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Time to Work
Continued from...HERE.

Halfway to her next destination Stuart, Bob and Phil reported lights on in the house. Well okay. Quandary: show up in tactical assassin evening wear or go with a Plan B? She settled on Plan B.

Big Brother landed for a gear swap on a cleared rooftop and Nika fished out an emergency disguise she’d put there a while back for surveillance. Boots, hippy tree pants, tacgloves, vest...all went into the drone’s storage pod. She jumped into some skinnyish-kid pants which fit fine over both the exo and dragonsilk both. They were super thin nowadays, the technology was great. A green cartoony video game dinosaur shirt was pulled over the Arovex.

She only found one shoe. “Seriously BB? Where’s my other shoe?” Papa John’s pizza drone didn’t answer. “We’ll discuss this if I make it home, mister.” The assassin removed her balaclava and replaced it with a very neon green wig topped with a black and white striped floppy watch cap thing. Tendrils of bright green splayed out above her shoulders like a spider plant. A jean jacket with built in sweatshirt hoodie completed her outfit. Except the shoes. A semi-annoyed sigh accompanied the quick search on her forearm tacpad.

This was an artsy area so there’d be donation drop bins. Sure enough… Nika found what she needed in the second charity bin she’d pilfered through. Kinda. Hightop kid shoes. They lit up when you walked, it was pretty cool. She liberated a satchel and some fingerless knit gloves with the foldover mitten option too. Smelled like french fries. Nika figured she looked about 12. Great. She recalled six microdrones and had them land in her hood.

Big Brother went to join the big drone traffic while the assassin walked like a joe along the dim street. The safe house was small, two stories. It’d have a back door and her little scouts had reported nothing lurking but still, she’d go in the front.

Nika pulled off her glove and keyed in like she lived there. Her entrance was quick and she clicked the door shut even as the drones rose to fan out along the ceiling. Gun in hand, she stayed where she was - yes in the kill zone - and called out. “Heeeeey, peeps…” Young, naive, cautious, worried. “Anyone home?”
Tenzin's ears pricked; her head rose a moment before the voice rang out.

She sat crossed legged on the floor, a dog-eared book on ancient Greek flapped open at her knee, a scruffy notebook scribbled with her own hand beside it, and the animal skin inked with letters on its innards beside that, the carved piece of fragmented bone resting atop. She'd been frowning down at the work, knee jumping restlessly, the pen in her hand sometimes tapping a frantic beat on the pages in front of her. It was an archaic way of doing things, but Tenzin scoffed at the idea of using tech to do the job she insisted her brain was perfectly capable of.

She'd told Jacinda the story; of the dry lake and the crunch of bones, and the strange tomb that had been buried beneath. The locals spoke of a beast, but the body had already gone before Tenzin arrived; she didn't even know what it could possibly be, nor how it had survived unknown for so long in so small a space. In her broken English she spoke with wonder of the things she had seen within. A staircase down into darkness. Shells and nets and stacked treasure. An altar adorned with an elaborate trishula. All of it surrounded by the glow of spirit-wrought lights. The fact the artefact was in the ancient Greek tongue was the strangest thing; it made no sense.

Despite that distraction, she was beginning to find the days difficult. Early that first morning she had slipped out for a run to shake off the excess energy. Too long cooped up, not that she regretted the cause, but it made her jittery as a caged animal to spend the evening quietly. Her legs ate up furious miles before, panting, she finally itched the spot. Remembered to check her contacts before she returned with breakfast. Jacinda needed rest; proper rest, but she was not the sort to relinquish easily to idleness. Still, cracked ribs didn't heal any other way.

They'd hunted, of course, but only the easiest prey. Tenzin's urging. It strengthened pack to do so; deepened bonds, and made understanding more intrinsic. As such, when the stranger called into their den,her eyes danced up to the other woman. Strange rumours had reached them; enough to stoke more wariness than when Jacinda had stumbled into the safehouse a few days before. A first burst of chaos now the Athari ruptured, a dissenter picking off their own kind. Tenzin's restless knee stilled, and her hand abandoned the pen to settle lightly on her nearest weapon.
[Image: twolf.jpg]
If they stand behind you, protect them; if they stand beside you, respect them; if they stand against you, destroy them.
Jacinda shifted on the couch, trying to adjust the pillows under her knees. It helped a bit. She was propped up at one end, tablet sitting idly on her legs, staring off into space.

Periodically, a bit of tapping pulled her gaze down to Tenzin, seated on the floor with her legs crossed, book folded on her lap, and a slight smile lifted one side of her mouth. The girl was tough. Like she grabbed onto something and just wouldn't let go. She remembered a pup holding on tightly to a chew toy in its teeth as she played with it, tried pull it away. Tenzin had a toy between her teeth and was not gonna let it go for nothing. She shook her head and her smile grew.

Here she was, barely speaking English-struggling to get thoughts out- and now she's trying to learn to decipher ancient Greek. Yup. Between her teeth. It was a pretty amazing story and Jacinda was hooked. She wanted to help. For Tenzin she'd do it regardless. But the mystery....yeah, she had to help. Somehow. Exactly, how, she didn't know. But a hidden cavern? Ancient creatures? Hidden artifacts? It'd be like Indiana Jones or something. "X Marks the spot"!

She'd been healing up pretty good. The cuts and slashes didn't bother her that much anymore cept for when she showered. Only one that gave any real twinge was the one on the shoulder. But it coulda been worse, so she powered through.

Worse part was apparently she'd broken a rib or two. Well, more like a fracture. It'd happened before. If it had been a bad sharp break, she wouldn't have been able to move. Hell, it probably woulda pierced a lung or something. Something with the ribs wasn't great, but if you were careful-like with your twisting and what-not, it was livable. Oh, and not to smack your arm or elbow into it. Good god, she had done that and could barely breathe for a full minute, the pain was so sharp.

Sucky part was that the fracture was at elbow level. Which made sense, of course, since it had been slamming into the wall with her elbow between it and her rib that had cracked it in the first place. She had all the fucking luck.

So here she is having to be careful- and since when did waking up mean that your lower back was so stiff that just sitting up took a moment because it hurt so much? Or putting on or lacing up your boots for that matter?

Oh well. The machine broke down. But she had a lot left in the tank still. A lot. It felt good to have hope.

More than that, though. She felt something she hadn't felt was hard to place a time on it. However long, it was Peace. She felt peace. Content. Heh...and she was part of a team. Jacinda. Part of a real team.

That was the most interesting thing about this. It was still new and all, and they'd only been on a few small hunts- Tenzin wouldn't back down on that and Jacinda laughed- and then winced at the pain from laughing- and then let her have her way. If she wanted to play mother hen, that was fine. In truth, though, she kinda liked it. More than, really.

So anyway, the cool thing was even though this team was new and they were still feeling each other out and learning each other's strengths and weaknesses and stuff, there was already a sense of....respect. Willingness to listen. And to speak. Hell even to disagree. They weren't up to arguing yet- that would come. She expected, anyway. Not like you could have two people work together and not argue at some point. Tenzin struggled with her English, but Jacinda listened to her, tried to hear what she was trying to say, the meaning behind the short phrases. She got what she tried to say. And she'd never had problems expressing her opinion. Heh....nope.

And what she noticed was how different it was from her other teams. Course those weren't really real teams. The Archangel thing had been the most traditional. But even that was a lot of personalities and Barovsky mostly tried to steam-roll them. And Jacinda (yeah, admit it, girl, you know it's true) well she didn't really listen to others. She figured she knew what needed to be done and was gonna do it. Regus had called her on that. So, there was that. But she trusted herself.

Most of all, it was different from what she had with Regan. Course she had been young, true. But Regan never really had groomed her to be his equal. She could see that now. And it kinda pissed her off. It felt like he planned on always being in control.

So anyway (damnit! again) this was....different. Refreshing. And she kind of marveled at it, the newness of it. The respect. There was no dick measuring, no one-ups-man-ship, no dominating. Even when Tenzin had insisted their hunt be something small (a single dreyken) it was concern, not domination. And Jacinda could listen. Did listen. Idly, she wondered how far Tenzin would have pushed if Jacinda hadn't given in. Prolly would drop one of those 'don't be a moron' disappointed gazes and Jacinda would just have to laugh....and then the laugh would cause more pain and she'd have to admit she was right.

Fucking ribs. And back. And she was getting cabin fever being stuck in here. Tomorrow they'd have to go to the river or something. A market. She didn't know. Just get out. Something. And she knew Tenzin was getting tired of staying in one place too. Stuck in here helping her. She didn't feel guilty about that. Not really. Well ok, maybe a little. She'd have to make it up to her. She got the feeling gratitude or owing someone wasn't big with Tenzin- her culture or whatever. But Jacinda felt it all the same.

Jacinda watched her work for a little bit, scratch something in her notebook, stop and think, look at the skin. She smiled. It was relaxing.

Which she needed. It took her mind of what she had found. The smile twisted into a frown. What she had been avoiding.

The hidden dark web message boards were accessible if you knew where to go, what links to click. Simple, innocent things, challenges and responses, shit like that. She assumed it was secure. Then again, who knew anymore.

That wasn't what bothered her, though. At least one- and maybe more- safehouses going dark. And then strange things coming from the Vatican. Cryptic statements. In particular, some of the discussion seemed to revolve around the future of the Atharim (no surprise there, given that dickhead Brandon's classifying them as terrorists).

No, the thing that surprised her were the comments on coming to some sort of accommodation with the CCD, and Brandon in particular. The survival of the Atharim as a group. Questioning the need for the Archangels. Nothing specific. But the fact that some- even anonymously- were floating these ideas on the discussion boards hinted at compromise, said that it was being talked about by higher ups.

Regus should be rolling in his grave.

She was about to share this with Tenzin when she heard the door. And a voice came from the entrance. Her eyes locked with Tenzin- flashing her a tight smile and a nod. She knew she would have her back. Though in truth, they needed to actually come uo with some short hand signals, so they could work out who went where for situations like this-and she reached for her gun, not the stave. That would hurt, to use it.

She ignored the pain and swung her legs down, dropping her tablet to the floor, and stood. She was in a t-shirt and jeans and socks. She stood, stifling a wince and, gun held in two hands pointed down, headed for the entrance. The kill zone was called that for a reason. A funnel point.

Tenzin might think she was over-reacting. Probably did. But she hadn't read what Jacinda had. She'd explain later.

Because she didn't like this. Too suspicious. She was an Archangel. up lose ends? Tenzin just collateral damage? Pretty fast, if that was the case. But, if so, they were in for a surprise. She and Tenzin wouldn't be that easy to take out. As she moved, she spoke casually, to put whoever it was at ease. "Hello? Who are you?"

She peeked around the corner and saw the girl- jeez, she looked like a girl. All of 14 or something. Didn't mean anything, of course. Nope. She caught movement at the ceiling, increased the light level. Something swarmed up there. Bees? Flies? There was something odd in the way they moved. Her gun raised immediately, eye flicking between the ceiling and the girl. "What do you want?"

Edited by Jacinda, Feb 1 2018, 12:06 AM.
Someone called back. A woman. That was unexpected. Nika hadn’t really encountered many female Atherim. Of course they were out now, but still. “Hi.” She saw someone poke her head around the corner. The drones moved. Ugh. The woman must have spotted them too. Lights were turned up and the other woman freaked the fuck out. Which seemed appropriate.

Nika widened her eyes at the business end of the gun. “Whoa! Hey! No! It’s okay! They’re mine!” She held her left hand out. “C’mere Stuart…” One of the little drones left the ceiling and floated down to land in her palm. Nika smiled at him. “Hey buddy.” Innocence was next. “See lady? Nothing to worry about.” She licked her lips. “They just help me keep an eye out, y’know? Lotsa bad things out there.” She swallowed. This was not the first time she’d used this. “I just need the terminal. That’s all. I got tagged to check somethin’ out. No big…” The assassin kept her own pistol pointing downward, for now. The drones were weaponized and could provide cover if needed. It was a one-time deal with them though and something she used as a last resort.
Jacinda's heart beat steadily as she kept her bead on the girl. She was aware of Tenzin behind her and to the left. If Jacinda were hit, Tenzin would be able to take cover or respond.

The girl kept her gun low and tried to calm the situation, calling the....well what the hell?...Drones. She'd never really used them. Not really sure why. Maybe it was the same reason why Tenzin was reading out of an actual book and writing in a notebook instead of feeding shots of that writing into some app or something.

Or not. She'd have to ask.

Anyway, calling the drones down. Despite herself, she smiled at the names. Not that that cleared her. But a step in the right direction.

Anyway, girlie was saying all the right things and had her hand out in the official sign of 'please don't shoot my drones, they cost me 5 weeks allowance!' and Jacinda lowered her gun carefully, backing up.

Shit, she was acting paranoid. Course there was a saying about that. What she had read had her spooked.

"Ok. Ok. We're calm. It's ok. You can come out."
Damn, she was really wishing for some signals so she could say something to Tenzin. Because just as the girl passed the kill zone would be the best time to strike. Hopefully, though, she was thinking the same. Still had her gun down, but ready, giving her space, backing up, she was ready.

"We're not unfriendly. Just making sure people are what they say they are. Who are you? What do you need a terminal for?"
“Whew. Thanks. Find me the terminal, buddy.” Stuart lifted off straight upward and then arced his flight path to continue down the hall. The girl looked down at her pistol and flipped the safety on with the thumb and forefinger of her left hand instead of using her thumb like anyone else on the planet comfortable with such things. She then just dropped the gun in her satchel. A faint tinking sound drew her light eyes upward. A drone was knocking into the light fixture. “Seriously Bob? Stop it, you’re embarrassing me.” She rolled her eyes and made a face at the woman. “He freaks out if his battery drops below 97%.” Nika moved to follow Jacinda and continued chatting away.

“Naw, that’s cool. You gotta be careful ‘cause you’re in the field.” She rounded the corner and stepped through to the living area and spotted the other woman. “Oh hi.” Two women...what’re the odds of that? “I’m Amelia, with Tech.” The girl scratched her shin with the heel of her light up hightops. “I normally don’t get sent out but the Evermeet expansion pack dropped last night so I’m on call because everyone else is killing orcs.” She shrugged as if what she’d just said was a common occurrence. “I got tagged to check something out.” A drone flitted in from behind her. “Ah, terminal’s that-a-way.” The girl affected a goofy grin and turned, calling over her shoulder. “C’mon, I’ll show ya...” That way if these two had been involved in the attack on the other safehouse, she wouldn’t have to hunt them down to kill them. Win-win.

The drones had made easy work sweeping the house, reporting that there were indeed only two occupants. Worked for her.

The terminal was a 6”x4” flat tablet resembling a shiny black tile more than anything else. It was tethered to this location only and could not be moved if you wanted the data intact. You couldn’t hack it remotely or anything; you physically had to touch it. Well, initially. Nika leaned over the desk and keyed into the terminal using her handprint and two passkeys. She pulled a pairing stick from her pocket and set it next to the terminal. A virtual screen flickered once in the air. The assassin flicked two fingers and the ethereal-blue screen moved back. A reverse pinch blew the whole thing up to the size of the wall above the desk.

She had a habit of singing while she worked if she was thinking or in the zone. Regardless of where she was. Within reason. Simple gestures pulled up a list of the safehouses in the area and the young woman swiped through the locations. Dismissive flicks were timed with the music in her head and really, she wasn’t singing that loud. Anyway, the key to brilliant subterfuge was to weave a little truth into the lie.

“No, no, no, no, no.” Blue eyes focused on the data as she rapidly searched through the locations.


She found the safehouse.

“Move your hair and feel united.”

Door logs.

“Oh oh-open!”

Text populated and she cross referenced bio pics with logins…Swipe, swipe close.


Eight people had been there in the last month.

“shake your hair and feel united.”

Credentials looked good. She hummed and flicked things around.

“Everybody’s coming to the celebration...”

Five pictures now occupied the right margin.

“...I’ma hook you up with an invitation.”

Four had been there a week.

“Let your hair swing and party with me.” Why did people stay in safe houses that long?

“No bad vibes just love, you’ll see.”

A woman arrived and keyed in as shown by log and external cameras.

“Hmm hm hm hm hm hm hm, 1-2-3-4 fight!”

Fast scrolling through the last of the in-house footage. More humming to herself.

“Oh no, who killed the lights?” She stopped her song. No more feed after that. “Why didn’t back up power kick in?”

Settings<Inventory. “Ugh.” That house still had the old hardware. No IR cameras either. Tsk.

She was talking to herself again. “Timeline; lights out, someone downloaded something...then the building burned down.” Nika frowned and pulled up the download log. ‘Argis Chen’ had logged in last at 10:23 AM the previous day and didn’t log back out. Disabled the auto-log out too. “Come on. Really? Security measures are for security.” Not good. “All active Atherim personnel files...and every god profile.” That’s what was taken. Not hers because even the Atherim didn’t keep a file on assets. Maybe one hard copy...probably under the Regus’ mattress. Nika chewed on her lip. She hoped.

((song link))

Edited by Nika Raskov, Feb 2 2018, 12:36 PM.
A little imp of a girl padded her way into the den, complete with a contingent of drones. The curl of Tenzin's lip suggested she did not quite appreciate the intrusion of the tech, though she said nothing. Instead she watched the girl. Amelia said lots of things Tenzin didn't even try to unpick, and something didn't smell right, but it didn't exactly smell threatening either. It prickled her with a little tension, but she trusted Jacinda's instinct as much as her own. As the girl set to her task, she glanced at the other woman. Amelia with Tech? A frown daggered her brow with the unspoken question.
[Image: twolf.jpg]
If they stand behind you, protect them; if they stand beside you, respect them; if they stand against you, destroy them.
Little girl came in, all sending her swarm of drones through the house and Jacinda's mouth turned down. The girl had said the words and invited them to watch, saying she was IT, but the drones....damn!

She felt an itch in the middle of her back. All she and Tenzin needed were weaponized drones to put them down. She positioned herself so that her back was to the wall. At least girlie had blown up the display so it was visible from most of the room. She alternated between watching what she was doing and keeping an eye out for drones.

She briefly glanced at Tenzin and raised an eyebrow, wondering what she made of this. Yeah, definitely they should work out some signs. That would really help.

And, oh my god!, girlie will not stop singing some horrible song. God she wanted to put a bullet in her head. Who the 'her' was she deadn't even know. Or which she preferred! Must be some sort of evasion routine. Distract em so much with something so terrible they can't focus, no one sees what you are doing. Like torturing terrorists with country music or something. Brilliant.

Still. She got the gist. Safehouse. Was this little girl the one making them go dark? Her brows darkened and she held her gun firm, nodding at Tenzin to be ready. Hopefully, Tenzin could get her while Jacinda took out the drones.

No move. She kept looking through the footage. And suddenly the singing stopped. Despite herself, she looked closer, listened. Now she was talking to herself, explaining. And Jacinda saw it too.

Someone had gone into a house. Killed lights. No back up power. And downloaded.....her brows furrowed. This was bad. And girlie was not IT. The drones. The way she'd moved. Didn't have a squint feel. She reminded her of Rune. The playfulness mixed with....

"You're a hunter. What are you tracking? No lies this time."
, though she had an idea.

She looked at Tenzin briefly, shot her a grin and a wink.
The assassin toggled the keyboard on the tablet. She pulled all of the data into a file and wrote a BOLO; Be On the Look Out. This would go to every safe house in the world.

Her brow furrowed as she worked. “Lady, we’re all supposed to be Hunters.” She glanced at where the woman was holding up the wall. “You,” her eyed moved back to her work, “have just seen exactly what I saw.” The pictures were attached to the message. “What I did not see was you or your friend and you did not see me. So we’re good.”

Detain these individuals for questioning immediately. She copied in various important addresses and knew the other relevant internal parties would be copied in by default as well. “I’m not tracking anything. I told you, I was tagged to see what happened to a safe house.” Nika sent the message. “Which I just did so now I’m off.” She logged out and put her pairing stick back in her pocket.
Jacinda didn't relax, but there was no fear either. Tenzin shifted her position, alert. Met Jacinda's look with a quizzical frown. Amelia with Tech dismissed the questions and gathered her things to leave. "Girl says she is lamb. Is not. No lion either. Is tiger. Hunts alone, yes?"
She shrugged, not expecting an answer to that. If the girl wanted to insist she was something else, it made little difference to Tenzin. All things consider, it seemed there were more important things to worry about.
[Image: twolf.jpg]
If they stand behind you, protect them; if they stand beside you, respect them; if they stand against you, destroy them.

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