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Needle in a Haystack
Rune had grown less and less interested in her "exterminator" job and instead began to wander around Moscow collecting signs that her uncle was alive. That meant she had a big box of nothing in her collection. They were separated in the undercity, so she assumed that he had wandered out alone and simply didnt’ know how to contact her. Maybe he’d lost all of his tech. The Atharim safe houses were differnet now and he’d not built a lot of russian alliances among the atharim. Or like a little kid lost in the mall, she had to assume he was searching for her too, so she tried to leave clues that he might collect with hopes that he would find her. But it didnt work. Time passed and nothing.

The next stage of finding something that was lost was the pessimistic idea that maybe the lost thing didn't want to be found. Rune knew that if her uncle wanted to disappear, he could do it in a heartbeat. But why would he abandon her without saying goodbye? It was cruel to imagine. So she figured that wasn't what happened.

Which took her to one inevitable conclusion. Seth must have been taken prisoner, or have amnesia, or being blackmailed or something awful like that. Only Rune could save him. So she returned to the undercity to sniff out the power players that had the capacity to hold Seth (literally or figuratively) against his will. But it was like searching for a needle in a haystack. A haystack that hd recently been smoked out. Meanwhile, she kept eyes out for anyone who looked suspiciously like an empty shell of a man who didn’t know his own identity.

So Rune explored the homeless camps, but she blended in just fine. She wore her usual hunting gear, and was clad in all shades of dark colors. She had abandoned the hair dyes and makeup she favored from when they first arrived in Moscow. Her knives and gun was hidden away, nestled close to the planes and muscles of her body. No need to scare anyone, she thought, peering around a wall of barrels that served like a barricade.

"Whatcha doin?" a voice grumbled. A second later, a piece of trash was kicked at her. "Get away from our shit," another added. She turned and found four guys standing up to her. Apparently she'd been poking around someone's home and the owner was territorial.

"Sorry," she mumbled and tried to get away, but they had that look of wanting to teach a lesson. And then a few more heads joined the group. Annoyed, Rune tried apologizing again and was eager to move on. She didn't want to cause a scene, but neither did she want to get her ass beat up just for exploring.
She walked away from four grown men moaning on the ground behind her. She didn’t intend to find a fight, but when confronted, Rune had the means to defend herself. Plus, they were nobody bullies who only knew how to punch a frightened target. Rune was no such thing, and she was a lot stronger than she looked.

Plus she had guns.

They backed off after she aimed the first pistol. She hated wasting ammunition, so she was grateful she didn’t need to fire any warning shots. Plus it would have been mega loud and she hated that ringing in her ears.

The undercity was more tense than she remembered. It was always a free place and Rune respected the people that called it home. She couldn’t have lived there. Didn’t want to live there either.

She continued exploring, asking questions and hearing more and more strange rumors from those willing to actually talk to her. Most people scurried away at the first sight of her.
After a few hours wandering the Undercity, Rune was pretty dejected. She was sitting on a ledge, feet dangling over a water run off when she sniffed something different. The Undercity was full of crime and violence. She smelled all the paths leading off in many directions, but this scent was different than the rest. Kind of like the difference between warm cinnamon and hot chocolate. It paired well together but was definitely different. Plus this scent was actually pretty nasty. She sighed and pushed away thoughts of hot cocoa for now.

She shoved herself up in order to dig around through her pack. An energy capsule was buried in the bottom, but she dug it out and opened the contents onto her tongue. She was tired from the failure of going another night without finding Uncle Seth, but within a moment, she was shook up with fresh vigor.

She followed the scent down a tunnel where the water run off split away from the service corridor. Something nasty was down there in the dark, and Rune could smell its trail. She flicked on a flash light and peered into the darkness, clicking her tongue to taunt whatever waited.
Shit was going down. Yeah, an understatement alright. Mik heard all the rumbling and such. The Yakuza was making moves- them and then Kolos and Mordvinovs and Triads in turn- and the tension ratcheted up again and again and again. And so he did his usual thing- float in, listen a little, rap a little, flirt a little (well, not a little..I mean could you blame him? Those Yakuza guys and girls were hot. And then a hint of inked black lines at the top of a collared shirt or narrow chokered dress disappeared tantalizingly behind proper demure clothing, only playfully to peekout at cuffed wrist or an exposed leg through a dress slit...I mean come on! You telling me he didn't like what he saw?)

So anyway, yeah, Yakuza and co busy and him getting Intel and doing what he could to be the information guy, all the while the lady (this time she wore Yun Kao's face) smiling, knowing that shit was indeed going to go down and there might even be some fire in the mix and did he want to see it? To which he said fuck yes) and....where was he? Oh yeah.

All of which to say the feel in the air was electric, almost like he could smell a storm or something. And he loved it. Like loved it like when he was in a chase, his prey glancing back to make sure he was coming (and oh, he would yoo). Like when he was pulling the leather straps tight around a wrist, the strained cords of tendon and muscle in the wrist of his sub telling him how far to go, enjoying the slow process of immobilizing them. Like when the leather hood over his face let not a sliver of light peek through and his breathing around his saliva covered ball gag was labored, competing the with sounds of his Dom handling various implements and he writhed in anticipation of what those might hint was coming next.

Oh yeah, the atmosphere was laden with potential and the lady teased him on and...well, what the fuck was Mik to do? The slow build was pleasurable. Amazing. And excrutiating. But he wanted to have fun tonight. And this time have a bit more fun that a drink with a deadly hot but silent chick or a guy who, for all he liked to be looked at and tease, was in a committed relationship (and shoot him if that ever was where was going. For reals. Right in the balls since he wasn't gonna need em then.)

So where was he? Oh yeah. Potentuous days and horny nights and he with the biggest case of blue balls in the world and for fuck's sake he just wanted to blow something up- his load or a car or a head, it didn't matter.

So down to the tunnels he went, his lighter in his hand flicking the flint occasionally, the power flooding him and bringing the terrible and wonderful and nauseating and exciting scents of what might be. Oh some homeless folk shied away, but his winningest smile was enough to get at least one to talk. Or maybe the candy bars in this pocket. Whichever, be got a bead on a...something. 

And holy shit he wanted a something. The bigger the better. Marry fuck kill, without the marry. He just needed to know which. 

So he'd walking along, tralala, trying to pick up the scent of blood or gore over the nastiness of the tunnels....and sure enough, the lady was good to him. Yun raised an eyebrow, smirk on her lips, and nodded in the direction of one tunnel. Mik grinned at her and headed down, deeper. No telling what was down here. 

The lighter in his hand wasn't a joke. A weave or two of fire played at his fingertips, a faint green blue flame that wreathed sinuously around his fingers. In less time it took to wink, it would lash out, a whip he had trained with enough that it was faster than thought. 

Damn but the anticipation was fucking fun. He just hoped something happened.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Rune yelled just as the solid lump slammed into her chest. She fell to the ground. Its paws dug into her shoulders, but she just barely managed to hold the snarling mouth from clamping down on her face. Its hind legs was clawing up her pants. The fabric held, but she could feel the burns of scratch marks surely beading up underneath.

With a roar, she kneed it in its soft belly. It winced and yelped, and she managed to throw it off her. Before it could bounce back, she scrambled for the knife she’d dropped, fisted it and flung her arm up. The blade pierced its throat. The flashlight beam was enough to see its eyes flash bright. Blood poured out of the wound, up and around its tongue and past the fangs that tried to make her its midnight snack.

It slumped away after that, bubbling blood with its last gasps.

Her heart was beating so hard, if she had been her uncle, he’d be having an old man heart attack about then. Luckily, her ticker was young and strong. Still, she scrambled to her feet just in case the chupe had one last surge of strength.

Standing over it, the flash light beam showed it was unmoving. Its belly stopped after a few more minutes, but she was breathing hard until certain it was dead.

Finally, she kicked it in the guts then hopped back a little just in case it was still alive. Nope. She nodded with great approval. “Little bitch.” and leaned down to retrieve her knife. It took such a firm yank, her bicep bulged under the strain. The knife had jammed to the bone of its jaw.

“Ewe,” she said to herself, wiping the blade on her pants before sheathing it.

Next she retrieved the flash light. The tactical light was fine, though a few more scratches marred the handle. Happy with the outcome, she pat herself down to see if any more of her gear had fallen away. All was good, and she kissed the charm of a necklace hanging around her throat for good luck.

When she stalked out of the tunnel, she was pissed. Not only had another trail of Uncle Seth gone cold, but she was jumped by a chupe! “Fucker,” she said under her breath.

Watch the filth Roonie! she heard Uncle Seth say. For as bad a potty mouth as he boasted, he was sure a hypocrite when it came to keeping her tongue clean. She rolled her eyes and stalked off from the scene, leaving the mangy mongrel behind. The rats could have dinner.

She was partway down the tunnel when she smelled something new.

Not exactly new. It was human, but sometimes they were the worst monsters of all.

She slowed her pace until she was sure she knew what she was about to walk into. She was in a pissy mood anyway. She grumbled to herself and called out from around a corner.

“Alright I smell you from here. Might as well show yourself,” she held up the flash light then, peering.
So wandering around the tunnels had started to suck ass. Enough that he was loosing his adventure hard on. Instead, it was dark and quiet. And the stench. What a wonderful smell he'd discovered. Which he'd known. Yeah. The clothes from his last field trip had ended up in the dumpster. Andre had been right about that. Couldn't complain about that. Not really.

So here he is, wandering around, trying to keep a mental map of where he was- oh yeah, that was gonna be a problem too, he was sure. Problem for later, he supposed. Anyway, so yeah, wandering around and probably getting lost and here he was without any breadcrumbs or anything to show his way out.

But no...he refused to believe this was a waste of time. Not that he hadn't had wild goose chases. Geese chases? Whatever it was, he had gone home bored and frustrated and ended up having a drink or three, light up blunt or maybe take a bump, watch a little porn and rub one out and then go to sleep.

God, he hoped that wasn't tonight. The city was priming and he was frustrated. The Yakuza were making some serious moves and the underworld was shifting. The mighty were falling again- just as it happened with his pop's crew. People who thought they were on top suddenly finding themselves hitting the ground and wondering why they weren't in charge no more. 

Nothing was forever. That was why. Duh! The lesson had been burned into his brain. It was expected. It was life. It was the Lady, Fortune, playing her games. He wasn't special or immune. But he also didn't fight her or expect anything from her. And so she seemed to let him have his fun, to peer behind the reality, to see all the shit she was stirring. He didn't begrudge her her games or whine or complain.

Instead, he figured, why not join her and play along? And somehow, that was enough. She even let him in on the joke most of the time.

Life was a game and they were all on borrowed time and he just hoped to enjoy himself as much as possible before the ride was over.

So shit smells and tunnels were an annoyance, sure. Or rather, the lack of adventure so far. But he'd push on. See what he saw 

Like for instance he thought he heard some noise in the distance. Some grunting- not a bad thing, in his opinion- but far away. Like it was a few tunnel turns too many. Still, it was something. 

Power wreathed at his fingertips, he tried to figure out which direction to go. After a moment he laughed. The Lady was either with him or not. So...he looked one way, then another, and then chose one at random. Sort of, anyway. The flame at his finger tips had danced a bit in that directions. Good enough for him. It was a 50 50 chance anyway. 

And at the next turn, same thing. The flame. The chance. And maybe he thought he heard something too. Hard to tell. And again, a few more times.

And yep, he thought he heard laughter. In his head anyway. The Lady- this time she wore Spectra Lin's face. Made sense. If this night went bust, as it had seemed it might, he'd probably have gone home and took care of himself by watching a few of her vids before clocking out for the evening- anyway, yeah, so the Lady wearing her face was grinning that grin that said, 'Well Mik? You said you wanted fun. Whether you actually think it's fun, is another story. Fun for me, not for thee, sweety."

Which was fair. Or not. Kinda the point really.

Anyway, Mik heard a woman's voice call out, telling him to show himself. Not like he planned on hiding or sneaking about. He put on his winningest smile- the one he normally used when ordering at a diner or bar- and sauntered around the corner. He wasn't worried, per se. The power was in his hand, just in case.  Fun was fun, after all. Fucking, fighting, it's all the same, really.

There was a flashlight ahead and it made it harder to see who it was. Besides a slight silhouette anyway. The power was ready, that fire whip ready to strike in less time than it tool to blink. But no tension showed in his voice. Not like he was dressed like the Ninja lady- Tenzin- or anyone else. Blood red leather jacket, gray laced collar t shirt and black jeans and boots. Not the outfit of a spy or assassin.

Which meant if he ever decided to get a spy or assassin gig, he would totally wear that outfit. 

The thought made him laugh and with a smile on his lips he said "Hey. Didn't mean to startle you. You mind not shining that thing in my eyes? Don't want to be blind down here, after all."
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Oh. It was just some guy. He was grinning like a cock in a cage fight, and there was something in the play of that smirk that sparked Rune nervous to look him too long in the eye. He has cool hair. She frowned and lowered the flash light, for once, fumbling with flicking it off. “Sorry,” she said and stuffed it in the pocket of her belt. Once her hands were free, she smooshed her palm through her hair. The bangs fell back in her eyes anyway. It was too short to stuff behind her ears and she hadn’t worn barrettes in at least 6 months. They just didn’t go with with the emo look.

“You know, it’s the wild west down here,” she swiped her hands on her thighs. They were still dirty from killing that choop and she just realized she must have smudged the filth across her hair as well. Which was going to be a bitch to shampoo out later. Though probably made her look bad ass. Like war paint or something. Come to think of it, she should get some of that black stuff that people smeared under their eyes. Just for the effect. She had no idea what purpose it served.

Her accent was obviously american, but it was muddled, from all over. His on the other hand was so super Russian she wondered if he was some long lost bastard descendent of Putin. Though by the look of him, he had crazy-eyes-Rasputin about him more than snobby stuck up Ras-less-Putin.

“I”m Rune. You haven’t seen another guy down here goes by Seth? 'Merican like me. Shoots his mouth as quick as he will shoot you in the knee? Blonde with one of those bald spots on the top of his head so he covers it up with a cowboy hat.” She made a swirling motion atop her own head to indicate the spot.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He thought about humming a song until then. Jesus, but the light had been bright. Girlie was walking around with a sun in her pocket or something. When the purples and blues finally cleared, he saw a short girl, hair that might have been brown or blonde- hard to tell with the buzz on the sides- slightly elfin face and dark eyes that held smiles in their corners that he rather liked.

His grin widened slightly. Damn, but he had the luck. Tenzin, with the lithe body and the still eyes. Ok, yeah, she was a mite standoffish. And Andre, muscled arms tattooed in patterns that made him all kinds of curious.  In hindsight, he was pretty certain that if Ten hadn't been there, the would have had some fun, married or no. "Jeez! Is there like a secret chamber of hotness down here that cracked open or something?" The Lady wearing Spectra's face laughed at his quip. 

I mean yeah, she was a bit dirty and what not. There was a bit of schmutz on her face. Had he known her, he might have reached out and brushed it off, whatever it was. Maybe. Life was life and anyone who got caught up in superficial shit like that had no idea what they were missing.

Anyway, so yeah, with Punk Rock Girl- totally American. Her accent said as much. He'd always like Americans. The ones who didn't act all butt-hurt cuz they no longer ruled the world. Dumbasses. It proved the point he had been thinking only moments ago. Nothing lasts forever. Can't bitch and moan when life changed. You just roll with it and keep going. 

But to her point..."Wild west? know, I guess you're right. I confess I haven't watched any of your wild westerns" He looked her up and down. He didn't bother to hide it. She was there. He was there. She had eyes. He had eyes. It's not like they didn't see each other. Of course, it was just to check whether she was carrying. Only that. Not to see if she was packing anything else. Tenzin had had some wicked blade or something. He didn't remember what it was called. "Cowboys wear guns, though, right?" No guns on her. She was fit, that much he could tell. Probably be fun to wrestle. He did like that. His look was a question, though.

But to her other question, he said "No. Sorry. Haven't seen a balding American down here. I've seen a few folk. Homeless types. Transients. A few hiding out- probably from the law." He fingered his lighter absently. They had stayed away, at least after the first flash of his fire. "Some crazies. Oh. And some monsters too. Seems like they've moved in down here. All the free 'food' I guess." It was obvious what food he meant.

Suddenly, things shifted a bit. I mean yeah, she and Ten (boy how she seemed to hate the nick-name- which was why he used it) were both cute. And they were both down here in the tunnels. But could it be..."You, out hunting stuff down here?" he asked, a ghost of a smile on his lips. He wasn't afraid. Not at all. And if she was, it didn't bother him.

After all, he might want to join her. The Lady had led him down here. "Find anything good?"
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
Rune smirked as a quip just instantly popped out of her mouth. “If there’s a chamber of secrets down here, it probably hides a possessed basilisk,” she was finishing up fumbling with something on her belt as she said it. She loved Harry Potter as a kid. Uncle Seth’s car had one of those video players with prepopulated old movies on tap. She could recite the entire series from memory. The remakes and the original!

But she wasn’t surprised that the guy hadn’t seen anyone matching Seth’s description. Just like all the other people she talked to. She liked the way he put it. Homeless, transients, crazies, monsters… All of them food. Uncle Seth was somewhere down here too, but there’s no way he’d be food for a monster. He’d shoot himself in the head before letting himself be taken. She shook off those thoughts. Couldn’t think like that. He was alive. He had to be.

“Only thing i’m hunting down is my uncle, and believe me, when I find him I’m gonna kick some ass.” She punched one fist into her other open palm with a satisfying smack.

She planted herself in front of this guy. He said he wasn’t wearing a gun, which could be good or could be bad for him. He looked tough though. She planted herself in front of him after the fake punching herself, arms crossed and sized him up and down. Especially since he just did the same to her. Ugh why were guys always doing those long old looks? Not like there was anything special here that 50% of the world’s population didn’t also have.

He had one of those flashy smiles that screamed cheeeeeese, but Rune knew how to play in the sandbox too. He wore an expensive looking leather jacket and muscle tee, too. Hers was baggier in comparison. Seth used to tell her that baggy clothes made it easier to grab her, but she didn’t like the tight shirts, self-conscious about her arms and stuff. During her ‘rainbow’ phase, however, she kept her hair short for that tactical reason but she dyed it in fantabulous colors too. It was the same reason she loved earrings but didn’t wear them. Instead, she painted her face with elaborate makeup. But that was all in the past. Right now the skin under her eyes were hollow, and her cheeks angular. That phase ended after the night she was stabbed while trying to kill the godling Jaxen.

“Well if you’re not doing anything better, you can help me look for him. I’ve seen plenty of crazies and a few monstrous looking dogs, and wouldn’t mind the company.”
See? Now this he liked. Attitude. Playful? Sure. But it was attitude all the same. He wasn't sure if she meant to kick her uncle's ass or kick ass to get her uncle. And frankly, he didn't care. (But both. It was probably both).

Plenty of people needed ass kicking in the world. In his high estimation- after dealing with more than his share of dicks in his line of work- the more ass kickers out doing the job, the better. Ass Kickers United....yeah. He liked the sound of that...almost as much as the sound of her fist smacking her hand. Not the smack part. But slapping and spanking sounded pretty similar. So, you know...

Anyway, so she decided turn about was fair play and ostentatiously eyed him up and down in turn. And, in case anyone wondered, he didn't mind in the slightest. He thought about posing- well not really. Maybe Blue Steel or something like that. Not sticking his ass out. That would probably be too much. But nah. That was dumb.

So anyway (again. Jeez, these tangents took forever to come back from. Lady Spectra was waiting, now, a bit bored, he supposed. But this was her doing. What was he supposed to do about it?) Where was he? Oh yeah, so anyway. punk rock girl decides he's good enough to join her.

Which he was. Good enough, I mean. Plenty, actually. So he juts his chin out with a grin. "Sure thing, doll. Happy to escort you through these perfumed tunnels. Maybe we find some ass to kick, too." He stuck his hand out.

So now, every girl was different. Guys to. And everyone in between. How he decided to be with them was just as fluid. And then there was the place. This place, to be clear. Dirty dingy tunnels. And so for him at that moment with this particular girl, a handshake seemed right. She was tough and no nonsense. And he had no doubt she'd laugh in his face if he tried a line or made a move on her like he might with someone else in a different place. Something more flowery and formal.

And anyway, they were gonna go exploring. And if they were going to be traipsing around these tunnels together, they should at least kinda sorta have some sort of introduction. "Name's Mik." He looked around, including back the way he'd come, before motioning her to lead the way. He wasn't worried. Not really. "I'm game...but let's not get lost down here. The homeless folkses down here look tough. I'd rather not have to live off old leather if we can't find a way out." 

He grinned, though "Unless you know how to cook old leather. In which case, I guess it doesn't matter."
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods

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