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Everything posted by Grim

  1. Rebecca's somewhat ascerbic sarcasm may as well have hit tank armor as Fenris merely looked at her, the glimmer of his eyes eerie in the shadowed hallway. He was silent for a long moment, then looked past her at the doorway of the room they'd left. "She can hear us." he told Rebecca softly. "If she has my gift, she could hear a man whistling three blocks away. You're keeping nothing secret from her." "Just. Tell me." Rebecca restrained the urge to scream, not so much from fear of him taking offense as fear he'd simply ignore her. "I don't know." he answered, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets. "What do you mean, you don't know?" "Just that." He sighed, then shrugged. "I was younger than the girl when I last changed that way. KGB... they suppressed it. Said it made me an animal, not a man. I'd even forgotten about the changing... until just now. She reminded me." "How old were you?" Rebecca asked quietly. "Ten. Or was it nine. I don't remember even that. I killed some Germans that day, though." Fenris told the girl. "I felt their blood in my throat and their screams in my ears. The world was all..." he searched for the words. "Color and instinct. It was like... like when televisions became coloured, only more so. Like everything I have been since was washed out shades." "She won't be indiscriminate. I protected my mother and sisters and their friends that last time. She can tell friends from foes. But she won't be restrained, either. If she thinks someone means her or her brother ill, she will kill on instinct." "Can you help her?" Rebecca asked. Fenris pondered that in his deliberate way. "Maybe. Maybe even help her keep her human shape. But it took KGB months of harsh treatment to 'drive the animal out' as they put it. If she gets upset, she'll change again." He shrugged once more. "As I said, I don't know. If I hadn't been tampered with, I might have more answers."
  2. "How do her powers work?" Fenris had followed the youngsters upstairs and now stood in the doorway of the darkened room, his eyes shining eerily. Adrian looked over at him. "She adopts the powers of people she touches, taking on their Virus too. But she's been pushed real hard today." the boy said tearfully. "Do you have doctors? At the MU?" Fenris nodded and approached the bedside, crouching by the sick girl and gently sniffing the air around her. "We do, but I'm being honest with you. I don't know if they can help her, Adrian." he looked at the boy and shook his head. "This is bad." Fenris's eyes turned back to the girl, narrowing slightly as an idea occured to him. "She's an absorber, then?" He removed his gloves. "Yeah, she- Wait, what are you doing?" Adrian caught Fenris's wrist in an iron grip, his haste making the larger man's wrist emit a crackling sound. Everyone winced. "Oh shit! I'm sorry!" He let go and stared as Fenris lifted up his hand and rolled back the sleever of his dark sweater, showing the dark bruising fade in seconds. "I don't get sick much." he said quietly. "'Becca has been weakened and the fever is a result of infection setting in. If she adopts my gifts..." he left that unfinished, his eyes locked with Adrian's. The boy looked at his sister's face, then firmed his jaw and nodded. "Okay. Try it." Fenris nodded and laid his hand on the young girl's fever-hot brow. It was like touching a live wire to a circuit. Becca's back arched, her mouth opening in a soundless scream before she sank back to the bed, gasping for breath. Her eyes flicked open and fixed on Fenris's face, and the older mutant could feel his memories, over 60 years worth, flashing through her minds-eye as her mutant gift synched her to the one touching her. He hoped for her sake that the memories weren't complete as she bucked once more, then again as he removed his hand from her brow, her eyelids flickering open and shut as her mouth worked uncontrollably for a torturous moment. Then she lay still, only her rising and falling chest an indicator that she was alive. "Becca?" Adrian whispered, half in fear and half in hope, but Fenris had already smelled the changes in the girl's body. His mutant gift was taking hold, ruthlessly destroying foreign invaders to Becca's body and restoring her strength. In a few short moments, her eyes opened again, the flush of fever gone from her face as she looked at her brother. "Adrian?" The siblings hugged as Fenris stood, stepping back and allowing the others, those closest to the girl, to approach in his stead. He felt good, better than he had in years. The intimate awareness he possessed of his body told him that he could push his limits just as in the old days, that the occasional dizzy spells of the Virus were gone from him for the time being. He watched Adrian and Becca hug, then blinked at what he saw behind the boy's shoulders. Becca's hands there were different, strange. The fingers were elongating very slowly, to the point of an extra joint growing, and the nails were becoming talons. It was his own transformation, complete with pale fur running up the backs of the fingers to the hand. The girl's eyes opened and fixed on him over her brother's shoulder, and he could see their brown changing to yellow, very faintly right now, but to his enhanced perceptions it was a clear shifting in hue. Click to reveal.. Blame Joani! Apparently Becca adopted all of Fenris's gift, including the latent transformation that KGB suppressed with conditioning when he was still a boy. Over the next hour or so she'll become... a little fuzzy. Basically, she'll turn into a Gauru (or Crinos if you're old-school) form, complete with jaws and tail, standing about 2.5 metres high and with a few, um, impulse control issues...It's not my fault!
  3. "He's telling the truth." Fenris's deep, even voice filled the deathly silence. Orphan was staring at Tyler with a look halfway between revulsion and anger. The others wore similar looks, but the eyes of the large blond mutant were strangely compassionate as he stepped beside the chair Sam was sitting in and looked down Tyler. "Man, again?" asked Zack. "You sure, this time?" "He was telling the truth before, we just didn't ask him if he was a UNISON spy." Fenris replied calmly. "He's angry, confused, lost. He's been made into something he had no choice in being, but now he's trying to exercise his right to choose." He looked down at Orphan again. "We help mutants. This mutant needs our help. It's that simple." "Fuck, Fenris. I thought you'd be all for ripping him apart after what you did to that AEGIS guy." Mouse said incredulously. "He was a traitor, willingly so. He sold out his own species for medals and a paycheck." Fenris replied in that same deep, calm tone. "Tyler is a different animal. I believe him. And he could be useful to flip, if he'll help us spy on them?" The last was phrased as a question as the shimmering eyes fixed on Tyler again.
  4. "Thanks." Fenris accepted the can and popped it open, taking a sip as he listened to Rebecca and Juno. At Rebecca's suggestion Fenris fought the urge to narrow his eyes suspiciously. She might just be playing big sister surrogate to the kids, wanting what was best for them, seeking to keep them out of trouble. That was normal, and might be the case. Or it might not. The girl had suggested contrary courses of action at pretty much every turn. And she was far too nervous around someone who'd shown no hostility or signs of volatility. Back when he was Vanya, Fenris had been trained for this sort of thing - it was natural for a person to settle down around even strange circumstances. The human psyche just didn't maintain a constant edge of nervous tension without snapping. That was what made hostage situations stable when the hostage-takers were professional. Jaunt was acting normally - the boy was suspicious but not constantly on edge. The two youngest were asleep. Even Juno, newly arrived, was rapidly settling mood-wise. But Rebecca was not. The girl was constantly nervous, and seeing as she was not being given much reason to be, she was either of an incredibly high-strung disposition, in which case she was a liability to those she helped, or there was something else causing her massive unease. The last AEGIS operative he'd killed, who'd played at being an MU operative to lure Fenris into a trap, had smelled like that. Either way, the Wolf resolved to watch her. "How about we ask the youngsters?" he suggested mildly. "Adrian has already stated that he'd like to give the MU a shot, to help us and to receive our help. Frostbite and Orphan's poor people skills notwithstanding, the MU does stand for the protection of mutantkind." He sipped his beer again, settling comfortably into his chair. "You're welcome to talk to him, to talk him out of it. He's not 'mine' any more than he's 'yours'. But if he goes with you, I'd like to come too. To keep an eye on the children until the current mess blows over. Then when they're safe, I'll be gone." The large man shrugged his broad shoulders, smiling wryly. "I can't force you to let me stay with you. But I tracked them down once, and there's not really much you can do to stop me keeping an eye on them." His blue-green eyes looked from Juno to Rebecca.
  5. "Whatever comes to hand first is fine for me." Fenris said as he sank back onto the chair he'd occupied previously, nodding at Jaunt, then because it was Jaunt he smiled slightly and added. "As long as it's decent to drink. Thank you." He glanced at Juno. "As to your kids..." he said with an easy smile. "I'm trying to help them. Orphan originally sent me to get them out of danger and persuade them to come in from the cold. And I mean persuade in the non-sinister normal sense. Not 'persuade'." he made the little quotation mark sign in the air with his forefingers. "I'm not in the habit of enslaving anyone, least of all my own kind." "We had heard that the little one was a cure to the Virus somehow, and with the MIC in uproar and them hidden away by Jaunt, I was the best person to find them. I did, found out that the poor child isn't a cure after all, and brought them all here." he fixed his gaze on Juno, quiet force in his voice as he continued. "My first priority, always, was and is to keep every mutant out of the hands of those who would exploit them callously. None of these youngsters are part of the MU - they are not soldiers in the war but non-combatants. They are not going to be conscripted either - contrary to how Orphan comes across under stress, she would never stand for that. And if she would, I wouldn't. Adrian is here because he wants to be. Once we've determined that 'Becca is not a cure, we'll spread that information far and wide so people will stop chasing her, and then get both of them out of reach of the U.S. government."
  6. Quote:He nodded at Fenris and flatly commented, "She's supposed to know the kids. If they don't know her I guess the boss doesn't care what you'll do with her. Otherwise she may be helpful." Fenris's eyes narrowed as he studied Frostbite from where he sat, then turned his pale blue-green eyes on Juno. Then he uncoiled from his chair and stepped over to them. He stopped all of two feet from Frostbite, staring levelly at the other man. "Okay. You wait in the van." There was a dreadful stillness about the large blonde mutant. Frostbite bristled, hearing the words and missing the visual cues. "The fuck I wi-" He stopped as Fenris stepped closer. Though his face was placid, it was too calm. As was his voice. "These youngsters have been through hell. They placed trust in me that the Underground would care for them as people first, resources second. I intend to honor that trust. You probably did not intend to come across as a nekulturny asshole, but you did. You also implied that Orphan would countenance me disposing of a non-hostile mutant. You and I know this is not the case." Fenris nodded at the door, his eyes never leaving Frostbite's. "Wait out there. You are unnecessary here." For a long moment Frostbite glowered back, his fists clenching slowly. "Be sure of your next action." The words were a murmur, Fenris's lips barely moving. Something in the terrible stillness of his posture got through to Frostbite, and with a reluctant grimace he stepped back and moved to the door, keeping his eyes on Fenris. "We'll talk about this later." he said in an ominous tone as he yanked the door open. it slammed behind him. "I am sure." Fenris murmured as he turned to Juno before smiling in a friendly fashion. "I am sorry for Frostbite, he is somewhat... brusque. Welcome to the party, Juno, isn't it? Rebecca knows you, and that is good enough for me." he told them all. "Come in, get comfortable so we can talk." So saying, he led the way into the lounge.
  7. The sated bloodlust filled him with a warm sense of comfort. It felt good, like killing Germans as a boy, filling their ranks with discord in Stalingrad and smelling their terror on the night air at the Bulge. Of all the people he'd killed, some had been good men doing their duty according to their beliefs. Some had been venal, or ambitious, or two-faced. Some had been sick, or evil, like the camp commandant he'd hunted through the snowy woods near Dachau. But there'd never been an instance where he'd not enjoyed the kill. Never. It satisfied him on a deep, primordial level, as intense and passionate as sex. He was a hunter. To flush the prey out, to hunt them to their lair, and to end their life was the first true joy he'd ever experienced as a child when, at the age of 5, he'd chased down a rabbit in the woods and brought it home triumphantly. The look in May's eyes was not so different to the look in his mother's eyes, or the eyes of the doctors at the Section M base when they asked him how killing made him feel and he simply answered "Complete." It made him feel uncomfortable, as though there were some gap between them and himself, a crevasse filled with something dark and unknowable. He reached out with one bloody claw-hand, the talons shrinking and reshaping into a normal human hand, clotted with blood and worse, which closed on the bundle May offered and gently took it from her. Vanya looked down at the vials, recognising them, then at the file. This, then, was his life. All of it, the numerous pages in the thick binder, the story of a long life. And what had it been for, really? The Rodina? She didn't care for him anymore. The powers that be wanted him dead. No parades, no honors, no hero's welcome in Moscow. "I should be dead." he mumbled, eyes fixed on the cover of the binder. "Fifty years of hunting and killing enemies, friend May. Fifty years. A hero of the shadows, they called me. Vanya: little Ivan." he walked slowly, head down, over to the wood stove that the camp commander had in his room, tracking bloody footprints across the rug. "Little Ivan, go and fight the Germans, boy. Little Ivan, go and fight the Chinese. Go and kill Americans, British, French for us, little Ivan." He opened the stove's little door, heedless of the sizzling of his own flesh on the hot metal as he dropped to his knees in the fire's revealed glow. "And little Ivan went, friend May. He went and he hunted and he killed. For his country, for the safety of his beloved Rodina, for the glorious future that the Party predicted. And then the dream died, and little Ivan was called on to kill other Russians. And little Ivan likes the killing, May. He likes it very much. So he doesn't care that the dream of the Socialist Utopia is rotting like a dead goat in summer." Vanya thrust the box of vials into the fire then, after a moment's hesitation, thrust the bulky binder in after it. His back to May, the blond mutant just knelt and watched it burn. "And then, one day, the Party realise that little Ivan and his friends have power, power that might fall into the wrong hands or worse yet, power that they might use for themselves. And so they hack, and they shoot, and they burn little Ivan and his friends away. All dead now, friend May." The Russian sat on his haunches and watched the fire burn his life away, his voice eerily similar as the hollow howl of the wind outside as he crooned. "Bye bye, Vanya."
  8. Click to reveal.. (Emotion Sensing roll) Roll: 11 +6 Modifier = +17 I'm not sure whether there's any bonuses or penalties on this due to the physical nature of Fenris's ability (senses changes in body chemistry) I made the roll just to see if ordinarily Rebecca's fear would get past him. Of course, if she doesn't know he's capable of smelling emotions, she might not be trying to damp down her reactions. Fear! A lot of fear. Rebecca stank of it, and it was a sudden flood of the various chemicals into her bloodstream that clued Fenris into her emotional state. She'd been nervous before, but not frightened like this. Simply because he had a gun on his lap? Fenris thought it unlikely. "Nothing. Yet." he said without opening his eyes, one hand resting on the sleek black shape of the firearm across his lap. He paused for a moment, then tilted his head forwards and looked at her intently. "I'm just being cautious." he told her in an even tone. "I've given Jaunt an alternative safehouse to snatch the kids away to if the wrong people knock on that door." He smiled then and shrugged, leaning his head back again on the cushion, half-closed eyes regarding her. "But I'm not really expecting trouble. After all, no-one could know where we are unless someone here told them." He said in a reassuring tone and waved his free hand at Jaunt, grinning. "Go on with your game. Jaunt's nuts will be shrivelling by now."
  9. "She isn't." "Huh?" Jaunt looked over at the suddenly-awake older man. "Care to give us the expanded universe there, old-timer?" Fenris's eyes were on the ceiling of the lounge, narrowed slightly. "She isn't 'pinching off a deuce'. Nor has she done anything else toilet related." Fenris was still sitting relaxedly in the chair, but there was a subtle change in his posture now, a tautness that the perceptive Jaunt picked up on. He followed Fenris's gaze to the ceiling, then looked back at him. "Dude, how can you tell- know what? Don't answer that. I'm glad I don't smell the whole world, jeez." He idly flicked another nut into his mouth, his mind working over what he'd just heard. "Uh, maybe she's crying or having an attack of the shakes or somethin'?" Fenris merely looked at him, and Jaunt felt a sinking sensation. "Lemme guess: no? You can tell that too?" Fenris nodded. "Well that sucks." Jaunt muttered. "It may be nothing." Fenris said, getting up and checking the stun gun, mace, smoke and gas grenades he'd taken from the dead SWAT. Then he appropriated one of the MP-5s and sat back down with it across his lap, checking that it was loaded and the safety was on. "She isn't talking to anyone on a phone or hidden mic. She isn't texting or typing. She's probably just be thinking things over in peace and quiet: having some alone time. Like I said: nothing." "Yeah." Jaunt said, watching as Fenris made his preparations. "Then why the gun?" he asked, already knowing the answer. "In case it's 'something'." Fenris sat back in his chair again, one hand on the grip of the SMG as he closed his eyes once more. "I heard what you said to the boy. They were good words." he said laconically as he settled back down to rest.
  10. Take it from me, kid. Being spooky and intimidating usually only attracts a certain kind of chick - and they traditionally have more issues than 'Guns and Ammo'.
  11. The door opened, a man wearing the insignia of a Major peered out at May, his expression somewhere between sleepiness and irritation. Pulling the night-duty while his commanding officer slept in the back of the HQ hut wasn't any aide's idea of a good time, but to have his nap disturbed by a guard... "Da?" he demanded in a menacing tone. May stepped to one side and pointed towards the gate. Frowning, still irritated and sleepy, the major took a pace out of the doorway and looked in that direction- And died. In the pool of light around the door, May saw a flash of green-blue heralding Vanya's approach from the officer's other side. The hand that clamped over the man's mouth wasn't human in appearance, covered in thin golden-brown hair and with fingers that were longer and contained an extra joint. Wicked-looking talons gleamed like an array of dark metal steak knives on the end of each finger as the Russian mutant tightened his grasp, at the same time plunging the claws on his other hand up and under the major's ribcage. He needn't have bothered covering the mouth: the only sound the dying man made was a wheezing whispery moan before he slumped and was dragged inside, his diaphragm, lungs and heart shredded by four-inch talons. A drop of blood on the snow outside was all that remained: May kicked snow over it and followed Vanya in. Inside the office space was quiet and mostly dark, a single electric lamp illuminating the major's desk whilst a paraffin heater whirred softly, staving off the cold outside. May noted the paperwork on the desks and began to leaf through for anything valuable as Vanya closed the door and bolted it. Blood dripping from his claws, he made his way to the door at the far side of the office and knocked. "Colonel, we have Moscow on the line." he called out in Russian, knocking again. There was a sleepy-sounding grumble from beyond the door. "They ask to speak with you." "All right, all right!" the voice came more clearly now, but was still muddled with sleep, which was probably why he didn't notice the strangeness of the voice. There was a click and the door swung open, revealing a man fumbling with the belt of his uniform trousers, face rumpled with sleep and wearing a nightshirt tucked into his waistline. He looked up at whoever was barring his way and the sleepy irritation gave way to terrified shock a split second before one clawed hand closed over his throat, Vanya being careful not to cut him as he raised his other claws to hang before the officer's face. "Do not shout, Colonel." he warned. "If you do I will put out your eyes and snip out your tongue. Then I will cut off your cock and balls and make you eat them, you son of a pig-fucking Ukrainian whore's shit." Vanya's hand tightened, the man being lifted to his toes as his eyes bulged. "You... are... dead...!" he wheezed. "I saw... you die. You... were a... corpse, a... piece of charred meat- aahh!" The pained gasp came as Vanya flicked a talon over the Colonel's face, cutting the skin just deep enough to bleed. "I know. I was there, shit eater. I did the dying, remember?" Vanya's voice rose, his fury evident. May coughed, and the Russian mutant sighed and nodded back at her before turning to the Colonel. "Your last orders, Colonel. Where are they?" "Safe..." the man choked out. "In my... room. The... safe!" "The code?" Vanya half-carried, half-dragged the man into his bedroom, May following behind. "3-6-12-4-2-7" The Colonel gabbled. Vanya looked over at May. "Would you open the safe, tovarisch? There may be other things of interest to you in there also, and I do not wish to get blood on them." May nodded and moved over to the safe in the corner. Behind her as she knelt the agent heard a wet, organic noise and a strangled gasp, then more soft, wet sounds of flesh being cut and more muffled cries. "Die. Die in pain you fucking dogs cock." Vanya chanted under his breath as he worked. "This is for Yncka, and Leisl, and Sergei, and Gorkov, and..." every name was punctuated with another wet sound and strangled gasp of pain, and there seemed to be a lot of names. May did her best to tune it out, grabbing the files and rifling through them. There was something else there also, a box containing 5 sealed vials of clear liquid. Written on the side in Cyrillic were the words "Subject: Vanya. TS-0134, Batch 3."
  12. If Fenris was at all surprised to see Sam being so catastrophically self-destructive, he didn't show it. For a long moment he just looked at her, shimmering eyes expressionless, then he sighed slightly and stood up, moving over to her. She glared at him with the tired vehemence of a wounded cat. "Don't even fucking start with me." she snarled at him in a tone that could have cut glass. "You should be in bed." he replied evenly, as though she hadn't just told him not to say it. "'S a great offer, Fenny, but I'm a little sore. Mind if we just cuddle?" she shot back, glaring up at him. A faint smile played around his mouth at her truculent expression, and he shrugged and took his jacket down off the hook by the door. "Here." he said softly, draping it around Orphan's shoulders. The well-worn leather enveloped the smaller woman like a blanket, preserving more of her modesty. Then he stepped beside her and offered her an arm. "If you won't lay down, then come and sit." he said in a tone that sounded mild enough to be a suggestion, but Sam was familiar enough with Fenny to know what the look in his sea-coloured eyes meant: that he would carry her unceremoniously to the couch if she didn't take his arm and walk there like a sensible mutant freedom-fighter.
  13. Fenris smiled slightly at the wordplay and shook his head as he set the phone back in it's cradle. He wasn't fooled - neither teen was comfortable around him, and Rebecca in particular was nervous. It was understandable enough, so he didn't let it bother him. For the stoic older mutant, it was strictly speaking irrelevant whether the people he was helping liked him, just so long as they were willing to cooperate. "I'll pass. Two teenagers from Vegas could clean me out - I'd end up with no nuts at all." he said straight-faced. Jaunt smirked as Fenris sat down next to the phone and leaned back in the easy chair. "The house isn't mine, so try to resist the urge to redecorate." he said deadpan as he closed his eyes, hands resting on the arms of his chair. Though he appeared to be sleeping at first glance, Fenris was actually just relaxing, letting his senses pay attention to what was around him whilst the rest of him relaxed. He was napping in that specialised way that experienced soldiers and wild animals share, one metaphorical ear cocked up and waiting for some sign that aught was amiss.
  14. "The safehouse should be well-stocked, but grab what you can easily carry anyway." Fenris said as he crouched and looked over the unconscious Becca, careful not to touch her. He looked up at Adrian, who was hovering watchfully, and nodded to him. "Let me know if you get tired." he instructed the boy- no, young man gently as he stood and stepped back. Adrian sat by his sister and waited as Rebecca and Jaunt threw some clothing and supplies together. Fenris watched him, wondering if he'd had a family beyond his mother. He didn't remember - didn't remember much from before the bombs started falling and the world blew apart. But he remembered his mother's body and the hate his young heart had held for the fascisti. He spent a little time cleaning himself up, washing the blood from his face and hands and sponging down his clothing. When they were ready, Jaunt 'ported them all outside one by one, pausing to recover as Fenris stepped to the end of the alley and scented the air, ears cocked and listening to the rumble and crackle of urban war. Beyond the MIC, the rest of Vegas would be waiting nervously, police and citizens alike keeping an eye on the skies as they prayed the chaos wouldn't spread to their world from the contamination of the mutant zone. Fenris spent some moments plotting his next few moves, then headed back to the others. "Move when I say, stop when I say." he told them quietly. "Watch your footing, watch your backs, and keep an eye on rooftops. We're going to keep indoors as much as possible, going through buildings where we can till we reach an entry point to the underground. From there we'll keep going." He looked at Adrian. "It'll be a long hike, but tell me if you absolutely need to rest. Same goes for all of you. Once we're outside the police and army perimeter, we'll steal a car and things will move faster." He looked from face to face and smiled slightly. "Let's go." They went. Several times the blond guide told the teens to stop, and they did despite seeing no cause for his caution. Fenris moved ahead of them a little, not bothering to creep or crouch, instead walking quickly and confidently, now and then pausing to sniff the air and listen. They reached an entrance to the storm drain network and slipped in, moving through the gloom and leaving the the uproar behind them. For a long time they walked, Fenris now and then listening attentively to the echoing surroundings. They didn't say much, both Rebecca and Jaunt making sure that Adrian wasn't pushing himself and letting their guide do his job. "Here." Fenris said after what seemed like hours, and climbed up out of the tunnels, leading the four teens into daylight. He had them wait in a side alley for a short time, the minutes ticking by nervously before he rolled up in a cheap-looking pickup truck. "Where'd you get that heap of crap?" Jaunt asked as they jumped in. Fenris smiled and shrugged. "I bought it." he said simply. "Easier than stealing one and having people looking for it. I chose this area to come out in because of the used-car lot down the road." He drove carefully, avoiding the main roads and not speeding - not that the truck could speed, probably. The engine sounded as though it were trying to pass gravel. Noticing Rebecca's dubious look, Fenris shrugged again. "It was cheap, and good for at least this trip." he explained with a smile. By now they were out of central Las Vegas, heading into one of the low class suburban residential areas used by the thousands of blue-collar service industry workers who kept the glittering city running. The sun had gone down, but the warm of the day still lingered as he turned the pickup into a driveway and killed the engine, which settled with a grateful rattle. The others stirred and started to extricate themselves as Fenris hopped out of the truck and cast about with his senses, trying to detect anything amiss. Apparently satisfied, he moved to the edge of the driveway and fished around in the bushes, emerging with a set of keys in a small baggie. "Consider this home, for now." he said to the stretching and weary teenagers as he opened the door. Kicking aside the pile of junk mail, he waved them all in before closing the door behind them. They found themselves in a comfortable lounge with plenty of sofa space, and as they stood looking around Fenris went to check the kitchen. He grunted with approval as he found the cupboards and fridge containing at least a little food, enough for a day or two. "Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a pool out back." he told the four kids as he came back into the lounge. "Get comfortable, feel free to turn on the tv. No 360, I'm afraid." he shrugged apologetically at Jaunt. "I'll see what can be arranged." He picked up the phone, checking the device attached to it before he dialled the number he'd committed to memory. No tap on this line - good. There's shouldn't be anyway, since it'd been months since this safehouse had been used. Landlines were safer than cells - for this sort of business anyway. "This is Fenris." he said when the other end was picked up. "Tell Orphan we're safe and home."
  15. The older mutant stepped out of the cage and stood up, nodding at Jaunt's words. "Not a problem." he said easily, smiling a little. The British accent was back in place, slipped on as readily as the boots Jaunt had handed back a few minutes before. "No vague doubletalk bullshit. If I can't tell you something, I'll say so." He reached down and pulled a small, slim device from his back pocket, weighing it in his hand as he considered it. "Not yet." he said, half to himself, leaving the tiny cellphone off. "We need to get clear of this zone first." He paused for a moment and looked at them all measuringly. "How soon can you all be ready to move?" he asked calmly. "I understand you might be tired and stressed, but if you don't absolutely need rest right now, we should get going. Things are getting strange out there, what with the mechanised armour suit things. We really should get going while it's still light and things are still chaotic."
  16. "We swear you to secrecy and give you the option of joining us." Fenris told him with a smile. "You've worked with mutant groups before, so you understand the confidentiality necessary, you've got cutting-edge technical skills, and it's obvious that you're well-connected in the Middle East. You're also a 'public' mutant. You'd be a considerable asset." "Uh-huh, and what would I do?" Tyler asked dubiously. Fenris shrugged. "That, I couldn't say. Given your skills and such it'd be R&D, or other strategic-level activities once the proving was done." The large blond man told him. "Naturally, there'll be tasks required to prove you're not a fair-weather ally or a plant. That's not for me to decide, though. I just advise." He leaned forward with a smile. "I won't bullshit you. The pension plan is iffy, the pay is non-existent, but the health benefits are good - we look after our own - and there's the fighting chance that one day you'll be one of many mutants breathing air free of persecution and oppression, and when that day comes you'll know that you helped bring it about. That's why I'm here, with this particular group. We're not about mutant superiority, we're about mutant equality. We want nothing more, and will settle for nothing less." From the corner of one eye Tyler noticed Arrow nodding sober agreement, and heard Zack mutter "A-fuckin'-men." "And if I say no?" Tyler asked, conscious of Zack and his gun nearby. "Then we part ways. You'll still be sworn to secrecy, but if you've kept Talal's secrets, we're not likely to worry that you'll share ours." Fenris shrugged. "It'd be a shame, though. We've got lots of fighters, and quite a few planners, but we're light on science skills. You'd be missed."
  17. "Listen." Fenris said with quiet urgency. "Rebecca, I believe you: that is to say, I believe that you believe what you are saying." He looked at them all, Rebecca, Adrian, Jaunt and 'Becca. "That doesn't really change my mission. If I'd learned that there were four young mutants trapped in the MIC with the flatscans going apeshit with their robot mutant-killer powersuits, I'd still be here trying to convince you to take my help." "You say you don't trust us. What's the worst case if you come with me?" Fenris said after another bite of pizza. "We all go to the safehouse. Adrian and Becca let our science people look at them, we find out you're right, and that's that. You're still out of the MIC, fed, cleaned up, sleeping in beds and with your own people looking out for you. If you're nothing to do with a cure, even incidentally, then we'll let that word get out too. Then we run you guys wherever you want to go with false I.D's and some money, just like we do for dozens of other mutants who decide they don't want to live in ghettos in the United Reich of America." The large blond man shrugged. "Or you can stay with us, live off the human-controlled grid and spike their wheels until we actually get some equal treatment. If you are a link to a cure for the Virus, then sure, we'll want to explore that, but not to the point of keeping you in cells. I doubt the humans will be so lenient." He gazed at them steadily. "Worst case if you don't come with me? You'll run out of resources, run out of options, and end up in human hands. If you're lucky, it'll be UNISON and they'll stick you in an MIC 'for your own good' so that next time the mutant-killers come, you'll be back in the line of fire. If it's AEGIS, you'll disappear." "Dude, you played the Nazi card." Jaunt scoffed. "I like it - United Reich of America - but you lose the debate if you bring Nazis into it. Everyone always calls this shit Nazi-like. It's old." "Young man, I am not familiar with that rule. But then, I fought against the fascisti in the Great Patriotic War when I was younger than Adrian." Fenris's eyes were ancient and cold as he spoke, the English accent slipping from him as he spoke, replaced with a Russian intonation. "I was on the march to Berlin. I saw the ghettos, empty with boarded up houses and the word 'Jude' stenciled over the doors. I saw the camps that you read about and hear about on History Channel. I talked to survivors who didn't believe they were in real danger in the ghettos until the stormtroopers came for them." Eyes blazing slightly, Fenris stared at Jaunt for a moment before picking up his drink and taking a big gulp. When he lowered the drink, he was calmer. "So when I see these MICs, I speak with authority when I call them ghettos. When I see mutants being herded into them, forced out of jobs and into second-class citizenship, I compare the country that allows it with Nazi Germany, or yes, Stalin's Russia, which was little better. When I see 'policemen' who would beat and execute a hungry woman with green hair simply for stealing food, I call them stormtroopers or Chekists. And I challenge you to find me a single living Jew who was in those camps who would not do the same."
  18. "Coke is fine." He smiled back at her, keen senses analysing her reactions, her fear and the way she masked it. Smart girl, smart and tough. He watched her as she went to grab the drink from the fridge. "Slave name sounds dramatic, doesn't it?" he said conversationally. "In my case, Alex Garm wasn't my 'slave' name. He doesn't even really exist. My human masters didn't even care what my real name was." "You were a slave?" the younger boy asked, half-skeptical and half-fascinated. Fenris nodded, blowing a little on his pizza before taking a bite. He didn't seem at all discomfited by his near-nakedness, or by the cage. He may as well have been on a couch eating that pizza, so relaxed he seemed. "I was, and for a long time. Thank you." he said to Rebecca with another smile as he accepted the Coke. She smiled back, still afraid behind it, and moved back to stay near Jaunt. "As to how I found you: that's what I do. I find people. And Jaunt did cover your tracks well - it took me hours. Normally, I'd have found you inside of sixty minutes." He nodded at Jaunt as he popped the tab of the can, saluted the young mutant with it, and took a drink. "I believe that's two questions answered?" he said mildly. "Sure." Jaunt tossed him his pants and the black sweater, both of which had bloodstains and bulletholes in them. "Seen some action? And no, that's not one of the questions." "A freebie, then?" Fenris said with raised eyebrow, pulling on the pants. "The answer is yes. I have. The guns and gear there came from a police death squad - sorry, 'special patrol'. They were going to execute a mutant woman for looting food." He didn't say any more, merely took another bite of pizza then pulled the sweater on. "Okay, so what are you doing here looking for us?" Jaunt asked, holding up the soft-soled half-boots Fenris had been wearing. "I've come to get you all out of the MIC and somewhere safe, and offer you the protection of the Mutant Underground. I won't lie, the reason they sent me is because two of you are supposed to be a clue to curing the virus. But I'm not here to kidnap or threaten you into coming with me, just to try and convince you." He took another sip of Coke. "That's why I knocked." "So where are we going? Assuming we go with you, which I wouldn't assume right now." Jaunt said, tossing the boots into the cage and picking up the flack vest. "A safehouse known to me, Orphan, and a couple of the most trusted Underground members. There's food, power, water, plenty of beds, and best of all it's well away from central Las Vegas." Fenris answered. "It's a compromise halfway house - for mutants that need our help, but aren't sure they want to go full-out and join the movement. When we're there, you can relax and decide what you want to do without AEGIS or UNISON busting down the door and carting you off, and without us worrying you'll run off and tell anyone about the secret MU headquarters. No black bags, no blindfolds, no earplugs." He sat back down again and picked up his pizza. "And you can keep the vest and weapons there, if you know how to use them and they'll help you feel safer. I'll be happy with what I've got."
  19. Quote:"Alright, lets start with something simple - who are you?", Jaunt asked holding Fenris' pants in his hands and rising an eyebrow at the large blonde. Inwardly, the large man sighed. He could have done this the impolite way: burst through the thin wall, flashbanged and tear-gassed the kids into submission, then whisked the younger two away. But no, he'd decided to play nice, and now he was mostly naked in a cage with a punk kid holding his pants and smirking at him whilst playing stupid interrogation games. He did a slow count to five before answering, squatting down on his haunches and watching the four young mutants outside the cage with a steady, patient stare. "I go by Alex Garm most often, but that's a slave name." he said slowly, looking each kid in the eyes as he spoke, then returning the blue-green stare to Jaunt. "In the Mutant Underground, they call me Fenris."
  20. "To help." The blond man in the corridor didn't seem too surprised to see Jaunt suddenly appear. He spoke with an English accent: a real one, rather than the Hollywood 'upper crust Englishman' accent. "Orphan sent me after she lost you during that EMP. My name's Alex Garm." The man was dressed in shapeless black fatigues with a police issue flack-vest and webbing strung across his torso. Pistols, knives and grenades hung from the webbing, and an MP9 SMG was suspended from a shoulder sling across his chest. Jaunt noticed that the dude was blood-splattered. Dried blood was forming a rusty-red crust both hands, and glistened slickly on the vest and clothing that he wore. Blood was apparent on his face and pale hair as well, as though he'd been sprayed with a plant mister full of it. "I understand you don't totally trust anyone, and that's good. It's sensible." he told the younger man. "So I asked Orphan, and she agreed, to let me take you to a safehouse rather than Mu HQ. It's a lot like this fine bolthole you have here, only further away from the fighting. It's also disposable, so we don't need to worry about black-bagging anyone - no blindfolds, no earplugs. Once we're safely there, we can pow-wow this out." Garm looked down the corridor as a distant rumble of gunfire sounded from maybe a block away, then glanced back at Jaunt. "My job is to get you and the kids you're looking after somewhere safe. I'm on your side here: I want to do this as peacefully as I can. But there's people hunting those siblings who don't give a tinker's toss about peaceful or about how you all feel about it. We've got AEGIS, UNISON, those goddamn Robot Wars knockoffs and Lord knows who else roaming the MIC with blood in their eye." His gaze was level with Jaunt's, his voice quietly urgent. "Let me help you all get the hell out of here, then you can decide whether or not I'm a friend for yourselves."
  21. The door opened to reveal Fenris on the other side, who nodded as he took the bundle from Tyler and handed it off to the youth who'd brought the change of clothing. As the kid darted off, Fenris invited Tyler to leave the cell with a wave of his hand. "Come on out. We're all playing the waiting game at the moment." he explained as he motioned towards a worn but still comfortable-looking couch. It and a low table, a couple of armchairs, a few beanbags, and another couch made a self-enclosed sitting area on one side of the large room. The other half of the room was mainly taken up with a desk, a few cabinets, and what Tyler presumed to be a gun safe. Arrow was curled up in one of the easy chairs, looking her age for a change as she gave Tyler a wan smile, obviously preoccupied with her concerns. Zack settled onto the edge of the desk, facing Tyler and plainly intending to watch him, though the hawklike hostility had abated significantly from their first encounter. Fenris settled Indian-fashion onto one of the beanbags, moving with unconscious grace peculiar in a large man. He indicated the table, which Tyler had already noted had a variety of drinks and a plate of sandwiches waiting on it. "Help yourself." he said simply. His next words, though softly spoken, dashed any hope Tyler might have nursed about the interrogation being over. "We were talking about the program for the laser - the one that Margie was helping you with, if I recall?" "Yeah... Look, I don't see what-" Tyler began to restate his belief that they didn't need to know the details, but Fenris raised a hand gently. "Please, Tyler. This may be important, or I wouldn't be asking the questions. I think you can trust that if you are up to something shady, we are the last people to run to AEGIS or UNISON, hmm?" Fenris smiled, a wry curve on one side of his mouth. "I don't particularly care about your project, Tyler. All I care about is Margie, and how this happened." He took a can of 7-Up from the table and popped it open, taking a sip. "So. If you would, tell me all you can of the person in Pakistan - 'this guy' who recommended Margie to you as an... ethically flexible programmer. And what precisely you needed her to program. The devil is in the details, after all." Ice-cool eyes studied Tyler as Fenris took another drink of soda. In comparison to the subdued Arrow, who was worrying at a nail with her teeth as she glanced from face to face between fits of staring into space worriedly and the vigilant Zack, who fairly vibrated with agitated alertness, Fenris was calm and cold as the surface of a mountain lake.
  22. McCarran International Airport was one of the busiest in the world, handling up to 150,000 people in a single day, 44,000,000 plus a year. Travellers from all over America and the world beyond flew into Las Vegas's premier airport for business, pleasure, or a mixing of the two. Businessmen, tourists, gamblers: At it's peak times it was a bustling, noisy, jostling, shouting, crying, babbling mass of humanity. In short, perfect. The official at the domestic flights line didn't look twice at the smiling passport photo of the blond man in front of him. He briefly checked the travel stamps on the French passport, then smiled professionally and passed it back. "Enjoy your stay in Las Vegas, Mr Gevaudan." "Merci." 'Jean Gevaudan' smiled back, brown eyes warm behind the thick-rimmed glasses. Setting a floppy white sun hat back on his neatly-trimmed blond hair, the Frenchman picked up his carryon and headed for the baggage carousel. There he sat and waited with the other passengers from the Chicago flight, smiling affably at the girl who'd been sitting beside him, who he'd bored to tears with his talk of desert rock formations. She thought it a pity: the guy could be cute if he only wore clothes that fit him right rather than being too loose, and straightened up instead of slouching all the time, and learned to talk about something other than damned sandstone. Why couldn't she sit next to someone exciting for a change? Hoisting his large suitcase from the belt, he gave her one last jaunty wave and looked for a second as though he was going to approach her, maybe ask her for a drink or something. The girl pretended to see someone she knew and, facing the other way, waved frantically. With a disappointed tilt of his shoulders, the tall blond man ambled off with his bags. Exiting the front doors of the terminal, he hailed a taxi to take him to the nearest cheap hotel. The cab driver later could remember nothing remarkable about the 'French guy' apart from how he'd made a mistake and tried to pay him in Euros instead of dollars, then blushed and overtipped by way of compensation. He entered the lobby of the hotel and smiled at the receptionist, announcing himself as Jean Gevaudan and shyly asking if his brother-in-law had already checked in. "Oh yes, Mr Gevaudan." The charmed receptionist said after quickly checking the computer. "Mr Beriya is expecting you. He's in room 235, across the hall from you. Would you like me to call him for you?" "No, no. Thank you. I'll surprise him." Mr Gevaudan told the woman with a mischievous smile before heading to the elevator. On the third floor, he moved down the hallway to his room. Closing and locking the door behind him, the tall man dumped his bags on the bed, took a deep breath, and then spoke in Russian to the empty room. "You might as well come out of the bathroom, Nikolai Andreivitch. I smelled you from outside the room." There was a pause, punctuated by a foul curse in Russian, then the door opened and a thickset man roughly a foot shorter than 'Jean' entered, grinning widely. "Fenris! Son of a Ukrainian goat-fucker! Still as sharp as ever, eh?" He approached Fenris with a laugh and caught the larger man in a bearhug. "It is good to see you, my friend. Very good, even with these grave tidings." He released him and stood back. "There was no-one else I could trust to call with this, and you I know would care as I do." "Tell me about it." Fenris suggested as he pulled two bottles of Starka vodka out of his carryon. Nikolai's eyes lit up, and he hurried to the room's minibar to fetch two glasses. Nikolai was a Vor, a member of the Russian mafiya. He was also a Class II mutant and the father of a little boy who was showing signs of mutant powers himself. His own gifts lay in comprehension: Nikolai could listen to or read anything and understand the meaning of it, even coded messages. It had made him a valuable part of the KGB, once upon a time. When the Wall came down and anti-mutant factions in the Russian army and intelligence services had started purging their ranks, it was Fenris, then known as Vanya, who had spirited Nikolai out of the country to America. Since then, despite making a new life as a criminal and closet mutant unknown even to his superiors, Nikolai also served as one of Fenris's net of contacts. A day ago, he'd called Fenris about something big, something potentially catastrophic. He'd said nothing more, but hadn't needed to: Fenris trusted this source, trusted his judgement, and so he'd been on the next plane out to Las Vegas. "...All I know is that the big boys, they are all interested in this man and what he is selling. It is a weapon, Fenris. An anti-mutant weapon." Nikolai, on his second glass of vodka, said in a hushed tone. "The Cosa Nostra, the wops: they are acting as generous hosts for this man and his bodyguards, probably in hopes of favorable bidding. Government agents, criminal groups: everyone wants to have an edge against the 'muties'. Hah!" Nikolai barked bitterly. "Tell me about him, and his guards." Fenris suggested, topping up both their glasses. "Harry Burns. That is his name. Whispers on the Mu grapevine say he is called Tick Tock, but I don't know much more than that. He is in town, at the MGM Grand hotel, and he is living the high life. Girls, drugs, clubs... His guards? They have the look of private military. Blackwater, or people like them. Mercenaries, my friend." "Can you get me into the Grand?" Fenris asked, but Nikolai was shaking his head. "I cannot. It is Wop territory, and we are at peace with them at the moment. My boss, he would feed me my balls, Fenris. All I can do is tell you what I know and give you arm's length support. My boss is also hoping to bid on this weapon, the son of a whore. But you and I know it must be destroyed, and this clever mutant who makes such weapons..." "Must also be destroyed." Fenris said grimly, finished the thought. "Smiet Predatelyam, my friend." he toasted Nikolai. "Yes. Death to all whore-mongering traitors." the other replied. Both men downed their vodka, then sighed before Fenris refilled the glasses. "I will need money, then. Money enough to live the high life myself for a day or two." Fenris smiled at Nikolai's pained expression. "Don't try to tell me that crime doesn't pay, boy." Nikolai laughed at that. "Fine! Money you shall have. And I will tell you anything further that I learn." Nikolai checked his watch. "Give me three hours to get the cash." Fenris nodded, then produced a slip of paper. "Deposit half the money to this account, and deliver the rest here." He passed the paper over, then knocked back the full glass of vodka. Nikolai did likewise, then rose. "It will be done. See you in three hours." "Spasiba." Fenris told his friend as he let him out.
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