where to go. It was pandemonium, but through it all he saw the stoic and calm figure of Connor Sullivan controlling the situation. No wonder that man had risen through the ranks, he was a natural leader.
Miguel and Quint quickly got to work, doing what they could with limited resources and preparation. It wasn't much, but those they managed to aid were grateful.

Eventually, Miguel met up with Esperanza, who was cradling a distressed child.
"Esperanza" Quint nodded as she greeted him, still somehow managing to smile in spite of the intense situation around them.
Miguel asked him to look after her, and of course he obliged. He could do no less, "You have my word."
He turned to Esperanza and the child and tried to speak softly to the little girl, "Hey sweetheart. Don't worry about a thing, we're going to find your parents and everything will be okay. My name's Quint, but my friends sometimes call me Quinsey."
She didn't seem terribly receptive, but at the same time she wasn't panicked so that had to count for something. Quint had little to no experience with children, but knowing he had been rescued from a baby farm he felt a need to help them when he could.
"Come on, Esperanza. Let's see if we can't get her some place quieter, calm her down a bit. Connor and Miguel will handle everything."

Gotta love a joint that smells like so much stale smoke you light up just to get a fresh breath.
This place wasn't exactly the Floating Lotus, but it had heart where it counted. Quint Casey never was one to cry about standards, just don't water down his drinks and he was a happy man.
Well, not happy but...well, you know. Less miserable?
The ceiling fans did only a little to alleviate the summer heat, but he didn't mind too much. Today he was dressed in a pair of dark jeans and light blue collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Small moisture stains had sprung up around his pits, but for the most part he was comfortable.

He took a casual sip of his beer and held the chill in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. Summer was going to make him an alcoholic.
Though he would be careful not to indulge too heavily today. Today was all about business.
One of his regular friends and clients, Miguel Hidalgo, had phoned him to meet him here about a job. Quint knew Miguel was good for the money, and Miguel knew Quint was good for the skills. They had a casual, easy friendship marked by a shared love of the same alcohol and a shared interest of mutual company.
Quint loved listening to Esperanza sing, and Miguel loved protecting her.

It was then that the immaculately present Hidalgo arrived.
Quint raised his glass to him as a way of greeting and gestured for another drink to be brought to the table.
"Miguel, always a pleasure. I hear you've got a friend in need."
Mortar fire. Pyromancy. Blood. Smoke. Screaming.
It was like he was really back there. Charging through trenches, cutting down cultists and baring his teeth in directionless rage. He was like a rabid wolverine, all snarls and claws. Of course, the cocktail of uppers and pyschotics he'd shot up into his bloodstream at the first sign of battle were mostly to blame for his undeniably warlike disposition. His eyes were orbs of pure, pitch black, the blood in his teeth clashed with the mud on his uniform. His hair was shaved into a messy, tribal mohawk and his beard was scruffy and pointed. His body was the scrawny, wired musculature of a serial shooter.
Even his comrades were afraid of him when he was like this. So different from the quiet, withdrawn man they knew in the quiet hours. So far removed from the cyclone of violence they now witnessed.
Suddenly, a massive explosion threw him several feet backwards, heat and concussive pressure hit him like the fist of an enraged god squarely in his centre of mass.
He looked up at the clouded sky with shell-shocked eyes, seeing a million rockets bearing down on him. Only they weren't rockets at all. They were needles. Full of sloshing, murky liquid. He smiled and laughed as they blotted out the sky and sent him to a realm of painless black...

...then he was awake. Soft light beamed through the slitted blinds of his room and a ceiling fan whirled lazily above him. There was no shock, no jolt of awakening. Raymond had been experiencing that dream for years now. It was at the point where he would be perturbed if he didn't.
He turned his head and looked at the digital clock beside his bed.
He was late.
"Ah, fuck it all!" he exclaimed as he sat up and rubbed his eyes and face. No time to shave, then. He quickly got dressed and freshened up as fast as time would allow and was hurriedly making his way toward the common room. He was met at once with the delectable aroma of pancakes, syrup and strong black coffee.
Scanning the room he could see a large number of students had already taken their place. He recognized none of them, despite knowing that a great deal of them came from rich stock. There would be plenty of time to get to know them over the year, however.
He turned his attention to someone he did recognize, and his heart momentarily sank.
He caught Oren Kovalenko's gaze and shot her a half-hearted sheepish look of apology for his tardiness. Not that it would do him any good, she didn't like him at all.
Though he didn't think she really like anyone, save for Professor Maeve. Ray was endlessly grateful her second half was not currently present. He could handle them one at a time, but there was no defense against the two of them. Not even for the Professor of Defense!

Ray helped himself to a plate of pancakes and a mug of strong, black coffee.
How on earth did I get into this mess? He thought to himself wistfully, as he went over his lesson plans and class attendance rolls for the umpteenth time. He had it all memorized, he was really just going through the motions in order to avoid sitting by himself and staring creepily at a bunch of kids.
Hey, I'm sorry but I think I will bow out of this one. It's been a few days and nothing has really come to me character-wise. I do hope it all takes off and you all have a lot of fun with it though.
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