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Sting in the Tail
[Image: Alistairgrey-Edited.jpg]
Alistair Grey

When permission for a video call came through on the burner phone, Alistair knew straight away that it was not Natalie. Of all his offspring, she was the one who most knew the value of guarded expression. Five years of necessary silence had taken a heavy toll on their relationship; he felt the chill of her wordless anger even from here. She would give nothing away freely, especially with him.

So it could not be her, and yet the tech was cutting edge -- yet to even reach the market -- and it simply would not work for any but the person the biometrics were coded for, at least not without permission. Attempts at infiltration resulted in a complete system wipe. 

He had not foreseen she would give it to anyone. 

An interesting twist. Though also an unwelcome realisation; that he perhaps knew her less well than he thought. The curve of a cold smile vanished the moment he accepted the curious intrusion, and he presently found himself studying the face of the boy who so infatuated his daughter she leaned on all Edward's contacts to discover him when he fell off grid. 

Shock captured the boy's tongue. Perhaps he had not expected an answer, nor perceived one would be possible from the infernal bowels Alistair Grey these days called home. But it only took a breath for his face to twist a new mask, like an actor remembering his cue. Appropriate for the shadows that clung around him, and for the distant rumbles of an approaching storm. Alistair's expression stilled as words spilled like blood and the hostility became clear. His brows faintly narrowed. The intensity of those pale eyes beneath quaked terror into the hearts of lesser men. 

Arrogance, bravado. The edge of threat was thinly veiled. 

But Carpenter also lied. 

And then he had the gall to offer a trade, like Natalie were a chip to be bartered. The boy had little idea of the game board he played on, nor the calibre of the opponent opposite him. The laugh then was genuine, if cool. Carpenter presumed he knew what Alistair wanted. 

But he was wrong. 

He duelled words lazily, watching the little ticks in Carpenter's manner as the blows were turned aside. The longer he deflected the more the frustration built, and the more Alistair read. Desperation clawed just below the surface and yet he only mentioned a desire for the information once. The files Alistair placed into Natalie's hands had been explicit, on both counts. He did not care that it unravelled this boy's life.

Jay sought to manipulate, but was blinded by the rush his own motives; blinded by the rush of his own emotions. One could hardly blame the natural assumption that Alistair would be a protective father, particularly given the carefully suggested "gift" (which, actually, had less to do with Alistair than presumed; his eyes flicked, for a moment, to another screen). But even so, Jay should have paid more mind to the question of Alistair's intentions. Perhaps he would have realised something.

Because Alistair was perfectly capable of twitching strings to end Pavlo's pathetic, meaningless life -- and yet he only delivered a file into Natalie's reluctant hands. If he truly thought he beheld a threat and was inclined to shield his daughter from it, Jay Carpenter would not be breathing, whatever he claimed to be, and nor would Natalie have been permitted to leave the Custody with him in the first place.

Alistair warned numerous times during the call of his capabilities. He did not speak of his daughter as someone vulnerable; quite the contrary, in fact. The files spoke for themselves. Bald facts. Plain sight. But Carpenter was looking in another direction. One with eyes as pale as her father's.

When the boy finally asked him what he wanted, Alistair smiled. A nudge of misdirection, a quick assent to the price. Alistair played the network like the most beautiful violin, but people were his instrument of choice. Others read a cold exterior and thought him too blunt for the tune, but Alistair Grey was excellent at what he did. Jay picked the path, Alistair only ushered him further down it.

For the result would be the same. Soon, Natalie would have a choice to make.

The boy's eyes turned to the sky. The lightning shattered. 

He did not want to do it. 

But Alistair did not care. For one way or another, the lesson would be learned.
[[In response to Saving Cayli]]
Time snared its noose around the deal. The seconds, minutes, then hours slipped away quickly, until thirty minutes after Carpenter’s self-imposed deadline came the first demand for answers.

Some time after that followed the admission Natalie was gone.

And then silence.

Alistair did not care where she went; the boy had misunderstood the game they had played, or at least Alistair’s stake in it. Within the Custody or without, what he wanted was his daughter’s capitulation, and had warranted on the sting of betrayal being enough to nudge her in the right direction.

But the silence.

The dull tones of any attempt at connection suggested that the device he had given Natalie was broken. ‘I don’t know where she is’ wouldn’t be the first lie the boy had tried to pass off as truth, but given Alistair’s current … limitations, it would take time to authenticate either way.

A muscle twitched in his jaw. He’d warned Jay. Had offered the chance of a mutually beneficial alliance. Instead the boy chose to become an obstacle.
Alistair Grey

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