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Calling in Favours
There were many places in the city - and outside it - that Ori visited regularly, a web of connections and refuges utterly diverse in spectrum, from the glittery upper echelons of Moscow to its shadowy underbelly. A thousand tailored masks greeted a thousand faces; she rooted herself into both affection and trust, and used the resultant friendships ruthlessly. Until they broke, as they so often did, and her mastery became not friendship but, quite often, bribery. People were easy to discard when she cared for so few of them, and if they were easy to deceive then she considered it their own fault. She only ever used their own sins against them.

Whatever her many acquaintances thought of her, if any of them truly were fond of her dry smirks and sharp tongue, then for her part it was purely business. She played a role; she smiled, joked, flirted, and offered the selectiveness of her company like a guarded secret. It was the consciousness of the time, the need to feel superior, to feel important, to feel unique. It made her fucking despair, but it was so effortless to exploit. Few were perceptive enough to see beyond the smoke and mirrors, to realise how little sincerity coated her charm. Of those that did, Oriena found the sparse individuals that catalysed an actual interest, however often it turned out to be short lived.

Gus didn't quite fall into that category, but he was one of the few people in which she placed a modicum of trust. His bar - and actually, it had no name above the door - was a place she felt comfortable, and if its clientèle erred towards the brash side it had never particularly bothered her. He'd scowled when she'd leaned against the bar, and scrutinised her black eye - or what remained of it - with the same displeasure as Carmen, though unlike her he saw fit to make comment. "The fuck did that?" The swelling had gone, and the bruising had faded to mottled shades of grey and green. It no longer twinged with every flutter in her expression, so she smirked darkly and pressed the bottle of cheap beer he passed her to her lips. He got no explanation, of course. She didn't owe him one, and he wasn't vying to protect her honour or anything so absurdly overprotective. Ori liked that about him. When fights broke out in his establishment he diffused them with strict efficiency. He took no sides. He saw no victims. The quick gleam of his smile as she walked off, the bark of laughter that followed, suggested that he probably understood she had deserved it.

The pool table had the best view of the door, so it was where she'd stationed herself. Ingratiating herself with the current players wasn't challenging; men slightly glazed with booze were the easiest to wrap through her fingers, and they seemed happy enough to watch her stretch out across the table. She wasn't dressed for occasion, but tight jeans tucked into leather bike boots made an invite of her curves. Every so often dusky blue eyes glanced up, but otherwise she was concentrating on kicking their asses. And waiting.

Ori had called in some favours.

[[Open thread]]
"You say you're a godman. So what? 
I'm the devil herself"
Alpha ~ Little Destroyer
[Image: orianderis.jpg]
Claire yearned for a taste of home, and what was a better representation of home than some random dive bar, a game of pool, and a cold draft beer?

This one didn't stick out beyond its general ability to blend in. Perhaps that was what drew Claire. She'd seen her share of the interior of bars lately having dropped off applications on her whirlwind job hunt tour.. Most of the places were shitholes, and those that were close to her standards were operated by asshole idiots. If she were going to subject herself to taking orders from someone, it was going to be an asshole she at least respected.

She was in her usual get up. Nothing glamorous enough to get into even an unpopular Moscow club, but nobody bat an eyelash when she strolled in here. Not even the cockroach she stepped over when coming in. Claire barely noticed it. At least it wasn't a rat.

She slid out of a leather coat when she grabbed a seat at the bar. The coat was emerald green, but the close-fitting shirt beneath was jet black. Metal punches outlined the shape of a skull on her chest. Gauzy tights, a blue mini skirt, and boots gave her edgy fashion a feminine touch, like the way sharp bangs fell across her eyes.

"What do you have on draft?"
She asked the bartender that approached. Unfortunatey, she recognized none of the labels.
Takeo walked the dim stretch of road in silent contemplation. His head hung slightly in his hood, but he was well aware of his surroundings. He may have been circling the Sphere for months now without relief, but that was no excuse for letting down his guard. And it was long past time he remedied that.

Letting some whim guide him, Takeo took another turn and found himself confronted with an ugly facade of mostly abandoned storefronts. Mostly, but not all.

There was a door with some light glinting from the threshold. A few outdated flyers were pinned to a shabby corkboard where they weren't just stapled directly to the wall. Takeo idly plucked one from its peers to have a look.

Cyanide and the Pills were performing at the old Majestic - eight months ago. Other than the charming dancing pills - anatomically correct, or incorrect, as they were - the flyer was hardly noteworthy. A few hand-scrawled dates and times, a pirated logo or two. And it was sticky with recently-spilled beer. Takeo crumpled the offending flyer and dropped it in the gutter next to a wad of indistinguishable muck and one lonely rubber. This place would do.

Lowering his hood, Takeo stepped into the bar.

He would not look out of place in this dive. The obviously Asian man - Japanese to the discerning eye - was dressed in snug black jeans, scuffed and scarred but flexible, a black hoodie with some red and grey faded tribal designs, and well-worn black sneakers. From his build, he was lean, but that could have been the result of any substance, least likely being exercise. His hair was tossed roughly across his forehead, and looked a little damp. The most striking thing about him was a red scratch at his chin and what might have been a tattoo on his right cheek that was now just an unattractive scar. He was dirty, in a way, and dull black eyes only took in the room briefly before seeking out the bar.

Takeo stepped over, a bit unsteady on his feet, and took a seat for himself a few stools away from the girl with the skull shirt and the uneven bangs. He ignored her as she ordered, waiting his turn, and made use of the mirror behind the bar to case the room around his own reflection. Another woman at a pool table, a couple grim-looking regulars, not much to see ... except, that woman. He didn't look directly at her, but studied a bottle of scotch while raking his memories for where he'd seen her face before.

A quiet chime, one that only he could hear, interrupted his thoughts, but he ignored it. Jun would be checking in about now - making sure he made it without incident. Almost, but not his concern for the moment. He knew he recognized the girl at the pool table ... which meant he probably needed to leave.
Claire's look must have given her away, but the bartender wasn't interested in sympathy. She pointed out the first tap, the handle of which was decorated in the shape of a Gothic looking cross and was as such the slightly most interesting of the choices, and Claire hoped for the best.

An Asian guy joined the bar a couple seats down. Her reasons for watching him were mostly self-interested. She wanted to see what he would order, but in her experience, Asians just weren't beer drinkers. This one did seem to know what he was about, though.

The lesser part of why she watched was because of his hair. It was fantastically dark, and although it stuck to a slightly damp forehead, swung smooth as silk. Claire settled in her seat, and forgetting herself, grinned at him.

The bartender shoved her drink in front of her. To which Claire crooked an elbow across the back of her seat and glared at him. The drink tasted awful, but she wasn't here to savor the hops. "Thanks,"
she said, Brooklyn accent clearly mocking. Then muttered, "asshole."
The world was a mass of change for Aria. Everything felt new even though it was the same old same old thing, day in and day out. The life of an Atharim was one job to the next, except this time, Aria's job was to take down the pregisous leader of an empire that she had nothing against, except that he was prophecized to slay time itself. Aria sighed.

But the world was new with possiblities, her abilities she knew about. But Sentients didn't live like she did, they blended with society. There was only one way to do that, and that was learn to shield h herself from them, without being locked away from them. Their touch or the touch of any monster could send Aria into a state that was not conducive to huntng Apollyon. She knew that was what the Regus had been doing. He had not said so, but he was testing her. Aria had failed, in a way. But she intended to not allow such actions to be reaction, but pure and calucated and intentional. She knew the capabilities of a Sentient, she now had to train herself to live like one, to be one.

Since Aria had been back in Moscow she had continued her search for the Ijiraq. One was dead, but there was all sorts of other monsters in the world that needed hunting. The monsters would be her undoing, she resolved herself to find every monster she could and understand what they felt. To touch the most evil of them, and survive. That was the objective.

Tonight was no different. Aria walked the dark streets of Moscow hunting, one sword strapped to her waist and one gun for back up, encased in the long leather trenchcoat she wore. She didn't intend to kill, but if it became a threat, the monster would be put down. Aria had not found another Ijiraq, but a drakaina was just as dangerous, and just as hard to kill. It would not go quietly. It hunted and Aria hunted it. She felt the hunger, the instinct. She followed it and breathed in the cold crisp air. She focused on the creature. The only objective was to touch it, to brace herself for the onslaught of emotions.

It made for a door, it knew she was following it. There was fear, even monsters knew fear. Survival of the fittest was sometimes the one thing that knew it's own fear and pushed passed it. But hunger outweighted the fear. Aria pulled the glove from her left hand and tucked it into her pocket. She quickened her pace, and grabed the cold hand of the dranaika. It staired eyeless sockets at her and sneered with a smile.

Aria echoed it back at her. The monster's feelings were hers. She knew what it felt, what it wanted and Aria knew it that it was not afraid of her. Myth's claimed they had a gifted sight, to see into the future. It smiled at Aria as if it knew the outcome.

Aria embraced the dranaika's emotions and swayed slightly. But she stood her ground. Aria let go and the Dranaika smiled and walked away. Releif echoed through Aria's emotions, whether it was her's or the monsters she didn't know, it didn't matter. She had survived, for now.

On the other side of the door was full of people, the dranaika had been searching for a meal, and Aria had saved them, despite their lack of knowledge. Aria needed to rest, it still took alot out of her. But it would get better, it had to.

Aria pushed open the door, and the insides echoed the outsides. With a quick look around Aria surveyed her souroundings. The door to the back was her only concern, she didn't know where it lead. But it seemed safe enough. A woman played pool against some ruffians, there were a few other people around, and two at the bar. One caught her eye, she recognized him. She probably wouldn't have if the files on everything Ascendancy were not committed to her mind.

Aria took a deep breath and let her sheidls slide, another good opportunity to become like one of them. The emotions in the room tried to overwhelm her but she focused on none here. The world grew calmer if not quite gone. Aria moved from the door to a seat next to the privledge. "Coke and Vodka"
Aria had no intention of drinking it, but it wouldn't do to sit at the bar and not at least pretend to be normal.

Aria didnt' turn to the man beside her but she spoke to him none-the-less "I wonder what brings a privledged soul like yourself to this side of the tracks."
She had chosen her words carefully. A man of his stature in a dive bar? Was he on some sort of delving for his great leader? Was he one of his devote followers? So many questions and Aria was sure she would not get any of those answers, not here and not now. But it didn't matter.

Aria turned to watch the game of pool, her back resting against the bar.

Edited by Aria, Apr 19 2014, 10:15 AM.
The fringe of Dane's scarf waved in a breeze that carried the stench of soggy city streets. He cringed at the smell of body fluid, excrement, and whatever else floated along the questionable gutter. He was thankful for the shadow of night for his eyes were not subjected to the details of his surroundings.

His hands, tightly gloved, were rested in the pockets of a long tweed coat the collar of which was turned up around the back of his neck. An oxford cap was tilted across his head, smashing down what strands of thin hair dared to peek out around the edges.

A block down the street, Aria suddenly quickened her pace. The woman she had been following was a classic beauty seemingly born from the Siberian snows. Her skin was paler than the thin moonlight that shone down upon them. Her hair lifted in the breeze. She was slender and graceful, and carried herself fearlessly forward.

Dane stopped, watching them as though watching a movie. It was then he drenched himself in the thrill of power. When it gushed through his body, his lips turned upward ever so slightly, and details between the two women came into knife-like focus.

The women met one another at a door, and although no mouths moved between them, Dane knew some sort of communication had been exchanged. But what? He was drawn another step forward, and before he knew it, he'd crossed the street and approached with all the swiftess Aria had displayed. In his pocket, one hand had wrapped itself around the handle of a paring knife. The kind used to peel apples. He slipped the cover from the curved blade, and removed it from his pocket, held it in one hand, obscured from sight.

The women parted before he was within earshot, Aria disappearing inside an unmarked door, and the pale beauty around the corner.

He looked at the door as he passed by it. A plain door. No markings but for faded flyers stapled to a wall like advertisements in the Stone Age. Dane sneered and made the next corner to follow Aria's friend.

She was waiting for him. In the center of an alley, a dumpster on one side and a homeless man's nitch on the other. She smiled like she knew exactly what was about to happen.

Dane was soaring as he walked straight to her. "Hello,"
he said. The power flowed through him like a sadistic vice to his head, and his hand curled around the knife like he were caressing a lover.

They both moved closer, neither afraid of the other. Dane's heart fluttered with the anticipation.

Her eyes, tilted and dark like Aria's, lowered to the hand obscuring the knife. She shook her head, disapproving. "You won't need that,"
she said. Her accent glittered like the snow of her skin.

Dane's smile grew wider, wrinkling his eyes and cheeks with the mirth of an active imagination. "I know, but I like it anyway,"
he replied, and lashed out with whips of the power.

She moved so fast, she almost blurred out of focus. A hand gripped his arm from behind and a pinch bit down on his collar, but the smell of blood only raged him into action.

He shoved the knife upward. Its curve fit perfectly under her ribs. She screeched and released his neck. When Dane ripped it out between bone, she doubled over and snarled with those horrendous fangs.

Blood dripping from the cutlery, Dane all but ignored the sting of his own wound. Another whip of the power, but this time she was too slow. She tripped, face first. Dane jumped on her back, and barely straddled her down with the vice of his own knees against her hips. She writhed, until he plunged that curved knife into her back like he were making a sacrifice upon a sacred altar.

She twitched, blood gushing out around the hole between her shoulder blades. Dane bit his lip hard to keep from crying out in ecstasy. He grabbed her hair and lifted her face from the ground just enough to pull the paring knife along the front of her throat. Her remaining yell in defiance gurgled and soon she stopped struggling. Dane dropped the little knife beside her face and let his panting slow. He smoothed her hair from where he'd roughed it up, and ran his palms down the curve of her back. Such a beauty.

He kissed the back of her skull before standing to admire his work. The knife he abandoned where it was and left, riding his high back to the shadows where he would wait until Aria led him onward once more.

Edited by Dane Gregory, Apr 19 2014, 11:12 AM.
Three new faces, none of them the one she was waiting for, but not uninteresting either. A Privilege scuttling along the underside of the city was nothing new or surprising. Oriena had once made it her business to understand the people surrounding the man she had loved, and she didn't forget faces; this one, in particular, had a history writ in blood. Such a childhood had to profoundly fuck someone up, no matter how carefully polished the exterior beloved Privilege Takeo Onoda presented to the united peoples of the CCD. The only question was how thin the line between that polished exterior, and the darkness Tokyo had cut into its son?

Briefly she wondered if his dark-haired companion knew to whom she spoke, but didn't care to find out. Of the three, it was the woman with the short hair and skull shirt that earned her open attention. While one of her companions took his shot, Ori leaned against her pool cue and glanced her over, mischevious smile toying the edges of her lips. Of course the only thing that really mattered she'd comprehended in the first few seconds, but she was curious to see if she'd be recognised in turn. Not to mention bask for a second in the curious fortune.

Ori didn't spare a look at the Privilege on her way over. Her knuckles rapped against the bar, and she held up four fingers to Gus's resultant glare. "Пиво без водки - деньги на ветер,"
she said to the woman. Of course, that's exactly why Oriena was drinking beer; she wasn't looking to get wasted, and beer was about as potent as water. "We have a saying here: drinking beer without vodka is a waste of money. If you insist on the beer, better stick to the bottles."
Because who knew how long that beer had been sitting in the barrel?

Gus dumped her order with little more than a tolerant grunt, and Ori scooped up two beers by the neck, then chinked the third against the last left on the bar. Her smile was almost friendly, for Ori anyway, but there was a sharpness in her eyes. Her indignant vows to a wreathe-strewn grave culminated in two twists of power in the space between her and the other woman, invisible to all but the most unique of eyes. Every promise she had ever made Cara that she would remain hidden shattered, but she felt no guilt. She was tired of hiding.

The knowing smirk deepened. "Oriena."

It was an open invitation, though one she didn't wait for an answer to before returning to her pool game.
"You say you're a godman. So what? 
I'm the devil herself"
Alpha ~ Little Destroyer
[Image: orianderis.jpg]
Takeo's title was not entirely inaccurate, but certainly misleading in his situation. His upbringing had been anything but privileged, though he'd made a name, and a fortune, for himself since. Today, it was true, he was a man of means, but his recent coronation had not completely obliterated his hero's journey in the public eye. Not yet, anyway - which was precisely why Brandon had tapped him, and why so many people thought of him as their advocate among the inner Sphere.

It was not unusual for people to recognize him on the street, even here, even while "slumming it". Takeo made no grand show of surprise, nor did he feel it, at Aria's words. They were more confident, more certain somehow than the usual woman unwinding at even this dive after work, or before her night shift, as was often the case. Of course, few were as attractive as her, either. Takeo remained facing the bar, and luckily she turned away in time for him to study her back, and that long, smooth neck, for a minute before catching the bartender between orders. "Asahi,"
he said, loud enough to cut through the quickly growing collection of feminine voices.

The bartender shook his head, no more comment than that to let him know they didn't carry that brand. Not unusual, he supposed, though they weren't that far from Chinatown. Another ironic name, considering China was one of a very small minority that had not yet jumped at the Ascendancy's generous offers. Ironic as well in that very few of the shops in that sector were actually run by Chinese. Asiatown or DIVtown didn't exactly roll off the tongue as easily, however.

"Klinskoye Svetloe,"

Takeo said, turning from the beer ogre to favor a position similar to that of the woman beside him. She wore a long trench, and carried herself with a relaxed air that would have had most men offering to buy her a drink. Of course, she had approached him, and Takeo had no intention of changing his plans tonight to chase this bunny down the hole.

"I grew up on this side of the tracks,"
Takeo said, and finally turned his head to face her. She was an interesting creature, and one that obviously did not want to be seen speaking with a Privelege such as himself.

But, just then, there was a chirp in his ear, followed immediately by a second. As he spoke, obviously sarcastic, "I heard this place had the best service,"
he discretely rubbed the tips of his right hand thumb and middle finger, as if cleaning some beer from them, but actually activating his Tips. He then scratched a spot on his jeans with his thumb, his eyes casually taking in Oriena as she walked over, and his ear turned on - though not before he caught her mention her name. Oriena. Now he did know where he knew her from.

It was Jun's voice he heard next. "Something happening in the street." They had a tap on a bus stop a few blocks away, and a feed crackled quietly into Takeo's ear. The audio was already filtered and no doubt recorded, the sounds of cars and sirens lowered to a dull moan. Above that, he could just hear a scuffling, grunting, and a scream. Takeo himself made no visible reaction, though the audio had his attention, and a bit of surprise in the form of a rush of adrenaline and a slightly elevated heart rate, which he worked to subside.

That was enough. It could've been anything - a mugging, a woman tripping in the street, a lover's squabble - but Takeo had heard enough dying screams to film a Tarantino trilogy. And, though he spread his wealth across a "diverse portfolio of ventures", he did not make it a habit to take stock in coincidence. He definitely needed to leave.

As his bottle arrived, he took a long pull, dropped a few dollars on the bar, and plucked a pack of cigarettes - a pack of Kasumi's cigarettes - from his back pocket. He offered one to Aria, and took another drink. "Smoke?"
he asked, hardly the eloquent Privelege from the news stations, and nodded toward the front door. Whether she accepted the invitation or not, he pulled a cigarette for himself and grabbed his beer to take with him. He hoped she wasn't a smoker - it would make for an easier getaway - but he had a dearth of excuses all lined up for this one.
Edited by Takeo, Apr 21 2014, 12:22 AM.
He spoke of growing up this side of the tracks. Aria knew his file, new what he had grown up like. Aria was sure she'd not want to get into a fight with him. That kind of childhood had been even more dangerous than her own. Life was not all fun and games for some as a child.

Aria hadn't been in the bar long, her drink had yet to even arrive when Aria felt the drakaina die. The connection that had allowed Aria to track it broke and Aria felt it's dying moment. It was always harsh look at reality, but usually it was Aria who was doing the killing, it was expected. This had not been her doing. She had let it live, had let it search for a new kill. But what could take out a drakaina so easily. It had been eager and hunting only moments before.

The sudden loss of connection made Aria pull her bubble back up around her. The emotions in the bar muffled, but not before the Privilege gave a sharp spark of surprise. Both their drinks arrived at the same time. Aria had no intention of drinking it when she came in, but now she took a swallow to drown the lost connection in the dull burn of a too strong drink.


Aria looked at the Privilege with a feigned smile, faking her own emotions was easy, she had plenty to pull from. He nodded to the door. Aria shook her head, "No, but I'll join you outside."

Aria didn't wait for any hesitation. Something had killed the drakaina, he probably had his own security detail, but there were few things that could kill a monster that could see into the future. And none of them pleasant.

Aria dropped what little cash she had on her on the counter. She reached into her pocket and made sure the sword was free of the bindings that kept is in it's sheath. There was no telling what was outside. She dropped her shields and focused on the one soul who was not here, only to find that he was. Aria sighed, stupid night to follow me Dane. As if he could hear her thoughts as she could feel his ever calm sitting out of sight.

A rush of cold air swept over the room as Aria pushed the door open and stepped outside. She didn't look around, if he wanted to be seen he would not be hiding. And there was no point in looking, he'd been following her nearly since they had met and she had seen nothing of the man.

Aria wanted to walk in the direction the drakaina had gone, but she had come out here under other pretenses. When he joined her, Aria smiled, "Aria, by the way."
. Aria paced back and forth. She wanted to be else where, but she didn't want to leave such an important man to the likes of whatever lurked in the shadows.
Claire cocked her head to one side as though static sparked electricity down her back. When she pivoted in her seat, she did so at the same moment a tall, dark beauty joined them at the bar.

Her brows lifted high as she watched the languid woman swap out her drink for the better recommendation, but it wasn't bottled versus draft beer that captured Claire's attention. It was the woman herself, and she likely looked like a lesbian checking her out. Granted, Oriena, as she introduced herself, was a beautiful woman, but Claire's interest was far, far deeper than sexuality.

Claire asked as though she didn't quite believe the name belonged to the woman. In fact, as she offered her own name in return, she doubted the same identity in herself. "Claire,"
but the moment passed soon enough.

Asian guy's voice grabbed her attention, if only because she hadn't heard him speak yet, and his accent was quite thinner than she's expected, but it seemed he was leaving with the chick that joined him.

She turned back to Oriena, grabbing the newly acquired bottle as she did, and lifting it as though offering a toast. "True love?"
But the twist to her lips was mocking. She didn't need to curse out loud to express profanity.

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