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It had been so long since Tony had been outside in a crowd it nearly overwhelmed him. The stranglehold he had on the power was the only thing that stopped him from scurrying back between the cracks the lost and forsaken people of Moscow fell through, never to be seen again - alive at least.

The dark avenues and eyeless corners had been his home for so long that the 'normal' life made his back itch as slinking through the dangerous underground world would an honest citizen. There, life had been simple. He had power, and power was life. In the open - at least on the surface - the law and morality ruled the day and no amount of power could save him from the CCD hunting dogs.

Despite all of this, he felt alive. The events of the past few days had woken something in him that he had thought lost forever. A desire to achieve, to strive, to survive. A fragment of his old life amongst the elite of Moscow. Of course, he could never return to the spotlight, but there was something he could do. Jaxen had reminded him of that.

So he walked along the streets of Moscow, drinking in the bustling life of street side shopping. The massive coat he wore was a bit too small around the waist - he had to borrow it from Michael since he had no decent clothing to wear out.

With a faint smile that had not faded since he had awoken, Tony spotted the National Bank of Moscow's dreadfully dour eastern branch. Two armed security guards eyed him as he strode through the reinforced sliding glass doors.

The interior of the bank was nondescript. Professional and austere reflecting the pompous self-importance he had seen so often in the high echelons of CCD society. He smiled at the tidy middle aged woman behind the bars of the help desk. She frowned at him, taking in his somewhat less-than-perfect appearance.

"Good morning, a pleasant day,
" he said with some of his old flare re-ignited. She didn't smile - that was disappointing. His skills had grown rusty over the years, and he wasn't the charming rich kid he had been.

Oh well.

"I would like to make a withdrawal,"
he dropped the smile and got down to business. Was it the world that had darkened with him, or was he jaded from years of despair?

The woman pursed her thin lips, the lines of her frown pronounced with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Tony had tried with his own hair this morning - it was thick and long, he hadn't had it cut in years - but it felt like someone was pulling it out of his skull. Perhaps the woman simply liked pain - at least she was in the right profession.

"Sir, the National Bank of Moscow is reserved for the most privil-"

Tony cut her off, weaving a small trick to making his presence dominate the room. Not threatening - he did not want to alert the guards - just dominant. "I know where I am, my sight is not so bad."
he said through clenched teeth. He found he did not have the patience to charm these bastards as he once did. "If you would allow me to speak, I would offer you my credentials."

The woman shut her mouth with a satisfying audible clicking of teeth. She looked at him differently - perhaps he was a rich kid come off a drinking binge.

Which was almost the truth.

Tony pulled out the card from his pocket. It had the name Martin Gorbcheisky embedded in it. He couldn't use his family's name, but back in the early days he had been smart enough to siphon some of the wealth into a fake account with the help of some officials he had befriended once upon a time. He handed the card to the woman who took it with a perturbed expression.

"How much would you like today, Mr. Gorbcheisky?" she said after a moment at the computer. The respect was an addition that only served to piss him off further.

"Twenty thousand CCD,"
he replied in a flat tone.


Two hours later Tony adjusted the cuffs of his new jacket, a fine piece of tailoring. It was unlike the silky smooth suits of his youth. The black coat was stiff and precise with gold threaded through with fluid accuracy. His family had a crest - the crown of the Tzar's, a foolish attempt at grandiose. He did not use it, but give them the right amount of money, the tailors could work as fast as lightning.

He had created a new crest. Simple, stark and bold. The golden threads wove a pattern of rebirth, fire and passion. The Phoenix was the symbol of the new Tony risen from the ashes of the old Tony Soloyov. Hardened by pain and death, he was made anew, and nothing would stop him from pursuing his goal.

Edited by Tony Soloyov, Sep 3 2013, 07:52 AM.
It had take some time to find the right people without attracting the attention of CCD's hounds. A month of excruciatingly slow and careful planning all led up to this moment.

Tony sat in a black leather recliner in the middle of an ordinary living room of a nondescript house, one of the tens of thousands of the abodes of the middle class.

It had taken more than luck and caution to arrange this meeting. He had to utilize his full repertoire of skills; the CCD law enforcement were certainly a bunch of tenacious fuckers.

The curtains were drawn, but afternoon sunlight, coloured with the blue hues of the blinds still gave him enough light not to need to turn on any lights.

In the seat opposite sat a middle aged woman, a handful of years older than Tony. She looked drawn and pale, but she had a will of iron. Chelka Marislova had done well for herself, as he knew she would, a member of the CCD's elite bureaucracy. She did not hold a position of public prestige - she never liked the spotlight, not as he had - but it was said knew more about the ministry than Ascendancy himself.

They sat in silence as they waited for the third and final member to arrive. He arrived an hour after Chelka, as she had arrived an hour after himself. They did not enter through the front door either. They each wound their way through a series of connecting tunnels the people had built for themselves as a sanctuary from the extreme natural disasters that had wreaked havoc on the world at large.

Anyone who was watching - they did not warrant watching, but Tony would take no chances - would not have any idea that the three had met in the same building. As far as appearances were concerned, they had each entered a house kilometres apart, an hour apart.

Tony knew their final guest had arrived before the thin man with greying, blonde hair entered the room silently. He had spent a week rigging the surrounding passages underground with the amazing tripwire-like weave that Michael had learned. Of course, he had told Michael nothing of his plans. The man's nature was as volatile as the power they possessed. Far too arrogant. He did not know when to use caution, and caution was paramount for what Tony had planned.

That fucking asshole Jaxen though...

Now there was a man he could use at a time like this. He was as subtle as a snake, that one. He also had the fangs of a snake as well. Cocky bastard would likely betray him to the highest bidder as soon as he had the chance. Yes, he had thought very carefully about that prospect, but he knew the type all too well. He had grown up as the best of all of them.

"Fuck me, is that really you, Soloyov?"
The man said in a heavy russian accent. His family still held to the old ways. If he didn't risk losing his position, he would never have learned English at all.

Tony winced at hearing his name from the lips of this man, just as he did with Chelka, yet it gave him confidence and hope. "Sit down, Marko."
he said, raising to shake his old friend's hand. "The fuckers couldn't kill me."

Marko surveyed him with a critical eye. He looked odd in the casual shirt and shorts he wore. Marko was a man who liked his suits. "You look like someone dug you out of the fucking earth though."

Tony laughed and Chelka pursed her lips. She and Marko had hated each other for as long as Tony could remember, and he was glad some things did not change.

"You went to an awful lot of trouble to bring us here,"
Chelka said, still sitting. "I'm sure you didn't do this just to catch up. Why are we here?"

Tony gave them both a smile - a spark of his youth returning as his eyes lit up. It had been far too long since he had something to live for. "You know me, Chel. My plans are always grand. I believe you may be interested in what I have to say."

Edited by Tony Soloyov, Sep 19 2013, 08:03 AM.
"Well, out with it then. I am glad to see you, Soloyov, but I can't spend too much time fucking around,"
Marko said. Tony did not take offense at the man's words, it was just the way he spoke, he doubted he even knew it might be offensive. A typical surgeon, lost in the brilliance of his own mind.

Tony's smile widened and he looked them both in the eye in turn. "How would you like to cure the 'Sickness?'"

He knew he had them both, but the confirmation in their eyes was thrilling nonetheless.

Chelka replied in her usual dismissive manner. "Don't be a fool. We don't even know what it is, let alone have any idea how to cure it."

Marko nodded in reluctant agreement. "Lord knows how much I would love to cure that fucking plague, but I have no idea where to even begin and you're no doctor, Soloyov."

He was relieved to hear that they still had no idea what the Sickness really was. Someone in the CCD was trying to hide it though, and it would be...inconvenient...if he had made a mistake and one of them was in on it. "That's because it has nothing to do with medicine . Have you forgotten? I experienced the 'Sickness' myself. It destroyed my life, but it gave me something. Something that the big-wigs want to take away."

Tony stretched his palm outwards and turned it up, producing a ball of flame that hung crackling above his hand. "Power, my friends. Don't ask me how or why, but the 'Sickness' opens one to a river of power that can be used for all kinds of things."

He watched as their minds worked to try and deny it, but he did not give them a chance to speak, stabbing a finger - with his free hand, of course - first at Chelka. "Strange things began to occur around your husband as he wasted away before your eyes, eventually dying in agony."
He swung his finger to Marko, who shied away. "They took your daughter away from you when she fell ill. Similar things happened around her, and the bastards took her away from you, never to be seen again."

They were both outraged, distraught, accusing, but he had not finished. "They took away my entire family in those early years. Every. Last. One."
The agony began to consume him once more, and he longed to once again lose himself in drunken oblivion, but he held tight to the power and forced himself on, lowering his voice. "I could have saved him, if I had been given the chance,"
he said to Chelka. "Help me! Help me so that I can save as many as I can from their fate."

Silence pervaded the room as he finished, broken only by the occasional popping of the fire he held above his hand.

After what seemed an eternity, Marko spoke in a shaky voice. "Even if what you say is true, how can we do anything? You are dead. If they find you are alive, they will take you."

"Leave that to me. I have lived in filth and squalor since that day, but I survived and recovered. We must hide, but we will survive - with your help, I can perhaps catch others before they die and we can band together."

"How do you propose we help you? By the time the Sickness is evident, it is already too late."
Chelka said.

"Not all. Some survive on their own, some are found and taken,"
Tony turned back to Marko, who looked troubled. "You have a doctor in your team that you have taken in. He suffered the Sickness."
It was not a question, and the man did not try to deny it. "Bring him to me. I can teach him to recognize the signs. Then, he will send them to me. Anyone who shows signs of the 'Sickness' - I will give you more precise details if you agree - send them to me."

"How the fuck do you know all this?"
Marko asked.

Tony decided it was best to be vague. "Years as a dead man have given me many talents, and a lot of time."

"What do I have to do with any of this?"
Chelka spoke up.

"The Undercity. That is the only place we can be safe for now. I want maps of the Undercity - anything will do. They say you know every secret in the ministry. I could use an ear in the Kremlin - a warning could be the difference between life and death. I don't expect you know the workings of the Sphere, much less Ascendancy himself, and they are most likely working in secret, but any word - a mobilization without a reason - could be helpful."

Chelka nodded, although she did not look happy. "You were always one for grand schemes, Tony. This would put the both of us in significant danger, why should I help you?"

This was the part Tony risked everything on. "I can't give you money or fame, nor can I guarantee your safety."
He spread his arms, extinguishing the flame in his palm. "But I know you both, and I know you are good people. Thousands will die, taken by the government or 'Sickness', and we can do something about it. This power - it is extraordinary! It can revolutionize the world, if only we are given a chance! If we succeed, I promise you, you will not regret it."


Tony did not smile as he entered the streets once more, the sun now setting on the horizon. He had spoken with confidence and passion, but he was far from sure. They had finally agreed, but it had only troubled his heart. A part of him wanted them to laugh at him and walk out, never to be seen again, but he knew it was something he had to do. If he did not at least attempt it, he might as well be dead already.
The following three days had been painfully tense. Tony was ready for the CCD's full force to come down upon him at any moment. What he planned was not simply a humanitarian crusade - in fact, far from it - it was a subversion of the CCD, possibly the Ascendancy himself.

Tony could only wish that his actions were below the higher council's notice, but he took no chances. Besides, he would not believe they had not discovered something was unusual about the 'Sickness'. There were far too many inconsistencies for a governing body which controlled half the world not to notice.

Tony sighed. There was so much that was unknown, so much to risk that he longed to wash away reality in a flood of alcohol. He didn't even care if it was shit, as long as it did it's job.

No, I have gone too far to stop now. Others are risking their lives on my orders.

If it all went to shit, the least he could do was lead the way.

Tonight he had another meeting prepared, this one on the other side of the city at the man's home. Unlike Marko and Chelka, the man he was to meet did not have a high profile. Nobody would take notice of a man bundled up like a foreigner visiting in the early evening.

They did not make any attempt at further secrecy. None would question the visit, and overzealous-caution bred suspicion. Tony knocked on the front door of the smart apartment in a well-off neighbourhood Tony had once thought of as quaint.

"Hold up, hold up. I am coming."
A voice said in crisp tones. He heard keys jingling and locks turning until a face peeked out from behind the crack in the partially opened door. "How can I help you? I am available for consultation until 8:00pm, so you'd better get a move on."

Tony made a show of looking at the watch on his wrist, but he had the time burned into his mind. 7:30pm almost on the dot.

He smiled, holding up a hand. "If you would, doctor, I have a rash that will not fade."

Tony thought he could hear a small sigh, but the door was opened and the man that appeared in the door took his full attention.

He was a thin man with a pinched face with large eyes that darted back and forth like that of a mouse before a snake struck. "Yes, well, come in, come in."

Tony stepped past the man and entered the tidy house. He was directed to a small room that had been set up as a GP's office. "Thank you, Dr. Oborev. It is nice to finally meet you,"
he said, extending a hand.

The Doctor looked at his hand for a moment, flattening his straight black hair against his head with one hand before taking it. "The feeling is mutual. It is nice to know I am not mad. This is the first time I have met another who survived the Sickness."
Tony nodded. It was always satisfying to see another survive in spite of the odds. "We should get right to the point, how much do you know? What restrictions do you have

"I know far too little for my liking, but enough. I can at least manage to seize the power consistently, although it took me two years to figure it out." Dr. Oborev smiled and flashed his crooked white teeth. "It was not pleasant, but I survived."

"Do it now, then."
Tony said, seizing the power himself. "I will teach you a few things you may find useful."

The Doctor was hesitant, but Tony felt the rush of power flow through the man. He could not hold as much as Tony, but that could change at any moment. In any case, it didn't matter, it didn't require much strength to do what was necessary.

He started with a simple weave of Air and Water that produced a chime like a bell. He watched Dr. Oborev's eyes widened and fumble to copy the pattern.

After a moment of uncertainty, a second chime joined Tony's. "Amazing. I did not know that these...paterns created something, although it seems obvious now."
Oborev's face turned pensive. "Perhaps if I could analyse the patterns I could extrapolate the data to target specific viruses or cancerous growths."

Tony's laugh drew an annoyed frown out of the doctor. "Am I right in assuming that's how you found out about your...talents? A miracle healing?"

Oborev nodded, puzzled but intrigued.

"It makes no difference, my friend. I can teach you how to heal anything short of death itself. As long as the patient has the will and the life to withstand the intensity."

The man's eyes brightened at that, but Tony held up a hand. "Far too dangerous to teach you now. Healing is one of the hardest things to learn, and if you slip up...well, it could kill both you and the patient."

He waited for the man to nod before continuing. "I promise you, I will teach you as soon as possible, but for now, let's stick to the basics."

Tony showed Oborev a few simple weaves for the man to improve his skills. He was a far better student than any he had had, and picked things up quickly.

He would have liked to have given the man some more instruction, but their time had run out. Rising, Tony said, "That should keep you occupied. We shall meet again next week, and I hope we can begin our operation."

Oborev wasn't exactly delighted by the idea, but he looked resolute. "In for the long haul, as they say, right? I never thought I would find myself tangled up in such a thing. I'm a doctor, not a hero."

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