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Ep. V Intermission: Marissa

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Wednesday 28th August

She could hear them arguing all the way from her pastel-painted Fortress of Disney-esque Solitude as she put the finishing touches on her eyeliner, and repressed the urge to frown and roll her eyes.  Mom and Dad, at it again.  For one night, last night, they had actually been civil to each other and not even given Devin a hard time when he'd finally reappeared, a genuine show of parental concern and affection that had impressed on Shelly's loveliest teen that perhaps there was hope, that maybe the forces arrayed outside the family could make them pull together.

And that had lasted until this morning.  She heard Dad snarl something and his exit heralded by the door slamming, and was experienced enough to know what came next.  So when Misti had come in, talked a little about Mari's plans for the day, then started grilling her about Cade Allister, Marissa hadn't been too fazed.  When did they get together?  Was it serious?  And of course the cringe-inducing 'Are you being careful?'

"Sure we are, mom."  Marissa had answered this last brightly as she brushed her hair out.  "I make sure I jump up and down after sex while saying the Lord's Prayer, just to make sure I don't get knocked up."  She turned, smiling a little.  "Mom, relax, I'm still a virgin. Cade and I haven't, and it's not even on my plate of things to discuss with him. I'll be okay."

"So it's not serious?"  Misti looked relieved, a normal enough reaction from a concerned mom.  She gave her daughter a warm smile.  "I just worry, sweetheart.  You're almost as lovely as I was at your age, and I know teenage boys don't change regardless of decade."

"He's a perfect gentleman."  Marissa replied, biting back a retort at the 'almost as lovely' comment, then added slyly.  "And easy on the eye."  Misti laughed a little at that, her critical eye running over the clothes Marissa had selected for the day and finding nothing apparently out of place.  'Apparently', because if she had spotted an imperfection, Misti would have been sure to mention it.

"He is that."  she agreed.  "Reminds me of a quarterback I dated when I was head of the cheer squad in college.  Speaking of - are you planning to try out for that this year?"

"Maybe next year."  Marissa said, keeping her smile in place as she turned back to the vanity mirror.  Here it came...

"I know it's only high school, sweetheart, but being cheer captain is a hell of a resume booster.  Colleges love it.  And you won't be able to just waltz in come senior year and take the top spot."  Misti pursed her lips, irritated at her daughter's recalcitrance on the matter.  Every year, Marissa had said the same thing, and if Misti pushed then her daughter brought her father into the debate.  "I really don't understand your reluctance, Marissa.  It's almost as though you know how important it is and refuse to do it just because I want what's best for you."  Misti waited a beat, then "That's the sort of thing I'd expect from Devin, not you."

Marissa silently counted to ten.  Then twenty as she finished arranging her hair, before meeting her mother's gaze in the mirror.  "I've got a lot of extra-curriculars on my plate already, mom.  Homecoming Committee, Social Committee, Lit. Club-"

"Cade Allister?"  Misti interjected.  Marissa smiled tightly.

"And yes, my boyfriend."  she supplied.  "I feel that there's better uses of my time than Cheer Squad, at least this year." As catty comments went, it was lowball, and softened by the 'at least this year', but nevertheless she saw her mom's eyes narrow slightly and knew the barb had hit.  Turning back to her vanity, she picked up the small blown glass bottle and dabbed a little of the oil within on her pulse points.  Misti sniffed, then perked up with interest, approaching the table with with a curious look in her eye.

"That's a new perfume."  she stated, a question hanging on the end of the statement like a vestigial tail.  She reached round and picked up the bottle, examining it, then smelling the stopper delicately.  "Oh my, that is heavenly.  Very subtle, but fragrant."

"It was a gift."  Marissa remarked, feeling the usual mixture of irritation, fear and other feelings that thinking of... He That Shall Not Be Named... engendered.

"From Cade?"  Misti re-stoppered the vial and set it down, tempted though she was to dab a little on - there was protocol to such things, after all.  For a moment, Marissa considered letting Misti believe that yes, the bottle was from Cade... but then she imagined a pair of pale jade eyes framed by shaggy hair regarding her with a steady gaze, and balked.

"From Jason, actually."  she said with a small smile at her mom's expression.

"Jason Bannon?"

"He made it for me.  I could ask him to make some for you too - not this one, of course."  In answer to her mother's sharply inquisitive gaze, Marissa smiled beatifically.  "It's my scent.  Literally his words - made for me - a gift for a friend.  He calls it De La Mer."  The look of badly-hidden chagrin in her mother's eyes was satisfying, so much so Marissa had to twist the knife just a little.  "All natural oils, no alcohol.  Isn't it lovely?"

"It is."  Misti looked at the bottle, then at Marissa.  "I didn't know you and Jason Bannon were on such good terms."

"We talk.  He's got hidden depths."  Marissa replied, demonstrating her admirable ability to stretch the truth without actually lying.

"Well, just be careful.  Boy has a reputation and comes from the wrong side of the tracks, and you don't want that clinging to you."  Misti sniffed, displaying another of her secret clay toes - snobbery.  "And his father is a deadbeat."

"Mmmh."  Marissa said as she checked her lipgloss.  It was a great way to be noncommittal without actually saying anything, and right now she didn't trust herself not to say something untoward.  She stood up and grabbed her keys and purse.  "I've got to run, mom.  See you at school!"

= = = = = = = = = = = =

When the unmarked car behind her flashed its lights, then activated red and blue official blinkers, Marissa knew she would probably be late for school.  Obediently, she pulled over to the side of the road.  There was enough traffic at this time in the morning heading into Shelly that she wasn't too afraid, and the sight of the drivers, whilst not welcome, was not threatening at least.  U.S. Marshals Dale and (snicker) Marshall, they of the enigmatic home visit a short time back.  She sat behind the wheel as Marshall - who was still kind of cute in a 'cop' sort of way, got out of the passenger side and approached.  Marissa wound the window down a couple inches.

"Want to see my license and registration?"  she asked, batting her eyelids at the young marshal.  "Or did you pull me over for a stop and search?"  Sure, it was cheesy as hell, but worth it to see the Federal officer's composure rattled, if only a little.

"Miss Jauntsen."  He said by way of greeting.  "I've been instructed to invite you to meet with my superior concerning, well, your family.  Specifically, your father."  He looked back at the car with his partner in, then at her once more.  "I've also been instructed to tell you that the meeting is unofficial, that your safe conduct is assured, and only you, my partner and I, and our superior are aware it is taking place."  He offered a card through the window.  "The address is written there.  You are to come at lunchtime today, alone."  He paused once more, then went on.  "If you do not come, or do not come alone, or tell anyone else about this, my final instruction is to tell you that there will be consequences for your father as a result of his own past actions."  He nodded, plainly uncomfortable with the not-so veiled threat.  "I hope you make the right choice, Miss Jauntsen.  Good day."

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Marissa turned the card in her fingers as she glared at it.  People were filtering into the class room and she didn't even take the time to notice her usual gaggle of males fawning over her, The Unattainable.  To say she didn't appreciate the attention would have been a lie, no matter how low on the list of attractiveness, intellectualism, and general appeal a guy may have had, she always appreciated the attention they were willing to give her.  She thrived on it, she needed it to validate the on going competition she seemed to have with her mother.

"-okay?" She heard from what seemed like miles outside her perception.  She blinked her eyes back into focus and looked around to see Cade sitting beside her.  He smiled at the realization that she may have just been awakened from her day dream.  "You back with us now?"

"Huh?" She slid the card face down in a pocket on the side of her small purse that served more as a makeup case that just happened to hold her license and credit card.  "Oh, yeah, sorry.  I," she offered a dazzling smile.  "Didn't get a lot of sleep last night.  I'm a bit out of it." She lied in typical Jauntsen fashion.  "What's up?"

"Not much," he shrugged.  "Just saw you looking a bit out of it and wondered if you were okay.  Everything alright?  Need to talk?"

"I'm fine," she managed in the practiced tone she'd learned from Autumn in the last several days.  She was genuinely flushed at the notion of Cade being concerned about her and taking the time to ask, but she wasn't ready to admit that to him, yet.  She deflected with a subject change.  "So, when are you taking me out?  Because I'm not just going to sit at home and text you all the time, I'd like to spend some time with you.  We are dating, after all."

"Uh, well," Cade flushed a bit himself.  "First, I uh, didn't take any screen caps of those snaps, just like I promised I wouldn't."

"Better not have.  It's just underwear, but if you destroy my reputation I will have to kill you," she offered a narrowed evil eye.  "So," she spun a finger to signal him to speed up his stammering over how gorgeous she was in what passed for underwear these days.  She already knew all that.  "Date... c'mon..."

"So, I thought, since I'm doing you a favor, you would indulge me in one.  After all, you needed a boyfriend and I did agree to help you out-" he started.

There it was.  The truth she was waiting for.  She knew it was only a matter of time before Cade, like any other guy, would drop the 'I scratched your back, no you let me tap that' clause in their relationship.  Her lips pursed slightly as she held in the sudden shift in her mood from melancholic to murderous.  They were keeping their voices down already, but she leaned in to speak with him now.  "I am not having sex with you.  When or if, I sleep with you or any guy in this pit, it will be at a time and place of my choosing and it will be because I want to, not because I owe some one a favor."

Cade seemed completely unphased by her sudden seething attack on his character.  He pressed his lips together and nodded in agreement with her before continuing.  "Okay.  Good to know.  So, back to what I was saying: since you sort of owe me one for helping you out, I figured the least you could do was indulge me in a date that you might not be as 'traditional' as you're used to.  I want to take you fishing."

She pulled away from him to collect her thoughts.  While not completely unexpected from the nature boys obvious hobbies, her mind spun in circles trying to figure out what teenage guy would rather take her fishing instead of trying to get her out of the underwear he'd seen her in on SnapChat.  She swiftly composed a scathing retort.  "Fishing?"  Was unfortunately all that made it passed her glossed lips as she looked at him like he couldn't possibly be serious.

"Yeah, come on, you and me, out in a boat-"

"-getting burnt in the sun."

"-out on the water-"

"-that reeks of stagnant vegetation-"

"-just the sounds of nature-"

"-no cell signal-"

"It'll be great, trust me."

"You're actually serious," she raised an eyebrow at him and gave him a less than approving look of appraisal.  "Fine."  Autumn was right, that word was like 'fuck', you could express all sorts of emotions with it.  "I'll go spend a day out in the middle of nowhere on a rickety boat in the middle of a lake watching do your utmost to catch, and then subsequently smell like, an unwashed volleyball team.  Which will, by proxy, lead you to never having me actually want to sleep with you because you'll smell like fish ass."

"See?"  Cade smiled.  "Everyone's happy.  I need to get to my seat.  I'll text you."  He touched her shoulder as he stood and made his way to his desk.

"Kay," she said softly, touching his hand as it slid from her shoulder.  It was the simple gestures like that that sold the dating routine they were going for, and while she initially just needed a guy to say 'we're dating' over the last few days he'd been particularly  sweet and about as safe of a choice for boyfriends as she could have asked for.  The picture was a tease, which was text book, but he was so humble about receiving it, that she'd decided to send a few more.  It was exciting.  She hadn't had a guy fawning over her with this level of attachment, ever.  She stopped being interested in dating when she was thirteen, and she certainly wasn't sending snaps back then.  It was kind of fun having a boyfriend to fawn all over her.

She found herself staring at him as class started and offered him an almost school girl smile as she looked away to pay attention to the lesson.

---===[Later... At Lunch...]===---

Well, it wasn't a sleazy hotel, so there was that.  Although, at this point, between the snaps, the new boyfriend, and raging teenage hormones, she may not have minded the a sleazy hotel.  She knew the address well enough, right off the town square down the block where the H&R Block office always set up shop at tax season was a small storefront that hadn't had a business in it in quite some time. She was the only sixteen year-old girl in Shelly with a black Mercedes sports car... hell she was the only person in Shelly with a Mercedes sports car, so she knew if anyone saw her, there would be questions.  Tinted windows didn't matter much when everyone knew who owned the car.  She drove to the back of the building, hoping it would be 'clandestine' and 'spy movie' enough to keep her from being seen.

She stepped out and straightened her skirt and checked he top which she'd already been spoken to three times at school this morning because of the amount of midriff it was showing.  She hardly saw it as her problem that other people weren't blessed with perfect abs.  She was in her 'hiking heels' today, since they went well with her skirt, but more to just prove to the others at hiking heels were a thing, at five inches, they really weren't appropriate for school but he masses needed to know they were out there and available for outdoor enthusiasts with impeccable fashion sense.  She'd gotten away with less appropriate attire before and would do so again, so after a quick makeup check in the mirror to make sure her eyes were dazzling and her lips were the right sheen of glossy maroon, she stepped in for her meeting.

The windows in the front were covered in old news papers, recently replaced to obscure prying eyes from the roadside.  There were a few desks set up on either side of the small work area up front and she could see them as she passed but the bathroom, a makeshift coffee/break room and what seemed like a storage closet for appropriate office supplies like paper, pens, printing toner, those sorts of things.  The mixture of lights and the news papers on the windows capturing the sunlight gave the whole interior a life sucking yellowish atmosphere that seemed very much like a horror movie beginning waiting to happen.

The two Marshals made their appearance by poking their heads into the hallway from where they were sitting at their desks.  They stood to greet her as she continued down the hall, her heels were muted on the thin carpet but since it hadn't been replaced since probably nineteen eighty-something, it sounded like she was quietly knocking to get their attention with every step.

Marshal Dale, the female who'd been in her home and freely saying awful things about her family and their money gave her a quick once over and raised a judgemental eyebrow at her appearance.  "Christ, girl, you're sixteen?"

"Yes, Marshal Dale, I am," Marissa replied as sweetly as she could manage.  She gave the MArshal the same judgemental once over.  "Why?  What age were you, when you gave up on looking this good?"

"Marissa," Marshal (snicker) Marshall greeted her and ushered her into the workspace, trying to separate her from Marshal Dale as swiftly as possible.  "Than you for coming-"

"You never called," she pouted, giving him mock doe eyes.  "I have to admit, I'm hurt."  Perhaps it was a bad idea.  Okay, it was a horrible idea, but Marissa would never take rejection without plotting retaliation, after all, why would anyone want to say no to her to begin with?  Between the two of them there was a slight pulse.  A shock of invisible chemistry that bolted through Marshal Marshall's system and left him wondering why the hell did he not call her?  Marshal Marshall just got whammied and now everything about her intoxicated him.

"Uhhh, um, yeah, I'm sorry about that, but uh, hey, let's get you introduced to our supervisor so we can get this all out of the way and you can get back to school, shall we?"  He needed to a cold shower, maybe a few hours of PornHub.  Either way, Marissa sowed a seed of chaos, and she'd watch it grow with petty amusement and cruel glee.

"Miss Jauntsen," came a voice from the another desk.  She's seen his head over the filing cabinets as the antics were happening behind him and assumed he was the guy she was here to see.  "I understand, and apologize for taking you from your classes this afternoon.  I know this is less than typical."

"Less than typical?"  She huffed with a half chuckle.  "Sir, instead of trying to get more pictures of me in my underwear or inviting me over for a make out session that would no doubt lead to amazing sex, because seriously, he's amazeballs gorgeous, the guy I'm seeing would rather take me fishing.  I'm the only virgin left in Shelly High, I'm pretty sure.  So I'd say 'less than typical' is pretty much my daily in the land of 'fuck my life'.  So, why am I here?"

"Fishing?"  Marshal Marshall asked, as if to make sure he'd heard her right.

Marissa nodded sarcastically and offered a "Yeah." In a wide eyed 'as if' tone.

Marshal Dale shook her head in disappointment.  "That's fucked up."

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"You said it."  Marissa replied, catching the third guy out of the corner of her eye as he got up from his desk and came around the filing cabinets.  He was not ugly.  He was not creepy looking, or possessed of a villainous goatee, or cold predatory Bannon-esque stare.  He was, taken as a whole, an average-looking older man - average height, average weight, perhaps in his fifties but well-preserved, with a pleasant smile, slightly thinning hair and a waist that, whilst not trim, was at least not fat.

He also gave her the heebie-jeebies.  Like, on a scale of one to ten, with one being Autumn (not at all creepy, totes wholesome) and ten being the bleeding teddy bear rail-spiked to a tree in the Land of Upside-Down Thunder last Friday, this guy scored a solid seven, for no reason she could put her finger on.  He was just... Off somehow.

"Agents, if you would be so good as to, oh, go out for donuts or whatever it is you do."  The man said in an accent that she couldn't quite place.  Almost British upper class drawl, but with a twang that spoke of perhaps... Australia?  And there was something strange about the vowel sounds.  Wherever he was from, it wasn't Montana.  He waved them away dismissively with one hand, while gesturing for Marissa to sit before his desk with the other.

"We're Marshals."  Marshal Marshall protested.  "Agents is FBI."

"Fascinating."  The older man said in a tone that dripped condescension and perhaps a note of warning.  "Do feel free to correct me again if I make that mistake."  As he said this last, he glanced in the direction of the pair.  Dale nudged Marshall, and the two of them promptly and quietly left.

"There.  Now we can have a chat."  said Mr Creepy.  He smiled at her as he sat back in his seat behind the desk.

"You"  Marissa said succinctly, masking her unease like a champ.  "Are not an employee of the U.S. government."

"Nobody said I was."  The man smiled easily.

"The marshals said you were their superior."  

"And I am.  A man can have many masters - though he must needs prioritise one over the others, hmm?  Nobody's loyalties are divided completely equally."  He tilted his head, smile still in place.  "But where are my manners?  My name is Enterich, Miss Jauntsen, just Enterich -  and I am delighted to meet you."  He didn't offer his hand, instead keeping his fingers folded together on the desk.

"Right."  Marissa studied him.  "Wish I could say it was mutual, but..."

"But of course, you are here under duress, of sorts.  And before your school, or brother, or your boyfriend, or your circle of compatriots grow curious as to your whereabouts, I shall get to the point.  I represent certain interests, Miss Jauntsen.  Interests who have, as of last night, bought off all the very powerful, unscrupulous people whom your father embezzled money from in his previous life.  These people were coming very close to finding your family - but now they are satisfied, the hounds return to their kennels, and all is peaceful again."

"Gee, that's really generous."  Marissa's tone dripped irony, a fact not lost on Enterich, who smiled a little.

"I see you perceive the nature of the arrangement.  As a representative of the people holding your father's debt, I literally hold your father in the palm of my hand."  He turned one of his hands palm up in illustration.  "I could, with a phone call, set machinery in motion that can and, be in no doubt will, grind your father and by extension your family up in the cogs of public disgrace, ignominy, and at least in your father's case, serious jail time.  We are talking media circus, doors closing in colleges, the removal of official protection under the witness testimony agreement...  You get the picture."

"What do you want?"  She asked in a flat, businesslike manner, her dark eyes narrowing.

"Good.  Straight to the point.  I knew I made the right choice in you."  He was such a smug prick, but years of masking her emotions from her mom helped immeasurably as Marissa inwardly seethed and resisted the urge to ruin her manicure in the man's face.  "I want you to observe, Miss Jauntsen.  I want you to keep an eye on that special little cabal of yours that severely inconvenienced our facility under the prison yesterday and hampered our infiltration of the Branch Nine and Aeon joint effort."  He let that sink in for a moment.  "You will find out what they can all do, what the limits of their powers are, what their individual frailties and weaknesses entail.  You are uniquely positioned to be of great help to us - and if you cooperate, your family remains safe, no matter what happens.  Indeed, we will even move to intercept any future dangers to you or your family.  We treat our allies well, Miss Jauntsen. And our enemies... not so well."  He folded his hands together once more. 

"You don't need to answer right away.  Think it over if you wish, and we will contact you again in a day or two."  His nondescript brown eyes studied her with sardonic amusement.  "Are there any details I have been unclear on?"

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"Oh, so it is negotiations, then?  Excellent."  Marissa sat down crossing her legs as she rest her purse in her lap.  Everything about her posture inferred that she, no matter how much this man had done for her family, was in charge of the situation.  "No, your request is quite clear, however, my father is the screw up so you're whole 'take down my family' tactic will only go so far.  My brother and I play 'innocent minors' like you wouldn't believe so really it is only our parents who would be ruined, and what teenager actually likes their parents these days?  He did what he did himself and as a result ruined our family, Carl Jauntsen is despised in our home.  You bring the wolves to our door and we'll throw him to them ourselves.  Now, you seem well informed Mister Enterich so I'll not get into known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns with you, you get the idea, but your information network is spotty, at best.  I do not have a boyfriend, I have a plaything.  My family life is a smouldering ruin filled with nothing but misery and competitiveness.  We are sorry, pathetic lot lashing out and ruining each other in the hopes that some of that pain we inflict others will spark some sensation of feeling within our own cold, dead hearts.  You're certainly smug, and I respect that, in fact I'm moderately aroused that I'm finally meeting someone in this community of hypocrites and religious fanatics who understands the big picture of being positively vile in order to be the architect for a far greater good.  I swear, if you were forty years younger, hell, even thirty.  Now, based on the low quality burnt coffee smell in the air, you strike me a man who understands vile.  So..."

She spoke with her hands which were currently perfectly manicured into glossy red talons giving her that chic Iggy look to complete her mood of being frustrated and fed up with the world lately.  "Far as I am concerned whatever my father did, and what ever debt you cleared for him is between you and my father.  Fact: I hate this place.  I feel like that sunglasses guy in that computer movie... this place reeks and I want out of it.  My father's reputation and credibility are shot and it will take him years to regain that, by asking me to spy, you are asking me to not repair his reputation, but to damage my own.  That, well," she shook her head and offered him a rueful smirk.  She had to, no matter what, keep these guys away from her family and focused on her and what she could provide for them.  That wasn't going to be easy, and she had no idea the debt her father owed but for now, she had to be the only thing these guys were looking at, and lucky for them she was easy on the eyes.  "That, I just can not allow.  Not for free.  So let us get a few things out of the way, you have threatened me and my family, so that has already made you a marked man.  Please understand it is nothing personal, you seem like such a well education man and I do so love an intellectual, but business is business, and your ticket was punched the moment you went for the throat.  We both know it won't be today and obviously not tomorrow, but Mr. Enterich, one day I will be the last thing you see before your world fades to black.  So, in case it is not said between now and then, I happen to admire your high standards of ruthless efficiency, and impeccable fashion sense.  I have not seen a ten thousand dollar suit in a long time, and you are working it like a boss."

"I have no loyalty to anyone but my family, this 'project' and the Aeon people are all just a new batch of freaks and geeks to me.  If you wanted my help, all you had to do was ask for it with a promise of compensation.  You might think that large sum you paid off to my father's debt covers everything, and it does, between you and my father.  I'm guilty of nothing but being gorgeous and being surrounded by idiots and lunatics.  I have no debt to square with you."  Her eyes were as sharp as the claws on her finger tips.  She was scared as hell to be dealing with this guy, but what choice did she have?  Thankfully old habits died hard and all the evil in her heart returned to the surface with perfectly calculated cruelty and she swiftly displayed how easily she could turn malice into an art form.  "So, tell your interested party that they're not dealing with my father, they're dealing with me, and I owe them squat.  You want information and I can get it, so if you are setting up a business arrangement with me, then get your checkbook handy."

"Now," she laced her fingers together and rest them on her purse.  "Let's work on something a little more specific than 'everything', where would you like me to start?  We'll build a foundation from that.  Oh, and do have Marshall call me sometime."

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Posted (edited)

Enterich blinked in understated amazement, then a slow smile spread across his face as Shelly's queen made Her Royal Displeasure known... along with a healthy dash of Royal Candor.  As Marissa primly laced her fingers together and rested them on her purse, he gave a low chuckle and applauded, three slow claps of his hands, before inclining his head in acknowledgement.

"My, my.  Miss Jauntsen, I can see that our selection of you was, if anything, almost supernaturally prescient.  Who could have foreseen this?"  His eyes twinkled merrily as he gave a sigh of mock-regret.  "Where were the young ladies like you when I was a young man?"

"There were not then, nor will there ever be again, a woman like me."  Marissa stated with a smile that was as sweet as her dark eyes were venomous.  Enterich nodded agreement.

"I fear that, at least, is true."  he replied.  "How fortunate, then, that I am in the position I find myself.  If the day comes when you make good on your promise to me, please know that there are no hands I would rather orchestrate my downfall than yours."

"When the day comes."  Marissa corrected, almost gently.  Enterich smiled at her, a sly gleam in his eye that was almost flirtatious.

"When.  Of course." he nodded.  "Very well.  I confess, I am tempted to call your bluff and simply... make that phone call."  His gaze was level with hers, measuring, testing, weighing, and there was ice behind the good humored threat.

"But you won't."  Marissa asserted.  "Because I've already said I will cooperate - for a cost - and your people definitely would rather have me on the inside than on the outside.  Wouldn't they, Mr Enterich?"

"Wise beyond your years... Or certain beyond foolishness."  The older man smiled at her once more.  "But it seems, at least at this pass, you are correct.  You are positioned to serve our interests, and we have what you want - that being money... and the safety of your family... in our power to grant."  He clasped his hands together and rubbed them briskly.  "To business, then.  Your lunch period is almost up, so I shall be brief.  This Sunday.  If you have any plans, cancel them.  You will be meeting with me again, here, for several hours, starting at eleven AM.  In that time you will prove your value, Miss Jauntsen, by giving me a run-down of your associates, particularly the five who infiltrated Crossroads but also any other... talented teens you know.  Names, personal observations, known powers, weaknesses of character or chinks in the armor we can exploit in the future.  For this service you will be paid a hundred-thousand dollars in a manner of your choosing, plus a bonus if I feel you have provided extra value of some kind."  He paused, fixing her with a steady look.

"That is the deal on the table, Miss Jauntsen.  The first step to establishment of our arrangement.  Do we have an accord?"

Edited by GDP_ST

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"Four," she said firmly.  "As one of those five was my brother, and the safety of my family is paramount in the accord of this business arrangement.  He will remain occluded from the prying eyes of whomever is holding your leash."

"In exchange, however," her dark eyes met his and she offered him an apologetic smile.  "I was planning on stopping by The Project later this week, while I am there I will do my utmost to collect as much as I can on the other, less special, freaks and find out what their glitches are.  I was hoping to get access to Dr. Cook's notes, since it seems like the Nerd Herd might be asked to take over their training.  That, and my brother is dying for Annette Gile's phone number.  I promised him I would take a shot at it for him."

She stood up and straightened her skirt and settled the chain that was her purse strap over her shoulder.  "Now, you can argue the part about my brother for your masters, but I'm just going to stick my guns and you can make your phone call.  If my world is not crashing down around me by then, I will see you Sunday, Mr. Enterich.  We both know you have my number, so please, feel free to call or text since it is a burner phone and won't do me any good if I go the authorities.  Honestly now, Mr. Enterich, we can't have a proper relationship without trust, can we?  Just lay your enemies before me and walk away, walk away, walk away."  She concluded with an audible air kiss in his direction accented with a farewell smile.

"Lieutikon?"  He asked, moderately familiar with the phrasing, just not their arrangement.

"Breaking Benjamin."  She replied over the cubicle walls as she made her alluring walk to the exit.  "Good stuff.  Look them up."

---===[]===---

Several minutes later she'd abandoned school and her black Mercedes' tired were crunching on the gravel that led up to the 'The Bridge'.  The same bridge Sara wanted blow up several weeks prior when everyone's lives started tumbling down hill.  She'd argued against it, but now?  No she just wanted to see everything burn.  She wanted to blow something up.  Set the place on fire, something to just let the growing guilt and shame and fear that was welling up inside of her loose upon the world so she didn't have to carry it with her anymore.  She wasn't sure anymore if this was her father's fault or hers and she wasn't sure if it mattered.

"Fuck!" She slammed her hand on the steering wheel and the word was repeated an innumerable amount of times until had served the sole purpose of conjuring forth the tears she so desperately needed to cry.  Lazily her hand still tried to strike the wheel as she buried her head against it and just sobbed until she lost track of the time.  Within ten minutes she was pacing in front of the car, tapping a sharpened nail against her teeth talking to herself about how none if it was her fault and after a few quick sell outs of her frie- the Nerd Herd she'd have enough money to slip away one night and never see them again.  Really, it was only a matter of time before one of them stabbed her in the back, right?  That's what people did.  She was simply preemptively getting them before they got her.  Fair is fair, right?

With arms crossed tightly like she was cold despite the beautiful summer day she continued to pace, trying to justify her actions under the thick pangs of a new feeling she didn't recall ever having until today.  Guilt?  Remorse?  She paused as the tears still streamed down her face and having long ago ruined her makeup.  Se looked a mess as she complained.  "Shit."  She fumed, snorting in her running nose in a most ladylike manner.  "I am feeling.  Fuuuck!" She tantrumed with stomping feet as she screamed at the clouds.

"Okay, no," she worked on composing herself and went back to pacing.  "Stop.  Get a grip.  If they know it's all over, and you and your family are dead or worse, poor.  Marissa Beatrix Jauntsen, hide your crazy and get your shit together.  Think.  None of them are mind readers so none of them can see that you're lying to them.  This isn't your fault.  They came to you, right?  If you don't do this, they'll hurt your family.  These guys were all born poor and retarded, so they don't mind being poor and retarded.  You can't be poor.  How would you survive without brand names or... or... unprocessed foods from obscenely high priced organic markets?  They're your friends, they love you!"  She chuckled at the sheer silliness of that statement.  "Of course they love you, look at you!  You are amazing, and beautiful and rich.  You give them something to aspire to.  You bring rays of ambitious sunlight into their otherwise dreary, pathetic, meaningless lives.  Everything is going to be just fine!"  She said with a forced smile as she opened her arms to the world and the invisible audience she'd been justifying herself to.  The gravel and sun and clouds offered nothing in reply that comforted her in the slightest.

She immediately began massaging the bridge of her nose.  "I am a dead woman.  Who am I kidding?  They are going strap me to a table and devour my still living body like a zombie buffet, using my tears as sweetener.  They will probably throw me to Jason when they are finished so he can finally sleep with my corpse."  She shook her head in disgust.  "We would not even bother reapplying my makeup either, I would look like a nightmare."  She shuttered at the thought of her corpse being violated without properly being made up.  The thought seemed more nauseating than having her corpse violated.

"Okay," she paced again, rubbing the bridge of her nose like she, and her twin brother, did when they were overly stressed or irritated.  "If you go to them they are going to freak-the-fuck out and it will be a shit show.  If you sell them out, then you have ruined," she twirled her unoccupied hand to assist her searching for the right words.  "Whatever this is you have with the Nerd Herd.  They could be hurt, their families could be hurt.  If you do not sell them out, then it is all on me and my family.  Shit, this is complicated."

A thought suddenly sprang to her mind.  She couldn't do this alone.  She was devious, evil, manipulative and willing to cross lines the others wouldn't for the sake of their precious moral compasses, well, save for Jason, but she needed someone who could do more than be a robot.  No.  Times like this called for a special sort of cruelty.  A rare blend of malice, deviousness and lack of compunction that would compliment her own two parts spice in this sweet mixture of malice.  She smiled wide and dashed back into her car.  The tires spun and kicked rocks behind her as she sped off back towards school.

---===[]===---

Within the hour Marissa was once again talking, walking, and looking like a million dollars as the after lunch classes were letting out and the halls were filed a torrent of poor people. She knew who she was looking for and she swung the door open to the study hall room she smiled wide in glee as her eyes locked onto her target.  "Courtney!"  She declared exuberantly as she eyed the crimson lipped nymphomaniac setting her bag down by an empty seat and collecting her books and phone from it.  Marissa approached her.  "I am so happy to see you I could kiss you."

"Okay!" Courtney smiled with a shrug and gleefully closed her eyes while lightly puckering her lips as Marissa walked right past her.  When the moment, and Marissa, passed she opened her eyes slightly and looked to the left, then right, and let out a depressed sigh. "Tease." she said with a near Harley Quinn masque to her demeanor.

"We are fucked."  Marissa began.  "So fucked."

"Well, not all of us," Courtney mused as she fired off her volley of insults with catty precision.  "You have all that going for you and you still can't get a guy to sleep with you."

"Okay," Marissa's lips pursed into a forced smile.  She nodded, absorbing the insult.  "First: fuck you, bitch.  Second: this goes past us and our problems.  This is... secret identity stuff, and it involves you.  We do not have time to tear each other's throats out.  Courtney, listen..."  Marissa told her everything, the meeting, Mr. Enterich, the US Marshals, everything except what her father had done to earn the ire of this secret organization, which she really didn't know to begin with, only that whatever it was it had ruined their family.

"Wow," Courtney paced about taking it all in.  "Have you been crying?"

"Yes!"  Marissa fumed as it seemed like the redhead hadn't heard a word she'd said.  "Yes, I have been crying because this shit is deep, Court.  I can not go to the Project because then the other guys will hurt my family.  I can not save my family though without selling out you and the Nerd Herd and I will not let my friends get hurt!"  She clamped her hand over her mouth.  She'd crossed the line and broken her own personal code.  It slipped, but the word was said and could not be unsaid.

Courtney, for once, had nothing to say.  She knew the code.  No attachments.  Everyone was a tool to be used and discarded.  Succeed no matter the cost.  Marissa had inspired her from petty bully who'd pick on Sean to a glamorous socialite who had popularity and the entire school kissing her feet.  "We're... friends?"  Courtney managed to ask quietly.  "I thought..."

"Times change, I guess?"  The Queen of Shelly fought back yet more tear glistening over her eyes.  "I am... I am tired Courtney.  I just want to be me and not what the world expects me to be.  I want to sit around and eat pizza with Autumn, insult Jason, write stories for Sean to read and inspire his games, argue conspiracy theories with Cassandra.  I want to go fishing with my boyfriend.  I even miss our mean girl shopping trips to the mall.  I'm a nerd, Courtney, and my nerds need me.  Now, how can we make this whole messed up secret agent thing work to our advantage without letting everyone know and possibly killing my family?  No one poisons apples and terrorizes kingdoms like we do.  Evil is in our blood.  We can't let these guys beat us."

Courtney extended her arms and motioned for Marissa to come to her.  "Hug first.  Solutions forthcoming.  Then we rain destruction."

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Marissa's Intermission is wrapped here.  Excellently written, good characterisation and development, challenges met and engaged with.  +3XP

 

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