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[Constance/Toby] '...Just a Coincidence'

Dave ST

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'...Just a Coincidence'

Gallons of rain poured down every second as a veritable deluge seemed to have been summoned the very evening Constance decided it would be a good idea to follow up a lead. Thunder crashed every few minutes and and the occasional flash of lightning lit up the area surrounding the abandoned, yet for some reason high traffic, ware house on the southern waterfront. The news paper she was using as an umbrella was on its last leg, and for a few moments she'd managed to find shelter across the way from the ware house under a very small awning above a door to a similarly abandoned building.

She knew she shouldn't be here. This whole thing was a bad idea, which was why she absolutely needed to be her! She'd been watching for the better part of an hour now and already a black 'wasp' copter had landed and four large black vans, like armored cars had drove through the gate past the armed checkpoint. No one was wearing any discernible markings or colors, if they were military, law enforcement, or private security, she couldn't tell. For an abandoned section of the wharf, this place was pretty well secured and maintained.

A crash of thunder followed a flash of lightning and Constance's eye opened wide in shock as a patrol of two guards passed just ten feet away from her. She managed to allow herself to fall backwards and slide between a full dumpster and the small two steps she was standing on just under the awning, to hide herself as they walked by. They were in black, all black (why was it always black?) and their bod armor looked military or at least not the average 'look what I ordered off AmaZOMG' variety. Fully automatic fire arms, night vision helmets... by St. Cecelia, these guys were loaded for the next world war!

Thankfully they didn't see her, but she stayed still anyways. Toby should be here soon... but would he he be here in time for her to still get a good scoop? She shot him a text anyways. [Hurry!] was all it said.

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The sound of the downpour almost drowned out the sound of the phone alert, but Toby had it vibrating too. It didn't matter much, he could guess it was from Chance and what it likely was. Funny really. Toby hadn't had any work with Chance in a while. It was rare she had the money to scrape together to pay him, although in earlier years when he was thankful for any dollar he could get his prices were much more affordable.

If she wanted an interview as a 'street source' - well, he was willing to discount, but truthfully he had long not taken her too seriously. A tabloid journalist who did - well, Toby got on amiably with her but at heart if you asked him who was more of a respectable professional, Toby Lupin would name himself that in a heartbeat. And with his new Exalted talents, payouts hundreds of times better were his for the plucking.

So why was he heading out to meet her when he should be inside, drinking hot chocolate? Ironically, the same sun-lit powers. Which helped him sneak and hide better, for another degree of irony. They were his ticket to the best of everything, but Toby knew absolutely zilch as to why he got them.

All the other known Exalted types were pretty clear. Dragon-Bloods: government super genetic enhancements. Abyssals: well, not precisely known but death, shadowlands and the Underworld were pretty glaring links. Lunars: all right, no one knew, but they were the oldest of urban legends and nobody confirmed they actually existed. The details probably would matter some day, whether or not he was found out.

Under the circumstances, Chance's 'leads' were probably as good as anything, given she apparently was Exalted too now. Who'da thought? Toby parked a couple blocks away from where they would meet before he got out and then slammed the door shut.


Chance kept herself from reflexively screaming, and turned her head around to see Toby leaning on the wall behind her. How did he do that?

"So, what are we looking for?"

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"Good," Chance said, glancing back around the edge of the stack of boxes she'd taken cover behind. "You still have your edge. Look over there."

She waved a hand at the sinister crew and their vehicles.

"I got word a few days ago that all the squatters got tossed out of the buildings around here for like, a block around. Same time, there's been chatter about..." Chance paused, noticing Toby's expression. Maybe he didn't need the whole backstory.

"Okay, right. I need to get eyes on whatever's in that warehouse they're unloading those vans into. Which means I need you to..." she made little 'walky' fingers, "...find a way in, find a way for me to GET to the way in from here, without being seen, and then I'll get pictures and we can get out."

When Toby's expression didn't change, she got a crestfallen look.


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"You do remember what happened the last time we worked together?" Toby asked, without changing expression still.

Chance's brow furrowed as she tried to remember. "You mean the kids being kidnapped for experimentation? What about it?"

Toby sighed. "First off, those were human traffickers, just standard-grade pieces of filth." It was a pre-teen pair of twins, brother and sister. For once, Toby hadn't demanded anything when Chance told him exactly what was going on. "And I told you, that was just their cover." Chance promptly insisted again. "Those crooks were working for Someone." You could hear the capitalizations.

"Getting off topic!" Toby interrupted, with faint annoyance showing now. "I refer where you not only had your phone volume on with that obnoxiously loud ringtone, but the tripping. Lord Lucien the tripping. We had to stay in that crawlspace for 30 minutes until I was sure they stopped looking." Chance blushed now that she remembered.

"So, now we are here, going up against not merely high-end security, but milSpec types here. Now I for one relish the challenge," and this got the first smile out of Toby, that game face grin she remembered well, "but I don't recall you saying being Exalted made you any better at sneaking around. Let me take the camera, and I'll get you the pictures you want."

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"One time," Chance replied hotly...or as hotly as one could while whispering. "One time I tripped. A foot scuff is not a trip. It's only a trip if you actually start to fall."

She sighed and checked her phone to make sure it was on silent.

"Besides, you wouldn't know what pictures to take. I need to see what's going on...who's there, what they're doing. These black ops things are set up to mess with you...they have disinformation in layers. The important looking stuff will be decoys."

Chance finally shook her head. "I need to be there. I'm better than I used to be. Whatever happened..." she wasn't quite as ready to buy into the 'exalted' stuff as Toby, "...I'm faster now. I have a lot of control. I can do this."

I'll just leave out the part where I'm practically a living weapon now. Not the reassuring vibe I'm going for.

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A pause that stretched out for several moments before Toby sighed and gave in. "All right. After I find the way in, and how to get you there."

Then he walked away, seeming to fade away like a ghost out the alleyway and around the corner. First step, get another angle to view their setup, and see how he could penetrate it.


Spending 10m anima power + 1m to keep from banner, and then the Charm Easily Overlooked Presence Method 3m + 1m to keep from banner.

Personal: 16/16
Peripheral: 22/37


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Chance broke out into a wide, radiant grin and offered Toby a fist-bump.

"Yes...all right, you scout the way and I'll foll...I'll wait for you to get back and show me. Quietly, of course!"

Staying put for the moment, she watched Toby start to leave, marveling despite herself at how easy it was to lose track of him in the gloom.

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This is your intro, so no fouls guys.  Essence is removed from Personal first.  In this case Toby would be at 3 Personal, 37 Peripheral.  Even with the activation of Anima Powers.  That said, this being the intro don't worry about Essence costs, your Anima's will remain well concealed unless for plot reasons I think it's a good idea to ignite them.  :)

Unlimited Essence!  Yay!  Go ham.

  It wasn't hard for Toby to scale the fence.  With the power of his exaltation leaping over the fence was easy (and totally gratifying).  Constance watched him to the leap, some kind of ninja, and a part of her wondered if she could do that as well... then he just sort of faded away.  Itwasn't that he disappeared, no, he was there, but she just could't focus on him all that well, like when a fly buzzed her head and she swatted at it and thought it was still close by, but she just couldn't see it until the corner of her eye caught it moving several feet away.

Toby had to keep himself from chuckling.  Workers and guards could see him, but they didn't notice him!  Hell, he even tipped his head to a guy walking past him and the guy returned the gesture and didn't think anything of Toby not belonging there.  He didn't want to push his luck, so when guards came by he slunk into the shadows that seemed to preternaturally darken and welcome him.  They passed and he smirked while tucking one of their key cards into the pocket of his coat.

Constance paced back and forth, worry had taken her strides about five minutes ago but since there was no gun fire or commotion from the compound she assumed he'd not been discovered, or worse, caught.  She spun on her heels and gasped in shock as Toby was standing right where she had just walked.  She socked him in the shoulder for scaring her but only once as stealth was of the utmost importance.

He presented he with a key card.  "Service entrance around back.  We can climb to the catwalks from there, these old warehouses are full of them.  There's a control room or watch floor or something in that one, right there," he pointed to the nearest warehouse.  "Security is lighter than I thought.  Follow me."

Toby still wasn't a hundred percent on board with the idea of taking her along, but she was nothing if not persistent.  Either he helped, or she'd just come back and get her self killed without him.  He was about to turn and explain how he was going to help her over the fence when she landed with the grace of an gymnast not far from him.  He wasn't the only one blessed with great power.  She followed his route, phone down at her hip tucked away and recording everything she passed by.  Toby even had to drag her along at one point because she'd tried to hide and record a couple of guards having a conversation.

The door unlocked with a muffled 'beep', allowing them slide into the shadows of the chaotically arranged warehouse.  For military types, they were quite messy... or planning on leaving... or staying.  They climbed up to the unguarded catwalks and in the shadows followed them until they were not far from that 'watch floor' Toby had mentioned.  Constance realized it was more of an investigation spread than a watch floor, with pictures, debris, and motic interfaces rendering three dimensional images that played through an event over and over.  She recognized the event... it was a terrorist bombing that took place several months ago.

A few technicians were compiling info and for the most part couldn't care less what was happening around them.  She knew their type, they were working six/twelve shifts and were over worked and underappreciated.  It was the woman near one of the dry erase boards littered with taped photos and colored lines for connections, that caught her eye.  The large sword on her back, the one that needed a custom designed scabbard to carry it, betrayed her as one of the 'Dragon-Blooded', the new Elite Special Forces of Creation.  Her uniform was different from everyone else's, which was not uncommon for them.  They tended to dress in colors akin to their element and wear about anything they liked, within reason.  When you were wielding the power of essence, the energy of gods (so they claimed), you got away with pretty much anything.  Her choice was modest.  Simple knee high boots, tight black pants and her officer's blouse underneath with a few awards pinned to the left side of her chest and a dark red leather coat that matched the hue of the red tinged alloy of her blade.  Her long black hair was braided and then wrapped into a tight bun.

"Major Tepist," a strong booming voice spoke calmly from the darkness.  A mountain of a man stepped from the darkness dressed similarly to her save that his hair was fiery red.  He was square jawed and looked like all six foot six of him was built for war.

The major spun on her heels surprised.  "G-general Cainan," she stood a bit taller and tried to look as professional as one could when blindsided by someone who required certain protocols when visiting... and she was never told he was visiting.  "T-twhat do I owe..."

"Let's keep this informal," he raised a hand dismissing her bearing.  "Everyone leave please."  And just like the technicians poured out in a hurry.  When they had all left, he continued.  "So, how goes this six month investigation?"

"W-well," she was completely unprepared to brief a four star general and war hero, and it showed.  "There were no survivors in the bombing save one.  The only body not recovered was one Mordrys Black.  Lead signer of the band that performing at the time of the explosion.  Although her body was discovered among the dead she, uh... walked away."

"She walked away?"  He asked in disbelief.

Major Tepist shrugged.  "For all intents and purposes, yes, sir.  Since then she has been spotted here in Deleshin, but attempts to apprehend her for questioning have all failed.  It's a matter of time though, General."

"I'm sure it is," he offered an assuring smirk as he handed her an envelope.

"What's this?" She asked.

"Your reassignment orders.  There is a new batch at the RL-20 Facility that needs training, you're to report to the Noss Fens and assist the CO in getting these new eggs ready.  My daughter Cathrine with be finishing your work here," he turned to walk away.

"B-but sir!  This is my investigation!  This isn't right!  It's not fair!"  She changed from proud military soldier to spoiled brat in one sentence.  "I worked hard to get this assignment, sir.  I earned this!"

He spun about, fury in his glare as wisps of embers began to slowly lift from him like they might from a fire in a soft summer breeze.  "Indeed you did, Lissara.  The next time you think sleeping with your commanding officer in an attempt to blackmail him into promoting you is a good idea... remember this day."  He calmed, his breathing was more controlled as the embers died away.  "I vouched for you.  That is why I'm delivering the paperwork, personally.  You let me down, you let us all down.  What you did was stupid and it's only by the grace of The Black Jade Emperor that I've kept this scandal as quiet as I have.  You will reports there in three days time, pack your things, Captain."

"C-captain?"  Her began to moisten at the sound of a demotion.

"Read the paperwork, Larissa.  Best of luck to you."  He turned and walked out.

She didn't read the paperwork right away.  Her fist clenched as she watched him walk back into the shadows.  After another moment, in a fit of rage her arm slid across the table of evidence sending it scattering all over the floor.  The dry erase board was next and it was send sailing through the air and into the shadows with a clamor as she stomped off into the darkness herself.  After the door slammed there was an awkward and eerie silence.


Drama!  And look at that... I even cleared out a whole room full of evidence for you peruse through... surely it's not a trap.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Constance's lips moved as she subvocalized the important details that she was hearing, over and over, committing them to memory.

Major Larissa Tepist. General Cainan. Mordrys Black. RL-20 in Noss Fens. Catherine, daughter of General Cainan. Terrorist bombing 6 months ago where a band was performing.

She looked at Toby. He was going to hate this.

You couldn't find the truth without taking a chance though.

"I'm going in," Constance whispered. "Watch my back."

With a furtive glance around, and keeping hunkered low as she moved, Constance hurried to the scattered evidence to get some photos.

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Well, Constance wouldn't be Constance if she didn't insist on poking in further.

Toby didn't understand. She had a recording of a general and war hero admitting he'd covered up corruption by a subordinate. What more could you want? The whole Mordrys Black and bombing thing was interesting, but no point in taking unnecessary time and risks when they clearly were confirmed to be in an improvised military headquarters, run by the Dragon-Blooded.

So Toby had to wait, controlling his nerves and praying Constance would have the sense to keep it brief.

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