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"You see Mags, they only, really, listen, when you grab them by the balls; grasp them by the jewels and squeezeee. Squeeze like this. Johnny, for a good forty seconds after Spire had finished talking continued to say 'Squeeze' as he mimicked mushing another man's testicles in his outstretched hands. "But gat DAMN if I ain't anything but philanthropic." John took a deep breath in, and raised his arms as his lungs filled with oxygen. Then, he exhaled. His arms followed the flow down to his hips.

"Let me lay it all out for you. You and your friends fucked up. Right. Mag's, that sweetheart, tried to tell you. You all done FUCKED up. Right, but I'm a philanthropist. John Phil Bellataire is what they call me. Your brother? Is a slave, story done. Now, if you join up, same package applies, cept your brother won't be getting paid. However~, I'll let him work with you, and pay off his debt. I won't be selling him off. You can feed and clothe him out of your salary. The girl? Like her moxie, teach her to have some manners for your boss, do whatever the hell you want with her."

A 'shit eating laugh' was what best described the sound that came out of Johnny's mouth.

"I'm an investor. I invest in people. I give them a good deal, they make more money for me. You two brothers can net met some particularly elusive game. With the right resources behind you, I can make more over a year than I'd make just selling you off. You hear me? The girl? She'll learn. Give her her own room and some good ass food. Keep in mind Mag's is my secretary. So you might want to work out an apology for the girl. She gets fucked, she can fuck you right back in the books. Yeah? It's the same deal I gave the group there. Plus a little live in for you. You get me?"

His private contractors advanced in teams of six, tight knit with each accounting for the blind-spot of their fellow. The threat of gifts had been removed, yes, and that had been the encouraging portion of nabbing the Wanderers given their fearsome reputation, but their boss didn't negate the danger of a bullet. A bullet, while much less exciting than a gift, could kill you just as dead as anything else. So they were on high alert, their scopes snapping from spot to spot, ready to fire at the slightest provocation.

One such group was trailing Specter, Spire, and Hel. Red dots followed their tails like spots on peacock. Had a gun not been trained on them, they would have long fired. They would have killed Specter, saved their non lethal rounds for the other two. To them, he was a persona non grata. A deviation from the plan to be squashed at the first chance. They decided to wait instead. Ash types like this were ornery bastards. No need for the added risk.

The teams began to split, six to three, maintaining a formation like a triangle, each taking a secured position surrounding the house. Two sets four of three had decided to sweep the surrounding area. One such team headed to where Oren was held, the rest moved to sweep the surrounding area.

It was one of these teams assigned to sweep that descended on Toby with a brutal efficiency that showcased they weren't your standard guys with guns. The point man, one Spencer Regoli, shoved Nicodemus from atop Toby, just before the man would have likely gained the upper hand. Spencer was unconcerned with where the small framed writers body would go. He immediately dropped his knee into Toby's chest, and a small device into his neck. A shock would move through Toby's body, temporarily locking his muscles in place. Spencer stood, and allowed the other two to turn Toby onto his back. A collar was snapped around his neck, locking into place with an audible click.

Nicodemous would find himself falling into the waiting arms of Sweet Johnny, caught under the armpit and the back of his head level with John B's abdominal region.

"Look what the writer caught." His eyes gleamed like greedy pearls beneath his shades. "Well I'm surprised and fucking impressed. The loyalty thing, got you in. This though, capturing the stutter brother right here? Fucking gold. My dick is like diamond right now."

"I underestimated you Nico, me, the guy with an eye for talent." Bellataire let the writer go, and approached Toby, settling on his heels.

"Hey. Hey, bet you feel pretty fucking stupid right now." He placed his hand on the back of Toby's head, using it to stand back up.

"Two Dawn. You're now asking me for two of your friends back, and I..I don't think you're grasping how this works. Right? They are MINE. I OWN THEM. You get me? 1+1=2, quick math. Now. Like I've been saying. I'm a business man, not some fucking sadist. Right. He had his choice. He chose that collar. Chose that,"Johnny put his hands around his neck."Shit he's wearing. Now. I'm going to give you guys another chance, because I'm so fucking generous like Mag's here keeps trying to tell you. You can buy this one back. Toby. Buy him, transaction."

"From the looks of things, you all are dead broke. You know what gets you money? Jobs. So, this is Sweet Johnny's last offer. Sign up, or you join Toby instead of buying him. Choice is yours."

Johnny post will be up tomorrow.

Sorry for the wait, I've had family visiting.
John B waved Mag's forward when she appeared. Good girl, hard worker and top notch stress relief when the finer points of his work began to encroach on his emotional well being. Perfect example of how hard work reaped rewards in his company. It would be a stretch to think that these folk of the ash catch on to the obedience. Johnny knew these lost sheep needed a Shepard. Ignorant to the joy and power of wealth, only used to this baser living off of whatever scraps the humans had left behind. There was a world beyond this poverty and filth. He'd lead them there, kicking and screaming if he had to.

Or in slave collars, wishing they had taken the offer. If they were stupid enough to ignore his offer the mighty Wanderers would serve as a reminder to the rest of the ash he placed under his boot-heel of what arbitrary things like 'values' and 'ego' earned you when one found themselves faced with an unstoppable force.

Johnny's eyes followed the screaming child as she rushed forward. Spunky little shit. His secretary had stopped her, but not before receiving a wooden stake to her arm. Johnny's teeth clacked together in amusement. She showed some potential. Wouldn't need too much training to be turned into a killer. Pain was apparent and pain was something he could capitalize on.

Kids were easy enough to control. Even the strange ones.

Drake spoke up, the one with the wings, it drew his attention, not because he was talking, but because of what came out of his mouth. Some ideological bullshit, musing about something the boy obviously didn't understand.

"Slavery, AH." "You speak like those academics begging for a handout from whichever ignorant Lord finds their prattling 'interesting. John grew breathless. running his hand through his slick backed hair. "No this is living a life where you earn for yourself instead of digging through human hand me downs. This is SELF RE FUCKING SPECT.

"Don't tell me you don't want some R E S P E C T, Drake. Don't tell me you don't want to work for the company that own the air you're breathing, the ground beneath your feet. Don't tell me you're stupid, you don't look stupid, not stupid like Toby here, who thinks he speaks for ALL of you"

He knew all their names. Their history. No expense had been spared on that.

He also wanted the brothers. A lot of money in them. Good pair to build a little branch of snatch and grab off of. Worst came to worst tho, he'd just slap a collar on them both and sell them to some Lady who wanted some pretty looking lap dogs.

"You got the memo, you know what a once in a shitty existence digging for scraps offer this is. Tell your friends, tell stutters over here that there's more to life than whatever he has going on."


"Drake, you said something. Freedom. Let me tell you something. Freedom belongs to those who have power. Freedom is what people like me have. Winners. When you live life like a loser, freedom is always in someone else hands. Your freedom is in my hands, because I'm the guy with power. You ain't anything, until you have power."

That's when that ash rat he had ignored before yelled.

As if a rat would dare to interrupt a King.

It was that arrogance that removed any fear of death from Sweet Johnny as Specter threw the object into his vicinity.

All he did was jut his chin forward in defiance.

The flashbang did little. Shades paid for by top dollar went beyond a little bit of gold.

That didn't stop him from snapping his fingers, high above his head. Johnny's men reacted immediately, the armoured truck behind him hissed as hydraulic doors opened, loosing professionals from its innards, met by those who had been lurking in the trees.

They were fitted like private security officers. Ballistic and energy resilient vests, visors that put old world night vision goggles to shame with their ability to switch between the spheres of vision.

Their weapons were set to stun, because to John, their lives were expendable in the face of capturing the Wanderers alive.

Why would they accept? To them, nix powers, the job was easy and the pay was fantastic.

Now, that wasn't to say they wouldn't switch to the kill setting to save their own skin, only that option one was tag and bag.

They advanced through the smoke, some pursuing Specter, slow and steady. Some flanked the house, a detachment moved to sweep the premises, their aim to leave no crevice unchecked. There was a bonus for those who managed to capture the Wanders, and that bonus was generous.
Just like that, immortality slipped through his fingers, and mortality took its place. The endless pool of stamina that fueled his keen observance had formed a hole, and would drain away with time, as it did with most mortals. A stomach that had never needed victuals now groaned with the need for nutrients. His body, through his gift had been honed beyond that of an Olympic athlete, and thus, needed nutrition far beyond that of a normal person.

He didn't feel he had too much time.

The amoured truck was an unassailable monument to Bellataire's preparation from where he stood. The weapons he had kept stashed around the Wanderers residence held no hope in piercing its hull.

The inklings of a plan had begun to form in his mind. He needed to move. Specter's services would be needed as well.

Luckily for him, Eld's transformation had caught the slavers attention.


He beckoned the other merc, and used the surrounding flora to obscure his retreat to where he had begun his day. The basement. If Specter had gotten the hint, he would follow him down the descending staircase, where Dawn had left.

Johnny watched his coat leave Hel, and fall to the earth in an ungainly heap, resting in the dead grass beneath them. Johnny was a business man man first and foremost, one who preferred the free market of the Ashland because that's where he thrived. Beneath this was a psychopath who truly found no place to exercise his penchant for domination and cruelty within Erubesco's walls. He fixed his gaze on little Hel first, his voice was low, a threat carried in its tone. "I left you in charge of my coat little girl. Now, you better go get Uncle Johnny's coat or he's going to be very, very pissed off."

John's eyes moved back up toward Toby, and some newcomer who wasn't on his list of VIP's he absolutely needed to have in his employ/enslavement. With their guns. Pistols no less. Little men and their little guns, aimed at a giant. No, their world. That's what Johnny believed he'd become to them. Consuming everything in their lives until he was all that was left.

Maybe he'd make an example of that mercenary in the front. John knew who he was. He had been handed a dossier of mercs in the area before he arrived. He'd strike him off of the possible employment list. Actually, John might strike him off the life list. He had no use for a merc, and those sluts were a dime a dozen out here.

"Miss Dawn" The crown jewel of the Wanderers. Her cooperation was paramount. "Come, both of you. You guys just have to hear this fucking pitch."

Eld's scream ripped his attention away, and the sublime sound of torment pushed his eyes open wide, and forced a rather maniacal, growing open mouthed grin on Johnny's face. Eld was fucking powerful, he was the outlier in all of this, with no cost efficient ways of controlling him outside the space other than killing him.

Suffice to say, this man left behind once Eld's power had been dispersed was much different. Quite familiar. John had enjoyed a classical educated of course, like anyone who hailed from a Lord family, perhaps if he hadn't been so preoccupied with his own vices, he'd have immediately recognized who the man in front of him was.

He spoke. Mr Hathaway.

No fucking way.

Talk about an unexpected bonus.

Eld's worth had just been bumped up several rungs on the ladder. Maybe well worth the overhead costs.

"Yes, come here. You know a good deal when you see one. You know what Johnny can do for you." The respect and subservience really did it for him. Nicodemus was reward by Johnny helping him up from the ground. "Come stand at my right side."

Percival had joined them, face smeared with paint as he expected. He'd make a good Jester for his would be court. This was good, this was enough representation.

[color=yellow]"First item on the list, and I hate repeating myself, my words are precious, shape lives and are wasted saying the same thing twice. when I first came here I said I always negotiated from a position of power key word here.[/yellow]

John threw his hand into the air, and snapped his fingers. Metal slots slid open on the trucks sides, and gun barrels poked out like spines on a bristling hedgehog.

"Still on item one, 1QFJ 123-678" John called out the coordinates, which the operator in the truck relayed to a shelling team quite some ways away.

A faint whistle could be heard in the air, then nothing. About a quarter mile out, a shell appeared less than a meter from the ground, and upon impact, ripped the earth beneath it with a mighty roar, obliterating the the surrounding area in a flash of light.

"Tactical Nuke. Anything happens to me, and you all become shadows on the wall while I speed away in my little beauty here. So how's about we put the p-shooters down and talk like adults.

"Now, item two, the pitch."

"I come here with a generous offer, thee best offer this motley crew has ever gotten. An offer for and of gainful employment. Nicodemus here is employee one, and looking like employee of the month."

"You'll receive salary, a fixed and rather generous amount in the currency of your choosing, housing in well, it's cute what you've rigged here but under my employ you'll be staying in premier housing. Hot water, electricity, entertainment, virtual reality, you name it, we got it. Vacation time, and always the opportunity to go up, up up!"

"I can swing amnesty with a Lords pardon here and there, and you'll have the privilege of answering directly to me, and my lovely assistant Mags, with all the unspoken perks from being a few steps away from my inner circle. You're all on the wrong end rn, imagine being on the right end. My end."

"Imagine for a moment, close your eyes if you lack imagination, that after years, and years of getting fucked by everyone from the Wasters, to the Knights and the Agents, think of everyone who's ever fucked you, imagine doing the fucking for once. Can't get fucked if you're busy fucking everyone else Wanderers." He tapped his temple.

"I ain't a bad boss. Firm, but fucking fair. I'm not giving you a way out in some bullshit military program, but I am coercing the fuck out of you with riches, power and influence."

"Don't answer all at once, think about this, because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I can make you lot Queens and Kings, who answer only to me. Now. If you turn down my generosity, cast my good will aside like a jacket made from the finest shifter fur.

"Well, then you'll wind up at the bottom of the totem pole. Slaves with collars around your neck and nothing but pride in your stomach, and let me tell you. Pride don't last forever. Once your pride poof, floats away? Once thirst and starvation sets in, you'll find yourself giving whatever shreds of decency you have left for scraps off of my plate. I'll chase you, hound you and break your spirits and sell you to the highest bidder from Capital City, to Capital City.

"So. Do you wish to be at my right side? Like Nicodemus here? Or my wrong side. I mean, to me the choice is pretty fucking clear.

After Sweet Johnny finished talking, he just stood there for at least five minutes, arms open, head thrown back and sunglasses skyward. Letting the ashlanders bask in the godliness that was above them, take in each and every inch of his glistening majesty. He gave a deep, contented sigh, and rested the loudspeaker over his shoulder like one would a rifle. Word were his weapon today. Well, words and a team of his special forces hiding right at the edge inside Johnny space, but words first. He'd hit them with the art of the pitch first. Lord Of the Deal was John Bellataire.

His head lolled to his immediate left, just in time to watch Rei plummet to the earth, and land like a bag of lead. This proved too much for John, who slapped his hands on his legs, jutted his head forward, and began to laugh.

"HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA" His eyebrows danced with each breath expelled at Rei's expense. "King in a noose, that was golden. Why did the Rei fall off of the roof? Because she DIED." He laughed harder, now noticing Drake struggling out of the door.

"This? This is now all mine, encompassed by the Johnny Space™. Always have to negotiate from a position of power Drake, that's how the best deals are cut. Now shoosh, take a seat and listen."

His smile turned to the little girl beneath his feet, the one who demanded that he 'stop it.'

Or something, he wasn't paying attention to what Hel had said. He did register that she was there though, somewhat. Like he knew she was important to someone in Erubseco research, but she was also under four feet and that made it hard for him to really invest himself in what she had said.

Johnny jumped down from his armoured truck, and unceremoniously dumped his jacket on-top of Hel. Beneath as it turned out, was an unbuttoned waistcoat, which he pulled close and buttoned. From inside of his coat, still on Hel, he pulled out a pair of gold hued gloves.

"Now find somewhere safe for my coat before I cart you back to Erubesco little stain. Maybe you'll get some candy or something."
Sweet, acidic, with a strength that scrubbed the Ashland aroma out of ones lungs, the smell of citrus came first. For some, the smell of citrus increased levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain, artificially improving ones mood. These initial feelings would soon be replaced with the reality of who emanated this smell. Following the citrus was a wave of sickly energy that resonated at a very unpleasant frequency, humming with an initial power that caused vibrations to erupt across the surface of ones skin, not unlike being forced to hold a jackhammer without proper safety equipment. Those who's life depended on their power would feel the threat of destruction tear at their atoms, their waning vitality screaming retreat to their survival instincts, insisting that they had to outrun this abhorrent energy.

Perhaps if they were close to the perimeter, or on a high enough vantage point said gifted would be able to make a dash for their life, but the window of opportunity was closing fast. Nothing short of immediate action would save their lives.

A moment later, the power blossomed, crashing over the Wanderers, their temporary home, the sky above and the ground beneath a half mile in each direction. They would feel their powers come to a sudden halt, like the man had reached into theirs souls and flicked whatever light that differentiated them off. Human in face, they'd also become human in body.

A few moments later, the rumble of nearby machinery became unmistakable. Powerful wheels, large and ribbed, suited for off-road travel collided with old trees at their perimeter. The wood cracked and the sound of it being crushed beneath the vehicle like matchsticks was the perfect metaphor for the man standing stop it, golden rim shades reflecting the sun that shone upon him. Trees continued to be felled under the armoured truck, until he broke into the clearing. A nearby bench was the trucks final victim, ending it's ninety year vigil with an unceremonious crunch.

The figure spread his arms wide and took a deep breath. His chest was visible, as was the diamond encrusted pendant that hung between his pectoral muscles. He wore a fur coat, left open with no undershirt beneath, his pants were tailored to perfection, of the same print as his fur coat. He was barefoot, with heavy bracelets hanging low on his ankles.

He brought his left hand to his mouth, in it, was a loud speaker.

"HELLO WANDERERS, AND ASSORTED ASH-FILTH." He paused to run a hand through his hair, it was light brown, with a slight widows peak. He had forced every syllable out of filth, just so they knew how far beneath him they were.


He clicked his teeth together, and smacked his lips.

"IT WAS AN IMPULSE BUY, AS IN I HAD THE IMPULSE, AND IT'S NOW MINE." He laughed, a mirthless, hollow laugh.

"Let me introduce myself. I'm John Bellataire, creator, owner, and full stakeholder of Bellataire Enterprises, a subsidiary of Bellataire INC, of which I am also, full stakeholder, sole owner and creator."

"To the public, I'm Sweet Johnny. To whoever I'm fucking, Master, and let me tell you Wanderers."

John grinned a shit eating grin.

"I've come here with an offer so good, so absolute and so generous, that if any of you say refuse, well. You'd be fucking yourselves right before I got to fucking each and everyone one of you."

"Metaphorically of course, and you lot look like a group that appreciates a good metaphor."

"So now that we've gotten who's gonna be fucking who in this situation out of the way, let me start again. I'm Sweet Johnny and I have one hell of an offer for each and every one of you.


When Heather stood and strode toward him, he felt his breath solidify in his throat, he nearly forgot what he was meant to portray and almost tightened his stance, the opposite of what she wanted. Instead, he allowed his body to relax, his hip stuck out at a jaunty angle, and his hand rested on the curve between his ribs and his hips.

She said he had done a good job.

It took every ounce of Liberty honed self control in his body to fight down the swelling of pride he felt to have a councilors approval.

Mayday turned from Heather, who's languid body was, in his opinion, a perfect cover for the ultra observant, to Canvas. He wasn't fond of Canvas, if anything, it was only a respect for Canvas's ability to emulate Erubesco with such finesse that staved off the contempt Mayday felt for the man's whimsical behaviour. Not that this was Canvas's fault, he was obviously a method agent of talent. Mayday just simply despised everything the rival faction stood for. So the hatred was instinctual for him, like breathing or sleeping.

"I'm glad you find it adequate Councilor." Canvas was treated to a stiff nod of response. Heather approving of his disguise was all the acknowledgment he needed.

Alcohol training. Mayday fixed his gaze on the liquor in front of him. "Disgusting. These people are emotional enough and they want even more."

Truthfully, the thought of emotion being mixed with an intoxicant was terrifying to Mayday. Minor emotions were an irritation. Major ones effected his performance.

He sat beside Beretta, positioning his body toward her as 'couples did'.

He poured himself a glass, unimpressed by the swirling colours in his glass.

He poured Beretta's too. As a date should. Not like a butler though, not so stiff. That's what Canvas has said.

Mayday lifted the glass to his lips, eyeing it with more trepidation than he had in a poison tolerance course he'd taken as a junior agent.

He brought the glass to his lips and swallowed the contents, draining the glass to the base.

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