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Unwanted Visitors
The renovations were nearly complete, finally, and he felt no shortage of annoyance that they had taken as long as they had. In the empty lot next to his place, in an old busted up refrigerator open to the air, a few locals had gathered to load up on bits of scrap wood, the leftovers from the last bits of major work he had had to do. The scraps would be used by the less fortunate families in the area in their wood stoves to cook food, or in burn barrels to stave off the night air's chill. Either way, it'd be put to better use then if he just tossed it out with the trash.

Strapped to a heavy duty hook in the ceiling and floor was a particularly heavy punching bag, one of the few pieces of 'furniture' to adorn what was probably supposed to serve as the living room in a normal person's home. A single metal table with four uncomfortable looking metal chairs. A weight bench with a stack of weights and bars to put a proper gym to shame. Tension bars, dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands. The drywall was up and painted, the insulation and wiring all done. The floor was simple non-porous stone tile, the sort that blood was easily cleaned off of with no residue for forensics to find later. Even the spare bedroom was done; four simple military-surplus cots sat neatly stacked in the corner, sleeping bags tucked into durable storage bins.

In the yard he had erected chin up bars, and the walls of the seacans were neatly painted in a thick, uniform coat of rust-resistant paint. The roof had been improved as well, a shallow peaked frame to prevent rain from pooling on top, and to make for easy snow removal in the winter. It almost looked like a real home from the outside.

His three uninvited guests were curled up under the porch out of the wind, although one was awake at all times, watching the street. They weren't pets, after all, and survival meant being wary.

Sweat dripped from his brow as Hood finally spent some quality time with the weight bench. The bar sported plates totaling to 300lbs, and was raised and lowered in slow, determined movements that were cut short at the one bark that was sounded from under the deck. The dogs had spotted someone. And since it had been just one bark, he could safely assume it was someone they recognized.

He sighed quietly and set the bar back on the rack, then sat up. A bottle of water was plucked from the floor and a long sip was taken. The sound of footsteps on the deck. He frowned at the door, then stood, picking up a sawed off pump shotgun from where it leaned against the wall nearby. A practiced brush of his thumb to make sure the safety was off, and he crossed to the door.

A flatscreen TV mounted to the wall served as a monitor for his security cameras. He didn't have satellite television, or even peasant cable. Just the security cameras. Satisfied with what he saw, he opened the door a moment after the visitors knocked, and tapped the sawed off against his thigh, eyeing Seth and Rune.

He wore a simple grey sleeveless shirt and black cargo pants. He even had boots on; being ready to leave at a moments notice was apparently important to him. He was silent for a long moment, staring at Seth as if sizing the man up, then nodded slightly and stepped back, glancing at the street outside. "Should call ahead next time. Would have picked up some of that hipster shit piss-water you like so much."

"Four cots in the spare room, pick one. Shelf in the fridge is yours. Market back the way you came, nothing open at this hour though. Rules are simple. One. Safe house. I keep it safe. Two. My safe house. I keep it safe. Three. You clean up your mess while living in my house. I clean up my own. Four. Get your own beer. I can make an exception for the night."
More or less the same thing he had told Rune the last time she had visited.
The van pulled up and Rune hopped out from one of the back doors. The bitter cold hit her face, but didn't so much as waffle her perfectly styled head of awesome hair. She hiked her bag up on one shoulder, her leather coat stretching and creaking as she did. The tin can looked the same as ever, and she peeked under the steps to check--- Yup. The dogs were piled under there and out of the snow. One barked a hello at her. Or maybe a hollared signal to Hood.

Yup. He opened the door about the time she and Uncle Seth were lumbering up to the steps. She looked him up and down. He looked like he'd been skinny dipping in buckets of sweat. Was he as old as Uncle Seth? Rune's heavily penciled eyes narrowed to two black slits. Maybe. But even uncle Seth wasn't as muscled as Hood. Rune was even kind enough to stomp the snow off her boots before following him in, but she kicked a nod at his retreating back. "Its good tah see ya too, Hood."
She checked to make sure he wasn't looking, then rolled her eyes.

He went through the same usual speech again. But Rune didn't pay attention. "We ain't here to live with you, Hood. Though you finally got the place looking a bit better. We're here cause the Atharim needs your help."
To actually kill something this time.

She looked to Seth.

Edited by Rune Marx, Feb 9 2014, 02:56 PM.
After everything Runey said about Hood, meeting him was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn't that he looked weak, or stupid, or anything like that. But his niece built Hood up like some kind of demon. All Seth saw was a kid with issues. Nicely covered up issues, maybe, but painting over rust doesn't make it disappear. It was obvious that kid'd seen some bad things in his time. Shit, he's past thirty and I'm calling him a kid.
There was something dangerous about him, though. Seth wasn't scared of him, but he had the feeling a fight wouldn't end well for either one of them.

The tour of the tin can was informational, if not very welcoming, and when it was over Rune was quick in getting them straight to business.

"Remember a kid named Jaxen Marveet?"
He probably butchered the pronunciation, but then again butchering foreign names was kind of his thing. "Reggie thinks he's a God."
Seth let that sink in for a second before realizing there was every possibility Hood had no idea what the hell that meant. "Think Jann or Bannik in a human shell. Reggie wants us to hunt him down and put him down, and you're gonna help. But before I do that I need some proof."
Hood had spent more than enough time following the prospective God. If anyone had proof, it was him.

"I ain't in the business of killing brats, and all I got from Reggie was a whole lotta nothin'. Is this kid anything less than human?"
Hood wasn't versed on Atharim lore. He hadn't been raised with it, and as such didn't see the world with the same tinted glasses as the Atharim. He'd picked up a bit about the reborn Gods while working in DV, but had never been involved in a hunt for one. Bannik he knew thanks to that run with Rune and Aria some weeks back, but Jann he knew all too well. He shook his head in dismissal at the comparison; Jaxen was an annoying shit, but he wasn't a monster in a man-suit.

The safety was clicked back on and the sawed-off set atop the weight bench, grabbed a cup from near the weight bench and took a long drink of water, then clicked it shut and set it aside again, busying himself with pulling the weights off the bar and returning them to their hooks. "Not staying this time eh? So I don't need to worry about you trying to stab me again?"
He glanced at Rune for a moment, then shook his head and moved to the door to the vault, waving for them to follow.

"I know the kid. He's as shallow as they come, but he's no monster. Can't say if he's one of these 'gods,' but he's not dangerous. Likes to steal things. Not for the value, but for the risk. Broke into the Baccarat. Well, he had an invitation to the party, not to the elevator."
He led them down into the underground sea-can turned hidden weapons locker, flicked on the light switch, then went to a locked filing cabinet.

He seemed to fiddle with the key and a dental pick which he fished into the gap between drawer and cabinet, then opened it to reveal paper files and an incendiary device. Should someone force it open, or even just have the key, the booby-trap would destroy the contents of the cabinet.

From within he pulled a file with Jaxen's name printed on the tab and dropped it on the counter before moving over so they could look at it. The file contained photos and even a thermal image of Jaxen, gleaned from the Baccarat's security systems, and from the time Hood had spent getting the Atharim surveillance team ready. There was an array of articles from newspapers, and even dozens of photos purchased on the cheap from paparazzi. The kid was rich, but not so famous as to make the photos worth much to anyone.

There was even pattern of life notes, although few had been followed through on. The man's clothes were expensive and designer, and could only be found at a few stores. The most recent additions to the file were from a high-class party, linking Jaxen to a woman named Oriena Rusayev, although that hadn't been followed up on as closely as he might have liked either. He'd been busy, and Jaxen hadn't been a 'person of interest' for him since after wiping his hands clean of the surveillance team.

"Reggie. That's this Regus fellow, yes? Get the feeling there aren't many of you lot who would call him that."
So this guy was maybe not so fucking breast-fed indoctrinated as most Atharim. Explained Rune a bit; the girl was block headed and stubborn, but he was pretty sure she could think outside the box if she needed to.
Rune was more interested in the weight bench than the shotgun laying atop it. Uncle Seth and her never really stayed in one place long enough to join a gym, but Rune liked the pop in them when they could spare time. The twenty four hour places were her preference, and showing up about 2:30 in the morning was the best. They were almost always empty, and she was usually wide awake. The problem was missing out on prime hunting hours. For some cliche reason, monsters skulked about more openly at night. And there was nothing like hard iron to reward herself on a fresh kill.

Mention of the stabbing made her pat her side and colored her expression as bright as her hair. "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."
When he turned his back, Rune shot her uncle a wink, then followed him downstairs, totally familiar with the hatch door and ladder.

The can's underbelly was much the same. There were the lockers and the bench just like normal. She eyed the exit door with a suspicious look, but planted a hand on her hip and waited while Seth dropped down to join them. She could totally handle Hood's chest-pounding on her own, but it would make things easier to have backup. The big ape. Big, old, muscley ape. And hairy. She'd know and she was glad he had on a shirt this time.

She took the file's he'd been collected and flipped through them with a more critical eye than probably suspected. So Jaxen wasn't an obvious monster, but Hood, for once, didn't know everything. "Did you know he melted a steel bolt with his mind?" That don't sound like a harmless dude to me."

She looked to Seth like he had video of it from Baccarat's exterior cameras. If you flip on the infrared setting, you clearly see the guy's outline and this massive sunburst of red in an otherwise cold gate just seconds before it fell to the ground.

Ole' Reggie, like Uncle Seth called him, downturned Rune's lips with disapproval. Her initiation was hotter in her mind than Seth's - and Seth had never actually gone abroad for his - so she wasn't quite so flippant with the name calling of their leader... at least not in front of someone that wasn't Uncle Seth. Regus was a scary dude, and Rune had no doubt that if he ever wanted to finish her off, she'd have a very hard time escaping. Then again, she also trusted the guy because he was the essence of the Atharim itself, and besides Seth, they were the only family she had. So she kind of didn't have a choice. It was kind of like having a grandpa. A grandpa that was also a genius, cold-blooded, ruthless, monster-hunting ninja that dressed like a priest.
Hood leaned against one of the counters and watched Rune for as she explained just how dangerous Jaxen apparently was. The evidence was certainly hard to explain; Hood knew of all sorts of ways the melting of the lock could have been accomplished by way of technology. Hell, he'd had toys in the past that could do that very thing. Lasers, mostly.

So apparently Jaxen could do that sort of thing with his mind. Whether at will or when under duress was yet to be seen, but if it were at will, what else could he do? And was it that he COULD do such things that made him a monster, or was it that he could and didn't that made him a human? Jaxen had become slightly more interesting now.

"Best be careful how you label something a monster. Those Rougarou things. Monsters. No doubt about it. Jinn? Monsters. Jaxen? A douche. An ass. A thief. I've seen puddles deeper and more interesting then this idiot. But a monster? Fuck, kid. I can say without a hint of guilt I have done things far worse then anything that rich shit can think of in his worst nightmares."
Assassination, kidnapping, torture. He'd toppled governments, caused wars, incited riots and revolutions, slaughtered royal or presidential families.

Of course, there were a few things even he wouldn't do. Rape, for instance. Off the table. He didn't kill for the fun of it, didn't steal or burn or loot or pillage. But if there was a task to be done, he could do terrible, terrible things and sleep well at night. The ends justified the means.

So Rune didn't seem too comfortable with the idea of bad-talking this Regus fellow. Which was interesting, considering how damn outspoken she could be about such things. So maybe this Regus fellow was dangerous, or maybe she was just properly indoctrinated to the Atharim cause. "End of the day, kid you don't need to convince me. Your friends haven't led me astray yet with finding interesting things to kill, and haven't crossed any I've thought twice about yet. It's your friend here who needs the convincing, and I ain't the one that's going to do it. Not many that'll miss Jaxen, but not sure any lives'll be saved doing it."
So apparently Hood had himself a high horse and he liked to climb on in the saddle and prance around suddenly like he were the hero?? Rune's eyes grew wide as saucers. What was he thinking?? Rune exchanged a look with Uncle Seth that was all practically throwing her hands in the air and ready to give up. But Rune never gave up on nothing. She'd throw herself out a window before being stuck in a burning building. She'd swim across the sea if the last boat sank just to see her mission accomplished. And she was ready to stand up to Hood again if she had to. Even if it meant her skull bashed in.

Thankfully, the spike of hot blood settled to a simmer. He was going to help. And it was all the good for it too. Not just because she didn't like the idea of Uncle Seth having to tell Regus that Hood was DOA. But because she would have been kinda disappointed in not getting to work with him again. He wasn't as good as Uncle Seth, totally. But he did have some different ways of going about doing things that Rune could pick up ... as handy little tricks of course. Wasn't nobody as good as Uncle Seth.

But there was one teensie little detail that Rune couldn't shake. She really tried. Honest to God. She tried to forget. But she'd gotten so MAD. "Monsters and roogs and Jinn..."
ahmawgawd he'd killed Jinn before?!? That was so COOL! Focus. " got no problem icing. But you'dah killed me before lettin' me rid the planet of one filthy Rougarou."
Eyes flashing behind all the glitter, she crossed her arms, lips pressed together in a glossy little ring. She was still bitter about the way that went down. If he'd at least admit to understanding! The stubborn ass!

"I just wanna make sure I ain't gonna end up on the other end of your sightline again. 'Specially when there's a god involved."
He stared at Rune blankly for a long moment. She seemed to remember things differently then he did. Not terribly surprising, considering she was a woman. All women had very selective memories.

"Calm your shit, kid. Last I recall, was you and your friend Aria that were swinging guns around down there. Don't doubt I'd have snapped your fucking neck if you had decided to go through with what you were planning, but wouldn't have been what I wanted. You had your orders. Take one alive."

He folded thick arms over his chest and frowned down at her, "You don't wrap that pretty little head of yours around the idea of working with other people, and my promise stands. Next time you get yourself in shit, I won't be risking the mission to save you. You think you're worthless? Fuck, keep up the pig-headed attitude and I'll start thinking the same damn thing. You've got a fucking brain, start using it."

"Now stop trying to pick a damn fight with me, and compare notes with your friend here. You two decide to grease Jaxen, I'll help, but I ain't sold on him being some damn monster."
Seth decided to fade into the background while the two kids let their feelings out. He was a little disappointed at Rune's respect for authority but, ah well, she'd learn eventually. Probably had something to do with her having such a sterling example to follow her whole life. Not that Seth was trying to toot his own horn or anything. People still say that, right?

She did have a good point about the guy who was supposedly a god. Metal bolts don't just melt on their own, and any kind of tool he could've used would've been a damn sight big enough to show up on surveillance.

Then Hood just had to go and threaten to kill her. Typical. Seth grinned. "You know, son, some day you're going to hate that rock you're trying to become."
He crossed his arms and leaned against the wall of the tiny room. "I hope for your sake it ain't too late to change it."

Seth could see a bit of himself in Hood. If he hadn't had Rune, he didn't know what kind of monster he'd have turned into. Probably no better than most of the things he killed. The kid--because really, Hood wasn't no more than a child in a lot of ways--was maybe half a step above a mercenary, and that half-step was only because of skill. He didn't have anybody to fight for, anything to believe in. He fought and killed because that was all he knew how to do. One day he was going to wake up and realize what a waste he was. But it wasn't like he'd listen to anyone older and wiser about that kinda shit.

"But you were right about one thing. Instead of threatening my niece, let's play nice until we kill the guy who knows how to melt bolts with his mind."
He turned his head towards Rune, giving her that I-know-you-did-something-too look. "Something tells me the real story is somewhere in between, Runey. So please, please don't do something and force me to kill this kid."

Rune taken care of, he turned back to Hood. "By the way, it ain't just us three. I got saddled with some kids from the HQ. Think you mighta had them helping you track the guy a few weeks ago."

Edited by Seth Marx, Mar 8 2014, 03:47 AM.
"I had my orders?! I had my orders?"
Rune was blazing pissed off now. "This ain't the army! Sometimes orders outta be reworked when in the heat of it all."
Clearly Rune disagreed with the notion of taking a monster that chained innocent people up and sliced their muscles off like it were for a cheese platter and all while they were still alive to live through it! alive. And for what?

Lasering holes through Hood with her own accusatory gaze, Rune had to admit that Hood didn't give the order. Tehya did. Whoever Tehya was. Yeah yeah she was some big wig trusted Atharim, but as Rune's mother learned, even Atharim were vulnerable to being turned into something they weren't. She should really meet this Tehya sometime.

And he was right to point out the fact that Aria hadn't helped. But Aria only copied Hood. If Hood had been on Rune's side, she had a feeling Aria wouldn't have gotten all up in arms either. That chick was messed up. And Rune had to think that for furia she must not have had good people raise her. Poor thing..

So all the empathy chilled Rune out enough that by the time Uncle Seth finally piped up (Rune frowned at him like oh yeah, thanks for showing up and taking my side,).

Grumbles rolled through the back of her throat, and she gave over with a tossing of her hands. "Fine fine. I give up."
She sank back against the wall, feet crossed at the ankle and arms folded over her chest. She only cared about making the world right again. So sue her. She still didnt understand why Hood wasn't fully a part of the Atharim. If he knew what they knew, he'd be so much easier to work with.

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