[center Welcome to the future.
It's yours. Everything you ever dreamed of.
[center Caduceus Industries is [i the] premier biological industry. Want a designer baby, born with gorgeous looks, an Olympic body, and a genius brain? How about fresh organs or limbs, for the little accidents in life? Or a little genetic splicing, for when you want a cat [i and] a dog, but only one pet? With enough money, Caduceus can grant you all this, and more. They can make you all but immortal.]
[i You] were a patient of Caduceus, and all of your friends were, as well. Without Caduceus, you might not be here today; you owe them your life. You've heard about the deaths; all of them under mysterious circumstances, all of them unsolved or written off as suicides. And then one day you come face-to-face with the killers, and you learn the truth:
Caduceus is up to the neck in every dark business there is. Cloning whole humans just to murder them and harvest their organs; testing on nonconsenting human beings; kidnappings to harvest genes from 'extraordinary' specimens--killing them in the process. Only one thing is clear: Justice must be served. Will you step up to the call?
[center Main (RP) Thread • [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=149492 Characters] • [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=149491 Chat] • [http://rp.eliteskills.com/r.php?r=149808 Rules] ]
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Meghan's smile was tight as she greeted him. Leo took it in stride, not expecting much else. He had treated her abysmally, she had every right to loathe him even if she couldn't publicly display it. Leo hadn't really intended to stay long by her side, he had many obligations elsewhere, but apparently Meghan wasn't so angry with him that she was unable to speak with him.
She asked about his father, Samson. Leo was slightly taken aback, not really expecting such a sharp barb from her. He had gotten the same question dozens of times in the past, each with some ulterior motive; trying to glean more information from Leo about the patriarch's health, or using Samson's illness as a rhetorical weapon to point out the weakness festering within the Gestalt family.
But when he looked closer at Meghan, with eyes more refined than any normal human's and even most enhanced ones, he saw that there was no malice to be unearthed in her gaze, no smugness hidden in the lines of her face.
She had truly, out of politeness and maybe even concern, asked about his father's health. Leo smiled at that, out of surprise more than anything.
Meghan, and most people outside the family, knew nothing of the real inner machinations or social drama within the Gestalt family. That was why his siblings still kept up the charade of fraternal love in public. On the outside, their family was faultlessly loyal to each other, their first and only priority was the betterment and upkeep of their family name. It was one of his father's most important family commandments. Never show weakness to the enemy. The enemy being anyone outside the family. No matter how much they argued, fought or hated each other, they always presented a united front to the public.
Most people believed Leo's relationship with his father was a loving one. He was obviously the favorite among his children after all, despite being the second youngest.
Leo was Samson's favorite, that was true. But he was also Leo's jailer, his teacher, his tormentor, and his inevitable future. Leo hated the man as he hated nothing else. But Samson was also Leo's creator, in a much more literal sense than merely genetic. Did Leo hate him for that too? For creating him? Maybe.
"He is in good spirits," Leo replied diplomatically. He was about to excuse himself when another young woman abruptly joined their cluster. He recognized her as Miialee Vitalia. He didn't know her, but he knew her family. She greeted Meghan warmly and received much enthusiasm in return. Miialee glanced up at him but apparently decided to ignore him. Had he offended her somehow or was she just this rude to people in general? She looked younger than she was in her chosen short purple dress and juvenile hairdo. A child, Leo decided, playing dress-up.
The telltale tapping of a server's shoes coming their way made Leo turn to his right. There stood a white-haired young man with a smile on his face. He bowed, the very image of polite servility. After the boorish behavior of Mialee, it was nice to see [i someone] retaining the proper etiquette.
[i "Sir, your presence has been requested by Adeline Faoten,"] the server said, still retaining the polite smile of before.
This however, struck Leo as deeply odd. That Adeline Faoten would reach out and contact Leo was surprising but not inconceivable. She and his father had long been at odds, but maybe she believed that if Samson was on his way out, as it were, Leo himself would be more easily negotiable.
No, the requested meeting was not odd, the fact that she would chose to contact Leo through a [i server], however, was. She had countless assistants and underlings at her disposal who would be more reliable for this task. It wouldn't even be extraordinary for her to extend the invitation herself, if she wanted a more public proclamation.
There was also something off with this man. On the surface, he looked just like any other gentile server. But Leo's eyes were not of common stock, and he zeroed in on the man, searching his face and body for any signs that betrayed his true nature. Light perspiration adorned his temples, there was redness in the whites of his eyes and there was a rigidity to the man's features and posture that gave away heightened tension.
The first two could be explained away by the exhaustion of serving underfoot for several hours, but the third was suspicious. If this man was just a server delivering a message, why was he so tensed, so apparently eager for an answer?
Leo let his eyes slip into thermal vision, something he generally avoided since it made them watery and red after a few minutes. Whilst doing this, he spotted what he was looking for. In the server's ear was a "cold spot", indicating some sort of inanimate object. An earpiece. Could be a hearing aid, but who even used those anymore when you could just operate those kind of faults away? More likely some sort of communication device.
Leo smiled back at this "server", confident now that he had solved the puzzle. This man was as much a server as Leo was, which was not at all.
He was obviously one of Ms. Faoten's underlings.
The woman was notorious for placing people in her employ among the staff of various functionaries in the city so as to absorb the most useful gossip before anyone else.
"Does she? How interesting," Leo said, already eager to meet with Ms. Faoten and reveal his knowledge of her "server". She would be impressed, and he would have a natural advantage in the oncoming negotiation.
[i "Oh...Leo, would you mind if I tagged along?"] asked Meghan. Leo, momentarily confused, frowned down at her. After she clarified that it wasn't a place at the supposedly private meeting she was after, but a quiet hallway, Leo smiled graciously.
"Of course. Our man here can undoubtedly help you find a quiet place for your call on the way to Ms. Faoten," he replied, gesturing to Adam.
Leo locked step with Adam as he maneuvered through the crowds and then into a more secluded corridor. They followed for a time, Adam looking back at them to see that they followed from time to time. Leo was not familiar with the concert hall's less public spaces so he let himself be led away from the general bustle of the bigger halls.
Meghan's stomach sank when she heard her name and recognized the voice. She hastily swallowed the last of the handful of shrimp puffs she had been busying herself with and managed a tight smile up at the man.
"It's good to see you Leo..." She lied and accepted the offered glass, but not bringing it to her lips. Meghan could sense the stares of the other guests, and she could feel the warmth spreading from her ears and face.
"How is your father?"
Being the focus of the upper class's rumor mill had given Meghan first row seats to all of the city's hottest gossip. And, like most things in life, the Gestalt's occupied the center.
The rumor was that the patriarch of the Gestalt family, someone Meghan had met only once or twice during her relationship with Leo, was deathly ill, and Leo was the favorite to assume ownership.
Meghan started to spew some more pleasantries when Miia appeared from the crowd.
Meghan liked Miia. They had worked together briefly during one of Meghan's final projects at school, and the way Miia approached life, challenging anyone who doubted her skills, filled Meghan with envy.
"Miia hi!" Meghan exclaimed with an embarrassing amount of enthusiasm.
[i "Did you see the way she talked to Leo like he was some sort of beggar! ...but she fawned over that dropout, doesn't she have any class?" ]
She could hear it now, what the people would say.
Luckily, it was then that the staff approached Leo, calling him away to a meeting.
This was her chance.
"Oh...Leo, would you mind if I tagged along?"
She glanced nervously around the room at the crowd.
"I just remembered I have to make a phone call about a meeting tomorrow. I could use a quiet hallway."
"It shouldn't take long, Miia, then maybe we could catch up?"
[i And hide from all the staring.] She added quietly, her face begging Miia for help.
Theo chimed in first, his gruff voice confirming what Adam had been waiting to hear. He grinned to himself as he took the tray full of garbage and empty cups back to the kitchen to be taken care of, a note of relief coursing through him despite himself. If Leo hadn't shown up here... he would've looked dumb as hell. Not that he doubted their information-gathering skills, but sometimes the better members of society decided they were too good for events like this one. Events, he noted silently, purely to get their money to help the poor, but well, that was the way the cookie crumbled, wasn't it? They'd spend billions to buy each others' companies, but every penny spent on the poor had to be wrung out of them, their sorry, rich asses wined and dined on the finest so the poor could afford to eat at all.
He set the tray down with the other garbage-strewn trays, then shook his head and forced himself to go back to the good old service smile. Now was not the time to go off on a mental tangent. He had to stay focused on the goal. And it was a daring one, no question. Only with complete and total focus would this plan go off.
"Stay on standby, Taipan," he muttered as her voice sounded through his earpiece, trying to move his lips as little as possible. "Let's try the honeytrap first, hmm?"
So. The concert hall? He glanced around, taking in the building, then turned and walked purposefully towards the room. Adam always walked purposefully, but he did so with vehemence as he strode down the hall now. As expected, as long as he looked purposeful enough, no one bothered to stop and ask where he was going; in any case, there were plenty of waiters and security men wandering around in their uncomfortable, shiny pants. No one paid him any mind. He was just another waiter on his way to the concert hall.
The concert hall was even bigger and more opulent than the first hall he'd been in. He took a moment to take it all in, then turned his head down and moved through the hall, squeezing past elegantly dressed ladies and men in fine suits worth more than he'd seen in his life.
The golden locks were the giveaway in the end, more splendid in person than they'd looked in the candid headshot he'd used for the file. A rather rotund gentleman blocked his path for a moment, and when Adam finally squeezed past him, he found a woman hanging on each of Leo's arms. He had to bite back the urge to roll his eyes. Money attracted women, hmm? Seemed like the old adage was true. And here he was, twice as fabulous as that snot-nosed brat not a single lover in sight.
Complaints for another day. "Boa, find me an empty room," he murmured. "Somewhere nice and lonely. Taipan, be prepared to follow."
With those final commands, he stepped out in front of Leo and gave a smile and a deep bow. When he straightened up, he kept his eyes slightly diverted out of deference, even as he hated himself for it. "Sir, your presence has been requested by Adeline Faoten," he said. Adeline was CEO of the top prosthetics-building company in the world, and conveniently had declined her invitation to attend this event--not that these rich kids would know. If they'd bothered to check the official list of who was in attendance--which he doubted--the list would have included Ms. Faoten, courtesy of Theo's hacking skills. The Gestalts had been looking to expand into prosthetics lately; Ms. Faoten requesting the younger Gestalt's presence at such an event should be interpreted as a sign of interest in collaboration, something he was sure the young Gestalt would jump at. Why not come home from the party with something to show daddy, after all?
Except Leo wouldn't be leaving the party at all.
"Come right this way," he invited Leo, gesturing. His eyes flicked to the women as he did. He'd rather leave them behind, but... well, Gestalt wasn't the only young CEO-in-the-making at this party. He wouldn't be surprised if they bulled their way into this 'private meeting.' Adam resisted the urge to flick his eyes upward to see where Calliope was. He was counting on her to relay the information back to Theo. One was more than doable, two was workable, but three, well. He was going to need [i someone's] help to restrain all three; Calli, Theo--[i someone]. And before that, he needed a nice, quiet room to hide them away.
Miialee simply rested in front of a mirror. Her legs were crossed and her hands were delicately placed on her lap. There was a crew of makeup and hair stylists swarming around her, quickly, but carefully prettying her up for the charity gala that would take place in less than two hours. Her parents expected punctuality, so she was always ready at least an hour in advance. She was running behind slightly, but she didn't let herself get too worked up about it.
“[b Miss Vitalia, would you like the usual?]” a young female hairdresser said from behind Miia. She'd asked this question everyday since she started almost two weeks ago. It had gotten quite annoying, but the girl was a natural talent, so she forgave her.
“[#ba04d7 Yes, yes. It's always the same unless I say otherwise. You don't have to ask every time,]” she replied, looking at the newbie through the mirror. The girl nodded and began pulling Miia’s long hair into two buns. She had it permanently dyed to make her hair grow in a deep pink, then fade to pastel pink at the ends. “[#ba04d7 Make them tighter than usual. I want to look more formal tonight.]”
The swarming continued for another ten minutes until finally they were all done. Miia observed herself in the mirror and just stared. It was like the girl in the mirror was someone she's never met. She'd grown accustomed to this feeling, but she could never get over it. She felt foreign and plastic. The only sign of Miia was her trademark double bun, but even then the reflection was an imposter.
She just sighed and stood up from her chair, approaching her dress across the room. It was a simple, but elegant dress. It was a deep purple, knee length dress that laced up in the back. The room was empty at this point, so she felt it was safe enough to undress out of her robe and replace it with the dress. She was always uncomfortable with others dressing her, unlike everyone else of her status, it seemed. She stared into the mirror and practiced her smile.
Miia followed closely behind her parents as they entered the cluttered building. The mess of color inside was hard to look at, so she just turned her head to the corner. The edge of the large room guided her as she searched for a worthwhile acquaintance to talk to. She caught a glimpse of an old college friend, and she approached her.
“[#ba04d7 Oh, Caelyn! It's nice to see you,]” Miia said to the tall girl in front of her. Caelyn and Miia hadn't really gotten along in college, but in a public place like this, they both forced a smile.
“[b Miialee!]” She hated her full name, and Caelyn new it. “[b I haven't seen you in so long. What happened? I heard you got kicked out of college.]” She knew full well that Miia didn't know either. She just wanted to mock her, but in a way that was unrecognizable to the naked eye.
“[#ba04d7 Oh, you know. Family stuff,]” Miia replied awkwardly. She wanted to counter with another hidden insult, but instead she looked for an escape. Just then, she spotted her escape; Meghan. “[#ba04d7 Goodbye, it was nice seeing you.]” Her sarcasm was not very subtle, but she didn't care. She pushed through the crowd towards Meghan, someone she actually wanted to talk to. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a flashy figure making his way effortlessly through the crowd. It was almost like everyone was moving out of his way. He stopped beside Meghan like they knew each other. That must be Leo. Miia has heard of him, but she’s never met him before. She thought they broke up. She saw a break in the crowd, and she pushed through with incredible speed.
“[#ba04d7 Meghan, I'm surprised you showed. I thought you hated this kind of thing.]” She glanced at the man beside them. She contemplated whether or not to address him. She decided if he wanted to talk, he would. She stood on the other side of Meghan and analyzed the mess of people. They were all talking, whether it be about work, their kids, college, it didn't matter. It was all a perfect lie. Not one person would actually tell about what was going on in their lives. It's all fake. Show the good, hide the bad.
[left [pic http://i65.tinypic.com/11qo0m9.jpg]][center [font "Sacramento" The Nest had, over the past few months, become a makeshift home for Calliope.
Sure, it was small, cramped, dusty, filled with various fungi, and prone to being invaded by Adam or Theodore at any given time, but at least she could hear the latter when he approached her abode. Despite the fact that Calliope was living in the Nest almost constantly, one would be hard pressed to find any personal effects of hers laying about. Even her clothes were well hidden; so much so that sometimes even she struggled to locate them. It wasn't so much preparation than it was paranoia. One could never be too careful after crossing Caduceus.
Callie had made a habit of perching on the sill of the only window of the attic and watching those who approached the building. That particular day, from her perch, she watched Theodore the [s great bumbling oaf] gargantuan accountant for their little group stumble into the building. As soon as he entered, she could hear him crashing around. His size was problematic in most situations, but she had no doubt he would come in handy in a fist fight.
Theo was grumbling something about cutting himself down at the knees if he grew any more, and Callie couldn't say she was particularly opposed to the idea. She hummed softly and turned to face him on her perch. "[+purple I would help you do it,]" She purred quietly, jumping soundlessly to the floor. "[+purple You're much too big already.]" Just as Calliope was sitting on the couch opposite Theo, Adam crawled through the trap door, practically vibrating with excitement. The man in the picture that Adam threw down seemed to exude light, even in photographs. [i Disgusting]. He was perfectly groomed and had the stature of an Ancient Greek statue. He would be hard pressed to hide from anyone, especially her. This was going to be fun.
Not long after Adam's plan had been revealed, Callie had packed a small bag containing food to last her the few days until the party, dark grey attire to easily hide in the shadows, her trusty knife, and the earpiece she would wear the night of the party for communication. It had been imperative that she get to the venue early, or else she would have no chance to get in, aside from Adam's ridiculous server outfits. There was no way in Hell she was going to be seen wearing those shiny ass pants.
Just then, Callie was wedged into an air vent above the main hall where most of the party would be happening. The event was already mostly in full swing, but the heir to the Gestalt Corporation was trying his hardest to arrive as late as possible. A few times, she had caught sight of Adam and Theo, both adorned in the ridiculously shiny pants of the staff in attendance. Adam's looked as though it fit well , but Theo just looked hilarious in the ill-fitting attire. Catching sight of him the first time had made her giggle dangerously loud, almost giving away her position.
"[+purple It's hard to see anything past all those ridiculous outfits,]" Callie whispered in response to Adam. It wasn't totally a lie, either. The bright, gaudy, ugly colors saturated the ballroom and made it difficult to identify any certain color, gold in particular. A new vantage point would be needed. She shimmied back the way she had came until she arrived at the open vent leading into an empty bedroom. "[+purple I'm getting a new vantage point, maybe I'll be able to spot him better from another angle,]" She whispered, moving towards the door. Before she could reach it, however, the door opened, revealing two of the opulently dressed heirs of some too-rich companies stumbling drunkenly (already?) into the room. If their faces hadn't been thoroughly attached, she would've been seen. Christ. She slipped out the doorway behind them, sticking to the shadows of the long, ambiently lit hallway.
Theo's voice crackled into her ear, and Calliope smiled slightly. So her prey had arrived. The balcony above the ballroom would provide a good vantage point to study her target from, and it would most likely be deserted; the upper floors were off limits to guests. She slowly but surely made her way up the flights of stairs, wary of any guards that may be patrolling - or slacking. Without incident, Callie arrived at the balcony floor, and she made her way over to the rail, perching herself on it like she did every day at the window in the Nest. From higher above, it was much easier to pick out the vibrant gold locks of the Gestalt heir.
"[+purple I have eyes on the pretty boy. Adam, what's the next move?]" Callie whispered, pulling her knife from its sheath at her side. "[+purple If I could get in and out easy, I could take him out right now. It's a little harder considering the huge fucking crowd of women fawning over him,]" She hissed, awaiting her next orders, albeit rather impatiently. Her fangs itched to be imbedded in that flawless skin of his.
[left [pic http://s9.postimg.org/oozbjaapr/2018-03-06-05-23-31-532-258x525.jpg]]Theodore had, over time, come to hate the Nest.
As it were, the entirely graceless professor had successfully mashed his face off of exactly three doorframes, two light fixtures, and one ceiling fan- spinning away, awaiting the best opportunity to separate his skull from his brain. Worse yet, those were battles lost before he'd even walked into the building where the Nest was tucked away, his massive stature hardly designed to shimmy him through the unnecessarily small, keyhole of an entryway that led into the [s fucking closet] attic they were always congregating in. If ever Theodore came into the possession of a great deal of money after this killsquad charade was through, he was buying Adam a dozen dollhouses, all perfect replicas of this building, and stuffing him in through the loft windows. The vivid imaginings that followed brought him great comfort as he all but crouched to gain access to the attic, cursing his luck and worrying over his jacket. He did well to dress properly despite his new life of... Gigantism, and criminal activities. It would be nice not to walk out covered in dust and cobwebs and mystery fungi, [i again]. He took a seat, grumbling and tapping at the table's grungy surface.
"If I get any larger I'm cutting myself down at the knee."
It was hard to believe he was so young again, but each and everytime he looked at his reflection in the glass, he was reminded of his old body. Gone was the exhausted, aging man he once was, smelling of coffee and old toast and dressed like an idiot at all times. In that same reflection were portions of his daughter's own features, which hurt him immensely to see. He could see her face in his own, Caduceus had truly paid attention. They had left him nothing but his memories, snippets of dialogue and a few flashes of a smiling girl with sleepy blue eyes and lovely black hair. Always humoring him, teasing him, worrying for him. He supposed he was, at the time, quite lucky. Before meeting his late wife, and he would never have envisioned himself with coffee and stubble and a child on his hip, but he would never have traded it for anything after it had come to be. It had been his only pleasure in life, and now it was nothing BUT ashes and words and night terrors.
He had turned down opportunities to work amongst the elites purely out of his devotion to Grace's illness, as how often would he be home with her, were he to stay in the guest halls at the universities of the upper crust? There would be no bedtime stories, no cereal and doll sessions before classes. He could afford her fees just as well from Carlisle Community College, where they were beyond happy to rearrange courses according to Grace's checkups and overnight stays. Where Grace had friends. Where Meredith was buried.
Theodore hated money. He'd always wished he had more, and now, managing funds for a trio of vengeful guinea pigs, he hated looking at it all. He had thought... If he could procure some money... [i Grace would be safe, could get better]. He had been wrong, though.
He was alerted to Adam's new plan with a start, hardly easing into Adam's excitement at the prospect of their killing a man at a fancy party. He would do it, though. Theo was not afraid, he would do whatever Adam thought best for the destruction of Caduceus. Was there really any other way to repay them other than total annihilation?
For CRYING out loud.
It was all the hulking man could do not to reach down and begin to dig around in these tight 'slacks', most definitely the most uncomfortable dress pants he had ever been asked to wear. This was considered security garb up here in Heaven's Palms, was it? Fit to burst at the seams the moment you leaned down or over even the slightest bit? He rolled his eyes skyward in an overly indignant fashion, finding little comfort in that the shirt and jacket were relatively [i normal] by comparison. Irritated blue eyes scanned the floor, standing tall at the edge with two other men in other such pants as though it were entirely shameless. The first of two positions Theodore had been assigned, it was both uneventful and very, very disturbing. Twice he'd shifted ever so slightly further away from the other two officers after overhearing some giggling and light whispering about the compatibility of the suit and his body. He eyed his wristwatch; Rotation time was in two minutes, and if he missed it, there'd have been no point in changing up the security roster for tonight's event. Time to go, then! He nodded at the pair and walked very stiffly toward the security hall. He could not afford to get caught up in anyone's eyelash batting tonight, he could barely remember how Meredith had successfully rooted herself into his life, let alone whether or not there had been others before what. A lot of nonsense, courtship; He'd never been good at it, and he never would be.
He surveyed the growing number of pedigreed toads in the room again, eyes peeled for Gestalt. Still nothing. Adam's voice chimed in his ear, and he resisted the urge to snort. "I've yet to see our man, and I'm moving to B. Another thing," he began, more animated as the doors shut behind him and drowned out his rage from within the concert hall, "I care exactly fuck all for these trousers, Adam, I don't think I've ever worn something like this fully whore-tastic ensemble in all my 46 years of life." He swore in the deepest of growls, turning the hall. A pair of other officers came from a different corner, shooting him a friendly look. "Oh, hello. I'm um. I'm here to rotate with..."
Damn it, what was that man's name?!
"Are you Arthur's shift change? Mister... Graceley?" the older of the two asked, to which he nodded.
"Yes! That'd be me! I forget new places easily, though, I'm afraid. Would you mind?"
"Of course not! Right this way, son."
It was good to build rapport with such people, it kept suspicions to a minimum when people were perceived to be personable. Theodore had to swallow his disgust with almost every person in attendance. However, there was the matter of these presumptuous types, the likes of which Theo hated almost with a passion. 'Son'. At very nearly 50...! Son, indeed!
They led him to an absolutely marvelous little tech cubby, countless monitors spanning the far wall. A corpulent little man was there in an expensive chair, destroying a plate of pastries. Behind him, a table of such snacks was still piled quite high.
Well, look at that, dinner and a show. How kind.
Theo introduced himself.
The monstrous little goblin, Arthur it seemed, rolled to and fro three times apiece to launch himself from the chair, and greeted Theodore with a large smile and a great deal of powdered sugar smeared across his mustache and left cheek.
"Hey there! Pretty quiet tonight. 'Don't think there'll be any trouble, but try to stay awake anyway!" He joked, setting up two more even flatter jokes before tottering away with the other two, still snacking. He shut the door behind them and picked up a raspberry danish, turning then to the screens behind him. "I mean it, you two, even after I get these awful things off me, I know full well I'm going to be fishing bits of premium latex out of my-" he continued, cut off by the vision of the Grecian miracle that had waltzed majestically onto the centermost screen. "-and the King has arrived, children. He's greeting a few people in the concert hall."
It was safe then, to start in on the danish? He did so, taking a moment to study the other fixtures placed about the room. "They sure like to keep their important buttons and switches in one spot." he mumbled to the other two through a mouthful of danish, forcing himself to focus in on Leoard Gestalt's actions and whereabouts. He didn't want anyone else to die in relation to Caduceus, but this was non-negotiable. These little missions were all part of the bigger picture; This man's death WAS for Grace.
Leo awoke in his rooms at the Gestalt estate. Cocooned in silk and soft eiderdown, he stretched, yawned and drowsily brushed his locks out of his eyes. It would be a sunny day, even though it hadn't truly risen yet. The frail pink light from his window tugged a soft smile from his lips before he realized what his face was doing. When he did, it faltered and vanished. Leo got out of bed. He showered, shaved, put on the clothes laid out for him during the night.
Right outside Leo's rooms, his personal aide waited for him. Blonde, petite, sharp. She was always there when he stepped outside, no matter how early or late he was in getting ready for the day. She wordlessly handed him an itinerary with a polite porcelain smile.
He read it through, noting with an internal sigh the number of meetings for the day. They had been getting more numerous as his father's health declined. He also noticed the last item of the day, the yearly charity gala for the city's concert hall. As if those lazy sods needed any more money.
Leo dutifully followed the itinerary decided for him, with his aide shadowing him during all of it, should he need assistance. To point out that she was working for his father, reporting back to him, would be redundant. [i Everyone] was working for his father. [i Everyone] would run straight to the patriarch should Leo show the slightest sign of weakness.
It was just a part of his life. It had always been this way. Leo accepted it just as he accepted his pre-decided suits, his pre-scheduled day-to-day life. Leo's life was not his own, he had thankfully never had any illusions about that. He had been created with a solitary goal in mind; to be the perfect son and heir to the Gestalt family.
Leo's own emotions, wants or needs didn't enter into it. Could never enter into it. He was a tool, a means to an end. And as all tools, if he even showed signs of breakage, he would be discarded.
Most of the day passed in a blur. Exchanging information, strengthening alliances, checking in with department heads. Bribing, threatening, congratulating, manipulating. On and on the wheels turned. Tedious, all of it. And yet Leo never faltered, performed every task set out before him no matter how difficult, tedious or menial. He had never failed. The day he did was the day he was thrown to the sharks.
[b [i ~~~
Leo arrived late to the gala, intentionally so. It wouldn't do for the Gestalt heir to have enough time on his hands to arrive in a timely manner, after all. He stepped out of backseat of his personal car and looked up at the grand concert hall as he adjusted his golden cuff links. They featured the family crest, the head of a male lion, mane surrounding its face and its mouth open in a vicious snarl. He walked inside, his face wearing the cool mask of professionalism.
Leo's shirt was rich silk, a golden color that perfectly matched Leo's eyes. Above it, a slim three piece suit made of the finest cream-colored linen. The jacket had slim notch lapels, three-button closure and straight jetted flap pockets. The trousers, the exact same color as the jacket, featured a low rise and a slim leg to match the silhouette of the upper body. It was a good suit and an even better fit, despite Leo never having been measured for it.
Leo could see people noticing his presence as he entered the gilded lobby of the concert hall. They also took note of his father's absence.
[i That's right, better start being more polite to me, you vultures.]
As if on cue, the portly host of the event flitted into view and presented Leo with an impressively sweet smile.
"Mr. Gestalt! So glad you could come, I am so glad, truly. We must all contribute to the arts, after all," the man purred at him, as if they were sharing a secret. Which they were, in a way. Most of the money wouldn't go to any starving artist at all, they would probably go to paying off this man's many young lovers. Which was just another form of charity, depending on how you look at it. Leo graciously thanked the man for his invitation and then, with a polite smile and a pointed silence, made it very clear that the man's presence was no longer wanted. the host quickly vanished into the crowds again.
"Brother!" came an enthused call to his right. His youngest sister, Helene.
Leo quickly exchanged his mask for one of fraternal affection. He smiled down at her sibling and gave her hand a friendly squeeze as she came up to him. Meeting his family at social gatherings was always a bittersweet experience.
In public, they treated him like the brother he genetically was. His two sisters doted on him, teased him about the pretty girls who were eyeing him and insisted he try the various treats that were available at whatever banquet they were currently attending. His three older brothers would speak seriously with him on various subjects, from politics to recent sport results. They always seemed to value his opinion on whatever subject they were discussing.
In the privacy of home, things were different. They hated him, plain and simple. He had usurped the heritage they felt rightly belonged to them, a shameless cuckoo in their nest. Leo also represented in a very real way their father's disappointment in them all. None of his [i real] children had been worthy of his heritage so he had handcrafted a boy to surpass them all.
Leo never blamed them, or so he told himself. He understood their hatred, their anger at being overlooked by their own father. That they directed that anger at Leo, and not at the one who was truly to blame, was also understandable though less forgivable.
"Helene, you are radiant," Leo said, turning his eyes to his sister's gown. It was made entirely of a sheer golden fabric interspersed with dazzling crystals and gold leaf. It matched her skin color perfectly, as intended. She flashed him a fanged smile at the compliment. She didn't have Leo's curls, her slightly darker hair was in a tight bun held up with yet more gold leaf and crystals. She was truly beautiful, even beneath all the adornments. Clever, too. In another life, maybe, they would have gotten along. As it was, she had tried to kill him three times.
There was a certain logic to the plan that if one of his siblings simply managed to murder Leo, they would be deemed worthy of taking his place. No one had succeeded thus far, however. After the fourth attempt and the death of Gloria, their eldest sister, they had stopped trying.
"Look who's here," Helene said in a stage whisper to Leo. He turned to look and his heart sank a little. Meghan. He had hoped she wouldn't come, he knew how she hated these things. She stuck out like weed among daisies. Her hair and makeup was, well, unfortunate. The suit was on the cheap side but at least it fit properly and accentuated her features. Less flirty and more professional, which was appropriate given her circumstances. It looked less desperate. Leo silently approved of the choice, whoever had made it.
He should have ignored her, like the rest of the guests. Yet, he found himself not wanting to. She was one of the few people in this place who actually [i worked] and had some sort of competence outside shaking hands and telling lies. Leo had enjoyed their conversations, when he had still been obligated to court her.
Either way, soon his father's lungs would finally fill up and drown him from the inside. And then Leo would be free. Free to make his own choices, so he might as well start practicing. As he walked towards her he deftly plucked two champagne glasses from a tray moving past him. He made sure to grab the two glasses from opposite ends of the plate so it wouldn't become unbalanced and make things difficult for the server.
"Meghan," he greeted her, gracefully handing her a glass. He didn't compliment her clothes, he knew she didn't care. He wanted to ask about her work, but it would probably be unwanted. He stood beside her in silence instead. If she wanted to speak to him, then she would do so. His aim was not socializing, not really. Just standing next to her would send signals to the other guests. That she wasn't untouchable any longer.
Sayid reached out and knocked tentatively on the clear glass door.
He pushed the door open and poked his head around the corner into the office, frowning at the mess.
"Miss Trasser? It's almost six o'clock, you're going to be late."
Meghan stirred from behind the mound of papers at her table, fixing her assistant with a scowl.
"Yes yes, I'm coming. And please [i don't] call me Miss Trasser. You're going to make me sick."
"Yes, ma'am," Sayid said. "Oh...and Misses Trasser sent a car, it's waiting outside. She said not to worry about an outfit."
With that, the man pulled the office door shut and returned to his desk.
Meghan cursed and stood, stretching the cramps from her arms and hands. She had been working intensely for the past few hours, hoping that Sayid would have forgotten about the party, allowing her to 'accidentally' work through it.
She sighed. "The best-laid plans..."
Meghan walked over to the window overlooking her office complex, absentmindedly straightening her shirt.
Her mother loved to send her to these events. Huge galas of the rich and powerful where she could advertise how available she was. It was kind of gross now that she thought about it, the idea of being stuck in a house while a million strangers gossiped about each other, about her.
She had the Gestalt's to thank for that and they would definitely be in attendance, they always were. Mentally she probed the knot in her stomach that appeared when she thought of Leo. It hadn't been that long since their courtship had been broken off, but she already felt the frustration fading. Maybe society would forget it just as fast?
"Miss Trasser?" Sayid's voice broke Meghan out of her trance. "The car?"
The car arrived at the gala over two hours late.
Meghan adjusted the clasp of her bracelet and frowned up at the house, flashing the jewelry at the doorman to gain entry to the main hall.
She immediately felt outclassed.
Where the other partygoers were tall and tanned and beautiful, Meghan was short and pale. Her brunette hair was pushed to one side, vaguely resembling a style two months out-of-date. Fortunately, her mother always knew how to dress her, and the suit she was wearing gave off the right balance of grace and 'Fuck You' attitude.
From the looks of the other more distinguished guests, Meghan guessed that everyone had heard about the [i Undesirable Qualities] that the Gestalt family had discovered about her and after a handful sarcastic remarks, she found herself alone.
Meghan spent the next hour situated strategically next to the serving tables, cursing herself for not forcing her sister to attend.
Adam climbed up into the Nest, poking his head into the attic that served as their base before he climbed the rest of the way up the ladder and through the trapdoor. As ever, it was a dusty, cramped space, most of the room taken up by old furniture covered in tarps; only a small area around the trapdoor was cleared enough to easily move through. The others were there already, sitting around the small table in the center of the room.
"Our next target," he said, excited just to show them, "is this man." He slapped a still-photo of a sculpted, golden-haired man as majestic as a Greek statue on the table and smirked. "Leonard Gestalt. He's one of the most expensive projects out of Caduceus in years, and no surprise; daddy's the leader of the Gestalt Corporation, one of those nasty little companies that pours money into our politics to make sure Caduceus is protected from any sort of regulation." In other words: the perfect target. He grinned around the room, curious if the others felt the same way.
"In a few days, there's going to be a huge party; you know, the usual thing. Some kind of bullshit awards ceremony or another. Leo's gonna be there, along with all the upper crust. And I've got the perfect plan..."
The party was so fancy that it made Adam want to puke all over his ugly green vest. He'd managed to sign up at a waiter at this party under a false name, and so far, it'd been a lot of running back and forth, offering bubbly drinks to ungrateful people in shimmery dresses and tailored suits that cost more than a year's worth of rent on his apartment and barely dodging swinging elbows as the upper crust assumed any waiter hired here was lithe enough to avoid their each and every random gesture. At the wage he was being paid to serve them, it was enough to make a man homicidal.
Luckily for Adam, he'd been homicidal from the moment he'd woken up this morning, and the weights at his hip from several different weapons were a comforting reminder of that, of the reason they were here at this awful party.
He looked around for their target, scanning through the crowd. Rich, gorgeous people who'd doubtlessly profited from Caduceus' ill-gotten gains everywhere--if the oddly-colored eyes and hair, perfect faces, and impossibly clear skin was any sign--but no Greek statue come to life in golden-coiffed perfection. "No sign yet," he muttered into his earpiece as he walked and casually offered drinks to the thirsty. "Calliope, Theo, any sign on your ends?"
The last drink was plucked off his platter, and he smiled and wandered through the crowd, using it as an excuse to move across the room and search new faces as he picked up empty cups from where the wealthy had seen fit to place them. Maybe Leo wasn't here yet; maybe baby Gestalt was going to make his grand entrance, the way some of the rich did, halfway through the party to ensure all the sycophants were properly present and ready to applaud his entrance. Or maybe he was here already, and just tucked in some private room. In that case, he'd have to rely on Theo's eyes in the sky to see anything.
Adam shook his head. He wasn't going to give up on looking for Leo, though. They still had a few hours to find their boy before the party was over. Though the sooner they found him... the better.
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