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Take On Me
After they returned from St. Petersberg, Connor and Ayden got back to their "normal" lives. Ayden let her place go and moved in. She still was working at the restaurant, but she had already stopped going to school. Her schedule could be more normal and they could spend more time together. Connor set about tracking down where Michael Vellas lived. It didn't take long. Getting his number was a bit harder, but Connor had learned a few tricks over the years for ferreting out information he wanted.

Once he had the number, Connor....did nothing. The magnitude of what they were talking about was a bit overwhelming. Assuming the kid could find a place for her, he was worried about what that meant. Would she go back to what she'd been doing? Even for the military, he didn't like it. She hadn't become hard yet. But he had to believe that she would. If she became a mother what did that mean?

Then a thought occurred to him. Her abilities made her far more valuable than simply as a sniper. If they did take her, very likely she'd be doing something else. Something much more important. And much more dangerous. But if she just hid, ran, then the Atharim might get her still. They had clearly been doing what they had for a long time. And they were good at being sneaky, at tracking.

It had only been luck that the man in the park missed them. He shook his head angrily. Not lucky for that kid. Or his mom and dad. Anger churned in his heart. They had done this to them, had intruded into their lives, had made them a target. Connor and Ayden had asked for none of this.

He picked up his phone and dialed Vellas.
Michael's apparent 'time-off' was anything but relaxing. Of course the time off was merely pretence. He was working closely with the General via secured military link from home. Organization was coming along smoothly, but planning was useless without action, which they had yet to begin.

Michael took the otherwise suffocating pace of preparation with icy patience. The operation was far to important for impatience or rashness.

Nonetheless, it was still an irritation when his phone buzzed and took him away from his latest report to be submitted to the General. He hoped it wasn't another demand from some clerk for information they both knew he could not provide the clerk's persistent superior. It seemed that several departments within the military were determined to interfere. Not directly, of course. The Ascendancy's word was law. The plots were likely much more pedestrian, which made the whole affair that much more irritating.

"Hello, who is this?"

"Hi. Uhh, is this Michael Vellas?"


"We met a few days ago at a book shop. Afterwards we went to a restaurant. You know who I am right?"

His interest was sparked with the memory. So, Connor couldn't keep away? Dangerous, but he admired the man's determination.

"I found our discussion interesting. I have a...friend. she had some interesting thoughts on the subject. I...thought it would be nice if you could meet."

Interesting. He had mentioned something about a woman when they had talked. Had she been Atharim? Michael could not recall the specifics. His latest determination not to hide from the Atharim allowed him to accept the prospect without hesitation. He would be prepared of course, but he would not be going out of his way to hide either.

"Very well. I shall organize it."
He gave Connor a set of instructions to follow for safety, although he wasn't particularly careful. The Atharim already knew his location.

"Thanks...see you this afternoon"

If it was anything like their last encounter, it would be interesting indeed.
Connor and Ayden walked into the Cafe, the smells of coffee and cinnamon and baked goods filling the air. He breathed it in and it relaxed him. He didn't really drink coffee but he liked the aroma. The place wasn't crowed, as it was 2:30 and the afternoon lunch rush had already come and gone. The sounds of steamers and clinks of spoons and cups and the like made the few conversations going on indistinct. It would be private enough.

Ayden was wearing brown leather boots to the knee over black leggings, and a purple knit button up over a grey striped shirt that both covered her cute bottom. They went to a table in the corner and sat down. Ayden insisted that their backs be at the wall so they could see who was coming. Made sense to him. She was the one with all the experience. His heart fell. That was why they were here, after all, why the idea had occurred to him.

His middle churned. This was it. Life was about to change. Course, it had already changed. But still, this was a big step. He put his arm around her and pulled her to him. She had no idea how hard this was for him. What the hell was he thinking? "I hope this isn't a mistake."
He looked at her with a hesitant smile.
It was time to meet this mysterious man who could wield the same gift Ayden had. Ayden was both nervous and excited. She'd only met one other person like herself but Zoya had not actually known what she was, this man, clearly did. Ayden had done her own research on him. She didn't want to go in blind. He was former military and was once again among the ranks. The video left Ayden in awe of what the power was capable of. She knew what it was that she could do, she did bring down at least two buildings in fire and stone. But for some reason watching the destruction caused by someone else, but one man in a war time situation made Ayden anxious. He was a formidable foe, if they were ever to get on the wrong side of this man, Ayden wasn't sure she could protect either one of them.

The coffee shop was small, but it wasn't full of people. That was good. Ayden insisted they sit in the back with full view of the door. She hoped there was a back way out if there was a problem. The kitchen likely had one, which is why she'd sat where she had. It was strategic. What this man was made her paranoia set full throttle.

"I hope this isn't a mistake."

Ayden smiled and nodded. There really wasn't much they could do now except go through with it. Standing up a man like that would like draw his ire, and Ayden really didn't need some power crazed man after them. They were all on the same side, she hoped. If these Atharim folks were that dangerous, it was time to make friends with those of the same mind.
The cafe he had selected for the meeting was chosen for it's complete normality. It was neither the best, nor the worst. The busiest or the loneliest. In short, it was a place that had no value or connection to anything. There were others closer, better for escaping an ambush but if anyone were to try anything, unless they had seen the holo-stick he had sent to Connor, there was no reason to suspect the meeting place.

Michael watched from across the street as Connor arrived. His attention drifted from the man and fixed on the red-headed woman accompanying him. So, he had at least told the truth about that. Of course, any good ambush would at least appear to be genuine. His search via Wardings revealed no abnormal patterns of movement following the two, and he was inclined to trust this Connor. He was far too earnest to be an agent for the Atharim, and the grief at his son's loss rang true.

After scanning the area around the cafe one last time, Michael stuffed his hands into the pockets of the black coat he had been given at the Kremlin. Even with thick gloves the cold winter chilled his hands, made all the more noticeable with the power flowing through his body. Undeaneath the layers of clothing rested the vest he had ordered from the barracks which had arrived two days before.

Michael was glad for the wave of heat that washed over him upon entering the establishment. The proprietor was greeted with a nod. The pair were easy to spot, particularly with the the woman's flaming hair, that he made his way towards them with ease.

The two sat close together, positioned ideally for monitoring the cafe and its entrance. Both seemed tense, something he could pick up upon with his heightened senses. As well they should be. Jacques Danjou had made the most of his footage from Jeddah and despite the Custody's efforts at repression it was far too hard to eliminate. He had not been approached as of yet, but he had felt the weight of suspicious eyes, frightened, wary, on more than one occasion since his return and the incidents had been increasing now the Custody had officially commented on it.

He bore no grudge against Jacques for the footage. He was a gifted commander, and Michael understood his reasoning. He may well have done the same were their positions switched.

Whatever thoughts he had on the man and woman in front of him, they were masked by icy calm. He pushed such thoughts away entirely, seating himself opposite the pair. He would reserve his judgement for now.

"We meet again."
he didn't spare any time for pleasantries, but his tone was not abrasive. "What is it you want of me?"

Edited by Michael Vellas, Sep 8 2014, 11:45 PM.
The kid- he really should start thinking of him as Michael, but he was just so young. Still, young or now, he was a man with power and influence and was their best hope- calmly sat down opposite of them. There was no smile but neither was their hostility or unfriendliness. He knew that this had to be something for Connor to have contacted him.

Connor looked at Ayden and then at Michael. "Thank you for meeting us. I know that you are a busy man."
He nodded at Ayden. "This is my fiancee, Ayden. She..."
he trailed off. Now it began. "She can also use the power you can use. And because of that- or maybe because of me and that list I got- the Atharim have targeted us. We were in St. Petersberg a few days ago and one tried to shoot us in a park. He had the markings on his forearm. He killed at fourteen year old kid instead."
The memory of that weekend was bittersweet because of that.

He had to keep her safe, though. He wouldn't let the Atharim take her from him like they would have his son. "Ayden was in the army. Special ops training. She's very good."
Here is where it got difficult. He didn't exactly know what Michael was doing in the CCD military. He was a commander. And his abilities had to make him something special, a new kind of soldier or something. And if they saw potential in one, then very likely they saw potential in having more than one. He had to believe that they were already considering this.

Is this really what you want for Ayden, Connor? He shook the question away. She had to be safe. That's all that mattered. "So we were talking and...well..."
His voice trailed off. This was not his offer to make. She wasn't his to send off for her own good, no matter how he felt. She was a grown woman- was going to be his wife. He owed her the respect of this. It was her offer to make, her choice. She was her own woman and independently fierce. It was one of the things he loved about her. "Well, actually, I should just be quiet and let her speak."

He nodded to Ayden. And inside he cursed the Atharim for forcing themselves into their lives. For their judgment, for their arrogance, for their self-righteous hypocrisy. He cursed the man who started the Atharim.

Edited by Connor Kent, Sep 9 2014, 01:08 PM.
The first thing Ayden noticed about the man Connor was introducing her to was the way he dressed. Everything about him screamed help to her. Ayden never claimed to be a princess, but it was imperative that one look the part. If she'd not seen the power he wielded on the holo she'd think they were mistaken. His overcoat kept the cold at bay, but it lacked style. Other than the distinct lack of style he was handsome, young but there was an age about him that she couldn't quite put a finger on. Killing did that to you.

Ayden smiled at him. Connor had told him his name, but it really didn't matter. "I don't think my military skills are nearly as interesting as my others."
How to did you explain something that was far easier shown than explained. And then she remembered the night Connor had gotten shot. The night that her life got up ended and changed forever. It wasn't a great night, but everything that eventually came had been.

Ayden pulled out her wallet and flipped until she found the article she wanted. The headline was small and hardly noteworthy. Building Collapses in a rain of fire and rubble. Ayden handed her wallet to Michael. "The only proof I can provide of my capabilities. I brought the building down knowingly. It's not the first time either."
Ayden hadn't exactly told Connor that before. There were still many things that he didn't need to know. Things she hoped he'd never ask.
Michael listened to the two with what would seem like casual the interest of a man listening to a friend recount their nondescript day while he thought of the night's meal he would have to cook later. The effect was a useful one he found within the power. Naturally, he was not disposed to acting so he would usually screen his thoughts completely. This wasn't a time for that though.

His thoughts were not consumed by food, but his mind was ticking over, registering the situation as it unravelled. The couple - as it turned out - were extremely tense. Likely they were concerned for each other after the Atharim attack. Whatever it was, it was not his business. They didn't seek him for counselling.

He looked over the article, but truly it was of little use. It didn't matter though. It would be foolish to claim such powers if you didn't have them when it could cost you your life. The woman wasn't stupid enough to demonstrate her abilities out in the open, she seemed to understand the situation well. No matter, that could wait for later.

"Is the Hunter dead?"
he asked. That was the most important detail for the moment. He left a pause for the response.

"As for your abilities, they seem impressive."
It was strange, what the two were insinuating. Nobody - particularly not these people - should have any idea of what was to come. There was the possibility that the irritable self-styled rivals from other divisions were attempting to coax information from him. They had been quick to explain the woman's military experience.

"Perhaps I am missing something, but what do you expect me to do?"
he said, still bored, to all appearances. "I don't think I will be able to teach you anything. It seems there is a difference between our abilities."
The lack of reaction to his own presence was enough to confirm that. By all accounts, she should have known the moment he had entered the cafe what he was. "Did you want protection? I can't give you it."
True enough, in a certain light. "If anything, it is much more dangerous around me. It would be best to run and hide together. Try to find whatever peace you can."
Ayden wasn't sure what she thought of this man. He seemed bored, and really felt like they were wasting there time. But they were here now, it was something that she would follow through with, only if it meant Connor was sure this man could help them, help her.

"Is the Hunter dead?"
Of course he was dead, she was not a fool, wouldn't let someone live who had tried to kill her. Ayden nodded. "I assume of apparent heart attack."
Ayden hadn't bothered checking the news to see what had been decided, or if there was even questions in the case. It hardly mattered, they hadn't been contacted yet by any official queries. Ayden wasn't exactly sure how that would go down in the first place.

"Perhaps I am missing something, but what do you expect me to do?I don't think I will be able to teach you anything. It seems there is a difference between our abilities. Did you want protection? I can't give you it. If anything, it is much more dangerous around me. It would be best to run and hide together. Try to find whatever peace you can."

Ayden grinned. "I don't need you to teach me. I've taught myself fairly well. And clearly as you just stated you can't help others like me."
Ayden was skirting the definition of sexism, but it was clearly a case in this particular matter. "I don't want protection, but my talents could help you with teaching, and even finding women who fit whatever cause you are looking at handling within the CCD. I'm not going to run and hide from the Atharim. As much as I would hate to lose Connor, or put myself at such a risk for him to lose me, but it seems we have already crossed that line. I will, WE, will stand up for ourselves. If that means getting neck deep into whatever you are getting into with the information you now have, courtesy of my fiance, then I will help if you will let me."

The answer to his question was far from reassuring. His eyes narrowed slightly but his face was otherwise unchanged. Inside, irritation boiled across the void of control.

...whatever cause you are looking at handling within the CCD...? Just what did they think he was? A crusader?

First left with a list that would determine hundreds of lives before disappearing like it was a job well done. They seemed quite content to leave well enough alone before the Atharim moved against them. If the story was true, that was.

First the list, now an offer to teach. He did not recall staring a revolution, why were these two so sure of it? What 'military experience' did this woman have? For who? Suspicious indeed.

And if it was true? All the more reason for him to walk away now. He doubted either of them knew the magnitude of their offer.

But first the skies will grow black; darker than your darkest nightmares,
Nikolai had said.


The problem had been spoken in his own words. He doubted he could teach a woman. Tony had suggested things were different and this only served to highlight it. Perhaps they did need a woman to help them...

"You seem to be under the impression that I am some kind of revolutionary. I am not."
He could not trust them with this, not now. The only think keeping him from dismissing them completely was necessary caution. "I am a strategist, another piece of the Custody's war machine, nothing more."
All true, for the moment. Very few even in the military knew anything more than the rumours of Jeddah. He wasn't about to tell these strangers that the ruler of half the world could do the same thing, nor what he had planned. "However, it is encouraging to know that you have not lost hope. I cannot give you what you want, but I will remember."

If circumstances forced him to recall the memory, he doubted either one of them would thank him for it.

Edited by Michael Vellas, Sep 10 2014, 11:52 AM.

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