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The Hierarchy Shall Crumble.
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"No one man should have all that power."
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"Well as far as brains go, I've got the lion's share. But when it comes to brute strength, I'm afraid I'm at the shallow end of the gene pool." - Who?
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Alas, many more years passed and Anu’s empire, Talemon, grew from a simple camp that lived in the shadow of Xishan into a settlement to challenge its width. While the living conditions were a poor excuse for scraping by, tents and shacks close to those of a slum, none dared desert the great capital for fear of the King's warbands hunting them down. The Beihe river, however, was fruitful and generous, even to the point where simple foraging could feed the settlement’s growing population. It was enough for now, but even the most ignorant of pygmies could see that this way of life simply could not sustain the growing jewel of the Knucklelands.

And so it was that a day dawned much in the same way as those before it, but yet carried a tinge of change in the air. The tinge came from the river and made its way towards the great central tent like an energizing perfume. In the tent, as usual, the councilors were pouring over years of plans and projects and presenting them to their king - all but one councilor, that is.

β€œ... And that is why this servant believe there must be sent another expedition to gather clay from the river, Your Majesty,” Yong Cai proposed. Zhu Rongyuan shook his bearded head.

β€œThis servant objects. The clay that was gathered last time proved useless by the time it was brought back. It is clear the correct types usable for construction have either yet to be found or simply do not exist close-by as previously estimated. This servant instead proposes that a workforce be sent to the rivers to attempt reseeding rice as was done last year.”

Fu Lai’an rolled her eyes. β€œThe output was severely lower than input. It took nearly one hundred pygmies to plant the rice, but nothing happened to half of it. The plant is evidently tied to the river and cannot be removed from it as we previously thought. No, instead, this servant proposes focus towards the populace. Disease and starvation fill His Majesty’s camp, and many pygmies struggle to even complete menial tasks. The quality of life must take center stage.”

β€œWhich is why we should plant rice!” Zhu Rongyuan added in frustration.

β€œAnd improve housing!” Yong Cai added as well.

Anu had been silent for the better part of the conversation. His glittering capital had been reduced in its former atmosphere - a sort of disease both literal and figurative permeating the sorry community. It was a nauseating shell of its intended glory.

”Enough.” the ape rumbled, his voice like distant thunder.

The councilors quieted down and bowed. Zhu Rongyuan held forth his hands, left hand covering his right. "Great King, forgive these servants bickering. It is a great crime against the harmony of this council. Does His Majesty wish any of these servants to elaborate on their suggestions, or does He wish to propose his own, perhaps?"

” Cherished Fu, what is the current state of my people?”

Fu Lai'an shook her head. "The latest desertion is the most sizeable one yet, nearly twenty individuals. The force sent to get them back would have been outnumbered had it not been for Qiang Quan. His Majesty's people have not seen a boar for months and harvesting season is still far off. Legumes are the only foodstuffs available. This servant fears the empire's population may already have outgrown its niche."

A low, yet bone-chilling growl seems to emanate from the ape’s belly, his anger was almost palpable. ” I ought to have them executed for their weakness, yet how can they develop strength in this decrepitude?”

He turned to Zhu. ” And you propose we cultivate rice, despite last years failed attempt? Were any forays made into refining the process?”

Zhu nodded. "According to His Lordship's writings, rice is a most nutritious and abundant crop - perfect for growing empires. However…" He furrowed his brow. "His Lordship's writings are unfortunately quite… Vague regarding the very cultivation of the crop. In a most glorious, yet somewhat inconvenient holy feat, His Lordship may have… Skipped a number of steps when producing his own rice." He shook his head. "Rest assured, Your Majesty, Your farmers are making great strides towards unlocking the plant's secret, but…" He cleared his throat. "... A little more time is needed."

” We don’t exactly have the luxury, Zhu.” the demigod sighed. ” Would father have the knowledge we need?”

Fu Lai'an nodded. "Most assuredly. His Lordship built Jiangzhou and Qiangshan - He shaped the rivers of this continent and filled them with clay and nourishment. If anyone can offer aid, it will be His Lordship."

The ape rose and strode to the edge of his tent, parting the fabric and gazing out across the plains. ” Then we call for him.” he breathed almost heavily.




It did not take long for the great ship to arrive on the southern riverbank, right by the outer edges of the capitol where failed lines in dry and wet dirt had been filled with rice and bare sprouts. Crowds of famished pygmies lined the fields behind Anu and his councilors, all of whom stood ready at the bank to accept the arrival of the King's father. The river rose and flowed, encircling the ship and rising upwards on the southern end to form a staircase, down which Shengshi descended along with an escort of one thousand servants. The servants each carried a straw basket under each arm, sealed tightly with covers and thread. They lined up behind the snake, their numbers dwarfing the pygmy population. The snake surveyed the crowd before him and folded his hands behind his back.

As if ordered to, or maybe due to fatigue, the pygmies collapsed to their knees and hands in unison, uttering with accents of mixed thickness: "All hail His Holiness Shengshi, Lord of the Thousand Streams and father of His Eternal Majesty, Anu!"

The snake nodded and gave Anu a smile. "They have been well educated."

” Of course, father, they learned from the best.” he intoned, bowing low. Behind him, the councilors assumed their kowtow as usual.

"Rise, worthy son," the snake said in a voice as warm and gentle as a summer stream. "From the message given to me by your messenger, I understand your expansion met with some hindrances along the way, specifically regarding food and shelter. Would that be all or were there additional concerns?"

The ape nodded. ” Yes father, food and adequate shelter prove to be our greatest hindrance. We lack proper knowledge of agricultural techniques and our search for affirmable building materials has produced little result.” he paused then pointed to the north. ” We also lack adequate defense for dangers across the river. I’d like to establish up a defensive position within the camp's center. Something impregnable, a jewel and a bastion of the knucklelands.”

The snake nodded as his son spoke, his lips pursing at the various requests. As the final words were said, the snake looked to the North across the river. He let out a quiet hum of thought. "Perhaps the great tigers have migrated around the foot of Qiangshan… I would not be surprised if they have." He snapped his fingers and the thousand servants behind him, as one, stepped forward, put down their baskets and gripped the lids tightly. "My dear son, worthier than any other of that title, I see your people as we speak: the shade 'neath their ribs, the rings around their eyes; the bones where their muscles should be… It stabs me deep in the heart, dear son…"

He snapped his fingers again. The servants ripped the lids off as one and flipped them around. The baskets spewed forth small hills of rice, and as a thousand all spewed simultaneously, a low wall of rice formed before a quietly awestruck Anu and the pygmies. The snake gestured around him. "Generosity is the greatest feat of a king and lord - these requests shall be granted in the only way befitting of my own blood. Come, you starving souls - be free of the pain in your guts and embrace the glory of an early harvest!"

The pygmies cared not that the rice was uncooked - never before had they seen so much food. Manners were not minded as they swarmed the wall like locusts over a field. The snake merely laughed warmly and took a fistful of rice in his hand. The grains sprouted in his hand and he snapped his fingers, the pygmies falling into attention even as they ate. The snake called over some water from the river and shaped a water hole before him, about so shallow that wading pygmies would be walking knee-deep. He held up the sprouts.

"Hark at me, mortal beings - after spending a mortal life grasping the nature of agriculture, I have mastered it. However, this is not knowledge meant only for myself; in fact, it warms me to have the privilege to teach it to mortal kind. Behold--" With a gentle, yet firm splash, the snake planted the rice sprouts into the soil beneath the water, small green strands poking out from underneath the surface. "--the rice paddy! This is how the Beihese rice thrives, see. It grows not on dry soil like the flax of the west, but in small ponds and in river mud. Therefore, you must dig small canals to these pits to properly irrigate this crop. One day, then, you may reap harvests as big as the one I have given you."

The pygmies nodded slowly with understanding and the counselors took notes ecstatically, even Anu quietly observed, kneeling to gently rub the stalk between his fingers before speaking.

” And should winter come our surplus will survive?”

The snake nodded. β€œStore it somewhere dry and cool, and dry rice can survive for years. Build larders on stilts or poles to keep scavengers and floods away from the harvest, and long it will last. Speaking of, your next request was for the wisdom of construction, was it not?”

The snake slithered over to a nearby tree sapling. He cut it at the stump and at the head, leaving a long, straight stick. He found twenty-two like it and laid them in a pile. He called over Yong Cai and pointed at the pile. β€œYong Cai, dear servant, did you create a skeleton of wood to carry the clay for the house walls?”

The builder stood frozen for a moment as if the realization of the mistake that had haunted her and her projects for fifty years was wringing her heart out with a tight fist. She collapsed to her knees, not before Shengshi, but before Anu and groveled in the mud. β€œYour Majesty - this servant has been a complete and utter failure. To not think of such a base and simple solution, and simply spend a mortal life stacking mud in piles… This servant deserves capital punishment!”

A meaty hand commanded her silence. ” A failure is far from what I would consider it, rather an oversight all of us made. Gather yourself, and regain your honor in sheltering my people.”

With teary eyes, the servant looked up with distressed eyes at first, then reignited vigor. She rose and bowed, saying, β€œForgive this servant - once more, it will do its utmost duty to see His Majesty’s people safe and sheltered.”

The snake smiled at the harmonious resolution and gestured once more to the pile. He pulled some ivy and thin vines from the surrounding trees and laid them beside it. β€œHere lie the basic components of a house’s skeleton, mortals,” he proclaimed. Some servants came over and picked up the materials as the snake slithered towards the camp, parting the small lake of pygmies to bring his sea of servants through. As the host arrived at the fringes of the camp, Shengshi came upon the first tent at the settlement’s very edge, a poor excuse for a moldy boar pelt on a stick with dry, barren land underneath to serve as evidence that someone actually lived there. He pointed at the β€˜shelter’ and exclaimed, β€œWho among you mortals claims this as their home?”

Two shaking hands rose into the air, one - a skinny, boney male, and the other - a starved, weakened female with a bump on her abdomen. The snake nodded slowly and beckoned them over, at which the pygmies reluctantly approached and presented themselves on their knees. The snake pointed back at their home and spoke, β€œHave you anything within that you hold dear?”

The male kept his face to the ground, but the female raised it slightly, saying, β€œN-no, nothing in home.”

The snake nodded. β€œThen my gift unto you two, and your child-to-come will be a true home.” With that, the snake disassembled their tent with a simple swipe of his arm and planted four sticks into the ground, forming a square. The pygmy couple gulped while the onlookers peered on with determined focus. To the tops of the four posts, the snake tied perpendicular saplings to form a true square shape - seen from the air, then raised a pyramid on top of the square again. He cut several bushels of palm fronds from the nearby trees and tied them into long bundles, which he laid into rows across the surface of the pyramid, layering them on top of one another to secure the inside against as much rain as possible. Once more, he turned to the crowd which was largely in awe of the structure. Not even Anu’s palace had such simple, yet so effective a structure. The snake said, β€œThis is the simplest form of the house - a roof upon four posts. If the elements are kind, this is all one will need. It serves well as a source of shade in the worst of summers and can shelter from the rains. For the winds, however, one needs walls.”

And so the snake placed an additional two poles between the outer posts on every face of the structure except the designated entrance, where he placed only two. He then had his servants fetch more saplings, and once they were brought back, the snake clove each sapling in half and weaved them between the posts, much like he was making a basket or a carpet. Once the carpet of wood reached halfway, the snake pointed to the building. β€œHere is the skeleton of the wall - this to what one will tether the clay to.” With that, he took some clay out of the ground, had his servants bring water from the river in clay pots, and mixed them together. With his divine hands, the snake patted the wet clay all over the wooden wall, mellowing and leveling it out into a flat, beautiful wall. Soon, after a little more weaving and clay-addition, the hut with clay walls and thatch roof stood ready for use, the clay having been dried a little faster due to an impatient trick from the snake himself. He turned to the crowd and spread his hands out to the side. β€œThe knowledge is yours now, mortals. I have shown you what to do and how to do it - build now for yourself the greatest city in this universe!”

The pygmy couple, overcome with gratitude, were completely groveling in the mud at this point, similar to beasts. The snake gave them a slight frown but shrugged. β€œMy son, what was next, you said?”

Anu nodded, his own gratitude hidden behind a wall of hard features. ” A citadel proper, father.” he added, bowing slightly.

β€œAh, yes, that was it… Hmm…” He eyed Anu up and down, then slithered over to the King’s tent. He gave it a disapproving look. β€œYou live here?”

” Decrepit, I know. A byproduct of our situation.”

The snake shook his head in deep disapproval. β€œNo, no, no, this will not do at all. No son of mine will spend a minute longer in this approximation of a slum shack.” With a wave of his hand, Shengshi caused the earth to catapult the tent over the horizon. The councilors all cast themselves forward to save what they had kept inside, but it was much too late - all their notes, plans, and projects had been sent flying well beyond Qiangshan.

β€œNoooooo…” Fu Lai’an sobbed and the snake turned around.

β€œDid you have any belongings inside?” he asked. Fu Lai’an and the other three fell to their knees.

β€œFor fifty years, these servants’ notes were kept inside His Majesty’s tent… It is-... It is a pain to see them go,” Zhu Rongyuan said while holding back tears. The snake gave them a pitiful look.

β€œRest assured, worthy servants - your belongings will be returned in time, nay, tenfold. First, however…”

The snake clenched his fists. Mud and stone churned into an unnatural soup where the tent had been, then the boiling pool expanded. The masses withdrew from the approaching bubbling, frothing mixture. The snake spun his hands around in circles before him, a maelstrom forming before him. Into the maelstrom, he tossed wood, stone, and bones from the surrounding camp, and as the maelstrom grew, it swallowed the surrounding tents like a gaping maw. Only when a satisfying diametre of two hundred meters had been achieved did the maw assume a rectangular shape. The brown and blackened mass suddenly took on a chalk-white color, and out of the rectangular pool rose tusk-like towers like the points of bodkin arrows, growing a set of walls between them in the same color, the wall stretching five hundred meters across. From the walls appeared sapling trunks in beautiful patterns to both serve as building support and future scaffolding. However, the scaffolding did not appear below the towers, for no one should be able to climb inside from the outside. The towers sported intricately patterned and carven ivory windows. Inside, the wall continued perpendicularly to the front for eight hundred meters. The stern outside gave way to several flat-roofed buildings of bone and ivory, completed by a tall palace towards the back, this one flat-roofed with teeth like the crown of a king about the roof’s edge. Three buildings made up the citadel: The palace at the far northern back, looking much like a collection of ivory pillars holding up the opulent roof; the barracks at the eastern wall, a windowless building with several doorways in the front functioning as entries and a staircase along the side up to the walls; the food stores on the western wall, elevated on platforms with a web of canals running underneath it - the center was a large, ivory platform. As the walls set and the bone hardened, the snake took a deep breath and slithered over to push open the chalk-white gates. Inside, the great palace awaited its king.

The king, now visibly awe-struck padded through the portal, his golden eyes as great as Heliopolis itself. For a moment he was speechless, truly struggling to find words for the first time in his existence. ” F-father, a thousand times over you’ve made this place.’ he gawked. ” Forgive me, I am at a loss for words. All the world’s praises could not express what boils within me now.”

The snake smirked and squeezed the ape’s shoulder as he gestured to the palace. β€œWhy, of course - I will repeat myself once more: You are my son, Anu, and no son of Shengshi will settle for anything less than quality befit royalty, nay, divinity. Now, the palace has room for you, as well as your advisors, plus a few extra reserved for guests or additional administrators once your state gains momentum.” He pointed to the barracks. β€œQiang Quan mentioned that you have begun to dabble in the organization of your forces. I thought you may as well have a proper place to train and develop them.” Finally, he gestured to the food storages. β€œFinally, since I have given you enough rice for your people to last the winter and then some, you should have a proper place to store it. Make sure to instruct the keepers of this granary to keep the fires in the channels below smoldering at all times - moist air is the enemy of all grain.” He pursed his lips and nodded. β€œWell, any other requests, my dear son?”

Anu bowed deeply. ” I could ask no more even if I had any to beseech. You’ve saved my people from calamity, I cannot give enough supplication.”

The snake waved dismissively. β€œProsperity is the goal of this world. I am merely doing my part as a father and a god.” He gave Anu a warm smile. β€œNow, Zhu Rongyuan, Fu Lai’an, Yong Cai and Qiang Quan - approach.”

The four councilors did as requested - they walked over to the snake and Anu and kowtowed before the two. Zhu, as the oldest, took the role of their representative: β€œWhat does His Lordship request of these servants?”

The snake gestured to the palace. β€œAs magnificent as this palace may be, the fact still remains that my own carelessness cost you four a mortal’s life’s worth of bark, ink, sweat, and blood. Bone can heal; scars can fade; wood, regrow - but nothing can replace history.” He bowed to the four. β€œI am deeply ashamed of my actions.” The four councilors remained wordless and frozen, uncertain of how to react to their creator’s act. The snake extended his hand forward. β€œI, therefore, repent for my sin with a gesture I should have made a long time ago.”

Momentarily, it seemed as though the four councilors glowed with a specific color each: Fu was a fiery, yet beautiful velvet; Yong glowed a yellowed, golden brown; Zhu shone with a deep, calm azure; Qiang burned with an energetic white. Then, as fast as they had come, the colors were absorbed by the councilors’ bodies. The snake lifted his hand.

β€œRise, Siwen, worthy councilors - Wangdao, advisors of the king; rise and see the world with reforged eyes and reinforced souls.”

The councilors did as commanded and before Anu and Shengshi stood four servants - much like the four that had been groveling before them but a minute ago - and yet so, so much more. The snake nodded at them and turned to Anu. β€œWell, my dear son, I believe I have left you with the necessary tools to go on a little longer.” He gave Anu a wink and extended his hand. β€œPlease, do not hesitate to visit, however. My tables are always stacked tall for you, worthy child.”

” No father, far beyond than a little longer.” he began, his father’s hand disappearing in his own. ” Much farther.”








JONES

January 1st, 8:33 P.M.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, West 34th Street, New York City




”You a bit boojee for an alien.” Jones jabbed for the first time since they arrived. He had been quiet up until now, content to lose himself in his high pending Karen’s request upon their arrival. Such was normal, as princess didn’t need to hold up the line being dawdled on by the entire Chipotle staff.

He set down Karen’s bowl of Barbacoa and sat himself next to her with his own platter of three burrito bowls and a large drink. A light meal for the lean man.

Lazily he set upon the first, watching the steady ebb and flow of evening traffic filter through the restaurant. Despite the nights events, the restaurant was active, something that felt odd regardless of their ignorance to the nights happenings. Although it would only be a matter of time before the Madison incident was trending and whoever was keen enough to notice Karen would go stupid. Which was in particular why Jones had been in silent protest of this trip, but princess seemed adamant on repaying the kids work and convincing her otherwise would prove difficult. Whatever, he could work with this.


JONES

January 1st, 7:37 PM
Madison Square Garden, New York City
@DC The Dragon | @Zoey White | @Blackstripe | @MsMorningstar




Jermaine took a long, deliberate drag of his blunt as the arena exploded into chaos. With a shril scream that seemed to almost slice through the bass boosted music, a pale man with legs as thin as stilts and arms like rubber bands bound from the seats to the stage in one fell swoop.

Damn during the twerking part too.. he sighed inwardly as he inhaled slowly, his system finally responding to the smoke. Taking small, slow draws of the swisher, he felt delighted, like he had never felt before, like it was his first time again.

At the same time security forces jumped into action, one successfully grabbing the metahuman before promptly becoming a human roast with a jet of supernatural flame.

Jermaine didn’t wait to see the rest. Karen was quick to make her way towards him and he promptly rushed her back stage, the voices of the security team blaring in his right ear as crowd control protocols where initiated and the saferoom was prepared.

”Don’t you worry ma, cheapo Harry Styles ain’t finna cop himself a feel tonight.” he intoned as he led her down a well-light corridor deep in the bowels of the arena.

Only a few steps later did they finally arrive at their destination, a comfortable room with a contingent of security already waiting.

”Y’all earn y’all pay tonight.” he warned. ”One hair on her head harmed and best believe you’ll see how quick these white Giuseppeβ€˜s turn brown.” he said firmly, there was no edge in his voice but the intensity was palpable. He eyed each and every man in the room, before finally landing on Karen. ”Imma go take care of Harry, don’t do nothing stupid crazy while I’m gone, ya heard?”

With that he was off. Padding back up the way he came. ”What’s the situation upside?” he called to security via radio.

”We got multiple vigilantes engaging the meta, they seem to have it under control. We are providing back up and dealing with the crowd, sir.”

Jermaine stifled a grin. Heros were quick to do his job for him. What in god’s name was he rushing for. Slowing to a crawl he made a right instead of a left towards the green room. What kind of man would he be to fight a meta on an empty stomach? A stupid man that’s what.

With little in the way of consideration for time, Jermaine grabbed a paper plate and took from the buffet what he would. Donuts, chips, a soda, two club sandwiches and the last peace of cheesecake. ”Oh Jermaine, you dirty bastard!” he giggled quietly as he took a deliberate bite out of the cake and hauled his prizes along with a folding chair back to the stage.

An explosion of energy rocked the arena as the meta screamed in agnony and threw a red-headed girl near just arriving Jermaine’s feet. ”Damn ma you go-β€œ he started but could barely finish as she was back up and at it again, counterattacking the now fire-spewing meta.

”Harry really fucking shit up.” he breathed as he set up his folding chair side-stage, ashed his blunt on his gold watch, and ripped a chunk of his club sandwich with pearly white and shiny diamond teeth.

An arc of lightning caught his eye and he quickly spotted the flying form of one of his own setting another hero girl and throwing bolts within the same moment. ”Oh shit is that nephew?! EY NEPHEW! I AINT KNOW YOU WAS A HARRY STYLES FAN!” he jabbed, voice booming across the stage. He made himself laugh, nearly choking on a piece of bread before quickly regaining his composure.

The kids could handle this shit.


JONES

January 1st, 5:56 PM
Madison Square Garden, New York City




Jermaine responded with a curt nod as they took another turn towards the venue, the sound of the crowd like an auditory volcano. It was all quiet one second and then deafening the next, rising to a crescendo that would refuse to release. Sold out show in the Madison Square Garden and a few million more watching online. He couldn't imagine the kind of pressure Karen was under.

With a small gesture he signaled a contingent of six well-built bodyguards all dressed in black t-shirts and jeans to silently fall in step around them. Jermaine had hand-picked each himself, rigorously screening Karen’s security force until those left could offer no less then exemplary service.

As the doors to the main arena opened a cacophony of cheering, whooping, hollering, clapping and stamping of feet, along with the palpable buzz of excitement in the charged air hardened Jermaine’s face. This was where the real work began.

With some excessive force along the way the the contingent guided Karen to the stage and he took his place back stage, close enough to keep an eye on her and the audience, but far enough to avoid cameras or somehow distract one of the dancers.

Blowing out a puff of smoke he breathed as Karen took command of the show and Blood-Stained Pelt began to blare through the speakers. A classic catering to the sensiblties of the non-humans, highlighting the media’s disregard for their lives and humanity’s blatant callousness in general; something the nine-hundred inhumans and one hundred mages seated in the front row would no doubt be fans of. The soundtrack of a movement.

Yet a creeping apprehension took root in Jermaine’s gut. 1000 non-humans and mages was a recipe for disaster if shit actually went wrong. Despite advice against it Karen was adamant about the decision to have them here, right in front of her. If one so much as dared to attack he was prepared to shatter bone, but the press would have a field day. If Karen meant well by putting them where they where, she may have been unwitting adding fuel to the fire.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t his job to consider the ramifications of a teenagers political statements, he just had to keep the Disney princess safe.


GOLDLINK

Location: January 1st, 9:37 AM.
Local Restaurant, New York City.




Jo-Vaughn eyed his plate. Before him sat an enormous platter of food; eggs, ham, and piles of fried potatoes. A tureen of fruit sat in ice to keep it chilled. A basket of rolls so full it could keep a family going for a week was set against the edge of the table. And an elegant glass of orange juice completed the ensemble of morning hors d'oeuvres.

"Christ." he marveled, his plate an awe-inspiring work of art to a man as hungry as he was.

"Watch yo damn mouth boy! I didn't take you here to put the lord's name in vain over ma food." his grandma snapped harshly.

Jo-Vaughn smiled sheepishly and returned to admiring his plate. Grandma Livingston was a nonsense kind of woman and unlike any grandma to ever walk the face the earth. While most could imagine their snow-white haired grandparent knitting, over-cooking, and planting wet kisses on their faces, Joey grew up with the image of a vile, jet-black haired disciplinarian who took no shit from anyone or anything; never cooked, sure as hell never knitted, and the only kiss he ever received from her was the painful kiss of a leather belt on his ass.

Yeah, she wasn't the picture of an ideal grandma. But Joey wouldn't have it any other way.

"So nana, Joey began, swallowing a potato chunk before he went on. "You heard back from mom yet?"

Grandma Livingston cut into her eggs with a fork and popped them into her mouth. "She called me this mornings'. Told me she made it Naija safely.

Joey nodded and swallowed another potato. His mother, Nina Livingston, had flown back to their hometown for a little R&R with the rest of the family. That left Jo-Vaughn in charge of the oldest Livingston. Which meant treating her to breakfast and dropping a third of all the cash on him for extra bullshit. That coupled with his mother's demands to do something with his hair before she got back or she would, quote: "cut that shit myself with a knife.", left him dipping into what was left of his endorsement money.

The young Livingston let out a silent sigh and glanced out the window of the cafe. The hustle and bustle of New York never ceased to amaze him, even though his entire life had been spent milling about the maelstrom.

"Awww, shit, that news-conference was this morning." he exasperated as he leaned heavily into the backrest of the booth.

Joey had been planning to go, it was something small in the Brooklyn neighborhood but it would have been a great moment to gather awareness for his youth-league fundraiser. Unfortunately, with the last two days activity, that with his mothers sudden vacation, today's concert and breakfast, the event had totally slipped his mind.

"And why in God's name would you want to do that?" Grandma Livingston asserted, finishing off the last of her eggs.

Joey grunted. "I mean, these kids need some kind of support? Any extra money we can get to get this youth-league running again would be great for em."

"Joey, you know people ain’t so charitable these days, and especially won’t be for a monsta’ inclusive league." she pointed out.

"Nana, everyone deserve a chance. We going right back to the 50’s the way we treating these people. I’m not gonna let kids miss out on an opportunity to grow, get off the streets."

Grandma Livingston chuckled disappointedly. "Baby you got a big heart, that vigilante work got you thinking grand, but people ain’t quick to change, Jo-Vaughn. You done a lot, but you can’t keep funding this for long. Don’t tell ya mama I said this, but stick to playing hero.

With that, she grabbed a napkin, cleaned off her mouth and lifted herself up and out of the booth. "Well, thank you for treatin' me this morning, Tokunbo."

Joey cocked his head to the side, his lip curling slightly at the use of his african name. "Oh, where you goin?"

"Oh, me and the girls gonna get the nails done. Nina can't have all the fun. Go do something." she said, waving him off as she showed herself out.

Joey watched her leave, a frown dancing accoss his face. ...playing hero. Well, here he was again, alone with a whole day ahead of him and with plans that didn’t require his attention till later. After a pause, he simply shrugged and dug back into his meal. Shit would come up.



JONES

Location: January 1st, 5:07 AM.
Madison Square Guardian, New York City.




β€œAre you kidding me?”

Spittle flew from the tomato-faced manager as he fumed into Jermaine’s broad chest. Yet his bleating only earn him an opaque silence that only seemed to feed his into growing tantrum.

β€œI’m her fucking Tour Manager! Let me through the damn door!”

A thin paper blunt hung from Jermaine’s bottom lip, a small trail of smoke escaping from the corner of his mouth danced its way to the ceiling above him. Slowly he took it from his mouth and blew a puff into the mans’ face for spites sake.

”Does it look like a give a fuck? I’m genuinely wondering, does it look like I give a fuck?” he sighed.

Before he could continue the green-room door opened, revealing the casual form of Karen. β€œIt’s okay, Jones, you can let him through.”

Returning the blunt to his lips Jermaine graciously stepped aside and almost mockingly bowed and gestured him forward. He had no beef with the man, but damn if he didn’t enjoy the entertainment he provided in between the dull moments of this job.

As the door closed behind him he blew another puff and took out his phone, he’d gotten a message earlier. It was from an old friend off the block. A third baby? A baby shower invite?! Jermaine didn’t bother to stifle his sigh as he dialed the number and put the phone to his ear. In moments, the line went through.

β€œYoooo, JJ what’s good?!” a gruff voice answered.

”Ey nothing much, Keem. Heard bout the baby, just wanted to congratulate you.”

A chuckle. ”Oh man I appreciate it, you been a real one since day one I just thought I’d let you know we’d be having a baby shower. You know, barbecue, music, dancing, em gifts. I know you out here making that KAREN MONNNNEY!”

This time Jermaine stifled a sigh and smoothly imitated a his laugh. ”Ey you know it’s ight, just a lil something something. I can’t say imma be able to make it, but I’ll see if I can get y’all something small.”

A moment of silence. ”...something small? Fam you is rich come on now. Get the baby, ion know, a crib, maybe a car, something man.”

”The fuck a baby finna do wit a whole ass car?”

β€œDRIVE THAT SHIT FUCK ELSE?!”

”FUCK YOU ME-β€œ he paused a moment to breathe. ”Bitch you got me mixed up. I feel like if you on yo third baby bitch you don’t deserve a baby shower anyway! I ain’t gon be showering you wit gifts just cause you like to fuck. Shit there’s a lot of people that like to fuck, I ain’t never bought em a gift. Fuck outta here.”

Inside the faint sounds of a budding argument could be heard, but it wasn’t shit to interfere with. There was no hostile intent being thrown around, so he could rest easy. Ol’ tour manager was off the shits anyway, he was probably heated about her being slow to dress or something like that. It really wasn’t any of his business.

β€œSee bruh bruh, money dun changed you.” Keem retorted but Jermaine had long since disconnected, finally having enough of the bullshit, and observing that Karen’s tour manager had finally left in a huff. Karen followed not too long after.

β€œIt looks like it’s showtime.” she intoned, seemingly prepared for her preformance.

Jermaine’s eyes took in her visage beneath his sunglasses, but only for a moment. Tiny denim shorts, shoulderless top and stilettos. She was bad, but fooling around with the client was a sure way to fuck up the money, not to mention she was still Disney Star age despite her build.

”Damn sure looks like it, ma.” he chortled as he took point and led the way. ”You ready?”











We allowed to have multiple characters?
If everyone here dont mind me asking, where are you all planning to start at? I'm still having a bit of a hard time deciding on where to start at.


NYC baby.
I wake up to all this goddamn activity. Lawd.

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