Tabula Rasa [Ather City 3] Main Game page 14

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[Diovoga is at least a God Mode Sue, given how disgustingly overpowered he is. I mean, he’s practically invulnerable, and can brainwash people at will. He’s also empowered by some godlike figure, giving you an excuse to make him stronger than anyone else who is not similarly empowered.

[Sorry, did I hear “Lucius Ferre” somewhere in there? No? My mistake. In that case, don’t make assumptions about who or what Diovoga is or is not following, and/or about his motivations or abilities. All will be revealed in time.]

[In that case, if Cyrix goes with Analisse, then he’ll have to leave Eve’s group. Again, I don’t want to have either of my characters in the same city as BC’s God Mode Sue.]

[Technically speaking, he’s likely to not actually be in the same city as your characters, all things considered.]

 
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Cyrix

…Sounds like a plan for now. Lady Arcelia, please take care of the ladies first. I’ve something I need to do…

I touch my hand to Eve’s head since she is close enough and draw upon her form, her memories and what she’s capable of into myself. Like some sort of amorphous mass of jelly, I transform into a replica of Eve. I look around after the transformation and give a big smile with eyes closed.

…Sweet deal, it worked. Hi there, real deal!…

I look at my hand and see it melt into suspended water. I grow amazed by this and transform into a decent-sized puddle, moving around the room. I rise up into a human form and lose my balance upon the rise. I let out a quick…Eh?…before I hit the ground, skinning my left knee. I look up at the real Eve as tears start welling up.

 
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[Lucius was not invulnerable, as demonstrated by Chaos in TWA, unlike Diovoga who is basically impossible to hit. Nor could he effortlessly brainwash people at will. Sure, all will be revealed in time, when Diovoga curbstomps everyone in his way, laughs at how pathetically weak they all are, and turn them all into his mind slaves. His profile alone is enough indication of his positively obscene power. Lucius was only confirmed to be ridiculously powerful after I gave him to the GM, so dragging him into the conversation accomplishes nothing other than demonstrating how you have to rely on such a cheap diversion in an argument. If you’re comparing Diovoga to Lucius… When Lucius was still my character, Gambi once told me that he’ll dish out a permanent punishment to Lucius every time someone complains about him. And I’m definitely complaining about Diovoga right now.]

Technically speaking, he’s likely to not actually be in the same city as your characters, all things considered.

[Don’t play dumb with me. I do not want to be close to any manifestation of Diovoga’s existence.]

Luke Fausten

Looking at a mirror image of yourself can be quite disconcerting once you realize that it is not a mirror image at all. Even more so if you’re also looking from the eyes of your mirror image, back at yourself.

Hello, I say to my clone. I am talking to myself. Does that mean I’m crazy?

I wouldn’t know, my mirror image shrugs. Like me, he is an astral projection, translucent and glowing white, only able to communicate through telepathy and interact through telekinesis. I can almost feel his thoughts forming before they’re relayed to me. We’re both figments of each other’s imaginations, so we’re either both sane or both crazy.

Well. As it turns out, talking to oneself is not a very interesting activity.

My clone does not say anything. We look at each other. Then, without another word, we dash away toward opposite directions as streams of weightless psychic energy, moving through the air at a hundred kilometers per hour. We seem to be always connected, regardless of the distance between us. In fact, I am a clone too, and the real me is a few thousand meters below on the ground, at school and again bored with his classes. Should a clone like me be destroyed, it would probably be agonizing, and deplete a portion of my magic, but it’s nothing I cannot recover from.

So… I hope this mind fragmentation spell will be useful against the opponent Nick sent me. I don’t exactly have any more ideas.

 
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[It’d be an honor to be spied upon by you, BC.]

Analisse

How exhausting. This one little bullet casing, my sole purpose in life for the past few weeks, hasn’t brought me any step closer to my goal. I’ve falsified my statements numerous times, to the police nonetheless, and all those hours of chasing what might as well have been an imaginary shooter, have gone down the drain in one single moment…
“Just as I thought. I’m sorry Ms McCoy, but that weapon isn’t registered in our database.”
His response set me off, my grip tightening around the armrest.
“If that gun never existed, why the hell would they make a bullet for it?! Do you hear the words that are coming out of your mouth? Listen I’ve paid you more than enough money to—”
He brought a finger up, silencing me in the process. The PI’s expression never faltered, and I then realized I had interrupted him.
“If I may continue, the XTS 991 isn’t in our files because it’s practically an antique. Back in its prime years, the owner didn’t have to go through the process as we do today, therefore it becomes almost untraceable.”
Nothing more was said, and after a moment of silence, we both stood up and shook hands.
I may not have much, but at least I can work off of that. The air outside had grown cold, and I tightened the jacket around myself as I hurriedly crossed the street.

 
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[B_S and BC, quit fighting. I included Chaos for a reason, that being to keep any overpowered mages in check.]

 
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[It’d be an honor to be spied upon by you, BC.]

[M’kay.]

Diovoga Llunrov
Well, whilst he’s moving out, let’s move on to someone else… there’s some girl looking for a gun, apparently. XTS 991, supposedly an antique, yada-yada… meh. I find most of the time that guns are an ineffective weapon – they tend to not be capable of shooting through magical defenses if they aren’t heavily enchanted to be capable of doing so. Unless, in fact, they are heavily enchanted to be capable of doing so, in which case you’ve got yourself a relatively powerful anti-mage weapon; even more so if one can channel one’s magic through it, and so much the better if the gun itself fires large bullets. Still, it might be worth following her to see how she goes about… avenging someone, I guess? I don’t know, and I don’t particularly feel like finding out, but watching her progress might make a good social study or something. Reprogramming the observing shadow-proxy in the same manner as the masked man, I have it follow her out of the building.

 
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[I think I should try out a new tense this time. And possible a new person.]

Ren

There was a single knock on the front door. A short pause, followed by some more insistent knocking, as if the visitor was determined not to go without meeting him.

Ren, sitting at the dining table of his small residence in a corner of the city, glanced once at the closed door over the newspaper before folding it and putting it down on the table beside the plate with the toast and a cup of coffee, which he had taken out from the micro-oven a few minutes earlier. He normally preferred an orange juice with his breakfast, but his blender was just not working, as if refusing to mush up the already mushed up oranges. Stupid, unlike the other appliances. He had to get another one of them and chuck this one into the garbage.

Having just been reading, with lively interest, about the conclusion of yesterday’s hunt, the knocking had, so far, escaped his notice despite the door being only a few feet from the table. It was definitely strange, the arrival of this early caller, he thought as he picked up the Glock 17 lying on the table. After some brief thinking, he walked to the coffee machine on the east wall and stowed it between it and the rogue blender. It was a pretty good hiding place. Though he wasn’t sure if he’d need it, caution wasn’t a bad idea, especially since he had been attacked by hitmen in the last three hideouts.

“Coming.” He said out loud, and the knocking stopped. Taking his time in putting on his shirt, Ren considered the possibility of the cops having caught up with him. It wasn’t too unlikely, and he didn’t like the idea of this little shelter getting shot down too. Well, there was always the fire escape if he needed to make a getaway after all. It wasn’t a pretty option, but it was an option.

“This 32, Cassandra Street?” asked a completely unfamiliar and gruff man’s voice when he finally slid back the door an inch to look out. The person standing outside was slightly taller than him, fair, bald with a thick black beard, wearing a shirt under a heavy jacket and showing significant number of chins.

“Yes.” Ren replied shortly. This wasn’t a police assault, it seemed. He still hadn’t crossed out the possibility of him being a hitman. It wasn’t too hard to conceal weapons, after all.

The other man stared impassively at him. “You are Renault Wolfe?” Ren was ready to bet a grand on that being the next question, but he was disappointed as the man cracked a small smile, and then winked. “Well, tha’s ’dentification ’nuff for me. You know me?”

“Mr. McStranger WhatchaWant?” he shot back, not bothering to mimic the smirk.

“Smart mouth, eh?” asked the big guy, scratching his beard with his right hand. “Don’t have nothing to do with me, ’course. ’nyways, got some sauce on your right hand.” Ren didn’t look aside.

“Nice talking with you, but if you will excuse me, I’ve got work to do.”

The other man grimaced. “Work, work. ‘Tis work that’s eating the nation, I tell you. If every ’un just let it all work ’self ou-” As Ren began to close the door, he raised a hand quickly, and his voice suddenly dipped several octaves. “List’n, I got stuff to tell.” The gap widened to its previous size, although the motion was almost reluctant.

“I am not interested in hearing things from a nobody.”.

“Let’s even this out, bud. I’ve got a name tha’s yours, a’right, so you probly deserve to have a name for me. Trouble is, been in this business for so long that I’m used to being called jus’ Muscle. Will do for you?”.

“I am not your buddy. What have you got to say?”.

Muscle shifted from one foot to another, then looked around, as if ashamed of saying it out loud. Like a schoolboy who hasn’t done his homework properly. thought Ren. “Well, eh, ‘tis some… can’ put my tongue on it… things I don’ wanna say here out right.” He winked secretively. “Know what I mean?”.

That I should probably slam the door on your face and forget what you looked like so I don’t have nightmares? “You want into the house?” He thought he noticed a pattern, but kept it to himself. If he started noticing patterns in everything, he would surely lose himself in them.

Muscle feigned embarrassment. “Oh geez, how’d I say that? I am just a street slob out here wantin’ to do a li’l talkin’, but if you really wanna invite me in, that’s very white of you, chief.”.

Ren opened the door. “Get in here. Listen, five minutes from now, you should be standing where you are right now, with your back turned and your hands where I can see them. Understood?”.

“Clear as day itsel’.” said a beaming Muscle, stepping past him into the dining room. It was light by a closed window on the north wall, sunlight streaming onto the sink placed beneath it. It seemed more like a kitchen than a dining room, with all the tables occupied by cooking appliances, and a half open cupboard revealing some small onions. There was a cutting board on the cupboard on which there was a piece of beet. Muscle’s experienced eye was quick to note the position of the knife case, and quicker still, an interesting fact: The floor above was completely identical, and he definitely recalled seeing a separate kitchen.

Ren pushed the door shut with his foot, and shot the bolt at the top. He watched the visitor stare, apparently with innocent interest, at the dimly lit surroundings. Part of his mind envisioned Muscle sitting on a chair with a bullet in his head, but the vision quickly dissipated as he spoke out, sharply. “Seen you fill?”

Muscle started, before leering again. “‘Course, chief. Not all of us are lucky to have a pretty li’l place like this. How’d you get it, ’nyway?”.

“None of your business. As I said, you have five minutes.” Ren gestured to a chair near the dining table, then quickly changed his mind and pointed to another one near a large potted plant with yellow flowers close to the west wall. He could at least stare at the plant, which he had bought from a store in an effort to beautify his room as per Andy’s advice and had actually begun to like a bit, instead of the stupid face of this man when he began his stupid talk.

“Right.” Muscle walked over and sat down on the chair. It was wooden and rather strong, yet Ren thought he heard a low creak as the other man shifted his weight on the chair, obviously not very comfortable. He walked to the breakfast table, picked up the spoon and fork, took them to the sink and placed them inside. The tap turned, and the room filled with the sound of running water.

“So what is it?” asked Ren suddenly, turning to face his visitor, who had been eying him carefully.

Muscle didn’t seem to want to be hurried. “Maybe you should take a seat, chief. It might be a bit long.”

I haven’t got long." replied Ren. It was true. He had a meeting planned and it was vital that he got there on time. “So spill your beans.”.

“Okay.” Muscle said, and suddenly, he was no longer smiling. “Chief, you know who I am?”.

I do. You are a damn son of a- “Some goon with a police record.” He said, drumming his finger on the tabletop as he watched the water flow. In reality, he was watching the reflection of Muscle on the spoon, and the other man knew it pretty well.

“Right, chief, though nothin’ like yours. Still a nice person, really. Anythin’ more?”.

“Petty thief, weak street hooligan.” He stifled a yawn with the back of his left hand as he picked up the spoon and put it inside a case with a few more. “Got a tattoo on your arm that won’t be treated well by some other nice persons.”.

He thought he heard a sharp intake of breath, before it was released loudly. “Well, they say you were a copper. You be a keen eye too?”.

“I was a police detective, if that’s what you mean. Two minutes gone, you’ve got something to say?” He thought he had put up the act long enough. Walking over to the east wall, he turned around, and watched the man. Or maybe he watched the plant. He wasn’t sure.

“I’ll make it short ‘n quick, though I dunno if I can, chief, not by a lon’ haul. Well, a coupla days ago, there was this news on the papers. It ran ‘Cop on the Run from Law after Shooting up Distinguished Personage’. You remember that?”.

“Several months, actually. It ran ‘Cop on the Run from Law after Shooting Reputed Personage’, but you are fairly close.” The yellow flowers had red centers. They made him think of bullet holes in a piece of butter. A living piece of butter.

“All’s same to me, ‘nyways. So, whatcha think ’bout it? A dog on the run from the owner, you coulda said. ’Nyways, there’s some o’ us inter’sted in thin’s like this, cuz it makes the coppers look bad, you see, an’ being law ‘biding citizens, we gotta do somethin’ ’bout them.”.

Probably as law abiding as a speeding bullet is safe. He said nothing, as he wanted it over quickly, and had a faint idea where this was going.

“But we decided to cut ‘im some slack ’nyways, since he wasn’ doin’ no harm. Tha’s what we thought, ‘nest by God, but then, fishy thin’s started to happen. This guy who we dunno in ‘nyway starts bustin’ into our,” he stalls momentarily, as if trying to find a respectable synonym. “You know, our discu-chin grounds like ‘tis nobody’s business.”.

The leaves were so supple and green that Ren wondered if he wanted to see them streaked with scarlet. Unfortunately, he knew he would have no choice. Unless…

“…so now you can understan’ our prob, right? Right?” Muscle asked, as if he had just finished giving a lengthy, educative speech and wanted to be questioned on it. His right hand was trailing towards the butt of the gun hidden under his jacket. It was always so predictable. Just five more seconds, and he had a choice of getting the plant bloodstained, or not getting it bloodstained.

It was a tough decision, but he eventually decided that the plant wasn’t that important.

The Glock seemed to be almost attracted magnetically to his hand as he swept his hand around the coffee machine, ducking to let the speeding bullet fly over his head and hit the blender, heard the curse from the other man as he tried to get up and the chair leg snapped at the point where it had been sawed in partly. Holding onto the side table for support, he turned and shot in one fluid motion. Once, twice, thrice, before standing up to look at the wall clock. It hadn’t even been five seconds.

It took him a lot more time to get dressed, during which he thought he heard knocking at the front door. In reality, with the silencer in place and almost no inhabitants in the flat, there was a very low chance anyone had heard the shots. Even if they had, he didn’t care much. He wasn’t coming back to this flat, after all.

Picking up the keys to a car that wasn’t his, tucking his weapons into his jacket and picking up the whistle on the table, he stopped outside the kitchen, before letting out a low whistle from his mouth. An eager bark answered him, followed by a swift silver figure bounding out on all fours and nearly knocking him down. He walked to the door, and looked back only once.

He saw the coffee cup on the table, the coffee inside long turned too cold to enjoy; the blender, smashed to unidentifiable bits; the body on the floor, covered by the bedsheets; the plant, its emerald leaves inlaid with rubies.

And then he was off into a bigger world.

 
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Chaos
Sad. I can’t find another mountain, and I’m starting to get bored again, so— wait. There’s a guy who’s solid black standing among the trees. I run at him and stop an inch from his face. “Hey! I’m the shadowy guy here! Who the hell are you?”.

 
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Analisse

The office was a long way from home, and long walks always made me paranoid. Especially today. It seemed as if someone, or something, was following me, but every time I stopped to look around, there wasn’t anyone there.
You’re only psyching yourself out, Ana. Just keep walking. If anyone wanted to hurt you, they would have done so by now.
What can I say, I was right. Even though that feeling in my gut didn’t go away, there was little to worry about. I’ve been successful in keeping my whereabouts to myself, and it’s highly unlikely that I’ve been spied on before.

Just a few more blocks to go…

 
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Diovoga Llunrov
The girl is getting paranoid. Doesn’t matter, as long as she doesn’t act on it, which she apparently isn’t going to… the masked man, on the other hand, definitely has acted on it, apparently ignoring the invisibility entirely. I program the invisibility out of the shadow construct, then take direct control of it.

Diovoga (AoS)
Ahh, yes. It’s been a while since I’ve taken direct command of a construct of my design, and the apparent weightlessness I now feel gives me the urge to have the construct just fly away. I suppress it, then fold the construct’s arms.
‘I could ask the same about you, sir.’ I say, using telepathy to form my words in his mind. ‘I don’t believe I’ve seen you around before… so then who, pray tell, are you?’

 
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Chaos
“Depends, you talking to the man or the mask? Regardless, I’m new around here.” I cross my arms and stare at him.

 
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Diovoga (AoS)
…the mask is a separate entity to the person wearing it? Intriguing… but they seem nice enough.
‘…let’s say both, and see what happens.’

 
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Chaos
“Then I’m the guy who’s supposed to be screwing the world up as much as possible, but doesn’t know how yet. Maybe that’s why you’re here?” Black fire surrounds my hands.

 
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Diovoga (AoS)
I’d be raising my eyebrows, if the construct had eyebrows. Or eyes. Perhaps my initial judgement was hasty, then.
‘There are more than seven billion people in the world right now. Plenty of them are mages, and the rest have at least some form of resistance to magic. All the fire on the planet won’t destroy seven billion people. Unless… you’ve done something particular with it…?’

 
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Chaos
“I don’t know… that part of my memory seems a bit hazy. Let’s find out!” I punch the man in the face, shadows trailing behind my arm.

 
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Diovoga (AoS)
As the construct gets punched in the face, the fire the person has-

Diovoga Lunrov
'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!'
…huh. A sudden burst of intense pain from what was apparently the inside of my brain, then some form of… mental blackout, I suppose? I’m pretty sure the construct he hit was completely destroyed with that one attack… but I can’t seem to make contact with the other constructs, either. No, wait, wait… wait… okay, I’m just starting to get feedback from the closest ones. Phew… that could have been a lot worse. I need the constructs to keep tabs on everyone else. I don’t like being cut off from everything.
So, let’s figure this out. Apparently, the construct he hit was destroyed in a single flame-enhanced punch, which implies that he has some form of magic nullification ability… I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a person, actually. Reduction of effectiveness, yes; outright nullification… not that I’ve seen. It may be in my interests to not let him find out where I am, then. In any case, the nullification was apparently linked to the flames, or at least the darkness they were composed of… therefore, he apparently has magic-nullifying fire. Fantastic.
Then I hear a knocking sound, which I realise has been going on for a while now. Picking myself up, making sure nothing is out of place, I invite the knocker in and compose myself appropriately.
'Uh... hullo, sir...'
Just a servant. I suppose the higher-ups were too scared to come see me themselves. I’ll have to rectify that sort of mindset, if it is indeed the case.
'Is there a problem?'
'Well, uh, you just... screamed. Really loudly.'
'And?'
'Well... are you okay, sir?'
'I'm fine. I am, really. You may leave.'
'But, uh...'
'I said, you may leave.'
Shivering, he nods, then makes a quick exit. I suppose I’ll definitely have to avoid meetings with that man again, otherwise incidents like that may become far more common that I’d desire. Ugh.

 
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Ren

It took Ren a few seconds to make his way down the stairs. Ample time to rethink his battle plan.

First things first. he thought as he cleared the stars two at a time. Can’t come back here. That was a given, really. The hideout wouldn’t be of much use to him any more, since he couldn’t really “hide out there” without being set upon by masses of bounty hunters and gang hitmen. That meant having to look for another dwelling: somewhere in the city, which wasn’t going to be hard, and somewhere they wouldn’t expect him to go, which was definitely going to be harder. He thought he could predict them to a fairly good extent, so that wasn’t at the top of his list of worries.

What’s the possibility of getting attacked if I return to flat again? They probably didn’t expect much from Muscle when it came to harming him: he was just a live warning sign: and expected Ren to get away from there as soon as possible. Chances were good that someone would come to check the room near the evening, when they had made a fake key (he didn’t expect them to be able to break the lock without making too much sound). He had to do something about that. Smash as much information out of the rascal’s mouth as he could.

What did worry him was that they had managed to find him in the first place, when he had taken a hell lot more precautions here than in any of the other hideouts. It was probably ridiculous to think that they had taken to searching out every building one by one (hell, they wouldn’t do that if their lives depended on findings him). Stalling at the foot of stairs, Ren thought hard. Someone had blabbed, most probably. The suspect list didn’t go too far. Andy, Lucas, Carlos, Jade, Harley and possibly Serra knew where he was, or could guess, at any rate, which amounted to the same thing.

He would have to get in touch with them. Tell them about the incident, slip in a couple of casual questions, observe the reactions. And see where he could go from there. It wasn’t much of an idea, but it was an idea. And of course, he thought, as he pushed open the creaky front gate. They might have told someone else. That was a good possibility, but he decided that it didn’t change matters much. Caution and craftiness were his keys to survival, and a traitorous contact was more harm than help.

His eyes swept over the surroundings: quickly, and without apparent interest. They would have someone keep an eye on him. Check where he went, what he did, who he met. Particularly who he met. They would want to know who worked for him, and whether he worked for someone. The keys in his pockets would have to stay there. If he walked, he had a better chance of picking out the spy from the normal morning crowd.

He set off down Cassandra Street at a brisk pace. Not much traffic. Fewer people, most of them walking in the same direction as him, towards the center of town. This wasn’t a very respectable neighborhood, but that didn’t mean dark alleys filled with goons. At least, not in the morning. Would they attack him in the streets? He dismissed the idea as soon as it formed in his mind. Too risky. They would want to know how much he knew about them before they did that.

A smile played across his lips momentarily as he looked around at the people around him, unconscious of who he was. And why wouldn’t they be so? He had longer, spikier hair than in the photos, hiding the normally conspicuous scar, black sunglasses covering his eyes (and that hardly mattered. He had contact lenses to change their color and eyeliners to change their shape), had no mustache and walked with a casual gait that would pass the most careful scrutiny.

Having about an hour till the appointment, he would get enough time to reach the nearest arcade. Not as if he didn’t have an interest in games, but at present, what made him head for it was the fact that it had a backdoor.

 
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[I’ll be gone for about 9 days.]

 
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Originally posted by ocelot:

[I’ll be gone for about 9 days.]

[Not again D:]
[Xan, now’s a good time for the bump.]

Ren

“Why do most married men die early?”. Ren thought he noticed a pattern again, with regret.
“Because they really want to.”.

It was a bright morning outside, and the Liquid Life was emptier than it would be within a few more hours. The only people who had stopped by were either those who needed a drink to get rid of the irritating sleepiness associated with late night partying, or those who were simply having one because they had nothing better to do. Of course, there was a third class, like Ren and Lucas, who preferred the unobtrusively located bar as their meeting place, for it had a queer detached look from the city despite being located nearly in its center. There were just too many better alternatives, suited for the “civilized class”.

“So you’ve heard this one too?” asked Lucas with a touch of disappointment in his voice as he fiddled with a bright red lighter on the table in front of him. He had a bittersweet relationship with the lighter, which was his self proclaimed lucky item and the source of constant nagging from his wife, who hated anything that was remotely related to smoking.

“Guess so.” Ren replied, accepting a glass from one of the many uniformed waiters and holding it between his hands, feeling the cool glass and the dark beads of liquid sloshing around inside. It was a good feeling.

“What’s new?” Lucas asked, copying his movements, before staring at him.

“Busted again.” was the reply. “Seems they knew about the hideout all along.”.

“That’s ridiculous.” Lucas puffed. “Unless they’ve got one of their own spies looking for you or something. Who the hell would think of finding you in some completely gaga neighbourhood tucked away in the corner of nowhere?” That was very much like his friend, thought Ren, as he looked into the indignant brown eyes across the table from him.

“I’ve left somebody back in Cassandra Street who would testify the truth of my statement.” he raised the glass, and took a sip. “If he was alive.”.

He saw a momentary flash of bitterness across Lucas’ face. Characteristic. He was still in the service, after all. “Popped a cap into him the moment he showed his face? Picked a fight the moment you got the opportunity?”.

“Hardly. He was looking to drill me and karma came back him. He pulls his heater on my back and you don’t just expect me to be a sitting duck.” Ren took another sip. “It was self defense, really. I reckon a bullet in his skull is better than one in mine.”. Before Lucas could retort, he cut in. “Big guy named Muscle. Ring a bell?”

Lucas grunted. “Hired man of the Wraiths. We’ve been on him for sometime. Got a hit contract recently. Couldn’t stop him getting his weapon.” He paused. “You know how some of them want unmarked guns from their employers? Muscle made a living with pieces that couldn’t be traced to him even if he dropped them right on top of the bodies.”.

“So it seems like I was the target. Interesting.”.

“Yeah. Not surprised though. Did you read the papers today morning?” Ren had been expecting that.

“Seems like I cracked open a tough nut yesterday. How much was meth did you guys get?”.

“Enough to ruin hundreds of lives. Not sure why there were so many men though.” Lucas looked out of the window, as a red doubledecker rolled by. A motorcycle zipped past only seconds later, the rider’s identity obscured by the helmet. Since Lucas was off duty, he was wearing casual clothes. A bit too casual. His yellow colored shirt proclaimed “I know I’m in trouble but I am laughing my ass off.” That was true, though. Lucas laughed through all his troubles. Even his wedding photos had him laughing like a mad hare on crack. “It was as if they were hiding something real precious.”

“Meth’s precious. Sells like diamonds to the right people.” But Lucas shook his head at the suggestion.

“It wasn’t the meth. They were happy enough to have us cart it off to the station. No, there was something else. We got our hands on some documents, which might give a bit more of a clue.” He paused, and then the accusation, for which Ren had been mentally preparing, came. “Do you really have to pump them full of lead every single time?”.

“I don’t have a badge to wave around and shout “This is the police. Put your hands up and come out like good boys.” I just have a gun, no, two guns filled with bullets. How else do you think I am supposed to command some respect?".

“You can fire blanks-”.

“You know full well that those tricks don’t work with these guys. They see YOU guys coming, they know full well you are going to be busting them up, no matter how many of them there are, so they’ll come nice and quiet just so they waste less energy. Plus, I don’t care about breaking laws that I have long stopped caring about anyway.”.

“Hardy’s on your case with a vengeance now.” Frank Hardman, thought Ren. He’ll love to be on my case. There had been a time when they had both read in the same college. They had never been friends, and their enmity had received further nourishment from their opposing characters. He wasn’t afraid of Hardman. He was seldom afraid of anything nowadays.

“And now,” Ren pushed on despite the fact that Lucas seemed eager to continue on about Hardman. “What’s the deal? Is there anything interesting up at the station?”.

“Several, actually. We are getting filled to the brim with complaints of all types, and quite a couple of murders. I’ve sorted out the interesting ones,” Basically, the ones that you think you can’t handle by yourself. thought Ren, but didn’t voice his opinion. “..which amounts to three cases.”.

“Spill your beans.” A bird sat on the windowsill, looking inside with a mixture of terror and curiosity. Or perhaps it was just hungry. Ren squinted in its direction with experienced falconer’s eyes. It was hungry.

“Guy name of Henry Cooker. Been three days out of the slammer. Been in touch with the Double Tap, according to our sources.” Lucas paused. “Weapon contract. Seems like they want Henry back in circulation, but he’s gotta make up time”.

“I recognize the name. Is it the guy who was a low-key gunsmith with a family and kids, till he got a divorce from his wife who had the hots for their rich neighbour, and took to drugs?”.

“That’s him, alright. Will you recognize him? He’s living near Goldman Avenue now.” Lucas dug into his pockets. After taking out a handkerchief with a curly C and L embroidered in the corner with pink thread (Ren wanted to roll his eyes), he took out his wallet, and handed Ren a picture of a man in his thirties. He had an angry look on his face and his eyes were of different colors. “Pretty, eh?”.

“I wouldn’t want him in my wedding for entirely different reasons. Don’t you guys have one of your men on him already?”.

“We do. Jenkins has his phone tapped, his room wired, a tracker on his hat and I think he has bribed the maid to tell him everything she sees when cleaning out his room.” Lucas shook his head. “He is zealous, but not skilled. He wants to see the things which we learn to deduce. Reckon you can peep in when you have the time?” Ren thought he recognized Jenkins. Two years younger than him, lanky and nearly hidden by his mustache, Ren liked to think of him as a French fry from Mexico.

“Yeah, no problem. What about the others?”.

“Let’s see. 32, Crescendo Square. Sounds familiar? No? Good. Dead body of secretary from Irrational Co. Gal in her twenties, single with no evident affairs, house in Eden Lane, multiple knife wounds, and severe burns on her right hand. Sounds gruesome?”.

“I haven’t heard of this Irrational Co before. What are they up to?”.

“Computer hardware export and import, or something like that. I looked into it. Their records are clean. Here are the addresses you’d like to look into, and a pic of the girl. If anyone bothers you, you are a private detective hired by her family.”.

“And if the family, as you said, bothers me?”.

“Tell them any story. No wait, tell them that you have been hired by the company. They won’t look too deep into it.” Ren wanted to retort, but didn’t. He watched the bird fly away, disappointed, perhaps, by the clamor of the crowd now gathering inside the bar.

“Third case?” He felt his concentration deepen. Lucas always saved the “best” for last.

“Drama in real life.” Lucas drained the last drops of his drink slowly, before beckoning the waiter. He waited till he had handed the glass over, enjoying the tension on his friend’s face. Then, he leaned forward as the man got out of earshot. “Girl had her boyfriend shot right out of her arms. Got away unharmed, luckily, but then, she made a dash for it. Didn’t have a gun on her, according to a few pedestrians we managed to interview.”.

“Normal psychological reaction.” Ren replied, handing over his glass as well. “Innocents make a run for it, try to get away from the horror. The guilty like to hide and watch. So they caught the man who shot her?”.

“It didn’t work out so easily. We found another dead guy, man in black if you like, with a gun. Knifed through the head. Gun had definitely been fired, and we found the bullet some ten feet from Mr. Killed. Fact is, it was a glancing shot.”.

“Meaning he was a double target?”.

“Exactly. Second shot’s what got him off the road. Cops at the scene did see someone running, despite what you said, and they fired a coupla shots too. Didn’t hit our guy, who made good his escape. They got the girl near the forest, brought her to the station, and Dave interviewed her.” Ren didn’t like that name. Not because he had a personal bone to pick. It was purely professional rivalry. “Analisse McCoy. Ring any bells?”.

“Several, but all are red herrings. They are either too important, or too unimportant to have something like this happen to them. Tell me about the guy.”.

“Guy called Chase Something. Not many in his family. Nothing to suggest that he was on the wrong side. Nothing to suggest the opposite either. We met some friends. He’d been worried for some time. Should have come to us, but he probably figured himself out to be some bigshot who could tackle the problem alone.” Lucas snorted. “Strength just doesn’t cut it sometimes.”. A picture of Muscle flashed in front of Ren’s eyes for a second.

“No, I suppose it doesn’t. How’s the girl managing herself?”.

“She isn’t Victorian era, if that’s what you are implying. Seems like a tough one. Bent on revenge or something. Dave is all for keeping an eye on her at all times. Her parents are kinda worried too, and personally, I think they are right. She should be careful, especially if she’s caught the smallest glimpse of the murderer.” He paused, and Ren picked up the ball.

“Am I the detective or the bodyguard?” He knew the answer instinctively.

“Both. She needs both of those right now. Listen, we are doing our best to track the killer, but we can’t afford another mistake. She needs someone who can hear the sound of a bullet before it is fired. And I am not talking magic here. We have too many mages with too little competence divided too unequally between them, but the number of these hit-and-run cases is increasing too fast as well. Keep her safe, and you might get a bigger reward than satisfaction.” Lucas paused. “You know what you have to protect her from, right?”.

“The murderer.” replied Ren. “And herself.”.

Lucas seemed pleased. “Herself was the part I wasn’t sure you’d get.”.

Ren shrugged. “It is nothing exceptional. There’s an age when you look up at the sky and think that you can fly just because the birds do. Then, someday, you find out about aeroplanes and helicopters, maybe ride one or two. You lose a dream, but gain an experience, and that’s how the world works and keeps working. I am going to have to make sure that her dreams of justice don’t shatter too soon while making sure she can still dream.” He paused to let the words sink in, before smiling. “How hard can that be?” Lucas was momentarily silent, but then he positively burst.

“Ren, you know this business better than I do. You don’t need to worry about your identity. Spin her any story. Tell her that you are a police detective who must keep an eye on her because of the murder. Tell her that you got appointed by her parents to keep her out of trouble. Hell, tell her you are her Guardian Angel come down from heaven, and radiation somehow mutated you into an uglier form.”.

“Basically,” said Lucas, with the air of finalizing a deal. “Make sure she dies after you, and not vice versa, at least while you can make it happen that way”.

There was a pause, and then Ren picked up the small photograph on the table. Turning it over, he saw a girl, who he estimated to be in her late teens. Not too bad looking, but there was something menacing in her green eyes. It was probably his imagination. He inserted the photo in a flap of his wallet, along with the second scribbled chit, and then, pushing away from the table, stood up. The sun was still up, and he had dawdled long enough.

“I’ll make it count.” I always do, don’t I? “How are Carla and the kids?” Lucas smiled again.

“Carla’s fine. She drives me crazy, but you know that already. Crystal’s going to start school soon. John’s taken an interest in art.” Ren wondered what it was like to have responsibilities. Then he scolded himself for being sarcastic towards himself. His friend’s eyes softened momentarily. “Take care, Ren.”.

“As much as I can while I do what I do. You take care too.” He walked towards the exit, pausing to pay the bill at the counter, smiling politely at the thank you, and strolled into the sunshine with an easy gait. It was easy to be comfortable when you had your game planned several steps ahead of the present. He had a meeting with Carlos, to check out his gun. He also had a meeting with Mr. Miller, and that wasn’t going to be pretty. This was possibly the hardest part of his business. But before all that, he would check out that Irrational Co case. Just sniff around and see if he got a scent.

‘Guardian Angel…’ he thought. ‘Guardian Devil might be a better term to use. If this girl is what she sounds like, I will have a tough job getting her out of harm’s way, so I’ll probably end up helping her deal out punishment to the people who wronged her. And if it is Wraiths, it will just the sweeten the pot for me.’

 
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[Mind’s currently drawing a blank, will post soon.]

 
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(Y U NO EVE POST, SOLARIS!?)

 
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Evelyn Walker

I grimace when I witness my doppelganger and the grin on its face. I… should not look that happy. I am not that happy. Have I ever laughed like that in my life? The world I have grown up in is a world full of fake smiles and other similar, sickening honeyed facades. What is the doppelganger so happy about? There is nothing to warrant such happiness.

The doppelganger transforms into water, then back into my human form. It appears that his problem cannot be solved so easily.

“So my spell alone does not return you to your original form…” I sigh. “Again, I advise you to not abuse my magic and other capabilities,” I say to Cyrix icily. “The moment I hear that you have used my powers in a way I deem unacceptable, I will personally hunt you down and kill you. It is my responsibility; do not make me regret my decision of sharing power with you. And believe me, no imitation of my power can win against the original, doppelganger or no.”

[There’s not much else I can post…]

[And don’t send any PMs to this account; send it to Blood_Shadow instead. I don’t check this account often.]

 
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(I didn’t transform into a male after the water…I just transformed back into you and ended up crying because I fell. I have no access to my actual human form.)

 
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[Derp. Edited.]

 
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[Thanks, brah.]

[Say, AN…what exactly you be doing? Investigations?]