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Well, that answered one question. Issac was right here looking stupidly attractive and distracting her. Now if only they could find out why [i these] people wanted to kill them. This was all more an annoyance than anything, Irina didn’t really feel afraid. She had been looking forward to getting some actual nice clothes, and these jerks were blasting holes in them!
[#a31200 “Hey.”] Irina responded a little belatedly. She needed to focus a little better. Well, focus on things besides Issac. How did his hair look so nice even now? Messy, but in a good way. Right, people still shooting at them. [#a31200 “You know, I think they put a hole in this cute shirt I had my eye on. At this rate we won’t have any good clothes left.”]
With a smile she popped her head up to check on the two Belladonna was [i supposed] to be taking care of. They were still on their way over here. Belladonna hadn’t reached them yet and now had to keep hidden from the guy coming after Issac.
Irina was running out of options. When she came back down and dodged another volley of plasma shots she looked more serious. She pulled Issac’s arm to bring him to her new hiding spot. Belladonna was taking too long. Irina and Issac could create an opening for her and get this over fast.
[#a31200 “Okay, so Bella is trying to sneak around these guys. There’s too many and she’s moving too slow. Let’s make an opening for her. Or you know, deal with them ourselves.”] Irina still had the knife in one hand and held it up for further consideration. She only needed a little blood for these guys. She shifted her gaze to Issac and game a little smirk,[#a31200 “I brought a knife to a gun fight. Too bad for them, because I’m still going to win.”]
She thought that was clever anyway. It was also going to suck, but it would probably be better than getting shot. She didn’t really know what getting shot by these guns would feel like and she didn’t really want to find out. Irina pressed the knife blade against her arm and made a cut just deep enough to bleed properly. She hissed through clenched teeth. Irina would have picked a different power from Chaos if she had any choice.
The blood gathered in droplets and streams above her skin, and moved to her open palm. She didn’t want to do more than this, so she’d need to make the most of it. Maybe little shards like bullets. Why not fight a little like them? The blood crystalized into tiny spikes. Two tiny spikes, three targets. It was fine, Issac and Belladonna would have her back, this was more a distraction.
[#a31200 “I’ll hit my two, you distract yours, and we’ll see what Bella can manage with that.”]
Apparently this is why they couldn't fucking have nice things! Everywhere they went people wanted to kill them, and in this case, he couldn't tell you why! Oh Lord, was Issac pissed now. All he wanted was some peace and quiet, and to buy some clothes so he didn't have to wear ones covered in blood or hand-me-downs! Was that so much to ask for?
Diving behind a display case, Issac narrowly avoid getting shot by another laser. He was by a rack of glasses and quickly palms one, holding it in front of his face. It began to glow with the silvery blue light, but he knew it wasn't going to be enough. The thing didn't have enough mass for him to [i charge] with potential energy. He wished he had something bigger so he could throw something with the force of a grenade or something to show these guys what he thought about them... But for now, sunglasses would have to do.
[b “Hey, asshole!”] Issac shouts and whirl's around his cover, throwing the sunglasses like shuriken at one of the guys. It tags him in the shoulder and Issac watches as the energy disperses with the concussive force of a boxer's punch. He hears the [i crack!] of the shoulder dislocating upon impact and the guy screeches as he spirals to the ground... He was lucky; Issac was actually aiming for the face.
And apparently his friend didn't get the memo that Issac's aim was probably just going to improve. Either or, a plasma shot ate through the floor near Issac's knee, and he didn't stick around to see where the other shot would land. He rolled and then jumped with more strength and power than he knew he had, and- [b “Oh, hey Irina.”] He says just as he clumsily lands next to her. It looked like she had her own foes she was dealing with as well... But honestly, other than like, the unpleasantness of getting shot, he didn't really feel all that afraid of the situation. More so infuriated that these guys decided to bother them. [b “Find anything you liked?”] He asked as he peaked his head out of cover. The two she was contending with shot at him and he ducked down again beside Irina. [b “There was this pretty neat coat over there; lots of pockets and pretty fashionable... But I think there's a few holes in it now.”]
It was nice to get some space from Cleo at least, but Irina still sort of wanted to shop with Issac. It didn’t exactly make sense though, did it? He needed men’s clothes, and she was dragged to the women’s section by Belladonna.
The clothes weren’t quite the styles she was familiar with, but things were close enough she saw some things she liked. While Irina was looking through a selection of blouses she saw a couple of guys looking at her and Belladonna. It wasn’t really in a good way either, they seemed to be glaring at them and whispering to each other.
Then someone else in the store started shouting. That caused those two to reach into their jackets and pull out what looked like guns.
[#a31200 “Shit.”] Irina grabbed Belladonna and ducked behind the clothing rack. The men started running toward them, and Irina looked at Belladonna as she pulled out the knife she’d taken to carrying around,[#a31200 “See if you can hide and catch them off guard. I’ll distract them.”]
Irina kind of wanted a better knife maybe, or at least a chance to sharpen and clean up this one. Belladonna had given it to her and it worked, but it obviously hadn’t been cared for very well by whoever was using it before. One more fight with it at least though. Not that she fought with it much. Irina considered her arm briefly. Would she need her own blood? She wasn’t sure. She didn’t get the feeling these guys were Order or Chaos, probably just thugs like the Scarlet Royals.
Irina decided to try not to use her own blood if she could help it and while Belladonna went one way Irina went the other, standing up and drawing attention to herself. It worked and the two aimed at her. She ducked away from the first shot, and it turned out to be a really good idea to keep moving because the second shot went right through the clothes she’d been hiding behind a second ago and left a hole singed around the edges. It went all the way through, and Irina was really glad it didn’t leave a hole like that through her. Where was Issac? She couldn’t exactly stand up and take her time looking around. She just had to hope he was doing fine for now and keep herself moving.
She popped up again and made sure the guys were paying attention to her, then used the clothes as cover again. They were moving closer to Irina while Belladonna was working her way around to their backs more slowly than Irina would have liked. If Belladonna didn’t pick up the pace Irina would have to attack these guys herself!
Cleo was on the other side of the womens clothes, as far away as she could get from Irina and Belladonna. Where she’d been shopping quickly became a mess. As soon as the guys started shouting and drew their guns Cleo held out her arm and out from a circle that looked like molton gold a new pet of hers crawled out. The creature looked sort of like a bear, but its claws were huge and long, and its fur was a golden orange that seemed to shimmer in the light. It stood up on its hind legs with its teeth bared as soon as it was out. Cleo’s rather flashy creature seemed to get the guys near her a little too freaked out to attack immediately. There wasn’t any doubt at all about her being a Warrior. That meant that she was going to kick their ass at minimum. Their new boss was a Warrior and they knew better than to cross [i him]. Crossing Cleo seemed to be about as bad of an idea, even if she [i was] obviously wearing Scarlet Royal colors.
“So the Scarlet Royals have their own Warrior now?” The bravest guy facing Cleo asked. He was still pretty nervous and when the bear-thing started to growl quietly he took a step back and raised his hands in the universal sign of surrender.
Cleo walked right up next to the bear and patted its side,[+hotpink “Yes… And who are you?”]
The man looked at the bear before deciding he really didn’t want to test this girls patience,”Jimmy. I’m Jimmy with the Gold Roses. The uh, Scarlet Royals and us don’t… get along, to put it mildly, Miss.”
Well, it seemed like everyone was in agreement... Or at least Irina was. Everyone else didn't really have a choice if they wanted new duds, so he'd still chalk this up to a victory. Despite the obvious tension hanging in the air, the train ride to the department store Belladonna wanted to go to was relatively short. Considering everyone more or less wanted to kill each other, he had expected the ride to feel long, unpleasant, and be a bit suffocating being packed in to the train cars. So, Issac was pleasantly surprised by the results. Maybe if they had more outings together as a team, everyone would learn to put their murder-boners away like him and Irina... Although, that might be because their circumstances were different.
That train of thought posed another problem. He wanted to talk with Irina, or at least [i debrief] with her, to, you know, check in or make sure she was okay or [i whatever]. However, he was currently running interference between Belladonna and Cleo, who at this point, Issac was pretty sure they'd scrap and kill each other if they so much as bumped in to the other by accident. He tried to smile and even wagged his eyebrows at Irina a few times when they made eye-contact, but so far having a conversation didn't seem like it was going to happen. Guess he'd have to wait for later or when they woke up together.
When they got to the department store, everyone sort of fanned out, no doubt to get space from each, which was pretty understandable. Issac friggin' hated being around Belladonna, so being away from her was a treat. Just the sound of her voice and seeing her stupid face made him want to kill her, but that was definitely the whole Faction Instinct thing. However, saying that, he was still pretty sure he wouldn't like Belladonna as a person in real life either. For the time being, he'd just enjoy the space away from her and look at some of the clothes. They were at a higher end department store, so they'd be able to find something more fashionable than what they were wearing or what they were previously wearing.
Issac was looking over a durable looking grey peacoat when his instincts began to nudge at him. This secondary power was interesting, increasing his reflexes and his external processes. He'd picked on things before he even realized it just by glancing in its direction. Or in this case, in the reflection of a some sunglasses. He turns his head to look at a man in black with golden trim with a rose motif, intensely staring at Issac and [i way] too far in his personal space. He looks at himself, at the guy, back at the coat, and then back to the guy. [b “You see something you like?”] He asks impatiently. The guys answer was a punch. Or at least that's what it looked like it was going to be. Issac's reflexes kicked in, slowed the scene down, and he socked the Gold Rose across the face before he could do anything, knocking him out with his Warrior strength.
Obviously his friends didn't like that, as they started shouting to each other in the store. This was shaping up to be just like the gym a few hours earlier but... was that a gun. He ducks down, and a plasma bolt leaves a smouldering golf sized ball hole where Issac's head just was a second before. Well great, this was going to be tons of fun to deal with.
The girls weren’t comfortable sitting near each other, and it was so obvious the Royals could tell. The girls all came over when Issac said it was time to go shopping. Cleo hurried over, glad to have [i someone] she didn’t want to kill there. She felt like she could trust him to watch her back, not stab it. Irina watched Cleo rushing to Issac warily. She was trying to suppress it but every move Cleo made was irritating. As for Belladonna, she hung back a little behind Irina.
Irina couldn’t help but glance at Cleo while Issac was talking. Go out as… was it going to just keep splitting along the Chaos and Order line? It might be safer, but it would also keep the team pretty divided. And she wouldn’t get to go out anywhere with Issac here. It was probably selfish to be thinking about that now but that was what she was wondering. His idea to go as a group was better than splitting up by Order and Chaos.
He seemed like he was a little unsure about it himself though, and Irina gave him a reassuring smile,[#a31200 “That sounds like a good idea. We do need to all work together to make the team work.”]
Cleo couldn’t exactly look happy about it, and Belladonna certainly wasn’t enthusiastic about it, but they agreed to go together for the shopping. It wasn’t like they had much of a choice, Issac had a point about being the only one who could use the credit card for the moment, and they all wanted some better clean clothes.
Belladonna insisted they go to one of the nicer clothing stores, something like a department store that sold more than clothing. Cleo actually agreed with her, though she couldn’t quite believe she was agreeing with Belladonna at the same time she wanted to sick one of her pets on her. So off to the department store they went, which meant at least a short trip on the train for all of them to a slightly nicer neighborhood.
They got a few strange looks when they walked into the store wearing their ill fitting clothes with the Scarlet Royals insignia plastered on the shirts. Irina figured it was because even after the shower they probably looked like a little bit of a mess with these clothes on. The store seemed just nice enough that people might be a little snotty, but Irina didn’t know enough about types of stores in this world to be sure. This was nicer than the first place she’d run into with Issac when they were just wearing cardboard… Irina was distracted enough thinking back to that she walked right into a mannequin. She fumbled a bit to catch it and set it back, her cheeks burning the whole time. That was [i elegant]. Not.
What she didn’t realize, and what Belladonna had forgotten, was that they were shopping pretty near, or rather just inside, the boarder of the Gold Roses. The Gold Roses considered themselves more sophisticated than the Scarlet Royals, and didn’t take kindly to any of that sort of ‘riffraff’ on their turf. The reason the people in the shop gave them looks, then made themselves scarce, was they knew several Gold Roses were in the shop browsing, and as soon as they spotted the Scarlet Royals wandering in things were bound to get ugly.
The girls showered first which... Wow, was that even a good idea? Everyone kind of had a murder-boner going on for at least one person, but Cleo wanting to Irina and Belladonna, and the two feeling the same way in kind? And in a vulnerable situation like a shower?? Oh man, this was going to be rough to coordinate consistently, but he believed that everyone involved had enough self-restraint not to kill each other. Issac hasn't killed or attacked Belladonna yet, and she had to be most killable person Issac has ever met. And that was just her personality!
Cleo's hesitance was totally understandable, considering the situation. He'd definitely be a little unhappy if that was also his reality... And some time soon it might be. [b “Everything will be okay, Cleo. I promise. No one is killing anyone here.”] [i 'Not yet, at least.'] He morbidly thinks to himself.
The girls go to take their shower, leaving Issac to his own devices. So, he waited outside of the locker room, making small talk with some of the Royals to pass the time. They joked around a bit about going in for a peek, and although Issac didn't agree, he played a long a bit, but cautioned that the girls would no doubt rip them and him apart if they even knew it crossed their mind. They were in agreement and laughed it off, but he could see how some of them got slightly tense at the thought. Good, it meant they wouldn't do something so stupid; Issac knew [i he] wouldn't. He liked being alive... Plus, he's already seen Irina naked, so...
“You okay, boss?” One of the men asks, and Issac gives him a questioning look, suddenly in the present. “Your face and nose suddenly got red.”
Uhhh... Shit, he actually didn't have a good response for this one. [b “I was holding my breath.”] He tells them and when the girls left the locker room in a hurry, Issac entered just as quickly. And damn, the shower felt amazing. Washing all the blood, sweat, and dirt off of him was like melting away the stress of the last two days. He hoped the girls found this as relaxing as he did. It was so relaxing he actually took a little longer than he normally would have before getting out. Just like the girls, clothes were brought for him, but they fit him much better. A little loose in the arms and shoulders, but whatever... And was this their gang symbol on the shirt? Eh, whatever, they'd be getting out of these clothes soon enough anyways.
When Issac went back to the main gym area, he looked around in comical disbelief. On one side of the room there was Irina and Belladonna, and on the other side was Cleo, everyone exchanging wary glances every now and again... Ah, hell, how were they ever going to make this work? Shaking the thought, he waves at everyone. [b “Alright, its time to go shopping. That should be fun.”] That last part sounded a little forced, just like his smile. [b “So we'll go out as...”]
[i Goddammit!] As what? A group? A [i pair]? He wanted to go with Irina, but he didn't trust Belladonna to play nice. And he sure as hell didn't want to go with her either. It'd be easiest to split them up by faction again, but that was promoting the wrong idea of what they were trying to achieve here. None of that 'together but divided' BS. Every pairing proved to have its own complications, so there was realistically only one reasonable option, and it blew just as much as the others. [b “A group?”] The word was drawn out and sounded a lot more like a question than he had intended. [b “It poses some dangers, but we're stronger together, and it gives us a chance to work with each other. Hopefully even [i like] each other.”] He puts both of his thumbs up and smiles. [b “And you don't have a choice because I have the credit card and no idea how to hook it up to all of ours phones yet. Hurray.”]
Boss? Belladonna had raised her eyebrows at the question about leadership. It wasn’t something she’d given any thought to. They were all working together, but none of them was really leading the group exactly… Thought she had to grudgingly admit that Issac was charismatic and really good at planning stuff.
His answer was good enough for her, and she shrugged before following directions to the showers. They weren’t anything fancy, just a bunch of stalls that all needed a good scrub. It was a welcome sight though, and so were the towels one of the guys brought over. The towels were a little stained, but had been washed and there was even an attempt made at folding them.
Belladonna called back,[+purple “Not a lot of privacy here so ladies first. Issac can have his turn once we’re done. You go bring us all some cleaner clothes.”] She was obviously enjoying the ability to order people around, and the machine armed guy she’d gotten the towels from and directed her order to nodded and left to get clothes.
Irina had covered her mouth with her hand when Issac had to break down the leadership structure more simply for the obviously confused gang members. She didn’t want to laugh, but it was kind of funny and Issac looked sort of cute. The Scarlet Royals weren’t the most intelligent group of people, but now that they were on the same side they seemed nice enough. Sort of like they were eager to please the Warriors they had accepted as their new leaders. It made her briefly wonder how loyal they really were to them. She supposed as long as they didn’t get killed and kept winning it wouldn’t matter much.
Belladonna was calling for the girls to all shower first. That made sense. They could deal with the shopping and how to split up after, she supposed. Irina still hesitated for a moment, looking at Issac. She’d like to go shopping with him instead of Belladonna, but now wasn’t the time to bring it up. Especially because the shower situation was a bit of an issue for Cleo.
[+hotpink “I’m supposed to shower with you two? Alone? How do I know you’re not going to stab me in the back as soon as my guard is down?”] Cleo had gone to stand by Issac while she directed her questions to Irina.
That irritated Irina. It was framing things like it was Cleo and Issac against Irina and Belladonna. Which okay, technically that’s what it looked like, but Irina didn’t like that anyway and really wanted to smack Cleo. Into a wall. Irina’s fists clenched but she managed to keep her composure,[#a31200 “I wouldn’t let that happen. We’re on the same team now.”]
Cleo frowned and crossed her arms. She was looking at Irina with her eyes narrowed, she clearly still didn’t trust the Chaos Warrior. She remembered Issac seemed pretty set on this team thing for some reason, so she supposed she might as well try to make things work. She’d be ready to defend herself though,[+hotpink “Fine,”] Cleo replied after a pause,[+hotpink “I’ll go along with this. Let’s hurry.”]
Before she went to go to the showers Cleo looked back at Issac and smiled. She was trying to make this work because he really seemed to want this. That was pretty much the only reason, because otherwise she’d never be going along with this.
Irina looked at Issac as well. She wanted to say something, but there were still so many people around and she didn’t even know what to say. She wanted to have some time with him that was just the two of them, but tonight just really wasn’t going that way. Then she went to join the other girls in the shower.
Clothes were brought for them, then all the men shooed away. The clothes were mostly too big and not at all feminine, but at least they were clean. Belladonna still griped about it. The showers were not at all relaxing, each of the girls was tense and waiting for the other to make some move. Irina and Belladonna both waiting for Cleo to attack with one of her pets, while Cleo fully expected the two Chaos girls to gang up on her now that they had her alone. That instinct to go after each other was hard to shake off, so it made things silent and awkward, which at least meant they didn’t take too long to wash and get dressed.
Then it was Issac’s turn, and at least the girls could get farther away from each other once they were back out with the gang in the rest of the gym. They just had to wait for Issac then they could make their next move for the night.
A shower! Now that was something of Belladonna's Issac could get behind. And when she said it, one of the Royal's answered, while another one motioned for her to follow him, assumedly to wherever the locker room was. However, the other one inquired about the leadership of their team, and that... was not something Issac had really thought about or considered... Damn, that was a pretty good question.
Issac wouldn't really say they were a self-governed team at this point; they weren't homogeneous enough for that, and they were still struggling with trying to not murder each other constantly. And maybe Issac was the loudest and that's why the Royal thought he might perhaps be the leader, but he didn't really think he was, nor did he think the other's considered him one. They all came up with ideas and then agreed upon whichever course of action made the most sense at the point in time. But being asked directly if he was the leader posed somewhat of an issue; if he said yes, then he'd be disregarding his team's contributions to sort of rise above them as the figurehead of their little squad. The Scarlet Royal's might show a little more respect that way, but if any of the Warrior's—lets say Belladonna—didn't like that, it could threaten to dissolve the group. But if he agreed they were all the leader, it could threaten their standing with the gang because their power structure was spread out, and what did that mean if they gained more members as well? Were they also the leaders? What if the Royal's favoured someone else in the group who had designs to take everything for themselves? What if...
[b “Wow, I am thinking way too hard about this.”] Issac says after a second. [b “All of us are the leaders. This is sort of like a less tyrannical version of an oligarchy.”] And when he got a blank stare from the gang member, he suppressed the urge to groan out loud. Instead he pinches his the bridge of his nose. [b “The four of us are in charge and we're not going to be dicks about it.”]
“Ahh, well why didn't you just say that?” The muscle-head says and Issac gives him a patient smile. Maybe the next gang they took over could be a little smarter.. But he guessed that meant they'd be a little harder to manipulate. They'd cross that bridge when they got to it.
[b “Anyways, why don't we shower, grab some spare clothes from the lost and found, and then split up again to go shopping?”] He looks between everyone. He wanted to go out and selfishly have some alone time with Irina, but at the same time, it might be safer if they both went with the one's from their own faction... Maybe that was something to discuss after their shower.
So he really was dedicated to the whole being on neither side thing. Cleo was just a little surprised, but at the same time that dedication was admirable. He didn’t want to give in to senseless violence. Cleo nodded,[+hotpink “So you’d rather avoid senseless violence. That would be nice. I’m not sure how many more like us we can find, but we can try. The gangs will probably be easier, honestly.”]
She wasn’t sure it was entirely possible, but she was willing to give it a try. There was something about Issac that made him seem trustworthy. Cleo kept an eye out for any sign of trouble as they made their way back to the gym. She couldn’t deny that she would rather have stayed somewhere closer to the business district. It was nicer. They couldn’t really do that, at least for the moment, not with their other teammates being Chaos. It would probably draw attention sooner or later.
Once it was clear Issac and Cleo were heading back to the Scarlet Royals Irina and Belladonna made their way back to the gym more or less the way they had come. The trip took them a little longer than Issac and Cleo, so by the time they arrived the two were already there with the good news.
Irina was the most obviously excited of the two. She went up to Issac with a big smile, and when he offered her one of the phones she took it, but put her hand over his arm and held on way longer than she needed to,[#a31200 “That’s fantastic! I’m really glad things went well.”]
She still wished she could have gone with him, but just hearing that it went well was a relief. Irina looked down at herself. She was sort of covered in blood and dirt and who knew what else at this point. New clothes and a [i shower] would both be welcome. She laughed, feeling a little uncomfortable suddenly now that she was aware of it. Like before she could almost ignore it because she was used to it, but now that it was pointed out it was like an itch that needed to be scratched.
[#a31200 “You’re right. We should all get some clothes and a shower. As soon as possible. Maybe a couple of sets of clothes each? At least to start, then we’ll have a spare and can maybe start washing stuff…”]
It would be really nice to get to do some normal stuff here, like actually being clean. This was a gym, so maybe they had a shower somewhere? Or at least running water which would let them wash off somehow.
Belladonna was on it. After grabbing the phone and initially fiddling with it a little she looked up,[+purple “Right. We’ll go clothes shopping real quick, then get washed up and changed. Maybe we’ll still have time for something else tonight too. Hey! You guys got a shower around here, right?”]
Belladonna asked one of the Scarlet Royals, who nodded,”Yeah. ‘Course. Uh… Boss? There’s four of you…” The guy seemed to be struggling a bit. He actually counted to four on his fingers and looked confused,”Are all of y’all the boss now? Or just Mr. Issac? We was wondering.”
The other Scarlet Royals were obviously paying attention for the answer. There had been a bit of a debate while the four were gone as to whether Issac was in charge of the whole thing, or if all four of the super-powered group were equally in charge. The idea of four bosses was strange for them, but they didn’t want to risk offending any of the much more powerful Warriors.
A job well done Issac would have to say! Honestly with how the night had originally began, he had expected to meet more resistance, so when Telmund had initially agreed to their terms it was a welcome surprise. So at this point in the might he was feeling pretty good, and felt fortunate enough the Cleo was able to stick to his guns despite knowing nothing about him or their plans.
Weird phones and start-up cash was exchanged, and soon enough the two members of Order were on their way out of the building. They couldn't link up with the other two just yet until they got to safety—they were still in Order territory, after all—so they'd have to give them the good news when they returned to the Scarlet Royal's gym. For the moment though, Issac would chock this up as a win.
When Cleo inquired about their plans, he grinned almost sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. He kept forgetting he wasn't with Irina, so far the only person he's hung around he didn't instinctively want to kill. Having Cleo in his peripherals was going to be something he'd have to get used to. And sharing their plans, even though he felt a little cautious about broadcasting it in the open air... But it was nighttime and it didn't appear they were being followed, and it seemed Cleo was pretty receptive to the groups shenanigans, so...
[b “Well, with the addition of you, I was thinking we might be able to grab hold of more Warriors who aren't really [i on] Order or Chaos' side. From what I've gathered, a lot of us aren't really here of our own free will, so it gives us something to fight for instead of mindless killing and hoping to make it to the end...”] But that still left the ultimate question in the air: [i what was going to happen when the dust settled and they were the only ones left?] He shakes his head at himself. That was for later on in the war for them to worry about. For now, surviving til the end was the priority. [b “And we might try and sling more gangs on our side. Any advantage we can get is a good advantage.”]
The way back wasn't anymore treacherous as the first time, so they made it back in short order, with Irina and Belladonna no doubt close behind. When they got inside, they waited for the other two to join them before giving them the good news. [b “The negotiations were a success.”] He tells them with a small smile. [b “They've given us some start up cash with some more on the way, as well as these weird looking phones. So we can pay the Royals and keep in contact.”] He holds two of them out. They were small and mostly transparent like the map device. [b “Now we don't really need to worry about bumming around for food and supplies. And we can buy some clothes that aren't covered in blood and filth! I honestly think I'm gonna need a blowtorch to get these off.”] He laughs, clearly pleased with how well the team's plan went off.
Cleo blushed a little when he asked if she’d woken up naked as well. So that was a common thing? And why was he wondering?
They had to get past the secretary though, and while Cleo was a little at a loss about how to deal with the need for an appointment at first Issac had it handled. Showing their power was the perfect way! That was right, this lady probably couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else. Cleo followed Issac’s lead, and smiled at their ‘luck’. She was enjoying this, and tried not to laugh.
At least until they got into the elevator, finally. It was like the lady thought they’d never used an elevator or keycard before. There Cleo laughed and leaned back against the grey metal wall,[+hotpink “Oh wow, that was good. You got her to move fast. She sort of panicked, didn’t she?”]
Cleo wandered into the waiting room and to the empty desk,[+hotpink “I guess so. Not a very interesting one. So um… Is the whole arriving here naked thing a… thing? Sorry, you don’t need to—I mean, you probably don’t even know either. Nevermind.”] That didn’t end up coming out as well as she hoped it would. It sounded a little less awkward in her head. She ran her hand over the smooth black surface of the desk. It was really clean though, and her hand left marks where she touched it.
She turned around and leaned back against the desk when the man that had to be Mr. Telmund entered. Did he try to match the decor, or was the decor picked to match him? Cleo wondered, but didn’t ask. She let Issac take the lead on negotiations.
He was good at this. He had Telmund interested. Telmund was ambitious enough to go for the plan, as unusual as it sounded. It did sound unusual, even when they left out that their other teammates were [i Chaos], which Cleo still didn’t quite get. Well, she wasn’t going to ruin this deal by saying anything. She just smiled while they shook on the deal.
[+hotpink “Fantastic. So let’s make sure you can reach us when you want us. Then we have some work to do.”]
What did he mean about adding to their ranks? She wondered, but obviously it wouldn’t be good to let this Telmund in on too much information. He only needed to know what they wanted him to. After a little more negotiation about phones and some starter cash for tonight they agreed to return tomorrow evening to iron out more details.
It was on their way out that Cleo smiled at Issac and started to talk more freely,[+hotpink “You’re pretty good at talking with people. That went really well. What did you mean about adding to our ranks though? I mean we’re not going to find many Order people up for our um, unusual arrangement.”]
If anyone could figure it out though she was pretty sure it would be Issac. He was so clever. And good looking. That was beside the point. He was smart and obviously the brains of this operation. He also had a serious gift for sweet talking people into his insane plan, including her.
When Issac and Cleo disappeared into a building and didn’t come right out Irina and Belladonna figured they would find ways to stay nearby as long as it was clear. At first Belladonna just dragged Irina along like she was looking for something, then after finding a bench to sit on that let them just barely see the front door of the building Issac and Cleo had gone in she sat down with her.
It was inconspicuous enough as long as no one that spotted them was Order. If anyone from Order got close enough they’d be screwed no matter how well they blended in. Belladonna looked pretty relaxed for being in Order territory and leaned her head against Irina’s shoulder,[+purple “Don’t look so worried. [i They] have nothing to worry about here. We’re the ones who have to watch out.”]
Irina did look a little worried. While Belladonna was looking around more generally at people passing by Irina watched the door pretty closely,[#a31200 “I suppose. I’ll still feel better once we’re done with this. Do you think this will work?”]
Belladonna shifted a little,[+purple “I guess? I mean someone is bound to go along with this and fork over some money for a chance at their own Order members. I’m just hoping it’s enough money to be worth the risk. Maybe next time we should send them in alone. The less time we spend over here the better.”]
[#a31200 “Right…”] Irina could see the logic. Issac and Cleo weren’t at much risk of being attacked here while her and Belladonna were. She still didn’t really like it. She wished she could have gone in with Issac. Not knowing what was going on in the building was driving her nuts. Were things going well? They hadn’t come out yet, and everything was pretty normal. A few people walking down the street in business clothes. Some of them shot dirty looks at Irina and Belladonna when they saw them. They obviously didn’t look like they belonged here, they weren’t dressed nice enough and the fighting wasn’t doing their appearance any favor either.
Irina figured if there was a problem inside they would know. Issac would find some way to signal them. [#a31200 “We’ll know if they’re in trouble, right?”]
Belladonna rolled her eyes,[+purple “Yeah, probably. Stop staring. I’m sure things are fine.”]
Irina being antsy was bothering Belladonna, but there wasn’t much to do until the two finally emerged from the building. Irina stood up, and Belladonna was forced to get up, grumbling a bit,[+purple “See? Everything is fine. Ignore them, or pretend to. We’ll follow their lead from a distance.”]
Either the meeting went well and they’d meet back at the Scarlet Royals to talk, or they needed to try another place and it would mean more waiting. At least so far no one who knew what they really were had spotted them, just a bunch of people thinking they were homeless.
Issac was really surprised when Cleo mentioned how long she's been here. More surprised to hear that she hadn't run in to anyone involved in the War until tonight. [b “Wow.”] Issac responds. [b “I've only been here two nights as well, and the first night I ran in to Irina and then a few members from both sides. It was a complete shit-show... Did you wake up naked too by any chance?”] And then his brain caught up with his mouth. [b “Uhhh... Don't answer that! Inappropriate.”]
They enter the main lobby, and it was a large empty space with mute colours of greys and whites. The only source of colour in this 1984-esque area was the receptionist, who when she looked up from her computer, gave them a practised smile and Issac had the distinct feeling that this was probably going to be the hardest part of their encounter. The receptionist. It wasn't like they were wearing 'I'm Order and I'm Chaos' shirts, after all, and regular citizens probably couldn't discern the difference between them and regular seedy looking citizens... Thinking that, Issac was suddenly extremely self-conscious under the judgmental eye of the receptionist despite his powers of rationale and was glad that Cleo took the lead.
He would've assumed that was enough, but again forgot that their new adversary couldn't pick them out as Order or Chaos to save their lives, and slapped them with the 'appointment' card. This was wasting time! Issac approached the desk, swiped a business card and then frowned at the receptionist. [b “Yeah, you can put the two of us down as 'Order'.”] And with that, the card he was holding began to glow a blue-ish silver before it burned out in to ash. [b “And we'd like to see...”] He looks down at the stack of business cards again, swipes it, and glances at the name. [b “Mr. Telmund at his earliest convenience. While you do that, I think we'll go do a little more shopping and see who else is in need of some Warriors.”] He places the card in his pocket and begins to turn away to leave.
“Just a moment!” The receptionist says energetically, and begins tapping on her keyboard with fervour. After a moment, she looks up again at them as if she had just finished a marathon. “What luck... It looks like a spot just opened up for the two of you to see Mr. Telmund.”
[b “What luck.”] Issac repeats with a small grin, nodding his head to Cleo. The receptionist then gives them a keycard and verbal instructions, which Issac felt was kind of patronizing. Essentially she just told them to use the keycard to get on the elevator, go to the top floor, and then use the keycard to go in to Telmund's 'Guest Office'. Pretty simple if you think about it, so you really couldn't blame Issac for feeling slightly irritated when she explained it to them slowly and loudly like they were dumb [i and] hard of hearing.
Following the instructions, the two go up the elevator and use the keycard and go for the 'Guest Office'... Whatever that was. But when they entered it, it really just looked like a fancy waiting area. Lots of grey and white decor, black leather seats, and a dark desk that was devoid of any knickknacks or keepsakes. [b “I guess 'Guest Office' is just fancy talk for waiting room.”] Issac comments, looking around. However, he didn't have a lot of time to inspect when the door slid open. In the doorway appeared a man in his 40's, dressed in a suit that matched the surroundings, salt and pepper hair, and a pair of smart looking glasses. [b “Mr. Telmund I presume?”]
“Correct.” The man says coolly, stepping in to the room. His nose wrinkles up a little bit and Issac frowns again. “What do two Order members want with the likes of me? I figured the cutthroats at AgriCo and Heartland already scooped up the lot of you.”
Issac slowly turns his head to look at Cleo and then back Telmund. [b “We're here with a proposition, and we were looking for someone who was hungry. AgriCo and Heartland are no doubt full of Order, and we're not interested in the scraps they'd give us for simply existing in their little private military.”]
Telmund seems to think on that a little bit, sizing up the two of them again. Issac couldn't really tell what he was thinking, the execs face not changing at all. “So you want me to sponsor the two of you to what exactly? Order is only as good as the number of bodies in it, and the two of you are just that: two.”
Issac doesn't miss a beat. [b “I thought you might say that; we're actually four. And recently acquired the Scarlet Royals gang and their territory. So we're not coming here just the two of us or empty handed.”]
And that's when Telmund seemed to get a little more interested. “That's something I haven't heard of before; Order as gang leaders.”
[b “We like to be a little bit more opportunistic, and if we can grab up gangs or take them from Chaos, it means an easier time winning the War and less blood running through the streets.”]
“An interesting opinion, for sure. How much is this going to cost me if I agree to this?”
[b “It depends on what you'd want us to do. But our standard going rate for the time being is room, board, and some fun money to keep the Scarlet Royals loyal. I assume you're paying protection to the others for their Order members?”]
“That is a correct assumption. Its all about money on this world.”
And Issac smiles a little at that. [b “As it is mine. Stop paying them and we'll be your on scene assurance, and we'll be sure to keep our own funny business away from the area. I plan on making a point of adding to our ranks.”]
“A most interesting offer, how about we do a trial run as I have never had my own Order members before? It would also be interesting to note that the others are raising their price for protection later this week.”
Issac smiles and goes in for a handshake to seal the deal. [b “What luck.”]
Irina nodded to Issac when he stopped her,[#a31200 “You too.”] She wasn’t sure what else to say or do. She didn’t really want to split up the group like this, but it really was the smartest option.
Then it was just her and Belladonna taking the more direct approach on foot. She figured she might get tired, but this body just kept going. Apparently a walk, even if it was a long one, wasn’t enough to get her tired. Slowly the buildings started looking nicer. They were cleaner, and obviously newer. There were fewer unpleasant smells wafting over from dark corners too. The people looked cleaner, but also gave Irina and Belladonna a little more space. The two of them weren’t dressed especially well, though Irina was just glad she was wearing something.
Even at night the area was busting. Irina would have gotten distracted and lost probably, but Belladonna kept them on track to get to the corner she told Issac they would be at. Even though they left before Issac and Cleo, they didn’t have long to wait before spotting the two Order members of their team.
[+purple “Now we just keep our distance while keeping an eye on them. And try to avoid trouble. Easy, right?”] Belladonna looped her arm in with Irina and walked along like she didn’t have a care in the world. Irina looked a little more uncomfortable, but tried to play along.
Cleo was having a better time. She didn’t chat much at first, not wanting to distract Issac and get them lost. Just commented a bit on the trains or their route, or how tall the buildings were. She still seemed pretty impressed by the flying cars. She told Issac how she’d love to be able to ride in one at some point.
[+hotpink “Sure, it’s worth a try.”] It wasn’t the biggest building. She supposed that made sense, they didn’t want to attract too much attention and have anyone find out they were acting all friendly with a couple of Chaos people. Why was he teaming up with them anyway? What was his end goal? He seemed like a really smart guy, he obviously had a plan.
Cleo started to walk up to the building, not looking back to see if the Chaos girls were following. She guessed they probably were. [+hotpink “So Issac, how long have you been here? This is only my second night here. First time running into anyone else actually, you know, involved in the whole thing.”]
Her second night too, so it was possible Order and Chaos summoned people in small batches. Not all at once, and not too spread out either. Inside the building was the main lobby. Like so many business buildings the lobby was way bigger than required. It was made to look impressive. At the main desk, which was a semi-circle, was the receptionist. She looked up from her screen at the newcomers off the street and prepared her best ‘Oh sweetie, I think you’re lost’ smile for them. They looked too scruffy to be the usual sort of client, but she still needed to be polite because [i occasionally] rich people were just eccentric like that. “Good evening, how can I help you?”
Cleo looked at Issac briefly before smiling at the receptionist, either completely missing the tone that said ‘You don’t belong here’ or deliberately ignoring it,[+hotpink “Hi, we’d like to talk to whoever is in charge here.”]
The receptionists smile widened. “I’m afraid that’s impossible without an appointment. Could I get your name, please?”
Check if they had an appointment, and if not kick them to the curb. The first obstacle to getting ahold of an exec was going to be getting past their small army of receptionists and assistants, all trained to shoo people away.
Issac was glad everyone seemed to be on board, the fight they just participated in not making them want to call it a night early. However, he [i did] notice Irina's hesitance about going in alone with Cleo, and he had a feeling it was because of that. She didn't trust her, and it was likely Cleo didn't trust them either, but he likened this to Belladonna and his relationship. It was probably because they were on different sides, and the desire to kill the other team made it hard to feel safe... Fortunately for Issac, his secondary power made him more rational so he didn't kill Belladonna when her back was turned, and his relationship with Irina kept him stable and accountable when he felt the need... Which was often.
Taking the hand offered, Issac stands up, noting the tingling feeling in his leg as described, but before he could say anything, Belladonna shows him what she found on the Goober and gives him some instructions as well as her side of the plan [b “Perfect.”] Issac says with a nod. [b “Once we figure all of this out, we can figure out what we want in the way of weapons, the Scarlet Royals cut, and communication.”] The last part was to answer her earlier question. Right now they didn't really have many options unless they wanted to communicate with smoke signals. The technology here was more advanced than on Earth, and he didn't think they had a lot of time to figure that out before the end of the night. They could dedicate time to that when they finished the more important business here. [b “If that's everything, lets get this show on the road.”]
The two Chaos girl were to leave first, and just as they were about to, Issac places a hand of Irina's shoulder to stop her. [b “Be careful out there, Irina. We're almost done this night.”] He says with a small smile. For the situation, it was all that he could offer, despite wanting to give her more... But the thought of the end of their first date, despite his more rational mind here, made him internally cringe for a moment. It was a wonder how he ever got a girlfriend.
Once the two left, Issac and Cleo waited a respectable amount of time before leaving themselves. He followed Belladonna's instructions, leading them to the train and hopping on before hopping off at the business district. It wasn't hard to find because geographically, it often coincides with the "city centre" or "downtown", but the two concepts differ: many cities have a central business district located away from its downtown. And downtown for the most part was where their base of operations were. It was a little crummy looking, and now that they were here, Issac noticed the stark contrast of the areas. The business district was more brightly lit and more lively despite it being night. The people were dressed better, and there wasn't the same signs of wear and tear on the streets or buildings, and they were built sleeker looking than the buildings downtown. There was heavier traffic from the flying cars above them as well.
Looking over his shoulder, Issac spots Irina and Belladonna, giving them a brief nod before turning back to look at the buildings in front of them. So far it didn't look like there was anyone from Order and Chaos around here, but that could quickly change. Not to mention, Issac had no idea who already had their own Order lackeys or not... He'd assume the futuristic looking Empire State Building would already be taken and he flocked towards one of the closer buildings. Considering he was [i almost] a lawyer, in a business standpoint, it would make sense as to businesses grabbing up as many Order members as possible to make some kind of makeshift PMC group. People enlisted in to this war by Order probably weren't picky, joining up with who had more Order members, and then that exec would lord it over the others, offering them protection as long as they paid up... At least that was the theory Issac was going with for now. Only time would tell.
[b “This one.”] Issac points out to Cleo. It was an office building, being dwarfed by a few other of the bigger buildings in the area. [b “Why don't e go ask them if they're open for business.”]
Irina and Cleo both moved toward Issac when he tried to stand. Then they looked at each other as if wondering what the other thought she was doing. Getting along was easier said than done, but at least they weren’t quite at each others throats. Yet. Tiara seemed displeased by his attempt to stand too soon and nudged his leg with her head with a little sound like a meow that sounded like she was trying to scold him.
Cleo’s mouth twitched like she was trying not to smile. Whatever Tiara intended, Cleo clearly understood. Her expression went more serious and thoughtful while Issac explained his plan, and her part in it.
Belladonna took the device from him and shrugged,[+purple “I can do lookout and directions. How do we stay in touch, or is that something we figure out once we have some money?”] She was already looking over the map. She wasn’t [i super] familiar with the area, but she’d been here asking around just long enough that she was the default directions person for now. Great.
Irina had her arms crossed and was thinking things over. She looked calm, but the slightly faster movement of the blood around her gave away her anxiety. He’d be going in without her, which she didn’t exactly like, but he had a point. If they were [i both] Order then this sort of thing probably wouldn’t happen if they ran into anyone who was also Order. Him going with Cleo was the option least likely to get him sucked into a fight to begin with. She nodded before answering,[#a31200 “It makes sense. Just… be careful. We’ll meet back here. If we’re going to split up for safety, then let’s not get seen as a big group outside here unless we have to.”]
The last thing she wanted was someone seeing him with her and Belladonna then attacking him as soon as he was away from them. It was a really good thing that Cleo had a creature that could heal, otherwise she wasn’t sure what they would do with Issac hurt like that. She knew she should be more grateful, but when she looked at Cleo out of the corner of her eye she just felt an almost overwhelming urge to slit her throat like she’d done to the Chaos speedster. She had a feeling that would feel more satisfying, but they were trying to be a team. She was going to have to reign that impulse in. How were Issac and Belladonna doing so well? They made it look so easy.
While Issac had talked Tiara finished healing his leg. Once she was done she nudged his leg again with a more pleased sound before going to rub against Cleo’s leg. Cleo smiled down at Tiara before answering Issac,[+hotpink “So, that’s the plan? It… isn’t bad really. Of course I’ll come. I’ve got your back, Issac.”]
Cleo flashed a cheerful smile. It was a lot more natural to agree to work with him. She was glad he seemed to trust her enough to bring her along like that. His team was really odd, but the two of them could look out for each other. She was still sort of expecting Irina or Belladonna to stab her in the back. She offered her hand to help him up,[+hotpink “If that’s it then I think we should go before it gets any later. Tiara says your leg should be fine now. How does it feel? Sort of tingles for a few minutes, right?”]
Belladonna sighed and held the little map out,[+purple “Anyway, you’re probably going to want to look somewhere around this street.”] She pointed out where she meant,[+purple “Just whenever the area starts looking [i really] nice. Big gates and walls and stuff, you’re looking for one of those sorts of places. You know that train we took? Take it farther to get past Alder’s turf without drawing too much attention. You have to go past there to get to the rich neighborhood, or take a really long detour. Get off at the business district. That’ll only get you so close to the really wealthy people you want and isn’t the most direct way, but better than getting caught just you two in Chaos turf.”]
Belladonna looked at Irina with a smile,[+purple “Iri and I can take the more direct route on foot. We’ll leave first, head to that corner,”] She indicated where she meant on the map. An intersection on the street she’d shown earlier near where the businesses, which were probably all offices and upscale places, gave way to the rich residences,[+purple ”and keep an eye and ear out for trouble and you guys. When we see you we’ll follow at a distance.”]
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