This was the first RP post I completed for Ani. Huge thanks to Yuki Frost's player for drawing me into this storyline and giving me the opportunity to write up a bit that showed Ani interacting with eir old element, since prior to eir reform I'd had very few opportunities to RP Ani when e was exclusively redside. This was also an opportunity to acknowledge a couple of my favorite contacts from playing the original Ani up, Sharkhead's Captain Petrovich and St. Martial's Jezebel Jones.
"Ani, are you on comms?" The voice belonged to Yuki Frost, another Reciprocator.
The Androgyne twirled through the mass of Rikti and Vanguard operatives that swarmed across the bowl in the center of the mothership. Eir hands whipped through the air in an exhausting, violently graceful dance of serpentine movements, alternately plucking at the threads of fate e saw connecting em to every entity in the horde and releasing bolts and cascades of radiation. In the instants-brief interim between waves of Rikti defenders, e dropped a hand down to flick eir comm to hands-free mode, so it would transmit as it detected eir voice pattern.
"Not only am I, now I'm actually awake," e shouted in reference to the previous night, when e had become so exhausted in the field e'd left eir comm on when e finally crashed. "What's up, Yuki?" Waking up to news of a raid on the mothership being underway had cleared up any lingering tiredness quickly.
"Look out, more Magi!" shouted Static Bolter somewhere behind em in the chaos, and e whirled to see several ornately armored Rikti barreling down the side of the bowl.
Yuki's voice came across the comm again; she sounded about as tired as Ani had been the night before. "I'd like to have a chat with you, whenever you get some time."
The Androgyne readied both hands, drawing handfuls of threads out of the mass e saw swirling around em and preparing to ensnare and mire the Rikti reinforcements. Before e had a chance to act further though, the hull of the mothership shuddered beneath the assault party's feet. The shield generator was coming back online.
The Vanguard's emergency teleporters evacuated the hull en masse, and Ani released the threads with a soft, disappointed sigh as e felt the pull begin. In an instant, the dozens of Vanguard operatives were torn from the mothership and found themselves assembled on the battlements of the fort at Point du Hoc. E heard a familiar voice "Woah!" somewhere amid the congratulations, back-slapping, and early coordination for the next assault. "Urgh...it always turns my stomach when that happens..."
The Androgyne spoke into eir gauntlet, "Shield just went back up, Yuki, so I'm open. Heading back to the Citadel, hopefully my coffee hasn't gone cold already. Also: nice zapping, Miss Bolter." E raised a hand and waved towards Static Bolter over the heads of those still gathered.
Bolter returned the wave, looking like the overall sense of victory in the air was making up for the moment of displacement sickness. "Thanks Ani, and thanks for the assist. Things were getting a little hairy," she replied via the Reciprocators channel as Ani triggered eir Citadel transporter.
Yuki was in the Great Hall when Ani arrived, in her civilian attire with her hair worn straight and unfrosted. She slipped her PDA into her pocket as Ani strode down to meet her, the boots of eir Vanguard armor clanking against the floorplates. She looked as tired as she'd sounded over the comm; something had the girl stressed out. "How did things go in the field?"
Ani considered her for a moment, then nodded. "Quite good. Let me grab my espresso and get out of the armor," he said, and ducked off to the break room and barracks to do just those things. E returned a moment later in eir own civvies. Studying Yuki, e suggested between sips of coffee, "You look like you could use some yourself."
Yuki didn't respond to that at first, but she was eyeing the mug. "You can take a few minutes if you need it. I don't mean to snag you as soon as you get out of the War Zone."
Ani shrugged. "I'm used to shifting gears on a dime after working with Vanguard this long. Have to be with the unpredictability of the Rikti."
"Okay. And that...doesn't seem like a bad idea. Let me grab one of those and we'll meet in my office."
Ani nodded and they split, Yuki to the kitchen and Ani to the Tertiary Annex to wait at her office door. E followed her in when she returned and stood with eir hands clasped behind eir back until she gestured for em to have a seat on the couch.
Before addressing Ani, Yuki reached up to her Bluetooth, broadcasting to the group, "I'm going to be off comms for just a moment," then switched it off, though she left it in her ear. Ani issued similar advisement and pulled eir own out to tuck it in eir pocket.
Yuki looked at Ani for a long moment, gathering her thoughts while she sipped at her espresso. After a moment, she seemed to have decided on how to approach whatever subject she had to discuss with em. "I wanted to know a bit about any ties you might've kept with the underworld."
Ani furrowed eir brow, opening eir mouth in a silent "ah." E glanced down into eir own cup, swirling the coffee about with a gentle motion of eir wrist.
"Don't worry, this isn't any sort of inquisition or me wanting to poke into your personal stuff."
Ani shook eir head to indicate that hadn't been eir concern. While e wasn't particularly proud of eir past, serving the goals of Arachnos as a "Destined One", or the deadly loss of control that had first brought em to their attention, e didn't feel any particular shame over eir past either. "Well, you'd have every right as an officer to do so, I would've understood."
Yuki nodded, perhaps a little impatiently, and pressed on. "I was more wondering if you'd have the contact resources to help me with something."
"Hmm." Ani exhaled softly with lips pursed, considered. "I've made my standing with Arachnos pretty clear, both when I left and perhaps even more forcefully recently...if it involves them, I can't be of much use. There are those in the Isles I...well, I wouldn't say 'trust', but people I'd risk relying on if I had no other options, though."
Yuki shifted in her seat. "I'll just come out and say what I need. Last night I was doing a fairly routine break-in at Gen-Tech Labs...a Council operation. They were attempting to steal something called the Phased Linear Oscillation Transducer. Jess kinda explained to me what it was for but, to be honest, I didn't much understand it."
Ani smiled faintly and took a sip of eir own espresso before setting it on the couch armrest and clasping eir hands in eir lap, listening attentively.
"Well, I had the device recovered, along with some..." Yuki's face took on a conflicted expression. Ani let eir smile fade into a concerned, questioning look to encourage her to continue, though her pause seemed more out of doubt as she sought the right word than hesitation. "...help. Only, he wasn't there to help me. After we recovered the device, he incapacitated me...and...um..." There was that look again.
Ani cocked an eyebrow, but turned eir face from Yuki so it would not seem confrontational or inquisitive, curious to let her explain. E picked eir coffee back up and studied its contents.
"Well. He snatched the P.L.O.T. device and took off." Yuki's expression seemed to clear of whatever conflict had briefly distracted her, took on a harder, almost annoyed look. "Said he had a buyer lined up. I want to go about finding the device, but more importantly the one who took it from me.
"Most of my contacts are Council-based, so, I'm running out of options. I've checked every database I could think of looking for this guy and came up empty-handed. So I'm thinking if I can find out who the device got sold to, maybe that would be my way of learning more about...him."
Ani looked back up. "That's going to be tough to narrow down. I've heard of the device, never known what it does either, but it changes hands a lot, everyone's got a use for it. I'd say to work backwards, figure out who's looking for it, try to figure out the fence that might have handled the transaction. May need to wait until the device surfaces again and trace its history from there, but...hm." Ani considered briefly. "It's not so much the device you're looking for now, is it."
Yuki looked down into her own coffee for a moment, then nodded. "I'd be lying if I said this wasn't personal."
Ani sat back on the couch and folded eir arms, observing Yuki while e mused. E'd only spoken to her a handful of times since joining the Reciprocators, but e was developing a siblingly fondness towards the girl. When they spoke, it was usually about school; high school was still very fresh in Ani's mind, and e'd gone to public school as well. She seemed to recognize eir understanding of what it meant to be "the meta kid" at school, leading her to open up about parts of her own experience in a way she wasn't comfortable discussing with those closer to her. Ani had been the same way with eir own parents, and later eir guardian, not wanting them to worry about situations e knew e was strong enough to tolerate on eir own.
Yuki's experience was more severe than Ani's, though. While Ani's appearance was decidedly unique, the only people who had known about eir actual mutant powers in high school had been those who had survived the Rikti invasion alongside em. Yuki's metahuman status was clearly visible due to the constant glow given off by her eyes. She could never totally "stealth"; even in a room full of her peers she would always be somewhat alone. Strong as she might be in living with that at school, it could become a vulnerability elsewhere.
Yuki frowned into her cup. "Cold already," she sighed, as her powers had sapped most of the heat from the coffee already. She took another sip anyway.
"Yuki..." Ani began, but derailed emself immediately, "Okay, first, yes. I can ask around. I'm not exactly welcome in the Isles but I'm also...established. I should be able to turn something up. But." Ani took a moment to order eir words carefully, returning to the side-thought e'd started with. "I realize you've been doing...this," Ani made a broad, sweeping gesture indicating the Citadel of Defiance around them, "Longer than I have; may I offer a different perspective, based on my other experiences?"
Yuki looked at Ani, a bit warily but also seemingly buoyed by eir already stated willingness to help. "That's what I was hoping for."
Ani nodded, pursing eir lips through another brief moment's thought. "However this guy got under your skin, he probably meant to. Making it personal could be just what he wants, something to use against you. Heroes are kind of predictable like that." A trace of a smile flickered across eir lips.
Yuki seemed to consider Ani's words, yet almost dismiss them at the same time. "I'm sure you are probably right, but I'd still like to find him. ...I don't even know if he falls under the definition of a 'villain'."
"How would you define him, then?"
"I don't really know. Maybe that's part of what I want to know. He went out of his way to protect me, when we fought the Council." She fidgeted, looked almost flustered. "All I've really got to go on is part of a name: Chance."
Ani's eyes rolled up slightly as e scanned eir recollections. "Doesn't ring a bell. It's somewhere to start, at least."
"Just...so we're clear. This is a personal request, Ani. I'd appreciate the help, but it's in no way an official 'order' or anything like that. In fact, the less 'official' and more low key we could keep this, the better I'd feel."
Ani rolled eir eyes again, this time in amusement, and laughed to emself softly. "Oh, I can be discreet. Trust me." E caught emself as eir eyes drifted towards the door to look across the Annex, and eir expression quickly sobered as e fixed eir eyes on Yuki again. "Just assure me that if you find this guy, you're gonna be careful."
A hint of a smile snuck onto Yuki's face as she looked back into her coffee. "I'm always careful. Yeah, he caught me off guard once, but...I plan on being ready for him next time."
Ani assessed Yuki a moment longer, then gave a firm, final nod. It was clear she was set on this pursuit, but e could at least keep an eye on how it developed, in case she needed someone to keep an eye out for her. "Fill me in on what went down, I'll start from there and let you know what I turn up."
Dour gray sunlight did not so much shine as seep through the filthy clouds blanketing the skies over Sharkhead Isle, snaking into the dingy bar around a slight figure in the doorway. The light was persistently battered back by the perpetual haze of smoke, always cloying and thick in establishments like the Chum Bucket, that swirled angrily towards the open door.
The figure stepped in, pulling a loose-fitting tan windbreaker tighter around its lean torso, brushing a few loose strands of pale wheaten hair which had escaped its ponytail back behind one ear. Captain Petrovich sat up in his seat at a table near the back of the bar, recognizing the movements at once, the oddly relaxed yet ever-aware stance with which the new patron carried itself.
Their eyes met and Petrovich gave a dissatisfied, forced smile, but nevertheless he gestured to the empty seat at his table. As the visitor neared, it looked to the bartender, motioned to Petrovich and held up two fingers. It then sat, moving with a delicate but purposeful grace to ease fluidly into the battered wooden chair opposite the Russian, offering a smirk in greeting. "Good afternoon, Captain."
Petrovich scratched at his thick, graying beard, grunted softly, questioningly, as if the day's quality had actually been called into doubt. He shook off that musing and offered a brief, yellowed grin. "Ani!" The forced enthusiasm with which he issued the greeting dissipated quickly to reveal the concern beneath. "Yers'd be a ship I didn't expect to see sailin' into this port again."
Ani Hess, the Androgyne, gave a little shrug. The barman delivered them two glasses with ice and a bottle of Petrovich's preferred vodka, poured for each of them. Hess extended a crumpled bill from within its coat pocket to him, and picked up its glass on the return motion. "I won't be long, Captain. I'm not here for you."
Petrovich drummed his fingers on the table once, cupped his glass but did not raise it. "You think y're the only dangerous person in this room, Ani? It's not yer presence what concerns me, it's the potential..." he paused, searching for the word, then sounded it out in hard, even syllables, "...repercussions of being seen with a defector."
The Androgyne took a small sip of vodka and looked around the barroom with obvious distaste on its face, sizing up the sundry lowlifes and thugs who filled the establishment. After its assessment was complete, it smiled thinly at Petrovich. "Perhaps, Captain. But we both know I'm the most dangerous one here. If Arachnos takes an interest, you can tell them what I came for. I'm not here for them either. I'm here about the Council."
Petrovich's good eye narrowed. "Land-lubbers. I've nothing to do with 'em, they get their weapons through other channels. And they know better than to risk their throats interfering with me business!" He took a drink and thumped his glass down pointedly.
The corner of Ani's mouth quirked up, turning the thin smile into a taunting grin. "Absolutely, Captain. You're a dangerous man yourself, aren't you? Let no one accuse of you of going soft in your old age."
The Captain paused in the middle of a drink, his eye twitching wider as he stared over the glass at the Androgyne, the words sinking in.
Ani leaned forward, rested an arm on the table and lowered its voice, "Let's not revisit old deceptions. You have a favor to repay. I'm asking for your help ensuring a friend's safety, and all I need is information."
Petrovich growled under his breath like a wary animal, refilled his glass, and spat, "Ask, then."
"An Archon escaped holding a couple days go in Paragon, name of Davis. Records from a base I raided in Peregrine indicated he's been transferred to the Isles. I'm wagering to the base here, on Sharkhead. He may have an injury to the face."
Petrovich stroked his beard in thought for a long moment, calming as he searched his memory. "Don't know of him by name, but I've caught wind of a new arrival or two lately. Heard of a young hotshot o' theirs with a bandaged face," he gestured disinterestedly towards his own cheek here, "Doesn't come around here, though. Spends his time and money at the Giza trying to look like a bigshot to the ladies." Petrovich barked a laugh and poured himself another drink. "I hear he likes blondes."
Ani sat back in its chair with a satisfied smile, raising its glass to its lips. Its eyes twinkled with mischief over the rim at Captain Petrovich. "Is that so?" e mused.
The atmosphere in Jezebel's was infinitely more welcoming than that of the Chum Bucket, though here in the windowless confines of the Golden Giza no sunlight encroached at all. It was compensated for by the flashing of victorious slot pulls, garish neon and, on the bar stage, dancing lasers.
Tonight's bouncer, a massive wall of beef -- literally, an eight-foot-tall bovine anthropomorph covered in blue hair -- packed into a black business suit, had stepped away from the door to answer a question for the bartender. He didn't seem to see the new girl enter, but Jezebel herself did. Jezebel Jones made a point of sitting at a roped-off corner of the stage, where she could revel closest in the night's entertainment but also keep a watchful eye over her entire establishment. Though she continued the negotiation she was engaged in with the grim-faced but lustful gentleman seated beside her, her eyes drew a bead on the new arrival and did not waver.
Jezebel was the pre-eminent madam on St. Martial -- likely in all the Rogue Isles -- and a large part of her success came from both her intimate knowledge of the physical qualities of her stock and her ability to deduce the individual tastes of potential clients. Her ability to make satisfying matches on the first visit had ensured her several lifetime clients. Though this new arrival dressed to blend in with her girls, Jezebel recognized immediately that she wasn't one of hers. It took only a quick cataloguing of traits from there to realize exactly who she was looking at.
The new girl's hair was a pale, watery blonde, to Jezebel clearly the result of too hurried a yellow rinse over naturally platinum hair. It was at least worn well, a shoulder-length bob razor-layered down the sides to frame and exhibit a long, swanlike neck. Make-up was used sparingly to soften features more handsome than beautiful. The shoulders were broad, verged on mannish, but the halter neck of her loose-fitting violet silk dress helped to counter that impression. One arm seemed just a little smaller than the other; the difference in the light's play off the texture of her skin on either arm suggested to Jezebel the heavy use of cosmetics to conceal discoloration of the skin on the slighter arm. Her waist was slender, her hips narrow, but her dress flared slightly below the silver-studded white belt cinched high on her waist to suggest curvature that while present, wasn't quite as substantial as it was being made to look.
The new girl wasn't a girl at all, though they certainly would pass less experienced scrutiny. No, this was the genderless Arachnos defector, the Androgyne, no doubt pursuing their agenda undercover because they no longer had the freedom to move about Arachnos territory unfettered. Jezebel's pulse quickened and she lifted her radio to contact security, but just before she depressed the talk button she realized the Androgyne was staring directly at her, and had raised one hand in a gesture beseeching patience. Jezebel went still, considering.
She'd employed the Androgyne for a time before the second Rikti invasion began, as their work for Arachnos had brought them through St. Martial. The Androgyne was energetic, but not brash; bold, but not reckless. They would not have come back here without a purpose, and they seemed to recognize that they were in now-unfriendly territory. Whatever their plan, it appeared they intended to be discreet in its execution. Jezebel gave a single nod, but did not move her finger from its position poised over the button.
The Androgyne's hand glid in a smooth arc to the right, directing her vision towards a patron at the bar. Jezebel's gaze followed the direction, and she found herself studying a sturdily built man in an abominably cheap suit, a large skin-tone bandage plastered to his left cheek. He was laughing overly loudly at an off-color joke he himself had just made to the bartender, who only smiled politely in return. Jezebel had a girl sitting on either side of him, and both still scanned the crowd for better prospects -- they knew better than to waste their time on the likes of him.
Jezebel looked back to the Androgyne, unable to repress throaty laughter as she realized they were here to do her a favor, whether they intended to or not. A man like their target undermined the reputation of her elite clientele, poisoned the bar's atmosphere with desperation and insecurity. Jezebel preferred to deal with people who knew what they sought and were ready to pay for it. She looked to one of the girls sitting near the fool and waved her away with a small hand signal directing her to go mingle. Without another look to the Androgyne, she returned to her negotiations, satisfied that a nuisance was about to be taken off of her hands.
Ani eased onto the recently emptied barstool beside--
"Samuel Davis. Archon Samuel Davis." He introduced himself with a hungry leer before Ani'd even had a chance to finish sitting. Petrovich had been right about his taste in women.
Ani pursed eir painted lips into a gently teasing smile, "Surely not the Archon Davis? The one skyrocketing up the ranks of this Council organization I've been hearing so much about?" Ani took a gamble that playing into his self-aggrandizement immediately wouldn't simply tip him off to eir ruse. Between Yuki's description and what Petrovich had been able to provide, Ani felt he could rely on Davis' ego to do most of the work for em.
Davis seemed to wobble in place at first, dumbstruck that for once his renown really had preceded him. Yet as Ani predicted, he seemed to accept it quickly as the inevitable result of his self-promotion. His grin went thin and wide, lending him an air of the serpentine; Ani could almost feel his libido coiling to strike like a viper. "The one and only. What's your name?"
"I'm Ani," e smiled, turning on the barstool to let eir knee brush the Archon's, seemingly accidentally, and tipped her head towards a redhead chatting up a customer in a booth across the bar from them. "I better come clean," e giggled, "Scarlet told me who you were, I just couldn't resist the opportunity to come meet someone so...determined to succeed." Ani reached out and placed eir hand against Davis' arm, stroking his arm through the coarse, cheap fabric of his jacket and adopting a look of fascination.
Davis seemed to swell with pride, and slid off his barstool to stand closer to Ani, putting a hand on eir hip in a clumsy manner nowhere near as effortlessly smooth as he seemed to think he was being. He grinned seedily in agreement with eir assesment, "Well, I am a man who gets what he wants."
Ani put on eir most welcoming smile as e lifted eir hand from Davis' shoulder to rest eir fingertips against his jaw just under the bandage over his cheekbone. "And a man of danger at that. How thrilling."
Davis' eyes narrowed as he was reminded that his face had been marred, but the sleaze in his smile went nowhere. "I'm an important man, sometimes my responsibilities do put me in a bit of risk. Maybe you'd like to come up to my room and I can...tell you more about it."
Ani caught eir lower lip between eir teeth, looked at him askance and batted eir eyelashes, carefully replicating on eir face a perilous struggle between nervousness and eagerness. Davis wasn't exceptionally shrewd by any stretch of the imagination, but Ani didn't wish to risk the deception collapsing before e had him alone by appearing overeager, not in a region this thick with Arachnos presence. "I think that could be...very interesting," e purred shyly.
Luckily, Davis was even more eager than Ani had expected him to be; for all the time he seemed to have spent in the Giza's clubs looking for action, everyone here must have seen through his swagger. Ani could've thrown emself in Davis' lap without any of the pretense and the Archon would have bought it out of sheer desperation. This way was still more entertaining, at least. Davis nearly pulled Ani off eir stool in urging em to eir feet, his hotel room keycard already out of his pocket.
"Not just anyone has the skill, the drive it takes to become an Archon, you know. You must prove yourself to the Council several times over." Davis swiped the card through the reader on the door as he went on about his favorite subject: himself.
"Mm? That's so interesting!" Ani had to put a little extra emphasis on it to make it sound convincing, as e was trying to maintain the appearance of listening to Davis while at the same time scanning the corridor to make sure it was empty.
Ani swayed past Davis into the room, letting him close the door, glancing playfully over eir shoulder at him as e made a bee-line for the mini-bar. E pulled open the refrigerator and feigned deep deliberation over just what beverage would satisfy eir thirst while Davis made himself comfortable. "My ascent was inevitable, really. Even at my young age," Davis was already sporting the beginnings of a bald spot, "I knew I was meant for a position of authority, and seized every opportunity to ensure my talent would not be overlooked."
Ani pulled a small bottle of champagne out of the fridge and procured glasses from the cabinet over the kitchenette. "This room must cost a fortune," e said in seeming awe, gazing around a hotel room e already knew to be the very least of the Giza's otherwise opulent offerings. "The Council must really value your...talent." E popped the cork from the champagne and punctuated eir sentence with a delighted giggle that could as easily be meant to mock Davis as it could be eir reaction to the suddenness of the cork's escape.
Davis had just the reaction Ani wanted. Distraction, deflation as eir seemingly innocent words tickled eir insecurities. For once, he didn't quite have anything to say. E poured champagne into plastic flutes and carried them back to Davis, offering him one before seating emself casually, seemingly unthinkingly, on the bed. Davis interpreted eir choice of seat as invitation, of course, and moved so quickly to ease onto the bed at her side that he left a light trail of sloshed champagne on the carpet.
Ani pretended to sip at eir champagne -- e actually didn't care for it in the slightest, and only chose it in the hopes that the carbonation would leave Davis' stomach a little roiled to add to the coming discomfort. Eir tongue flicked out so quick as to be almost imperceptible (but not quite) as e cleansed eir lips of the little champagne which had clung to them. "How did you get hurt?" e asked in a soft but insistent tone, before Davis could read any further invitations into Ani's carefully orchestrated body language, while he was still distracted by that pink flicker of tongue.
Davis opened his mouth, left it that way for a few seconds. Ani could see the wheels turning...slowly...in his mind, trying to embellish the story even as he reflexively launched into it at eir urging. "A scuffle, just a minor scuffle, with a...with two interfering capes I took the, er, initiative to reckon with most severely."
"Oh, that must have been terribly challenging! You must have excellent training to have beaten two heroes!" Ani feigned a second appraisal, looking Davis over as if seeing his self-proclaimed talent for emself. "What did they do to you?"
Davis ate up the offered chance to further boast, a grin sneaking through the poorly concealed moroseness that had taken him over as Ani forced him to think of his defeat. It was a tell, that he thought had found the means of piquing Ani's interest, and Ani answered it with an eager little smile of eir own. "The boy scored a...glancing, lucky kick, after the girl iced the floor, trying to trip me up. Nothing an accomplished Archon such as myself could not overcome, of course."
Ani pursed eir lips and looked him in the eyes, letting just a glimmer of the disdain e felt slip into eir expression. "You almost make it sound as if you were fighting...children."
Davis' grin faltered.
Ani tilted eir head to the side questioningly, eir face taking on a look of mocking puzzlement. "What kind of pathetic excuse for an Archon can't fend off a couple of nosy teenagers?" By the end of the question, all pretense had left eir voice.
The plastic flute splintered in Davis' hand as his hand flexed shut in anger, and he flung it aside to lunge towards Ani, grabbing for eir throat as he barked, "How dare y--" only to be thrown off balance by Ani vanishing before eir very eyes in a shadowy, sparkling swirl of dissipating transdimensional detritus.
The truth of the set-up sank in; Davis exploded to his feet and bolted for the door, but it was too late. Ani had rematerialized within the room, lashing eir hands out towards him, whipping forward invisible threads of fate with which to snare him before he could leave. As e snapped the threads around Davis' limbs and into his field of vision, the Archon's vision was assaulted with glimpses of what exactly the Androgyne could do to him: he saw a man stripped of his own identity with his body covered in necrotic flesh, the face a crude mimickry of Ani's but the horrified eyes his own.
Davis was rooted in place, trembling against his will, an icy sweat dripping from his brow as he tried in vain to reach for the doorknob. He could not see the threads that bound him in place but their chill bit into his flesh with each attempt to writhe free of them, forcing him to be still. Ani slipped around him to position emself between Davis and the door, a serene smile on eir lips. E kept one hand clenched in a fist at eir side, keeping the threads of fate in place around Davis, subtle flicks of eir wrist repositioning them as they tried to writhe free of eir control.
"Tell me about the boy, Samuel." Ani reached up and peeled the bandage off his face in one sharp motion. There was a rough tear in his cheek, the faintest imprint of a boot's heel still discernible. The flesh around the wound was flecked with gunpowder and tiny bumps of embedded shrapnel, no doubt from the mishap with his gun Yuki had described. Ani traced the still not entirely sealed cut with eir fingernail, and as e drew eir finger along it hooked the nail into the last stitch and plucked at it. "I know it wasn't the first time he's struck the Council. And I know the Council makes a point of researching its enemies. And someone as...highly placed, as valuable as yourself..." Ani giggled mirthlessly. "I'm certain you've been briefed with the extent of what they've learned. Now, you'll share that with me."
Davis growled unintelligibly through teeth locked against the pain of his restraint. Ani let the threads take on only a little bit of slack, easing the pain but staring at him warningly, lifting eir other hand to let him see the shimmering pale green energy beginning to dance around eir fingertips, the visual manifestation of the deadly radiation Davis had seen himself bathed in in the vision granted him by Ani's manipulation of the threads. Davis' face was a mask of conflicting embarassments but also of rage. He spat as he found the strength to speak, "I'll tell you nothing!"
"He's an acquirer. His services go to whoever's got the cash. Sounds to me like he's in it for the danger as much as the payoff, doesn't back down from hard targets. That wasn't the first time he's hit the Council, for example." Ani noticed that spiked Yuki's interest, but e moved quickly on. E'd obtained the information the best way e knew how, but e wasn't eager to explain eir methods. "Goes by the handle 'Chance Profit'."
Yuki repeated the name, her eyes taking on a victorious glint. It wasn't a lot to go on, but putting a complete name to this...adversary...was a step in the right direction. Progress.
"No-one who's hired him has actually encountered him, not face-to-face. Transactions are all handled online. I've got a good hunch about who his client was the night of your run-in, though."
"Oh?" Excitement and frustration mingled on Yuki's face. She was clearly eager to pick Ani over for everything e'd uncovered, yet trying to restrain herself from doing just that at the same time. All of her own leads had been dead ends; Ani's progress served to reinvigorate her own commitment to the pursuit.
"A couple days after the incident at Gen-Tech, McGuffin Enterprises issued a press release stating they're ready to demonstrate their new 'Oscillating Linear Transduction Phaser' for investors. Looked into their background, they were a major competitor of the company that originally held the P.L.O.T.'s patent until it folded after the original theft years ago.
Yuki smirked, "Cute." She pulled her PDA out of her pocket and punched in the company's name. "That's a bit...bold, isn't it? Unless they wanted to rub it in someone's face."
"Could be, but with the inventors out of business and with how much it's changed hands since the original theft, it'd probably be hard to pin anything concrete to McGuffin without more to go on."
"Do we know anything else about the company? Are they mostly legit?"
Ani kept a smile from creeping onto eir face. A day earlier e'd spoken at some length with Cyberette about Yuki's situation. They'd filled in each other's blanks about what had originally happened to fixate their young teammate so intently on the thief. Learning of the kiss he'd stolen had confirmed Ani's suspicions about her fascination. E'd told Jess all e'd uncovered -- though as e did now with Yuki, e'd excluded the details of eir methods.
Ani had agreed to investigate Chance out of eir own budding protectiveness of Frost, but Jess had known her far longer and was even more concerned about the girl's feelings. Ani wouldn't keep anything e'd found from Yuki, but e and Jess were already puzzling through a plan to keep a step ahead of her using their own information and skills, to keep a watchful eye on the situation and, should the opportunity arise, size up this Chance Profit themselves.
Now e saw e was getting Yuki's attention focused back on the original investigation. E just hoped e could keep it there to buy emself and Jess a little more time. "As far as I can tell, yeah. Until this they've been remarkably clean for a business that size operating in Paragon."
"That makes things complicated, then. Unless I have something to suspect them on, it'll be harder to...investigate them."
Ani nodded. "I've still got some feelers out, trying to figure out how they contacted Profit. If someone from McGuffin can be connected to his communication channels, that could serve to pin them down."
Yuki mulled this over quetly for a moment, then gave Ani a warm smile of gratitude, though she still seemed distinctly distracted. "I appreciate all you've done, Ani. At least now I have a full name...full alias, at least."
Ani pursed eir lips. So much for refocusing. "...and a lead on the device itself?" e nudged, trying not to make it sound pointed.
Yuki got the nudge at once, and looked away in an attempt to hide the sheepishness creeping onto her face. "Right. And a lead on the device."
The corner of Ani's mouth quirked up into half a smile, but e didn't chide. "Glad I could help. I'll let you know if I come across anything more specific. ...know I already said it, know you will be, but still. Careful."
Yuki's embarassment dissipated, replaced by gratitude despite the bristling Ani's protectiveness provoked. "I will be."