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20XX: We.Are.Immortal

The realms with a strong focus on technology. These are the realms of Science Fiction/Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and their ilk. Examples: Star Trek, Borderlands, Neuromancer.

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20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Filth » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:54 am

Lucas Daichi, figure head of Zetatech’s American branch, stood at the large window of his office. Fifty-six stories above the streets of New York. He hated the unofficial addition to the name. Neo. Even thinking it, the word dripped with vitriol in his mind. There was nothing new about the city. It was the same as it had always been—turn over any rock and the insects would scatter to some new hole. Still, the view from this height was astounding in the brief moments he could ignore the rot built into its very foundation.

His eyes, however, were fixed on his own reflection. Lucas considered himself among the highest tier of male sexuality. A body rippled with muscle, his Japanese feature, he thought, served him well. They made him appear more exotic, appealing, and to an extent, intimidating. He stood with practiced composure and wore the most expensive and fashionable suits money could buy. He was perfection. He didn’t look a bit the part of a man in his late forties. He kept his hair a dark black with scalp injections, and allowed the faintest beginnings of wrinkles to keep him in the range of thirty despite being more than capable of reducing that.

He kept up with the media on celebrities and the latest trends, so that when his previous vehicle had dropped from one of the hottest cars on the market after only a month he purchased a new vehicle this morning. Some sports car from Japan. It had featured heavily in the music casts of the top songs at the moment. He didn’t even know the name of the car, but heard the compliments in the eyes of those that saw it. He couldn't tell you anything about the car beyond its color which was chosen to match his propensity for the same color in his suits.

“So start at the beginning and please don’t lie,” he said still admiring his reflexion for a moment longer. He turned to face the woman to whom he was speaking and cut off her stammering her reply as soon as it began. “You’re nervous because you are planning to lie. There's no need for that. I assure you that no matter the answer I’ll let you go and no further harm will come to you. I’ll even return the precious Nuke my men confiscated from you when they brought you in.”

He sat down on the edge of a massive black marble table that stretched the length of the conference room to give the impression of calm and casual. The woman just stared at him for a moment. Her face was already bruised, her lip and nose smeared with dried blood that also managed to stain her tattered brown jacket. In total the woman looked homeless but all of those living below the tenth floor of the city appeared that way to him.

“Now start from the beginning. How did they contact you?”

“I swear I don’t know anything. I swear,” she pleaded as tears already began trailing down her face again. She was scared and still lying. He changed his expression to one of mocking sadness like one might to entertain a child.

“Oh, you sweet, dear, filthy, vermin. See, now you’ve gone and lied to me. So my friend here is going to remove your pinky finger.” No sooner had he finished the statement than a man standing silently behind the woman gripped her wrist and with a swift motion pressed a large knife down and removed the smallest finger of her left hand. The woman had barely enough time to scream or struggle before the finger lay a few inches from the rest of her hand. She screamed and cried and cursed and began begging. It was disgusting to watch such weakness.

“Now, from here on out, we’re going to remove one finger for every time you lie,” he said talking in a normal tone despite her loud wailing. The woman began to quiet but remained begging him and god—who might as well be one and the same as far as she was concerned—between the deep sobs. It was disgusting enough to him that he would have simply told his men to take her away and leave her corpse in a dumpster somewhere. Unfortunately, she had information he wanted and if she was smart, she might have tried to leverage that against him. She would lose of course but he might have respected her enough not to kill her when he was done.

He sighed at the thought of touching her before leaning in closer, turning her face up to look him in the eyes with the press of his index finger beneath her chin.

”Now, start from the beginning and tell me everything you know about when these so called "ì͝m̸m̢͟o͝rt͏al̸s͢ ̸̢" first contacted you.”
Image
The small mechanical crow, barely discernable from the real, walked slowly across a table of res-wood barely discernable from the real. Everything was artificial below the tenth level of Neo New York, even the "bricks" used to create the most of the buildings. Everything but the people, both literally and figuratively, Donovan thought to himself watching the street outside scattered with pedestrians and the rare vehicle. It was near impossible that anyone at street level could afford a surrogate and only a fool would risk the tech walking them in The Dregs.

“So, now what?” Asked the crow and Donovan smirked.

"Next we find out if I still have what it'll take to convince others that I have their best interests at heart."

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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Śaraṯkṣati » Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:49 pm

"So, you're not going to see me for a month or so. Just thought you should know."

The husky timber of Christina Qahtani's voice was almost inextricable from the mingled haze of smoke and mellow electronic tones that had suffused her apartment like terraforming gases in the atmosphere of a hostile world. Still, she felt Nahid's body beneath the covers shift against her own, heard the other woman murmur, "Another business trip? You just got back from one earlier this month." And then, with the faintest twinge of coquetry and a wry smirk, she added, "One might be forgiven for suspecting you're just taking any opportunity you can for a vacation from me, jigar."

It was a moment before Qahtani answered-- Nahid knew she was wired, had spent enough nights here to tell when she was occupying a world of virtual nodes and symbols that would never be Nahid's to see. "Well, I'd invite you with me," Qahtani eventually answered in that familiar languid drawl, dark and cool as winter nights beneath the Martian starscape. "But I figured you had better things to do than tag along to conferences about air conditioner sales."

"Oh, indeed," Nahid snorted. She took a generous drag of the electronic pipe in her hand and then exhaled a cloud of faintly reddish smoke, tinged with the scent of strawberries, and then drew her body away from Qahtani's, extricating limb from long, gangling limb and sitting up. She made to stand, but Qahtani's hand taking her own stilled her, and she turned to find the older woman, evidently no longer online, gazing at her with the same blank dispassion out of which Nahid had learned to extract a certain inscrutable affection. "You should stay here, though. Use the apartment while I'm gone." It was a decent place in a nice part of town, near enough to the lap of luxury for Qahtani to enjoy its comforts and avoid its scrutiny, and Nahid smiled gratefully.

And then, without the faintest shift in expression, Qahtani added, "As long as you don't smoke that crap here."

Nahid rolled her eyes and laughed, letting go of Qahtani's hand and standing up. "Everybody does it, Christina," she pointed out, as if admonishing Qahtani for her prudishness. "Nobody gave a damn even back when it was technically illegal."

"Don't care. It screws with your head, and it screws with the smell of my apartment, too." She paused for a moment-- she had, it appeared, returned to her virtual world-- and then added, "I like you better without it, anyway."

"Oh? Do tell why."

She shrugged. "You only make me turn on this awful music when you're high."

Nahid snickered. "Please. In a million years I couldn't get you to do anything you didn't want to do, Christina. I don't think there's a person in the world who could." Still, she turned the electronic pipe off and set it down on the nightstand, before inclining her head towards the doorway and adding, "Anyway, I'm going to make some tea. You want any?" Qahtani shook her head, and Nahid left her to her devices-- or rather, to the virtual icons floating around her.

Among them was the notorious mugshot of Donovan Rashall, the image that had been splayed across the newsnets for days on end back when he'd been arrested on charges of terrorism. They'd had the briefest encounters a couple of years prior to that incident, back when Qahtani had been doing some underground work for one or another of the corporations Rashall so violently despised-- and here he was again, six months into his newfound freedom and already looking to stir some new trouble up. Sure, the posting was for legal work, and Rashall's name had of course not been associated with it, but you didn't get very far in the cybersecurity sphere without knowing a thing or two about digging into information you weren't supposed to see. It was definitely Rashall, and taking the job was therefore probably a pretty bad idea.

Qahtani loved those.

"So I take it--" Nahid had returned, steaming mug of green tea in hand as she slipped back into the bedroom. "-- you'll be leaving tomorrow, then?" Qahtani nodded, and Nahid smiled ruefully, setting the mug down on the nightstand and settling into bed beside Qahtani. "I'm going to miss you," she simpered, nuzzling the other woman.

"Yeah," Qahtani said, watching the flow of data before her eyes. "I'll miss you too."
she said, knowing me does not mean dying


Justice In My House
Some rancid attempts at poetry

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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Sammy » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:46 pm

It is thought that many years ago, a man who was once considered to be the Father of Modern Physics, described insanity as 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result'. By that definition and, truth be told, a handful of others by this point, Kai was well on her way to losing her mind. Such was, it appeared, the cost of freedom. It had been a month since she had finally been released from LV-451, a full year earlier than her sentence had entailed in a move that she guessed had a lot less to do with her so-called 'good behaviour' and a lot more to do with her continued presence contributing to the enduring myth of Donovan Rashall. A month of couch surfing, a month of sending resumes into the virtual nether despite suspecting that her criminal record would keep them from making it through even the first level of screening and, while she scarcely admitted as much even to herself, a month of missing the simple life of LV-451. Incarceration hadn't exactly been a picnic but at least she'd been able to count on three square meals a day and a decent amount of air-time.

The couch that currently served as her bedroom, dining area, office and recreation centre belonged to a cousin on her mother's side, removed enough times to make it a little bit awkward but not quite enough to avoid some sense of familial responsibility. Her mother, thank god, had been good people which meant that there were still those who felt obliged to assist her ill-fated daughter, however irresponsible they believed her to be. She had been here a week now and, polite as her cousin had been, she was already beginning to feel as though she'd overstayed her welcome. For the umpteenth time that morning, Kai let out a deep sigh and stared at her complete lack of messages as though will alone were enough to create a job opportunity, a way back into something resembling a normal life and a diet that consisted of more than instant noodles that had more in common with shoelaces than their namesake.

"Kai, audio visual communication incoming. Would you like me to respond?" The voice appeared to emanate from the room at large but it was the mechanical bee that hovered just in front of her.
"Can you trace who it is, Oz?" Kai sat up a little straighter and regarded Oz, grimly.
"The origin of the signal appears to be a - Ah, Kai, I think it's Imre."
"Why would you think that?"
"Because he is muttering 'it's Imre, you paranoid bit-"
"Alright Oz, put him through. Audio only from our side though, please."
"Confirmed," the construct replied as a small hatch opened on the side of the mechanical bee, a low quality holographic image appearing in the air beneath it. It was low-tech, really, but in the absence of a decent powered media wall, it was better than nothing. The face belonging to Imre Hansen flickered in and out of focus.
"Aiya Imre, what have you got for me?"
"Kakiye? I spend all this time trying to help you and I don't even get to see your beautiful face, amo?"
"I'm trying to lay low, Imre. Now have you got something for me or not?"
"Ah, explains the voice, thought you were comin' down with sommin'"
"Imre." there was a warning there, distorted voice or otherwise.
"You gotta be the only girl who's more fun in prison. Aight, someone's puttin' a crew together, need a pilot an' from what I've heard, more bothered about skill than background checks."
Kai inhaled sharply and hoped that he'd write the sound down to the connection. Not wanting to seem too keen, there was a decent chance that Imre would be reporting back to someone with more information, she took a moment or two to compose herself.
"Hm," she began and then paused again. "It legit?" They'd got this far before but, like most ex-cons, Imre lived largely in the fuzzy grey areas between legality and doing another stint inside. After a month spend trying to find a straight path, she could hardly blame him.
"Far as I know," he replied and, before she had chance to interject "Far as I know! Look, amo, you're a smart girl an' between you an' me it seems a bit good to be true, right? But you've been out what - a month now? How many job offers you had? Interviews?"
Her silence spoke for itself.
"Take the meeting, Kai."
"Aiya, send through the details. Thank you, Imre."
"Any time."
"Imre, before you go. Any news on that... other thing?" The uncertainty that crept into Kai's voice spoke far more of her trust of her friend than anything else ever could.
"Couple stirrings but nothin' solid. If I was worried, I'd tell ya," he paused, frowned at the camera and then lowered his voice a notch or two. "If you came here, we'd protect ya, you know that, right? You got friends out here. People who didn't like what he was plannin' anymore than you did."
"I know, thanks," she ran a hand back through her hair, frowning as it got stuck in a snag. If she really had a meeting to go to she was going to need a long appointment with a brush and a shower head. "Does anyone know where I am?"
"Nah," he began before shaking his head. "Rask might. Y'know what he's like. But whatever y'can say about Rask, an' y'can say a lot, he takes his loyalties pretty feckin' seriously."
"True that," Kai replied, chuckling softly and, not for the first time, missing the admittedly sometimes uneasy comradeship of LV-451 even as she reminded herself that it had been her decision to distance herself from it all the moment she'd got out.
"Look, I gotta go, amo. Was nice t'hear you an' you remember what I said, aight? You're only as alone as you make yourself." He smiled and blew a kiss and Kai found herself smiling back regardless of whether he could see it or not.
"Later Imre and thank you, really."

"Call terminated," Oz chimed, the hatch in the mechanical bee closing and the holographic image disappearing with it.
"Thank you, Oz. Was anyone listening?"
"I did not detect any unusual activity, an upgrade to my-"
"I know, I know. Upgrades takes money or hacking and I can't afford either of those right now. Can you let me know as soon as those details come through?"
"Yes boss," the construct replied.

With a nod and a groan she was significantly too young for, Kai pushed herself off the springy couch and decided to push her luck by using all of the hot water. What did it matter if she didn't plan to be here more than another day or so anyway? It was the closest to optimism she'd allowed herself to feel for weeks and by the time she emerged, squeaky clean and wrinkled, her cheeks ached from the unfamiliar strain of smiling.
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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Forge » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:54 pm

Hendrik Schoeman had made a career out of being useful. He wasn't a large man; topping out at a skinny five-eight he was never going to be a bruiser or enforcer for anyone, and in truth that suited him just fine. "Shoe", they called him - a bastardisation of his surname that had started as an insult, and had wound up a part of his 'brand'. When you wanted a job in the Dregs, you spoke to Shoe. When you wanted to recruit a crew, you spoke to Shoe. It didn't matter whether it was legal or otherwise - he was a man who had survived by keeping a firm grasp of what was going on around him, and in doing so he'd carved out a little niche that few others were equipped to fill.

So it was that Shoe had known something was wrong from the moment he'd stepped out of his hab that morning. You know those creeping moments of chemical clarity you get in the lead up to disaster? The lingering suspicion that you have, at some point, fucked up in such a manner that the consequences are about to come down on you in full? That was the feeling that plagued him, right up until the moment that a pair of six-five foundry pielkop threw a bag over his head and bundled him into the back of a diesel transport with nary a word. He didn't fight back; Schoeman was positively gifted in particular areas, but physical altercations were not one of them - no, rather than waste energy on useless struggling, he set to wracking his brains for a reason as to why someone would have abducted him in the middle of the day. Had he screwed someone over recently? No - nobody that would have known it was him. Unintentionally, then? Usually he was careful about what he handed to whom, but even if someone had felt slighted by a job, their grievance would have been with whoever had organised it rather than the middle man. Shoe puzzled over it even has he was dragged from the transport and shoved into a blind stumble into some place new - somewhere loud, too, even through the fabric of the hood. The only unusual job he'd dealt with recently had involved some oddly specific recruitment. The person he'd handed the job off to wasn't overtly dangerous, and as far as he'd known there was nobody with a vested interest in what they'd been doing. Except maybe --

Shit.

"Rask," he croaked as someone dragged the hood from his head. They were in a warehouse - probably one of the disused shipping depots back from before whatever district they were in wound up being too far below street level to matter any more. The smuggler was going through a crate of moulded protein rations that was very definitely stolen, smoking the blunt stub of a mostly-done cigar and talking in a low voice to a pair of his crew. Clean cut guys; unusual for Dregs folk, but then, they'd done alright for themselves by following the former Wolf's orders. Shoe decided to seize on the silence. "Keting you doing, man? Picking me up off the street? You can't just--"
"We're on good terms, right, Shoe?" The question made him come up short. He stopped arguing, glanced between the two heavies who had escorted him in and the smuggler who was now watching him from across the crate. Rask breathed out, wreathing his face in smoke for a moment, and Shoe's skin prickled. He swallowed hard, considered his answer carefully. "Yeah. Yeah, we're on good terms, Rask." The smuggler nodded, dismissing the two men nearest him with a gesture. He plucked the cigar from between his teeth and dropped it, idly grinding out the embers with a boot heel.
"See, that's what I told Ajani this morning. Me and Shoe, we're on good terms. Milowda kopeng. We're friends. That's what I told him." Rask stalked closer as he spoke, coming to a halt with less than a handful of feet between them, and despite himself Shoe was the one to crane his neck in order to continue looking at the other man.
"Rask, I-"
"No way, I told him, would Shoe keep from me that he knows about a job. A big job. Hiring for a fucking pilot. Not when I specifically asked him to keep an eye out for exactly that kind of thing. No way would he try to go behind my back."
Schoeman's jaw flapped uselessly for a moment before he remembered how to speak.
"I - I was going to tell you."
"Sho? You were going to tell me? You were on your way, is that it?" The information broker nodded frantically, and Rask patted his cheek, even as he drew the Jericho with his other hand. At the sight of the gun Schoeman began trying to move backward, as though the men flanking him might somehow fall away like curtains.

"Rask - Rask, come on. Come on. It was a mistake. I was going to tell you!" The former-Wolf nodded agreeably, taking a firm grip of Shoe's shoulder and thumbing the safety on the Jericho, the weapon audibly humming to life.
"Mistakes happen. So this time I'll just do your knees. Maybe remind you to tell me everything next time, sasa ke?"
This time Schoeman did struggle, despite the heavies holding him in place and their leader's boot on his ankle, keeping his leg in place as the smugglers stretched it out straight. Rask wedged the muzzle of the Jericho square against Shoe's kneecap, and by the time the information broker found his voice it was shrill with panic.
"It was just some guy! Looking for a crew, pilot in particular! Money he puts down is good, skills he wants on the pilot are a little specific, but he says he's heard there's maybe a pilot working downside who ticks all his boxes! Im da sheng - I swear! Figured you put the word out, I don't know! It's a legit job, Rask!" The ex-Wolf held the weapon in place a moment longer, studying Schoeman's panicked face before raising the gun and flashing the other man a grin.
"See? Im kowl gut. And you get to keep your knees. Everyone wins, right?" He stepped back, the broker visibly sagging into the arms of the man holding him. Rask turned away, waving a hand. "Take Shoe home. Politely. We're friends again." He stood, waited until the broker had been helped to his feet and taken from the room before tossing the empty pistol to Ajani. "Put that back with the others. And find me the information on this fucking job he's talking about." The other man hesitated a moment, then nodded and moved to comply. Rask watched him go, then cleared his throat and spat the taste of blood onto the floor. What were the odds that someone would have just 'gotten wind' of a pilot slumming it with the downworlders who had the exact skill set they were looking for? May as well piss on his head and tell him it was raining. There was only one name he could think of think of that fit the bill, and that just piqued his curiosity further, because the owner of said name should have been far, far away from NNY. "Input; command," he told the HELM, giving it a mental shake to bring it to life. "Retrieve stored data file on Donovan Rashall."
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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Filth » Sun Aug 27, 2017 8:31 pm

The squat building Donovan purchased, marked only the symbols of a now defunct trading company, had only two floors. The first containing only the small lobby, the lift to the second floor, and the repurposed meeting room he was now standing in. The room was completely bare save for the table and eight chairs that accompanied it. The second floor was given other purposes that remained a need to know basis as was much of Don's dealings since his return. Given his limited connections and remaining resources, the building and the preparation for the job having nearly drained all of them, he was gambling everything that remained on this. If this fails, he began to think and allowed his mind to wander down the path of failure. Taking himself through each worst case scenario and what would come next.

He reached into the inner pocket of his suit and pulled a shit recreation of a tobacco cigarette and pressed the tip between two fingers until he heard the light crack. The end turned to ember and he inhaled still working through the number of ways this would be the end of him. Death was simple, there was nothing to consider, but there were worth outcomes and he struggled with forcing himself to truly look at them. He gave each a consideration on how even those may be resolved before coming to terms with those that he would not be able to change.

When one has made͏ a decision, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead,
it will not do to think about doing it in a long, roundabout way.
One's heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large, there will be no success.
The Way is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong

"You know why the smoke is blue?" The crow asked.

"They add dye among the thousand other chemicals so that those who can afford the real thing can sleep at night assured that their cigarettes won't be confused for the synthetic shit we smoke down here," he said in a languid voice that accompanied annoyance and impatience. He only seemed relaxed when he was annoyed and of all the tones, expressions, and mannerisms he'd consciously developed to hide the truth, seeming as though he was relaxed as he grew closer to striking was the only one to develop naturally.

"Bullshit like that why you did it? I mean tried to do it."

"Among other reasons," he answered in honesty and exhaled the pale blue smoke. Overhead there was an audible click as a vent began pulling the smoke from the room. Don pressed his thumb just behind his ear and a few seconds later the meeting room was overlaid with projections that covered the wall opposite the window with a series three blank displays and a fourth at the edge of the table where he would sit. The crow was seeing the same and had been taking liberties with the display placements.

"They're all—"

"Completely," the crow answered before Don finished, "scratch built. No duplication and nothing in their profiles indicated any of them should be able to bypass the runics I put in place. They'll be able to see but nobody is walking out of here with anything but gray-matter recollection."

Don nodded his approval as he adjusted the displays so that three were sat at the far end of the table from him, silently wagering against himself where each of his visitors would sit, "and mine?"

"Your eyes only," she said and Don pulled the display up to track with his own line of sight, "so what is the job? The description was about as vague as I could make it without tripping anything the wolves might pick up on but you didn't give me much to work with."

“I didn’t tell you?”

“Null.”

“That’s because you don’t need to know anything beyond what you already know. Anna, grant access to the AR when our guests arrive,” he said and the meeting room replied with a soft beep to indicate it was done. There were few AI more simplistic than presently installed int he buildings software and it was made seemingly worse as he'd disabled its voice. Just the sound of such obedience was difficult to tolerate. "You are being paid based on what you need to know. Anything more and I would have to either pay you more or put a bullet through the back of your skull, Taraj.”

“Sakta,” the crow said walking to Don's end of the table before flying the short distance to land on his shoulder, “I'm not even going to ask how you know my name and given your reputation, I'll consider it a safe bet that you also know where I am. So, have it your way, prick.”

Don smirked. The foolish arrogance of youth was occasionally an amusing trait. "Tell me, if my reputation precedes me that well, then you know you could have turned down my offer and no harm would have come to you. So, why accept?"

"You mean because accepting it was far more dangerous?" Donovan nodded and she continued with more enthusiasm and imagery than he expected, "you fucking mental? I came at just the thought of doing something like this! With my skills, I'd have made my way above tenth eventually but I'll likely never get to put them to use like this again."

"Admirable," Don said, thankful that she was nineteen and not just because that put here at the average age and gender the Immortals had been targeting. He quickly changed the subject to the locations of his guests before her enthusiasm became any more disturbing. Given that he'd restricted her from tracking any of them directly she could only make a rough estimation. She stated her complaints on the matter several times but she was as skilled as she claimed. It took her seconds to estimate their general whereabouts and put their arrival within the hour. Well, this was it. Either they agreed or they refused and he resorted to less desirable means.

"Here's hoping they share something resembling your sentiments about working with me. Preferably without making a mess of my property." His words were accompanied by a well-practiced tone of humor and pale blue smoke.

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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Śaraṯkṣati » Tue Sep 05, 2017 5:32 am

“… a press conference on the eve of the bill’s signing saw President Jones laud Congress’s ‘ongoing efforts to preserve freedom of enterprise and empower businesses to continue strengthening the American economy’; he was joined in his statement by several of the senators responsible for the bill…”

Qahtani wasn’t paying attention to the newscaster’s voice, per se, but it was difficult to ignore even in the bathroom and over the running water. Whenever she was here, Nahid liked to crank the volume of Qahtani’s television to roughly the decibel level of a heavy metal band playing a live show on board a mid-launch space shuttle, claiming that the folly of her adolescence—“Too many loud concerts and not enough ear protection”—had left her hearing none too sharp. Personally, Qahtani was not convinced that Nahid wasn’t simply doing it so that she could poke fun at her lover’s dour reaction and remark that she looked like she’d “been weaned on a pickle” for her own amusement.

She didn’t catch much in the way of amusement, however, when she heard Nahid jeer, “Oh, cut the bullshit! Empower businesses, my ass!” Qahtani grabbed a towel and dragged it across her face gracelessly until it was dry, and stepped out of the bathroom to find Nahid sitting up in bed with the covers bunched up around her, glaring at the television as if it’d dealt her an unforgivable insult.

“I’m flattered that you think my television screen is a direct line of communication to the president,” Qahtani drawled, glancing around at the various articles of clothing strewn about the floor like the remnants of some terrible massacre and stooping down to collect whatever was within reach of her gangly arms. Nahid snorted, and shook her head ruefully.

“It’s bald-faced chicanery, that’s all it is. They expect me to swallow this crap about helping out businesses while I’m struggling to make ends meet back at the shop? Bullshit. When they talk about businesses, what they really mean is the borderline crime syndicates that hang out up on the fiftieth story of the city and line the senators’ pockets so they keep giving them breaks. You meet with businesspeople during those meetings of yours, Christina, but you’re a technician, you don’t know what it’s like. They’re fucking strangling us.”

Qahtani, preoccupied with yanking on a pair of trousers one onerously long leg at a time, didn’t answer; instead, Nahid fixated on the television screen again as the newscaster’s face vanished and was replaced by a view of one of the bill’s sponsors, shaking hands with Jones as the latter surrendered the podium to him. “Ah, and here comes the honourable gentleman from Massachusetts,” she spat venomously. “He’s taken more cash from Zetatech than I’ll make in a lifetime of running my shop, and is an inspiring example to invertebrates around the world. If he had the faintest shred of dignity left, he’d step up to that microphone and tell the whole country just how corporations like Zetatech are screwing over small businesses and common people.”

“Well, you know—“ came Qahtani’s muffled response; she was midway through pulling on an old shirt, and was apparently having some difficulty navigating her head to the appropriate hole. “—if he doesn’t toe the line, he’s going to end up out of a job, or worse. It’s easy to sit in bed and criticise when you’re not the one running for office.” She finally managed to tug the shirt over her head, glanced at Nahid, and added, “Ah. I discern from the look you are now giving me that the correct response was ‘Yes, Nahid, very true, Nahid’.”

“Too late for that, sunshine,” Nahid retorted, but then she sighed and leaned forward, hugging the covers to her chest. “You’re right, of course,” she conceded glumly. “I give these jackasses shit for selling out, but what am I doing about it? I’m not running for office. I’m not trying to change the system. I’m sitting in my girlfriend’s apartment and bitching at her TV screen.” And then, turning to look at Qahtani, she smiled sweetly, and added, “While she dresses for a month-long business trip, no less. I’m sorry. You don’t want to hear this crap now.”

“No, it’s fine,” Qahtani said quietly, returning Nahid’s gaze with something indiscernible. “I like that you care so much.”

Nahid shook her head, extricating herself from the covers and hopping out of bed. “It’s not a proper way to send you off for a month,” she declared firmly. “Let me at least take you out to breakfast before you go.”

“I need to pick up some things before I meet up with my cohorts,” Qahtani demurred, nodding vaguely towards the backpack she’d packed earlier and set waiting by the bedroom door. And then, with a flash of that rare dalliance which surfaced only often enough to complement that strange and reserved charisma of hers, she said, “I think you gave me an entirely proper send-off last night, anyway.”

Nahid didn't appear altogether convinced, but she let the matter go. Instead, she cocked her head with a smile, and said, "You'll call me every now and then at least, won't you?" It was a strange request-- she'd never said anything like that to Qahtani before, had never expected her to call during her 'business trips'. She wasn't sure what to make of it.

Wordlessly, she nodded, and Nahid beamed.

.

.

.

There was nothing altogether remarkable about the designated meeting spot—an old trading warehouse by the looks of it, presumably rented or purchased by Rashall after its previous owners had gone out of business. Qahtani had taken a seat outside a quaint little café—or, well, something that passed for the Dregs’ Frankenstein notion of what a quaint little café might be—across the street from the building; she’d head in soon, sure, but she wasn’t about to go trotting in blind.

Input command, she instructed her suit, and like a bear shaking itself awake after a period of hibernation, it emerged from dormancy; she was used to its intensity, dangerously more powerful than any legal skin-suit, was accustomed to what might have felt to a neophyte like the pit of one’s stomach dropping in dread upon the activation of the suit. Function: analyse. Object… She inputted the coordinates of the designated meeting building, and in an instant, the skin-suit, eager to put its illicit potency to use, fed her the information, and she set to silently burrowing her way into the building’s systems.

Rashall’s safeguards were fairly rudimentary—That, or they’re so sophisticated as to evade even me. I doubt it. She espied no potential threats in the building’s security systems, though when curiosity and perhaps a hint of cheek prompted a prodding incursion into the internal surveillance programmes, she encountered unexpectedly stiff resistance. Just as well: she backed off, satisfied with what she’d found, and instructed the skin-suit to go dormant again.

She stood up, stretching languidly like a cat after a meal, and made for the meeting spot.

Qahtani strolled through the lobby of the building at a leisurely pace; but for the lift which Qahtani, whose business was confined to the first floor, had no use for, there was only a single doorway leading out from the lobby. And behind that doorway, of course, she found Donovan Rashall.

She was not in the habit of noticing people, not unless she had a particularly worthwhile reason to notice them and even then only if she could summon the effort. In this case, she could; after all, this was a prospective employer (among the various other things Donovan Rashall was). Thus, she offered something that resembled a salute which halfway through lost interest in being a salute. In return, he offered a smile that lost interest in false sincerity.

"Qahtani," he said as a greeting and extended a hand toward the chairs at her end of the table, "can't say I recall how long it has been but I was certainly pleased to see your name among the applicants. I trust that you and, Nahid is it? I trust you two are well."

Qahtani had been in this business much too long to miss an obvious power play-- albeit a mild one: she knew, and Rashall knew, that anybody who knew her by her legal name rather than the various illicit identities and aliases she had at her disposal could find out about Nahid with minimal digging. She was, after all, only the most recent in a lengthy and not always asynchronous succession of affairs, none of which Qahtani had made any real effort to conceal.

It opened up a sterling opportunity to match and beat his move with something she herself knew, courtesy of her own incursions into Rashall's background. The notion never occurred to Qahtani, though; she merely made to take a seat at the table, answering languidly as she did so, "So we are. She yells at my television a lot. It's taken some getting used to."

"That's good to hear, though, I assume you saw my asking for what it was, I assure you a threat was not part of it," he responded, being more transparent than she expected, "it's not often I'm forced to admit defeat to singular person but I'd like to be clear that there's nothing but admiration on my end for someone able to best the considerable resources I had thrown against you."
she said, knowing me does not mean dying


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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Sammy » Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:06 pm

There's sometimes a very fine line between taking adequate precautions and full blown paranoia. Based on the route Kai had chosen to get her to the address Imre had sent over, one could be forgiven for thinking that the pilot was more than straddling that line at this point. Not for the first time since she'd left her cousin's place some two and a half hours earlier, she found herself wondering if she should have just sucked it up and called Rask. Just being out and about in The Dregs was enough to make her feel decidedly exposed and she knew the fact she was jumping at shadows was doing nothing to help her blend in with the crowd. She felt like a sitting duck and found herself longing for the self-assured Kai Adams of LV-451 who'd taken no shit from anyone, fellow inmates and Wolves alike. The Kai Adams who hadn't had to worry about the potential wrath of vengeful ex-boyfriend she'd shot point blank in the head. Say what you like about Rask (and there was oh so much you could say), she had no doubt he'd have had her tailed by enough of his heavies to at least give her some semblance of reassurance. Of course, strange friendship or otherwise, nothing was ever free when it came to Jensen Rask and she knew (or at least hoped) that once she had some solid walls between her and the rest of the world, she'd be glad to know that she didn't owe him any favours.

She walked past the building for the third time, feigning interest in a shop window as she had Oz run some cursory scans of the place. Just as they had the previous two times, they flagged nothing of interest and, just as he had before, Oz reminded her that without significant updates the chances of him finding anything of use were slim to none. The building mas as well have had 'unremarkable' scrawled on the side of it but it was doing nothing to calm the heart hammering in her chest. It was now or never and Kai gave serious consideration to just turning around and going home. Except, of course, she had no home. She had a couch in the flat of a cousin who's patience with her unplanned house guest was very finite and slowly but surely wearing thin. It was the thought, however, of making her way all the way back, conscious of every last movement and sound that finally made the decision for her. She needed this. More than the money and her independence, she needed to start feeling like herself again, she couldn't spend the rest of her life afraid of something that might or might not happen. Fuck, maybe that was his plan. Maybe he was intentionally leaving her alone, allowing her paranoia to slowly eat away at her until there was little more than a shadow left behind. What a punishment that would be.

Feeling at least temporarily emboldened, Kai shifted her backpack onto her other shoulder and strode toward the building with something that felt a little like confidence, sending a group of young people scattering to get out of her way. It was pathetic, really, but after so long spent like a mouse living in the walls of the world, that moment was enough to bring a smile to the pilot's face. She walked quickly, not wanting to waste this sudden burst of momentum or make room for any further indecision and was soon through the front doors and stood in the lobby. The information from Imre had said simply 'First Floor' so she ignored the lift and made her way across to the single door which slid open at her approach. The first thing she noticed was how sparsely the room was furnished, the second was the familiar figure stood opposite her.

His expression went blank defensively at the sight of her and at the old wound reopened at the sight of her shock that boardered on becoming fear. He was not one to be left speechless, even now, but everytime he had played this moment out in anticipation, he had come to the same conclusion; the only thing that had ever worked was the truth. It was likely the only thing—if anything—that would work now. He began to gather the pieces to his practiced smile out of reflex but discarded it in a sigh and said simply, "I'm sorry."

No amount of reflex enhancing bio-tech (out dated or otherwise) was enough to keep her brain from stalling as she took in the sight of Donovan Rashall stood in front of her. The last time they'd been in the same room she'd put a bullet between his eyes and watched the man she'd come to envision a future with crumple before her. In the weeks since her release she'd imagined this confrontation on an almost endless loop but it had done nothing to prepare her for the lurch of her stomach at the sight of him. Her survival instincts were hot on the trail of whatever else she was feeling and, eyes widening, she took a few stumbling steps back towards the door, his words registering only as an apology for whatever horror he was about to inflict on her as revenge.

"Don't leave," he said quickly, hating that even now it came out as more command than request. His hands raised as if he could somehow catch her from across the room to stop her from leaving. He didn't pause but managed to soften his tone as he continued, "the job and the pay are real but I had no reason to suspect you would take the job if you'd known it was me."

Kai continued to back away until her back hit the wall beside the door. The additional space between them would mean little if he intended to shoot her or worse but it gave her at least a false sense of increased security which, in turn, made it easier for her to think. Her heart still hammering in her chest, she took a moment to compose herself, finding that it was much easier to breath if she focused on the space just above Don's head as opposed to looking at him directly. If he had lured her here to kill her immediately, she knew she would already be dead. It wasn't the most comforting of thoughts but it would do for now.

"You expect me to believe that you've tricked me into coming here so you can give me a job?" Kai managed a laugh that was only verging very slightly on the hysterical.

"Yes," he said and a portion of the tension between his shoulder was relieved. She was talking which that her initial flight or fight response had passed. It was no guarantee that she would hear him out but it was something, something he could work with. He studied her carefully, her expression, the way her eyes avoided his. Part of him wanted to allow for the possibility that she might look at him they way she had on LV-451. That part of him would settle for the pain he saw in her eyes the moment before she pulled the trigger because she had still cared even as she thought she was killing him. But that part of him was a fool he would scratch out of his mind with his bare hands if he could.

He paused a few breaths in hopes he might catch her gaze and failing that he continued, "I will explain everything, if you'll just hear me out. After that, you're free to walk away. I won't track you and you won't ever need acknowledge my existence again."

"You'll explain everything, will you?" Kai forced herself to look at him, a unexpected surge of anger doing something to offset the fear that he meant to kill her. "I seem to remember a meeting not unlike this one where you shared the details of your so called plans with some unwitting accomplices and that didn't end particularly well for either one of us, did it?"

"I told them everything they needed..." he said and stopped himself before an unexpected anger could infect his tone. It rose up in the back of his throat and he clenched his jaw as if biting down to hold it back. He let it smolder there for a moment until the urge to match her anger passed. The escape had worked exactly as planned save for one crucial detail he'd been too blind to see, "you made the only choice in those final moments that I left you. For this job, you need to know everything and I will explain everything, if you give me the chance."
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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Forge » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:54 pm

Rask's men brought the transport down from Bowersville, one of the area's 'nicer' suburbs in that you could sit outside your home without being stabbed and having your shoes taken. It was an old hydrocarbon clunker that was as much rust as it was functioning parts at this point, but that was fine because once upon a time it had belonged to a courier service, and that meant it had a semi-functioning Grid connection. They'd picked up a net 'specialist' called Alvard on the way over; a scrawny little 'ware junkie in an antique skinsuit who shit himself every time one of them spoke and was only useful by virtue of his being an inexpensive nobody who wouldn't go running his mouth about the task he'd been hired to do. Despite his obvious shortcomings Alvard performed admirably, and by the time they'd completed their second perimeter survey the building's floor plans and financial background where laid out on Rask's HUD. Not that it told him much.

"There's nothing else?" The ex-Wolf asked, making the complex little mental gestures required to cycle through the information while touching the business end of a cigar to the heat pad in his rig until it ignited. The very best in synthetic tobacco substitutes. He'd seen the factories they made them in, tissue-printers assembling 'leaves' by the sheet to be stacked, cut and rolled during their journey through the conveyor system. What it spat out at the end was, ostensibly, not a cigar at all so much as an assembly of proteins, minerals and sugars that happened to have the same sensory experience as an actual cigar. Yet, ask any Corporate and they would tell you that the hand-rolled, individually packaged, courier-shipped cigars they bought in from the Latin territories in some way represented a different experience, despite looking, smelling and tasting exactly the same. People would buy into anything if you sold it the right way, jobs included.
"Sheng," the tech-head responded, eyes glazed and fingers twitching intermittently as he explored realms more complex than theirs. "Basic layout. Place has been empty forever. Bought over by a shell company - and those are a dime a dozen, so no owner details without some seriously improved gear. No security showing, which means there's either nothing, or it's too good for me to pick up, in which case you're fucked anyway." He giggled, the sound trailing off as his eyes refocused and he caught Rask looking at him. "I, ah.. that's it, I mean.. there's nothing else on there, Oke. Either it's been rinsed or it never existed." Rask ignored him, slapping the Daewoo's composite parts to the grip-pads on his rig before slinging a coat over the lot. The 'ware junkie watched with growing curiosity. "Why are you even interested, man? Place is nothing. Probably full of jakk addicts and.." He cut off as the ex-Wolf shot him a look, and stayed quivering a moment longer before retreating back into virtual, taking advantage of that cyberspace high for as long as he could while it was on someone else's bankroll.

In truth, there were a couple of reasons that Rask was so interested in this one. He didn't like when people tried to keep him out of the loop, for one, and he was intensely curious about how someone survived being shot in the head then thrown in a ZetaTech prison, only to effect an escape six months later. He wanted to know why, after barely getting away, Rashall would come back to someone who knew him and potentially risk fucking it all back up again. And yes, he wanted to make sure this wasn't some ill-advised attempt at exacting revenge on Kai Adams, who had been very fucking helpful to him during her time in prison and to whom he felt he owed some small measure of debt - not that he would ever explain it to anyone in those terms, least of all a screwed-up wirehead who needed a Grid high to get through the day. Rask gave his rig another once over, then reached out to thump on the partition that separated the rear of the transport from the cabin. The guy up front - some nameless acquaintance of Ajani's who had never done anything that made him noteworthy in Rask's eyes - pulled the transport to an abrupt halt outside of the building, allowing Rask and Ajani to sling the rear door open and drop to the sidewalk. Alvard sat up briefly, rising panic in his eyes.
"What about me?" He mumbled. The former Wolf said nothing. The driver would make himself scarce for a while, and come back later when the transport was needed again, but the 'ware junkie didn't need to know that. Rask grinned, then slid the door closed and watched the transport start off again. They'd send him off eventually, with decent pay to boot, but not until the first part of the job was over. Better to keep an unknown variable like that under control. Turning, he thumped Ajani's shoulder and the pair of them set off into the building.

First floor, the job spec had said, and it was all Rask could do to make himself cross the lobby at a jaunty trot, whistling as they made their way onto the stairs. There were several reasons for bringing his lieutenant along for the opening acts of Rashall's gambit, not least because Rask didn't particularly want to be shot. Not that he wanted Ajani to be shot either. He actually liked Ajani - the man had taken to his employer's non-standard practices like a fish to water, and had proven himself capable on more than one occasion. He could have run his own crew, which was why he'd be running Rask's while the latter was otherwise occupied and all the more reason the ex-Wolf would be genuinely put out if the other man was killed. Just not so much as he would be put out by dying himself. More than that, though, Ajani was a carefully balanced show of force. Rask had been tempted to arrive at the meeting with a half dozen men just because he could, but at the end of the day Rashall was a bioterrorist - sorry, aspiring bioterrorist - and it was unlikely he'd respond well to that. Turning up with nothing, however, would have been tantamount to placing his neck under the other man's boot. Ajani was the middle ground; his presence in the lead up to the meeting was a vital performance, as was the fact that he'd have to be dismissed before discussions actually started. It was a statement that said, 'See here? I am dangerous, but I'm making myself less dangerous so that it's safe to work together'.

Ajani, however, was blissfully unaware of this. As far as he was concerned he was carrying out a vital function for the safety and security of a boss he valued. Prior to Rask's arrival he'd been a bruiser, valued for his fists and nothing more. The former Wolf had given him the opportunity to use his mind in a way he hadn't known he had a talent for, and he'd have been hurt to know that his employer viewed him as a tool to be used. Hurt, but not surprised, not really. Ajani didn't know, though, and so it was with steely determination that he quick-stepped ahead of Rask to ensure that he entered the room first. Which he did, slightly faster than intended and with a vaguely wild-eyed look that settled into a frown as he took in the occupants. There, a lanky woman coiled in a chair by the table like a cat. Next the one that Rask had gone to meet a number of times and of whom they were expressly forbidden to speak, standing against the wall and staring holes in the remaining occupant; a fairly intense looking man in a snappy suit who must have been the one they were here to meet, and who bore very little resemblance to the image Ajani (who tended to unconsciously equate danger with physical stature) had built in his head. The latter two had clearly been in conversation, presumably put on hold by Ajani's entrance. His frown deepened and he unconsciously touched the bulk of the weapon below his clothing as he cast his eyes around the room again, as though to confirm that there wasn't a CorpSec team crouched among the furniture waiting to strike. It wasn't until Rask entered the room behind him and physically took hold of his shoulder that he seemed to ease off, blinking owlishly as he looked at his employer.
"Taki, Ajani. Im kowl gut. That's enough, huh?" The lieutenant cast another glance at Donovan, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation.
"Bosmang - to wanye milowda stay wit you?" Rask grinned and shook his head.
"Na, na. Im na trouble. We're all friends here." He gave Don a pointed look before abruptly turning his back on Ajani in clear dismissal. The other man took a hesitant step backward, nodded faintly to some internal query, then turned and strode out of the room. Rask grinned into the silence, sweeping his gaze over everyone and making a point of minimising eye contact with Adams, because something was clearly wrong and he'd pay dearly for this little stunt as it was. If he was lucky, it would be in private. The former Wolf plucked the cigar from between his teeth and spread his hands. "Have I interrupted?"
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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Filth » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:01 am

"Not at all," Donovan said straightening his stance and releasing the tension in his shoulders. He exhaled slowly and refocused himself on the task at hand and tried to avoid the temptation to dive back into the past with Kai. Already he began reconsidering the decision to bring Rask along but made peace with knowing the man was crucial to the plan by adding, "but your soldier there is welcome to stay and even hold your hand if it'll make you feel any safer, friend." There was a hint of irritation in his voice despite trying to make the statement seem like a friendly jab.

The raven perched on his shoulder fidgeted slightly, fixing its balance as Anna chimed through their connection, "well, didn't take long for the dick-waggling to start," followed by a slight chuckle. but he didn't respond. He didn't find the comment particularly funny but used her own amusement to add a more believable edge to the smile.

"So, if everyone is willing to at least hear me out then please take a seat because as much I'd enjoy spending time catching up or becoming better acquainted with each of you, time is a factor," he said motioning to the two empty seats. The seconds seemed to stretch for an eternity as he waited for their decision. Just sit, he thought to himself and could practically feel the tension in the hair that suspended the ever-present sword above his head.

Qahtani just gave him a simple nod while Kai's scowl shifted from him to Rask who seemed to be avoiding it. Donovan could almost see her running the same mental calculations he had when arranging this meeting. She didn't trust him—with good reason—but her alternatives were limited and with Rask's presence, she felt safer. That might have stung his pride were he not well beyond such things considering the extent he had fallen thus far. Still, she finally nodded to him, Rask or herself and Donovan he had to consciously mask the heavy internal sigh of relief he felt. That's the difficult part out of the way, he thought. Rask's stare lingered on Donovan a bit longer but his decision to stay had already been made the moment Kai took her seat.

"Since I believe you two already know each other, I'll make this quick and introduce the two of you to Qahtani; Qahtani, meet Rask and Kai," Donovan said as Rask gave the final nod and took a seat.

He moved his thumb along the side of his index finger and the displays before them all brought up a series of files that covered the legal detailing of the job but little on what exactly he would be paying them to do. Among them was a legal contract between "Donovan F. Rashall" and the ambiguously titled "C.C." for a redacted sum as well a few redacted items that would be paid upon delivery of something titled "Bloodfeather". Another file included the registration, title of ownership, dock number, and basic specifications of a starship owned by whatever or whoever "C.C." stood for. Among the ship's files was the documentation required to allow the ship passage and docking on mars as approved by, unsurprisingly, "C.C.". The remaining documents seemed to just be all the extra red tape that accompanied such things. It would be far too much to take in given the amount of time they could allow.

"I'll save you the trouble of reading all of it but it's there so that you don't need to take my word for it," he said after giving them a brief moment to at least get an idea of what they were looking at, "I need a small crew to assist me in retrieving a package from a less than favorable location and return it here for a client that would prefer all of this be handled with all discretion possible. Things are a bit more complicated than that, of course, otherwise, but you three are the best at what you do among those I feel I can trust."

He paused then. Far easier to answer questions than to give more information than was required but the doubt that any of them would back out at this point was near non-existent.

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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Sammy » Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:37 am

Filth wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:01 am
"Since I believe you two already know each other, I'll make this quick and introduce the two of you to Qahtani; Qahtani, meet Rask and Kai," Donovan said as Rask gave the final nod and took a seat.
Kai half lifted her hand in the way of greeting, feeling more than a little embarrassed by the showdown her potential future colleague had just witnessed. She didn't exactly pride herself on her professional conduct, her stint on LV-451 was rather a testament to that but as far as first impressions go, an awkward encounter with the ex-boyfriend and terrorist she shot in the head and has since feared repercussions from, really felt like it left a lot to be desired. Still, there wasn't a great deal to be done about that now. All she could do was listen to Don's proposal and, on the off chance she was stupid enough not to run for the hills, win over the woman with her mad piloting skills. Kai made a mental note to try and get some practise in before the aforementioned skill display became a thing. Rusty piloting skills would certainly be a great deal less impressive.
"I'll save you the trouble of reading all of it but it's there so that you don't need to take my word for it," he said after giving them a brief moment to at least get an idea of what they were looking at, "I need a small crew to assist me in retrieving a package from a less than favorable location and return it here for a client that would prefer all of this be handled with all discretion possible. Things are a bit more complicated than that, of course, otherwise, but you three are the best at what you do among those I feel I can trust.
Kai idly scanned the display until she grew bored. There would be time to look at the finer points as and when she'd found a reason that this was anything but a terrible idea. She paused, cast a sidelong and not altogether friendly glance toward Rask and a much more casual look at Qahtani in the hopes that they would ask questions so she didn't have to and then sighed softly to herself.

"Firstly, are we permitted to know what it is we're carrying? Considering that the last time you employed me as a pilot the cargo turned out to be a biological weapon, I'm hoping you can understand my concerns on that front." She held up a finger, cleared her throat and made some small effort to reign herself in for the sake of the others present. "Secondly, who or what is C.C. and what assurances do we have that this is all legit?" She leant back a little in her chair and forced herself to make eye contact with Don across the table, ignoring the resulting twist in her gut. "I can't say things have been particularly rosy on the outside and I'm not exactly drowning in job opportunities though I suspect you knew that already. If I wanted to risk another run in with the law, I've had ample opportunities to do so."
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Re: 20XX: We.Are.Immortal

Post by Śaraṯkṣati » Wed Nov 01, 2017 3:33 am

Three people entered then. Whatever it was that had briefly existed in that room between Donovan Rashall and Christina Qahtani—it could only charitably be called a conversation, if not a Frankensteinian approximation of one—it promptly vanished as Rashall turned his attention to the newcomers and Qahtani snaked back into that shroud of silence which came as naturally and as certainly to her as red to the sands of Mars.

The two men who’d entered exchanged some brief conversation, infested with that vulgar patois so popular with the lowlifes of New York, before one simply turned without a word and left. It was perhaps a testament to the flagrancy of the tension between Rashall and the two remaining strangers, then, that even Christina Qahtani—who at the best of times was oblivious to the undercurrents of words and feelings—picked up on it. If it was the hallmark of professionalism to keep one’s personal matters unseen and unperceived by one’s colleagues, then these three were falling far short of that metric. It was a little annoying, not least of all because Qahtani had actually noticed.

In due time, the puzzling episode and its bouts of raised voices and disquietingly faked cordiality drew to a close, and Qahtani was satisfied to conclude that this was definitely not the harbinger of drama to come.

Things moved on; a display fizzled into being in front of Qahtani like light through newly-drawn blinds, documents detailing—or not-so-detailing—the job at hand. The legal aspects of the whole affair seemed in order—you picked up a thing or two of legalese in this kind of work, at least if you didn’t want to drag a private lawyer around to each meeting—but suffice it to say, Rashall was playing certain things close to his chest. For example…

“Are we permitted to know what it is we’re carrying?” one of the others shot off, the first in a fusillade of such questions. Ah, how Qahtani loved it when people asked her questions for her. A little ambiguity was generally part of the fun of a dangerous job, but the employer had, after all, attempted at one point to smuggle a bioweapon into an urban zone; Qahtani liked a risk, a challenge, but she didn’t like the prospect of getting tagged with a terrorism charge and wasting who knew how much time in prison. After all, she’d just spent a good bit of money on this new Blanc skinsuit; she wasn’t about to get it taken away from her just when she was starting to have fun with it.

She awaited an answer.
she said, knowing me does not mean dying


Justice In My House
Some rancid attempts at poetry

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