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Game System

World of Darkness



Full Description

The World of Darkness resembles the contemporary world, but it is darker, more devious and more conspiratorial. The dichotomy between rich and poor, influential and weak, powerful and powerless, is much more pronounced than in the real world. Decadence, cynicism and corruption are common. Humans are unwitting victims or pawns of vast secret organizations of supernatural creatures. Vampires, werewolves and wraith —among others— struggle with internal factionalism and against other species in secret wars of intrigue for control of reality. The battles in these wars may last centuries, beyond the realization or comprehension of ordinary humans. This status quo is recently threatened by the rise of a global Technocratic cabal (and/or an animistic spirit of stasis and control) intent on monopolizing the power of belief and destroying all traditional supernatural societies.

*This is not a 'by the book' World of Darkness game.  While a lot of themes and events may be recognized by players, anything and everything can and will be changed to best suit the need of the story.

  1. What's new in this game
  2. "Been overdoing it, frankly." Ravi settled onto the stool beside her, one elbow on the bar, half-turned towards Amelia as he spoke to her. Whether it was his dress sense, his posture, his looks or some combination of the three he almost gave the appearance of posing for a GQ photoshoot, but there was an effortless quality to the overall effect, as though grace and poise were an extension of him rather than some false face. "Grinding away, nothing but work, work, work... Thank you." he smiled momentarily at the bartender as a drink was slid in front of him, picking it up and taking an experimental sip. Evidently approving, or at least not revolted, he refocused his warm golden eyes on Amelia. "So a colleague suggested this place to blow off some steam." he went on, smiling a little. "Said it had a good energy and decent DJs. I'll confess, though, it's reassuring to see a familiar face here. You with anyone, or can I monopolise you?" he asked with a devastating hint of dimple, his gaze mischievous for a second before sobering a little, one hand toying with his drink as he regarded her. "But seriously - I'm sorry to hear you're not doing well. What's the problem, if that's not rude to ask?"
  3. He's a plant. He's a spy. He's persistent. He's cute. Expectations for the conversation rolled out in her head...not evidence of prognosticary powers, but rather just her trying to get a handle on confusion and a creeping unease. Was he stalking her? Or did he just live around here now, and have similar tastes? New York City was a big place, but anyone who lived there knew that people didn't mingle in the entire thing. You had haunts, you had neighborhoods you stuck with. Maybe Ravi just had the same haunts. Or maybe he just knew hers. So...worst-case it then. He worked for Peltier directly, or maybe the board of The Echidna Group. Somehow she'd put a foot wrong, left a trace, and they were onto her. Ravi was being maneuvered into a position where he could take action when, and if, she tried anything big. So far, from their perspective, Amelia had been nibbling at the edges...working from public domain and smaller breaches of subsidiaries. The breach she was decoding now would be a different story, but Ravi had shown up before she'd started that. So yeah, a spy most likely. She'd get drunk, invite him over...and he'd have a chance to plant bugs, maybe try to install a keylogger onto her computer or something. What to do about it? She could just turn him down cold, and she was sure he'd leave. Then someone else would show up in a few days. Someone she might not catch in time. Maybe a friend they could buy, or get dirt on. And...there was no escaping that all of this could be a paranoid delusion and he might just be a guy who'd been hanging around town. "Ravi," said Amelia, turning her head to look up at him after a relatively long pause after hearing his voice. "Hey there. Have a seat, I'll buy you a drink." She waved at the bartender, pushed her glass at him and held up two fingers. She had no idea what Ravi drank, but fuck it. If he was getting a free drink he was getting what she wanted. If he hated it, more for her. Then Amelia took a deep breath and sat up straighter. "I'm doing kind of shitty, not going to lie. How's America been treating you?"
  4. "Well, this is short notice." Ravi drawled from the back seat as Sable wove the black (of course) sedan through the streets and traffic. Glancing at the rear-view mirror, the efficiently professional woman caught a glimpse of a bare shoulder and chest the shade of golden coffee - and wasn't sure whether the pang in her lower abdomen was relief or disappointment that more of the mostly-naked man was not currently visible as he shifted and twisted around back there, getting changed into the clothing he'd insisted on going back to his apartment for when she's peremptorily yanked him out of his 'day' job. "She's been busy these last two weeks." Sable focused on her driving as she gave him the lowdown. "She just surfaced tonight, and given how erratic her patterns are I thought it best-" "Yes, yes... unf... You're quite right." he managed to squeeze into the stylish not-quite-skin-tight black slacks and sat up, causing Sable to glance at the mirror again, this time only seeing the play of the lights outside in the green-gold eyes as they stared back at her in the reflection, the rest of Ravi's features lost in the gloom but for a hint of a cheekbone and the line of his jaw. "You think you can handle this?" she asked him bluntly. "Nothing is certain." He shrugged, pulling on the pale green shirt that itself contained enough hints of yellow in the shade that it complemented his eyes. "Without constant contact, I'm largely starting afresh. On the upside, it's a nightclub. If she's on the prowl, so much the better. If she's just there to dance and drink, then perhaps she won't mind company." His lips quirked in a wry smile. "As my boss likes to say: be what the clientele want you to be, sell them their own fantasy." "And what's her fantasy, then?" "I'm not sure." Ravi sounded almost cheerful as he pulled on his shoes and straightened once more, white teeth flashing in a grin as he ran his hands back through his hair. "I'm rather looking forward to finding out. - that's the fun part Well... one of the fun parts. Finding out about people: what they like, what they hate, what they desire..." his eyes met her again and Sable re-focused on the driving, pretending not to hear the soft, ever-so soft chuckle from behind her. The Two Ton Tones was a decent enough place. The vibe was partyish without being sleazy - well, no more sleazy than most nightclubs - the DJ seemed to be competent and enthusiastic, and the bar staff could mix a drink without referring to a crib sheet every ten seconds. Better yet, the place knew Ravi. He'd been here a time or two in the past, and so when he walked to the head of the short line one of the bouncers nodded and waved him past the rope. That bit of theatre made Ravi smile a little even as he thanked the man and pressed a fifty into his hand. It was a symbiotic relationship - Two Ton Tones was not so exclusive that they had actual VIPs coming here often, and Ravi was not really a VIP. But by a little game of let's pretend, the club got to be seen letting mysterious and handsome strangers in with some ceremony and he got to be treated as someone special, which in turn would encourage those who witnessed the exchange to think he was someone special, which ironically made him someone special. And so the little lie became a little bit true. Appearances were not everything, he would be the first to admit. But in the game of influence, perception informed opinion. Some people might argue the point. But then, they would be arguing it from the other side of the rope whilst queuing outside. So sorry, Ravi would say, I can't hear you over the sound of the club I got into first. The place was well packed, he noted as he descended from the lobby to the main floor, eyes searching along the bar first for- Aha, there she was, drink in hand and watching the floor, head nodding a little to the beat of the music.. He considered Amelia for a moment as he approached - the girl cleaned up pretty well, the clubwear she'd squeezed herself into flattering her figure, a far cry from the interesting yet dressed-down Amelia from the coffee shop. He wasn't going to do another bump-meet - for one thing repeating a trick twice in a row lacked elegance, for another spilling drinks on each other would only shorten the evening, and for a third Amelia might get a little suspicious. So instead, he opted for the direct approach. "Amelia?! Is that you?" he spoke just loudly enough to be heard as he came to rest up against the bar next to her, his tone both admiring and surprised as his golden eyes gave her a chivalrous but appreciative once-over before meeting hers again. "You look amazing. How've you been?"
  5. Time passed. Too much time. A couple of weeks later, Amelia could remember that time she and Mari met up to go shopping and there was that weird, hot British guy that they bumped into and Mari got a crush on...but only if prompted. Life was too busy. She had work...databases to administer, networks to keep running...and she had work. Her other work. In her own mind, her real work. A few things broke her way, and it was a good three weeks or so before she realized how long she'd been cooped up in her flat, in her PJs, getting door delivery food and huddling around the screen light of her laptop to the wee hours every day. She hadn't done the hack, in the end. Some offshoot anonnabees had gone after major media companies with political intentions, hoping to unleash a flood of dirt. It hadn't gone perfectly from their point of view, but when the hashes hit the dark web Amelia followed rumors that gradually became more solid. If all that work tracking things down panned out, she was one brute force decrypt away from one or more passwords belonging to a man who had buried some pretty major skeletons for bio/pharm industries. With any luck, she could find the weird, mutated footprint the skeleton she was after would leave behind in his datatrails. Cracking it would take a long time though, even on her biggest rig. So Amelia dragged herself to the shower for the first time in...too long...and worked herself into something 'partyriffic' and headed out of her building...even if it took a minute to acclimate to the touch of sunlight. Fortunately, the blazing dayball was already low enough that the trip to her favorite club was mostly in shadow. Even though it would probably be about as fast to walk the few blocks as it would be to drive in evening traffic, Amelia took the Crapmobile. Wandering down city streets in clubwear was a great way to feel cheap and objectified far too early for a night out. The idea was to feel cheap and objectified AFTER you'd had a few drinks and a dance or two. She toyed with the idea of calling Mari and maybe some of the rest of the gang...but elected not to. This wasn't really a 'party' party. She wasn't celebrating, and in fact was kind of not really looking for a good time? She just needed to unwind, and watching people wreck themselves and each other sort of did that for her. All the while getting wrecked, of course...but she didn't necessarily want her pals around for that. In Amelia's mind she went to the Two Ton Tones club a lot, but as she pulled into miracle-of-God parking space just a block away, it occurred to her that it had been over a month since she'd last been. What even was her life right now? Little did she know, the one block walk to the club was more than enough to give any interested observer notice that Amelia had finally shown her face again to the world.
  6. "...so it sounds like progress." Sable nodded slowly as she considered, then threw the handsome man across from her a wry smile. "You were supposed to charm one woman, not two." "I'm an overachiever." Ravi yawned, showing pink tongue and white teeth for a moment before covering his mouth. "'Scuse me." he apologised, reaching for his tea. Dressed in an off-white linen suit and leaf-green shirt, he was a picture of elegant dishevelment as he lounged in the chair comfortably, with the air of one who could sleep anywhere given half a chance. It was the following day, and in response to Sable's call for an update Ravi had once more taken the chauffeured car uptown to the NYX building. "Late night?" Sable's perfect eyebrow raised a little higher. The insouciant Englishman shrugged. It was a measure of his attractiveness that even with a five-o'clock shadow and slightly rumpled clothing he was just as enticing - less polished, but that just meant the raw animal attractiveness was closer to the surface. Or something. "Nine in the morning is no time for honest folk to be awake." he countered, flashing her a devastating smile. "It's a time for staying in bed and listening to the breathing of the person next to you, wouldn't you agree?" "I'm sure." Sable was not going to be drawn out on the matter of her sleeping habits, but couldn't resist a little curiousity. "So you took the friend home?" "Truthfully, I slept alone." Ravi stretched his spine out a little, wiggling to get comfortable in the chair, then resumed his boneless slouch. "Marilyn is lovely, but not the quarry I am pursuing, so I felt it best to save my energies. I text-flirted with her a little is all, and even that was light." "I'm surprised and impressed." The tone was not completely irony-riddled - Sable had been half-expecting that the incorrigible Brit would get distracted chasing an easy conquest. But she couldn't resist the urge to razz Fitzcoventry a little either. "I'm surprising and impressive." Ravi's gold-and-green eyes met hers over the rim of his teacup, flirtatious humor in his gaze. "So what is your next move?" Sable decided to steer the conversation back to business, and safely away from the subject of beds, sleeping with people, and Ravi's proclivities in that arena. He smiled a little wider, then abruptly stood and moved to the pin-board behind him, cup in hand. "A night-time encounter, next." he decided aloud, with a thoughtful tone as he stroked his chin. "Seems our Amelia has a few nightspots she likes to go and let her hair down at. I need one that's not too far from the mainstream that I'd have to be some hipster indie-scene fellow to know about it." He considered the board, then tapped a photograph. "This one. She seems to go there most Friday nights, usually with friends, and I won't need a soul patch and fake spectacles to get in." He came back and slouched into the chair again, saluted Sable with his cup, then took a drink. "Good. I'll write up the report so Miss D'Sombra knows you're making progress." Sable looked up from her laptop when there had been no acknowledgement after a minute, only to realise that Ravi FitzCoventry had closed his eyes, cradling his empty cup on his stomach as he slumped in the chair, and was to all intents and appearances asleep. Shaking her head in amused disbelief, and taking the opportunity for a safe lingering look at his face in repose (the way his long lashes brushed his cheeks was particularly noteworthy), the professional got back to typing up the report.
  7. The shopping trip was all right, Amelia thought. There was a certain lingering awkwardness that came from Mari being distracted by Ravi, but to his credit the Englishman didn't hoard her attention. They hit up a couple of clothes stores...per custom going to a trendy place suited to Marilyn's tastes, and then a more alternative store that Amelia found more interesting. Ravi tagged along, nosing through the racks and absorbing what information could be gleaned about the girls from seeing what they tried on and what they wound up buying. Then Mari conferred with Amie in the bathroom and they decided to haul him into a lingerie store as a joke. Though in Mari's case the 'joke' was definitely in scare quotes because she took a definitely premeditated pleasure in asking Ravi's opinion on a few items in there, though she didn't show off what she wound up buying. Amelia didn't participate in the shopping there, though she weighed in with her opinion. Ravi of course kept his wits and flirted, but was otherwise a gentleman. Then the food court and lunch. Afterwards Ravi was up. Both of the girls urged...virtually demanded...that Ravi do some shopping too, so he took them to a high quality menswear place, and then...as another joke...to one of those novelty shops full of adult party games and ribald humor cards and merch, which Amelia had a field day with, mocking most of the products. Then Amelia suggested hitting up one of the very few physical bookstores still open in the neighborhood, and while Mari rolled her eyes theatrically, she went along with it when Ravi voiced his support. Once there, Amelia browsed the computer and electronics section and breezed past fiction with an eye towards new releases. Mari hung out in the front of the store, browsing the fashion mags for a little bit, then gravitated to the travel books. It didn't take long for Amelia to be done, and the three headed out to the parking lot again. Ravi and Mari had parked near each other, and Amie had ridden with her friend, so they parted ways there. "Hey," Mari said, "This was really fun. We should do it again sometime." She grinned when Ravi agreed and added, "Let me give you my number" as she dug her cellphone out of her handbag.
  8. About a block down the street outside the coffee shop, Sable sat behind the wheel of a sleek black (of course) sedan, her attitude one of calm patience underscored with perhaps a tinge of anxiety - though it was hard to tell as she sipped tea from a thermos and watched the front of Coffee Project. First contact in this sort of affair was touch and go - the wrong word, a random occurrence, and Ravi could come sloping back to the car with his tail between his legs or with only a partial success. She'd be lying if she said some part of her didn't want to see the arrogantly charming Englishman humbled, if only a little. He was entirely too full of himself where his admittedly charming effect on women was concerned. So when the door of the cafe opened and she saw the subject and another woman whom the files had identified as an acquaintance step out, her first thought was that Ravi FtizCoventry had struck out, blocked by the Sisterhood, and would shortly be headed back this... way... No, he'd stepped out after them, smiling and chatting to both young women as they gestured up the street, the friend blushing a pleased pink as she took Ravi's proffered arm, then looping her other hand through Amelia's arm as they headed away. Sable stared. And didn't miss Ravi's casual look back over his shoulder and flash of momentary smile in her direction before his eyes turned to his companions. Son of a bitch. she thought amusedly. Well, she might as well head back to the office. It appeared first contact had been, at least to a degree, a success. That was a relief. While Miss D'Sombra hadn't specified an urgent timescale, setbacks were undesirable... to say the least. = = = = = = "...so then she said 'But I was saving that for the party!'" Ravi finished a family anecdote to the accompaniment of Marilyn's shocked laughter and Amelia's chuckling. "No!" Marilyn gasped, still giggling. "Swear to god." Ravi placed a hand over his heart. "My cousin lives in her own world and only touches down in this one occasionally. You know how most girls go through the princesses and unicorns phase? Well, nobody told her to grow out of it. She's on her fourth husband already and she's only five years older than me." He shook his head ruefully, then grinned at the two girls. "You'd think that the eligible bachelors would swap notes and steer clear." They were drifting through a clothing store, chatting as they browsed, and Ravi had found he was enjoying himself. Marilyn was charming, and Amelia was too, possessed as she was of a dry wit and a willingness to employ it. He'd already picked up a clean shirt and jeans and was wearing them, the old ones tucked away for future cleaning in the store-issued bag, and was now following the two friends as they gossiped and caught up, now and then being drawn into the conversation but generally content to observe and comment.
  9. Mel breathed slowly through his nose, as he began to evaluate the woman in leather. Hostile, likely military training. Armed with KC9, Model 1911 variant with 9 round magazines. Objective... scare, assassinate, or kidnap Maya? Truthfully, Mel had no idea who or what had sent the lady, or why. That should teach him for rushing off into situations on the say-so of a talking rabbit and big ogre. Mel's own equipment: Glock 19 with concealed inside the waistband holster, and a combat knife in an ankle holster. Environment: in the middle of New York City and a whole ton of bystanders. Likely the hostile would wait until a more secluded location presented itself. The important question, did she was she aware of Mel's presence? It didn't look that way, but he couldn't be sure. The temptation existed to pick up speed, but that would likely twig her to his own tailing. Surprise might be his only edge. He rolled his shoulders as well, in his case to make sure his body was loose and ready to move quick if he had to.
  10. Amelia hesitated at that, as she hadn't really considered the possibility of that option. It wouldn't really change the fact that she was just kind of hanging around while Marilyn and Ravi fawned over each other. But it wasn't like she really had anything better to do right here and now, was it? She looked at her friend, and Mari nodded at her encouragingly. A nagging thought tugged at the back of Amelia's head then. Why is he trying to rope me back in? In her experience, guys often didn't want 'the friend' hanging around. One on one time with the girl they had their eye on was the order of the day. Amie had expected Ravi to be rather eager to see her off. Instead he was re-organizing his day to try to get her to stay with them. Jesus, what if he was after her, and was just stringing Marilyn along? Fuck...guys could be so annoying sometimes! Or maybe he wanted some European orgy thing? Blegh, that'd be awkward and weird. And...maybe kind of entertaining. Fuck it. She could always bail later if Ravi started trying to put moves on her. "I guess it's better than taking the bus," she said, giving Mari a nod. Marilyn quickly finished her coffee as well. "Great! Do you need a ride, Ravi?"
  11. "That would be my preference." he quipped in an easygoing manner, reaching out and taking Amelia's hand in a gentle, firm and lingering shake, his eyes on hers throughout the exchange. "I do feel terrible, though. You ladies were going to catch up and have a peaceful afternoon and I come galumphing in and ruin it." He looked a little chagrined, the handsome line of his mouth turning down in a slight grimace as he let his fingers slide from Amelia's. "It wasn't your fault." Marilyn's expression was compassion personified as she put a hand on his arm again. "Perhaps." he allowed with a smile at her, then looked back at Amelia earnestly, his expression brightening in a hopeful smile as an idea occurred to him. "Tell you what... Why don't I come around shopping with you both? You can catch up, show me where New Yorkers shop and hang out, there's less of a fifth wheel vibe if we're all doing something... plus I need to pick up a new shirt now in addition to some other things." he added mischievously. "That way, everyone wins. What do you say?"
  12. Mel had noticed her about three blocks from the little pâtisserie that Maya was currently loosing what was left of her mind in. The young woman was simply there, was the best way to put it, and after Maya had passed an alleyway, she took one last drag from her cigarette, pressed off the wall and off she went shadowing Maya. Mel knew she'd broken eye contact more than once, but despite not being able see Maya, she seemed to possess and uncanny ability to just go in the same direction, the woman on the bicycle had taken. He didn't believe in coincidence, but still, Maya's new pursuer made it easier for him to track them both. Maya was outside the small shop, lips pursed and fuming to herself as she secured the expensive (that she wasn't going to get to enjoy) dinner breakfast dessert to her bike. Mel wasn't quite sure what the deal was, but he was certain that he'd never seen anyone so angry at pastries in his life. If you didn't like the place, or the food, why would you shop there, lady? The pursuer was may twenty five yards away, blending in between the crowds and the parked vehicles along the roadside. She rolled her shoulders, obviously antsy about something, and the pulled her leather jacket down, tightening it on back as she seemed to be doing some sort of boredom ritual. The grissled ranger had seen it a million times, soldiers would alway find some manner of developing a nervous or bored tell that would remind the Senior Enlisted that it was time to start giving people something to do. His eyes narrowed as they captured the matte black finish of a gun in an underarm holster. 9mm, semi-auto, looked to be a KC9, a custom designed handgun of the incredibly expensive variety... custom enough that she certainly was no cop or private dick. As his heart began to thunder up and those old instincts began to kick in, he knew, the stakes had just been raised.
  13. Amelia finished her coffee as Marilyn and Ravi chatted, feeling the pleasant warmth of mocha spreading through her...but also starting to feel a little like a third wheel. She could always take off...but would leaving Marilyn alone with some stranger be okay? They had no idea who Ravi was other than 'from England' and 'super hot.' But, it wasn't like Mari didn't have a phone, and couldn't take care of herself. Amie had seen her fend off drunken kids at parties before. But it was kind of a drag. At party or something, the flirty game might go farther, be more fun...but right now? She'd figured to meet Marilyn, have a coffee, maybe hit up a few stores and just reconnect. But now she'd be all wrapped up in this guy, which removed most of the fun. And sure, Ravi was an eyeful, and Amie liked the accent...but she couldn't really make a move because Marilyn was into him, so...really what was the point? "Hey," she said, leaning over to bump shoulders with Marilyn. "You guys seem like you're getting along really well...I'm thinking I might scoot and get a few things done I've been putting off." Marilyn looked a little taken aback, a little concerned, but not...Amie noted...entirely displeased. "You don't have to do that," she said. "You can stick around, we're just chatting." Amie grinned and looked from Mari to Ravi, then back, "I know, but you know what they say about companies and crowds. It's cool. We can go shopping tomorrow, and I'll tell you about the Swineherd some more." That got a laugh out of Marilyn. "Alright, if you promise." As Amelia stood up off of the stool, she leaned closer in to her friend to whisper in her ear, "You be safe. Call if you need me." Then she offered her hand to Ravi. "Nice meeting you, man. Hope we can do it without the spillage next time."
  14. "Wolston." Ravi smiled back. "At least, that was my family home." At her blank expression he went on. "It's a tiny village just outside the city of Coventry. But I've lived all over England, really. Boarding school in Harrow, summers in Dorset - when I wasn't visiting family in India - and yes, Glastonbury a time or two for festivals." he grinned. "India?" Marilyn's eyes went wider. Ravi chuckled, sipping his tea. "Mmhmm. My maternal grandmother is from Punjab, so I have a bunch of uncles, aunts and cousins. And because they're Sikh and family is very important, I've had to go and stay with all of them at least once." He leaned closer conspiratorially with a playful smile. "And the only Punjabi or Hindu phrases I know are bad words, so please don't ask." It wasn't strictly true: Ravi could get by asking directions or ordering a meal so long as the other party was cooperative... but as lies went it was a humorously little white one. "And what do you do?" Amelia asked, smiling at little at Marilyn's excited laughter. "Currently? I'm a recruitment consultant." Ravi shrugged offhandedly. "Confidential clientele who are looking for special individuals, that sort of thing. Headhunting, I suppose you could say." "Sounds fascinating." Marilyn would likely have answered that if Ravi had said he slung burgers at McDonalds, but at least this job actually did sound somewhat interesting... and mysterious. "What sort of special individuals?" "Well, I can't get into specifics, you understand." Ravi demurred, taking another sip of tea with evident relish as Marilyn and Amelia nodded. "God, they do a nice cuppa here. Anyway, it varies from client to client. I've spent a while building my brand now and I've not really had time to kick back and enjoy New York, so when a colleague recommended this place as a good spot to relax I said 'why not?'" He chuckled, a warm amused sound. "I must say, it's been a memorable first visit, but not one I regret at all."
  15. "Or," Amelia said wryly, "dumping superheated flavored drinks on them." Marilyn's cheeks burned red and she quickly stepped in. "I'm starting college, planning on music major." "She plays like seventeen instruments," Amie filled in dutifully, talking her friend up. "I mean, not all at once. I think the most you did at once was like...four?" Still blushing, Mari leaned over to nudge Amelia. "Oh my god, stop," she whispered, "It was not." Amelia grinned and pressed, "No, you had those jingly armbands, a harmonica, tambourine and...something on your head?" She winked at Ravi. "She was a little drunk." Mari covered her eyes, but she was laughing helplessly. Ravi's grin never wavered as he met Amelia's eyes across her friend. "And what about you? Also a student?" "Mm, no," answered Amie as she finished a big gulp of her coffee. "Unlike some of us, I live in the real world. Bills and payments and jobs and rules and...you know, bullshit like that." She nodded, then when Ravi just kept eye contact realized that more was expected. "Uh, I'm over at TekPek Partners. Basically it's grunt coding work and data wrangling." Amelia pantomimed tapping a keyboard on the tabletop. Then Marilyn had had enough, because she turned sideways away from Amie and put a hand on Ravi's arm to get his attention. "I actually visited England once on a class trip," she said eagerly. "We were mostly in London, but we went over to Glastonbury too. And a lot of the towns along the way. It's really gorgeous. Where are you from?"
  16. "One roast beef on garlic bread, add lettuce and tomato, fries on the side for here, please, with a water, and a dozen mini knishes to go. Thanks." Ahhh, Pastrami Queen. Twenty bucks for a sandwich wasn't ordinarily within Maya's budget but considering the week she'd had, it was either going to get spent on lunch or boxed wine- and since they didn't make straws big enough for the latter, she'd just go with the roast beef instead. As she waited on her food, the off-duty librarian leaned against the wall, watching people pass on the sidewalk outside and surreptitiously glancing at the few other diners crammed into the tiny deli. Normally there'd be conversation, right? Even just commentary on the tongue or the egg salad or the Matzoh ball soup, all of which were pretty solid here. New Yorkers were notoriously chatty about food- asking someone about their favorite burger or the best place to get soup dumplings was the easiest way to strike up a conversation with a good-looking stranger. But... Nothing. They just sat in solemn silence, mechanically chewing what was arguably some of the best pastrami on the East Side, occasionally poking at their phone screens. In its way, the weirdly subdued atmosphere was even creepier than the haunted books at the library or the freaky/sexy dream she'd had of SoHo Salome. "Order up!" The clerk at the counter glared pointedly at her, then disappeared back into the kitchen. Oh, well. Good food didn't always mean good service, and at the rate things were going, she should probably just be grateful she'd been served at all. She grabbed the one empty table against the back wall and eagerly started to dig in to the monstrous sandwich- then paused, cautiously checking under the bread for any unpleasant surprises, because it would be just her luck to find half a spider or something after the first bite. Reasonably satisfied there was nothing untoward lurking in the lettuce, Maya set about the serious business of devouring what was likely to be ninety-percent of the sum total of her caloric intake for the day. Park Avenue was going to be a nightmare, she decided, taking a long pull from her water bottle. She could take 77th over to Madison, and then up to 78th, but it was... What time was it? Swallowing a mouthful of gloriously salty fries, she checked her phone and instantly pulled the face her mother had always warned her would stick if she wasn't careful. Great. So, another 20 minutes or so to Lady M's for the cake, then down to Tribeca to her sister's place, which was almost another hour. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. It was not, of course, absolutely perfect, as Maya's inborn sense of irony had already suggested. "I'm sorry, it's how much? Did you just say this cake is a hundred dollars?" Half an hour after leaving the deli, the tall, dark-eyed woman stared at a tiny blonde behind the polished counter of the upscale pâtisserie. Between them sat a neat white cake box tied with a crisp blue ribbon. It wasn't even particularly large, from the looks of the packaging. Just your normal, average, could've-bought-it-from-Trader-Joe's-sized cake. "$103.43 after tax. Yes," the little porcelain princess chirped with saccharine precision. "And how will you be paying for that today?" "For a cake," Maya repeated. "No, for our new, limited edition 'Slice of the Best' mille crepes. Now will that be cash, or charge?" "Let me get this straight. My little sister ordered a hundred dollar stack of pancakes?" she asked, unable to keep the rising note of incredulity out of her voice. She had given up her day off for crepes. Freaking pancakes. She was rearranging her life so that her sister could feed her dinner guests fancy breakfast for dessert. The thin, taut smile of the cashier suggested that she, too, would rather not be having this conversation right now, but propriety dictated that both of them maintain some thin veneer of civility. "...I swear to god, Tisha, you better have cash. in. hand. when I get there," the long-suffering older sister muttered under her breath as she pulled out her debit card.
  17. "Oh, I'm an import." Ravi smiled at the cute girl, angling as he sat so he faced both women. "Been here a little more than a year. Working and networking. You know how it goes." he said, leaning in as if confiding for a moment before stirring his tea a little. "Coming over and taking jobs, that sort of thing." he said with a playful smile as Mari giggled. "And no, I'm not one to lose my, erm, shit over an accident that was my fault, Marilyn." "Mari." Amelia's friend sighed rather than said as she gazed at the light golden eyes of her new crush, fancying there was a hint of green in their depths as well as they caught the daylight from outside. "Many would say it's a little early for that - we just met. But I'm game if you are." The line was smoothly delivered, almost deadpan, as the incorrigible Englishman raised his tea to his lips. Marilyn went deep red, then laughed, a pleasant sound of merriment that caused some nearby patrons to look around. "Noooooo." she protested giggling, lightly pushing at his arm with her hand - and not at all copping a feel of hardened muscle under the jacket. "I meant call me Mari. My friends all do." Her wide eyes were earnest, rapt, and spellbound. Figures. Ravi sighed inwardly. This was not going to be easy - the girl code forbade poaching as much as the bro code did. He could either retreat now and re-plan, or improvise... And retreat was not one of his preferred options. "So what about you both?" he asked, taking another sip of tea as he regarded both Amelia and Marilyn from over the rim of the cup. Lowering it again, he cradled the cup intimately in his hands as he fixed them both with his attention, a teasing smile on his lips. "What do two such charming ladies do in the Big Bad Apple when they're not accosting Englishmen?"
  18. "Ravi?" asked Amelia more or less on autopilot as she took his hand and gave it a delicate shake. Abs were nice, after all. "Last name..." Don't say 'oli' don't say 'oli' JESUS CHRIST GIRL DO NOT SAY "Oh..." she caught herself and tried to shift gears, "...I...couldn't even guess. I'm Amelia. Hi." Her train of thought, already struggling, was interrupted as the barista signaled that the replacement coffee was ready. When Ravi went up to pay, he ordered some Earl Grey tea as well, which immediately brought an entire orbital array of Jane Austen jokes into a 'safeties off' readiness status. She frantically clamped down. Maybe when he revealed that he was a jerk, but right now he was a hot jerk, and that meant she was weapons-free for the moment. Amie accepted the coffee with a smile when he brought it back, and kept the smile as he excused himself to the bathroom to finish cleaning up. Then she looked back at where Marilyn was sitting... And Mari was staring raptly back at her. No no, at the bathroom. Where Ravi had gone in. Aww shit. Marilyn came rushing over excitedly and took hold of Amelia's arm. "Oh my god," she breathed, "Is he English? Was that an English accent?" Amelia nodded. "Yep. And his name is Ravi." Her friend covered her mouth. "No." "Yep." Mari chewed her lip, then gave Amie a sort of pleading, puppy dog look...and faded back to her stool. Amelia took a deep breath, and let it out, then gave her friend a fond smile. She could hardly blame the girl...and she knew Marilyn well enough to know that she wouldn't hold it against her if she went for Ravi herself. But she also knew that poor Mari would be pining and depressed about it. When the girl fell, she fell hard. You owe me, girl. When Ravi came back out, straightening his shirt and looking almost as unbe-coffeed as he had been on coming into the shop, Amie took hold of his arm with a warm smile and said, "If you're not in a hurry, why don't you come sit with me." She led him up towards the front of the store and said, "This is Marilyn, my best friend." Ravi found himself confronted by a very pretty young woman, probably even a little younger than Amelia, with short strawberry blonde hair and wide, infatuated eyes that he knew all too well. "Hi," said Marilyn as Amelia took a seat on the far side of her friend and turned around to watch with sisterly pride. "I just...I'm really impressed with how you handled that whole situation." She laughed. "Believe me, most people in New York would have lost their shit over that, especially as well dressed as you. So...are you a student, or a visitor, or...?"
  19. "Nonsense." Ravi took the proffered napkins and, lifting the shirt away from his skin, attempted to blot the worst of the coffee from the formerly pristine white cotton. This, incidentally, afforded Amelia an unparalleled view of a flat stomach with taut ridged abdominal muscles that were adorned with just a little hair, not so much as to be a rug and not so little that it looked as though he waxed, trailing down to the waistband of his jeans...and that was enough staring. Probably. Ravi wiped the damp skin briefly, then used the wadded napkins to similarly blot his jeans as he continued. "I absolutely insist. I was the idiot not looking where he was going." He considered the remnants of the napkins ruefully then tossed them into the bin by the cream and sugar station. "At least I'll smell nice." he smiled, looking her in the eyes for a moment before glancing at the barista behind the counter who was watching the drama avidly - not least because one of the players was Ravi. "Miss? Could you get another one of whatever it was I ruined for..?" he looked at her with a start as though he'd committed another faux pas. "There I go, forgetting my manners." he sighed, shaking his handsome head with a rueful smile as he once more met Amelia's eyes. "I'm Ravi." he said, holding out his hand to the young woman.
  20. "Shit!" escaped Amie's mouth when her path to the counter was eclipsed and a little hot coffee splashed on her hand. Immediately her cheeks went red though as she realized that most of the drink had gone over some dude's shirt. "Ah shit," she repeated as she ducked sideways to grab some napkins off of the little countertop. Only then did she glance up away from the stain spreading on his shirt to his face. And what she saw brought her to a slow stop. Jesus, he was gorgeous. And British. For a second she actually wobbled as she momentarily forgot to stop herself after getting the napkins...but with a hand on her elbow he caught her. What color were his eyes? They looked brown, but really light brown? Was that a British thing? "What?" Amelia stammered, trying to plug back into what he was saying. "I...no, I'm fine. You're the one that coffee all over you. Shit, I'm sorry...I didn't even see you there. Here." She held out the napkins between them as if they were a bunch of flowers. "And, uh, there's a bathroom a little further back, if you want. Don't worry about the coffee. Clearly I can't be trusted with such power."
  21. Marilyn turned her head back from smiling in return greeting to Amelia and found her eyes tracking the figure that darkened the entrance of the Coffee Project perhaps a couple of moments after her friend. At first, it was simply an instinctual drawing of the eye to movement, and she immediately went back to reading the screen of her phone... and then a little flag popped up in the young woman's mind telling her no, wait a minute, lets not be hasty getting back to the social media digest, and Marilyn's gaze snapped back up for a second look. There were no shortage of aspiring models, actors, dancers and what-have-you in New York. A couple even worked behind the counter at Coffee Project. But elegantly dressed-down in well-fitting blue-grey jeans, a tight white t-shirt and a light brown jacket that complemented the shoulder-length mane of hair and the almost-gold of his eyes, Ravi was well worth a second look as he moved with lazy graceful insouciance, past her table in the cramped coffee shop. 'Beautiful' wasn't a word often used to describe men, but it was the first descriptor she could think of, only realising she was staring at the newcomer when he met her eyes briefly and gave her a polite, charming smile and an incline of the head as if to say 'Yes, I know I am, and how are you today?' before moving past her, heading to the counter. Ravi stood back from the counter, eyes ostensibly scanning the list of caffeinated goodness on offer, smiling as he gestured for a lady behind him in the queue to go ahead while he 'made up his mind' with the air of someone unfamiliar with the whole business. He waited as Amelia did, drifting along like an indecisive shadow with his eyes on the signs behind the counter, then as she grabbed her coffee he immediately moved a little further along as if his distracted indecision was forcing him to walk the whole length of the counter before being able to make up his mind. The 'bump-meet' was what he called it. Perhaps pickup artists and dating gurus called it something else, but Ravi had never had much use for them and so bump-meet was the name. As ploys went it was a moderate ice-breaker, depending on the subject. Used by women on men and men on women (and probably women on women and men on men - this was the Current Year and Ravi didn't judge), the trick was simple and direct - and hard on the wardrobe and one's dignity. That, of course, was part of it's effectiveness. As Amelia turned she collided with the tall, beautiful man who was between her and the condiment station, and the artfully styled and delicious beverage in her hand ended up partly on the floor, but mostly on Ravi's shirt and jeans. "Christ!" The exclamation of dismay and shock was not altogether feigned. The coffee was hot, after all, and even if it hadn't been there were far more pleasant experiences than being doused in caffeinated syrupy beverages. Rather than the typical New Yorker response of 'watch what you're doing, ya damn idiot!', however, the reaction after the initial shock was surprising. "I am so bloody sorry, miss." The stranger said in a rich British accent, his voice even in the wake of surprise coffee-bathing the sort of mellifluous purr that people would likely pay money to listen to on the radio - or perhaps to read romance audiobooks. He reached out and steadied her with a hand on her elbow, his light-golden eyes warm with concern, his manner almost a babble of apology. "Stupid of me. It's about par for my day so far." He glanced down at the mess on his clothes and sighed, a rueful smile on his lips as he looked back at Amelia. "Serves me damned right. But not your poor coffee: it was innocent. Are you alright, though? Can I get you another? Please - it would be the least I could do."
  22. The sign printed on the wall just inside the wide-open glass front door, in old-timey letters, read, "Coffee Made Me Do It." The menus were written on chalkboards that extended well past the counter that separated customers from the rows of espresso machines and coffee presses and other, less identifiable bean paraphernalia that lined the back wall. Like most shops in the neighborhood of Manhattan it was in, the Coffee Project NY was narrow but deep, like a corridor that had been repurposed. Warm, bare orange bulbs hung from the ceiling on long cables, giving the shop an almost firelit glow through the big single-pane glass window that made up the entire storefront. It was the kind of place that got affectionate articles written about it in local newspapers, calling it a 'wonderful hole in the wall,' and that was small time enough for the staff to get a little nutty with their signage, with eccentric offerings like 'How to Tell If you Need Coffee' featuring a huge flowchart that filled an entire chalkboard with conditional branches. The sort of coffee shop that Starbucks had tried to standardize and commoditize back in Seattle, then across the country, to dismal effect. And yet, here in the heart of the big city, a little place like this somehow kept on ticking, sustained by the steady trickle of people who had been. If you didn't know about it, likely you never would. If you knew...you went back. And sometimes you brought friends. And thus it kept on going. The place stank of charm. It reeked of easygoing, friendly ambiance. Even Amelie loved it...but she hated that she loved it. To her it felt kind of like a hipster joint...even if you very rarely saw actual hipsters there. The very fact that it was a smug secret shared by a select clientele felt vaguely dissonant to her, for reasons she couldn't easily explain. But goddamn did they do a sweet mocha-cinnamon swirl. Call her a sellout hypocrite twenty times a day for a cup of that. Amie gave her friend Marilyn a pat on the shoulder as she went by, to let her know she was there, on her way up to the counter to place her order. Venti, please. Venti Vidi Veni. 'I ordered a large, I saw it, I came.' Julius fucking Caesar, if he'd been born in modern day New York and went to Coffee Project. After listening to the slurpy coffee machines for a few minutes, and foam was teased into the shape of a pegasus atop the delightful, rich brown of mocha sprinkled with cinnamon, Amelia turned around to grab a stirrer and a tiny thimble of extra cream from the counter on the opposite wall...
  23. Way, way back in basic training, Mel remembered, there was a fellow rainbow named Bradley Roberts. Lanky guy, had a guilty pleasure for romance novels, and seemed to always get into trouble or have the worst luck. Everyone called him 'Hex,' since he was black and came all the way from New Orleans, so obviously someone had laid the voodoo on him. Hex would occasionally complain about stereotyping, but in a good-nature fashion, since even he could not deny the odds of being put on punishment duty for stumbling onto the same pair of DIs fucking twice in the same week beggared reason. Maya, Mel had concluded, made Hex look like a symbol of auspicious fortune. Every bit of small but constant ill luck added up and up until it became a towering stack bearing down on her. But also simply it sounded like she was surrounded by people who seemed intent on using her. That former boyfriend whose academic-sounding blathering only showed he knew nothing of life. The sister who clearly sounded less of a sibling than his brothers-in-arms back in the Rangers. At least the kids didn't seem like brats. And he was pretty sure that one kid was crying because she was sick and not suddenly scared by seeing his face. He'd just been sitting there, reading. Nothing for the mother to give him the fish-eye over. So while nothing seemed to justify Jack and Seth's warnings yet, everything just gave Mel the instinct something was going to happen, right? Perhaps if the watcher in the biker jacket showed up again? Mel took a bite of the hot dog he'd picked up from a vendor along the way, wiping a spot of ketchup off his face with a paper napkin, frowning. After encountering that rude toad, Maya was ready to explode like a C4 bomb. The former Ranger held no pity for the fool who tripped the detonator.
  24. The universe hated her. That was the only reasonable explanation. Maya shook her head as she waited at the crosswalk of E 77th and 1st Ave, staring at the light on the opposite side and trying to ignore the sullen faces of the people crowded around her. Next time Colleen, or, hell, any of the kids’ parents from the library tried to do something nice for her, she was just going to politely decline. Especially if it was an invitation to a party, and especially if it seemed like a good chance to get out and enjoy herself for a little bit. Because, apparently, whatever cosmic jerk had written out the plan for her life had decided that having a good time wasn’t allowed. The day after the creepy dream she’d had about the woman from the gala being in her apartment, she’d lost her debit card. Totally screwed. The absolute best part, though, was that she didn’t find out until she’d gone to lunch that afternoon, and wouldn’t you just know it? Her ex Nate happened to also be getting lunch there. What a coincidence! Sure, he offered to pay for the sandwich she’d ordered (and she let him, obviously, because it was nice to eat once in a while), but then she had to listen to Fuckboy Supreme go on for nearly an hour with his pseudo-intellectual nonsense about Kant’s ideas on race and disability being totally misrepresented as ‘problematic’ when really he was just a man of his time and unfairly held to account for modern sensibilities… And was she free on Friday? ‘Cause, y’know. Kind of a dry spell. Yeah. She knew. In Nate’s case, she just also didn’t care. The day after that? Her bike chain had broken in the middle of morning rush, for no discernible reason whatsoever, and she’d ripped the hem of her slacks on the pedal. That was a real delight, a happy little two-for-one bonus. Even after she’d gotten to work, things didn’t get much better; one of the regular kids had been sick upstairs, and came down crying her eyes out because she was so upset. It wasn’t Grace’s fault, obviously, but it was just… one of those things. It took forever to clean up, especially because Lorraine couldn’t seem to keep her narrow ass parked at the circulation desk, so Maya had been forced to keep running downstairs to help the patrons, and it was- she shuddered at the memory- weirdly sludgey. It had been weeks since she’d been able to hang out with Mason, drink a bottle of something local, and work on storyboards for “Greetings From Black Lake,” so obviously Tisha would call on her one day off to have her pick up the cake for some stupid dinner thing she and Mr. Perfect were hosting. What kind of spoiled brat bullshit was that? They both had cars, and it’s not like Leticia actually worked, so there was no reason she couldn’t- “You gonna fuckin’ move, or what?” a surly, lumpy woman in an ugly green coat snarled at her, jostling her out of the way. Maya sucked in a sharp breath as a hundred different flavors of vitriol mingled on her tongue- but instead of loosing it, she bit it and lowered her head, pushing her bike through the crowd with the silent, seething fury of a woman who was just. fucking. done.
  25. "I think that's all I need to know." Ravi inclined his head to the woman he just might have sold his soul to... If he believed a soul was something that could be sold, or even that he had a soul to sell. A lot of things needed rethinking, especially if everything D'Sombra had intimated was true. "Hopefully kidnapping won't be necessary, and I draw the line at marriage. A man must have some standards, after all." he added, flashing a devilish smile at the two women. It was good for a slight smirk from Ravenna, but the charm bounced off Sable like a BB pellet from a tank. Professional. Dedicated. Uptight - likely afraid of fouling up and meeting her mistress's displeasure. Ravi assessed with a practiced glance. Won't this be fun? "Then farewell for now, Ravi FitzCoventry." D'Sombra said with curious formality as she extended a hand. Ravi shook it in parting, then left the room with the starkly-dressed Sable's heels clicking as she followed him... and a prickling on the back of his neck where he fancied he felt Ravenna's eyes. = = = = = = It wasn't quite as bad a working arrangement as Ravi had feared. Sable - which was likely not her real name - operated out of an office lower down in the NYX building. It was this office that was the nerve center for the hunting of Amelia Parsons, and so it was to this office that Ravi had been coming for the last few days, reading what Sable had on the woman, studying known associations and sightings, and discussing with Ravenna's underling the most likely spots to make contact. Sable sent a car for him every day, and ensured he was dropped off at home afterwards. His expenses were being covered so he didn't need to work to pay the bills, thus detracting from the task at hand. It was all very efficient. This manner of covert work was entirely new to the young man - but he found himself enjoying it immensely, tracking the girl through the urban jungle. "The home is a no-go." he said, pacing before the cork-board on the wall of Sable's office, an apple in hand as he peered at the photographs of the girl entering or leaving a variety of places, as well as sitting at a bar, relaxing over a coffee, and talking animatedly in a park with some people. He found himself liking Amelia - she wasn't the glamorous divorcee or rich young debutantes who were his regular 'prey', but there was a spark to her which was engaging. Vivacity, that was it. The air of a girl who knew what she wanted in bed and probably went at it with enough gusto to wreck the box-spring. "Can't just turn up a person's home - it's an invasion of privacy. Seduction is all about letting them come to you." "I bow to your knowledge." Sable said dryly, tapping at her laptop. Ravi half-turned, smiling a little. "Come now - I doubt you are unfamiliar with seduction, Sable. Hmm?" "I'm familiar with the principles." she returned with a faint smile of her own. That was another thing - away from her boss Sable was still the consummate professional, but she lost the monotone and smiled once or twice. Ravi sat on the edge of the desk, grinning now, which caused the woman to sit back in her chair and regard him with a patiently amused raising of the eyebrow. "Perhaps we could compare notes, then. I'm always willing to learn." Ravi never really turned it off, even when joking. "You would find me an enthusiastic pupil." "Eat your apple." she told him. "And focus." With a chuckle, he slipped from his perch and once more paced, even white teeth crunching into the fruit and chewing as he considered. "Nightclubs... also not so good." he concluded at length, tossing the core into the bin by Sable's desk. "She's usually with friends, doesn't usually go out with the intent of picking up men - or women. Plus I find that the only women one can pick up in clubs are usually not worth the bother. Sleeping with a man when you haven't even had a non-shouted conversation in decent lighting betrays poor judgment and dubious self-esteem." "What about men who sleep with women under those circumstances?" Sable couldn't stop herself from asking. Ravi flashed a wicked smile. "They probably deserve the shot of penicillin to the privates that they'll inevitably end up getting." he quipped. Sable chuckled, shaking her head before going back to her keyboard as Ravi paused before a photograph of Amelia sitting in the window seat of a coffee shop. He considered for a moment. "Sable?" "Yes?" "Where was this taken?"
  26. It was as if the decision had been made for him already and she just needed to hear it. Upon his request the double doors once again opened but it was not the two ebony men who stepped in this time. In their place was a woman who appeared of Mediterranean ancestry with perfect, olive skin and the beauty of a runway model. Like her employer, she was dressed in professional business attire, a blazer and blouse along with a skirt that, like her boss was just short enough to tease the boundary of professionalism and, like her boss, it was all black. The thin wire frames of her glasses were silver, her black hair was pulled up into a tight topknot without a strand out of place and her black lipstick sent Ravi's mind a more than a few naughty librarian scenarios as she approached clutching a black folder to her chest. "There is another, like you, Ravi," Ravenna started as her assistant stopped close to her. The ancient woman's voice took the space of her assistants heels echoing on the floor making sure the room wasn't silent for too long. "Unlike you, however, she has made it her business to know. What she does know, unfortunately is of little value in the grand scheme of 'The Truth', which what you want, correct? There are those who keep truth locked up tight, lest the public at large panic. This Amelia," she spun her hand about as she recalled the woman's last name but gave up and pressed on. "Whatever, doesn't know, as the expression goes, 'shit from Shinola'. Unfortunate the, Powers The Be, we'll call them, don't see it that way." "Sable will be your point of contact," Ms. D'Sombra gestured to her dark assistant. "Find Ms..." she pursed her lips and snapped her fingers a few times. "Parsons, ma'am." Sable said monotonously, looking sideways at her boss before looking back at Ravi. "Parsons," her fingers snapped. "That's it. Find her. Befriend her, woo her, sleep with her, marry her, kidnap her and lock in a basement, I care not what, or how you do it but keep her safe and deliver her to me. Questions?"

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