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Glamorous Business
Damien sat amidst the perverse glamour that was the Manifesto’s Block 1. In a tailored jacket of deep blue and matching jeans with original ruby buttons which were hand crafted into the shape of gauntleted fists he looked at home amongst the nouveau rich of Moscow. He had his hair trimmed but not cut for the occasion and bold dark locks of fragrant hair framed his face and shoulders.

The price for his outfit and admittance had come from his Mexican client who had made his fortune in the tequila market. The man owned half of Mexico City to hear his thugs and prospectors tell the tale. Damien was not impressed by his client’s wealth or assumed power. Not when he was now thrust into the heart of Custody’s most wealthy.

He dismissed a scantily clad waitress who offered him a glass of rich dark liquid with a glance and a wave of his hand. Instead of his time in prison marking him as an outcast, Damien wore the mantle of luxury like a crown designed for no head but his. The women shot him amorous glances and the men nodded to him with a modicum of respect.

He had soon learned to spot the real powers in the room. They were often not the most grandiose nor the most conceited. The room trembled under the steady gazes of the quietly self-assured who needed no adornment to placate their empty pride.

Damien was one such man, although the denizens of Moscow had yet to learn his worth. He needed only the light that shone brighter than the chandeliers that hung above. He held it with a absent ease that came from years of use and confidence. Compared to his days in San Quentin where his grasp had been complete, the peaceful perversion of wealth did not demand his attention.

Damien rose from his seat as an old man in a traditional styled black suit approached. He was flanked by two suited men who scanned the room with what would seem idle curiosity. Damien inclined his head and gestured to the lounge opposite. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you Mr. Osoliev.”

He waited for the man to sit before he resumed his own. “Ahh, Mr. Oakland. A curious man you are indeed. I trust you have taken full opportunity to enjoy the pleasures that I have assembled?”

The pleasures he had not sampled, nor did he intend to. They were glamorous, but lacked lustre and any true essence of pride or power. Like painted puppets who danced on the strings of their master. “This night has surpassed all of my expectations already, Mr. Osoliev.”

Osoliev smiled and waved a thin hand. "Please, call me Yulian. Damien – may I call you that? – Damien, you have excited much interest amongst the businessmen of Moscow. While others may consider you a rabid hound, I respect your bold ingenuity. I see a bright man who could go a long way. Hopefully we can come to a mutual agreement to make that a reality.”

“You are too kind, Yulian,”
Damien replied with a lazy smile. “I believe we both share the same interests. It will be a pleasure to come to an agreement. Mr. Estande will not disappoint, I assure you. He welcomes the Custody’s business with open arms.”

Yulian clapped his hands together with joy. “Excellent! I knew that he was an intelligent man. Let us celebrate! I have prepared a unique surprise for all of my honoured guests. I trust you will enjoy this, Damien.”

At his signal the two men moved through the crowd and soon the lights dimmed and the din of chatter subsided. Damien leaned back in his seat as spotlights beamed and centred on a platform amidst one of the canals half-formed and backed by a curtain.
Edited by Damien, Mar 10 2014, 09:49 AM.
Acoustics designed to dull the room of sound from the stage. Her platform was the smallest one in Manifesto, fitting with the personal themes in Block 1, with barely enough room for the expanse of Spectra's dress, let alone allow it to be shared by more than one at a time. Rainfall began to glitter around its edge that disappeared in a tiny slit in the floor, making an incredible, shimmering pane of water that kept her presence a surprise. Down-lighting and other luminosities drew designs on the wet canvas, and painted a picture of abstract colors and shapes that flickered with the accompanying rise in music.

The water slowed to droplets soundlessly falling like diamonds on velvet, and Spectra began to sing. Her soprano voice was softened by the heat of her accent, but the light and water drenched her in mystery that did not quite fully give any one person the complete image of her beauty.

Her own heart quickened. Was she nervous? Every face in the room was mesmerized by her. Her song was filtered and electrified, she was not a renown vocalist, but synchronized with the shearing sounds of harmony, she was indeed a welcome surprise for all of Block 1. It invigorated her already eager stage presence, and she sang soulfully.

The song ended to rounds of applause, and Spectra felt herself smile, soaking in their adoration. Elated, she was helped from the stage. Her couture dress sparkled metallic jade, and lay against her skin like it were designed for her. And it had. After three redesigns, the shape finally, and perfectly, cut into her luscious curves. Only perfection could be paired with the million-dollars worth of jewels that dripped along her bust like a lover's hand.

Ten agonizing minutes delayed her arrival to Yulian's group, the man whose fees guaranteed her presence tonight, but when she did, she almost doted upon him so generous was her attention to the otherwise parched human being.

she greeted him with a dual kiss that did not quite touch his cheeks. They applauded her again, and Spectra threw her head back with affectionate gratitude that somehow evolved into praises for Yulian. Though behind the stumped old man's head, Spectra was aware of the number of eyes meeting hers which clearly disagreed.

Including one man she did not recognize from previous gatherings.
Yulian turned back for an instant before the beautiful performance began. The entrepreneur‘s face stained with liver spots creased with a soft smile and nothing more. It was not long before Damien understood that look.

From his reline he viewed the entrancing spectacle. The shimmering droplets of water did not hold his gaze nor the mystery that stood behind. Damien closed his eyes and drank in the light with a faint smile. The magnetic tones; the heavenly soprano with the infusion of a more candid heat provoked a far more potent desire than the veil of secrecy could conjure.

The melody peaked and soared before fading into a dissolute absence filled by the raucous applause of the audience. It was a long moment before he opened his eyes and stood with Yulian as he savoured the memory of the voice that promised such passion and beauty.

His judgement did not disappoint as he beheld the jewel that radiated sensual poise. He had not neglected the company of women during his two months in Moscow. Indeed, he had gained no few admirers himself who had satiated his long-denied desires from his time in San Quentin. Yet this woman – the crowning glory of glamour and splendour – drew his gaze like no other.

“That is Spectra Lin,”
Yulian said as the woman made her way through an adoring crowd.

“Should I know the name?”

Yulian’s laugh was genuine. “Spectra is the envy of every woman and the dream of every man in the Custody, perhaps the world. It seems you have a lot to learn of the world yet, Damien.”

“So it seems,”
he replied in a distracted tone. The pulse of light infused him and magnified the approaching woman. He felt as if he could discern the slightest movement, affectation or expression that lit her face. Suffice it to say, Damien’s curiosity was piqued.

He maintained what he thought was a respectful distance as she approached and greeted Yulian. Another round of applause erupted, but Damien’s eyes were focused solely on Spectra Lin.

Such a curious specimen of beauty and sensuality, so commanding a presence which she took full advantage of, even revelled in it.

Yulian turned to him with an outstretched hand which shook slightly. “Damien, I would like you to meet my good friend Miss Spectra Lin. Please, introduce yourself,”
and to Spectra. “Damien has produced quite a stir among the honoured of Moscow, I am quite sure it is a name we will hear in the future.”

Damien approached, his hair obscuring his face and secure smile as he sketched a standing bow and took Spectra’s hand in his own. His movements were modest but his gaze radiated his commanding presence. Not threatening, merely steady and assured without pretence and vanity. “Yulian’s boast was not idle. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lin.”

Edited by Damien, Mar 14 2014, 07:45 AM.
Spectra found herself presented to the man that caught her eye. Yulian made every effort to brag about his so-called friendship with her. Little did he know he was but another cockroach skittering around her feet. A cockroach she was too disgusted by to soil her shoes to squash.

her palm was laid lightly across his. She spoke the syllables of his name with a sleepy sort of softness as though testing the mysterious waters with the tip of her toe. She approved very much of what she found.

This was a man of power and confidence. She need not see him stripped bare to appreciate the cut of his demeanor. Amid the stern steel of his gaze was also crowned a regal sort of bearing. She approved greatly.

Mostly because a man like him was already deferring to her presence.

"Tis a pleasure, indeed, señor,"
the bright viridian of her eyes lingered upon his, drinking in their watery orbs. In the low light of Block 1 they dazzled like crystal, and Spectra grew attached quite quickly to the quiet feral of his charm. Mostly due to the ineptitude Yulian presented in comparison to Damien.

But she was paid well to dote upon the foul old man. She forced herself to turn her attentions upon him, and hid the cringe that was to pierce the cloud of his overbearing cologne to get so close to him. The scent spiked visceral memories in the back of her mind: of allies, sweat, filthy paper dollars, and the pain of hair gripped tight from her scalp. But she was an actress of the most talented sort. Yulian would never know the taste of wretched disgust boiling in the back of her throat. She would take his money all the same for it.

She turned back to the man that bought her charms for the night. Their contract was quite clear, and while she leaned into his ear that was of the height of her chest, her eyes remained on Damien. It would be as close as Yulian would come to Spectra's luscious skin. She was no hooker. Not anymore. "It takes a big man to stir the city of Moscow, yes Yulian?"
She spoke as though she'd implied as much in the past. The old man's mouth split into a hungry, wrinkle-lined smile. She went on, "Where did you find so handsome a protégé?"

Spectra’s soft voice and velvet accent stirred a stormy passion within his heart. The predatory gleam in her eyes and cunning movement proved itself to be no deterrent in his attention. Many men would wilt under the shining vigour Spectra embodied. Several of the onlooking admirers baulked in their timidity. Damien had glimpsed the sun but far from burning his eyes it inspired him to reach out and take it for his own.

Spectra addressed Yulian but Damien provided the answer while resuming his seat as a king his throne. “Protégé? I am afraid you are mistaken,”
the British and American accents harmonized to produce a confident charm that relied on nothing but force of will. Unlike his associates with their forked and slick tongues tamed by flattery, Damien needed only the light as his guide; his mind the sword. “I represent a friend from Mexico who wishes the Custody well.”

Yulian interjected, his hands trembling at the proximity to Spectra. His nod was dismissive. “You are too modest, Damien. This man escaped the corrupt tyranny of the fools who shame the name of the United States.”
Yulian filled the words with more venom than a cobra. He held no love for the North Americans. “The guards of San Quentin are probably still searching for his corpse. You do remember the news of the storm that shut the prison down, yes?”

Damien’s reply was as iron. “I had endured my penance long enough. There was nothing left for me there.”

He did not deign to explain, nor was he inclined to indulge idol curiosity. He was much more interested in Spectra herself. “From what Yulian has told me, this is your first time in Moscow. What brings an illustrious woman such as yourself here amidst the growing turmoil?”

Rumours had spread of trouble within the Custody and Damien had certainly observed more than a few curious sentiments while searching for a willing client and those in business tended to keep a sharper eye on events than most others.

But that was of no event, Spectra held his attention this night.
They all took their respective seats. Spectra positioned alongside Yulian, where she kept a hand draped on his knee, but across from Damien at the same time. Her usual sparkling water and raspberry garnish was placed before her, but she toyed with the slender glass between her fingers rather than take a sip. Her lips glistened, plump and inviting, in the dim light.

Friends in Mexico were impressive to collect. Spectra tilted her chin coyingly sweet, and wondered if his tongue was experienced enough to know her native language. Of course, she was being broad in comparing her native tongue to those of the Mexican vermin. He spoke English well enough, and the blend of accents did not go unappreciated either.

Yulian surprisingly provided the clearest explanation. The two men carried on as though they expected Spectra to be aware of their references. She clearly was not. Why on Earth would a woman like her care about spectacles taking place in the world's blackest holes; San Quentin being one such place.

Yulian picked up on her ignorance. He snapped his fingers and the man sitting on his other side slid a Wallet screen before her. Yulian played a silent video of the aftermath left in the wake of an escaped convict. When it was finished, the smile on his face was aimed at Damien. Spectra's smile was sincerely impressed.

"Sí, claro. You are Damien Oakland,"
she spoke to herself, although the entire table hung on her every word.

As intriguing as Damien's history was, she was relieved when the conversation returned to her. "I've been in Moscow for some time, sí."
She spread her arms wide, gesturing at the glamour and luxury in which they were bedded.

"Vaya. Where else should I be, if not in the greatest city of the world?"
She brushed off talk of turmoil. "You should see true turmoil, señor. True war rages on darker continents. Not here. Moscow is paradise on Earth."

She plucked the raspberry from her drink and popped the cold berry in her mouth. Paradise, indeed.
“Yes, I am Damien Oakland. They once took my freedom but never my name.”

And how they would regret ever staining the name!

Damien appreciated Spectra’s expansive enthusiasm and delicately selected moments which displayed her beauty perfectly. Her words received a more hollow reception that did not show in his partial expression.

Moscow was many things both good and bad but paradise was not one of them. Were it not for the steady hand of Nikolai Brandon these hounds of corrupt wealth would gorge on the blood of millions.

“You certainly shine brightly, does she not Yulian?”
he contented himself with saying. Spectra seemed to enjoy the spotlight and Damien was all too happy to oblige.

Yulian’s praises were as vigorous as they were true. One could not exaggerate when it came to this Spectra Lin.

The conversation turned to trivial matters and Damien soon blocked out the inane. He had no need to hide his favourable smile which he turned on Spectra. Her eyes told him she was not disappointed either. The thrill of her presence rushed through his veins in time with the steady beat of his heart and the glory of the light. The heat in her gaze, the power and magnetism drew him as a moth to the flame. Damien had no fear of being burnt. If Spectra promised fire, Damien blazed like the sun itself.

Spectra allowed herself a millisecond to consider Damien's profound comments on freedom and identity, and then she quickly grew bored and brushed him off. He had far too pretty a face to be allowed to drag down the mood with talk like that. It would dampen the atmosphere her presence had sparked so lively, and it would turn Yulian's mind toward petty things like laws.

The sparkles in her water tingled her lip, and she drew a small handkerchief from the depths of her handbag in order to dab the wetness away. A small tube followed, to replace what was smeared from her plush lips. The brand, one of her many endorsements, was a neat little contramption that automatically changed the tint based on the light intensity sensed by the cap. A tiny square glowed blue, and a rich, deep red painted her lips hot and dangerous in color.

Yulian leaned over about then to whisper the punchline of a terrible joke. Spectra laughed merrily, of course, fake as it were, but she pat Yulian's chest as she did, holding the lipstick to the square of his jacket. He said it would take ten seconds to transfer, and so long as the uplink was pressed against the portable drive in Yulian's jacket, the concealed device should be able to scour it for files.

She used her perfectly sharp fingernails to scratch at his chest when she withdrew her hand. In her mind's eye four red lines were drawn across his spotted skin, but he delighted in her flirtation.

Spectra returned the lipstick with a snap of the bag, sealing it away, and excused herself to use the powder room. Flawlessness took vigilence, after all. A minute after she departed toward the narrow tunnels that led to such places between Block One and Block Two, she was followed by a rather ordinary appearing man, but one for whom she'd done similar work in the past.

The hall slithered and turned in wide, luscious curves. It was drenched in gold and dribbled gorgeous lighting upon everyone who traversed it. Upon Spectra, the lighting glittered upon her shoulders, sparkling as though she were gilded as Pharaoh himself.

She was flirting with a boy who barely looked old enough to pass for legal entrance into Manifesto, but wore a fat ring with an emerald the size of a quail egg. He was one of the little lords of Moscow, but Spectra blew him off in exchange for a viper in a black suit.

His posture changed the moment they were alone. He was certainly not a plain man, no more than someone could describe Hood. His face grew cold and menacing, and he held out a hand expectantly. Spectra appreciated a man with confidence, so long as they defered to her in the end.

She placed the tube in his hand, and he swiftly tucked it in his coat and continued on his way.

"Is that all? Its impolite to not say thank-you."

He turned and looked her up and down. A chill smile touched the corners of his mouth. "The United States thanks you for your service." He started to leave, but the invitation upon Spectra's face was clearly begging him not to. He thought better of himself and came to stand before her once more. He wouldn't touch her, but the heat of his body was close enough to sense.

Spectra, on the other hand, peered up with deviously green eyes, and waited until she thought he would be leaving with more than stolen files. She stuck a finger in the dimple of his chin and spun away, "See? Was that so hard?"
And laughed to herself, abandoning him to his defeat.
Damien was absorbed in content silence. He allowed the politics of Moscow to spin around him unnoticed and unlamented. He already had what he had come for; the rest did not interest him. Except for the intrigue that was Spectra Lin. Damien’s eyes lifted as she rose and sauntered away with feline grace.

Yulian leered at her for a while before turning on Damien. “You have been quiet, my friend. Are you not satisfied with something? Please, tell me and I shall grant you anything you wish.”

As bold a claim as it was false. Yulian did not have the power to grant him is wishes, only he himself could grasp them. Fortunately, wishes were not the only thing he had a use for. “I am satisfied, truly. But perhaps there is something on my mind. I am concerned about the reception you and yours will receive in Mexico City. Mr. Estande is a trustworthy man, but he does not understand the intricacies of Custody courtesy.”

Yulian nodded. “Quite right, Daimen. I should have anticipated the situation myself. Would you be so kind as to grant an old man a favour.”


“It makes me happy to hear that. I would like you to acclimatise my men to their surroundings. They can be so protective of me sometimes; I would not like any misunderstandings.”

“Of course.”

With that settled Damien rose and clasped Yulian’s hands in his own. They still held a strength that his frailty hid. It bore some thought as to how far those hands could carry him and Damien assessed the curiosity as he wove his way through the silken crowd. It gave him a sense of wading through piles of gold dragging at his feet.

For all the riches were worth it seemed few felt the weight of it. They may not see the physical manifestation but the metaphorical carried the same burden.

What was the old saying that his grandfather used to preach to him?

With great power comes great responsibility.

The line seemed so inane but Damien now appreciated its potent simplicity.

As he watched Spectra wield her charms, he could not help but wonder how she used her power. It was likely she could crush some men with no more than a glance, perhaps no fewer women either. It was an intriguing quality and his curiosity was plain to see on his face as he approached when her latest admirer had left.

He leaned against the curved and smooth wall painting his face in an array of dimmed colour and cocked his head. “You are a busy woman, I see. It must get tiring, no?”
His smile was pleasant but he itched with curiosity. Whoever the latest man was, he was more than just a simple admirer. It mattered little to him on a personal level. He did not care what she did but a discovery could lead him closer to her and that was worth more than enough to satisfy him. “Would you like to get some fresh air, Yulian will not care. I feel like a walk under the naked sky, it calms me. Does it calm your heart as it does mine?”

Damien's was an unexpected, although not unpleasant, arrival. At his comment, Spectra's smile did not feign innocence in return. Their world was never a clear horizon, it was blanketed in layers of fog, and only those at the pinnacle could see through the unknown and know what was lost in the deep. So her smile she flashed was from the devil in her and was arranged like glory upon her face.

"I will never tire, Damien,"
she said his name like a lone flame licking the palm of one's hand, sultry and filled with the promise of danger should he try to come closer.

When she pushed locks of luxurious hair behind bare shoulders, her chest became the display for jewels known only to the filthy rich. At the sharp point of the slit cutting up one thigh, she rested her fingers on the jut of her hip and considered his suggestion. The shoes at the stem of her legs were worth more on the street than a common month's rent. "Are you suggesting we take a walk?"
How provincial. The golden cast of her skin would shrivel and hide at the rush of Moscow winter air. She subjected herself to the harsh tickle of winter air for only an enormous stipend. Red lingerie and virgin snow made for a seductive campaign, after all.

The last time she ventured off on her own in the company of a lucky man, the evening was filled with unexpected pleasantries. Damien had much to live up to else he would be forgotten in a matter of minutes upon their eventual separation.

"Indeed he will not care, because my contract with Yulian has lapsed."
Her consideration to his offer purred musings in the back of her throat. Other, more congenial, women might swallow the penetrating gaze of judgment, but Spectra did not withhold the condemnation. "You're very sentimental for a convict,"
she stepped into his presence. The glint to her eye suggested she was humoring him. "If I had a heart, nothing would ease it."
She pursed her lips and turned, curling a finger that he follow.

At the exit, she was wrapped in the pelts of a blue foxfur coat. It buttoned at her naval, and the slit of her leg emerged between the wrappings with every step. Paparazzi bulbs flashed as soon as they emerged, and Spectra nestled herself against Damien's arm. Reporters called their names, but Spectra kept herself ever so slightly in front of him. The attention flooded her entire being with the thrill of their adoration, and soon the flashes dimmed to mere flickers compared to the exploding star that was her every smile, pose and laugh. To give her public something over which to salivate even further, she planted the sweet peck of a kiss on Damien's cheek. Excitement erupted around them, and Spectra rode the high all the way to the curb where she whispered in his ear, "Have you found your naked sky yet?"

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