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Private Loose Ends [M]

Discussion in 'Ark City' started by Veloce Visrin, Sep 22, 2018.

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  1. Veloce Visrin

    Veloce Visrin Carciphona

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    Veloce made an amused sound. She hadn't realized how tightly she'd been holding herself, but with Raphael's reply her whole body relaxed, shoulders and back going slack with relief. The uncomfortable knot in her stomach disappeared with the ease of spun sugar touching water.

    Still friends, then. Thank the gods.

    "Yes, we'll try not to repeat that experience. But no promises." Despite the teasing, Veloce's smile had no edge to it, only the soft warmth of affection.

    Their conversation faded beneath the opening notes of the next song to come over the radio, which in turn was drowned out by Caleb's shouting. The ork slapped at Mike's hand as the other man reached for the dial.

    "Stop touching it already! My car, my music!"

    ---​

    They came to a part of the city Veloce had never seen before. It was dark here, the streets narrow and empty, no pedestrians, no signs. Buildings rose tall and silent in neat grid rows around them, bearing little in the way of distinguishing features, though as the headlights sliced across the night Veloce did spot segmented metal doors chained shut, and the shallow slopes of loading docks. A warehouse district. A place of industry, and not in the bright, noisy way that the rest of Saenghu understood it.

    The largest of the buildings waited at the end of the road. This one stood out if only because the surrounding lot was absolutely swamped with cars. There were no marks on the ground, no painted lines for guidance, but their owners had somehow managed to park their vehicles in some semblance of order anyway. People milled about in loose packs here and there, some chatting, some smoking, some glancing about with barely contained restlessness. Some with visible weapons at their hips or in holsters. Every single one looked like they'd happily jump at the chance for a fight.

    Caleb squeezed the station wagon to a stop between two sleek black sedans. The group climbed out, and Mike pointed at the building behind them. The rumble of heavy bass echoed faintly from its walls, and Veloce thought briefly of the Lagoon.

    "That's the Coliseum. The scepter you're looking for is in there somewhere."

    "Any ideas on how to get inside? Since we've ruled out storming in?"

    Caleb smiled innocently. "Why don't you take lead, Snakeskin? Put your connection to Rosaire to work. Pretend you're late 'cause you had to drag this pair of new recruits around, show 'em the ropes and all that." He dipped his head at Veloce and Raphael.

    Mike squinted thoughtfully. "I guess I could. I know most of the guys who work the door. They wouldn't ask too many questions."

    "Fantastic." Caleb's smile widened, tusks showing. "Then, I'll stay here and make preparations. I'm more efficient outdoors, anyway. Shaman shit, y'know."

    The ork stepped over to Raphael, a green glow humming at his fingers. He extended them towards Raphael's temples, and Caleb's eyebrows lifted, asking for permission.

    "Sight spell. It'll let me see what you see, so I can keep track of what's happening inside. That scepter'll come up for auction at some point; when it does, I'll make sure there's an opportunity for you guys to snatch it."

    "What kind of opportunity?"

    "You'll know when you see it, trust me."

    Mike nodded and straightened the edges of his jacket. "Okay. Better get a move on. Any questions, you two?"
     
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  2. Raphael Santiago

    Raphael Santiago The Mortal Instruments
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    Undercover missions, in case one could call this one, weren't as foreign to the vampire as one might've assumed. He surely was no spy and never had gotten official intelligence work training, no; working as a vampire, as a clan's leader specifically, meant having to lie and pretend though, more often than not. The mundanes could not, under any circumstances, know about the Downworld and the secrets kept within it, so Raphael had learned how to be sneaky and pave his way with white lies. This here would not be any different, though he was aware that there were more non-mundane beings around than he would've liked.

    His head flinched back at first when the hand approached, eyeing the glow suspiciously - the explanation did a lot in easing that discomfort though. The vampire moved his head back into reach, feeling the magic enter his skin - and he might not have been able to see it himself, but a green glow flooded his eyes for a moment, before everything returned to normal. He wasn't knowledgeable in the anatomy of orcs, but something told him, that Caleb would appreciate the far finer vision he'd been gifted for tonight, including the darkvision, even if it would only work as long as he saw through Raphael's eyes - or so he assumed the spell to work. He couldn't be sure, of course.

    "Does anything in there involve touching silver?" Raphael asked, eyes slightly narrowed on the building before he met Mike's gaze. "I'm allergic." Which, as Veloce knew, was a huge understatement, but Raphael didn't want to lure more attention to that fact than was absolutely necessary. Veloce might've trusted these people, but the vampire didn't know them properly yet. And though he at least mentioned it for his own sake, he had no intentions of making a big fuss about it. Veloce had been the exception, a year and a half back, for she had used this weakness to save him - but he was well aware that not everybody could be trusted like this.
     
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  3. Veloce Visrin

    Veloce Visrin Carciphona

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    Mike returned Raphael's look with a confused head tilt. "Silver? Weirdly specific, but no. You should be fine."

    "The scepter is orichalcum and ruby," Veloce added. "No focused protections against... non-humans. But even if there are, I'll handle them."

    She flexed her fingers pointedly. Beside her, Caleb touched his own fingers to his temple, eyes briefly glowing green as he tested his optic spell. The ork grinned, pleased.

    "Darkvision? Sweet. I mean, I can cast my own, but still. Sweet."

    Their roles and responsibilities settled, Mike led the way between the cars and gangs up to the front of the building.

    The door was flanked by two men, one built like an oak tree with tusks bigger than even Caleb's, and the other shorter and sinewy, his eyes gleaming gold under the Coliseum's lights. Mike strolled up to the latter; they clasped hands, giving each other a friendly slap on the back as they embraced.

    "Hey, Dumi! Guard duty, huh? Break up any fights yet?"

    Dumi leaned back, laughing. As his mouth flashed open, Veloce noted that his teeth were all pointed, like a shark's. "Still waiting for one! How about you? Weren't you supposed to be at the Lagoon?"

    "Naw. Babysitting a couple of rookies for the boss." Mike gestured at Veloce and Raphael. "They just started. Doing pretty good so far—and by that I mean they're doing everything I tell them to. So I thought they deserve a little fun tonight."

    "Yeah, I got that."

    Dumi nodded. He looked Veloce over, his gaze flicking briefly down to her chest before crossing to Raphael. Dumi paused then, golden eyes narrowing. He pointed.

    "I feel like I seen you somewhere before, hey. Like in the paper, maybe? What'd you used to do?"
     
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  4. Raphael Santiago

    Raphael Santiago The Mortal Instruments
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    He gave Caleb a faint smile, somehow feeling pride in knowing the other liked his darkvision. In knowing his vampiric senses were useful not only to himself, but also to Veloce's friends. He could help her and them, even if he would've tagged along regardless, and it felt good to be useful. He followed both Veloce and Mike towards the building, thinking about what kind of fake identity he might've had to take up if any; yet, when they stepped up to the entrance, Mike doing small talk with his buddies, it became terribly clear that it wouldn't be that easy.

    Raphael could only assume which article the other was talking about. There had been a few of them when he'd been here last time. He couldn't know what the guy would think of a former vampire clan leader who had outed himself publicly to put a stop to the murders on his own kin - which was why he went for a slither of a lie, mixed with a tad of truth instead. Frowning and then slightly rolling his eyes while pulling his lips into a thin line. "Hey, amigo, we don't talk about that anymore, okay? Everyone makes a mistake once in a while," he told Dumi with a bit of a smile to make sure he didn't sound offended or aggressive after whatever he just made up to have been written into the papers, only a bit embarrassed about this story that they didn't talk about anymore.
     
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  5. Veloce Visrin

    Veloce Visrin Carciphona

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    Dumi's golden eyes widened. "Oh! Oh, yeah. 'Course. I didn't mean to—sorry. Uh." He drew himself up straight in a way that looked like an attempt to salvage his dignity. Dumi nodded at Mike. "Anyway, you and your buddies are clear to go in."

    Mike clapped his friend on the shoulder. "Thanks, man. See you later. Don't fall asleep."

    Inside the Coliseum, the enormous space of the once-warehouse was well-lit and warm. Noisy. Gang bosses seated at small tables making polite conversation, flanked by bodyguards; their minions seated at bigger tables, their chatter somewhat less polite, holding fans of cards or fistfuls of dice; workers weaving between the bodies, ferrying trays of snacks and booze to eager hands. The whole thing was surprisingly well catered. Then again, Veloce didn't claim to be an expert on gangster parties.

    One side of the room featured a long raised block, with rows of folding chairs marching away from it. The audience was at a healthy capacity, watching and listening to a man strolling up and down the stage.

    Mike pointed. "That'll be the auction; looks like they started already. Why don't you guys grab some seats?" He rubbed his hands together, grinning. "And I'll grab us some drinks."

    Veloce started to tell him that she didn't want anything, but Mike was gone before she could get a word out. Slippery, appropriate for a snakeman. She sighed, and shrugged at Raphael.

    "Shall we?"

    They found empty chairs at the end of a back row. Their closest neighbors gave the two of them appraising looks, but left it at that, more interested in the auction than in a couple of newcomers.

    Veloce was interested, too, and not just in the scepter. Even from here she felt the magic of the artifacts being paraded on stage, a familiar static running beneath her skin. Rich in arcane energy, old and powerful, items any suitably rich gangster of Ark City would be happy to have while they went about their questionable business.

    Where did they all come from? Crafted by skilled artisans? Simply dropped into Pandora and found?

    Stolen, like her client's?

    The auctioneer played his part well, voice growing in volume and excitement as the prices climbed ever higher. One by one, the artifacts found new homes. A sword that could cut through dragon scales like parchment. A book for summoning demons. A stone talisman that allowed the wearer to walk through walls. But no scepter yet.

    Veloce slouched a little lower in her seat, arms crossed, impatience thick in her throat.

    "I wonder what's keeping him," she said.

    Mike still wasn't back yet. Maybe he'd decided to keep the drinks for himself.
     
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  6. Raphael Santiago

    Raphael Santiago The Mortal Instruments
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    For a moment, he let the slightly annoyed glare linger, for good measure, then he nodded only faintly and followed Veloce into the building. He couldn't believe it'd been that easy after all, but he wasn't gonna question their luck. Or even complain.
    It was still somewhat of a mindbending task to think his old self had gone all out with his identity, had risked a lot for his clan, while this Raphael, back in New York, just before he'd come here, had been forced to leave them because the leadership position had gotten to his head. It was one of the reasons why he hadn't taken up that position again, once he'd come here, even if he could've. Because who would've stopped him, right? Yet, here he was, working with the clan, being a part of it, but not planning on stepping up to the leadership position anytime soon. Or ever again. Besides, Eli, Abbigail and Al were doing a pretty decent job sharing the responsibility, so why change that?

    The smell of food, alcohol, cigarette smoke and all kinds of different blood flowing through the criminals' veins, nearly gave Raphael a headache as they made their way through the rows of tables and chairs. Just as Veloce took a breath, he as well did to tell Mike he really didn't need any drink right now, but the guy was gone quickly and all that was left for them to do, was settle down and hope he wouldn't insist on them drinking anything.

    And like that, the auction went on, Raphael's eyes fixed on every box that was carried onto the stage to be revealed to be yet another non-scepter. A pair of dice that would show you the likelihood of whatever you asked them. A cloak of invisibility to humans. Even a sword that glowed when werewolves were around - at which point one or two of just-mentioned lycans in the middle row loudly complained, forcing the auction to pause for good two minutes before the guy up on stage continued as if nothing had happened.

    "Mh?" Raphael looked at Veloce, a similarly impatient mood settling into his bones. Then took a subtle look around before half-loudly whispering: "Do you want me to look for him?" Scanning the room for Mike's scent shouldn't be a problem, he thought, even as a vampire who didn't have the nose of a werewolf.
     
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  7. Veloce Visrin

    Veloce Visrin Carciphona

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    Veloce considered for a moment before she shook her head. "No. You're the one with Caleb's Sight spell. He wanted to be able to see when the scepter appears." She drummed her fingers against her arm, tilting her head, working out a tired kink that had settled into her shoulder. "Whatever plan he has in mind, your vision must be important."

    More important than Mike's presence. Perhaps an unkind thought, but Veloce didn't place much faith in someone who'd lost so quickly during the fight back at the Lagoon. The snakeman had done admirably to secure them entry into the Coliseum, but beyond that, what good was he, really?

    She wondered, not for the first time, what sort of thoughts ran through Mike's head now. Did he think he was betraying his colleagues, like Dumi? Or his boss, Rosaire? Did he understand that Veloce and Raphael were not truly his allies? With his soul altered as it had been, he was only playing the role of a tool.

    An excited murmur from the audience brought Veloce out of her musings. Sitting up straight, she turned her eyes to the stage. A long, lacquered box had been carried out and placed beside the auctioneer. He reached into it. His hand came away wrapped around a rod of pale brass, capped at one end by a fat, red gem.

    Veloce wasn't sure how hard she elbowed Raphael in her sudden excitement. "That's it," she breathed. "That's the scepter."

    How to get it, though?

    The auctioneer began his usual chant, prices ringing out over the crowd. Veloce slowly stood from her chair, not sure what signal she was waiting for, but determined to be ready when it came. Her fingers flexed at her sides, all her senses feeling razor-sharp as if run over a whetstone. She took measure of the distance from here to the stage. It was short enough for a teleport, but surely the gangsters would have prepared against magic of that nature. Maybe it was worth the risk?

    She felt a tremor under her feet then, so slight that at first Veloce almost thought she'd imagined it. But it continued, growing in intensity, the floor shifting and squirming with such force as to threaten her balance. A long groan traveled through the air, not from the people, but from the building itself—the squeal of metal, of twisting girders, of furniture falling over. The walls cracked and crumbled, a thunderous noise mingling with the beginning of screams from all around as comprehension took hold of the crowd. A window above them shattered, letting a shaft of moonlight fall into the old warehouse as the lights went dark one by one.

    The first sizeable chunk of debris to land among the audience jolted Veloce out of her horror and into action. She thrust her arms out, black and turquoise tendrils snaking down to gather in her hands, twin pools of crackling, glowing light. Summoning every last bit of power she had, Veloce pushed her magic into the building. In the next breath, the same light was flickering over the walls, lines of magic criss-crossing each other in a great, glowing net.

    But it was too much. Trying to keep the Coliseum from fully collapsing was like trying to hold onto chaos itself. Too much weight, too much destruction already in motion. Impossible to save. All Veloce could hope for was that the gangsters got themselves gone before her strength ran out.

    The crowd panicked and fled, running into and over one another in their desperation. The scepter lay forgotten by its box on the stage.
     
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  8. Raphael Santiago

    Raphael Santiago The Mortal Instruments
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    Maybe it was. More important than whatever Mike was doing, that was. Maybe they'd only really used him to gain access, and now he'd become useless. Raphael didn't know Caleb well - or at all, really. He trusted the guy, because Veloce did, and that was that. But maybe he was holding a grudge over the weresnake for...something. Even now, that he was on their side. Or Caleb really didn't care that much about people he didn't know well.

    Whatever it was, it made Raphael wonder if, given the chance, Caleb would leave him behind too; not that Veloce would allow that, if she could avoid it, the vampire confident in their friendship despite the slightly changed situation - but what if she didn't get to give permission, knocked unconscious and Caleb only having eyes for her and her rescue? Not that Raphael wouldn't be able to save himself from most situations, and given the chance, he'd try and rescue Veloce too - had already done so, back on a dark winter night, in an abandoned mansion, facing against a witchhunter - but the difference was, that he'd come back for Caleb, if he could.

    It didn't matter much, he supposed; once whatever the half-orc had planned, would go down, Raphael would try and locate Mike in the crowd. Maybe, in parts, because he was feeling somewhat guilty for encantoing him like this.

    He shot the sorceress a reflexive glare when her elbow connected with his ribs, but her attention was so focused on the stage, he doubted she'd notice. His eyes skipped to the scepter held in the auctioneer's hand - a good piece of craftspersonship if he ever saw one - then around the crowd, to the people who immediately started shouting and raising their hands to signal interest.

    Whispering half-loudly, he started: "Okay, what's the---" He didn't get to finish his sentence. Even before Veloce must've sensed it, he could feel a slight vibration in the ground beneath their feet, and he somehow figured, that it wouldn't just be a single, separate occurrence. Veloce had risen from her seat. He followed, the collective increase in heartbeats around him making his shoulders tense up. It wasn't as much that he was hungry and couldn't control himself if he had to listen to their pulsating symphony any longer; but Raphael wasn't exactly keen on smelling the amount of fear in this room, once it would take over. It'd make his head hurt terribly, and cloud his senses, and nobody needed that, especially not Veloce - or her friend Caleb, who was counting on his vision.

    Magic crackled through the air, sent the hairs at his neck standing up, but less so than the sight of the debris crashing down, likely crushing someone, no matter if he looked on to make sure or not. "Is that your friend's definition of help?!" he called to Veloce, sightly exasperated - assuming it even was Caleb's doing.

    The scepter seemed entirely forgotten, up there on the stage, and Raphael guessed if they wanted a chance at getting the thing, now was it. He shot a last look at Veloce: "Keep this up just a minute longer - I'll get the thing." And with it, the human form was gone, replaced by smoke that slithered easily and undisturbed through the rows of chairs and fleeing people, up onto the stage. Inches away from the scepter, it changed, shifted into a large bird, claws wrapping around the brass staff and carrying it back to where the vulture could spot Veloce's turquoise magic flickering through the air.

    Spreading his wings wide, to slow down his speed when he descended, Raphael dropped the scepter into her hands - at least aimed as such, cawing at her and hoping she'd catch both the hint and the staff - then, after moving them to gain height again, he dove into a loop. The plan was to grab onto Veloce's shoulders and carry her out of the building, through the roof, most likely, seeing as the entrances accessible by foot were starting to get crowded. He was aware of how painful that could get, what with his strong claws digging into her jacket and skin, but he figured she'd hopefully forgive him, because it A) saved her from a collapsing building, and because she could B) heal herself pretty well from what he remembered.

    Once she'd be safely outside, he could go and look for Mike.

    Raphael dived to grab her.
     
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  9. Veloce Visrin

    Veloce Visrin Carciphona

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    Veloce, too focused to spare the breath to answer, could only flick her eyes at Raphael in acknowledgement as he left in a ribbon of smoke.

    'Just a minute longer.' Seemingly an easy task, but they were now measuring time in precious seconds. Each one a beat of eternity in itself, straining her senses to breaking. Her heart hammered against her ribs, Veloce feeling too warm under her skin even as sweat dried cool and clammy on the back of her neck. She pulled in air through sharp, fast gulps. The crackling light-net over the walls trembled, her power stretched to its limits. Faltering under its burden. The building did not want to stay standing, and it would tear her down too, if she didn't let go.

    Locking her teeth together, Veloce forced her sightline towards the doors. A river of silhouettes churned in the night, their movements frantic, voices ringing with terror. How many people were still inside? They would die if she stopped. They were probably bad people—as it usually was with those who operated at the boundaries of the law, stealing and exploiting where they could, criminals indulging in greed and corruption. But Veloce wasn't good, either. And besides—judge, jury, executioner? They were roles meant for someone else.

    A shriek sounded above, and then came a flash of brass as the scepter dropped in front of her. It banged off her wrist, breaking her concentration. The magic in her hands dispersed, and darkness reclaimed the walls as the light-net disintegrated into a brief, shimmering cloud.

    She expected the relief of release; instead a painful flood of feedback poured across her senses, sharding her vision apart. Veloce stumbled to her knees in an aborted attempt to catch the scepter, one hand curling weakly over the metal as she pressed the other between her eyes. She struggled to breathe—then cried out as talons dug into her shoulders. By some miracle Veloce remembered to grasp the scepter more tightly as she was carried off her feet.

    Freed of her intervention, the Coliseum resumed its collapse. Rubble rained down around them, glass and metal and stone slipping between the flaps of Raphael's wings and onto the people still fleeing below. Veloce couldn't look, couldn't listen to any of it. She forced herself to pay attention only to the open night waiting beyond the doors.
     
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