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Dreams of Fire
She couldn’t remember how she’d ended up on the metro, but she’d been on the same train for more than an hour following the same endless circuit, waiting for the shadow of trepidation to retreat. Her feet were drawn up on the faded seat, her fingers picking at the fabric of her canvas shoes. Rust red stained the beds of her nails, and licked like orange flames on her hands and up her forearms. The paint splattered her jeans, and scarlet inked the side of her head, soaked into the hair at her temple like a head wound. The powdery scent of acrylic belied any injury, though her eyes held the fragile, glassy look of shock. The faint, streamline hum of the engines masked the tremble in her limbs, and she could almost imagine the icy shivers of fear were nothing but whispers of the cold evening freezing aboveground. She’d forgotten her coat. Her arms were bare, goosefleshed with chill.

The weight of disquiet, though; the nauseous, uneasy prickle of foreboding; that had no explanation, and had driven her from the solitude of her studio without a destination, just so long as it was away away away. The tattered remains of the painting already misted in her mind, just the mess of blood and fire like the heavens writhed, and that perfect moment of crystal clarity already forgotten. Sick of looking at her ghostly window-reflection as the train rattled on in darkness, she closed her eyes, pressed her forehead to her knees. The cab was mostly empty, and those that came and went at each stop so far had paid her little mind. Moscow was not short of eccentrics.
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Projects, projects, projects were all that were on Katya's mind. She had her current work project, white hat security on a local financial institution that was implementing new security measures for the latest and greatest of the hackers out there, so far all looked well. But given enough time Katya would find a way in, she almost always did.

Aria's project was something of a time killer. It was really more work than Katya liked. The goggles she had been given were pretty standard, except for the code underneath - all was military grade and she was having a hard time getting at the base code to see how it ticked.

And there was Katya's ever eventful attempts at hacking the WHO. It was one of the greatest systems outside of the Kremlin's and that too was on her one day she'll hit list. So far Katya had only hints at what lay underneath those protective walls. But she was getting close.

Katya didn't have to go into the office to do most of her work, so she sat at home. But when Nathaniel called her to come in, she had no choice. With laptop in hand and the rest of the work in a bag Katya boarded the train.

The car was nearly empty, the seating choice was optimal but there was something about the woman that made Katya sit across from her. She looked disheveled and Katya couldn't tell if that was blood or something else in her hair. The seats in the train were uncomfortable, but it would do for now. She pooped open her laptop and the vibration of the fans whirling alive were a reminder of the warmth she had just left in her apartment. At least the train was not as cold as it was outside, things could be worse.

Katya started the typical boot up sequence, it would be at least a 45 minute ride before she had to get off, might as well work. Katya reached above her laptop with both hands and cracked her knuckles before getting started. It was awkward typing like this, but it would do.

Moments flew by and the monotonous noise of the train drew Kayta into the computer, the 1's and the 0's flew by and she felt one with her keyboard. It was empowering. It was rare and fleeting, but it was an awesome feeling when the zone hit like it did.

Katya looked up and was reminded of why she'd chosen the seat. The woman sat with her head to her knees now and she looked even more withdrawn that she had when Katya had first entered the train. She dropped the lid of her laptop closed and leaned closer to the woman. "You okay?"

Edited by Katya, Feb 5 2014, 01:30 PM.
She didn’t look up at first, under the presumption that the murmur of words was not aimed at her. People did not generally approach weirdos on the metro, which was of course a good survivalist strategy to practise against the flavourful company of public transport. For all the baseless trepidation pressing down on her mind like storm clouds, Thalia at least recognised her own oddity, curled up in her seat, alone, and gruesomely paint splattered. She didn’t expect the kindness of sympathy, even out of the dutiful obligation people sometimes felt for something so wretched sat right under their noses.

Eventually, it was the sensed proximity of someone leaned in close that roused her, and then the muddled words rang clear and she peered up to see a kid with a computer on her lap. A soft blink brought her face into focus. Thal rested her chin on her knee, still fiddling numbly with the laces on her shoes. It took a second to orientate, delayed by the strangest feeling of kinship. Like a little hum of light. Christ, I’m going crazy.

“Yeah.” Once the first word was out, it was like consciousness drifted back into her body. The chill of foreboding didn’t disappear, but it was no longer quite so crushing. “Yeah. Thanks.” She straightened a little, but ended up slumped back in seat rather than leaning on her knees. She glanced at her stained hands. “Rough day.” Night? What time was it? She rubbed her face, realised for the first time she was tired. Eager for the distraction, oblivious to whether she imposed on the kindness of a stranger, she managed to pluck out a friendly smile. “I’m Thalia, by the way. I paint. I guess that's obvious. But in case you were wondering.”

Edited by Thalia, Feb 5 2014, 06:02 PM.
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
It wasn't so obvious, the painting that is. Katya wondered what could prompt such a massive explosion of color and why you would get looking like that. Sure Katya could get out of bed and come straight into work wearing lounging clothes and the like, but never ...

It wasn't her place to judge. She smiled at Thaila. "I'm Katya. On my way to work."
She patted the laptop. "Not that I need to go anywhere."

The train rattled and bumped and the lights flickered quickly before staying on again. There was no telling as to whether or not the lights would go out for any period of time. Sometimes through the bad neighborhoods they'd be out the whole time. Her parents worried about her, but Katya knew how to take care of herself.

Katya was young and naive and half the time she didn't know when to keep her mouth shut and when not to. "That had to be a flurry of painting to rush out disheveled."
Katya grinned playfully, "Run out of paint?"
Katya continued to ramble on. "I never was very good with the artsy things."
Sometimes Katya thought to herself, she should just stay quiet.

Edited by Katya, Feb 8 2014, 02:16 PM.
Katya. A good solid Russian sounding name. Not that Thalia was a Moscovite herself, but she appreciated the authentic ring of such a pretty name, and she was already feeling predisposed towards liking the girl next to her. Her lips quirked up into the shadow of a friendly smile, a little of the suffocating anxiety retreating, a little of the tension easing out her limbs. She associated it naturally with the strange presence of affinity she felt around Katya, but it was also a fact she was good at burying memories, patting the fresh grave flat and starting anew. Something terrible is going to happen. She knew it, and she also knew - in some deep place she was very adept at ignoring - that her fear was not unfounded. But what could she do? Nothing. Accept carry on.

"Nice to meet you, Kat." She didn't think twice about shortening the name, nor asked permission; it was both unconscious and amiably meant. The train jolted and the lights flickered like mad, but despite that Thalia had been jammed up tight in her seat as though through fear, she gave barely a reaction. It was ordinary after all, and whatever nameless thing that had frightened her had not made her jumpy.

She laughed at Katya's assessment, and felt better for the levity. It didn't seem to bother her an iota that she was so dishevelled and... red. "Not really," she admitted. "Just needed to get out for a bit I guess." Although she'd probably run out of red paint now. Of course, the mess itself had come from destruction, not creation. At the moment of birth, when fleeting comprehension had finally dawned, and she'd realised what she'd painted... she let the memory dip below the waterline, dulling the bubble of emotion, and shoved a hand in a pocket, lifting her hips a little to search. The business card was a little worse for wear - it'd probably been in there a while, and by the look of it might have suffered a cycle in a washing machine. But it was readable.

A smudge of red obscured part of her name. For a moment her gaze caught on the blazing red thumbprint, like an echo of the oppression that had sent her running from her studio. The moment was brief, and she handed it over with a grin. A name, a number, a website - the latter of which she tapped. Not that she presumed Katya was interested in the wares of an eccentric on the metro, but the innate sense of kinship she felt prompted the offering of friendship.

By now, soothed by the distraction from her own troubles, she lit upon something Katya had said with curiosity. On my way to work, not that I need to go anywhere? Yet Kat was on the metro, laptop in hand, on the way to somewhere she didn't need to be. "What do you do?" A nod of the head indicated the computer, curious but not pushy.

((Grovelling apologies for the tardiness!))
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
Two girls, gentle as butterflies, young. The first was drenched in color from what caked her temple to what streaked up and down her spindly arms. Her slender legs. Her long neck.

The second was awkward and squat. Neither were overly pretty in the traditional sense. A woman who took his breath away was always one arranged for an extremely particular circumstance.

He was the only other one to share the train car. The ebb and flow of movement reminded him of swaying in the saddle. How long since a generous horseback ride carried him far and away over rolling green hills?

He stretched his legs momentarily, only enough to uncross and recross the other direction. The girls continued their chatting, and he was not shy about eavesdropping. The first butterfly mentioned paint, and Dane's imagination bloomed vibrant and colorful - her soft, fleshy hands dipping, smearing, rubbing against cool canvas. Her hair tumbling down her back, its ends licked by paint.

He placed a hand in the pocket of his tweed coat, and fingered what was found within. Soft. Silky strands. Hair black as night.

Like Aria's.

His blood warmed below the waist, seduced by silken strands and the satiating need for intimacy of the most powerful sort unquenched by the one whose hair he caressed. He balled them up in his fist, contemplating, and continued to watch the butterflies flit about, oblivious to the presence of an admirer.

Edited by Dane Gregory, Mar 18 2014, 02:54 PM.
What did she do? Katya smiled at Thalia. It didn't bother her that her name was shortened, it was always a good sign that the person in question was trying to be friendly. Her parents on the other hand would probably have been outraged by the fact that she even went by Katya alone. It was hard breaking born and breed russians from always using the name nomenclature they grew up with. But times were changing and it wasn't always the way you wanted.

The car they rode in had emptied save for the two of them and a man sitting a short distance from them. Katya glanced at him and smiled and then returned back to Thalia.

How does one explain what she does. Her computer at home was trying to decrypt files she'd illegally downloaded from the mysterious Baccarrat Mansion. She idly wondered what Voxel had found. So what did she do?

"I'm a security expert."
From the look on Thalia's face more explanation was needed. "I basically try to breach a companies cyber computer security measures and give them a report on what worked, what didn't and how crappy their system was."
. She was a hacker, and that was all it was, but that description paid the bills.

"The most creative I've gotten is writing my own programs. But they aren't pretty, they are functional."
Tho she had been told her code was elegant, but that wasn't the same thing as artwork.

The lights flickered again as the train rattled down the tracks. Katya took a glance at the man riding in the same car again. He didn't look too harmless, but Katya reached in her pocket anyway and made sure her handy can of mace was at the ready. You never knew when someone was going to be creepy or not.

"So what were you paining in such a flurry of color? If you don't mind me asking."

Edited by Katya, Mar 19 2014, 06:43 AM.
Life had been moving fast for Jon, almost too fast as of late. It was good to attempt something as mundane and routine as take the train to the airport. His bags were already en route by courier, all he had to do was catch the right metro rail and get off at the right stop. Should be simple enough.

As Jon waited on the platform, he shivered and pulled his brown overcoat tighter around him. It was as if he'd forgotten what warmth was in enduring this Russian winter. He was dressed sensibly if not overly bundled, as he'd soon be sweating once inside, but there was little that could compete with a chilly gust of wind. Especially now, in the late afternoon, as the sun dipped below the thick gray clouds, setting them alight in a dance of reds and oranges, dreams of fire and promises of warmth that played out around him, mocking him.

His Wallet buzzed. Jon gave it a glance and ignored the call. Probably some organization wanting to hire him. In the weeks since the Custody Court had ruled in Jon's favor on Minutemen v. Custody it seemed everyone needed a piece of him. Caroline could handle that. There had been simply too much to do -- first Nick Trano, then Jensen James giving him premonitions of the biblical Apocalypse, and now the worsening relations in Dominance V. Throw in Jon's victory against the goliath that was the CCD and it seemed his spirit was woven into so many tapestries he feared he would lose focus and be unable to do something as simple as catch the train. He still hadn't found suitable apartments, instead living in hotel suites and working out of his Wallet. Great Spirit, he would have to start moving if he was going to get anything accomplished! Nick Trano had been on his own for too long and Jon feared for his safety. It was time to get the man back under his watch as soon as possible. Plus, Mecca wasn't freezing cold this time of year.

The train pulled to a halt at the platform and a bell rang, warning people to stand clear of the doors. Jon glanced at the board -- this was the one. He picked a car at random and stepped inside, conducting cursory, almost subconscious inventory of his new surroundings. He'd picked a car that was mostly empty. At the far end two young ladies spoke to one another. Was that paint on her hands? Jon couldn't get a good look at her face because another passenger had moved across his line of sight.

A few other passengers mingled among themselves. Then there was another man who sat by himself. The way he carried himself made him seem older than he probably was -- young to mid thirties? Well dressed and he sat with impeccable posture, aside from perhaps a hand stuck in a coat pocket. What disturbed Jon was that he seemed focused on something. A quick glance at the far side of the cab -- he was watching those two girls. A chill ran down his spine.

Other seats were starting to fill up. The alarm sounded the doors closing. Jon needed to find a seat. He saw the entire bench around the strange man was vacant, like there was some unspoken extension of his personal space that kept others away. It was quickly becoming the only place to sit.

He walked over and nodded to the man. "Good afternoon, may I sit with you?"
he spoke in introduction, nodding to the left side of the long bench. "I'm Jon."
Security Expert. She considered that curiously, and probably would not have pressed for an answer if Kat hadn't quite freely offered an explanation. Thalia grinned, and it caught a glitter in her eyes. She certainly understood the subtext there, and wondered what kind of recruitment process was entailed in such a job. Or, more specifically, what kind of trouble Kat had gotten into to come to the attention of someone who could make use of her talents.

She shrugged away the girl's self-deprecation. "Pretty is subjective." Art was not a vocation she had consciously honed, and it was not a talent she felt like she'd earned. It was a compunction she'd never had much choice in or control over since childhood, but that wasn't a motivation she ever shared. Wiser not too. It would either be considered the conceit of someone enamoured of their own mystique or a complete crock of bullshit. Or a bit of crazy, which in actual fact it probably was.

Crazy. She wasn't over fond of that word.

Anyway, she mostly enjoyed scribbling down sketches, capturing essences and glimpses of truth filtered through her own perception, so the fact the need to paint was intrinsic not chosen mattered little. That she was apparently good enough at it to pay the bills was a bonus.; there was just no vanity for what she did, no artistic ego, so she dismissed the idea that it was something special. Katya's brand of creativity was perfectly valid, and beautiful in its own way. "And functional has its uses," she mused.

The carriage began to fill up, but Thalia paid it little attention. Neither, for that matter, had she noticed the man quite openly listening to their conversation. She'd spent years in old Arbatskaya selling portraits to tourists, and had long since acclimatised to the itch of watching eyes. No self-consciousness filtered her words or actions, and no concern touched her demeanour. If she thought anything of Kat reaching to clasp something in her pocket, the same anxiety did not spread to Thalia.

"Ah." And how to say the image had already blurred, that she was half way to forgetting but for the faint wisps of emotion that had accompanied the finished product? Fire burned. Death lingered like ashes. Change was coming, and on dark wings. The despair drained out her heart, but by now that chill sense was kind of like watching a movie. You felt the empathy, but it didn't actually touch you. She flopped her legs down to sit cross-legged on the seat, and sought inspiration from the ceiling. It didn't occur to her to lie.

"It wasn't exactly intended to be a flurry of colour. More, uh, frustrated artist loses her cool?" That was probably diplomatic enough, and now that she was removed from the situation it struck her as funny. She bit back her amusement for half a second, and then it spilled over the brim. She laughed, and it was quite clear she was laughing at herself. She glanced at Kat. "Crap, I'm going to have a lot of cleaning up to do when I get back. Hey , do you know what stop we just passed?" She felt the sudden need for orientation, now that she'd snapped from her mood. "I could murder a cup of tea."
"Rivers are veins of the earth through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
[Image: thal-banner-scaled.jpg]
 | Sothis Lethe Alethea | Miraseia |
The addition of passengers slowly drowned out the conversation between the two girls, first until Dane could hardly hear them at all, and by the time his thoughts were interrupted, they might as well have been in another car.

A man was to blame. He was relatively clean cut, if somewhat disheveled in demeanor. Dane knew immediately that this man was his inferior. The clothing was middle brand, his hair cut was functional rather than stylish, and although articulate, his accent was undoubtedly American. Dane would allow him to sit.

"I'm sorry, of course."
The apology was meaningless to Dane whose upbringing implied self-deprecation whenever possible. According to polite society, if there were not enough room on a bench to sit, it was his fault for taking up the space.

Moving bodies wove their way in and out of his view of the butterflies, but by the time the train was moving again, the greenhouse was unobstructed once more.

"I'm Jon."
The man interrupted Dane's thoughts again.

Dane looked over. Although unsure why the man introduced himself, Dane knew it was only expected to reciprocate. "Good afternoon, Jon. My name is Dane Gregory."
His accent was posh and sophisticated, musical in its form. Jon was a dreadfully boring and normal name. Dane actually wasn't minding the man's presence. It only made him feel better about himself.

And he had marvelously black hair. Much as the strands in his pocket.

Silence was never a problem for Dane. His own imagination kept him plenty occupied, but he should say something else.

"Where are you traveling?"

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