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Moscow wasn't built for cars.

Asha didn't have the frivolous cash for the metro system, nor enough in her account to pay for accommodation if she also wanted to eat. Russia was expensive, and her options - she realised quickly - were limited. All her worldly belongings - Wallet excepted, that stashed in her pocket - were shoved under the foot-well. A pile of blankets lay folded on the passenger seat, faded bright colours and fabrics - worn, loved items. A cut of quartz hung on a thong from the rear-view mirror, rainbowing the winter light like sentimental kisses across the interior.

The car was home, or close enough.

She'd parked on the far outskirts, in a location that didn't buzz with too much peripheral activity so she'd feel safe when she slept. That morning snow an inch thick had blanketed her windscreen; she'd woken in a freezing white cocoon, reminded of the icy winters of her youth. Her breath puffed frigid little clouds in front of her nose, and despite thick socks and ugly boots her toes were chilled. She never had liked the cold.

The walk to the city was a good long trek, but the gentle entrance to civilisation at least gave her the opportunity to acclimatise slowly. She'd travelled cities a hundred times with her uncle, but alone the transition was always more traumatic, and Russia was utterly foreign her to her. She was charmed, in a way, by that strangeness - both austere and beautiful, old and modern. The colours delighted her. The fusion. Only the people marred the experience, though through no fault of their own. The humdrum of their emotion soaked into her. Like rain that slowly hardened to hail. She could ignore it, but it wasn't pleasant to endure.

Asha was here for a reason, but not one that carried urgency. She meandered like a tourist, pausing to take pictures with her Wallet of anything that caught her fancy. She'd sort through those later, probably back at the car this evening. Best be back before it got dark; some of those streets hadn't felt pleasant, and it didn't seem wise to walk them alone in the dark. Concerns for later, though. By mid-afternoon she was entrenched in the city. The day was bright, the sun cold and proud in a pale sky, and she was frozen. Her coat was thick, but she'd been spoiled with warmer climates. She could do with a rest, use the time to start drafting words to go with those photos.

This close to the centre there were no really quiet places, so she just picked the one that felt the least intrusive to her sensitivity. It smelled nice, drawing mild pangs of hunger, but mostly she just wanted to warm up. A smile greeted the young man behind the counter, her dark gaze briefly glancing up to take in the boards overhead. She tugged at the scarf wound round her throat. "Uhh... A coffee? Please?"
These days it wasn't popular to carry cash, but the habit was engrained. Asha upended her purse into her palm, fingers numbly plucking through the bits of shrapnel. She spread the treasure out on the counter, counting each piece.

And came up short.

She felt her cheeks heat at the realisation. There was a line forming behind her; she could feel the impatience prickling her skin without needing to look. The guy behind the till was radiating pity and discomfort at her situation, and it only made her feel worse. His gaze flittered away. He cleared his throat. Move on. She could feel it in him, the urge to save her further embarrassment. "Does that get me... anything?"
Emily had arrived in Moscow safe and sound. Getting on the plane had been a scary experience. Planes didn't usually scare her, but the thought of her parents had made it so. She had put that aside though.

First, Emily went to her hotel and unpacked. The flight had been wonderful. She hadn't been able to recieve calls from her directors about what to do about this or that, and being able to think about things other than business had been a relief. She had taken some time to rest on the flight and just relax. She had changed into more relaxing garb - it was nice to get out of the businesswoman attire and just be Emily, the young woman, rather than Emily, the CEO. She thought of her parents, and it made her sad. The tears didn't come, but the task ahead of her was daunting. She had doubts about whether or not she would be good enough. If the press was to be believed, the general public thought so too.

She looked at her Wallet, set to Moscow time, and then checked her watch, set to Chicago time. Thankfully everyone there would be sleeping. Emily sighed in relief that her free time would continue for awhile. The sigh shifted to a yawn as she realized how tired she was - jet lag. Coffee and a walk seemed to be in order. She looked up a nearby coffee shop and set her GPS to lead her there.

The walk was uneventful, but cold. She was prepared - it was winter in Chicago too. There was already a patron at the counter.

"Does that get me... anything?"

Emily imagined that had to be frustrating. She had never been in that situation before though. Her heart went out to the woman, however. It couldn't have been a fun situation to be in. Emily stepped forward.

"I'll cover hers, and add a black coffee to that as well."

Emily stepped forward to pay for the purchase.

Edited by Emily Shale, Sep 13 2014, 05:41 PM.
More pity swarmed behind her. Kind pity, but still pity. It burrowed right into her skin, making her feel very small. The guy at the till was still looking at her apologetically, waiting for her to move on, when the American woman's voice piped up. Asha began scraping the coins back up into her palm, heat still warm on her cheeks, and glanced up at the woman, smiling. "Oh, you don't have to..."

Then paused, unsure.

People were never still; they fluctuated moment by moment, in intensity or direction or volume. Those were the little things - irritation, contentment, boredom. Just transient feelings attached to the moment, sensations that tended to assault her relentlessly. Beyond that there were flavours; an inherently violent person, even relaxed, tasted sharp, like blood in the back of the throat. In that way she'd grown used to identifying different presences without looking up at faces. But bigger emotions were universal. Fear. Sadness. Joy. Grief. Asha caught the sense of a weighty shadow, a background darkness that felt like a sinking heart.

She let her pride go, influenced gently by the sense of right thing emanating like a lullaby from the woman. She looked tired, not desperately so, but enough to stoke a little empathy. Or maybe that was the woman's feelings leaking out and touching Asha's own; sometimes she wasn't sure. Her smile flickered a little uncertain, then deepened genuine. "Thanks."

Asha could already tell this one was a soother. Focussing on her blocked out a little of the rest of the coffee shop, quietened all the edges of the world to something quite pleasant so long as she didn't delve too deep into that peripheral sadness. She shuffled a little out the way, making room at the counter, careful to stay a comfortable distance away. "It's cold out, huh."
"Oh, you don't have to..."
the woman at the counter said.

The woman was smiling and it seemed genuinely appreciative as she said "Thanks,"

Emily returned her smile, also genuine. It felt good to smile. The small deed had helped push away some of her sadness. Some of it still lingered in the back of her mind, but she felt more at ease.

"It's really no big deal, but you're welcome."

Emily paid the man at the counter for both beverages and as the man went to fill their order the woman spoke again. "It's cold out, huh"

Emily responded by trying to hide a yawn. She was polite, but the jet lag was terrible. "Excuse me."
Emily said politely for the yawn. "Yes, it's a little bit brisk out there. I wouldn't expect any less in Moscow around this time though."
Emily said it with a smirk as the server brought out two cups of steaming coffee. Emily removed her gloves and picked up her cup, feeling grateful for the heat. She sipped at it and was glad that it was good coffee.

She moved her cup to her left hand and offered the woman her right. "I'm Emily"

Edited by Emily Shale, Sep 14 2014, 04:04 PM.
No big deal.

That was something people with money said. Asha could judge simply by the woman's clothes that the small change would likely make no impact at all - that it really wasn't a big deal - but she could sense otherwise. The good deed had lightened something, satisfaction or pleasure or relief, like peeks of sunlight on a grey day. It meant something, even if the woman chose to remain humble. For that, Asha was glad. Not all kindnesses had monetary values.

At the offered handshake, though, she hesitated. It was like reaching out to touch a live wire, knowing at the very least you were going to get a nasty electric shock. Even prepared for the deluge, Asha was wary; Emily had no idea of the invitation implied in that naked palm. "Asha."
She accepted the contact cautiously. Her senses amplified, like stepping into someone else's skin and letting them sink in. The glimpse was blessedly brief, but the sadness lingered. She could feel it heavy in her chest even after her hand slipped away from Emily's.

She grabbed the coffee from the counter, blinking back the encroaching urge to cry; her body's natural reaction to the stimulus. Grief was her guess, grief still raw but under control, though for what she of course didn't know. Her focus eroded. A blink of glassy eyes and her senses swept back out, helping to distance herself. Impatience warned from the line behind them. They were blocking access to the till.

"You fancy some company?"
The offer was open-ended, accented with an attempted pleasant smile as she moved past to find somewhere to sit. She was still feeling a little disorientated by the phantom emotion, convincing her of a loss that wasn't her own, and she certainly didn't want to feel any more of it. Thankfully Emily didn't radiate it strongly; tiredness dominated, blurring everything else, like simple gratitude lingering after a sip of coffee.
Asha took her hand cautiously and shook it. Emily wasn't sure what it meant, but she understood a fear of contact. Emily wouldn't hold it against her. The woman blinked and Emily hoped she hadn't upset or embarrassed Asha. She had just wanted to help.

The woman smiled and asked, "You fancy some company."
She said it in an accent that brought a smile to Emily's face.

The offer was nice and Emily could really use some company right now. As long as the woman didn't want to talk about business, it would be welcomed. The rest of today was her vacation - at least until later tonight when she'd have to prepare for her business meeting tomorrow afternoon. "I'd love some company."

Emily followed Asha and sat across from her. She sipped at her coffee contentedly wondering what to talk about. The past week had been discussions about business, the estate, and overall had been overwhelming. Now that she had a chance to talk about something else, she didn't know what to say.

"'s my first time in Moscow. Do you know of anyplace I should go see?"
Emily didn't plan to stay long past her meeting, but it might be good to sight-see a bit afterwards.
She shed her coat, but left the scarf loose round her neck. A red sweater peeked underneath, adorned with gold-thread embroidery around the neck. Asha wrapped her hands around the heat of the cup, luxuriating in the simplicity. She loved the smell of fresh brewed, and this whole place smelled like that. It was also nice to be off her feet for a second, and Emily made for pleasant company. She seemed genuinely happy, and that helped soothe the after-taste of grief. Asha could still feel it in her, but only really if she looked.

Travelling with her uncle, she'd never had problems talking to strangers, so long as she wasn't overwhelmed by other factors. Places like this were okay, buzzing a humdrum of distractions but not drowning her under them. She'd only ever met a handful of Americans, mostly tourists, so at the very heart of the CCD it didn't surprise her to find Emily was also in an unfamiliar land. "Oh, I've never been here before either. First proper day, actually, and I've mostly spent it getting my bearings. You've got to see the Kremlin, though, right? And I really want to see St Basil's Cathedral."

She'd done her research, of course; she loved the travel, loved working out the best places to go. This time of year especially crowds were an issue, a mix of high-spirits and frustration, but there were plenty of more low-key, local places to explore too. Rumours had drawn her here, curiosity, a search for answers with questions unknown. She took a sip of coffee, felt an echo of contentment. "How long are you here for?"
Emily began to realize that it was getting warm in the shop and followed Asha's example by removing her coat. Underneath she wore a plain light blue blouse that matched the color of her blue jeans.

Asha recommended the Kremlin and St. Basil's. They were the two most recognized buildings in the city. Of course she would want to see them, but she didn't plan on being here long. She couldn't stay in Moscow long. Her sisters needed her and her business needed her. An extended vacation in Moscow for the New Year wouldn't be feasible.

Her thoughts worked right into Asha's next question. "A couple of days at most. I have other things that require my attention soon."

Emily reminded herself to holo-call her sisters later. She missed them and hoped they were dealing with things alright.

"You just arrived too...what brings you here?"
[[continued from Spitfire]]

Ayden smiled at Bas. He was still going to believe in his God. It was probably a good thing he didn't know about the Atharim, and the fact that they'd think he was a god. Ayden still couldn't wrap her head around that one. Gods. They were just men and women with gifts, abilities. No different from anyone really.

"Can you introduce me? I'm willing to learn. I can fit in."

Ayden frowned. "I can't, rather I don't think I can. But my fiance can. I'll talk to him, and I'll get back in touch with you. The last time I met the man, I didn't leave his company with a good feeling about him. It's probably best I don't do the talking."
The meeting with Michael had not gone as well as she'd have hoped, but such was life.

The coffee shop bell rang and Sasha staggered into the lobby. Ayden saw one of the thugs behind her. Either they had been talking longer than they thought, or Bas didn't do a very good job of knocking them out. He held a gun to her head and pushed Sasha forward. "Now, now, now, Bas is that any way to treat your friends."

Ayden grasped her gift and held it close. She didn't think she could save Sasha if it went bad, but she would damn well try!

Edited by Ayden, Sep 16 2014, 07:48 AM.
He smiled at the offer to speak to her fiance. With his power magnified senses, her sardonic smile at the mention of 'not doing the talking' told a hilarious story. He laughed. She sure was a spitfire, this girl. You know, Sasha definitely had his number, but this girl right here...his eye took her in. Yeah, she'd be fun. Idly he wondered at her fiance or whatever. Probably some doofus accountant or something. But who knew? Maybe she might like a little walk on the wild side? Maybe one last fling before the getting locked up? If so, cool? If not, oh well. No skin off his back There was still Sasha too. Now Sasha and Ayden.... Now that would be something. Probably a dream. But sometimes dreams came true. Sometimes. His smile became something more.

As if a summons thinking of her, Sasha came in through the door. His smile at her appearance fell as he saw the shadow behind her. Boris. He'd thought the guy was out for the count. He must be getting soft in his old age. Now he was pissed. This guy just didn't know when to quit. And Sasha? She was his. His anger began to grow and he drew on the power until he was filled to the brim. The universe was his, His contempt for Boris grew with each heartbeat. This fucker thought to take him out? Threatened someone under his protection?

He laughed inside and it felt like thunder in his ears. However he was very much aware of the crowd. If there were others like them, he didn't want to broadcast what he could do. "Please let her go Boris. Please. She's innocent."
As he spoke threads of air crept their way to Boris chest, wrapped themselves around his heart. It was as if it was in his hands. He could feel the rapid pulsing of it. He stepped forward. "You feel that?"
he whispered so only he could hear, looking Boris in the eye. He gave a little squeeze as if to punctuate his question. "Did you think your guns heating up was an accident?"

The fear in the man's eyes was hilarious. He totally forgot he had a gun in his hand, his eyes were locked on Bas'. Bas stifled the urge to laugh again, instead looking around. Louder he said. "Careful man! Please be careful with that."
He put his hand on Sasha's shoulder and looked into her terrified face. "It'll be ok. I promise. Boris is just having a stressful day. Right Boris? But it's not good for you man. You're gonna hurt someone. You don't wanna do that. Right?"
He made his voice calmer, reasonable. As he did, he squeezed on the man's heart. The man staggered and he stepped forward, pushing Sasha to safety, one hand taking hold of his gun hand. "See? It's ok man. Here. Let me have it."
Another squeeze and the man's hand released. He took the gun and threw it on a table behind him. Inside he felt like laughing. God, this was funny.

Boris put his hand to his chest, looking down with pain and puzzlement and then back up at Bas. It really was hard not to laugh. He squeezed harder and the man's legs buckled. Bas was ready, catching him. "Here now!"
and he gently laid him on the floor. Kneeling over him as if concerned, he took his hand. "Boris! Hang on."
Turning to the onlooking crowd. "Can someone call for an ambulance?!"
Looking back at Boris. "Hang on Boris. Help is coming."
And this time, he squeezed so that the heart was unable to beat. It felt like a fish he'd just caught, wriggling in his hands, trying to get away. But he held it.

Finally the man died. He let the thread go, though he still held on to the power. He shook his head. Inside though, he was amused and vindicated. I told you to take off. I told you what would happen. But no. You wanted to be the big shot, eh buddy? Well, how's that working for you? He leaned forward, pretending to listen for a heartbeat.

"He's gone."
He got to his feet and let the shakiness of the adrenaline show- people would think it shock. He said little until he caught Ayden's eye, and winked at her.

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