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(Continued from Delivered)

The car pulled away from the busy street after Jay and his escort (the burly, grim government spook type – not the fun type) were deposited on the sidewalk. People dressed in a range of business attire pushed through. Ahead, doors opened by the hands of uniformed doormen. He looked around like something would explain their location, but other than the name of the hotel etched into the glass, he was stunned to silence. It was curiosity as much as any look from the agent that won his compliance. It wasn’t often he was dropped off at such a block.

The lobby floor was marble. Holo-screens and chandeliers lit the interior. A woman in a red suit looked at him as she passed, but her expression was one of annoyance than anything Jay’s best smile could disarm.

The elevator was shared with more fancy people in suits. Downtown Moscow City, a rich district of Moscow towering with the spires of powerful businesses. Last time he was in the city, he didn’t make it over here often, although the skyline could be seen from a great distance. The elevator stopped at one of the upper levels, revealing a comfortable lounge with comfortable seatings, tables, and a beautiful bar. The name etched into the wall was unknown to him, but as Jay was shown to a table, he quite clearly recognized the bottles on display. Talk about top-shelf shit. Hope it wasn’t too early to start drinking. Then again, he was still on States-time.

Unfortunately, they passed through the lounge without stopping, excluding the moment he was halted in his tracks by the view.

He was shown to a semi-private room. The agent took up a place at the threshold only to gesture that Jay enter unaccompanied. About this time, he had a dozen names in his head of who may be waiting within. He blinked, looked over his shoulder one last time for hints of danger, and cautiously entered.

But it was empty. He turned back, jaw agape, gesturing with a very clear ‘what the hell?’ look on his face when the agent adjusted his jacket. “Mister Kane will be with you shortly,” he explained and subsequently ignored him thereafter.

Mister Kane?

Jay had no fucking clue who that was. But since he was going to wait, might as well enjoy the amenities. He went directly to the decanter of whiskey and poured himself a glass.
Only darkness shows you the light.

A discarded American channeler was not what Adrian had in mind.

The Ascendancy promised a teacher. Someone competent and strong who could craft a master channeler from Adrian’s pathetic attempts. Instead, he was less than amused by the gift delivered on his doorstep. From door, Adrian cleared his throat to gain the channeler’s attention. What turned around was worse than a discarded American. Jay Carpenter was the name provided, and Adrian’s quick searching revealed little information of value. He wore what may have passed as donated clothing. He’d not shaved in some time. His skin was pale and wan, as if he’d recovered from illness recently. To shame Adrian even further, the man was drinking whiskey at nine o’clock in the morning.

If this was the Ascendancy’s idea of a joke, Adrian wasn’t amused. There had to be more than met the eye. They were night and day, Adrian thought as he approached, offering to shake hands.

“You’re Dominion Carpenter? Is that right? One of the nine who serves the Ascendancy?” he asked, disbelief hanging like smoke they may choke upon. Seriously, this broken man was one of the mightiest warriors in all the world? 

Adrian expected… more.
The clearing of a throat gave Jay a reason to look up from the drink. He’d not say no to a hot breakfast. But no buffets were sitting around for him to scavenge.

It remained to reason that the bloke who entered was the mysterious Mister Kane. How and why Jay ended up here rather than the Kremlin or another base of operations was likewise a mystery. Enough to keep him interested. For now.

“Last I looked, that’s me,” he said with the raise of his glass in salute. The man was about Jay’s height, maybe a hair taller, but broader. There was a sense of Kane as someone solid. Like a pillar of concrete. His accent reminded him of Natalie’s though. It was so strong that he half-wondered if his presence was in some way attributed to Natalie – or her family – which didn’t bode well if so.

“If you want an autograph, show me what you want signed and I’ll make my mark. What do you want?” he asked as they shook hands.

“I’m Adrian Kane,” he began. His grip was firm, but not crushing, confident but not dominating. Jay was just too fucking tired to reciprocate with much effort. He tucked himself into a chair and tossed his ankles on the table, lounging comfortably. Kane didn’t seem impressed by his casual posturing.

“Well, Adrian Kane, what do you want of me?” Jay said just as Adrian joined him at the table. The man folded his hands across his stomach, taking his time probably in some attempt to intimidate Jay. But only one of them could channel. Jay wasn’t exactly intimidated by handsome men in suits.

Just then, there was a tiny burst of energy. It popped and sizzled like a steak in a pan, but erupted and was then gone so fast, Jay barely knew it happened if it wasn’t for the residue that lingered. Steak and eggs sounded pretty good about then.
“I want you to teach me to channel… more. Better yet, Ascendancy wants you to teach me to channel.”

Jay laughed. Alright. So there were two channelers present, but Adrian’s power was as weak as a newborn kitten.
“There’s nothing I can do to make you more powerful. Either you’ll get stronger or you won’t. That’s not how this works. Besides, I’m the worst teacher alive. Pretty much any one of the other Dominions are better alternatives. Hell, I can send you to a handful of guys who aren’t Dominions who’d be better than me.”

To Jay’s surprise, Adrian nodded.
“I agree,” he said plainly. The intensity with which Adrian looked at him suddenly made Jay frown in discomfort.
“Suppose that’s for the best then. I’ll go-“ he started to rise, but Adrian interrupted.
“Ascendancy chose you. For gods knows why. He sent you to me. You’ll do what he says, I assume, Dominion Carpenter?” Adrian asked.

Adrian had him there. Ascendancy must have arranged it. Nobody else had the authority to pull him from the tarmac and drop him on the lap of some civilian asshole. Shit, he had nice hair though. Wonder what kind of conditioner he used. Maybe it was a treatment?

“Fine. But don’t complain to me when I turn out to be a waste of your time. But I’m not doing anything on an empty stomach. In fact, let’s put breakfast, shower, a nap, and a change of clothes on the list. Then I’ll think about how to bulk you up, Mister Kane,” Jay said, sly smile waiting to accept the slim negotiation.

Not much later, he enjoyed his steak and eggs in a penthouse suite
Only darkness shows you the light.

Turned out Jay wasn’t expected to heel alongside Mr. Kane’s hip. Or so he learned after the bell rang from the door. He roused himself from a nap and crawled to his feet. Barely remembering where the front door was (the suite was fucking big). There were two people. A woman in a professionally attired suit gasped when she looked up from her data screen. The second was a uniformed employee of the hotel with a bag dangling from his wrist and a tech box tucked under his arm.

Jay rubbed his eyes, “Yah?” he asked as they handed over the delivery.
The woman held out the screen, coughing as she instructed him to sign for the package.

Jay did as requested and locked the door behind him. The power pulsed to life, lifting the contents to a table. Only then did he realize he was buck ass naked.

“Guess I made her day,” he shrugged and opened the bag.

It was a new uniform. A fresh badge laid across the top with a hand-written note, Don’t lose this one, it said, and Jay frowned.

He should probably wear it. The uniform was better than the clothes Kane’s people provided, but hell, he wasn’t ready for all this.

He sank upon a nearby chair and looked at the half-opened package. Eventually, he fiddled with the other box, finding a newly programmed wallet – government owned of course. But handily pre-populated with the contents of his previous accounts.

Frozen. Unable to move. Which way did he go? Toward the shadows? Hide his head in the sand a little longer? Or fuck it all, claw his way into his place and march out in new skin?

He sent @"Nox" a message. 

Quote:Got time for a card game? I’ll shuffle for you.
Only darkness shows you the light.

@"Jay Carpenter" I can shuffle myself thank you. Nox attached the same picture of the arm, him, and Raffe that he'd sent Thalia as it was the only picture he had of the new arm at present.

But a game sounds fun. After my mission in the tunnels. Fighting monsters, throwing fireballs. Should be a blast. Wanna come?
Nox replied quickly. The new equipment was on display. The beginning of a joke jumped across his mind, but the landing didn’t stick, and Jay was without the usual sarcasm. There was another face on display, but without reason to recognize it, his grip fell limp and the wallet was dropped somewhere on the path to the bar. Fighting. Monsters. Tunnels and darkness. It all flashed across his mind and in an instant, he was running through the jungle, his skin sizzling in the night, hell unleashed and it wasn't enough. A heat burned the inside of his lids, and when he opened them, the antidote was right in front of him. 

Fancy place like this upgraded the standard minibar fridge situation with something far grander. They had actual bottles. He channeled himself an amber-filled one from the top shelf and quickly sank refuge upon a sofa. Shows were pulled up soon enough, though it had been years since he was familiar with the current offerings. He stopped on a network showing something about boats and tipped the rim to his lips greedily.

The sky was dark by the time he remembered hotels delivered food. He somehow managed to navigate the ordering system, and when the delivery knocked on the door, he waded through a sea of glass to find out he’d only ordered escargot, flan, and something that he was certain was still alive. At least he got the tequila right, he glared and snatched the bottle straight from the tray.  

Eventually, he found Natalie’s messages, but the words blurred so hard on screen, Jay didn’t bother trying to reply. She was safe and drop dead gorgeous of course. He might have even smiled if his face wasn’t so numb.

(Jay is going to ignore any messages/calls whatever that come through between now and middle of the night when he's going to wake up after passing out. In case anyone wants to get ahold of him.)
Only darkness shows you the light.


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