Big Bird

the strangeness of familiar places

Alex opened up the door to her apartment, checking the little wedges were still in place round the door and that the door mat had not been hovered, that reminded her she need to get a little hoover for her war bag.

swapping ’links had been done in the subway. there were dead spot allover in the crappy public ’trix.

She fired up the soycafe and turned on the trid screen and brought up the search planner. sipping on coffee while she added in the items she’d picked up while she was away.

The girls had left a bushel messages but she really didn’t have the heart to look through them; nor the inclination. All four frames had hits, hits that pulled her the search, the hunt. The flash of reversing contrast on all four arrow made her lick her lips. Wolfs ear pricked up and he whined the question even as he began to lick his chops too.

As she fitted the new pieces to the picture. once done she decided she need perspective. Time to call Father Peter, time for confessional, time for absolution.

on the way to the cathedral she dropped a line to Mr Fixer. just so he knew she was in town and such.

Wolf trotted behind her “why aren’t we just getting on a plane and going?”
“one: I need perspective. two last time I rushed something I nearly got killed”
“good, so why are we going to see him?”
“perspective, he’ll ask me a lot of question that will wipe these half form thoughts from my mind, I can go back to the picture with a clear mind and make some proper plans”
“Wow! you have grown up” wolf looked up “oh no! what does she want?”
the who turned out to be another wolf sat on the corner
“oh, wow” Alex was surprised then not “well, bound to happen eventually. well this our place, Do we fight? or what?”
“or what. and by that I mean I hope she just walks off, just the kind of overly dramatic thing she would indulge in”
and she did, head down and tail flat.
Wolf was despondent, “this is going to be so tedious” he groaned

They wandered on the john Bay park instead, the wind was biting so She pulled her coat closer round herself.

“your relationship with that wolf, is it like Mary and Maria or is it like two sides of a mirror? I’ve been meaning to talk with Mary and Maria, proper research like.”

“I don’t think this is a thing I have the ability to talk about or even describe… because it is but its fundamentally not but yet it is…its…its hard its the kind of hard you have explaining me to mundanes. I could show you, make you part of it but there’s no going back from that, once we’re merged we’re merged and you can’t drop the mask and you’re not quite ready for that yet.”

They walked on is silence both deep in their own thoughts, they stopped at the café by the road, they sat in silence watching people meet or warm up for tennis, they made up the conversations between bundled up suits as they walked slowly past.

“we should get back” said Alex
“yes, I think our brains are cleansed”

They wandered towards Park Avenue , people watching and found their way back to the Apartment. a quick detour via the corner shop gave them the rundown on who was in who was out both in the block but also the Yankees, Jets and Giants along with the groceries.

Once unpacked and stored, Alex settled back in to her chair and started to examine the spider diagram. she looked up at Wolf and he licked his lips in nervous anticipation
“suppose I better go to the apothecary and get some Wyrming powder”

They both sat back and looked at the spread sheet
“is that a lot of money?” asked wolf
“yes, yes it is”
“I think this land is hunted out”
“yes, I think we are seeing what we want to see”
“that is insightful, and unfortunately correct”
“lucky we didn’t try to fight that wolf, all that effort over empty territory”
“no, wolf was here to see me not challenge, we’re pack so such thing don’t happen. there are things to discuss” he sighed and put his head on the floor “it will be awkward but we need to do it for the pack”
“oh, like what?”
“that is for him and I to discuss. And you will be told in good time”
“er OK. Have I said anything wrong”
“no, you haven’t said anything which is worrying” he stood up and looked at her directly “you have just walked in through the door and started the hunt again, you need to let Mary, Maria and Harry know your ok. you need to let the weird woman with the rocket bike know your home, you’re too focused on hunting and its going to unravel at some point”
“uh OK so call the girls, call Sabrina and what?”
“stay away from that picture for a week”

Alex sat and stared at the picture for a long while. now she had killed the idea of chasing the thin lead she had it was all just a jumbled mess of data pictures and text.

It was her turn to sigh. she fixed another coffee and check times. She started making calls. Maria and Mary were gushing in their happiness to see her safe home she got the name of a good seamstress and recommendation for a hairdresser. Harry cried but then again she’s Harry so what would one expect. Sabrina was an ansafone bot so she left her thanks for getting her home.

when she called the church in Prague she got a young priest, “oh, now you must be the Alexandra everyone here speaks of. That is not a face to forget. Father Yanis has been reassigned an urgent vacancy had to be filled and he has been promoted to fill it but they needed him there straight away to set the exams, sudden death of the form incumbent I’m afraid, so all very rushed and rather undignified, now you’ll have to excuse me but I need to get ready for evening service.”
“curiouser and Curiouser” said Alex echoing Alice “that was odd”

Finally she squared up to the ’link put on her best happy face and pressed dial for Father Peter.
“dasvdanya, father peter…Oh my child your home..good”

The two figures walked around the ponds at central park, they stopped occasionally to feed the ducks or just to take in the view.

“so ALex what happened? how did my ward end up begging sanctuary in Prague?” he smiled “I understand you can mention names and such but as much detail as you dare”

Alex inhaled deeply
“ok so I was hired by a….”
As she laid out the details he stopped her at key point to ask her about her feeling or why she acted like that.
“I’m confused Alex why did to bundle him into the taxi?”
“I was worried he would get turned over by the touts that hang around there or just walk under the wheels of a taxi”
“ok” he replied satisfied with her answer “continue”

later he asked “so why would you abandon him at that point when you had got so far”
“he wasn’t my friend any more he was beast it the most literal sense, if I had staid I would have had five with guns to take on with just a sword and a dagger and him. I know he could have killed me on his own I had no choice”
“ok, so continue”

As she finished he nodded
“well young lady, you are resourceful if nothing else. " he walked on “now tell me what did you do about your friend when you got free”
Alex and to run to catch him up “nothing, he was gone and looking would bring attention. why should I he wasn’t pack or anything like that. I just worked with him once. and any way he was weak just like them, that thing over wrote his weak mind. so no I did nothing I had to look to my own route out of there”
he man stopped “really, that a harsh assessment, extremely harsh, Yannis was right you are very black and white.” he pulled him self pull straight and put his had behind is back, Alex knew what was happening. rather than rolling her eye she shut them waiting for the criticism, she could see the signs.

“what you have done in his position? if you were…were…. Infected so? would you have given in or fought to the very end, well would you” Alex realised that this was not going to be fatherly advice and subtle instruction, this would be a proper condemnation given at finger.

“have you any idea what he was doing there in his head to keep that last bit of his humanity, no you don’t. So again I ask you what would you do? fight it every step of the way or commit the sin of suicide? Alex you may not realise but you are in the same position you’re slowly losing your own humanity.” he took a deep breath to calm himself

Alex stood staring at him ashen faced, shock at the menace of his out burst.

“If you lose that humanity what is the point of your little crusade?” he almost whispered “if your not human what is the point of killing all those lost souls to keep humanity safe?” he tuned again walking with purpose to the road, he signalled her to catch up “so I lay a Geas on you, I will have no contact with you or from you till you have written that poor mans obituary and published it on the that jack-web-point-net thing.” he stopped and turned to her," you are the dearest thing to me, but this thing you are becoming is not good and not something I can be near or watch, Alex please I know you have been changed but not to this"

Alex watch as he walk of his stick clicking on the pathway, as a tear ran down her cheek

He did not turn. He did not hesitate. He could not. If there was anything that he had learned about his profession it was that he was not the voice of God here on Earth. He was the voice for our humanity. A humanity that was to easily drowned out by the voices of greed, pleasure, pride and a myriad other things. Alex was her fathers daughter. But, perhaps he could find that small bit that was her mothers.

Bulls lips pursed when he read the message to the sysop inbox.

“hi Big bird, there isn’t a rule against it per say but is might seem a little odd coming from a probie, I’ll put a post out and I’ll copy you in on any replies. Did like you post last month BTW, you up for a more in depth discussion when we have one?”

Well that was odd write an obituary for a small time runner, well takes all sorts but as the replies drifted in he started to appreciate this guy was a nice, one of the good guys. alas dead too soon but then that was a common obituary in this game, nice to have someone to mark your passing

This task beginning to become more than a little loathsome. Fourteen drafts and still nothing. It was r
Tripe, utter utter tripe. Alex push herself away from the display and stared the ceiling. Staring at a blank surface helps you clear your mind, cobblers, total cobblers.

Bull had done a great job getting information without giving the game away. Now she had a pile of reference material but everything she wrote was bland and generic. She just couldn’t get the idea of his ability to maintain a sense of humour while being driven and very serious.

She fixed herself and hot sweet tea and grabbed her coat. The residents association had been on at the land lord for months to fix the lock on the upper fire escape, it stuck, but Alex had that knack. She heal punched the latch and the door swung open. She walked twice round the roof nursing her tea, Trying to figure if it was going to rain. Tiring of that she jumped up, sat down and swung her legs over the edge. As she sat there she let the sounds of her territory wash over her, the sounds of the cars, the buzz of humanity and the gunfire. GUNFIRE?!. She tried to zone in on it’s location but it was a way off and the acoustics defeated her before the wail of sirens drowned it out. He had taught her that trick to stay calm and function. That mechanical edge he had. “is what it is, panicking and getting all lathered up won’t change a damned thing, just function! YA?” she would reply “ya, is good no”

FFS! Swede! He would know” she cried nearly dropping herself to her doom. Then a thought crashed through her joy, “FFS Does he know?”

Having nearly killed herself, Alex was careful as she got of the wall.

“hey fixer, Ce mio cher.”
“hey big bird. You back?, this business, business or personal?”
“not sure, need to get hold of Swede, need to speak to him face to face like”
‘where you been? You sound all British and old Big bird"
“does it matter?
“No just Rio swears blind he saw you in Hello magazine at some red carpet thing”
“well, I couldn’t possibly comment"
“OK, just askin’. I have an address, well a bar to be honest…check your inbox…its out in the Hamptons. I recommend you ask if they have the shrimp poor boy”

It was evening, if she left now she could be there by eight or nine. She pull her leathers on and called a bike. She noted as she cleared the FDR bridge there were ATR teams hanging around. She hit the interstate and headed north. Two car crashes, the aftermath of a go-gang rumble and two hours later she was there. There was the edge of a cluster of half wrecked flood damaged houses. Four long shipping containers and a tatty ploytube roof. Outside was a motley collection of bikes, quad-bikes, GAZ and other utility vehicles that screamed “I’m not smuggling honestly officer”

Where stealth is impossible boldness is the only solution, so Alex stood up tall and just strolled in. The three layer flap door was there to sort the men from the boys, so she just smiled as she cleared it, after quite a fight. She reached the bar and beamed her winning smile at the skinny Dwarf behind the bar.
“what can I get you?”
“well, a friend recommend the shrimp poor boy”
“oh did they now and did this friend have a name my extensively tall friend?”
“fixer, Mr Fixer”
“oh, well he would know his onions, well sorry to say we don’t have any shrimp but I can fix you up a good sandwich anyway and a beer to wash it down, so what you after?”
“I’m looking to talk to a guy called Swede, I’m told you might be able to help”
“hm, highly errrrr…hm irregular, lemme see to that sandwich”
A short time later he came back with a salad sandwich and reached under the bar “ok so I have an address for you.” he passed her the sandwich “with the beer that’ll be 500” he said with a knowing smile Alex paid and he passed her a Holy mountain brewing company beer, he ripped the back of the beer mat and signed it “go here and pin this on the notice board with your name and number” he shrugged and spread his hands out “and wait”
“don’t call us we’ll call you?”
“yer by a round about route”
Alex looked at the old guy at the end of the bar, he looked a wreck and wrecked, arms wrapped around his beer. Alex smiled at the dwarf “if he eats the sandwich he gets the beer”
“your as dumb as your ugly” the dwarf smiled “you hurry back when you get the chance”

Alex hammered it back as fast as she could, and started to pack even as she looked to getting ticket to Seattle. Hopeless just as she started to get in to one of her tempers Fixer called
“hello Big Bird, let me by you lunch”
“its mid-night”
“OK let me buy you a night cap?”
“sure why not, where we meeting?”
“hot dog stand 5th and Washington”
“ok twenty minutes”
“you’ll be first”
“see you there”

The frost was hard on the ground the grass in the park sparkled and glinted, Alex’s breath frosted on her scarf. Fixer turned up suitably bundled up and similarly steaming.
“hey long time no see, i can tell by your voice you’ve been away. all very English. Coffee?”
they walked around the edge of the square as they talked
“you need work? I’m guessing you do” he was straight to the point. His opening gambit was to raise his hand an show a trid clip “honestly is this you?” it was her at the premier
Alex nodded “yes that me”
“shit, that cost me 500 right there. ok so easy job tomorrow night met life stadium close protection, you’ll be the “PA” so business suit and blades, interested?"
“what’s the pay?”
“ah that’s my girls, 500.00 you in?”
“ok. listen I’m of Washington Seattle you got any work that could wash up there?”
“Seattle?! that pretty far but there’s always courier runs and stuff need doing I’ll listen out, I’m guessing you want it soonest, am I right? well I got contact I’ll let them know”
“thank you. I’ll need a gun as well, lost mine on a job”
“oops butter fingers. we’ll deal with that in Seattle for you it’ll be cheaper, trust me”

The job was nothing just a rich man pandering to his spoiled daughter not wanting a man with her while she was out with her friends. The next morning she was on the train to Washington, with some politico trying to impress her. Alex’s skin crawled as he tried to get her number and a diner date out of her. the transfer to airport was simple and she breezed through security. A natty suit, nice shoes and quality accessories catch booking clerks eyes, a @link full of competitors frequent flier cards clinches the upgrade. Soon Alex was sitting in business with real coffee and noise cancelling headphones.
Semi-ballistics make journeys very short, so short that the train ride had been the longest part of the journey.

It was raining when they touched down, Seattle who would have know. It was late afternoon so Alex booked into a little hipster hotel in down town and headed strait out to Holy mountain Brewing Company, she wrote Swede and her burner com number on the back. eyes swivelled as she walked in. She paid it no mind and headed straight to the bar and the barwoman looking up with a smirk on her face.
“He Isn’t her sweetheart” the bar tender shot first
“Who isn’t here?” Alex replied emphasising her t’s and d’s.
“so what can I do for you then?” as the eyes narrowed
“I was wondering if I could put this up on the notice board? if it not too much trouble” she held out the beer mat
“ah, OK. over there” she obviously eyed the mat out of the corner of her eye. “you Want a drink? we got food”
“do you have any shrimp? a Shrimp poo boy?
“oh nothing so fancy, vat steak or fried egg, real egg mind”
“oh Steak rare, I don’t suppose you have blue cheese? if its not too much trouble?”
“that we can do! knew I’d like you” and disappeared into the back. wolf trotted around the room sniffing everything. “this place is nice but its not home is it”
“no I think this is more for mundanes”

the Sandwich was great (and drug free) she made her excuses and then left. she cleared her Six over the next thirty minutes and headed back to the hotel. She showered and removed all traces of makeup, she changed into a plain black dress hung up her long black coat and waited

It was a long wait the burner buzzed and gave her a message “08;00 Puget park east side sit on the bench by the skate park” she smashed the phone, she’d dump the trash on route tomorrow

It was raining, hard. She sat in the rain and waited. “run in the rain, train in the rain, helps you learn to embrace the suck”. the bin began to ring she reached inside found it taped to the top. “wat was the first hymn at the wedding?”
“How would I know I wasn’t there”
“get in the car” across the way a taxi pulled up and the door opened “taxis! I’m gonna get a complex, correction another complex”

the taxi was warm and dry and surprisingly well stocked, the driver smiled “sorry had to check you out here have a coffee” he took a long pull on the Grande he passed it to her. she dried out on the journey (and baked).the drive took an hour. they reach a street with colonial style houses on each side all white picket fences and verandas they pulled up outside a house midway down the street. on the veranda she could see the man mountain that was Swede. the door of the taxi opened “sorry about keeping you in the rain before, we had to check you out, you know”

wolf nuzzled into her “don’t worry if anything goes wrong I’ll take physical form and kill them all”
“really? you can do that?”
“no but its seamed like the thing to say right now”

Alex swung her legs out unfurled her umbrella stepped out of the car. the rain hammered down. she walked slowly up the drive to the veranda where Swede waited. as she got the bottom of the steps he called out
“good to see you Big Bird, How’s my beautiful angel of death. Peter got you running his errands now”
She kept her face stony as she looked up from under the umbrella, she walked up the step and carefully shook the water from her coat then the umbrella, tucking it formally behind her back as if she was on the training mate,
“Alex, what on earth, what is the matter, come here.”
Swede moved forward to hug, arms wide open but she took his hand and looked him in the eye, he got the message. As she looked down she watched the smile die in his eyes and the physical pain of the loss arc through his body.
“Oh no, please no, oh great Odin! no please him! Alex no please don’t do this, I joke when I call you that. please, you’re meant to be a light in my life no the crow. Oh peter "
Alex kept her face impassive, she looked up and saw his wife…Oksana there her hands to her mouth
“hi Oksana you better make some camomile tea and lock the drinks cabinet, Ok Swede lets go answer your questions”
He pulled himself back upright and settled his face
“yes, lets get in out of this rain”
Leading Swede into the house she met a young muscled Orc “you better tell the boys to stand down and get off net, this will be private”
He almost flicked a salute “yes Mam, Oxy we’ll be on ’Links when you need us”
Out on the veranda An impossibly large wolf sat Howling and in the distance, one by one, voices joined in with the death derge

Swede motioned her to a seat and turned on the fireplace. When he turned around to face her he looked ten years older, and his eyes were far away. “I remember the first time I saw him. He was fresh out of Special Forces training and assigned to my unit. I’ve trained a lot of people, some faster, some stronger, some smarter.” He took a deep breath. “But none better.” He sighed, sagging down for a moment and then looked Alex in the eye and sat down. Remembering.

Oksana came in then and handed him his tea, and then passed Alex hers and sat down slowly sipping her tea and watching her husband. Swede spoke again, “He had this integrity about him. I thought to myself. ‘Another one. The job will burn that out of him soon enough.’ But, it didn’t. Time after time he’d work ten times harder to make the job do the right thing. And when he couldn’t, the anger would make him work even harder the next time. Until it was to many jobs and to many times. Watching him I found my own anger at politics and injustice coming back. Until I had to do something about it and I got out and started Hack. Couple years later he got out and joined me.” Oksana spoke up then, “I remember when he stopped me from killing that lieutenant. I was so angry. I slapped him for taking my shot. That shot was my order and the whole of our assignment. One shot and we could go home. But, he told me that we needed to watch and find out who his supplier was and cut off the head and the chain so that the people in that area could get some breathing room and the time to muster up a defense. I was young. What did I care about them. I had a job. He’d stopped me. But, as time went on I learned. And he was right. I learned to care, to think, to plan for the long term and for people I’d never meet. Because he did. That’s what made Peter special. He cared.” Tears rolled down her cheeks silently and Swede reached over and held her hand for a moment. “Ya. He never lost that. He made me a better man because I he reminded me that at the end of the day I wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror.” he said softly.

Mirror [ˈmɪrə]: definition: the place where the stranger lives. Alex sat still while Swede talked reminisced but then he sat next to Oksana
“Bb please tell me”
Alex took a deep breath “ok so I was hired by a group, or I assume a group as the Johnson spoke in the plural. I was to travel to Prague and evaluate peter as he been under going some Issues and had gone off reservation. I was shown a Trid from a security Feed showing him raiding a laboratory. during the course of this raid he drank a sample of something, I was told it was weaponized Nanites but when was the last time you heard of a Johnson telling the truth. I was to leave immediately and be ready to evaluate him when he landed on a flight from Russia. I was told I was being hired because I knew him but I suspect it migh have to do with the my last few jobs where I have been tracking headjobs for bounty”
Swede raised his head “what is a headjob BB? doesn’t sound nice or good”
Alex look at Swede directly “no, Mon cher tres terrible” she took another deep breath “so do you want the back ground on these or shall I tell you the rest and then come back to it?”
Oksana interrupted “Come back to it, I need to know”
Alex nodded while Swede shrugged “I got to the air port established comms with my hacker and securities the area. Peter showed up and he was a mess. I could tell he was what I feared because he was a shambling mess”
Swede bristled, a little confused and upset “are you sure it was him. he was all way well turned out”
“swede this is the whole point I’m coming to. Our beautiful graceful boy was so gone I was scared he would walk under a bus or end up getting mugged. so I decided the best thing to do would be to grab him there and then and see what my Johnson wanted me to do later” she paused even after three months it was still a mess in her head, maybe more of a mess for all the retellings and appraisals “my own words to myself were nothing ventured nothing gained, Swede it all happened so fast, I grabbed him bundled him to the taxi rank, I only had a bike as I thought I was going to be following him, got him in a taxi and the doors lock and my comm link was fried” she sighed "there was another team waiting for him and this was their prison van. " she shifted in her chair “Swede, I was out of my depth and out numbered, they tried to gas me but it was a dud so they offered me money to be his keeper and to buy time I agreed. then I got Peter back and there was a chance two of us could make a break, so we took it as soon as the door opened we made a run for it. I guess I really had them fooled. but peter took at least one hit as we headed to the door”
Oksana gasped “did he suffer”
“we made it out and then headed to cover, but it was snowing and Peter was all over the place” she paused and she couldn’t hold the tear back “and then he changed, he was this snarling animal, and he had my pistol” Alex moved out of the chair with all the grace her heritage gifted her she took Swedes hands looked into his eye “I had to run, there were at least four of them, all armed, all I had was a sword and that thing Peter had become was after me too. I was out gunned out numbered and outmatched”

She paused, closed her yes and waited for his curse or his blessing. All the while Wolf continued to Howl

“How did he die Alex?” she heard the Swede say.

“oh Swede this is the hard part, i have split him in two, his meat body die a few minutes after I had to run away. There was a lot of shooting and then some more a little later. Then they came after me but by then I had found a hiding space. Peter we know had been slowly disappearing for some time. There’s this thing people are calling it Cognitive Fragmentation Disorder. The mind is slowly overwhelmed by another unrelated personality. It very disturbing, truly scary. I saw young girl through the far side of it with the personality of a full grown person, who just happened to know far too much about tactical analysis.” Alex reached out to bring his chin up so she could look him in the eye “I think, in fact I’m pretty damn sure, that’s what happened to him. He showed all the signs. It didn’t matter a jot if i had managed to get him out, he was already gone. I’m truly sorry Swede”
Swede brought his own hand up, Alex flinched as he reached out.
“i need you to run through that again, in slow time, please, it’s important”
As she talked Swede faced hardened then furrowed till finally he held up his hand
“’ Bb it’s ok stop now, look i need to make a call, oxsy, Bb must be parched more tea or coffee. Back in a minutes”

Swede left the room in resolute fashion while Oxy gather up the cups and mutter about coffee. Swedes voice rose, “Yes i’m sure, No, I’m sorry to say Its a reliable source”
Suddenly Alex couldn’t stand it any more, the mask fell and she fled into the garden. She collapsed to her knees, her dress pooling and spreading round her on the grass. She leaned back a keened for all the loss and pain. Or she thought she did, Swede and Oksana watched in horror as all they heard as a wolf howl coming from her.

Some miles off a wolf raised it head as it heard the howl, concerned she looked at her companion for some kind of recognition
“oh whats the use you never notice” she flung her head back on the floor “so, unfair”

>>I’m calling in a favor Sybil. I want in. And I want all the intel Shadowdancer has on this.<< Call made he hangs up and walks outside.

The Swede is no stranger to the things you have to do in combat. And he makes no attempt to either kill Alex or comfort her. Instead he looks at Oksana and says “Bourbon.” She nods and goes back in and returns a few minutes later with a bottle. She drinks straight from the bottle and then The Swede takes it, takes a long, deep swig and when he finishes he looks up at the sky and says, “Your parting glass brother.” and he pours some on the ground. Then he sits and watches Alex.

Wolf comes and lifts his head once again and howls beside her and in the distance the lament is taken up and continued.

The urge left as quickly as it came, well to be honest Wolf broke the moment by rubbing his cold wet nose on the back of her neck.
brushing herself off she walked back in to the house,
“sorry about that, don’t know what came over me , I’m sure”
Oksana cursed and reached in her pocket an handed over a One NuYen bill.
“ok so Alex, later, when my mind is settled I will ask more question, but it’s ok I’m sure I would have done what you did. you can’t second guess combat any more than you can describe it.” he turned to go through to the other room, Oksana smiled
“thank you for taking the time, I know how hard these things are for you, He’ll never get it, he was born for war. Alex there is always a slot open here for you, we’ll always need a good S2 and your sword will always be an asset. stay in touch! I want post cards”
Swede came back into the room,
“when the guys have eaten I’ll get home, thank you for doing this BB, Being the notifying officer is always hard and don’t worry I’ll tell his sister. we have some food now I think and you can tell me the rest of your adventures.”

Swede prepped the food while Oksana played the host and for while they played happy families, woof curled up inform of the fire and they told stories
“a church? well that’s ballsie and more that a little genius”
“so you left Bogota three days before that’s luck”
“red carpet/ really? now that would be a resume buster”
“no guarding a ship load of Ferraris doesn’t sound like your units thing, did you hit him?”
“old friends can be odd, nice when it fits back easily”

then, by unspoken accord it was done, Swede called a car
“we might go out tonight, we’ll call. stay in touch any how, I might need you sword”

As the car pulled away a thought exploded “EB!!!”
she dialled up her number just as she stepped out of the car at the space needle
“hullo… who dis?” she looked and sounded good night out rough
“hey! it me Big Bird, look got a surprise for you, look” She panned the commlinks camera up and down the space needle
“NO….. FRACKING…. WAY!!! Holly cow Big Bird you should have called earlier no way no way no way…wait wait wait. look I need to get human again gimme… gimme time!! ack ARGH so much preasure. look I’ll call you back when I’ve showered, shaved and had an O Neg AHHHHH HSE@S HERE!!!”

alex looked at her phone “wow”
“think she likes you” said wolf
“yer, why do I get the idea this could get messy?”

The best thing about Seattle is the coffee, which Alex took full advantage of, twice with a very nice sandwich in-between from a little mom and pop café she found down a side street.

After two hours being lost in her thoughts EB called.
“listen, I think it would be best if we meet up later after five thirty, is that ok?”
“of course it is, but i don’t want to go out painting the town red. It’s been a hard day and I still have a hard thing to do. I need to go somewhere quite and talk with someone might understand”
“err ok. So we’ll find somewhere quiet. Sounds deep”

Back at the hotel Alex settled in bottle of water, pocket of soy chips and a keyboard. by four she was at that point were you walk away and come back tomorrow. She showered, applied slap, sorted hair and dressed, then changed the decided to stop making a big deal out of it. It wasn’t an interview or a date. It wasn’t even the first time they had met.

And meet again they did in a small rabbit warren of a place, safe and noisy.
“so that’s the issue isn’t it” said EB “i know what you mean, no one stops to think you’re not average or even human any more, for example we are both driven to hunt so death is much more everyday for us.”
“very for you, I don’t have to kill, and that it gives me a thrill is my deepest fear, that I’ll turn in to some kind of toxic.”
" the thought of going feral makes me sick" she shuddered “anyway so people try to put old world names to our attitudes”
" i try to view the whole world as pack but that just doesn’t work, I’m pretty sure that’s the path those crazy winternight toxics started down"
‘so focus on your family your friends then."
’but that just it i don’t have a family, I’m an orphan, i got this posh accent and education via a scholarship."
“sorry didn’t you know. I was given up into a church orphanage and then sent off to boarding school. I don’t have any family”
“wow that’s harsh, so whom this uncle peter?”
’he’s the priest in charge of the program, or he was, he’s a patriarch now"
“So that’s it? me, an old priest and a dead merc that’s your social circle. Wow so all that money just have stopped when you left Brown. no wonder your always working” she looked closely at Alex “so you see that’s your problem right there don’t you you see it, you need a pack to give you a direction, a purpose. Oh my loki that’s it, you’re a loan wolf right now and anti social one at that. You need to stop working all the time put down some roots, get crew or get into a crew, you need something tangible to fight for”
" i thought i did met an old school friend while i was in London but I don’t fit in there, i still love them but"
“i know and for you its more subtle, me i’m a vampire it simple but you its mental all these ideals floating around in your head and all the hates”
“from your mentor, the dreams the hints”
“no he’s here he follows me around or leads me, mostlynhe follows me being a wise ass”
Wolf looked up "who? Me? Never "
“wait he manifests for you? Like you can feel him touch him?”
“yes, why?”
“its just its rare and usually the first step to something quite awesome and profound” she picked up her comm, “just wait till it tell Red…and speak of the devil..hi out no just out..what? Now? Err ok should i dress up..four hours ok gimme an hour i’ll be at yours.. Alex i have to go, sorry but i can’t say no”
“its ok its the joys of being not average” she stood up “call me when your back and we can go out out properly”
EB reached forma hug but drew back “sorry old habits, give it a few centuries”

Feeling a little better for the chat Alex headed for, the hotel when she got the call
“hi BB its Oxy, we are all going to a place called josies, have a drink tell some stories. I doubt you can get a taxi here, you want a lift?”
“yes, yes please, that would be nice, thank you”
“we’re on our way”

A hauler turned up with swede wedged behind the wheel Oxy riding shot gun. Alex got in
“wow Bb you look like a million dollars, Oxy you’re sacked”
“yer like she’d put up with your crap”
“good point, well made, Bb it no you it me but its not working out” he laughed “right lets get gone”
“Bb you got any weapons on you”
“just my knife and my..just my knife”
“this place is no business no tools ok?”

They made good time and met in the car park with the others, Swede read them the riot act and they made their way inside. Alex found herself the first through the door, like a bar from and old black and white movie complete with jazz band and a wolf sitting in the middle of the entrance way eagerly wagging its tail. From behind her Alex distinctly heard Wolfs voice
“oh crap, what’s she doing here?!”

“What?” Alex asked
“Nothing, this is my night then, i suppose we’ll be back in a bit. stay out of trouble”
“that’s my girl, go have fun”

the guys filed into a corner, as they milled around trying to fit in Alex called at the bar,
“shot of you best please”
“what the deal with you and the A team?”
“wake, good man died”
“ah, the best then”
“Ok Tahoma, here you go, special glass as well try not to break it” Alex looked at the glass, very clean, sharp glass and a wide bass so as not to knock it over when everyone was drunk.
“will do, promise” she turned to leave “he you got any Drambuie?”
“slammers?” She nodded,“tell you what when it gets quieter get they up at the bar and you can show them. I’d cry if you spilt it on the way. Sorry for your loss by the way”

As Alex got to the corner she was confronted with a group of aggressive people all trying to be polite to each other AND STILL MILLING AROUND!!
“oh for goodness sake, MAKE A HOLE COMING THROUGH!”
Alex danced through the melee and planted the glass on the table. Oksana called out “ok quiet ! you know why we’re here? just file in sit down.” she turned to Swede “bottle and glasses sweetie” And Swede lumbered to the bar. Oksana drew close “watch this. look a Swede next to the guy at the bar, that how i see my Man. the first time was when i watch him stripping down the bolt assembly on a ’23 those big finger gently moving all those fiddly spring, so gentle and patient. that MY swede”
“you lucky to have him. some one who understands, gentle. i see it when you two are together, there’s a synchronisation there, no magic can match that”
“wow BB that’s beautiful, thank you”
“its ok” she watched Swede fumble with the glasses 2but is seems his gentleness has deserted him, right back ok?"
She danced through crowd to his side
“here, lemme get some of those” she paused “What?”
“you move like hi m you know? all those sparing sessions rubbed of on you. supposed he wont be gone while your still dancing” he smiled wainly
“we all carry a little bit by the end of tonight, come the beasts need watering”
He snorted “lead on McDuff”
“he knows Shakespeare, there’s hope for the barbarian yet”
They both shared the laugh on the way back. Swede loomed at the head of the table
“ok Guys and Gals; Quaker wake:- one story one drink” then his huge hand pushed Alex forward and he passed her a full drink “your up probie”
she mouthed empty sounds while her ears burned red " erm ahhh." a thousand comments raced through her head " I never met some who paid more attention to what he did or paid more attention to WHAT he did"
Everyone nodded she downed her drink. A young lad stood up “only met him once but he showed how i didn’t need half the kit i had if i thought things through and what I really needed to cover eventualities, to sandwich bags, pet treats and golf balls” Alex dived in her grab bag and waved her pet treats and food bags
“golf ball! golf ball!” went up the low chant. Alex had to rummage and then she found it. she held the ball like Excalibur while the cheer went up. behind her a bouncer walked up
“What’s going on here?”
“Golf ball”
“what’s that for?”
“playing golf”
“you play?”
“then why you got a golf ball?”
“you never know”
“ah, i think, keep it down any way”
“will do, sorry”
She turned round and made a small motion of slapping her wrist and every one giggle as though they were school children.
she sat down very primly to more snickers then another guy grabbed the bottle and poured a drink and stood.

And so the night progressed the bottle going round slowly so no one got steaming or banzi. by her forth drink Alex was starting to feel pleasingly numb. All the others were all deep in conversations and while being a runner is like being a mercenary its not the same and they were speaking a language she just couldn’t fathom and she was too drunk to follow her carnivore feed. She wedged herself into the corner and drew her legs up into a little cocoon. She started to wonder about where that other wolf had come from and who it was with she steadily swept the room from her perch but nothing obvious. Swede interrupted her meditations and monitoring’s
“you have no idea what these guys are talking about do you?” He smiled “here, lets go dance to the so called music”
“what would you prefer? Country?”
“yup, that’s right up my street. but a country club is a guaranteed fight so that’s why we come here, come on, they’re playing our song " with a big fatherly smile he guided to the dance floor.

they moved slowly to the music in silence for a while. Then a thought intruded on Alex’s mind “did you mean what you said about needing my sword”
“oh yes, your very good with that thing but to be honest we’d really be looking to use you brain. that university education and lack of military life would mean you look at information differently, being able to go toe to toe with an armoured orc is just a bonus. How you doing with your Aikido? is it catching up with your sword?”
“well yes but i don’t get to practice much”
“why not?”
“because i sort things with my sword first so”
“Ah yes that would make sense, so much of your work is one to one”
they danced on a little more then he spoke up “even if you don’t join us would you come and spar with us. I’ll pay. its just so many guys train with the Japanese style and they need depth”
“are we talking business?”
“oh yer OOPs, so you staying in Seattle?”
“For now I think. I think Wolf has thing here that need sorting and I’ve got a friend here who I’ve been trying to meet up with for so long, she’s got a similar background to me so… you know? and we have a lot of business to discuss”
“business again”
“more research really, blood magic, she writing a paper/article/presentation and is my specialist subject”
“oh really I thought you did architecture?”
“I did for my first year but I had to change in the second year”
“oh why was that”
Alex was wrent in to by two emotion the bile summoning fear of the retelling the other of the overwhelming love for peter having kept her secrets, she wobbled and Swede caught her deftly guiding her to the edge of the dance floor
“BB you ok? what’s wrong?”
“he didn’t tell you every thing, he kept my secrets even though it made excusing my behaviour harder, oh Swede”
She twisted clear and marched to the table ignoring Swedes calls, she grabbed a glass and poured a drink every one stopped.
“I told him my deepest secrets and he kept them even though it made being my friend harder” every one stopped and stared then nodded, she turned and bumped in to Oksana,
“BB you OK? what’s wrong?”
“it ok, just found a another level to Peter and it was rather personal”
“oh, Secrets will out eh”
“yer, something like that” she squared up, “look your fella is looking all alone there why don’t you go get a dance in with him. I’m going to sober up a bit.”
Alex passed the rest of the evening letting things come to her, she tried to understand what the mercs were talking about but liquor and music made it hard, she stuck to Sodas and a Soycaffe, figuring here was not the place to have a melt down. once she was back on the good side of the self-control boarder she started working round the groups like a reporter asking about peter and getting the details on the half told stories. The more she spoke the she was determined to find a reason for it all. EB was right, she was a lone wolf and she felt deep down that was not a good thing. Time enough for that in the morning and she took another swallow of the coffee and watched the room move to music. Where is wolf?

Five minutes

Alex hailed a Black cab, asking for the bus station she collapsed into the back of the cab, “North west is going to be Seattle…”
“so Miss Lexi I hear you might be looking for work” the figure was tall and looked very much like Maria “My Sister speaks well of you”
Alex sprang back like a scalded cat, fighting the urge to fight or flight as both would not end well. “Frack sake! Bastard taxis! they’ll be the sodding death of me, FFS
the Spirit looked a wolf “hullo hound”
“And hullo to you too Mary”
‘Mary’ leaned forward and called to the driver “old bond street, 32 please” she sat back in the chair “my office” she said by way of explanation
“do you have any other friends in town i should know about?” Alex asked of Wolf
“I’m just a shocked as you” said wolf “I had thought they were in Paris”
“ah, what is going on with you and the sisters”
“mind your own bees wax, girl has to have some secrets”
But you a guy, male…I thought"
“I never told you that”

The journey was conducted in silence, a very awkward silence. The Taxi paid off they trooped up stairs.
dead bolt, brahman and maglock. In side had been a minimalist office space all blended walls and concealed uplighters. it was now a mess of mismatched high end furniture both antique and new on very out of place Persian rugs, massive rugs that cover the floors. Mary slipped of her shoes and planted her hoof into carpet slippers.
“please make yourself at home Darling, Mutt sit by her and don’t move.” S
She reappeared moment later with a tea tray all bone china and cream cakes.
“please tuck in, be a love and be Mum, i’m a miffy” she sat down and fizzled through paper and banged away as her desk comlink “oh bother it all deal with these whiney fools later” she accepted the tea “be a poppet and pass me one of those vanilla slices”
“ok so to business” she said as she licked her fingers clean. I took a call, so to speak, From my sister last night a very long call in which you featured very prominently" her tome changes “as did you!"
wolf look around to avoid her gaze “Mary not here, not now it really isn’t the place”
“oh Quite but when it is the time and place we will have it out”
“I know but for now business”
“oh yes I forget myself, so darling simply out, I need a body guard who doesn’t look like she’s an entry for Miss universe. all the women I have been put in contact with all look like they were made by the same firm that did stone heng. It would seem you however are an answer to my prayers. no one will believe you are a model, you’re just too tall for that but next to My silly little VJ You’ll be fine even in heals.” she leaned back in her chair and raised her wrist to her brow in mock dramatic angst" so what do you say Lexi? please say you’ll do it and save me the trouble of throwing myself out of the window “she sprawled herself across the desk reaching for lexi," please say you’ll do it, you get a lovely outfit for the night and some nice toys and get to see a sim first"
“Mary? you know is lovely but I’m not sure” Alex was already visualising hitting some creep who was assuming she was part of the buffet, “I, erm my ah. I have PTSD and I sometimes get triggered by Men coming on to me. I need to be clear on this" Wow that came out easier than I thought
“oh sweetie i know but you will be fine, your mark will not be any trouble and to be honest the two of you together i doubt even the biggest lech in the industry would try it and if they do and you do it no problem as you will be wired for sound anyway. money wise you slapping down some casting couch weinstein would be lucrative as it will not be hack able, remember you’ll be union for this so you’ll be backed up”
“Ok, so why? the red carpet has more security that a gold shipment.”
“Oh our problem is two fold, one you mark has offended The SW4 real posse and you know what that means"
“a face full of drain cleaner”
“exactly and the sort of security laid on at these events can’t help with that. If he hired two big bruisers to watch over him then everyone will accuse him of running scared, that damages him as an artist. they only get one chance at this”
“and the second thing?”
“there have been a few extractions over Christmas and his studio are worried about that. To be honest he is the studio but there it is.” she settled in her chair “so are you on with this the whole this is Spinrad enterprises so they will supply the hair clothes and accessories, you need to be at the model brief and the security brief. I’ll check to make sure you can be there and no give yourself away”
Alex raised an eyebrow
“the SW4 could be one of the models, wouldn’t be the first time”
“Oh, I see” She smiled a wry smile “won’t be the first time I’ve pretended to be someone’s hooker girlfriend”
“so you’ll do it for me?” Mary gasped
“we need to talk money/remuneration but in principal yes”
“thousand up front, another two thousand if you have to act. and 500 if you manage to do it without the papers finding out. oh and if you have any funky toys i’ll sort those for the month”
“two thousand upfront three more if it kicks of and a thousand for being discreet, along with the subscriptions for the month”
“oh she’s you’re child alright hound of that there is no doubt, “she sighed and shut her eyes “ok and the safe is over there, you might as just well empty it while you’re at it”
“ok!” Alex pretended to get up Mary sniggered. “Wait darling I’m going to make a call see if we can get some bit done now so you can have Thursday to do whatever you need to do then I run you over to the apartment”
“I have several but you can stay in this one for a while because I feel guilty coming in under budget. and it means you wont be see coming and going from offices, they can just come to you and then we just feed you into line come Friday.”
the comm link fired to life “YES?! WHAT?! SPEAK! oh Mary sorry, been a bit of a morning. I think someone left the gate open at the idiot farm. so where are we with the close insecurity? do I have to book a brace of bruisers?”
“darling, Nigel, have i ever let Spinrad down?”
“well No and you know that irks me, so what do you have” Mary spun the terminal to face Alex She was peered at by a balled well-groomed bald Dwarf. “Wow, stand up, turn round, you wearing anything under that Hoodie? good take it off. OH KAY! Mary want you back now” Mary pulled the set back “yes she’ll more that do on the image front but what makes you sure she’ll fulfil the other criteria”
“she hunts blood mages for a living and she’s damn good at it” Mary stated with a very blunt matter of fact tone"
“she does what?! never mind i heard you so she good with what a gun, pistols this is London”
“lexi do have a quick rundown”
“er well I practice Aikido but I’m better with a sword. I can take one two people with a sword and expect to put them down.”
She heard Nigel cough nervously “erm well good, is that erm in the gym or for real”
Alex rolled her eyes “I have done this for real and I’m still here”
“sorry to be crass but i don’t want a wannabe on my carpet but the voice analyser is showing your erm disquiet at my dumb questions. ok Mary I assume you have a gilded cage you can put her in and I’ll let him know not to sweat it anymore”
Mary turned the set back to her" ok so I guess your called lexi, Lexi in need you to strip off to your underwear so i can see what we can dress you in. Are you ok with that? I don’t want to scare you off. it’s just you have to appreciate that while you are there to do a job we are still just a fashion show for Spinrad, everyone from the production crew will be in company uniform so to speak so we can show case his spring summer collection. which just happens to be closely tied in with this film."

Alex nodded “its ok. I understand, basically you want to take my measurements”
“yes if i can get the Premiere the measurements in the next hour she might have something by morning, ok so if you don’t mind” his holographic image gesture to a stop on the floor “good little to your…left. Stop…forward. there now turn on the spot and …holy mother of the universe. What the hell are those!?”
“that’s why I hunt them”
Nigel hand blanched at that “ok so backless is out so well. Well I’m sorry, do those hurt. Now I mean”
“uh no the one on my shoulder aches when its foggy but not that I notice”
Nigel mouthed OH, “ok then get dressed” he pursed his lips taping his clasped forefingers against them as he focused off into never land. “OH this isn’t any problem really because you’ll be wearing a blouse and paly suits and that cape and those boots.. do you want transmuting soles? or are you does your pugilistic tendency’s run to scrapping in heals?"
“transmuting soles would be best”
“ok” he was looking at something on his desk “that is all I need for now, Miss Lexi, if I may call you that please accept my thanks for taking this on, now unfortunately because you are neither spinrad personel nor A list you cannot keep any of these items and so you will have to agree to sign for them and return at the end of the contract” he looked up “can i have Mary back please” Mary turned back" Ok Mary, I will call you later to let you know timings for the fittings, I get the knuckle dragger to come with me so he and Lexi can chat, hope you’ve got a good emitter at this flat you taking her to."
“it the Mews in Mayfair”
“oh nice, ok good afternoon”
“right then” stated Mary “you must be hungry let nip down to the Ritz and get a bite”
“I’m not really dressed for that” said Alex as she looked down at her Jeans and hoodie"
“Oh bother that, if Carl wants to make a fuss I’ll just start going to Claridge’s”
Carl tried very hard not to raise an eyebrow but he did put them on a table near the fire escape which suited BB just fine. after a nice salad and another piece of cake Alex had to ask questions while Wolf systematically sniffed his way round the room.
“so who is my mark?”
“do you know Tall Paul?”
“er yes very I’ve always been a fan of the Wylde troggs he was a founding member left really sudden.” she look after Wolf “went on the VJ for Fabric and Home I remember”
“that’s him and he’s also been doing Sound tracks for films mainly art house stuff, even pick up two awards, but he’s always stayed close to his neighbourhood and he’s pissed of the local gang. they’ve got no idea where he lives so they have been trying to get into his gigs and clubs. this is the first open air event since it all kicked off so, we, his management team and spinrad are all a bit concerned”
“ok so who’s briefing me tomorrow?”
“Chap called jenkins, Australian, works for Spinrad as a contractor, Seems to know his stuff. More tea?”
Alex found it a little strange eating afternoon tea with a spirit, mainly because she could not get round the fact that they did not need to eat or drink. She mulled on this while Mary read the old fashioned hard copy paper. she looked up on finishing.

“I think you Going to like the outfit Nigel has planned for you, it’s very high-tech and very Avant guard. it’s so exciting to be allowed to us all of Spinrads collections. Tell me Alex truly are you excited or are you just treating this as any job”
“I can’t say I’m excited about the fashion. while I do like to dress up, I mean who doesn’t. but its more the red carpet thing, I’m not sure if I’m ready for the exposure or whether the exposure is a good thing”
“ah I see, Right lets get you to the Flat, do you have bags?”
“yes I left them at the St Martin”
“ah good I’ll send a driver to pick them up, where did I put my Comm link?” she raised her arms and looked around her
“it’s here, on the table”
“Ah good, i really need to get myself a PA but I just never get round to it”
She left the dining room talking and haled a cab, which duly took them to a Mayfair mews near Harley street. down this little side ally they walked to a large thick wooded door in a 1950 modernist style of wood panelling. it side was just as the outside all very minimalist wood with block colours. very little furniture and lots of semi concealed storage to hide the clutter.
“kitchen, diner bar, living room with office space and up those stairs two rooms and a bathroom that our roof garden and down stairs is a double garage/workspace. this place is quite fun for dinner parties in the summer. Will this be OK? I’m sorry to dash but I have two meetings soon and all the papers are at the office. Laundry was today bins are on Mondays. sorry have to dash”

As she explored the flat her comlink pinged to register her pay, then the security system offer to sync with her commlink, yes. which was a good thing as her bags arrived. She unpacked wi=hich took about three minutes then she realised she’d been living in her cat suit for about a week it needed cleaning. she bundled it up and hit the street. on Wigmore street she found an express cleaners ready tomorrow morning they open at 8, from there she walked up to Selfridges and into the basement, the book shop opened out in to the Tech shop and on to the HMV. in the Tech shop she bought four burner phones a little Sony out and about phone a spare set of trodes and a monical with image link and a pair of binoculars. she exited through the front on to oxford street and walked down in the crowds till she saw a sports apparel shop, set of sports gear later she went back to the flat, washed her new Sports kit and then set to in the garage/WORKSPACE with a proper workout with her sword as she warmed down her comm trilled and the image of a smartly dressed orc rezzed up.
“so your Lexi or should i say Big Bird? its ok I always check contractors out. Mr Fixer speak very highly of you. And I think very highly of Mr fixer so you and me are good, Do you like Lebanese food? good I’ll bring some round we can chat and then take a walk down to the square”
half an hour later the Smart Orc was at the door with two bags of food and a back pack full of plans.
“hi Jenkins please to meet Ya” he grinned.
Alex looked over his shoulder as he spoke and noted that he made no attempt to move untile she invited him in. As he cleared the door way he paused again waiting for the invit to go on up the stairs. when he reached the top he paused again and this time held up the food, Alex waved him over to kitchenette while pull her collar on.
“what’s that?”
“cam collar just in case we have an idea and forget it as the discussion moves”
“ah smooth idea, oh christ! is a spinrad product” he sounded no too pleased. “you have to excuse me but I’ve spent a month with these bludgers and I’m going of Me box!”
“Hard work?”
“too right, anyway, sorry if i have read you wrong but Elf and fit I’m guessing you’re a veggie” he grinned and he held up a box of something “does meat offend you?”
“No why?”
“oh a month with fad fascists will do that to you”
“no if you need to suck up half a cow go for it, I have been known to have the odd fried breakfast every now and again” Alex stopped and suddenly realised she had never had a London breakfast before, ever. She looked at Wolf who lolled his tongue in reply
“What did you get?”
“Its called a shawarma, its Arabian rather than Turkish but its like a kebab”
“You ok if i try a bit?”
“yer fine, sorry about this, I’m Australian Veggie is a heresy out there”
“Its ok, lets get the food out and then look at your plans”

Alex noticed that he kept a piece of furniture between him and her all the time if he could help it, someone had been talking or someone had found one of the few new reports that got out before the universities lawyers got on the case. she didn’t mind. in fact it might even help a bit.

they poured over the plans for three hours nibbling the food and double checking all the routes and angles. Alex walk a virtual red carpet six times with the security guy all marked out.
“I’ll leave that here we’ll pick it up when we get you on Friday. if things kick off your nark will get lifted anyway there’ll be you me and Bones who will be people less so we’ll be the QRF, we’ll run interference on anything going on. unless it our own history’s catching up with us in which case who knows”
“you got history”
“oh we all got history, jobs that went bad runner we cant stand corps we cheesed off, in this life you will tread on a few toes no helping it”
“ok so you saying hold him still till your evac team get to him then we meet at Bones? position to see what’s what”
“yes nice and simple. bones is good she used to be a boxer and a car thief so she can handle herself, you are renowned for being a hell cat and I’m not too bad me self” he grinned polishing his nails on his shirt, Alex laughed
“ok” she cut in “let’s go get this walk through done” she looked at wolf but he was gone. she walked to her room and got her posh coat and flung it on. she found wolf laying on the bed staring at the wall “what are you doing?” she asked
“staring at a wall”
“ok, why are you doing that?”
“To clear my mind, I read about it in one of those magazines down stairs”
“a lot on your mind?”
“yes, as it happens. you going out?”
“ground recce”
“oh good, have fun. I’m going to stare at my wall some more”
“OK, I think”
Jenkins was waiting coat on bag slung As they climbed down the stairs he asked
“is it ok if I call you lexi for now Big Bird seams a little odd right now?”
“er ok, I suppose”

they cut through SoHo they had to go round last night fun and games so cut straight down Berwick street and in to china town and started walking the routes and rechecking the angles, it was obvious Jenkins had been over this every day for a month so Alex deferred to him as he gave her the grand tour. when they were done the grabbed two soycafs from the Mc Huges and say on the stone benches watch the flow of the people. Jenkins either stood or crouched and generally kept his distance as they carried out full conversation while looking over each other shoulders watch the square. the fans were already starting to form, they had tents, sleeping bags huge fishing umbrellas. many seem to have met the two/three hours they were there the crowd doubled in size

Jenkins looked at his watch “we should get back you can have one more walk through with me and pone on you tod when I’m gone then I’m ordering you to go to bed” he gave her a wry smile “you have no idea how these dickheads can waste your time doing nothing and make it seem earth shatteringly important”

As Jenkins left he thanked for her time and check she had his comcode then left. Alex took the last walk through on her own. and then as instructed went to bed.

She woke in the morning to memories of crying women and shouted arguments. she didn’t mind as it wasn’t a certain persons leering face. she ate a breakfast of left over Lebanese food she was sorting the rubbish and a tea when her Comm trilled
“Ah miss Lexi we are just setting out there will be four of us you know Mr Jenkins, I hear, and the premier and his assistant and myself of course.”
just as she hung up she hear the door slam, Alex palmed a big knife and position herself between the door and the roof garden. Mary crashed into the room with something in a bag and something that smelled like real coffee in a tray.
“are they here yet?”
“no they just rang they are on their way”
“ugh, Nigel will be late for his own funeral I do declare” she pulled a savoury Danish out of the bag and through a full mouth and much pointing of claws explained breakfast was not optional. Alex looked around for wolf but he was nowhere to be seen.
The bell rang again twenty minutes later and the four entered the room in a tidal wave of stuff, just stuff and more stuff and stuff with extra stuff.
Alex found herself push out of the room while they set up
“I’ll get a shower” she declared
Jenkins followed at a discreet distance “can I hide in your spare room?”
Alex felt odd having a man this close in her life like this. and it was not a good odd either, she had check the locks on the door twice and her sword had found itsway into the bathroom. as she towelled off. she did not check herself in the mirror, she did not even wipe the steam off it, she did not want to see herself just in case the breaks were starting to show.
she pulled on her sports kit as it was the lightest and went back down stairs. Nigel stood in front of a sea of clothes and shoes and accessories and staring looking equipment.

“Please, Miss Lexi could you just step up on to the step here so we can confirm my measurements form yesterday.” then she was handed a blouse with amour in it and a one peice trouser suit. she nipped upstairs to try it on. it was made out of the most extraordinary material. it was like looking in to pure darkness, it reflected no light and sh pulled it on over the blouse she realised she was effectively wearing a shadow or a silhouette. it was amazing. the leg where cut long so she pulled on her heals to get down the stairs without falling.

as she walked it Mary gasped “oh my word that’s just stunning, Nigel with the cape quick”
Nigel walked over with a cape which he draped over shoulders. it was short can down to her elbow and it had a high collar. then Nigel pressed something in the collar and it disappeared, when she moved it strobed and pixelated and then when it settled down it also disappered.

Nigel smiled. “it really very effective, an amazing effect. it military tech rhuthaminum polymers in the cape and the suit is a thing called void Black. He had to pull a lot of strings to get hold of this” Nigel looked to the dwarven premier who gestured to the set up with a smile of someone who loves their work. for the next two hour she adjusted Alex’s suit till she was satisfied to let it go. the boots were fitted and then had to be programmed hence the machine to check gait. Then, finally, Jenkins stepped forward with a box and a big smile.
“hope you got your pissing pants on because you’re going to wet yourself when you see this” he opened the box a took out a solid metal belt “tah dah” he beamed “oh sorry” with pretend fluster he pressed a stud on the side of the belt and Alex gawped as it morphed into a sword. she put her hands to her mouth while her eye grew greedily intense
“show me”
Jenkins passed her the weapon and she hefted it in her hand. it was well balanced and a useful length. if the other guy has a monosword or such she would be at a disadvantage but she’d have surprise.
“is this thing armoured?” she asked plucking at the suit
“yte and a full range of extras, so stun guns, petrol bombs and drain cleaner will not be an issue. there two pocket so you can have two comlinks on the go”
Jenkins chimed in, “yer one on public with a Ute full of ice and an agent the other on private with more stealth that a banshee on the Denver line” he smirked “give us redundancy and resilience in those first few moments of any rush”
“Ah, ok, i just would never have thought about running them at the same time”
“we got the :trix back up to run it here.”
Nigel piped up “Ok so we are done here for now Premier will be back this evening for final fitting I will see you tomorrow morning. I leave you to thugs to talk though your controlled violence wet dreams” and with that the team started to pack away, which happened very quickly and neatly even down to a little vacuum cleaner to hide any trace of their passing. Alex made a metal note to and vacuum cleaner to her wish list.
“Well i don’t have any questions for you, you for me?”
“no, I’m good. I’m going to walk the sim again, just need to get the names down pat so I can call out any deep field plays I spot”
“right so it mid-day, i want to pick your brain about that article you wrote and thermal and voice empathy software. I think I’m missing a skill set or mind set” he stood back with his hands behind his back “lets hit one of these restaurant in the swanky department stores and you can tell me your thought process judging these things”
“ok” she said a little unsure “I think you’re over stating the situation or my expertise’s, OH and I have to go get my dry cleaning”
“we’ll it’s making waves. don’t think you realise just what a cat you put amongst the pigeons with it. there are runners lining up outside method acting schools wanting to learn how to “be the part”
“well ok on that I might overstate that just a bit but it is now yet another layer to consider”

“I’d go if I were you” said Mary
Jenkins dived across the diner bar while Alex pulled out her knife and dropped in to a crouch"
“struwth, Mary knock or something, I’m gonna need a shovel and a clear set o strides here”
Mary and Alex laughed
“that’s twice my dear” smiled Mary “now go out with the nice gent he trying very hard to be Gossip mag perfect gentleman, such endeavours should be encouraged”
“what should be encouraged?” asked Jenkins as he picked himself up
“self-help and healing” said Mary" now darlings I have to go I think and if I don’t then maybe I can think about posting a job add for a PA" she turned to go
Jenkins rush forwards “you forgot your Link miss Mary”
“oh thank you, right really must be off”
They walked the short distance to Oxford street and headed for John Lewis as it had an enclosed balcony. Alex grabbed picking up the tab ‘it was her turn’
She found his questioning very close and pressing, then she found it very un-nerving that he was taking copious notes. it then got even more odd as he started asking for the reference to the research she quoted. then it calmed down, he skipped out ad brought more tea. then they got down to practical examples and they started using people in the room to profile. it was lunch time and they were supplied with a good through put of examples. as they spoke Alex forgot to switch off as Jenkins asked a question. OH NO the signs where they the blood rush to the sensitive part ears lips fingertips, the breathing the voice pattern the rise in pitch. OH no
“What’s wrong lexi, you’ve gone white as a sheet”
“oh it just i scanned you by accident… look Jenkins.. the signs are obvious”
“obvious, shit..did she see me staring…ah bugger it”
“eh what..who.. who’ve you seen”
“over there end booth two trolls and the two orc ladies, the one facing us is Missy Mayhem, sorry if I wasn’t paying attention, so got the hots for her”
Alex started laughing to herself "well why don’t you go get her autograph or a selfie2
“are you off your box, I’ll drool and trip over my tongue. I’ll make a right prize dick of myself”
“oh Spirits protect me” she rolled her eyes and got up
“lexi where… no.. you wouldn’t…lexi no”
Alex couldn’t help but smile. it was so school yard but it was fun. she approached the table the two troll took note and professionals acknowledged each other
“missy Mayhem, I’m sure you get this all the time but my colleague over there has such a crush on you could I get a selfie for him or something. The orc Woman had already looked her up and down, manly up seeing as she was sat down. The biggest Troll started to move " look dandi…"
Mayhem Held up her hand “Trevon, manners, these peopw pay your wages, ‘cose drlin’ ‘ere ge’ ‘is number up, we’ll send ‘im a a picky ’e’ll hard copy an’ laminate” the other girl singgered " wot?"
she her Lexi’s link up and lined up the shot of their faces together “Free too, won” and as the flash went she tuned her head and kiss Lexi on the cheek. "gizz that ‘ink lofty, wots yer name?
“ok ’er we go an’…. sen’" she handed back the link and then stepped back seriously appraising her" yo’s not a dancer is yooo’s? no, oh dats pity cos you fine, ISN’T SHE TREVON" she sat back down
“thank you” said lexi just as she heard Jenkins choke on his tea
“if you really want to thank me, tell him he’s cute” she gave her a direct challenging look.
As she slid back in to her chair Jenkins was blushing, “what did you just do?!”
“me Nothing, just a little penance for my arrogance”
“what? nver mind look what she sent”
“don’t break my Bea Lexi’s heart break mine, call me”
“is there a com code?”
“well she did say you were cute”
“really, made a point of saying it”
“oh this is so school yard”
“has occurred to you to double check the guest list for the after party?”
“oh yer2
“and do a background check for gang affiliations” Alex smiled “really don’t want to have to chin your date out” Jenkins laughed
“I think lessons are over I need to get back a reload these subscriptions on to my profiles. and then the final check start so I will see you tomorrow at the security brief”

they split up at the door after Jenkins had managed to make a complete ‘dick’ of himself as Mayhem waved to him. he dived in a lift while Lexi turned gave a deep bow and headed for the escalators. she walked a spiral back to the apartment and cleared her six. she spent the rest of the afternoon walking the rout in the sim, getting all the callsigns to stick in her head. Wolf watched impassively but with undivided attention when it got to five o’clock he spoke
“that’s it, any more and you head will leak” he headed for the stairs “I’m hungry and need to stretch my legs”
“I need a shower and food, are you ok?”
“yes, now shower I want food”
They wandered around SoHo for an hour as the rush hour traffic swarmed around them, by half six it was definitely time Alex found a Korean kiosk, as she sheltered from the rain under some scaffolding and shovelled rice and vegetables in her face and watch the world rush passed.
her com trilled it was Harry
“hi Lexi its me, Archi and I..well…we talked and he’s agreed to go to the quaks with me” Harrys face looked as though it had been a long conversation and none too pleasant"
“are you ok harry”
“no I’m good, just emotionally exhausted” She shifted" where are you?"
“SoHo, eating and people watching, been a long day got some work” then an idea entered her head “I need to engineer a meeting”
“just had an idea for Charly charly charles charles. talk about it later. I have a long day tomorrow and I’m gonna need some sleep. I Will call you on Saturday when I’m clear of this job. is that ok?
“oh yes just wanted to let you know I hadn’t chickened out”
“Kewls, bye”
“bye” and she ended the call
wolf was still watching the street
Alex took a long rout back more to enjoy the crowds than any security decision. She checked her messages as she walked, Sabrina was still trying to get her back to the UCAS but all the Cyoties where busy, there was something going on and that Sabrina didn’t mention anything meant she knew but couldn’t say. Alex sent her a message that she was fine with this as she had work and was fine till the end of February at least.
she got back to the Flat, the premier called to tell her that all would be fine for tomorrow and she would not need to visit so Alex made herself a coffee and went to bed.
the next morning Mary arrived with breakfast and an tall orc in tow,
“Now Lexi darling this is My charge Tall Paul”
“how yu’ dowin’ Miz Lexi. thank you for doing this”
“its fine the moneys good so we’re sweet as’”
he nodded “OK mary so whats next”
“breakfast and then get you two briefed dressed and then the show is on”
For someone who was known as a VJ and essentially paid to talk Tall Paul was very quiet. Alex commented on it.
“sorry lot on my mind. big decisions to be made and tonight is a distraction I could do without.
“OK so i need to take you through some basics before we get out when you need to talk to me put you hand on top of and I will do the same, try to keep contact between us to a minimum, this is for your protection as much mine, ok?”
“ok, look if your …”
“it’s not that, it the papers it your fans but most importantly it so if we do touch it’s for good reason and we pay attention, keeps it simple. Now if I need to guide you while we are still on the carpet I will get hold of you thumb and guide you that way. I’d rather get you quietly out of harm’s way than trigger a full on bug out, are you fine with that?”
“That’s cool for me, make sense”
“no going near the edge of the crowd without me ok”
“and that goes from when we step out this taxi”
“now why don’t you have a… crew someone your stature should have a crew of some kind”
“that’s what this is all about I ditch them when I found they were taking my cash and making their own of the back of my name. that’s true disrespect. any ways they go running to th sw14’s cry for their mummy’s and I find out I’m due a face full of Mr Muscle. This is my first time really big. to be honest I had kept it local for a reason yu’ nar’”
“oh I see.”
“but if this sim goes big then i can really sign up for the big time and really do some good”
“we’re here I’ll get out while you pay the man”
As they pulled up to the hotel spinrad had taken over there was a little group of people waiting. Alex staid close, scanning the line just ahead of Pauls line of advance, a human girl ducked in to stand in front of him but Alex caught her by the elbow.
“alright Bitch” she spat “not trying to move in on your meal ticket, just want his swipe” in a very well healed accent
“well one can’t be too sure, can one, what?” Alex mirrored
Paul smiled and waved his com over the girls “it’s cool, she just lookin art fur me’s is all she’s cool, you cool, alls cool its good”
The girl quailed as Alex spoke realising she had just been very rude in front of her idol but his smile and calm demeanour had her trembling, Paul waved her off and headed for the door which he held open for Alex
“thank you”
“oh Don’t fank me, fank me mum, i wanned tu bee a fug” Alex smiled at the joke

Inside was organised chaos all directed by Nigel and his assistant, he glided up “ok so Miss lexi you have hair and makeup now and final fitting when we’re done there, Mr Paul you are upstairs in suite 23 there is a goon on the door with instructions that only myself, Miss lexi or Miss Mary are to be allowed in. I understand you just want to chill out till we’re ready for you.” he turned as Jenkins arrived
"ok2"he slapped his hands together" if miss lexi can get her hair done and then upstairs with Mr Paul"
Nigel faded “but her thing won’t be her till midday"
“well we improvise but they changed the hotel without asking, we haven’t vetted half the staff here yet…”
“OK OK erm lexi if is sent a gut to the flat could you use you own clothes till we have to get ready for the evening event? or how about a suit! h=yes an nice gents suit, give me a moment, Maria! Maria! can you fix this next I’ll be right back.”
half an hour later she was upstairs playing PA with a modified business suit and her hair straightened and set. she hovered met each reporter in turn, briefed (and appraised them and then signalled when it was time to wrap up. eight times in two hours.
Food came as sandwiches, fruit juice and crisps, good quality but not many. Alex passed coment on that, Paul confessed he was on a diet
“if it’s there i eat it, just don’t stop”
“how do you manage at home?”
“are well home is complicated” he smiled
a young elf popped “security brief in ten minutes”
This was a half hour of legal niceties and basics for basics. that done, they were both taken to one side to go over the arrangements. Alex notices several people being taken to their own person briefings. In a way she felt sorry for the Girls knowing that if it hit the fan, they would be just left standing as the stars where hustled away. Wolf looked at her and shrugged
“It is what it is”
there was one last interveiw to do with the BBC and then there was the wait to be called. the limos would take them the short journey to the end of the red carpet, there had to be dispateched to a strict time table. Paul paced the room looking for something to do when his link chimed up. he flicked it up and the face of a troll loomed in the room, it was max man from Wilde trogs
“Max, man, wud up blud?”
“askin’ yooos the sames pal, we get you not wid us no more but not even a frackin invite to da afterparty. W….T…F blud?
“oh max you know i can’t with the thw WC4 crew on my case, we know you guys is tight”
“wud fing wid the da four?”
“jimmy and his leaches went whining to spoll jam when i kick they poncing asses on da street inni’” he waved his hands in the air in complete frustration “next i ’ere am due a face full of mr muscule!”
Some one elbowed the troll out of the way and a rough looking orc in a basball cap and gold tips to his smashed up tusks looked in
“hey spools waguwon Blud?”
“‘ows flappin; they chops you down for a isle 8 face lift? tell me now! they gettin’ a dry slap up their face. Man we tight you real blud, i knows your secret ,man kept wid mine. you true tusker; fams first. you not got no beefs wid me an mine”
paul looked at Alex anly to see her turn white. she shot to the door. “come on lets go get Jenkins” she looked at thelink “you to can stay close to you links”
“aw man you going up in the world thats fine, girl i’ll say close if your callin’”
“Bluds thats ny securtiy, ease up i gotta keep her sweet”

they found jenkins directing final set up for the dispatch
“what you two doing here, you were told to stay where you were flippin’ put!”
“over her and turn off your link”
“do it now jenkins”
“what got a burr up you ass?”
“theres no beef from that gang, they just called to find out why they weren’t invited to the after party. they went flipin mental when they found out”
“oh” mouthed jenkins “thren why?….but we…and oh crap” he put a finger to his lip in thought" ok so we go.. we’ve got 30 minutes to get a plan c in place…any bright ideas?"
“erm if we could go in the back?”
“john chimed in whats goin’ on what do you mean”
“your the mark for the extraction tonight” said alex “the gang thing was just cover to create the threat. they’ll trigger it in a way we’d have no choise up to go with a full pull out and they’ll be waiting for us at the extraction point. because your private we can’t aford a full security deatail to that point. the idea was that I’d fight you to that point”
“oh what with?”
“got this sword I can hide”
“might want to check that”
“ok so we recycle our links, check our weapons and what run into the crowd?”
“I could call Spool jam and he’ll give us security for the thing point” said paul “and if the Wilde troggs turn up and do a gurilla gig or a podcast thing at the back we can run to them”
Jenkins noded “happy with that and….oh frack thats why they hired me to hang me out to dry. wankers! well never mind we’ll just. wait if the WC4 turn up and make themselves known the team might bottle it”
Alex looked round 2so its an inside job?"
“ah no its give someone not enough to handle whats coming then blame them, there’ll be no evidence of an inside job and I’ll be burned and he’ll be in the can”
Wolf looked on with his tounge hanging out like he’d just run 12 miles “oh this is so much fun”
“Right in here quick” Jenkins “right Lexi legs this is your mark your show do what you need to, get it done Make it happen. I dont want to know, just make it happen” with that he left.
Alex looked at Tall Paul “turn your link on and off, soon as its booted get hold of Max and ask him to call flash mob for peace and reconcilation in leicester square propper. then we’ll ask your gang freind to flood the pace looking for any problems. we have 90 minuted before we leave here.”
Johns link pinged back on line and he called
“max man listen we need to to put out a flash mob now, sos’ Blud but you gotta make it about me, yu get me?
“Tall man it’s cool beans we’ll get the crew and any fans we can” he was typing while he was talking “and …then… we’ll …get …our …rottin’…green ….tusks …down there aaaaaan’ send that bad boyeeee!” Alexs phone rang with a gitar riff “you a fan?”
“massive!” she said with a big star struck grin
“well thats made my day”
MAX!! Gezzaa!! stop hitting on my staff”
“oh cumon, gimme a break bruv, she’s da hottest elf I’ve seen in a while And she’s a massive fan I gotta plus I recon she tall enough i don’t got to bend down, ma back gez’”
“your so rock and roll man”
“sex drugs and sausagerolls man” he gave a cheeky salute “laters” and was gone
“sorry about that, he just…”
“we dont have time for this, get that spools guy on the com, here let me get the door, wait keep walking. here in those toliets. go go”
as they bundled in the toilet just as the link was answered
“Wow I be jokin’ about you callin’ me sweet pea. I guess you not lookin’ for a booty call or nothing innit?”
Alex out line her plan
“i just got the message about the P&R so i’ll message the LDN massive to say we callin’ it nutral ground. that good for you?”
“i’ll take your word for it, as you can tell i’m not Postcode material”
“mores the pity anyways i’ll get some of me fam’s and bluds to join me to make sure no cars can hang around your drop off we’ll do it just as you hit the carpet” there was a pause
Alex broke it “what? have i got spinach in my teeth?!”
“ha ha no i’m typing, and thinking. whats to stop them tryin the after party?”
“you looking to snag tickets?”
“NO NO NO not my… yes leicester square. what? fat ronnie tell him its true note, sorry not my scene but you’ll need some more back up”
“we’ll the only crew i know are public school girls so i’m out of cards, unless Missmayhem can swing a punch” Both guys laughed “what?”
“pauls broken tusk, Mayhem did that when he turned her down, but they’d do a job they know when to shut up and they scrub up well, what do you think Talls”
" I gots loads of tix’s for it I can get her on the list, she still got those fixe crazies in tow?"
“lets do it on the door when we get there” Alex piped up" i’m just following her on insta, get her to post a pic of all five of them together and tag them so i got their name, if they do it once we’re in so there’s little tiome to react or block it. Paul will post a shot of me and him in the venue as the signal. that should get them in. no bang no blades no pepper. I’ll get hold of something pointy in the venue. oh that reminds me" she toggled the stud on the belt and it morphed in to a blade and morphed back then on an instinct she toggeled it a few more times still a sword, she figered it had not been linked to a PAN yet, she would keep it that way and her heals too did not think trying to run acoss the square with alloy swim fins did not appeal to her. she checked them all fine
then she realised bpoth tall and Spool where watching.
“whats you name” asked Spool “seriously what do people call you?”
“big bird”
“ok big bird sorry for sleasing you up like that, if anyone in my massive disrespect you just tell me. you really know how to use that thing don’t you”
tall paul interuppted " we should get back if anyone misses us it will raise suspicions"
“no it wont man they’ll just be well jel and you be a fella”
“no not with this lady man she don’t do that, been warned she REALLY don’t do that”
“they don’t know that do they”
“true blud true”
“right see you later”

they went back to the room and waited paul paced even more. ;lexi checked and rechecked her kit and stashed her comlink and a buner in the cape, she put her contact in but left them off line. finaly they were called, nigel checked there dress and marie was there to check hair, she waved an gushed, wolf jumped and gambled about excited “I want to hunt them down!”

hair and attire doen Paul very gentlmanly help her in to the Car. on the way there he recited over and over again the instruction Alex had given him, she had to lay a hand on his knee and tell him to calm down, then the car pulled up, Paul climbed out and helped Lexi out in to a wall of flashes, screaming and shouted question. She smiled a dark smile and gave a camera a direct hard look “wow this was fun” all the time scanning for targets

(Wardor street, Rivet pulled up his car into the spot where the mark should run to all was clear about the only thing going right. Tiny was now stuck a sea of gangers, the same gang she was pretending to be from the was a Troll rock group doing a support flash mob for their mark and that had brought much more security with it. the plan wasn’t lost tiny could go with plan b all she had to do was flush the guy form the carpet in to the open, the other guy would heard him and gather him up on-rout to or at this point and they would be gone. The mark ahd just stepped on to the carpet and thre roar from the crowd confirmed it. a tap on the window broke his concentration on the radio. a massive troll stood by the door armes folded it mouthed “jog on” and emphasided it with a thumb. as if more emphasis were needed more large figures came out of the door ways and shadows. OH FRACK, blow i’m blown there 10 extra security at the RV. i’m moving, plan b guys and gals plan b)

ALex and john worked down the line he was giving swiped Alex searching for targets still. Paul said thing about representing london and a great honour an all such as reported and Trid team collared him. she was asked her name severl time she just said “people have taken to calling me Miss lexi” Wolf ran up and down the line sniffing and then when he realised there was not going to be any action hurried of inside the cienema. As they got in to cover Alex still couldn’t help scanning around Just incase Plan b was inside. as she scanned the hoard of people milling around playing ordinary people at the counters she spotted the production team doing a meet and greet, at the back ws one man who looked like he was seeing a ghost or having a psycotic episode, he clapped eyes on Her and if look could kill.. The director and producer called Paul over
“well tall Paul seems you have made it unscathed,” the speaker nodded his thanks to Alex
“Well man its all cool we found out waagwon wit de WC4 and they cool now but ders some gezzer out der, i tel you guy he’s in for a bad time an’ting, dey well mad up now dey gonna make it rightcouse one ways or nover, you get me”
“yes i think i do”
Tall paul Laughed swiching back to plan english “it should be fine Mr wex, I’m looking forward to seeing how I finaly fit in to all this. the last few months have been an education”
“I’m sure they have, well enjoy the show”
“I will, Miss lexi, shall we”
“what was that about”
“just letting him know that I’m useful for a reason and all this…this sillness has made those reasons harder”

Alex didn’t watch the sim she kept her trodes off and watch the room instead. as did wolf, ears prick up and head moving this way and that. when it was finished the were yet more photos. Alex found herself being asked to be in more and more, but she found an easy out by saying that Mr Paul needed her" this was offten followed by “are you going to the reception Later”. Alex dutifuly Helped Tall’s with each interview and mics where thrust in their faces. final and hour after the film finished they managed to get to the car. Maria and Mary were both waiting in the back. Wolf took one look and “i’ll walk its ok” and was gone.

the sisters simpered and trilled about what a victory it was but Alex was looking out of the back all the time, suddenly she had enough she turned to the driver “you recon you can lose a car following us?”
“’course I can love, watch this. er you might wanna sit down” he indicated one way then flung the car down a side street rocketed out the far end and quick nip up an one way nad across a pedestrian area. “your gonna ask for a taxi innit”
“you psycic?” he smiled
“her you go taxi rank you want me to still go to the hotel?”
“er yes just in about 15 minutes”
“ok” they all fell out of the car and fled to the nearest taxi as the hevens opened. the taxi soon dropped them out the front of the hotel and not the car park where all the other booked car were dropping.
they all walked in the front and were directed upstairs. the you lady on the front checked her list and nodded to the to guys on the doors which were duly open and they where ushered inside

Inside was a suit od rooms all decked out in mock baroque opulance, waiter brought drinks and canopes, there was a proper bar and buffet for the hard core drinkers and eaters(and struggling actors). they were the last to arrive it would seem, Alex took a quick selfie with Talls and posted it, and then headed for the bar for a soda water and lemon (real lemon!) her com trilled back with a picture of five you ladies squished in to a cab all smiling all very dressed up. Alex skiped to the front with Paul and spoke with the girl, explained that were on Mr Pauls list. She nodded but asked to speak to Jenkins
“wasup Lexi?” he smiled “got five guests for Mr Paul I see, OK they all friends of his I take it”
“er yes but high end and his proffesion more that background” Paul raised an eyebrow
“ah should be fine” his eyes norrowed
just as Alex looked at the floor and fingered her collar the five appeared all in high spirits MIssy Mayhem untanged herself from the melle and came over to Air kiss Alex,
“don’t worry we’re all sober just Avin’ a larf” we pulled back “we sweet?”
“oh of course”
“om my gosh you are so posh” then she took her arm “is he really”
“oh no he’s austrailian”
“oh ripper! why don’t you give me the introduction and i’ll DO! the rest”
Alex giggled, this messing around was infectous " ok,"
she just couldn’t help it it just came out of her mouth by passing every filter 2hey Jenkons this in Missy, missy mayhem, she fancies you something rotten" then she turned to the other girl who has stopped in stunned amazment “come on girl lest find the bar and leave these two to their awkward silence” the four decended into a fit of giggles
“ok lofty” said the girl Alex recognised from the day before “lead on, ‘am gasspin’”
and they left. once inside sjhe turned Right you all know Tall Paul so one of you is close to him at all times. I dont care how you dress it groupie hook old friend what ever. it goes down Jenkins and I’ll will go for the attakers younget him to the fire exit and stay there it we’re done. is that ok?"
“yes” “YUP” “OK You Boss” “right”
“if you see anything or or think of anynthing change over and come find me” right letts do it. Paul hung back
“was there a need for all that background and proffession drek?!”
“yes, we let four ganger girl loose i here they’ll star drinking, turning pocket amd starting fights. and while Jenkins is sorting that BAM your gone, you knoe it i know it and he knows it. he needed to know then and there those girl arn’t going to do anything dumb. So yes there was a need. my job is to keep you on the streets where its real, not blow smoke up yer butt”
“ok, wow your direct” then he smiled “you talkin’s about wilde troggs and keepin’ it real in that accents wierd. i wan to record you reading the trogg manifesto from ‘dumb grunts’”
“maybe another time, now i got a job to do, and you have people to schmooze”
“come with me”
“easy cowboy.”
“oh not like that” he lent in “Big secret, ok I’m married that why I left the Wylde”
“oh OK Sorry”
“lets schmooze”

As Paul move round the room he talked to various artist actors and exects. Alex foun herslef being collared by various people Did she Modle, dance, sing, act? did she want to Model, dance, sing act? would she Model, dance, sing, act? the twentieth iliteration of these questions. after a while the girls were swapping who was asking what, they had the advantage in that they were established artistsJenkins walked past with Missy, he shot her a dark look and then winked, later as he walked past he asked missy to stay with Paul while he had a word with Alex.
“i just wanted to say, look, i read your file and i think you pretty amazing, most people would have folded to the envitable but you didn’t and most people surviving that would be a gibbering wreck” he smiled shyly “That’s it really” he smiled more directly “and don’t think i have forgiven you for dropping me in it with Mayhem, revenge will be had…eventualy”

Alex wended her way back through the crowd to Paul, the girls were all in close attendance intercepting people with a smile and a hello. She moved up to his side with a smile to Mayhem.
“I think Jenkins is Mad at me” rolled her eye on mook contrition
“it was a bit Dank, gurw. piss funny though, gonna jack that sometime.”
Alex turned to Tall Paul “this is still going, i thought people would be drifting out by now”
“i heard that spinrad might be coming so I think people a hanging on, that and the rain”
Alex realised that the threat might be differnet now. if he was coming security waould be going through the roof. that meant they would have to hit them outside or have a resonable reason to be in the building. Alex had a peak out of the window to the street below she could see pairs of armoured security guards waling up the allyway. She looked round the room scanning looking. She began to think she prefered it when she was just waiting for the fight to start.

Jenkins walked past, “not a job for the impatent this. don’t know how you’re keepin’ a lid on it” alex looked over at the door where wolf was scrating at the door.
“I’m chewing my teeth out truth be known” she gave him a dark look “i’m a wolf not a shepard” she looked round the room “sheep”
“then why?”
“to survive, we are survivours. he understands this is how we survive in the city but that doesn’t mean he likes it” she felt guilty and she should get back to Paul. the next half hour was nerve wrecking. then it all changed paul tuned to say something but stumbled ad he did so hespilt his drink, alex looked down at her hand. the colour had changed, she looked to Paul, met his eyes. To her horror they were glassed and crossed.
“i dont feel good girl….i…ah…erm”

Paul very slowly crumpled in front of her. And that’s when she noticed that more people were leaning over a bit to far. The slurred speech! The drinks had been flowing freely among the guests, but, there hadn’t been the other behaviors that go with drunkenness! And Alex felt it, that feeling of exhaustion. When you’re so tired you can’t put two thoughts together and you’re as likely to fall down on any semi-reclining surface and sleep it off. Several people were already slowly sliding down the walls, having lost their last ditch effort to remain standing.

Jenkins was pushing through the crowd towards Paul. “Plan C.” he said and grabbed Paul throwing him over his shoulder with a grunt. “Shove through this lot. I’m right be….” he started to say. And then every bit of light in the room went out. “Shit. I can see in this. Can you?” he asked her.

yes, now hold on”, She grabbed his free hand and ‘excuse me’ed’ and pushed her way through the crowd to the fire exit at the back. when she got there two of the girl where waiting
“Maggie went daaan I da naa ’bout others” the youngest shouted over the did of the crowd
“call Trevion and get the car or what ever it is” Alex shouted as she pushed against the fire door she whispered in Jenkins ear “we’re going up, hide on top floor”

Alex had just a moment to see glowing red eyes above the crowd. And then they were through the door and the air in the stairwell was noticeably fresher.

“oh shit! We got company already, let’s get a move on” as she shut the door she shouted “just shut up and get to the cars!”
Then they started up the stairs, really fast. she hissed through her teeth " that door opens we stop, silence"

It was only five flights to the top. Tall Paul’s party rated a good view. They had almost made it when they heard the door open. Alex jammed her finger to her lips. She gave the two girls a direct look, and was pleasantly surprised by the steely looks he go in reply. The leant against the walls their ears straining to hear which was their pursuers went And then the door on their level opened and a man in the clothing of the hotels staff came through. Upon seeing them he first started to say, “Oh, excu . . . .” then. “The hell? Is he drunk? Should I call the front desk for you?” His puzzled look and offer to call the front desk would have been comical in other circumstances.

Alex didn’t hesitate, her forehead impacted on the bridge of the poor guys nose.
“terribly sorry old chap” she said as she strong armed him, spluttering and whinging, back in to the corridor. She quickly ushered the other four through. then she saw the fire extinguisher, and her face broke into an evil grin
“find the down stairs or a room” she hissed then she seized the foam extinguisher and sprayed it down the stairs. she left it squirting as she ran after the others wondering how Jenkins was holding up carrying all that dead weight, Wolf paused by the still spluttering man
“don’t you dare!” barked Alex, she could hear him laughing under his breath as she ran to catch up with the others.

The hallway looked clear. She heard the guy cursing behind them and then nothing as the door closed. Ahead Jenkins didn’t even seem to notice Tall Paul’s weight as the burly orc ran. Alex caught up with the other as the ran down the corridor, she kept sprinting ahead to check the corners, strong and fit as he was, there was no way Jenkins could slow down very quickly, if they met any ‘friends’ coming the other way. over her breath she strained to hear the tell tail sounds of people coming round the corner. She started to look for open doors to rooms. towards the end of the hallway there were a few open doors with a housekeeping cart outside the doorway.

Alex ran up to the troll chambermaid, putting on the best smile she could manage
“hi” big warm smile " we need to hide my friend from some paparazzi" Flutter eyelids " could you see your way to letting us hid in here for a few hours?"
Jenkins caught up as did the other two girls
“is he allright” asked the maid looking at Jenkins load “OH MY GOSH, that’s TALL PAUL!!” then she clocked the two girls “and and and your Katty and Delilah, Melt down massive! oh wow oh wow, quick, quick in there, in there!”
as she shuffled the group into the room she looked down the corridor.
“stay here I’ll be back in an hour” she smiled" I’ll go some other rooms, and tell ’em you went down the fire escape"
As she left Katty swiped her comm code
“thanks sister”
“its chill” and she gave them a wink
Jenkins looked round the room, suite. pointed to some furniture which they quietly and carefully put up against the door they put Paul in the room furthest from the door with the two girls, turned the lights out and hid in corners.
Wolf jumped up on the sofa and tried to watch the door but soon announced he was bored and started to wash (yes, eww, do you have to?) then settled down then sleep.

It was only about an hour before Paul woke up, “Damn my head is splitting.” he groaned. Then, “Oh shit, I didn’t miss any of the press shots did I?” Jenkins immediately leaped and put a hand over his mouth hissing. “Quiet. Party got hacked by pro’s. Whoever wants you it aint just a gang of bruisers.” Paul nodded and then staggered up whispering, “Bathroom!” and then grabbed the trash can and hurled into it. At least the air filters worked. They had the smell filtered out in less than fifteen minutes. They then had another uneventful couple of hours until the maid came in saying. “They aint been back for hours. I think it safe. Can I get an autograph an a selfie with you all? My daughter will be chuffed if she has a pic ta show of her mum with Tall Paul”, she said nervously.

Paul smiled “sure fam’s just lemme get cleaned up an ting yer?”
Photos done “here, how olds your daughter? cools cools, so next time yous free and shi’ call my agent we get you’s all back stage and ting innit” he said “Na Na mas your a lifesaver its respec’ innit”
He looked up at Alex and Jenkins “we good? so left do this”
Jenkins rebooted his link and got on to the security “yer yer aphal five five …elephant…no its custard…no we hid ’im upstairs. No he find, bit of a gippy tummy but good to go…any plod about? cool no worries down in a jiffy” Jenkins looked up "ok we’re good to go, these a very anguish management team waiting to see you down stairs, I’ll lead, girls if you could flank and Lexi there you follow up the rear. right lets go

As they reached the foyer of the hotel four suits and Mary were all waiting the finance chief was fuming , A suited Elf stood forward. “Tall Paul so glad to see you safe and free. hate to think of the damage to your creativity being a corporate captive would do. Please accept the apologies of all the Spinrad companies involved” and then he smiled and pretended to whisper “Please don’t sue, we kinda need you for a fashion show too”

“well a’ dunno guy, see I got fams ‘an shi’ to look after so this fashion show best be go gold innit” paul paused and then laughed, “just messing wid you guy. its chill, your security guys kept me safe innit so we good. Don’t we have a press conference or summit to do”

“you’ll still do it?!”

“of course guy, dats wud yous payin’ me four innit. an’ any ways me mums always says” he put on a hid pitch voice " al weys do yur best if de payin’ yu never na, de might be dumb enough ta cum back!"

another man, a dwarf, stepped up to Jenkins and Alex "hi you guys ok? good good. we all know what went on her and we all know I’ll never prove it. thank you for the good job I’ve sent payment and a reference to Miss big birds account. I’ll hail a cab to take you, big bird, to the other site so you can change out of those clothes and get some rest. again thank you for a good job well done. I will! be in touch later for a quick debrief.

Mary and Alex sat in the cab in silence while wolf look out of the back window. Alex got changed in to her suit and fixed her hair. Alex broke the silence
“please can I use the flat tonight? I clean up and clear out tomorrow, but it late and I don’t fancy my chances with getting a room tonight”
“oh hm what? oh of course” said Mary as she was startled out of her thoughts “no wait stay a while, longer, please. it would dashed ungrateful of me to”
Alex’s comm trilled she absently tripped it while she tried to figure out what was going through the spirits mind.
“Hello Harry”
“what was it like where did you get that suit or was it AR? and was he nice and..”
“harry please, it was work, and I’ve only just finished, I’ve got a date with a food drink aspirin and bed”
“oh poor darling ok lunch tomorrow 12:30 sharp at fortnums, promise? Promise!”
“ok Promise now can I die in piece?!”
Mary looked up “who was that?”
“Old school friend, she introduced me to Maria in fact, she’s lovely but rudderless, fill her time trying to organise everyone else”
“oh really, what time you meeting? again? might I impose?”

the dined Moroccan and then went for tea at a coffee house, Alex filled her in on what had happened after the gas. Maria filled her in on the one hundred and forty eight work offers she had been given for Lexi. which was a laugh as they went through them one by one rejecting them and laughing at the hastily put together prose.

Mary opened the door to the flat slowly “I’m really quite scared what if their waiting for us to take some ghastly revenge”
“I think they will be hiding right now, spinrad wont take kindly to that kind of break in”
At the top of the stairs they found no one and Mary did start to breath (even though she didn’t need to Alex made a note to talk to both Mary and Maria about their manifestation ) they both took a room.
Wolf padded into Marys room." guess you want a chat?"
“I doubt I can change your mind and we’ll only end up arguing, lets argue later”
“I meant about tonight”
“oh no tomorrow , I need rest”

“OH my god lexi I think I actually hate you right now” came the message from the face in front of her, confused images of a pack of wolves surrounded her as they sat round a table talking with a haggard looking elongated old woman. Why were they playing bridge? blinking away the images of her sleep she tried to focus
“you, you cow, you wake up and you look fab, hate you so much”
“wait who are you?”
“its me, Maggie”
“oh, hey, what can I do you for Sweet pea?”
“can we go for a rage tonight?!”
“a what?!”
“me and the girls want to say thanks for getting us in we got so much exposure”
“uh ok, I got meetings lunch time i think, but why not call me when I’m human, need liquid”
“later chick”

“Oh, my head” she lay back on the bed and started at the ceiling, letting her mind become like the paint she stared at. she rolled out of bed and
showered in silence keeping her mind blank.she dressed and walked down to the kitchen. nothing in the fridge. Wolf nudged her
“fresh air” she suggested
“OK open sky” she countered
“yer, get you fed and watered” he padded expectantly to the door

Alex looked around for Mary, Wolf offered
“Mary’s staying here she’s still puzzling over yesterday”

They walked in big circles and ended up in Hyde park, as they walked round the Italian gardens sipping a hot chocolate Alex offered up a
“do you mind that Mary tries to interfere with your relationship with Maria?”
“that’s a good question. it shows a long thought process. No I don’t. its aggravating at times but its good to know that someone cares about her

too, Marys got a much more romantic view of the world. Maria get to hear, and feel all the hopes and fears of the world as she cuts hair, Mary
just get to feel the hopes and aspirations, wow that was deep for me" he jumped down from the bench back he was balancing on. “lets get back and get Mary, I want her to meet Harriett. I like her and I want an excuse to call her pack.”
“I pose question or make statements”

Mary was still in the bedroom when they got back. Alex knocked on the door “Out in a minuet Darling”

Mary was in the kitchen by the time Alex got down stairs, dressed immaculately “have you seen my comlink?”
“is it in the room or did you leave it at the reception?”
“Ah, not sure. would be a sweetie and take a peek in the room” it was there in the middle of the bed.

They walked, it was a clear winters day and they could walk down bond street and take in all the shops there. there was a crowd out side Spinrad

as people took pictures of the clothes from the show yesterday
“they seam to like it” said Mary. Alex prayed no one recognised her.

they were talking practical office wear when they arrived, Harriett was already seated and waved. As they walked over Alex took Mary’s arm gently.
“watch what happens, just wait for it later”
“harry my love, you look better.”
“oh I am feel like a weight has been lifted and it only an appointment”
“may be the secret was the weight, not the problem”
“probably, and your friend?”
“Harriett, this is Mary my employer she knows Maria”
“ohhh, Hiiii, shall we, oh are you and Maria family, I see a likeness”
“sort of, as you can get”
“oh how wonderful any way tell me about last night how wonderful was it, ahhh all the stars and all the dresses”
“sorry my dear” interrupted Mary “Dresses do you like such things?”
“yes why?”
“I think you need a good buyer, some one like Lexi’s here”
“but Harry sorted this out, Mary”
“We darling you need to dress to your best, that is a acceptable ensemble but you could be so much more”
“well I suppose I could brighten thing up a bit and may be get some heels, I’m getting a massage this afternoon and Archi and I are going out
tonight. so tomorrow, have to be before two though have to meet Anna Marie to help her with her shoes”
“see” said Alex “this is why I thought you two should meet, now shall we eat, I am starving”

While Alex reading the menu Harry and Mary started talking, soon comlinks came out and outfits were analysed and dissected. Alex lent back and

enjoyed the sound while she reach for Wolfs ear
“happy?” they both asked at the same time

Mary looked up
“oh your are starting to be the Bain of my life young Lexi legs, how many time can I tell these people you cannot do swimsuit, you not an actor and at 6 foot scary skyscraper tall you are only good for couture. ACK. but you are good for security arn’t you darling, I wonder if I could ‘it’ girl you! that would be fun!”

this was not good news but as Harry and Mary started to plot Alex let them even as she started search for messages from Sabrina.

And there it was, “Congrats on making the fashion show. I have a little black suit you might be interested in wearing for me.”

“tell me? These girls want to turn me in to the next it girl” as she looked at her comm array a thought popped in her head “is this UK or UCAS based clothes horsing?”

UCAS. An old friend found some interesting accessories.” she answered.

Alex sent a selfie with her raising an eye brow

“Car waiting for you.” When Alex turns she sees a brilliant yellow skylark parked outside.

Alex looked up, wolf whined excited and skipped around. Mary looked at Wolf and then at Alex
“Oh my” she said with her heart in her mouth “are you going to break my heart?”
“yes” Said Alex with a straight stare
Harry chimed in “what? Lexi What?” then she go the idea “No you just got here, we only just got you back!” she tried to look ‘brave’ “do you have to go? do you truly have to?”
“I’ll need to get my things from the flat, I better go or we’ll just get all worked up and I might never leave”
Mary looked at wolf “is this your doing!?”
“no Mary no, it’s me; it’s business. I am wolf!” she pleaded “I have to hunt” Alex stood up and leant forward kissed Mary on both cheeks and then went round and hugged Harry for the longest time
“I have to go, I’ll be in touch, any problems message me”

Alex strode to the door, surprised at the lack of tears. truth be told while it had be a nice busman’s holiday she need to get back on the road.

The door car door popped opened and she climbed inside.

“Mayfair mews please I need to collect my things”

Wolf looked out of the back of the car and Alex caught a glimpse of a tall figure stood at the curb, hands clasped together in a dignified show of selfcontrolled concern.

As the car pulled away from the flat Alex’s Comm trilled, It was Maggie
“hey doll we should meet at the loop….”
“yer ‘bout that. I have a new contract and have to fly today, I’m on my way to the Airport now, really so sorry I was so looking forward to it”
“aw no fare’s that’s just dench, so anywhere nice”
“all I know is middle east right now, but I’m guessing HK or Shanghai.”
“OK Sweet, send a post card or summut yer? Love you baby doll and you owe me a night on the lash remember that!”


The Smoke

The advantage of AR environment for the evader is the sheer amount of electronic clutter that produces. Yes the surveyor can clean the feed up but that produces lag and loss of definition and also you cannot be sure of what they interacting with. As a evader you should still think in terms of a AR free environment and use the advantage as a bonus. add in to this the great strides in adaptive clothing and thing are stacking up on your side. all of this has led to old fashioned surveillance techniques coming back in to favour, cameras, drones and pavement artist are now the way to go.
This bring back the old skill too, looking at a street you have to constantly think “the places people do things, the time they do them” Simple example; – man in a suit and Macintosh walks out of a metro supermarket behind you with a sandwich and a drink at 12:00 lunch 17:30 PI keeping his expenses low while he follows you. things people wear the old story of the guy wearing a long coat in summer is a classic but the woman wearing a business suit midnight on Saturday?
A good surveillance team will ring the changes move people in and out, rotate them through, change their clothes Is why PI and their team do not have tattoos in summer they show up and you cannot change them. this is easier in winter just change the coat and hat. the common mistake is to not change the shoes, it’s snowing and you really don’t want to mess around in the back of a van getting your sock wet trying to bend over in all those layers. So as you cut your rout and to check for those tails look at the shoes then the person ( then the mouth nose eyes).
Alex criss crossed Soho and Covent Garden for two hours but came up clean. she got the call to come in. She was starting to feel tired as she climbed the stairs to the garret offices just for Cambridge circus she was looking for proper food coffee bed. As she got to the reception booth she started to figure that was a long way away off. Behind the young man on the front desk things looked busy, not r=trading floor busy more ongoing story news team busy. Wolf knew hunting when he saw it and began to wimpier and bark as he padded round and round Alex. Alex licked her lips as the feeling of a pack on the hunt just enfurled her, the warmth of a pack moving on the hunt the unspoken following of roles the combined purpose.
She dragged herself back to the now (hoping she her tongue had not been lolling again)
“can I help?2 said the man at the desk with his best Customer service grimace
“no no no wee man, I’ll be helpin’ here thank you” called a svelte Ork who was using the corner to make a call, Alex recognised him from the call, “so glad you could join us, by ‘ell see why your big bird, I’m called Pullthrough” he said then switching to imitating her accent, “nice trip” and then betraying his scots roots muttered “it better have been for that kinda money”
He ushered her into a side office or meeting room " everything is monitored here, I don’t want any accusations of shenanigans help yourself to KAf and Sarnies" gesturing at the cabinet in the corner. he opened an comms line. “Mike can you send scary Sue in; I want her to look at something” As they waited he made small talk, mainly about her back ground which she vaguely answered “ah this is Sue she is our tech expert can you give her the product please?” he waved his hand in an open
Alex reach down her top and pulled out the data cube. Sue picked it up and twirled it in her fingers. “it clean but not for lack of trying two encryption levels are breached and the next triggered but it held. it was before the flight. now the data. wow that’s a lot of noise and spoofing." she frowned and looked as though she was concentrating very hard. “no, sorry Pullthrough, to much data for me in one go I’m going to have to split this down one strand at a time to check that. The comlink came up clean too so if this is false it was spoofed at the time of recording”
Pullthrough frowned “ok Sue get on with it and let me know soon as you can, put this one next on your list, ok?”
As the technomancer left Pullthrough leaned back in his chair “I was going to use you as a courier but I’m afraid you’re a bit too conspicuous for my liking what I am going to do is bung you 2000 from the reptile fund and ask you to stick around so I can use you as a recce, body guard and muscle. Now I’ve ready what I’m allowed to read and asked about so I’m going to say it again DO NOT START ANYTHING ON THESE JOBS they are all strictly arm’s length. now till then I’m going to keep you off site. here a burner phone it will only accept calls from me if i speak to you in Glaswegian everything is fine, if i come across all plumy and proper, I’m in a proper pickle and you need to ditch this and run, ok?”
“uh, ok” Alex stood next to the coffee machine " so 2000 to stick around and what per job? and can I find other work"
“hmm ok I’ll outline the job and we’ll haggle my budget is not endless but I’ll be fair. and you can do what you like but you get lifted by the fuzz we never knew you. Deal?”
“Deal, now darling where’s my money” she smiled, he laughed “Ey, I’ll get that sorted” he was soon back with three 500’s and 500 cash “you want this to you account? go here he’ll do it for 10% OK?”
“all good then”
“Smooth, I’m very busy right the noo so if you don’t mind I’ll get back to my cell”
And with that Alex found herself back out on the street thirty minutes after she had arrived. as she hailed a taxi she didn’t see the blinds open slightly back up in the office “so boss burger you think she’s a plant?” said the orc “no, she not, you read the report that psycevala nd such, she has a very Black and white view of things i think she would have stabbed someone if they tried to get her involved in that kind of thing or died trying” “did you see how excited she got in the hall way?” “yes that spirit really has its claws into her”

Alex had already planned out her hotel, a travel lodge in Mayfair, close to five tubes access to three train stations and the euro tunnel service, cheap as chips and anonymous. she still had to put the do not disturb sign and chair up against the door. she had cleared her tail for nearly an hour changing id’s back and forth and using the tube and taxis (gotta love cash). she woke in the morning refreshed and more than a little restless. she itched to be outside not cooped up in a church. she decided to walk to SoHo and grab breakfast. she stretched out the morning over several coffees and teas while she read time out from top to bottom and then chewed her way through dazed and confused and ID. all the while she was watching the street.
“still can’t turn off” she harrumphed to herself
“of course” said Wolf “that what being Wolf is about, it’s how we survive it would be nice to have a pack though, hunting is a social thing so much more fun, oooo that outfit’s good, get it, you’d look so Alpha in that, don’t get ideas” he smiled
“OK Mr hunter where shall we range today then?”
“you decide this is your forest?”
she caught the tube via Victoria (where she used the great banks of lockers at the coach station to stash her few possessions ). when she left she was still undecided she drifted on the tube and headed out on the circle line (not a circle any more) and got off at shepherds bush Westfield shopping centre was now bigger and better that every, Nanite constructors had added two more levels (they say that technomancers could hear the nanites whisper to each other) best of all it was covered over so she drifted around trying on a few things and looking at make up and generally regressing into her kidulthood. Need a slush puppy
As she started at the window of Dior she heard this screech that was all too familiar “Lexi!? LEXI!? it is its LEXI LEGS” she turned to see the old memory of Harriet Bonham Jenkins smyth Bearing down on her. She wasn’t a bad person she was just hard work and that still hadn’t changed it would seem. Wolf whimpered and hid behind a bin.
“Lexi, It soo good to see you, how are you? how was America? Did you marry that guy? on and I love that outfit is it Manhattan or Denver? wait wait look it Pimps o’clock I have got a hair an nails appointment over sasoons’ Maria will fit you in, come on we have so much catching up to do” and that with no sign of an intake of breath.
Alex rolled her eyes and she allowed herself to be pulled along. It was just like the old day as Harry twittered and chirruped about nothing and Lexi bend lower to hear her. When they reached the salon in Covent Garden wolf was seeing the funny side and was now also rolling his eyes and covering his ears. they were greeted and the door by a strangely proportioned lady: nearly as tall as Lexi but with much longer legs and her hair was art, blue grey almost silver it looked almost computer generated perfect except that it flowed and moved in a way only something real could. she moved with a languid heart aching grace and then she spoke
“Ah Miss Harry and…?” Alexs’ heart broke it was the most beautiful sound she had every heard musical, like running water or some such she found it very hard to concentrate.
“erm er Alexandra”
“we all call her Lexi, lexi legs, look they go on for ever” Harry burst in
“oh Quite” came the reply with the ubiquitous rolling of eyes “well lexi i will see if I can fit you in should be too much trouble, all the great and the good have gone of on there final ski breaks for the year, next week would be a problem” she stopped and looked at her face closely “do you mind? can I just?” she reach out with a hand with impossibly long fingers and nails that where nearly claws and lifted Alexes chin and turned her head this way and that a little her musical voice letting her know all the time what she was going to do “thankyou, don’t want to trigger your reflexes do we, does your…wolf want a blow or a blanket?”
Wolf stopped sniffing round the coat stand and looked about innocently and then impudently sat on his haunches and stared at Maria “how are you Maria?”
“I’m fine, loving this life, where have you been?”
“Oh you know here and there, teaching this new cub how to hunt”
“oh why can’t I stay mad at you even for a minuet?” she turned to Alex “ so you’re a hunter? good that is a profession unlike a thug which is a vocation”
Maria returned her attention to her diary “there all done, if you a professional then I think something shorter than my first plan, would you mind if we took some shot when we’re done please?”
Alex looked at Wolf who shrugged “ok I guess then”
Maria smiled and waved a lady over to her. Alex looked over to Harry was on her Comm
“Charley Charley charles charles No I’m sure its Lexi yes no she is not dead not she is not a ghoul no honestly she right here dinner yes no he’s working ok good I don’t care he’s never going to leave her”
Maria gracefully moved to her side “it’s so alien now isn’t, seemed like a good idea half an hour ago didn’t it but now. enjoy it, its like food you never know when your next meal will come from” she took her hand come relax you are truly safe here relax and take your ease, heather is very good"
Harry bounced up her usual bundle of energy “so we are having dinner with charley and may be Simone, let go get changed.”
Alex had always been a skinny thing, gangling if you were painfully honest and while age had given her an enviable shape, two years of running and a six weeks in a virtual monastery meant that that was now very toned, she now had a muscular and lean frame, very much the beach body. The girl who handed her the robe could not disguise her envy but as always the closer inspection the envy brought revealed all the scars that running brought with it and of course there was the damage Xzavier had caused. She hated the looks that always came next, it was as if she could feel the blade again as the persons eyes traced the path it had taken.
Maria cam in to the room and choked, almost gaged. Flailing to grab at the door frame to steady herself she shooed the staff out “oh my child, what did he do to you” she whispered under her breath as her hand tracked the wounds. her hands were rough and yet warn and comforting she could feel something else happening almost as if Maria was leafing through her memories or scars, Alex turned to see tears stream down Marias face " oh my poor child and no mother or sisters to wash the sin from your body. He said you were strong but this. that scar on your soul should be so much bigger, you should be a gibbering wreck" Alex hadn’t noticed that the tears were blood “I’m sorry my thing is empathy and repair it been a good few centuries since I’ve met a survivor of something so harsh took me by surprise, Can you believe I cried seaweed once? come let’s get your hair cut all nice and do those horrid nails”
Alex grabbed the robe and pulled it on still more than a little shocked she sort to change the subject “why are we wearing these just for a hair cut?”
“oh darling it not just a hair cut and anyway all the dust and clippings play havoc with AR emitters” Maria Laughed
Wolf looked on with big eyes and then followed Maria as Alex was plonked down in a chair and the process began. unable to see she had to filter out the sounds one by one "so can you help her? " no my friend I can’t he really did a job on her every level of her psyche and she survived she has healed herself and I can’t unfurl that without breaking her in the process. I could study her but that’s it, in fact can I study her please promise I won’t interfere please" “no” why not?!" “because she’s listening, kinda makes it harder to study if they know and she knows now” oh damn!" “she really had a effect on you didn’t she” “no its him, the magic and the power he drew, the insanity of it it was quite over whelming for a moment, I quite forgot myself” “wow! OK I’m going to play in your wash baskets” “if you must” “oh I must”
Having been washed stripped nourished toned conditioned and primed, Alex and harry were moved to a chair were what looked like a surgery team waited for her. all the while Maria Floated in and out all smiles and Flattery.
“while I know Miss Harry’s tastes I’m afraid you are a complete mystery to me Miss Lexi” she glided two her side “please can we do something exciting? To be honest you’re going to lose a lot length because of all those hoarraid spleet ends” she reached out slowly with her other hand raised in a placating manner “its going to be boring layer or something shoulder length” she paused almost sniffing the air, her eyes hardened a little and she look towards Wolf “I’ll go get the book and Sally, she’s the best and, if I can persuade you she needs to practice the cut i have in mind” Maria almost stalked out of the door her "you couldn’t help yourself could you?” she growled as wolf followed
“What?! its not my fault it was her plan that drew me to her, what did you think I did? teach her to lick him to death?”
“she so fragile, confused and lost, what have you done to her”
“Maria stop it, she is not fragile there is steel like you wouldn’t believe in that spine, what is losing her is everyone transposing on her and trying to fix themselves via proxy”
“Wolf you silly silly thing she’s trying to please you”
“Of course she is! she’s a wolf! I’M THE ALPHA!” Alex could hear Wolf getting angry “Look Maria if you want to help you need help her find a way to tell all her little spoilt over protected lambkins that a fox got in to the lambing field, that what’s losing her! she thought this life was behind her and now its back and she knows she’s broken in this world, that what your feeling she doesn’t want to brag to her old friends about how she LOVEd! that kill”
“oh yes I haven’t felt such joy in a long time, she loves the kill and the hunt”
“oh my, she keeps that well wrapped”
“she had a good teacher”
“oh listen to the big head”
“not me, the priestly dude we just hid with, he was strict but fair”
“Oh ok Sorry”
Maria Glided back into the room clutching a very large book “I’m a bit old fashion about this I like the interaction with the book, so much more intimate than trid or other tech” she opened it to a page I thought maybe this" she offered the book as if it were a meal, as Alex looked at the picture Maria stood her hands clasped under her chin. Wolf jumped up on the trolley to look sending everything flying, it was only an image of what Wolf wanted to do but it annoyed Maria, which might well have been the intension.
“let me see, ok so have a look through, see if there’s more” he said “ok what’s at the back?” he asked "back to the front “go back, no next page , ok yes, I see, no I don’t care its your hair I just wanted to see the book” and he jumped of as resumed sniffing the hair dyes in the rack.
Maria stamped her foot "oh you’re impossible, you have spent far too much time with raven, " composing herself Maria turned back to Maria wringing her hands “so Miss Lexi what is it to be”
Harry leaned over “Lexi, sweet, show harry? Oh Wow Lexi you have to you will look so fierce with that cut, please do it”
Alex felt a little ting of guilt to Father Yanis and his puritan ways but she felt she need to relax it wasn’t like she could hide being this tall.
“ok, we’ll go for it”
Maria Beamed still clasping her hands “oh thankyou this will be so much fun, can we take shots when we’re done?”
If Alex wasn’t excited by the idea Harry was nearly wetting herself with glee
“Oh My Gawd, lexi your going to be a model ahhhh!”
“oh calm down Harry it just a few shot for the book it not like i’m getting a contract or cover shot” she roller her eyes “lord above your such a ’queeen” just for a moment she smiled, the last four years weren’t there just for one moment
Maria spoke with the Stylist “ashgrey blonde, then match the tint to her eyes, highlight, we’ll decide in abit” she turned to Big Bird “i’m assuming you’ll want the longhair on the left hand side so it does get caught in your gun? miss Lexi”
Alex actually blushed “yes please that would be best”
Harry all but exploded “Gun? What? Lexi? guns? what’s is she on about?” she dropped her comm and stared at Lexi “are you some kind of spy secret agent?!”

“Harry, sweetie, if I was could I tell you!?” Alex raised an eyebrow “I’ll tell you later, I’m sure you have much to tell me about Charley charles charles and simone, aaand everybody else” then muttered under her breath “like i have a choice” in Russian

The stylist ,Sally, Squeaked “russki?” and started chattering
Alex sighed "I can’t catch a break they’re everywhere” she thought, Wolf laughed, she wished Wolf could be real she could set Harry on him.

The Stylist wasn’t too bad asking about music and films and trid keeping to English but making little side jokes in Russian but not too many. the she got to holidays Alex had to admit she hadn’t had a holiday in a long while but she did travel a lot with work. Harry butted in
“but Lexi you travelled all the time, we were all so envious of you when you jetted off to Italy or Switzerland don’t you miss it?”
“no” she thought out loud “my work is all a bit consuming and it’s not in the office so it’s not like I don’t get out or see things” she giggled “I never have to wash my bed socks”
EWWW” reacted Harry
“no no I’ve got an bag full of flight socks, I just get a new pair out” she laughed 2can do you a good deal on eye-masks and little toothpaste tubes too"
" so any way Charley charles charles has got herself a job in a little boutique PR company, they all kinds of thing for little pop ups and new fashion labels than what have you, she so very now and cutting edge new fashion, shes always got freebies and tickets. but they so want their pound of flesh she works all hours and oh oh Simone just replied she devo can make it oh she’s soo cool she has a studio and gallery down in Mayfair…"
“Harry do you track everyone from class?”
“may beee” she said in a little girl voice “and the netball and lacross team too”
“that’s it? That’s what you do”
“well yes Archibald has a good business and we have a good life, and if you remember I’m pretty crap at most things except for sport so ye I’m a home maker. I have learnt to cook and budget and fit out a home and I don’t get ripped off by the contractors now. I’m proud of my house its very home and garden, spotless” said with defensive tone “it’s all very Jane Asher, laura Ashley and Cath kidstone” she giggled as the final defence. “I’m sorry we lost touch but your vlog went dead and I hadn’t got any other contacts, so glad I found you”
“Harry what is tell me”
“maybe it’s one of those things for later”
AHHH Stephanie can come too, oh oh oh have to get hold of Kaspar and increase the booking, oh wait till you seen Stephanie, she an internal Auditor for Saeder Krup, you know they give you clothes to make sure you look the part?!”
Alex started to get images of some kind of inquisition “please god no more or at least one at a time”
the stylist then gave her some respite by switching on the hairdryer, by now it wasn’t so much the culture shock of being back in the “set” it was the knowledge that she really could not ever settle back into it. while she still wanted the lunches, Teas and dinners the shops, clothes and hairdos’ she knew it really would be a gilded cage. Wolf caught her eye as he pulled himself up from the towel nest he had made for himself " we have to stay here a while, there will be prey soon"
The stylist working on Harry finished and Alex made appreciative noises about what was an nice sensible haircut, Hers, she was not so sure as it was still a mass of clip grips and folds of tinfoil.
Harry took up station on the little sofa at the back of the salon room while the stylist finished. as she nibbled cake and sipped tea she was oblivious to Wolf sniffing her hair. Alex sat there watching her out of the corner of her eye while the stylist carefully cut her hair. Harry was just so oblivious to Alex’s world she was going to freak when she told her about everything, Lexi had no idea how she would react. she was wracking her brain for an idea just to let her know it was not going to be good. she looked at her holding her cake between her thumb and forefinger while she swiped through a magazine with greater concentration than the content deserved. Alex blushed at being so judgemental, then the idea came to her
“Harry I’m going to need make up, a good waterproof mascara, you got and bright ideas?”
“waterproof or cry proof ?” she said suddenly very engaged, “well Selfridges is the place to start for that for that we can have a look there and then bimble down to Carnaby street” she started to flick at her commlinks display in an very earnest manner, chewing her lip while she worked. yes worked, well that hadn’t worked but Alex got another idea.
It took ten minutes for the penny to drop with Harry, She looked up at Alex with big round scared eyes “Lexi is it going to be horrid?” she asked in a small voice
“Yes Harry yes it will be horrid”
She waited for a bit “I want you to tell me before the other get there I’ll change the booking so we can have a little time to ourselves" she paused and look “is makeup shopping the best thing to do, it seems …wrong”
“oh no darling, it’s the best, wrap me up in your lovely, beautiful world and keep the horrid things from my mind for a little while longer please”
“ok, yes ok” she smiled weakly then trying to focus “you’re not allergic are you?”
“no Sweetie I’m not”
Then the stylist started to peel off the foil and bit and it interrupted the conversation.
Maria glided into the room with her impossibly heart aching grace “Ah! Perfecto! just in time for the grand reveal!” she was wringing her hands again. the stylist relaxed and smiled “Does miss Maria wish to check for me?!”
“OK Marie” as Marie put the final trim on the cut under Marias’ direction Alex tried to Focus on what was next, it was then that she caught wolf’s reflection in the corner of the mirror. He had is serious face on as he watched Maria work but at the same time his tail wagged. after a little while he came and sat next to Maria to get a better view. Hair finally trimmed and straightened Alex was spun round to a chorus of “ta Dah”s to be confronted by a alien face, the change from trimmed to coiffured, curly to straight, long to…something and a long black highlight down the side but she has to admit it did look good, very good.
“Oh my you look like Saphira, wow” crowed Harry “I told you I told you you look so beautiful” Harry jumped up and down very excited clapping, Maria floated round “I do hope you like it” she said her hands clasped in front of her
“Maria it just stunning, I never thought..”
“I know darling that’s why I did it, well that and him” she smiled and wolf “thank you for letting me be bold I know elves can sometimes be very precious about their hair” Maria leaned back on one foot/hoaf. “now pictures,”
two men with a small mountain of equipment scurried into the room and quickly set up. Green screen and tripod and some kind of rail. thirty minuets and several corneas later it was done. while Alex blinked away the dots in her eyes Maria appraised the shot, “thanks gentlemen perfection as always" she smiled and they visibly relaxed, break down their equipment and beat a hasty retreat. Maria watched their leaving with a wry smile “I will never know why they are so nervous around me”
“may be it because they are afraid you’re some kind of succubus and will suck their souls out if they displease you, Maria” quipped Alex
YOU WHAT?! "snapped Maria “I’ve never collected souls, might bite the top off their heads and eat the brains but souls yck” she and Alex laughed, until they saw the look on Harry’s face, “Oh Miss Harry, we’re having a little Magical joke, really, Honestly I feed of happiness, that why i do this”
“Lexi what does she mean about Magic or is this another subject for later”
“Harriette its all part of the same thing I’m afraid”
" Maria, you and your staff have been marvellous as usual, but Lexi and i have to get going, sorry to be all business but can we sort the transactions?"
“Of course Miss Harry. Hill’s on the front desk will help and I’ll ask the boy to get your coats and bags”
Harry excused herself pleading toilet. Maria bobbed down and took wolfs head in both hand and hugged him too her “Miss Lexi i insist that you come to get your Hair done very time you are here in the smoke” Wold lick Maria face and then padded out of the door. Maria pulled herself away from her thoughts “I’d better go see how the girls are do with those coats”
As they reach the front desk Harry was pulling her coat on “Lexi thank you for letting me bully you in to coming, I’ve sorted everything>”she stopped and looked at Alex with a critical eye “Lexi darling do you have a subie for your AR or you you slot?”
“Er Subie, why?”
“because I’m starving and Marias cake has only made me even more ravenous and we need to find you an outfit for tonight, we can look for something in your subscription while you buy me lunch” Wolf started to whimper and Lick his lips.
Maria bid them goodbye at the door, Wolf lingered at the door and whimpered turning this way and that, Alex stopped and watch as something passed between him and Maria, she reached for his ear and he rubbed up against it then she turned and shut the door, Wolf let a little howl. then trotted over to Alex
“I’m starving let’s eat” he told her.
Harry found a little cafe that served some form of pretend street food, they ate quickly, the both of them to ravenous for words, the coffee was soy but the milk real. Alex guessed it was time but she was going to start with Harry, so lowered her head closer to be heard over the crowd
“so Harry what’s the problem, why the sudden lack of … anything. why are you drifting, you have an A star in Math and yet your deferring to me for basic adding up you got four A levels. What’s happened”
Harry crumbled before her eyes “I can’t have babies, Alex, how can I be a real wife to Archi if I can’t have babies, its eating me up and I just gone to pieces, I just can’t think or over think everything” she wailed
Alex silently mouth “oh” then “Are you sure?, have you both been for tests and such like?”
“oh Lexi, we go at it hammer and tongs. we’re really naughty, I should be pregnant by now!”
“so no tests”
harry stopped “what are you saying, Lexi”
“I’m say know don’t guess” she gathered up Harrys hands “it could be all sorts of thing stopping it. I read of one case where it was a spirit in a building that didn’t want children around, so no one in the building could conceive”
Harrys eyes lit up “do you think? really”
“go see the doctor is what I’m saying, How long have you been fretting about this?”
“I don’t know, too long, Oh Alex your always so direct and to the point thank you, So is that spirit thing part of your ‘magical’ joke too?”
" No Harry no its not now don’t change the subject promise me you’ll go see a doctor, together"
“Ok promise, doctor it is, and don’t you change the subject either; so what’s happened? last I heard you left for Manhattan studying Architecture at… Brown, that’s not magical Lexi and what happened to that guy Stephanie said you were with”
Alex became nervous at his mention but tried to cover it up and failed miserably she looked away to see Wolf with his head in her lap looking up “no dodging this one Pup, it is what it is up to you if you tell her everything”
Alex looked up unable to keep a smile on her face
“Oh Darling” cried Harry “did he break you heart? was he truly beastly to you?”
“No Harry he didn’t break my heart, just tried to tear it out” she fought the tears and forced herself to breathe through the short breaths, Through her musty eyesight she could see Harry trying to work out if that had been a joke then when it was obvious it was not a joke the horror seep across her face, her hand shot up to her face “oh My god” she Whispered "oh mY god did he? did he ? oh Lexi did he?
“yes” she nodded more that said “and more, Oh god and so much more, Harry, he cut on me and so many things”
OH my Gosh Lexie not here, wait" she fumbled their things into her bag and drag Alex out of the cafe, They found a door way/fire exit in a small courtyard down a side street, the analogy of the bustling street just out of reach to her life was not lost on Alex. they sheltered from drizzle as Alex tried to make her explanation sound coherent,
"He got in to something and started, oh god he used me for Blood magic, he bled me, cut me" she sobbed in one great retching intake of breath" he kept me for weeks in the apartment, the flat. chained me, oh harry he did everything he shouldn't to me"
Harry pushed herself in to the corner of the alcove, one arm protectively wrapped around herself while she nervously chewed on the cuticle on a finger of the other hand.
“so what happened? how did you…get away?”
“Harry please don’t judge me please try to understand please”
“Don’t sugar coat it, pup, tell her” came Wolfs command
“is it horrid Lexi? is it truly horrid?”
Alex nodded her lie looking at her with wide eyes “I killed him” Wolf howled and Alex fought the urge to join in as the thrill coursed through her veins
“oh lord Lexi you did what?” Harry recoiled
“Harry please there’s more”
“more!?” she gawped
“I awakened, I became a physical adept”
“oh is that what she meant?”
Alex wiped her eyes and nose unceremoniously “yes, Now Harry that’s all I’m ever going to say about what happened, not details, nothing, please don’t fish for things, its really bad, you don’t want to know” she leaned her head back.
“so that’s it your just going to lock it up and walk on?”
“yes. Pretty much, I can’t change it; and talking about it just makes me really aggressive for days after and I don’t sleep, so yes pretty much that’s it” she said to the sky
“OK, let go find somewhere dry” she looked up at the sky “I don’t think this is going to let up any time soon”
“let’s go shopping for that outfit the old way.” Alex wiped her nose again, pulled up her hood and stepped out in to the rain “I’ll explain a bit about what’s happened since”
Harry ran after her “Since?! Lexi? what do you mean since?! Isn't that enough? ”

As they picked out a pair of Jeans she explained what physad was
“So you’re fast?!”
“very and I can get faster”
“show me?”
“OK take that pen” she put her had on the floor “stab my hand”
“do it”
Alex moved fast so as Harry’s hand came down she had taken hold of the top of the pen so she held it up in front of Harry’s eyes as her hand hit the carpet.
“Wow, just wow. is it all like that”
“yes but it’s also hard, you can over react, someone is reaching out to shake my hand and I’ll think they are attacking me and then I throat punch them”
“oh, is that funny?”
“yer kinda” Her face darkened “except I keep interpreting people wrong because of what happened”
“is that funny?!”
“no not really, I’ve hit a few guys very hard”

as they worked their way through shirts and blouses she tried to explain Wolf
“Lexi let me get this right, you are followed around by a Wolf who no-one else can see, a wolf who you can talk to and it tells you what to do? si that right?”
“I know it’s not normal but..”
“you’re like one of those NAN warriors from the Ghost Dance war” Harry blurted “like the shamans, does that mean you get claws and teeth?”
“no, just funny looks when he provokes me into laughing”
“who me” as he chased his tail Alex smiled

And they tried boots on in Office she explained how she had moved from Architecture to the Thaumaturgy department, how she’d written a paper that gave a 2/1 in thaumaturgy.
“so you graduated? so what do you do now?”
“I’m a consultant. when people have issues with blood magic they get in contact. it pays for my research” she stood up to try the boots for fit " i want to go back to that Cyberdog place to get those sleeves we saw and those leather legging leg warmer thingys in that other place"
“so why the” she dropped her voice “why the .. you the , reason for your short hair”
Alex had forgotten just how Anti Gun England was “Oh it well often they are unto no good or out of control so you end up in a tussle. I like these very much but i like those Modes block heal too for work.” she sighed and reluctantly put the modes back in the box. and passed the block toes to the assistant to pay for.

as they finished they realised they had two hours before dinner. Alex sagged there was no way she culd get ready and get her things
“Lexi what’s wrong? you have a face like thunder”
“we only have two hours and NO makeup and nowhere to change”
“Ah yes, never mind i have a guzillion avios points on my account we can just grab a room at the W”
oh no, when worlds collide how to handle this. “ah can’t go to the W Harry, you know when I said I over react, well I over reacted there. don’t think I’ll be very welcome.”
“oh the Mondrian! it’s just round the corner and they have the most amazing spar, the old dwarf, Kate, runs it, they’ll do our make up in thirty minutes. And they do real tea.”
“ok let’s go”

Two hours later Harry admire Alex before they headed out “Oh wow that looks so good you’re going to Cause traffic chaos. what that thing round your waist?”
“this? and MPAL cummerbund” she tugged at the Black nylon ensemble she was using as a corset “might get one of these for work”
“Do you think about work all the time, Lexi?”
“Yes I do I think Ha Ha see the joke”
“funny, hope you don’t mind but i bought you those boots, the Modes ones you liked. just so you know I’m thinking of you when you’re working” Wolf walked up and sniffed the bag and then cocked his leg. Alex couldn’t help herself as she clenched her fist by her side and stamped her foot
“don’t you dare”
“what sorry Lexi i just..”
“Not you him!”
“come on let’s go I smell the heard approaching, the hunt” Alex shivered she could feel it too.
“harry thank you so much for this shall we go”
“We have to sort your key for the night and I know the porter can go get your things from the locker and i want to wait till Charley Charley Charles Charles and Simone get there before we make you grand entrance, OOOO! I’m so excited I can’t believe I just found you in the street. It’s going to be so good the five of us again, ahhhhh” and she ran a little excited circle round Alex.
“Harry calm down or you’ll wet yourself or something”
“you look serious”
“I’m just hoping I can dodge the questions”
“It’s ok I’ll tell them not to ask because your last ended messily and it still hurts”
“yes that an honest dodge”

the rain had eased up and they decided walk. Alex had to walk really slowly, but in the west end it wasn’t such a chore nor could you walk any faster any way. They arrived at the Soho Ivy Charlotte and Simone were there. they had a booth at the back and were all set up with a bottle of Plonk white and five glasses. it had been nearly six years since they had last really met. Charley charley charles charles was still had her main of red hair and the inability to dress herself she realy did look like she had covered herself in glue and ram raided liberty’s. Simone on the other hand knew what suited her artistic demeanour and never deviated from it and probably never would acting as a safety blanket for her identity as her creativity shifted here and there. her blonde unkempt hair looked like it had been cut with a bread knife (and probably had been) her simple floral dress and her winter boots, she had worked silk flowers in to her hair all had an air of simple but deep thought, all blithely ethereal

They spoke with closeness of sisters sentences half stated before other answered intuitively but the conversation stop at Harry approached towing Alex through the throng.
ARRRRGH IT’S LEXI LEEEEEGGGGGS” they screamed (and wolf barked) “it is it really you”
Charlotte looked closely already two glasses in to the night she classed as tired and emotional. “you’re really here! I so Glad Oh you look so harsh that outfit is so amazballs” she giggled “I hate you so much you always look a million dollars and then you get ready, so unfair”
“Simone you look well”
“oh I’m ok got a new exhibition for march so work to that and two pieces sold so i can eat for a while” she shifted and patted the seat “sit, I get you first” she stuck her tongue out at Charles who was already talking to Harry.
So your in new York? doing architecture? that when you ran away and left us all to the mercies of the BBC and OOO. is it going well? do you truly love it?
“well erm ah i’m errrr a.. i’m a field consultant now, Kinda self-employed and kinda between jobs too”
“OOh field consultant, that sounds exciting, what yo you….”
charley interrupted by pulling Simone flat on her back on the booth couch “don’t ask about her fella’ turns out t=hes a twat, remember no man twat” she announced with drunk sincerity “got it, no man, twat”
“Wow she drunk already”
“it’s her work she finding it hard than she lets on and you know communications all the meetings are at the bar”
“oh Quite, so tell me about your new collection, it it themed or sequential?
As Simone open up about her new collection Alex caught sight of Wolf he had is Business head on. just then food arrived, Simone was having eggs on horseback while charles had the tunasteak. harry had the chicken Caesar salad and Alex the green salad with mixed beans. the food slowed the conversation slightly but Charley slipped in to the conversation
“i Heard you say you’re a consultant now, what’s your specialism. is it the engineering or the decor?”
“oh I’m sorry I though you both knew? I awakened while I was in the the UCAS, I am a physical adept. I graduated from the school of thaumaturgy at Brown. my dissertation was in blood Magic”
That was a bit of a conversation killer
Simone broke the impasse, “Blood Magic?! like aztalan piramid gross bad magic? isn’t than kinda dangerous?”
“Yes it is but sometimes the job chooses you not the other way around and…OMG is that Stephanie?”
Everyone turned to look at a Very corporate lady walked up, head to toe in Saaderkurpp attire and big bags under her eyes
AAAA, Lexi its so good to see you, sorry I’m late work is so busy with year end and tax year end coming soon too. just ugh. but look at you you look so fierce, literally, you look amazing so good, hate you please sit the other side of the table so they look bad and not me ha ha” ooo it’s so good to see you, tell me everything"
then Alex caught Wolf out of the corner of her eye
“I don’t like her she reeks of Wyrm”
“Lexi?” asked Stephanie “you ok? you looked like you where miles away” Harry smirked and tapped Stephanie on the shoulder
“a quick word stephsies/”
Alex pleaded the restroom and walked through the restaurant . once in the cubical
“what you saying I should leave?”
“no just be careful what you say The wyrm has his claws deep in her. I doubt she will keep your secrets if they were to help the Wrym to know them”
Alex returned to the table Stephanie had had time to digest the information the others had obviously given. she Smiled and gently indicated to the space by her side.
“so Lexi it soo good to see you, haven’t seen you since that exhibition in new York, what have you Been doing? Harry swears blind you some kind of magic super warrior shaman.”
“oh Did she, Well I think she overstates the case” Alex said with as flat a voice as she could manage over the din of the restaurant.
“so what are you doing these days? really?”
“I’m a consultant, on Magical threats. Pretty low grade things. a lot of police lines and plastic sheets, nd late nights with he keyboard trying to dumb it down for the Plods.”
“so why you in London?”
“that would be business, but it’s done now so I’m looking for my next job. These days I live out of my suit case. So what about you, internal audit, that pretty big guns, am i right thinking that’s fast track kind of things?”
“oh yes, it so good, you know intellectually engaging and rewarding, genuinely engaging work”
“so what do you do?” asked Alex “internal audit sounds very dry but it seems to be mentioned in hushed tones” she followed up with a joking conspiratorial tone
“oh Lexi it kind of everything with corporate governance and control….” Good ols Stephanie never able to not blow her own trumpet. As she listened to Stephanie chunter about her job Alex scanned the room, you can’t help, it you can just spot the runners if your one, the way they move look round a room sit down even, if they sit down at a table and are not joined by a corporate looking diner your looking at an opp. Alexis article for jackpoint was all about how certain software can look past the lie and see emotional states that are out of place. Wolf woke up from where he had been sleeping
“trouble? or just neighbours?” he said
Alex looked around the room looking for more, or if she got really lucky the mark. as luck would have it the next two walked through the door fifteen minutes later, that did it time to go. she leaned across to Stephanie (palming her steak knife)
“get harry”
Harry waved her over so the swapped seats
“god Lexi is there any fat on you?”
“probably not “she said to Stephanie then she turned to Harry “we have to go! NOW! pay the bill get everyone out of the door now”
“but Lexi”
“Harry do it please, NOW
Lexi didn’t wait
Steph we’re leaving now get you coat, Simone, SIMONE pour Charley into her coat we’re going, NOW Hurry"
the waiter came across with a worried look on his face. “is everything ok Miss?”
“sorry” apologized Harry “something has come up we need to get going really quickly, sorry to be a pain”
“no no madam as long as it nothing we have done” he turned as rubbed to finger together at another waiter who nodded and disappeared, reappearing with Coates just as the other returned with the bill. as they head headed for the door Alex kept a tight gip on the two knifes she had nicked. wolf trotted behind her. she looked for some reaction to their departure but there was nothing, good not us in anyway, as she got the door she dumped the two knives and held the door over so harry and Steph could manoeuvre the drunk Charley out in to the street and across the cobbled road to the other side. the fresh air caught charley and as they made the pavement on the far side she decorated it. Harry and Simone help, Alex watched the Restaurant door. Then her worst fears happened as black people carrier pulled up and quickly deposited two suits outside. she didn’t need to look up the wat it had come there would be two down the bottom and it would drop two more on the corner at Berwick street.
“harry we need to get to Berwick street really really quickly, can you make her walk?
“I’LL BE FINE! I’ll be fine, just the cold air and too much vinos” Charley wobbled to her feet wolf started to bark and snarl.
“right Charley ever been to the Duck? no cool lets go” she manoeuvred the still swaying girl round the corner and in to the side ally round the back of the Duck, hoping that there was no que or the bouncer just didn’t care anymore in this poor weather.
“heeey!!” the other three chorused as the eurocar westwind near wiped them out as it sped on the way they had come. Alex count all five of them round the corner as she hear it first bang as the westwind hit another car the slamming of doors and then the sound of silenced weapons, Simone hear something to
“what’s that Lexi?” she said in a low voice
“trouble, five darling” she smiled at the dwarf on the door
“Wiv ‘er, you’re ‘avin’ a barff aint ya!” The door man was not in good mood and was more interested in seeing the accident he thought had happened round the corner then someone started screaming and many others joined in Cries of “they’ve got guns” and Everybody down" started to echo round the corner.
“Fakin’ ewl” snarled the Dwarf as his ear piece sprang to life “oi you three” he hissed “in NA!” he gestured over his shoulder at the door “Fakin’ ge’ a jazz on ya stupid tarts!”
As they bundled through the door they were greeted by a sea of worried faces, the inner door man must have made an announcement, the bar staff were getting every one upstairs, in little groups already. all very ordered and very British lots of “excuse me” and “sorry”, griping to friends only to thank the staff as they were further unconvinced by being told to lay down.

the dwarf caught Alex’s eye “gud gerw” and then said “it’ll be rammed up there soon, get yer gerws down behind the bar.”

As they settled down the Dwarf joined them, settling in to a stop were he could see the street through a fish bowl mirror “’elp yerself t drinks and refreshments, curtousee of tda management.” he said over his shoulder “make it fast these things don’t last long and the police like us to chuck out as soon they give the all clear” he stopped and pressed his finger into his ear “an there we is” he stood up “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN; THE CONSTABULARY Of THE CITY OF WESTMINSTER HAVE GIVEN THE ALL CLEAR AND POLITELY REQUEST THAT YOU ALL SOD OFF HOME

By the time they had got outside the Police was there in force balaclava’d SO19 officer with assault rifles and SMG manned the key pints on the corners while MET patrol offices in their luminous yellow jackets and bobbies helmet ushered shooed and ordered people way from the scene, while drones whizzed this was and that overhead and somewhere up in the night sky a helicopter hovered and out in the city sirens screamed.

Dumped out in Shaftsbury avenue the Give of them realised that the night was over, there was a silent agreement “it wasn’t meant to end like this but it has” commlinks started to trill and Harry broke ranks first
“arhic’s worried and I want to see him” she looked at Alex “no time like the present eh?”
“no but call me let me know and all that”
“oh defo, and something tomorrow if your free, Friday is a date, hard code it” with that she hailed a Cab “dolphin square please” and she was gone
Steph was next “its the office security team they saw I was nearby they want to check me and all that” she smiled “don’t worry I’ll blame charley charley Charles Charles, Oh Alexandra it so good to see you, I’ll will message you if i can get away, please stay safe” and then a black cab whisked her away to Canary wharf.

“if she pukes there a charge and yer walkin’” they were warned as charley was heaved into the next black cab. Simone seemed to be practiced at this and once Charlotte was ensconced in the cab she turned to Alex
“lexi, here’s my card come by the studio when you get chance we can chat” then the Black car zoomed off towards Piccadilly.
Lexi used her walk, through China town, to Clear her six. She was still hungry so she grabbed a rice bun which she devoured even before she reached St Martins lane. she got to the hotel she asked for tea to be brought up to her room. she waited for it to arrive before she put the chair against the door. then she realised that Harry had been a real poppet and got her a balcony room. internal balcony room but a balcony all the same. Bless her. Giving up on her attempts a security she filled out the breakfast order and when the tea arrive she gave it to the porter.

She showered and stripped of the war paint and sat reading the news and jackpoint while she drank tea. All her effort to push thing to the back of her mind failed, and while she managed to drop off she woke about 4 in a cold sweat. she fixed herself a Nescafe from the kitchenette and fished out the spare blanket from under the bed. she padded out on the balcony and forced her mind into neutral while she sipped the coffee

Breakfast arrived and wolf appeared as he had never seen and English breakfast

“that’s a lot of meat”
“isn’t it just”
“and porridge stuff, that looks boring”
It is but it’s good for you"
“ah and the toast? is that good for you?”
“no that’s to soak up the bean juice”
“what’s that? it look like a testicle”
EWW must you it’s a plum tomato. its sweet”
“what’s that!”
“black pudding from up north”
What is it smells really good"
“It’s blood, pigs blood”
“order more next time”
“do you want this one?”
“no, I’m a spirit I don’t eat”
“then why”
“it’s good for you”

Alex checked out and asked to leave her bag till she had to catch her train. She got the tube to Liverpool street and spent the morning wandering round the terrace garden at the Barbican Centre. Wolf trotted behind her and strangely said nothing. Alex decided that she would ask why. and anyway, this had always been her safe place when she had been at school way from everyone and everything as she tried to follow the design process for the building. it seemed to have the same effect now. until four new articles flicked up from the search frame about possible killer in north west UCAS. nothing she could do here she would need a private space to work on it. she decided she would have to look at it. flicking up the map she found several hot deck office spaces near to the hotel. coming out of the Centre she hailed a taxi

she was shocked when she realised she had been off in lA la Land for a whole hour. wolf was still asleep on the couch, she figured this was something she had to face on her own. she spent the next hour exercising and then had a long shower while she ummed and ered about attire She finished in the bath room and breakfast hadn’t arrived, so she fixed another Coffee while she started at a map of London, she decided she would go to the barbican and walk round the garden. she checked her massages four messages from three people all home safe.


The answer was prompt. >>Hurt or Not? Win or Lose?<<

Hunter ok, item damaged may be irreparable, might have sample

>>Need a lift?<<

“_yes thank would be nice, have to move BRB

Alex stopped herself in mid stride. Wolf looked back with raised eyebrow, querying her halt. If they had hacked her phone they would have all her bookings, she could be walking straight into a trap. she couldn’t go back to the room (there goes a nice suit and jacket) and she couldn’t move that money (if it was still there) they de be waiting for her to do that and to trace her (screw geek the mage first for here on in the decker gets it first every time)

That all meant she had to hide until Sabrina got back with her travel plans. Hiding in a city is done one of two ways find a room and lock the door or keep moving faster than people can track and react to you. With her limited funds Alex couldn’t get a room (gnome Psyco would make that too chancy) she would have to hide in plan sight, this was easier said than done when you’re stupidly tall and head turning pretty (I know darling but you know its true) there was, after all a reason everyone called her Big Bird. so she was going to have to sit down and cover her face. you cant just lay down with a face pack on. Luckily this was Prague where tall blonds are not rare but still she had to admit she was obvious and having hunted she knew what that disadvantage was.

Hiding in plan sight is two rules the places people do thing and the times they do them. BB had to find a reason to be sat or laid down and her face covered or at least distorted. The money situation did not help but this shed of a comlink was holding up running her AR fashion so she didn’t look like some homeless random. She headed back to the crowds. As she toiled Wenceslas Square (which is a street and oblong, not a square and a hill) she stopped dead there was a DEBANHAMS OMG DEBENHAMS. wells its not quite Selfridges but omg Debenhams. Oh come to momma. Wolf padded along behind her tongue lolling out of his mouth

Alex strode in to the store with her best rod up her back and a friendliest smile. she passed the two guards. The girl in the door was short anyway, thankfully she was used to looking up “Excusme…Ekaterina, do you have a spa here?” tripped in her best clipped Kensington set accent.
the girl looked up and smiled “yes Madam” she said “they have third floor” her finger flicked at private AROs “they have times at…. now for two hours or full package four hours for special 500” her lack of enthusiasm gave Alex the information she needed and chose to book individually
“Oh! goody! YOU? can book me for hair, nails and a facial for about thirty minutes, I trashed me ‘link don’t cha’ know” the girl brightened visibly three sales at full price. Alex look vapidly round the room “where the devil is tech? I’m so lost without Me ’softs”
“fifth, Ask for Antol”
“Antol oh of course my dear.”

As she walked into the Tech store four heads swivelled to greet. Alex scanned the name tags rapidly and locked on to Antol “Hi Antol the lady on the front desk told me you could help, only gone an’ trashed me ’Link” she said waving the dead Ikon around,
“of course Madame. Please this way I can give same or new, or may be different.”
“if different means cheaper by all means, I drank most of my allowance last night HA HA”
“Ha HA yes of course, will be just box purchase? or you need carrier too?”
“I just need the link thankyou i have all my research set up on it>”
3,000 nuyen later and she had a com link set up and she headed down to the Third floor to hide for three or four hours.

Salons are great for the wary they are full of mirrors and they are noisy as the few people chatter away if some one doesn’t fit every one shuts up and stares. So if you can suddenly hear the whales humping you know its kicked of somewhere. The also have huge baskets full of dirty towels for your mentor spirt to roll around in and sleep.

Time killed and the sun down Alex emerged looking less like she had spent an night sleeping in cavity wall insulation. Hiding became easier now as there were long shadows masses of reflected light to mess with peoples perception. Add in the bars and the beer (it is Prague it would be rude not to) and you are suddenly no so noticeable (on one level)

Alex kept moving Soycaf here, cake and tea there. fidgeted with her com looked like she got a message left, find new place and repeat. the old town is perfect for this with old fashioned lighting and narrow streets, the old courtyard entrances hiding weird shaped alcoves that lead through to some other street.

It was the club on the edge of the fruit market (bars in Prague are call clubs and clubs are call bars just to keep you on your toes) (and the fruit market sells everything but fruit) she was nursing a tea , kibbling at the poppy seed cake and absently fiddling with Wolfs ear when Don Juan turned up all tight tee-shirt and spray on jeans (dude its snowing outside WTF). Wolf sighed and She smiled (no snarling or shouting this time) as he started his “pitch” then she asked him to go because she was waiting for someone using all the grace her upbringing could muster “sooorree” shrugged and smiled. he sniffed and shrugged and returned to his place at the bar and the hoots and chelping of his friends

He didn’t stop stealing a peak, over and over. then she caught it in the reflection in the window and she turned her head away (again)

the world span, she knew that look she’d seen that look before “oh lord go no not now not here no no” Wolfs head popped up and growled. “I have to get out” she grabbed her bag and headed through the crow for the door. she spilled out in to the court yard and chanced a glance and saw him coming towards the door, as her head span and breathing started to accelerate Wolf started barking but the bark where deafening and they where inside her head. As she got control of herself she saw the hand going towards her. with all that speed her hand intercepted the middle finger and twisted she felt him shrink back and she took the opportunity to flee.

she barrelled down the ally way knocking people out of her path. she reach a main road and she stopped dead. shit Taxis, then the paranoia really began, retreating into the shadows Alex needed to gather herself. She skirted the wall and up the next ally.

he stopped and she stared at the sign in Russian “Holy church of st basil and st peter”. The door stood open a waft of warmth, welcoming and enticing. As she walked through the door the priest turned around and rose “yes my child can I help” he said in Russian
“father I am a certain woman going down from Jerusalem to Jericho”
“oh, well I think me it will not be so bad as you fear”
“father it is really quite bad” she looked around “do you have a comlink with you?”
“in my office, I try not to bring it in the church proper”
“can I ask you to phone someone for me?”
“off course come though to the office i can serve some proper tea”

The office is full of beautiful antiques and modern tech made to meld seamlessly with its surroundings. And the priest is looking at her, “I can understand that you are in trouble. But, the church must be wise as a serpent against those trying to use its resources for evil. I must know why you seek a comm. And you will speak here, in this office, in front of me. And I will be the one to place the call.” He states, listing his ground rules.

“I understand father and you are right i wish i could say that I am a good daughter of the church, that I try to follow in the footsteps of the saints but you are nobody’s fool. My journey to Jericho will be long father and i bring a certain amount of danger just by my presence. I only want to call my guardian, Patriarch Petri in Manhattan. I promise that is all…except may be a locked door to sleep behind for a few nights” she shifted slightly in her seat and wanly smiled the first honest and uncontrived thing she had done all day and it felt good.

His eyebrow raises at her words. “What church is this Patriarch Petri from?”

" Moskóvskiy patriarkhát sorry my Russian is beastly the Moscow Patriarchate, father. he is patriarch of Manhattan" she fumbled with her com, ar nails flicking at the air to bring up her Happy place photo, eating ice cream in battery park just before they went to look for room when she started at Brown.

“here, this is uncle petre, sorry Patriarch Petre” she started to spin" sorry I’m all at sixes and sevens here, I must seam are right old fool" she composed herself and started again “Father please could I borrow your comings some can call my guardian Patriarch Petre Ivanovich Bellavin bishop of Manhattan?”

“Fortunately my English is good.” He picks up his comm and dials a number. “Patriach Peitre, da, I have a young woman here who is seeking sanctuary and says she wishes to speak to her Uncle Pietre.” A moments pause, “Da.” and then with an upraised eyebrow he hands you the comm.

“paseba Father, oh my…word” she stopped herself from blaspheming “my Russian is awful, I really must practice more, sorry” She took the hand set and pulled herself up to her full height raised her chin and prepared to face the music, although she knew most of the music would be in her head as she hated disappointing Uncle Petre so much. Wolf rubbed up against her leg and sat alert next to her. she took a deep breath
“Uncle Petre? I got myself in to a bit of a bind.”
Uncle Petres voice always had a gentleness about it even though it was such a deep baritone “Alex child? what have you gotten yourself into?”

“I came to Prague to raise funds and its all gone wrong. I think I’ve started sorting it but I’m skint and I think my rivals might be looking for me still” She turned and looked at the Father as he sat in his seat in a pose of polite nonchalant disinterest “I was hoping I could claim sanctuary or something till I can get my tail out of here and…”she dropped her voice and for the first time looked at the floor" if I erm"

She heard Uncle Petre sigh and chuckle “ok, not much, for the necessities only and you will owe me both the money, and a favour, I only tolerate this because others find it useful. Do you get my drift? we will discuss how this er adventure went wrong when you get back to Boston. Now I will ask the good father to extend you a favour annnnd as to the prayers you are to recite and the passages your are to read and discuss, and I’m sure you have neglected your Russian. you are to stay there for now DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR

She stiffened and looked down " YES Holy Father I Hear and Understand sorry" she knew it was for effect but it did have the true effect, she so ashamed and crest fallen.
The father had also stiffened at the bellow and raised another eyebrow as she passed the phone back to him. Wolf had darted to hide behind him and cowered on the floor with his ears flat

Da Father…of course…no…truly. She was honest from the start…yes.. you what?…chuckle…that would be suitable Ok…yes I has out the back. Yes she does seem that way…if you don’t mind will, enquire? yes I think that covers everything I shall pass you back…sorry? what? she doesn’t seam the usual material…really well I’m sure if it comes up…ok thank you, shall I pass you back” with a puzzled frown he passed the hand set back.

“Ok Alex it is agreed. this is a good man don’t abuse his good offices do you hear me? now is there anything I can do to help in the mean time?”

“well unless you want to try and get my money from my blown account? Trying to access it from UCAS would sow confusion some what. Cant try until its possible travel time from here to there though. I ramble, think allowed to loud” her voice cracked “Miss you and your gentle word…I have to go. will message later on this number if I get chance”

the line went dead. she looked up and handed it to the priest “Father, would you hear my confession and give me mass and the sacrament?”

In Russian from now on da?! Honestly I would rather you tell me about how you end up being so useful. When I first saw you I though you were and art or architecture student from the university not some one being..” he stopped unsure of the limits and passed the ball by taking a sip of tea with an eyebrow raised

“Uncle Petre can be cross when his instructions or not followed I heard some thing about the forty days in the desert."

the priest smiled “if I am to give you gentle instruction in the lords words I must understand their import to you. you can not worry I work in a town of whores, people smugglers and worst of all:- students, so please sit, I offered tea, from you English accent I guess you haven’t had proper tea for some time” he turned from his samovar with two steaming cups and a broad smile

Wolf settled his head in her lap and looked up with big concerned eyes “ok, so I started at Brown in ’72” she began, and she was right her Russian was beastly, rusty with age. As she started to pick her way through wolf wagged his tail.

The priest listened patiently, and did not even raise an eyebrow at some of Alex’s more ‘colorful’ misdeeds. And as Alex’s confession went on he ordered sandwiches to go with their tea.

“_you see father its all a case of funding. I can’t join one of the orders as they will have me off chasing peod-sex rings and absconding treasurers and what if Wolf objects to the mission I’m given and I need to hunt. so I have to be self-funding. I concentrate on contamination of the soul. to make sure I don’t become what I hunt or a beast I would despise. _”

hmm ok explain

she reached in her pocket “I don’t know for a fact if he is dead, if I need to I know the formulas and rituals to be able to use sympathetic blood magic to trace him using this. So here’s the point am I on the start of that slope by even considering this course of action” holding up the sample

the priest chuckled “Alas poor Yorik. I am sorry but is could not resist

She shot him a frown “sorry father but he was a good man before he became infected, Its not a joke truly"

“and the student becomes the teacher, truly I am sorry. however you must guard against the same flippancy with everything you do.” he looked seriously at her “if you start to enjoy the killing for killing sake, they you are on that precipice your fear. I understand Wolf compels you to hunt but that is killing with purpose, that I fear is you tipping point hunting or killing just for the thrill” he’s hand absently reached down and touched Wolfs head

“he is so right you know” said Wolf “he very smart for someone outside of the pack. said it better than I ever could and it sounds much nice in that language may be is should start using it”

Finishing his tea he sets his cup down and looks at Alex. “I am Father Yanis.” he says as he stands. “Come, follow me and we will see to your room.” he leads Alex out a narrow door at the back of the room and up a flight of stairs. “These rooms are for those young people who are considering the priesthood. I will have a few clothes procured and sent up to you. Prayers are at 20:00 and 06:00 in the side chapel. I expect you there.” The last part is said sternly. “There is no internet access in your room. We are so dependent on its constant connection it does all of us good to have time to do nothing from time to time.” He shows her to a Spartan room that has been well designed to have a grace in it’s simplicity.

“thank you father. I need to try and get my clothes back from the hotel, with your permission of course?”
HMMM” he rumbled “why do I get the feeling I am sanctioning something… shady?”
“well if my…rivals are waiting it could get…inconvenient for you but i really could do with my clothes back”
“hmmm, you have got my attention. why don’t you explain how this will happen”
“really, call it vetting your moral compass in a live environment”
“ok well erm i err..”
“you don’t have a plan do you?”
“yes it just a little vague and unrefined …no I don’t have a plan, I have some ideas to over come some problems and some problems I can’t do anything about”
“Right well that’s progress. so tell me and do so in Russian please”
“Urg OK I’ need to get them away from the hotel, so I will use the burner phone I have to activate the bike I still have on hire. I will sent it too the rail station”
“ok so maskravoka, good, continue”
I will dump the phone on a tram and taxi to the hotel. hopefully they will be following the tram or the bike. I will enter the hotel and log my com into the compromised ID open the door and turn the phone off grab my clothes leaving everything else then leave. my two problems are if there is no taxi when I leave and if the clothes are tagged" she looked at the father who looked back impassively, “erm I need to use speed and focus, and I have to run at the first sign of trouble”
“humph, ok good but your lack of transport will be the biggest flaw and problem of bugs or tags are just as concerning now you mention them. so I can lend you my Moped, hide it behind the hotel before you start and we need thoughts about your bug problem. I think some research in my office”

forty minuets later armed with a picnic bag lined with tin foil from the kitchen Alex was sent forth. The Father sat down and waited for her return. after two hours he began to get concerned but Alex soon called she was in a café in at the central tram stop checking the clothes for bugs Before returning. finally she sat down in the office
“father you should not have waited after I called, it is an hour till payers!”
“It is ok, did it go OK? were there any inconveniences’?”
“no Father it was close but they couldn’t get the door open quick enough and I slipped out thorough the window and out the back. I shall go wash because I had to fall in to a dumpster and then I shall make coffee.” as she left she turned “father, thank you for doing this for allowing me to get my things, if you had said no I would have complied”
“I know, now go coffee sounds good and you do not smell good. when you are done come back here you will help me lay out for morning prayer, I think it will be best if you say out of sight though. enough go and we will sort these things later!"

Alex went back to her room and sat on the bed. then the shakes started and the adrenalin left her and the non-adrenaline surged through her system. the shakes did not stop until she was out of the shower. she was not sure if it was the cold shower or the passage of time. it could also have been that the cold shivers had just over taken the shakes.

She went back to her room to find a plain black dress with a simple cotton collar on her bed with a copy of the bible and a copy of last months Vogue. Who ever had left them was a woman as there was also a packet of hair pins, a skrunchie and tampons. the simple alarm clock by her bed told her she had an hour before prayers. she pulled her hair back and pined it up reach under the pillow and retrieves her crucifix and hurried to the kitchen to make the coffee.

When she entered the side chapel she saw it had a few devout, a few drunks, several nuns and another priest. Father Yanis glanced at her and silently approved and as the rituals began and the prayers started the side chapel was filled with a peace, the peace that passeth all understanding.

Wolf it turns out is not the best at dealing with confinement, day three and he was scratching at the door and trying to disturb Alex. She dealt with it much better. First writing and article for Jackpoint on Subscription social software. Then translating it in to Russian (ok so it was entitled subscription potting shed software) but put day four she was getting jumpy too.

she busied herself with cleaning the entrance way. having scrubbed the floor within an inch of its existence she even found an old craft knife and when round the whole edge of the floor scraping up the excess floor polish that had built up over the years.

she built up a routine rise shower, prayers eat clean read eat exercise shower prayers eat reads some more then bed. she allowed herself half an hour ’trix time morning and lunch time.

at first Sabrina was talking about timing but quickly her messages betrayed a more frustrated edge. something was happening and the market had clamed shut. sit tight and i’ll let you know summed up her message on the morning of day five. Wolf demonstrated his feelings about the situation by pooing in the middle of the kitchen floor, a floor Alex had just mopped.

Alex puzzled over the cause of the delay while she prepared christmass lunch. cookie, porridge, sour cream goose and shuba. she laid the table and waited father Yanis popped his head through the door and stopped “Alex, sorry big bird. what have you done? all this it will bring attention” he was still surveying the room “it is very nice though may be i’ll” his had strayed to the cookies
“don’t you dare! any way they aren’t very good, here I wrapped some for your children to hang on over the fire” she took a serious tone " Father you have to go and I had to do a good job or my cover a good Russian girl fails. its fine there only a few. that borch and stroganoff over there the widows will come a tell me it bad the widowers will come and wolf it down. now go please and leave me to my duties"
as he left the father asked “your sure your ok? its Christmas”
“father I don’t think i’ll ever do Christmas again”
“OK i’ll go good night Alex”

the evening was steady as the lonely Russian desporia drifted in, offer better recipes and praise. Alex threw her self in to the clean up and with two drunks, an off duty policeman and four old ladies with good looking nephews she tided up and washed up in time for evening prayers.

at the end of the service she hurried to her cell when there was a knock on the door It was Father Yanis’ wife “Yanis say you nott like Christmas, but you are far from home, here it is little thing nothing of note just…” she gave her a hug “your mother would be proud, you cookie are so good children demand papa bring home more, ha ha” she smiled in a enquiring way but Alex remained quite and still
“thank you” she said quietly “if I get chance is will bake tomorrow”
Yanis wife paused looking pointedly at the present. reluctantly Alex unwrapped it. It was a small ring simple spiral pattern
She leant in with her hand" see is light so you have hope even in the darkest of places"
“oh thank you”
Alex breathed a long shuddering sign after the door closed but it was too late the demon had his claws in her again. two years and yet his dead voice still cut through her like his knife

She slept badly when exercise and study failed she was glad the alarm went off to save her from his leering face

The church bells rang seven times and Alex knew she’d overslept. Outside were the shrill voices of children laughing and playing with their Christmas presents. And the ring winked at her even through a closed box.

I cant even curl up, if I do I’ll feel the scars. as she lay in the bed look at the unwelcome intrusion of the present the door banged open. her had shot behind the bedstand and pulled out her knife.

Father Yanis head popped round the door, he look hassled but not angry “I let you sleep in for Christmas is canceled, get your work clothes on and come to my office, and be quick!”

Alex was in the office fifteen miutes later to be confronted by a crying lady in the guest chair being tended by “Mrs Yanis”. father Yanis sat in is chair speaking half in Czech and half in Russian.

“ah thankyou” he motioned to go back in the hall way “she had been beaten by her brother, again. This time she had the sense to run. We need to go get her things. Do as you’re told and leave those knives here…don’t I can see your jaw tightening already. its not your fight UNDERSTOOD?”

“Da!,Da father”
“ah at last Russian!!” he smiled “now wait while I speak with Olga and see if she want to come with us”

The three of them got into the big battered VOLO estate and drove out to Prague6 across the river. Alex sat with the window opened a crack just to get some fresh air evern if it was cold. Wolf was happy sat on(across) her lap his head out of the window (yes it was wound up). they stopped at the Spar shop and grabbed some boxes.

all the while Alex tried to keep the anger buttoned down but it was like trying to juggle a kitten. As they pulled up she had managed to settled for a slow simmering rage. The made their way up the stairs and listened at the door, you cant slow the turning of a maglock so they just went for it. inside was a mess as though the had been a fight.

Olga when to the front room and grabbed her cross and icon while Father Yanis and Alex started throwing clothes in boxes. Poor olga didn’t have much, it would not take long.

She came back from the bath room with her few toiletries while alex was pulling the last items from the bottom drawer of the wardrobe the door slammed open and a very drunk angry man fell through it
Olga blanched "
" Olga you XXXXX where are you, XXXXX!? have you realised I own you yet?next time do as you’re XXXXXXX told?!" he staggered into bedroom “What the XXXX who are XXXXers” he demanded “you! XXXXX put that XXXX back and XXXX off!” he shouted and Alex who was knelt down.
Father Yanis Groaned “oh no!”
Alex bit her tongue and tuned to dump her hand full of clothes in to the box
“I XXXXing said put it back you” he tried to give her a back handed slap. It was reflexive, well as reflexive as an totem follower can be when Wolf takes a dislike wolf barked and growled " prey prey prey!!"

she caught is arm and rose as she did so, he simply gawped up at her as she loomed over him.
“shut up you silly man or I will end you!” she twisted his arm round, grabbed the collar of his shirt and marched him out of the room bent over
“Big Bird easy… carful… don’t kill him” Father Yanis called
“he should be so lucky”

Alex marched him into the bathroom and battered him to the ground and knelt on his head. he started swearing and cursing through the bath mat, making many promises to kill and rape and this and that
“you should kill him” said wolf
“he is bad, she is the provider here, he had no purpose”.
“should we kill the cubs then”
“no, but ..then.. ok” wolf padded across the room and sat by him a growled “I still don’t like him”
“Neither do I but killing him causes bigger problems”
“I want to hunt”
“so do I but we must hide a bit longer. it like wind and thunder in the next valley”
“that makes sense, I can smell something coming there’s panic in the heard”
the man had stopped swearing and began cursing himself and the demons that drink brought out. “he is weak” Wolf growled again “please can we hunt him?”
“your a sprit”
“why do you sniff every time I do that then?”
“you’re impossible”
“like you said I’m a spirit”
“Big Bird we are done here, put the gentleman down and come”

Alex carefully untangled herself from the blubbering heap of a man but as she moved out of the room he lunged for her foot. skipping to her other foot she kick him backwards between toilet and the bath.

she searched for something to say but failed turned and left.

“OK what did you do to him?”
“Nothing…really nothing” she endured he withering look
“ok, we go”

Father Yanis had been keeping Olga away from the sight of her brother being man-handled by Alex. But, he couldn’t stop her from seeing the last kick. “No!” She yelped out when she saw him go flying and lunged for Alex. A lunge Father Yanis stopped. “Olga, if you defend him and keep going back to him, he will kill you. God instructs us to forgive. He does not instruct us to throw away the only body he has given us on one who has given his body to evil.” Olga is torn between Father Yanis and her brother. But then the priest says, “Come, spend a night in safety. One night in the sheltering arms of God and learn the goodness that he has always wanted for you.” Olga cries silently and nods and then says, “He was not always like this. He can be good. You will see Father. He will change.”

Fighting the urge to roll her eyes and huff Alex turned to Olga “if he does he will only be that way for a while and then he will think he deservers a drink. We all have seen what happens when he does that. Olga, until he admits he has a problem he will keep doing this to you

Alex looked at father Yanis for support. “Olga, she is right. Until he truly admits he has a problem with Satan drink this will just keep happening”

As he pulled up outside their destination were four ladies waited for her, As they unloaded the car and took her into the refuge Father Yanis turned to Alex “that was very insightful, well done. now lets get you off the street”

Alex was taken back to the church where if anything there were more people. Alex tried to keep herself out of sight in the kitchen but invariably the nosy old ladies and insistent children found her. As usual the kitchen rapidly turned to the place to be at the party.

After the Christmas celebrations passed Sabrina was back intouch “sorry trying to get you out but something big has kicked off, If I was to need you to help what are you missing from basic kit?”

Alex tried not to be deflated but she had hoped to be on her way by now. She was sure she was outstaying her welcome, not the Father Yanis really showed it in fact she was sure he was taking great please in discussing comparative morality with her (and picking holes in her Russian).

Another week passed she her lunch break ‘trix session took an unusual turn.
“uncle petre!? oh Uncle its so good to…”
_"he wasn’t joking your Russian is much improved. Big Bird I/the church has a job for you. I am instructed to provide you with reasonable assistance in the execution of this endeavour" _
“You look serious, what is it?”
“you’re going to get a call and Father Yanis might freak when they talk about you, they are going to bestow title that I have told them you wont accept, just run with it thing are a little busy right now. for you its simple bread and butter work and very low risk.”
“OK, Uncle I miss you it very nice here but I miss you”
“is Yanis Hard on you? he has a reputation for being a puritan”
“no he’s lovely and a great teacher; it’s just I’m cooped up her and my contact is having problems getting me out”
“well this job will get you out of town we are running very short handed, this will wipe you debt with me. if you can do this I will get a lot of leverage. Wait did you say lovely?! oh you haven’t got another fan have you?”
“Alex!?” came the below from the office door “hury my child this sound important!”
“I have to go but message me what you mean by fan?” she hung up and paused “coming father Yanis”
she walked in to the room to find the father standing by his chair, he motioned to her to sit “Exarch Alexandra as you commanded your holiness” He bowed stiffly and left the room.
Holiness?! did he just say Holiness Wolf brushed up against her leg “see told you something coming, this will be fun even if we don’t get to be in on the kill”
“your holiness” she curtsied
“Patriarch explained her situation and I aware a man cannot live with two masters so while I have used the rank to scare the Father I understand you are doing me and the Patriarch a favour so to speak” he shuffled in his chair and drew close to the screen in a conspiratorial manner he looked up to some one out of camera “your sure this is secure?” he nodded in satisfaction at the unheard answer “ok so here it is, two factions of the catholic church kicked of in Poland yesterday in response to something that happened earlier in the week the inquisition and the Sylvestrines are both moving in concert but is a covert and subtle thing following the massive magical dogfight that took place in Poland, more a repositioning or mobilisation than anything else. we are getting sniffs of the other group which was unknown to anyone till now. Basically we need info and if the Holy see is struggling to keep tabs on its own you can imagine were we are.” he paused for breath “its a lot to take on board so give you a moment”
“am I walking into a fight here?” she asked simply “your holiness”
“no, at worst this could be described as a cold war or break down in relation if you wanted to use a world politics label for the situation. the worst thing that could happen is you get into a fight with either side. we need you to be eyes only. are you will to help the mother church my child? that is the question”
She looked at Wold how had sat by the door wagging his tail excitedly “ok but I’m a little short on things, I had a bit of bad luck”
“this is fine I will pass you over to some one who can help straight away” he leaned forward to activate an Arrow and the screen flicked to the face of an Orc
“‘ow yur dowin’” came a thick Glaswegian accent, if BB hadn’t of been educated in the UK she would have struggled to understand him.
“I’m very well thankyou and yourself? she said in her best Kensington accent”
“Well wee lassie we got a wee monster of a job goin’ on the nooo. Ah ’ere yur Game?”
“well that was the general agreement”
he dropped the game and switched to a much more understandable level of English" Good ‘cos we’re off our feet here and dropping like flies. I’ve got a guy without a team on his may to the airport wear can he send his stuff in transit, he’ll can loan you some gear, remember your not on strength so we will bill you if you trash it or can’t prove it was part of the job, understand?"
“What can I call you?”
“most people call me big bird”
“and yous OK with that wee lassie?!” he said with some surprise
“what else do you call a six foot six blonde with long legs?”
“Aee point there that’s no doubt. OK big bird we’re gonna give you a car with some relay devices and some other naughty toys and your going to put your smart wig on and make sure we get the picture we want and can follow things up as soon as possible. you got monalisa and tracking software, yes? he stopped
“oh wait your THAT Big Bird, nice article but your Russian still sucks I’ll send you the corrections” he pull himself upsort" right I’m blitherin’. where was it Ah yes; you are not to start a fight you are not “take anyone out”. he motioned the parenthesis. “you understand me. now, there’s a rental bike on it way now. use it to recce your routes in and out and the emergency meet up points. I want a schematics in four hours” he waved his hands around so that big maps and plans all floated up from the desk set. Now here’s the wee little housie we got an hankering on. its not anything special ‘cept its warded and shielded"
Alex raised her eye brow “I though that sort of thing was frowned on by the holy see?”
“at that it is Big bird, THAT it is so we wanna know why who and if the Sylvies got a sniff?” he clapped his hand together "so lead on McDuff lets see what’s afoot!"

After thirty minutes of planning and finalising thing BB got on board her bike her comms pinged up that she had two people in her coms link. Her leather creaked and rubbed a little as she hadn’t used them in some time. Wolf settled him self down on her back as she sped through he streets checking her escape routs and the emergency meeting points getting shots of all of them through her collar.

happy with that she doubled back to check her observation points again sweet as pie, as she headed back in to central town she got a ping that she should head to the railway station and then a ping from Father Yanis to tell her that some one had collected her things.

As she pulled up at the station an arrow appeared on a van in the car park, she pulled up and a dwarf jumped down from the van “you Bigbird?” she asked in a thick French accented English
“me qui Mon cher”
“formibable” she beamed
“quick we must hurry” she motion to the passenger seat as her bike speed off “we have no use of it now” she explained.
the van pulled away smoothly “ok so your an adept and your good at getting into trouble” the dwarf smiled as she horsed the van round a corner “how long can you stay awake, how well can you see in the dark and have you got a pistol I missed?”_
BB gave short answers to all
“ok so you’ll sign for the disguise kit and a pistol and SMG, Remember you are on contract so if you you will be billed if you cannot prove you lost it and we will look into losses, we are not gunmart”
“the car we give has a little tent in it made from that ruthiminium in the back so you can just sit on the back seat and not be seen. whole thing is auto pilot and I’ve got rigger and decker to help out is needs be, you have to remember we are pushed, these leads are popping up all over the place”

they pulled up in to a car park “ok so there is all kinds of Soy crap to keep you fed in there and a secure link but its not private so carful how you use it put you ’link on private and lets go, Vite vite”she opened the door“i’ll see you in eighteen hours, oh all your things are in the boot Bon Chance”

Nothing like a quick introduction. in the back she found a camera/telescope and two screens one had a view of the road the other had an entertainment’s package (old old films everyone has seen, uninformative magazines and simple music so you don’t concentrate on them Alex preferred to listen to music 9clasical then metal then back again)and twirl her pen)

The car pulled up into its parking spot and she saw a scooter auto pilot in a rack at the bottom of the street for her primary get away. she typed in the screen “ok whos with me” she got two "me"’s in reply “ha funny, not” “if you’d had the two days we have had you would be unfunny too” “hard/” yes long hours lots of traveling" “lots of working on the move” and so the night started. the two decker and the rigger were both on several jobs at once which was why Alex was here to be and unhackable agent/security guard..

two games of chess, a comparative discussion about the strength of chesea’s vrs PSG’s defence for the season and just how crap was wilde trogg’s last album they had activity.

Alex moved carefully so as not to shake the sensors as a large van and two limos swept into the street four men in suites exited each limo and then a man in robes stepped out. the party entered the building.

monalisa flicked up the id of eight of the party including the two robed men. Alex could see the chatter between the rigger and the decker as then dealt with a deluge of wide spectrum jamming random targeted jamming. the French Dwarf was on the net through static calming everyone down and getting the flavour that number just don’t give.

Alex wondered how she should tell her that these were definitely bad men because wolf was holing to gather the pack for the hunt.

the jamming and such did not calm down it just continued while light came on all over the house, then boxes and bits and pieces of furniture were loaded in to the van, then after two hours of this constant procession suitcases started to appear. Alex software and instincts told her the security guys were getting more and more nervous. the speech they could pick up was about wasting time on unnecessary playthings or something about whores.

Finally after two hours an ambulance pulled up two med-tech got out of the back and went it to the house fifteen minuets later a gurney with a patient wrapped in bandages and several medpods was wheeled out and carefully load in to the back. A man in robes was with her, he spoke briefly to the med techs (the software read his lips and translated)
“you sure that’s enough to get him to London” then the security stepped in
“not on the street you grace!”
just as the Dwarf began to issue commands to follow the ambulance the whole party came out with two other member, both female, well dressed and worried. Alex got a hit of the software pinged up this time on the small woman, no girl missing from Spain eighteen month ago. The other addition to the group did not register on anything but was weird as she seamed to have the thermal image of a dead person. Alex was still trying to get another hit on the Spanish girl to be sure when Suddenly the Car door popped,
“there a pistol in the back of the drivers seat. it got a tracking ammo loaded. try to get a tracker on the cars if they pass you”

As it happened only the van passed her. She got a hit but it was on auto pilot so it wasn’t as if the Decker couldn’t get that info anyway.

the car fired up to leave when Alex saw the flames at the window. it dismissed any doubt that these where bad people. you only burn buildings when you have something to hide. but what? and why did they have a girl from Spain. she began to worry had she just left someone in the arms of their captors. she would have been out numbered but maybe the girl could have made a run for it in the mess BB could have created.

she brooded in the back of the car, Wolf whine has sympathised, licking her face." there was nothing you could do at that point and i’m not done with you yet"

the car pulled in to the drive of a nice old baroque house in the out skirts of town.
“I saw too, I have called to ask instructions” she rumbled “really not happy with this. Anyway you need to get washed and dressed ready for a trip. We are going to drive you to the airport your going to London”
" pardon me but the airport is a bit of a problem for me"
“oh do not worry its a vip ticket, get you in and off faster your freined won’t see you” she turned from her desk and passed her a data cube “that is you package” then she passed her a comlink “that’s who you are when you get on” and then she was passed another comlink this who you are when you get off" she held her hand out “pistol and SMG please? thanks you sign here and I sign here there you are all done keep the wig and the comlinks till you get to London they will give you fresh there” She stopped “you’re English or something aren’t you?”
“no I went to school there”
“but you have good reason to be there?”
“Well yes, I suppose so”
“good pass me your ’Link please” she held it to the desktop set and spoke to someone in a low voice, she turned and handed it back “ok when you get to the hotel turn this back on and leave, when you leave put the do not disturb sign on the door and leave the link in the room” She passed coffee, real coffee,"nastrovia! "
Alex drank it slowly savouring the taste, “hmm good, right time to go? do I have time to run and see Farther Yanis?”
“no you don’t”
“ok you have everything, GO!”

Alex hurried outside with her suitcase, back pack and sidebag She jumped into the waiting car"
“oh my Word! father”
“I volunteered my services, You heard about the fire at the clinic?”
“the romans have a clinic they use for plastic surgery and the like, health spar too for there higher ups, burnt down. strange Eh?”
“it was, took to fire very quickly”
“oh, Alex please be careful, you have a sharp mind and a good heart, damaged though it is”
“I will try father”
“good1 AH! here we are you get to play the rich bitch for a while.”
Alex leant over and gave a kiss “thankyou father for everything, say good bye to everyone for me”
“OK good now”
Thirty Minuets later Alex (syliva Valecutce) was sat in her first class Aeroflot seat sipping a soda and lemon reading vogue spring summer exclusive. just over Luxembourg she went to the bath room and waited for the message it came “now”, she turned one comlink on and the other faded out. Alex (Angellana Sharapova(no relation)) went back to her seat. the chief stewardess came over and poured her a coffee “its cold in London today Miss Sharapova do you want me to put some of this in a flask for you?”
Alex saw the cross at her throat “ah” she thought "that why i’m getting the VIP, she’s in on it and does 90% off this section.

getting of the plane a was easy as your baggage is brought to you and you get a trolley ride to passport control, she opted to take the tube into London. the tube is a security nightmare if you’re try to trail someone, flipside if you want to lose a tail you just hop off at random and see if anyone blinks. no one blinked. within the hour she was in the W she trooped up to the room dumped the link in the room put the do not disturb sign on and drifted out the front as Alex here to see old school friends and enjoy the smoke.

“Are you certain Pietre?” a voice spoke into his ear. Pietre considered, the owner of the voice was an old friend. But, more than that, he also owned his soul, and a lie would be paid for. So, how not to lie to someone who was well versed in this game. So, start with the truth. “As certain as I can be.” he sub-vocalized. Then a near truth. “The team I used was the best I could get into position quickly.” Back to the truth, “As you know time was of the essence.” And now the lie, accompanied with a prayer even though he’d stopped believing in God long ago. “I think we must move Father Yanis out of there quickly. It is to likely he has been compromised.” And follow up with the truth and irrefutable bit of logic. “And, if I do him an injustice in this, a move to a slightly more favorable position softens the blow. But, more importantly, an empty diocese and a bit of uncertainty allow us to scrub the place clean and make sure that we position someone with a better skill set for our needs.” Now for the hard part. Waiting. If he pushed to hard it would arouse suspicion. A suspicion he could not afford.


Fight or flight

The gnome gives Alex a thumbs up and says, “Is good.” The driver pulls into a warehouse parking lot, the guard at the gatehouse waving them through. They pass by the parking lot to pull into a loading area and the woman gets out of the car with a commlink in her hands. She opens the door to hand it to Alex.

The human opens the door behind Big Bird and taps her on the shoulder, and Alex makes Her break for freedom. She boosts her reaction, the magic flowing through her as she reaches up for the offered comlink but some how misses and grabs the wrist, wrenching it in to a painful arm-lock. the woman senses something and tries to pull back with all her enhanced speed but finds herself lifted off her feet. Big bird deftly tosses her pistol into Pertrera’s lap and then deploys her snap blade just short of the woman's face who's protest is cut of by Big birds bellow EVERYBODY FREEZE!!

She hisses in Alex’s ear, “You are dead.” and takes a step back.

As the face twisted out off the head lock Alex punched her with her blade. the blade connects and her almost employer gets a nasty gash. Alex feels a gun poke into her back and she’s shot at point blank range. In front of her Pertrera lifts the gun and shoots, aiming at the narrow gap between Alex’s head and the car, trying to hit the woman Alex has painted as a target.

She moves back and yells, “Blow door and kill!”

Big bird Watch in amazement as the face stepped back!! OK fine and she bolted “run! NOW

Wolf loped along next to her staying just in front no matter how hard she tried, and then Pertera caught her up. she just kept on pushing desperate to put distance between her and their pistols. all the time waiting for that moment that the boost would leave her and drain her.

Alex hears the shots fired even as the sting is felt. Beside her she sees Pertrera trying to shake off his shots. When you try to describe the feeling to a mage or a mundane its hard, its like an itch crossed with that funny feeling you get when you’ve got a headache coming on. Odd I know but that’s what happens, you just get this compulsion to move that way 
Aaaand sometimes its still not enough. And other times it spot on. This time it was the latter and BB just kept running. Pertrera leaps to clear a small obstacle and Alex see’s a piece of concrete go flying where he’d been a moment ago. As they ran, the warehouse they were in afforded minimal coverage that they could take advantage of, and ahead, the doors to freedom were quickly closing.

Alex and Pertrera were outracing bullets, the shots coming from behind and above them as they ran to make it to their exit. And then they heard the car engine gun and the squeal of tires on the concrete as the driver executed all his skill to maneuver in the tight quarters and cut them off. Suddenly Alex hears, “Gggh!” from Pertrera as he’s hit and then a second later, “GrrhAAAH!” He slows, but only for a moment as desperation gives fuel to his flight. And then they drop and roll making it through the narrow opening under the almost closed warehouse door. The driver is forced to brake and they have a moments reprieve. But, doors that can be closed can be opened again and their advantage won’t last more than a minute. When they burst out of the door they’re in an open area. Facing them are large shipping containers and there are buildings to their left and right as well as smaller buildings to either side of the containers. It’s still dark out, as dawn has yet to arrive. But, the area is well lit by lights on all of the buildings.

Big Bird just kept on going. Headed straight for the left hand side gap between the containers and the small building ahead. Pertrera was a few steps ahead of her as he made a beeline for the containers. And then, just before he left the road he leaped, aiming for the rungs on the side of the shipping containers. Instead he missed and slammed his R arm and shoulder on the container and stumbled from the pain. In a moment he redirected himself and began climbing.

Big bird realizing what he is doing tries to emulate him. As she reaches the top she feels the boost fall away from her she looks to the wolf waiting for her at the top, the glint in his eye say

“yep, now, you didn’t think I’d make it easy did you?”

BB gritted her teeth a forced the slagging weight that was spreading through her body the leave

“good girl! now hurry up my paws are getting cold”

Behind her Alex could hear the warehouse door opening again. It would be only a few moments before someone could roll under it as they had done. In the meanwhile as soon as Pertrera reached the top he became more cautious, he took large steps to the middle of the cargo box and then laid down slowly so as not to disturb the snow.Not letting her self rush big bird settled down making sure she had a view of Pertrera blind spots. Moments later they heard running feet and voices. And then the sound they didn’t want to hear. Someone is climbing up.

big bird gripped her sword hilt tight and tried to guesstimate who was coming up and where the others where. She made eye contact with Pertrera raised an eye brow and gestured over her shoulder to the back of the container. “follow me” she said and tried to stealthy move off the back of the container, all the while looking out for the other team members playing back stop. Pertrera tries to move carefully and ""silently" but, they hear shots dangerously close as whoever it is that’s after them fires blind over the lip of the container. Pertrera kept up with Alex as she moved. But, it wasn’t with the smooth grace that she was accustomed to seeing from him.

Recognising what was happening she reached out “I better take that” she said reliving him of the pistol. But when Alex tries to take the gun from Pertrera his face transforms with an animalistic snarl and he swings at her. Being an adept is hard, there’s this layer of extra you that no-one else gets or can even start to get, Big Bird couldn’t explain what it was, the change in his gate or the difference in the grunt as he hit the ground or may be it was just Wolf snarling and barking at him but as soon as she reached for the Pistol she knew. he had lashed out but it was a sloppy left hook and she just put her sword between his knuckles and her face, she took the pause as the opportunity to pivot out of the way and start her fight down the back of the row of containers. She hoped their pursuers would run into him before they looked for her, without that pistol her options were very limited.

Alex was running away and that made her prey to the creature Pertrera had become. He was faster than she was, stronger than she was. But, he was also in between her and their pursuers. And a moment later Alex heard the shots, heard the bestial howl that said at least one bullet had found it’s mark, and then another sound. The beast had changed targets, and the scream that rent the air ended in a choked gurgle. Orders were screamed and more shots were fired. Alex may not have spoken the language but some things don’t need translating. Neither did that inhuman howl.

Alex kept moving, if Pertrera was dead they might well come looking for her straight away. She quickly wiped her blade and bagged the tissue. Once she had stowed her sword She looked for the most travelled rout in the snow and joined it, still moving fast. She didn’t look back as that was a dead give away (not that her tall frame and lack on PAN didn’t make her stick out anyhow), then after three blocks she took a right then a left. she needed to either get a taxi back to the hotel or find some kind of public coms point to call that bike.

As Alex ran she heard more shots. But, none of them were in her, or around her as she ran. This was an industrial district. A public phone or an open diner were in short supply. But, a half mile up the road was another warehouse. And judging by the lights and the vehicles parked around it, it was open for business. Stood on the corner, BB was just about to start out for the lights when she caught sight of Wolf sat on the pavement. “what?” he lay down “what?!” he played with the piece of paneling that projected from the building. most of these buildings were warehouses, probably for the airport probably bonded definitely locked. she looked at her foot prints in the snow. Where the hell was she to hide as they would be looking.

suddenly she got it, the calm was euphoric. instinctively she walked backwards, using her own foot prints, to the lose panel. Some enterprising homeless had pulled it loose to steal the lining, as she looked up she could see the out let for the heater belching out steam, even better.

things just improved from moment to moment, who ever had pulled this out knew what they were doing and done a neat job. BB pulled her multi tool and torch out and then carefully backed into the hole. Once “Comfortable” inside she ran the blade down the beading so it settled back in place. Now safe in the space between the cladding and internal wall from the outside no one would know and her foot prints ran up to a road and stopped. Lift anyone? Then she climbed up to the flue for the heater so any thermal print would be masked or written of as the heater. then she had to sit and wait.

Alex didn’the have long to wait. She heard them running and searching for her. Heard arguing. In her hiding place she couldn’t make out words. But the frustration was clear. A few minutes later she heard car doors slam, then quiet.

Wolf signalled it was time to leave by starting in on a thorough cleaning of his nethers “ok, ok enough, ok!?”

getting out was harder that getting in, served her right for doing a good job on the way in as the beading fought back and won for ten minutes. finally free and back on the street her foot print where gone under fresh show but she figured any new ones would be gone before they got back to looking for her here.

she pulled herself pulled to full height and walked round the corner towards the building that showed some activity. as she approached she saw it was some kind of courier company. As she go closer she could see four vans and eight guys working (well six were working two were drinking soycaf and talking) putting on her best smile and best Manhattan accent. “ok big bird your on, make it count” she thought to herself. she walked up to the two guys who were talking, making eye contact with the oldest guy and flashing her best smile

“ dobree den.. er do any of you gentlemen speak English by any chance?” she clasped her hands together turning to the younger man raising a questioning eyebrow.

He smiled “I speak some, I help some. I am manager” he passed his cup to the older guy and tipped his head in the universal signal or “oy minion go away, fast”

“oh thank god, please can you help me, oh my where are my manners I’m Mary Alice Winfold Smyth please to make you acquaintance Mr…” she bobbed and held out her hand (just like kalian)
“I call bhocamil” he smiled uncertainly and she beamed back.
“Ok Mr Boocameal oh my you say that much better that I can” she giggled, she coughed and took a serious look" Mr Boocameal I need some help. I was promised there would be a place to stay but there is nowhere and someone has destroyed my phone, look" she held out her Comlink “is totally dead.” she waved it about then stamped her foot in mock fury " oh!they think they are so funny but I’m suck I need to get a taxi but no com and no Czech, please tell me you can help me? it a long walk back and I’m not even sure where Prague 1 is from here."
“Why you Prague? you should have …ah on com no er ling ga soft? yes”
“yes” she squeaked “that’s it no lingasoft on com, i’m here for the university, Charles university” she clasped her hands at her chest “please..?” she paused with mock over sincerity and batted her eyelashes with a huge false smile swing on the balls of her feet, “pleeeease?!”
the old guy said something that sounded like fatherly advice.
“ok ok is enough ok. I” he looked over at the old guy and then said with emphasis “we help, wait minute please” he paused then smiled “pleeeeease” and gave a cheezy smile and held his hand up as he turned away, walking quickly into the building. he was back quickly and threw something at her which she caught and look down at her hand. it was an old crapy novatech comlink but it had a charge
“oh Oh!! thank you!” she gushed “thank you some much”
“please it crap but it work. use for new guys or when break on job”
he turned to the old guy and threw a key card at his and pointed to the van not being unpacked and barked something at him.

Alex noticed that all the other guys had stopped to look and the old guy turned to the van he gave a bow to the others and gestured to get in.

Alex turn to Bhucamil “thank you so much, I am very grateful”
“I have sister, is same and you beautiful and you funny no more adventure yes, stay safe? Yes?”
she lowered her eyes “yes Boocameal”
he laughed “quick go Petyr is angry old man, no wait good, be safe”

the old guy waited for her to belt up “where go?” he gruffly demanded
“the hiton international”
“ah1 good, no cheep, not too big money good choice, ok we go” his mood seemed to lift knowing she watch the pennies " I cannot get too close all for walkers and taxi only, I no permit ticket, my job is near but not close, is ok?"
“oh, of course, you are captain” he smiled at that comment and they pulled of. Alex turned to wave good by as she saw Bhucamil urging the guy back to work as he raised a hand in salute.

old Petyr was as good as his word and dropped her close to the Hilton. Alex spent the trip fighting with the ancient Comlink to get basic functionality. As they pulled up she turned and grasped his hand in thanks, he look at her earnestly “police, you get hurt maybe police, we not russin here. police” he was very serious. she smiled weakly and nodded and then climbed out of the van, she turned to wave and the van honked and pulled away.

She waited for he to be out of sight before she turned and walked away from the Hilton making for her hotel.

on rout she stopped in café and bought a soycaff and called Sabrina






And people ask why i hate taxis

Big bird dived in the shower while she shoveled room service into her face. as she pulled her leathers out of the bag she dialed up a car hire place and booked a bike. As she clipped in her forearm blades she checked the airport arrivals for flights canceled. she picked one that should have arrived in an hour (there were some pissed off customers in Brussels right now) and then looked for the next Brussels flight that should land after the prey would. she then set up reminders on the hotel system to give her reminders about that flight.

pistol in back pack along and sword into artists picture roll. she banged her heals together for her modes bicker boot to give her that 6 inch boost she had paid for and strode out of the door. the bike was sat in a the parking bay she gave it the once over to make sure it was OK and off she rode.

Prague air port prided itself on its food, alcohol was banned so it had to do good food. Alex sat sipping a really not bad soycaffe and nibbling on an omelette with real cheese and mushrooms. pricey but very nice (the Czechs love their mushrooms). from here she had the choice of the exits and was cover from view at the arrivals door she would not be visible till later. she busied herself with ten minuet checks on her flight. and discussing a the similarity off steroid addiction in college sports to blood magic in college labs (Swab was so good at people things he had such good insights, she still couldn’t fathom why he kept asking her questions)

as time grew closer she really started people watching. counting people in and out of service door and toilets. she read in a book one time the thing to watch is shoes. people very rarely swap them because it too much hassle especially when your on the clock to swap things over tailing someone. its a lot harder in this age of AR its a bit harder and yet easier:- you keep flicking your AR off when you look at shoes. works when your stood still but Alex really wouldn’t like to try it on the run.

satisfied she had a handle every one she ran them into her tracking software along with the thermal and acoustic. finally she double check she necklace was functioning happy she waited for the decker to chime in so she could be sure of everything being backed up for later

Suddenly she had a though “what do i do if i get an easy shot at him? What if he’s a fish in a barrel?CRAP!!!

Her comm crackled into life" good morning Miss Big Bird my name is cardboard and I’ll be your decker for the Night"

great a joker, ok show time! the hunt IS on!

“Just not the thing. Just not the thing. Just not the thing.” The voice was anxious. A male voice but pitched high enough to sound almost feminine. It was incongruous coming from the face and body of Pertrera. He strode through the terminal looking around him like a nervous bird.

Shocked at his state, Alex quickly scanned the room for lurkers and tails, she was looking for people who looked at him, most people will look away, trying to avoid eye contact. A kind of subconscious hiding behind their hands. any one who studied him was either a psychiatrist or completion.

she picked up her bag and moved to a place where she could intervene or follow
“Cardboard, you getting this?” she mumbled in to her sub-vocal “is our employer?”

she flicked her eyes round the room, “any one see any takers?” she moved to the vending machine “do you want me to bring you a pack of goodies to the hotel?”

Alex sees a child pointing to Pertrera and someone, most likely her mother, pulling her hand down and saying something to her with a frown. And while a few people in the terminal do look towards him, most look away quickly. The only exceptions seem to be a security guard and the same little girl who tries once again to point to Pertrera and is stopped in mid-point and turned around. Her mother pulls a game pad out of her purse and hands it to the girl who seems to be happy to be distracted.

“screw it”! She muttered under breath. And she strode up to him
“can I help?” and next time I’ll get a god damn tazer__She put on her best smile and ready to duck

Pertrera looks around confused and then his eye light on her and he frowns and mutters, “Hailing frequencies open. One to beam up.” and he tries to walk through her.

Alex slides out of the way but stays I his eyeliner “you need to come this way,… for the…. eerrr rm… transporters,sir” she motions to the main doors, another shabby man runs out “Taxeee taxeeee”
Alex barks in her best Russian tart voice “Fuck off” through her clenched teeth.

His reply comes in broken Russian, “Taxi, less expensive than room. Maybe he like it more.”

Alex pushed past him and went outside to hail a taxi. There was a near collision and the blare of honking horns and cursing as they jockeyed for position for her fare. Behind her Alex heard small running feet and a sharp, anxious “Bella!” When she turned to see, it was the woman and child from earlier. Alex saw only her back as the little girl was trying to run away down the sidewalk. The woman let go of her bag to run after her. She caught her and hauled her up in her arms, remonstrating her in what sounded a bit like French as the little girl struggled. The woman reached her bag and turned to hail a taxi of her own and Alex heard a honking a man yelling, “Ayhh! Ayhh! Taxeee?” the man looking at her as though she is wasting his time. Beside her Pertrera was beginning to wander away saying, “Take the shot.”

Alex moved fast she looked at the nearest taxi to the mark, Forced a smile to him wrenched open the door and bundled him in to the back seat and jumped into next to him.
she shouted the name of the hotel and asked the taxi driver to hurry,
" he took sleeping pill on the flight he thinks he’s Kris the barbarian till he wakes up properly "

The doors lock and through the glass the driver says, “Ah American eh! English eh! Is good!” Alex hears, “Big Bird, I’m being hacked and jammed! I haven’t been able to get through. Are you alright?” The driver looks left to pull away from the curb and then the right hand door opens up and the little girl and her mom slide into the front seat as Alex begins noticing an odor that isn’t Pertrera.

Ales pulls out her respirator and puts it on, hoping she has time to get her knife and pistol out

“Ya needn’t bother wid dat love.” the driver says as he smoothly pulls away and joins the traffic. “Glass is bullet proof. But, yer can keep the mask on if it makes yer feel better.” The little girl turned around in the seat and knelt to look at Alex through the glass. “Your decker is very much good. Much challenge to block. Means you are professional. Is good you are professional.” the accent is light, but definitely Eastern European. Looking at her she still appears to be a child to Alex, but, those are certainly not the eyes of a child. The older woman half turns to Alex and says. “Be professional. Make deal. We only want Pertrera. You give us no trouble. Be his handler for exchange with our buyer, we pay you 100k. Is good deal.” The gas is working it’s way into her system and making Alex feel a little bit sleepy.

Alex shrugged of the gas, and concentrated on the offer. " show me ten no sequential certified cred sticks ands we could chat about that" Wolf stopped licking his balls (she hoped it was his balls) and started to wag his tail while he chewed on something. She looked across at Partner ,who was now listing all the cars that drown past, she really hoped what he had wasn’t catching, she’d hate to be the case study that proved the link.

“Can show you five now. Five when deal is done.” The woman holds up five certified credsticks. Her eyes are the eyes of professional alert for signs of trickery.

Alex smiles, a genuine smile, " OK you say you give me five now or your just proving half the fee’s there?" she looked the taller lady in the eye and half her hands up palms out (and act that was rather spoilt by the large silenced and cannon and wicked looking glass knife, “just want to be clear. Too many deals fail on assuming too much”

Big Bird refocused on Pertrera to check if he had had a mood swing or a literal, change of mind. She really didn’t fancy being locked in a bullet proof box if he when psyko. Suddenly.

“Will transfer one now if agree to deal. Will transfer four when hand over target to buyer without double cross. Will transfer the rest when deal is done. We get paid. You get paid. Will drop you off back at airport then if wish. Or anywhere else in city.” The woman looks at her levelly. Her eyes, voice and manner are those of a professional mercenary, always alert to the deal.

Big birds eyes narrowed, “we started at 100 then your show me 50 and now we’re talking about transfers of 10, I think i’m happier with you transferring the first fifty and then handing over those certifieds’ at the handover . It’s less messy that way” (and then your invested in me and traceable if needs be she thought to herself)

“You still have gun and knife and mask. You keep gun, knife and mask for transfer of merchandise to buyer. Can transfer yes. Or double cross yes. Then we have trouble, and lose money. What guarantee of good business professional?” The woman looking at her a drills her with icy pale eyes.

big bird shot back with a smile “and what guarantee do I have I don’t just get a bullet between the eyes soon as the deals done? this is the shadows we run in, we have to screw unto others as they would screw unto us”

she raised her eyebrow as if begging an agreement, “I’m sure you’ll agree that this way we are both bond to each other because we both have something to loose”

she leant back in the chair “of course we have to make sure we don’t get mugged by another team or ripped off by you…sorry our Johnson”

“You still have gun, knife, mask. We try bullet. You try bullet. Then bodies on ground spend no cred. If we want to shoot you, is simple. Take you to nice place. Blow open door. Shoot you. Is easy, can do, share no cred. Instead we make good offer. One professional to another. Much less messy, after deal is done, we all spend cred.” she says. “Johnson could double cross. Sure. But, we have many guns and much more intel. They try, we take target and send intel to competitors. We still make cred. Maybe more if bidding war.”

“Ok so we agree” big bird smiled and gave her a cheeky wink “you cn call me BB” then in over acted recognition she straightened “Bidding war!? you pulling this guy for stock? How much you being offered?”

The woman relaxes just a bit and says, “No, no bidding war. Agreed to do job. We do job. Johnson pays us, all good, no mess. Johnson double cross. We have plan. Is back-up plan. We double cross first, bad for reputation, not professional, no job offers, bad job offers. No, we no do, just back-up plan. So, I make offer 10k now, 40k when you get out of car and make professional transfer of merchandise, you come back, 50k before you leave car final time. Deal?”

“ok, I think we can work on that”

The woman nods and relaxes a bit and looks at the little girl and nods. She looks at you and says, “Account for transfer?” And a moment later you get the ping of a message. The money is there.

“how soon do we make the drop?” Big bird settled back in her seat, keeping her eye on Pertrera. “there anything I need to know about this Johnson or this drop?” her eyes narrowed, “isn’t he going to be spooked by someone he didn’t hire making the drop?”

“Da. Is good then.” She relaxes and looks around her and says, “Always building. New roads, new restaurants. Never good baba ganush in new.” She looks down at her decker. “Is good?” “Da. I brick her comm.” the small dwarf replies. The woman looks at you. “No worries, is precaution only. Your decker very, very good if was necessary. We will replace with new.”

BB looked up and smiled with a lazy haze in her eyes " guys and galls, i fully appreciate why you did that but how am i going to speak to you when I step out of the car? or are you all coming with me?" she lolled her head to one side languidly reaching out one finger toward Pertrera as if distracted. “‘cos if you do all come along and if we all end up in a great big barney I hope you all have silencers on your weapons other wise you won’t hear a damn thing I say which is going to make getting him out, intact, nigh on impossible” then to emphasize her last point she sat up and leaned forward “and of course the real problem is if i turn up on my own at a meet with out a com, running on silent, no sign of ‘trix support, they’re gonna out 2 and 2 together and get 5 and then run a country mile .” she slowly languidly laid back again “just sayin’”

“You will use spare. Always have back-up of essential equipment. Not first radio.” she frowns and looks at the dwarf who shrugs. “Is CAS saying. I practice. We have job there maybe soon.” She turns again to look at Alex. “I will give you comm when we reach restaurant. Then drive to job.”

“OK” she looked down realizing she’d need to change maybe. "baba ganush? you need brick lane, may be i’ll give you the name of the best.

“Best is aba. No other comes closer. But, soon we will be there. You get comm. No worries, is backup, we will give new.” She turns toward the dwarf and says, “She will need intel.” The dwarf nods and holds up her toy so that Alex can see it through the glass. The screen changes and projects an image. “This is layout of site for exchange. Many open areas for sniper. We have eyes for past 73 hrs. Have necessary weaponry for firefight in place of double cross. Monitoring all communications in and out past 76hrs. Mage oversight support for spirits, but, no mage on site. Good planning no?” Alex sees the layout, and notes that potential sniper positions are marked. All pathways in & out are highlighted with annotations as to the size of metahuman capable of accessing including all the ductworks of the three nearest buildings. The next shot is a screen with 12 camara views monitoring the area. It looks like an industrial district. Right now it’s mostly quiet with few vehicles or people. The next screen shows a thermal image overview of the area and reveals the activities of what has to be the people inside the building.

“Alex?” She hears Pertrera say. He looks around him and then gives a slight finger motion to encompass their surroundings and then gives her a questioning look. The meaning is clear. “Where are we?”

OH GREAT!!” screamed through BIg Birds’ head, “you pick NOW to come back to Kansas, god damn you Dorothy, couldn’t you just stay with the wiz” she had to think fast, think of something quick.
“oooh well look who’s finally decided to join us” she contrived a look of concern crossed with annoyance “what have you been taking? some kind of K2?”

as she said it she turned to face him, backing herself up against the door and checking where all her gear was. she tucked her pistol away and reached for her sword/tube. she was set, here we go

BB tries to stay calm as she balls her fist and pushes the thumb inside to try and show they are locked in.
“you got that as an over lay I can down load to this com link? Don’t want to lose that info if we get jammed during the hand over. Had that before makes for a nervous few minutes” as she continues to talk asking questions she tries to ascertain if he has got the message.

Pertrera pauses a minute and then says, “No, well, maybe. Think I need some food and sleep.” The hands in his lap appear relaxed. But he lays two fingers across his palm and then closes his hand around them. “Kill us?” it says to Alex.

“I’m just confused, have we got a sniper for overwatch?”
As she talked she shifter herself round to get a better look, her freehand rubbed the thumb and fore finger together she shifted again to look a dwarf girls reactions

“Yes. Also, fly-spies. Overwatch is good. Guns are better. Keep all honest.” the gnome grins. It makes her look even younger. But, her next statement is said with the simple finality of a survivor, “Keep all honest or to many dead.”

Ok so that did it, she flapped her had slowly like opening door and balled her fist the made cutting motions with her fingers, all slowly and surupticously, all the while asking questions that helped her orientation for the site. Then she moved  captors onto the timetable, then back to the site,and then roles.

Pertrera leaned back and closed his eyes and said, “I’m beat.” in his lap his hands were fists. Ready.

The gnome answered all the questions Alex posed to her. Then, “We stop here.” She nodded at a warehouse coming up on their left.

Big bird got herself ready. bag slung and jacket open. she turned half Knelt on the seat so that she faced him and pulled out her pistol
“Ok, so we’re here. we both know what I’m capable of with this so do as your told and we’re shiny, don’t do as you’re told and I’ll shoot you in the back, alot!. Happy?”
she gave him her best Mchuges smile and waited for her instructions.




Alex was at a bar. Not unusual. Not at all. What was unusual was that a very tall, unarmed woman had just come through the door and had walked straight towards her. She was dressed in the most outlandish outfit Alex had seen. The rather capacious bust was trapped in a super tight, tie-dyed cropped top shirt that was edged with a neon pink feather boa, and the black skirt was short enough to leave no doubt as to her color of undies, (red). The thigh high alligator skin boots were an obscene color of purple and the stiletto heels made the tall frame even taller. Human, or human looking, she was tall enough and heavy enough to easily be an orc, the whole outfit belonged on two bit hooker, and was weird enough to have earned her cat-calls and invitations from the male patrons. But, there was something about her, about the way she moved, the confident, unsmiling features, that had them watching her in silence. And when she stopped and placed a holo-trid cube in front of Alex all she said was, “You’re going to want to watch that.” She sat down then and signaled the waitress, ordered an iced tea, and sat watching Alex with eyes that missed nothing.

Alex looked down at the cube and then back at the uninvited guest “are you Greek?”
she picked up the cube spinning it between her thumb and fore finger, “this playable here”

The woman looked at her and one eyebrow raised. Then she said in a flat voice, “Yes, it’s playable here.”

“Great”, Alex thumbed up her com link running full diagnostics on her “guest” for a few pointer. she decided not to play the cool game, leaning forward with genuine curiosity. She set her hand to take notes she triggered the cube to her lenses. “lets see what the Greek comes bearing”

When Alex began playing the trid she saw that it was an action scene. The back of a man sneaking through a high tech industrial lab. He was wearing a stealth suit and it made tracking him difficult. But, not hard enough as small security drones came out of their wall sockets and began attacking. And it was as he fought that Alex recognized him. Perkera! She’d been with him on a job. That job had become two, then three, then rescuing his sister from her bat-shit crazy boyfriend. Alex would know his fighting style anywhere. Not that many had the speed and skill to outwit the security droids, as he was clearly doing. The last one dropped, and with the security alarms tripped Perkera knew he didn’t have much time. He sped towards one of the last small vats and opened it. Then, ripping off his mask he began eating something from the vat. It was Perkera alright. But, something about him was different.

Alex took in the scene played it twice this time watching the flanks, looking for logos, sky lines; all the little details. She paused gathered her thoughts, her questions. “OK… so do we known what the chef s special was?” and she caught the ladies eye directly “and why are you showing me? I’m a one man band with a target..” she folded hand together and placed them on the table waiting for the response triggered her thermal and voice stress analytics.

The woman replied, "The vats contained a new variety of nanite. One with incredible potential in the field of medicine. Eating them might be the way he was trying to smuggle them out. But, I have reason to believe “incredible medical potential’ has become a weapon.” She paused, “I’m hoping you know Perkera well enough to come with me and learn more.”

“ok, so you got a brief and a budget? I really hate walking in to a job with out some parameters especially if the job is very vague in its objectives” Alex paused fighting Wolf down drawing on all the years of finishing school to be polite as possible " a girl’s gotta eat and I need the left over nuyen for my own hunt" and then she smiled “unless you’re hiding the back door keys to the victranox ware house down you cleavage?”

she loved her wolf but his cold mercenary heart some times broke what little Xavier had left of hers. they’re either pack or prey

“and i’ll need start dates as I have a date” with a vampire she finished in her head.

"Start today, 10k upfront, 20 more if you bring him back alive and relatively unharmed. 250 if he’s still carrying samples. We cover travel. You cover your equipment and licenses"

“OK that got my attention” Alex said with a straight face she pushed all gameplay aside." so I’m in," she pulled herself upright and all business “I’ll need to see everything you’ve got on where he was last I suppose and we’ll go from there” she threw a quick message to EB canceling her trip and one to fixer telling him she was off the market until further.
“I just have to ask what do you mean equipment and licenses? I’ve never heard that before.”

“we going to talk here or do we need to go somewhere more secluded?”

When they walked through the door the light turned on and her Johnson headed for a table. She pointed to a credstick and a datapad and said, "Everything I know about Pertera is in there. Right now he’s in Moscow. But, tomorrow morning he’s slated to be in Prague. You’ll meet your plane in two hours and be there by 01:00. That should give you time to get a good look around and figure out how you want to approach him and where. As I said equipment and licenses are on you. International travel is fairly strict about it’s legalities.<<

Big bird reach for the cred stick
“in for a penny in for a pound” and she slotted the credit stick. Dialed up jackpoint quick check of messages and one reply and she had promises of suitable paper work for her knives and pistol want too painful and it left a few k for the other end of the journey.
“OK, so that’s travel sorted got a euro licence on the way but some things will have to go hold, can’t have everything I suppose. Right lets see what we have to start with”
Alex sat bolt upright, she always did, helped her stay focused. She stared with the run down of the last run, the corp the Johnson and the fixer, then she looked at the photos, very carefully, looking for anything odd, looking for changes in the face, skin, sign of aestheticism or self-harm. A thought popped up and she went back checking his has in each shot. She looked up at her new Johnson and smiled apologetically.
“sorry, so questions. Is he enhanced or awakened or both, has any one complained about his personality changing? Do we know what his job before this one was?”
Turning to the target area Alex used her memory and imagination and stared to track the mark through Prague looking for the spot to nail him.
“do we have any idea if he is accompanied?”
She was getting the itch, the hunt was on aaaaand her tongue was handing out again wasn’t it?

"No signs of being awakened. But, possibly enhanced. I can’t get confirmation either way for that. There does appear to be a personality change as, at least on camera, some of his behavior’s have been erratic, while others have been more machine like."

“Oooh kaaaay” she exhaled “in a way I wish you hadn’t said that. I’m seeing and hearing enough to think he’s a head job, if you’ve heard the phrase.?” she examined the picture on the data pad a gain looking for the passion in the eyes. She didn’t see it but then it was a lowrez shot on a cheep data pad
“Anyway that means you’l need a team to bag him because he will be an complete unknown from one moment to the next. What ever it its that does this too its victims has an enviable drive to survive. It leaves masses of fail safes and dead man switches. he has to go down hard and fast, then get him bagged and shipped just as fast; with the minimum of contact if possible. the less cyber the better i’m being told.” she stood up and looked out of the window dreaming of the hunt through dreamy .
“Does that alter your outline plan at all?” she said as she turned dragging herself away from her thoughts. she glanced at the data pad again,“looking at these travel plans Prague does seem to be a good spot unless you have something earlier in his trip we could exploit?”

“Yes, I have.” That’s why I need someone who knows him well enough to know whether or not he’s changed. And smart enough to not let sentiment get in their way. Of the three people that fit that description, you were the closest. So, finish studying because you have a sub-orbital flight to catch. For this job you’ve got no muzzle. But, I do recommend that you try not to drool." She says and flicks a glance towards Alex’s tongue which is hanging out again.

Alex blushed " I really need to get a grip on that?" she stood up gathering up the data pad and the cred-stick “I need to pack, Ticket?” and she looked are “ok where’s the lift?”

“Out the door that way.” the Johnson pointed with her head. “You can get a lift from the concierge at the door.” When Alex stepped out of the door she found herself ankle deep in butter soft carpeting the color of antique gold and a beautifully painted and appointed bedroom that led onto an adjoining suite. She turned to look back at her employer. But, there was no trace of a door. Leaving out of the suite she found herself in an apartment building in a quiet tucked away corner with a private reflecting pool and garden. And a concierge at the desk on the ground floor.

She rides the taxi to the Bus terminal and the bus to the mall and then walks the last block to the hotel, she smiles to the desk staff as she walks in.

so as she walks through the door to her room she’s in 'crash move' mode, four pictures of the trace to storage and then shut down the link, clothes in bag, shoes in bag, toiletries in bag, while she doing this she checks for the latest on head cases on jack point, hoping there will be some news or data steal on philological changes during personality switches. she leaves that running while she loads her gun and knives in transit case. Just as she wiping down the room the com chimes.
" hi miss Ostrakova got a DHL guy here for you"
“OK i’ll be straight down, i need to check out Charles can you have everything ready?”
“leaving us? can’t say i’m not sad, anywhere nice?”
“Metrople and then Chiba”
“not dreary old bean town then?”

Alex clocked her “DHL” guy before she made the uniform. after 12 months of looking she didn’t even concusly take it in, the light hint of scaring on the back of the hands and the neck, his eyes never staying still and a thousand little things she was no longer even aware of let alone list that screamed runner to her.

“your name please”
“korilenko, Tatiana Korilenko”
“thanks, sign here” he hands her a compad. well its got power and looks the part but close inspection shows she signing for a taco and coke"
“many thanks miss” he bends down the take the box "your package should arrive in Nairobi in two days"

and hour later four magazines and a guide to Prague in hand, Alex arrived at the gate; business suit and coat on and AR highlights shining. When you are this tall dressing down is a waste of time, just avoid Mortimer coats and Zoe suits (they are real flags to anyone looking to spot a runner) and your already in to independent Corp territory for any one watching.

she settled down with her guide book and compad and continued to wrack her brains to remember what his eyes looked like while she reads up on him. she varies her diet with reading the little new info jack point had allowed her, she really needed to post something new one dissertation on blood magic addiction was not going to buy her much more. She had to get something meaningfull up.

The flight was uneventful and when she gets off the airport is busy. AR signs point to baggage as well as food, rest, and bathrooms keyed to appear in the language set by the user.

Alex logs her com link into the local grid and messages she has arrived as she swathed away the cloud of angry AROs that appeared like wasps round a jam drop as her link updated. She messaged Sabine she had arrived. She walked straight past the greasy man who shot out of the shadows. She grabbed her baggage and headed for passport and customs control where a very bored pixie waved her through a cursory glance at her screen.

“taxi! Lady. Taxi!” he tried several languages to try and get a response. He quit at the doors, if the city drivers caught sight of him it would not end well.

She jumped in the first taxi asked if he spoke French, which he did so she gave the name of the hotel. As they drove she went over her plan again. Recce the two most likely sites in detail was the first job. As she forced herself to put the data pad to one side Sabine messaged her an update.

>>Target will be at airport in three hours. Trix support online and in place in 2.45hrs. All packages have arrived. Additional data regarding itinerary has uploaded to your device. Any special requests?<<

Bean Town Bonanzas
wth but one step

"hey Big Bird" Mr Fix push the chair out with his foot while he lounged in his own. "drink? its genuine Irish!"
"no..thanks" she replied ".. it doesn't agree with me…makes me a bit irish"
"god forbid!" he wooshed snatching the bottle to saftey "i heard about your issue with that young man, did you have to smash his teeth out?"
"he tried to kiss me …twice" she said petulantly "why wont guys take Frack off for an answer?"
"just push them way don't hit them with a pool que!"
"you got a point to this?"
"no, A job, you fancy a holiday in Beantown?"
"whats in Boston?"
"a who not a what. This guy hes a computer finace wiz for the Murphies and he's just straight walked of the reservation. he's spending money like its going out of fashion though and he's not hiding it"
"Ok so why your freinds havent just driven over their and pulped him?"
"politics, it's rival turf and given that he seems to be going crazy they cannot afford for those other guys to get word of his being there seeing as he has their entire finacial structure in his head ware. …."
she stared at fixer, with one of her special hard stares, even through in a raised eyebrow
"…ok so it could also be an ambush! enough already not like i'm makeing a move on you"
"ok its fine, so it ether a cosh and carry or a bust…or do you want him eitherway?"
"you know theres always a catch" he shrugged"look, give it a run past if its a bust keep eyes on and i'll pull a team together, other wise just hit him with a pool cue and bring him home"
"AH! soooo funny! not" she smirked at he and he smirked back "why me?"
"cos if this is a trap you leave a trail of bodies behind you and the Murphies will like that, so its kinda win win for me"
stranger in a very strange land

four days later she was climbing the stairs to the marks appartment dressed as pizza delivery, she banged on the door. She had already cased the building and the street over the two previous days, taxi bike foot and bus. she got to the door and there was a smell bad smell like garbage, the door opened and the smell so much worse that she throat puked. Stood in the door was a large orc, suit tie, he was not the guy she was after. she held out the box and just on impulse held out her compad and asked for stupid amount and he just straight out paid her rent for a week. A glance over his shoulder gave her a releaf, he was there, sat on the floor in front of a huge trideo building block game, dressed in a disney princess out fit and a firefighers hat. a young girl was speaking to him "chequetrace don't….they dont live like ….you have to learn…". The room/appartemnt was awful, take-away boxes, food and worse everywhere. she thanked the Orc amd the door closed.
She got to the end of the street before she had to stop to be sick and that gave her tail away, he wasnt ready for it (neither was she to be honest). He just stopped dead in the middle of the road. She was gone and fast, she hopped on to her stolen push bike and hammered three blocks; ditched it and jumped into a taxi, hit a mall, changed into vending machine clothes and slowed down. she mingled with the crowds bought a soycaf, bought a change of clothes on the comlink she had used at the apartement. She ditched the clothes in toilet and the comlink in a ramdom shopping bag that passed her as she left. Activated her main comlink and left the mall.Then she Taxi, bus, metro hopped for the rest of the night pretty sure she had ditched them.
"hey can i set up an account with you?"
"sure, where are your premises?"
"sorry we don't opperate in that area"
"ok 'Bye"
"ok what you got"
"well he's there, with friends, and i think he's gone mad" Big Bird outlined what she had seen.
"…a firefighters helmet?! for real? is it a break down?"
"I would have said so but the two other dudes make me think something else but thats not the good news the place is being watched"
"wait thats not the Goodnews"
"go on"
"it's not the mob, they wouldnt have given two hoots about me, they'd just be waiting for a group to go up there to give him the bad news, and they would have tidied up some. that guy was sent becuse i was out of sequence i recon they know no one ordered that pizza and sent a guy to follow me to find out who i was"
"like who?"
"I dunno but my guess is corporate might be runner but he was realy sloppy so that rules out Federal entanglements"
"ok i'll put in a call to a crew I know are in town, call you back"
"smashing, i'm off to sleep"
Big Bird sympathsed with Trolls, being a smidge off 7foot was a real pain. Coffin motels were designed by dwarfs for dwarfs. as her com-link went off she straightend stubbing her toe and banging her head.
"ok what you got?"
"and a good morning to you big bird"
"sorry hight issues, whats the crack?"
"the team is in place already they are in the hotel across the street. tim wants to talk to you before they go for it but he figures you have been made so sally their rigger is coming to get you and they'll bring you in the back"
contact with reality

twenty minutes later sally was driving her to the hotel while giving her the lo-down on the team. sally the rigger, tim the sam, micky the sam and knuckles the mage.
"… so basicaly we're ready to go. soon as you give us the last bits we'll grab him and go" sally finished and she guided the rental van round the corner and in to a side aley.
"this is it; we walk from here, you ok with your bag?"
"sure, fine"
as they hopped a fence and scaled a wall Fixer rang.
"kinda busy man"
"you get pics of those other dudes in the room?"
"may be"
"check it, call me"
when she got in to the room she checked, guy in the door and that girl all there. she sent the footage. everything happened at once, she finished her back breif, a van with the opposition arrived and Fixer called.
"what? its all kicked off here, we have competion" she said as she watched six figures jump out of the van. Two stayed with the van while the others bricked the lock on the front door and pushed through and headed up stairs
"whatever! we need the guy in the door he's payday and the girls is on a missing list so scoop her too"
"what?! really you tell me this now?!" she recognized one of the street guards as her tail, now he had a sword and machine pistol hanging from his armour.
"get this done and you're off the wannbe list and its big league time, get it done Big bird its time to adult!"
"send me details now" she messaged while she shouted at the guys "we need to grab the other two as well"
"what!? they all said pretty much in unison
"details on the way"
"ok lets go" shouted knuckles
"wait! there's eight of them"
Alex(bigbird) broke the pause "Sally can you get a drones eye on the second floor landing? soon as they start down the stairs to the first floor and the door:- brick their comms and tell the rest of us as you're doing it. The rest of us can rush these guys and put them down then take care of the others when they emerge" she paused and looked at Tim, he ran his toung over his tusk.
"lets do it" he chuckled "Sally get both vans ready and i'll call teaparty and let him know we're on our way"
as they headed for the door Fixers message flashed up "door man to be handed over in boston time to be confirmed Big bird will handle that, everyone else is freight" as the head for the lift she though if this was afilm it would be in slow montion right now, showing her at the front, leading her pack. the buzz passed and her eyes tunered agate hard and as the lift doors opend she was ploting her move across the street she would get the first kill. As they reached the doors for the hotel Sally anounced she was starting, the poor concierge watched as a frorest on guns and swords emergued from hiding places, Tim turned and tossed a fist full of script, put his finger to his lips and him tipped him a wink.
nothing remains but to fight
Alex bounded across the street, her sword in one hand and a long wicked looking fineblade in the other. Tail guy was getting ready as she rounded the corner of the van. He pulled his mono-blade sword out and fell into an easy stance betraying his competence. She swiped at him with her fineblade, he easily met it with he own and a smirk cracked on his face and he sensed he had the initative and she was wide open then he felt himself renched of balance as there was no blade there it was an holo projection, Alex snarled swung her own mono-blade a two handed upper cut that staggered him backwards, he winpered with his next lunge which was easly parried and she finished it with a repost. she span round and instincivly ducked as the final team member climbed out of the truck and sally shot him in the back from her drone.
Tim chopped his guy down with a long burst from his smartgun while Mickey vaulted over them to the doors. He reached them just as the team came out of them. The lead figure reacted fast and fired at Mickey; The pistol rounds stopped dead by the young Orcs armour. The Mickey fired back with a much bigger pistol the gell round planted the guy flat on his back, the rest of the snatch team were hearding the apartments occupants and were only just able to disentangle themselves from their charges when Knuckles second stunball flattened them all.
From there it was plain sailing they put door guy in the back of the rental van the others in to Sallys ride and off they went.
"got you a present" she messaged
"good" he replied "stay in town I've hired two baby sitters for you, just to be on the safeside"
"ok, where?"
"here's the details, they'll take you on a tour"

lose tails and cold trails

Two proffesional looking Dwarves met her at the the pick up with an ambulance. As Alex helped load the unconsouse guy in to the pack of the ambulance one of them climbed in to the rental with a big comlink and then the van took off.
"I wiped the grid guide log on the van and set it to master so it will mess with Grid guides' backups, so we're clean" the dwarf explains as she climbes in to the driving seat. "how our guest?"
"sleeping like a baby, I'll not give him anything yet, I'll shoot him up later if he starts getting fruity"
"gram in time saves nine?"
"Na, we'll be sweet"
"ok" said the driver "I'm two-tone and her in back is Betty" Explained the driver "we'll just tool around for the now to kill time and shake and tails you might have.
Time was duly burnt and they made the meet. It was standard, the buyers medtec checked the package was alive and not brain dead, Fixer confirmed payment and they went their separate ways.
Alex was dropped at a transport hub so she had her choices of in's and out's. she hit bus taxi metro and hit a mall. Fixer was extatic, she had to remind him she was in public. she took four burner IDs from him (being tall costs) he took it out of her cut for the two extras. she made her excuses and when back to her hotel for sleep
"i want you to stay in olde town chummer"
"eh?" she was taken aback "why?" she had taken a private booth for breakfast,
"I think there is soemthing going on….er ah aaand i think we are on to it. I've been reading up"
"On what?" her voice full of guarded suspicion
 "look.. I'm gonna sound mad so just answer me this did that girl call that guy Chequetrace?"
"yes thats right, why"
"chequetrace was a greynet program used by private invesigators and accounants to trace the money transactions, it went off line just before our accoutant when rogue. its a coincidence but i'm finding others conicidences in the same ball park and other stuff too like Boston keeps cropping up alot, any how i think at the very least there will be some bizz in it. and i know you're an educated girl so use those smarts to look for weird personality behavours and crazies like you encoutered, I know your obsesion..sorry focus could you turn your eye to this?"
"ok heres the deal you get me a good safe house to run this from and I'll us my bots to search it but you process the results, remember they will produce a lot a false positives and i will charge my usual rates for running them down or getting eyes on."
"ok but it means you dont get a cut of the proceds"
"you were right the first time its an obsesion, not taking time away from it. I'm going to hunt down every one of those sick sons of bitches i can find."
"they really did a job on you didn't they?"
"I suppose but it not that. It's that I can't stand weaklings being enpowered like that. you only turn to it is your weak. and weak makes my claws itch, they're prey."
"sometimes you make my blood run cold girl, you really do" get it set up I'll send you the address and comms codes soon as I can. get some sleep, you never sleep"
"na I'm going to church, need to pray. anyway why you using me for this not some decker?"
"'cos you're educated and can run simple research systems like this. i dont need a decker with all their "I'm God" crap to run these programs. what i do need is a research brain and i'm pretty sure you have at least a college degree in there, this is a hunch but also if you are on site and already giving me the data breifing you and so on will be quicker."
"thats ok, Didn't want you thinking I'd ripped you off running of the shelf programs"
Fixer sent the ID's within minutes. Alex bought four commlinks with prepaid bundles attached much to the delight of four sales people. she asked fixer to send random amount to each account over the next 48 hours.
she called the priest and chatted/confessed her day. His concern was tempered by curiosity. she kept the story simple and missed out important details much to her surprise he said he had heard some things on the grapvine and would send her the details. as she walked to the hotel she realised he hoped she was getting back into research mode going back to the books but not.

Welcome to the neighbourhood

the appartment was odd and out off the way. the neighbours were nosey(friendly) and it did not appear on the Boston AR map. two huge bedrooms and a crammped living room kitchen bathroom, two exits and a front door stolen from a bank vault. The electric was flaky and LTG weak and there was mold on the windows. not bad for the (Fixers) money she set up her project in one room and the Fixers in the other room and used the rest as her space. she checked out the area (espcialy the area round the second exit from the appartment) nearest shop was a stuffer shack so not happening, bit further on she found a little shop run by two young dwarfs, hsuband she found knew all the gang gossip and the wife new all the local gossip so much shopping to be done there. Alex used the brought out the "fired looking for new job/best she could afford" story.
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