Back home, Los Angeles
Zoë reclined on the couch in her apartment, waiting somewhat impatiently for her hair to finish drying. Normally she would bake it so, but with the dye, she had no idea what effect it might have. At least her head felt much lighter with how much she had taken off, leaving her with only a bob cut. Running her fingers along her scalp revealed that it was still damp, so she had so time to kill.
Everything was now in crates, save the couch and her kitchen essentials. Her complète baise in using Russian instead of French at the base, the result of her layering a cover on top of another cover and forgetting which to use, had scared her enough about her residency that she decided to move, though it would be difficult to get everything from the practise areas. Still, the 'boys' from the neighbourhood had been very kind to pack everything up for her neatly and quietly move it all to a storage unit. This was especially useful since she was fairly certain some sort of authority figure would show up to inspect the building after the quake.
Why she had been such an imbécile escaped her for now, but she would have to scrub Ms. Evgeniya Dunayevsky from existence before her very flimsy cover was blown, if it wasn't already. At least the earthquake had bought her some time, and she easily had enough money to purchase a new one. Perhaps I will stay Français this time. It would certainly be less enquiquinant et compliqué. At least I will not have to attend any more of those très ennuyeux gallery shows.
Her reverie was broken by a chiming from her work phone. She glanced at the number for the incoming text, noted it belonged to one of her more reliable brokers, and flipped it open to read it.
Tasker : Have gotten word. Job available. Fits your restrictions. Following normal protocol. Interested ?
Forge : Any details ?
Tasker : None yet. Only gave me the contact info for their email. Said they'd call you if accepted.
Forge : Alright, let them know it's okay to call.
Tasker : Will do. Expect a call in the next 24 hours.
Zoë smiled as she closed the phone and tossed it onto the couch next to her. Tasker had always been good about protecting her, and was one of the very few of the jobs people that had actually met her. He was also the one who had scouted her, back when she was robbing jewelry stores for spending cash, and brought her into the trés lucratif mercenary business. As a result, she tended to prioritise jobs coming through him more than most. And a call this soon means someone else wants to nip this mess in the bud, as well.
Feeling energetic, she hopped off of the couch and strode across to the sliding door that led to the outside. There were lookouts out there from the locals who would warn everyone if she came out, but at this point she didn't care too much. The locals were scared enough without knowing she was an actual villain, after a few failed muggings, so if they wanted to scatter she would let them. However, when the door rattled up on its poorly maintained track, her face fell. The warm breeze was not comforting in the face of Rebekkah Newman, her civilian agent for her art, standing there looking extremely irritated. Merde.
Rebekkah didn't even wait for her to invite her in, she just stormed through the doorway, violently pink hair flowing behind her like a battleflag above her denim jacket and pants that made Zoë
feel like she was in the nineties, lime green and pale pink tiger stripes. Mon Dieu, that is odieux. She desperately tried to keep her disgust from showing out of politeness as the girl whirled on her.
“So where the fuck were you? I know Russia is on a different time zone an' shit, but you've been here for months and this showing was fucking important.” Bekkah stood glaring at her, hands on hips.
Zoë almost had to choke down laughter, but managed to keep a straight face and dropped into the monotone, bored Russian accent she had been using. “Honestly, it is not like I have ever liked going to those, Rebekkah. You know I do not give two <shits> what those <jumped up, snotty, trust fund ignoramuses> think.”
“Yeah? Well, you better soon, girl. You're paintings aren't good enough to ignore potential clients when they show up. As it is I only managed to make two sales tonight, which is a fucking embarrassment in this industry.”
Zoë perked up a bit. “Oh? Which two?”
Rebekkah rolled her eyes. “So now you care. The landscape sunset, and the impressionist self portrait.”
It was Zoë's turn to roll her eyes. “Of course, you sold the two worst ones out of the whole set. Both of those are <boring pieces of excrement>.”
“I really wish you would speak English, you know? You do live in America now. Anyway, those 'worst ones' are generally what pays your rent, so I wouldn't complain too much if I were you. Are you done with the new set yet?”
“Nyet. Will be another week, at least, thanks to this last ground shake.”
“Oh God, right. Okay, well try to hurry. The boss wants fresh stuff, and he wants better numbers, or he might drop you.”
Zoë held in the snort of derision as she walked Rebekkah back out, amid a tidal wave of rapid-fire gossip. The girl may have been annoying, but she certainly knew the work. If only she realised that Zoë knew it as well, and saw through tricks like trying to intimidate her with threats of being dropped. She had seen the work of other artists in the stable, and it was good, some of it, but the Zeitgeist Art Agency would not have picked her up if they hadn't been impressed with her to begin with, 'fresh off the boat and full of hope' like so many others that showed up in this pigsty of a town.
Her mood thoroughly ruined, she closed up and flopped onto the couch, wondering how her agent hadn't noticed that everything in her home was packed. The girl was probably too égoïste to realise what it meant, she thought to herself. Sighing heavily, she sat back, slouching magnificently, and flipped through channels while awaiting a call, either from her movers, her identity forger, or this mysterious new employer.
Nicky looked up as the door opened, hair tumbling around her face. For the past few minutes she had managed to right the chair and sat leaned over head in her arms. They had kept her in here for days. She was pretty sure that was illegal, but she didn't really trust clocks and calendars any more, either, and only really kept track of it being day or night anymore, which was impossible in the windowless room. She was opening her mouth to start yelling again when she saw him walk through the door. Tall. Confident. Heroic. Everything she wanted to be. Well, without the costume, though it worked on him, she supposed.
He also did not look happy to be here, talking to her. Way to screw it up, Nicky. she chided her self. He spoke, asking her what she wanted. Well, that made sense, she had screamed about talking to him for, like, three hours. And now here he is, and your stupid brain is locking up. Speak, dork.
“Uhhh. Um. Well. See.” She paused, organising the chaos in her head for a moment. “I used to live in New York, until three months ago. And then the green stuff came, and now I can't sleep, or get tired, or get hurt at all. No haircuts. Nothin'. So.”
Don't fuck it up!
“I was wonderin' if maybe. Um. Y'know. You could teach me? Because I don't know what all this stuff with heroes is all about?”
“Oh, and if they're blaming me for that fuckin' bomb, tell them they can shove it, because I was telling Detorktive Douchenozzle the truth. I have no idea who those assclowns were, they spoke a buncha Chinese or some shit and had a super strong guy with them. Though they musta fucked it up, because the bomb went off before they even started walking away.”
Somewhere in Downtown Lost Haven
Berenice was lost, alone, and confused. What had that being been, and where had David gone? She wasn't entirely certain she had liked him, but he had been the nicest of the larger humans that she had met. Still, she wasn't about to stick around to try and find him when there was some sort of monster running around in the Wally World. She had screamed at it and gotten away as fast as she could, and now she perched, miserable and alone, on the roof of a skyscraper, huddled amidst the pipes and air units with a few pigeons for company, wishing she was back in her nest with her toys. She hadn't even been able to take her bin, either!
The dawn woke her from a troubled sleep, warm sunlight glancing off of her brown plumage and swiftly making her overly warm. The sound of one of the air units failing to function properly brought her all the way awake, and she let her wings, which she had been using as a blanket of sorts, fall away and peered around. It didn't seem as though the pigeons roosted here, and there were no other creatures nearby. She stretched, wings and arms both extending in a wide arc above her, and a huge yawn left her mouth agape, showing the razor sharp teeth the light of day. She blinked lazily and waddled to the edge of the roof to look off the edge.
The sunlight was only touching the tops of the buildings so far, so she felt safely unobserved. Down below, there were still the big metal people-containers with the flashy lights. The kids had explained they helped people, so something must have happened somewhere, though she wasn't sure what. Sounds of banging and grinding drifted up from below, though, irritating her. Those sounds were not good like the little box she had had was, and the more she heard the less she liked. She rocked and leapt off the building into a dive, opened her wings, and soared away through the buildings.
She wasn't entirely certain what she was looking for, flying towards the rising sun, but that search was soon lost in her head as she marvelled, as always, at the sheer joy of flight. The wind whipping through her hair and feather, the very fine control she could get with just a twitch of muscle, the tininess of everything below and how the worries of her world just fell away. And then her stomach growled and she realised she hadn't eaten anything since lunch yesterday. The morning meal was the most important, according to the kids, so she veered off to a park. Her vision focused onto the trees as she swept lower, and soon she caught sight of something small and fuzzy moving around out in an open area. She dove, wind rushing past her, and at the last second braked with her wings, shot her talons forward, and snagged the unfortunate creature and slammed it into the ground. Between the impact and the talons, it was dead instantly.
After breakfast, Berenice glanced at herself. She was spattered in gore again, and the kids had managed to explain to her bathing and why being covered in blood and dirt was bad. Thankfully, she could hear a stream nearby, so she glided across the park and settled near its edge. Taking a moment to arrange her well-worn and stained shirt, she hopped into the water and began splashing about. She took the shirt off and scrubbed at it in the water with her hands, releasing a trail of redness into the stream, and once she was satisfied that it was free of blood, she tossed it over to the shore and worked on herself. Amy had said that she wasn't washing enough, so she took an extra long time scrubbing at her skin, and then her feathers. She even took the ends of her wings and ran her teeth over them, trying to get out anything sticking between them, but she wasn't entirely certain if it was effective or not.
Unbeknownst to her, because of the splashing, several things were happening around her. For one, an early morning jogger had stopped, shocked at the sight of her, snapped a picture, and then took off before Berenice could notice. There were also more seagulls and crows gathering in the area than usual, and even the trees and grass were starting to respond, growing an imperceptible bit faster. And most noticeable of all, even if it was only to a very select few people in the area, the leyline nearby was bending towards her and swelling, and distant threads of energy were reaching out to try and find her, somewhat like balls on a very slightly dipped sheet, if she was the centre of the dip.
Berenice knew about none of this. She hopped out of the stream and grabbed her shirt, but was distraught when it tore on the stick it had landed on. She glared at the stick for a moment, and then held up the shirt. It would get tangled in her wings, now, but Amy had been very firm that she must cover her chest for other people's sake. Berenice wasn't exactly certain why, but she could work with this. She tore two of the seams with her teeth, and then ripped the rest of the tear through the cloth so that it was one long strip, then carefully wrapped it around her breasts so that they were at least moderately covered. It was the best she would be able to do until she could find another shirt, and it was actually more comfortable this way.
Having successfully had herself a bath, and eaten, she was feeling rather accomplished so early in the day. She had completely forgotten why she had been upset. But staying on the ground would be dangerous, so she fluttered up to a low hanging branch and commenced with one of her favourite activities in the woods: Watching. Meanwhile, it was just past six in the morning, and she was about to be very surprised at exactly how many people lived near this park in East Lost Haven.