The First Age

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Honest, where does a guy have to go to get a decent dinner around Moscow?

He grinned as he walked up to Kallisti. In Chicago, the only time he found himself in a strip club was when he was interviewing suspects in a crime. Not the sort of situation when he paid much attention to the stage. He wasn’t dead, but he was a professional.

His hotel was across the river, someplace far more affordable than in the downtown quadrants. Plenty of restaurants stood between the hotel and the red light district, but this place had incredible reviews online, and a guy had to eat, even Andre.

He wore a chartreuse button-down, sleeves cut short around his biceps and navy-blue pants that split at the ankles into a flare. Maybe he overpacked for the trip; clearly not.

He hung out at the bar before the show started.
Mik's body felt all loosy-goosey, muscles relaxed and soothed. Then again, that's what a spa was for, right? Fuck! Li had kicked his ass repeatedly. Well, not too badly. And he rather enjoyed the close quarters- the guy definitely had a way about him and he did smell good- just before Li pretended to gut him or rip out his throat. You're not supposed to get that close to an Oni, dumbfuck!' And he imagined the Lady would laugh and he couldn't help the smile he flashed the man. A warm one to be sure.

But the bruises added up. Ribs and legs mostly, along with a nice one on his shoulder. And shit, but he had no idea about all the yoga that was required just to learn how to kill something. He was dripping with sweat from that alone, stretching and holding poses in ways he would never have figured possible, before the training even began.

So when his body screamed at him that morning, well, why the fuck not? What was the saying? "Treat yo' self!"

So the Spa it was. Mina's hands were surprisingly strong despite how tiny they were. Then again, small fists could be pretty painful, he knew too well. And what the hell. Why not go in for the full service. Massage, hot stones, facial, pedi- the whole nine yards. Well, almost. Not that kinda place. Not that if he wasn't persistent it might not happen. At least maybe after dinner or something. But eh- that wasn't why he was there.

So anyway, where was he? Oh yeah. So Mik was feeling all sorts of good and relaxed and for the first time in a week, he didn't move like an old man. He had stopped off to change- black leather pants, cream v-neck, and his rust leather jacket. He could still smell all the junk they put on him- including some aroma-therapy oils that were supposed to linger and keep him feeling chill- but that was pretty cool.

So what to do now. He stopped off at a small hole in the wall and got a couple slices of pizza, large greasy triangles that you had to fold in half just to fit into your mouth. He always went heavy with the red pepper too. And he did have a beer. Didn't take that long to eat and he wasn't in the mood to post up at a table in some dive. Not today, anyway.

But he did want a drink. And he wasn't gonna deny that Mina hadn't made him feel good. Real good. Some eye-candy would do. But maybe something more upscale. It wasn't a usual haunt- he didn't make that much money- but he had scored pretty well on his last few jobs. And what the hell was money for if not spending it by having fun? And he did like Kalisti. When he was in the mood to be teased.

And yeah. He was in the mood to be teased. He sauntered in, eyes adjusting to the low lighting. The bouncer looked him up and down but didn't say much. Mik smirked at him and winked before taking in the place to figure out where to settle. Intimate alcoves to allow private conversation while still being able to enjoy the show. Larger tables of a larger crowd. The single booths where a patron might sit and talk with one of the servers or performers- if they happened to be in a chatty mood. And a bar.

Yeah, that was usually the best bet. Even if a table caught his eye, you always started at the bar so you could watch the dynamic of the people there And the bartender was cute, mop of dark blondish hair over a pair of eyes that seemed to hold a smile. Nice pair of shoulders too. Nasty scar across his neck definitely promised an interesting story. too. The girl behind the bar competed for his attention, though, black hair flowing around a face- and body, holy shit!- that promised everything a heart could desire- along with a nice ride in a blender there at the end. Dear god, how they found these people...

Yeah, this could be fun. A brief side glance prompted a small smile. Mr. lime green shirt that very nicely showed off his biceps and tats was only a seat or two down. He waved the girl over, friendly grin and a twinkle in his eye. "Well heya doll." Her smile was wide and her eyes flirty, but of course she was a hired gun. Still, not like he wasn't playing a game too. "Tell ya what, if I knew you were working here, I'd be here every night."

She laughed gamely and came back, immediately catching the vibe. She spoke as if relieved. "Good thing for me then. I need this job. But without having to fill out a restraining order."

He laughed apologetically, winking at her. "Sorry, doll. Barbie, right? Can't help myself." A wide grin. And he let the aggressiveness drop to something more relaxed. "So can you hook me up with a drink, hun? Titos and pink grapefruit?"

She eyed him with a glint of playfulness warring with dislike for a moment, as she wiped the space in front of him. "Sure thing, Ken."

He frowned. puzzled, pretending to be offended. "Ken? Do I look like a Ken to you?"

She shrugged innocently, hiding a slight smile. "Maybe? I don't know. After all, I'm Barbie. Which would make you Ken....". And then she smiled tightly, eyes sharp with amusement at his expense

He barked a laugh, enjoying her tease, and her smile became genuine. She was quick. He looked mock-offended and gobsmacked. "Wow! Just....wow! Now that says all sorts of things doesn't it." His voice dropped to sultry and he raised an eyebrow. "Nobody ever called me smooth though." And then a toothy grin, daring her to say what he knew she was thinking.

Just making fun of himself. Just a game. The Lady laughed at him all the time. It's what dancing was, after all. She handed the drink to him. "Well, not-Ken, I'm Nissa."

Mik put his hand across the bar and shook hers. banter done for now. "Good to meet you, Nissa. Name's Mik. Thanks," he said, nodding to his drink. They'd talk or they'd not. No biggie. He was just floating, looking for something new to do anyway.

Maybe he'd he see or hear the Lady. That always led to fun. He glanced over at Lime-shirt briefly as he took a sip, before spinning around to watch the stage. Interesting to see what they had going today.
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The show was about to start.  It was so good to have Kallisti back open.  All the girls thought so, and with new blood even.  He was so sweet most of the time, but always so brooding.  He and Raffe were cute together.  Mae hadn't even asked after having seen them together before.  Though it could be fun.  She smiled to herself as she picked a peice of fuzz out of the golden paint that covered her skin.  Candy was dressed the same way.  Moonie was playing the God Ged.  Candy got to play Shu.  The names meant little to her, but it was good to know she was playing Ra.  The gender bender was fun because Nox was playing Nut, Nit, Nuit... whatever.  Mae shrugged.

Candy and her walked out into the main lobby area dressed in partial costume but clearly Egyptian in style.  Nox's ideas had been faboulous even if they weren't fully formed.  But that's what they'd done - fixed it for him.  It was good working with a man who didn't think he knew everything.  Tho the boy had an ego.  And he was dangerous, it was like Kas, but he wasn't a wild beast that Ori had found.  Mist wondered where Ori had found Kas, but she never asked.  it didn't matter what was in the past.

But the show was about to start
He couldn’t help but overhear the flirting at his side. He could barely understand the words spilling from their lips, but he didn’t need it. The body language, smirks, eyes, hands and eye-contact said everything he needed to know: friendly banter between patron and barmaid. A classic set up that kicked all manner of role-playing games. Given the exotic atmosphere, Andre might as well have been in one himself.

While the girl moved away to mix cocktails. Andre nodded a subtle greeting when Ken glanced his way. Russians weren’t known for their friendly gatherings, but neither were Chicagoans. So Andre led off with a “Hey man,” and hoped that it went well.
Mik was eyeing cat-girl- cuz fuck but the way her ears poked out her hair and the way she moved reminded him of Nala at home- well that and the way her outfit hugged her body and suddenly he wanted to peel her outfit off....talk about needing a tongue bath. He found himself running his tongue along his lips...


Wait. What? Where was he? Ok, yeah. So. At bar. Titos and pink grapefruit. Catlady in front. And lime tattoo at his side. And lime tattoo says hi. And Mik laughs because the Lady laughs. Those fucking tattoos...

He glanced at lime tattoo with an easy grin. "I like your accent. American, huh?" He turned his face to him, but not in a flirty way. "On vacation or here to take in the wonders of Moscow."

Yeah. You fucking know the way he looked said he was one of those wonders. But he winked to poke the hole in the baloon. All a joke. The universe a joke.

Then a grin and nod. "Nice work, bro," referring to his tattoos. Mik never quite got why they turned him on. Maybe it was something about tracing them with his finger....and more. Always led to interesting stories. And places  

He knew his own work was covered but enough showed around his neck, especially with the notch vee he wore. He was partial to Arabic script and iconography. Fuck if he knew what it meant. But art it was and you could see it on his open chest and collar bone and neck above his shirt.

Another sip, eyes on stange. "In town long?"
Eiji Lynx woke up int he middle of utter darkness with a gasp.

He steadied himself. He was in his bed in Moscow.

He’d been dreaming about her and how he’d break the news to her folks. In his dream, she wouldn’t listen to reason. He understood denial. It was one of the recognized stages, as Meera mentioned.

He got out of bed. The floor was cold under his bare feet. Outside, the wind seemed to have stopped at last. The night sky was oddly grey, flowing with departing clouds.

Eiji Lynx knew all about denial, because he’d denied himself everything, including the hope of salvation, in the time he’d spent in the eastern colonies. He knew what a death sentence felt like, too, because his civilian life trapped in this city all but kills him. He’d been recalled, unwillingly, to Moscow, to wait for the next mission. It was a nothing special place, just something the higher ups procured for him, a temporary stop, just a shelter he didn’t have to break into.

He’d talked to Meera, and they’d decided that the medication dosage would stay the same. Better for him.

But how to feel better? Every time Meera checked in with him, Eiji’s agony increased. How could he break it to her in his dreams and make her understand?

He got dressed, and let himself out of his room. He needed a drink. He decided he’d sit himself down in the new reopened club and drink. The neon lights would soothe him, and allow his mind to calm.

The sky had cleared, and the stars came out, but the air temperature had dropped sharply. He threaded corners and alleys of the neighborhood, his breath wisping into the air from around his mask which helped to block off some stronger scents. Like the night, the trail had gone cold, and left in its place a deadness no neon lights could fill at this hour.

He pushed open the door into the Kallisti but was stopped in his tracks.



He clunked opened the door and let himself in out of the bitter cold of the empty night. Eiji curled up in one of the chairs, and used his bandana as an extra layer over his nose and mouth.

“I can’t!” he hissed through his mask and almost shirked at the strange staff in their liveries of egyptian gold, crimson and all manner of glorious things. They seemed glad of something to do, and he’d only just been seated when his beer arrived in record time.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen any face paint that wasn’t camo or black out. Face painting wasn’t a talent he’d ever developed, growing up, and he was concerned that he might overdo it and end up looking like one of those frightful transvestite performers at the Cabaret. He’d heard the most appalling stories about some show up at the Cabaret that had sealed the center of downtown off.

Eiji Lynx
wolf-ie
Candy worked the side of the entertainment stage, and Mist worked the bar side.  Two new face sat at the bar.  Though maybe not new, but ones she didn't remember anyway.  She walked past the other patrons with a smile.  "The show's about to start you will join us, won't you?"  The man grinned at her as she touched his shoulder and she gave him a playful smile before moving on to the next.  She stopped at the men at the bar with the same smile, touching each of their shoulders.  "You will join us, won't you boys? The shows about to start."

The departing smile was seductive as she parted the ways to the velvet rope.  In practiced fashion both she and Candy reached the velvet ropes at the same time.  It was time to begin...



The lounge was loud and busy and the theater doors were closed with a velvet rope blocking the entrance.  Two scantly clad women painted in gold wearing a thin gauze draping their bodies sashayed through the crowd to the door and the rope was released from its decorative perch.  The two women clinked their fingers together with a pair of fingers cymbals.  They pushed opened the doors to the theater and beckoned the patrons in.

It was dimly lit in shades of blues and purples and stars scattered the room.  It might look like a planetarium if the shadows of the ceiling and room didn't change the way the world looked.  The two women before slipped into the shadows and disappeared in the curtained walls.

Faint music played as the patrons entered the room. Both sides of the stage were frantic with movement, but the stage looked serene in the pale blue star light.

The lights dimmed to darkness. The music changed.  Soft and romantic, the sounds of the harmonica filled the room as the stars appeared and against the dark screen two people in tight embrace emerge from the darkness as the saxophone starts to play.  The silhouettes separate and dance away, their hands the only thing touching.  Their long lean limbs stretch and curl around each other as they move.  The light gets brighter and a piano intermingles into the music as a third character dressed in pharaoh garb enters the stage the screen drops revealing a painted with the night sky, blues and purples with golden stars, the woman dressed in the browns and greens of our the earth, leaves flowing through her hair.  

The pharaoh tries to travel through the dancing pair but the he can't pass, every time he tries the pair close the distance in a deep embrace.  The music grows angry.  After every attempt the the pharaoh stomps his foot and then leaves.  Exit stage right.  

Another dressed in similar attire comes on stage looking tired.  The pharaoh comes to him, the music pleading and motioning towards the dancing pair who are oblivious to anything else other than each other.  Still dancing to the tune in their own minds.

With a heavy sigh, she interrupts the dancing pair, grabbing both by the wrists and pulling them apart.  They let go as the music changes the Spanish guitar singing songs of melancholy.  The earth starts to weep half the lighting near the stage starts to turn to blue with the shimmers of an underwater world.  The sky is separated forcefully from the earth and the pharaoh triumphant rides through between the separated sky and earth on a chariot of gold.  As the lights dim a shooting star falls from the sky, and fish swim in the sea including a clown fish accompanied by a surgeonfish.
After the opening act. He went outside into the smoking area. Most of the smokers around had already gone back inside; though it was long past the middle of the night, conditions had not improved. The night was dismal, the air bitter cold, and the ground hard as lead. Wrapped in his jacket, he huddled down in patches of stiff grass and found a place to be away from the others. There was really a hell of a lot of activity going on. The club was busy, heaving with workers and patrons, dancers and drinkers. But it had been a smart, regimented place, clean and comfortable, wound like a well maintained watch.

Keeping a careful eye on the club entrance, Eiji pulled his bandana off his mouth—it made him look like a bandit—and inhaled deeply before walking over the well nearby. He cranked the pump handle, and sluiced out the cold water to wash his hands, his neck, and his face. Eiji stood upright and shook the water off his face like a dog as he looked out. Hearing the sudden cheers ripple from the men inside, he allowed himself a little, satisfied glow of contentment. He looked less tense than usual, but then this performance was doing that to everyone. The show was magical, even though it took Eiji a little time to make sense of the pharaoh’s story on display.

Something about that dance, one of the tall dancers in particular, or about the way the stars were all around them, reminded Eiji of Meera’s vinyls and the music she’d put on during his sessions. Furthermore it reminded his dream. He’d been in a room, a small, scentless room, with a door in each of the walls. The room had been open to the sky, lacking a roof. Every time he’d looked up, he’d been able to see a vast stretch of sky, deep with clouds that were edged with a fiery red.

In the dream, Eiji had been aware of a deep compulsion to get out of the room. Some odd part of his dream’s internal logic told him that if he didn’t leave the roofless room, he wouldn’t be able to do any good. Any good at what, the dream wasn’t bothered to identify.

But every time Eiji walked towards one of the doors it was no longer there. The doors wouldn’t stay put. He’d move towards a door and suddenly it’d appear in another wall.

For a few weeks into his sessions with Meera, early on, he’d been plagued by a recurring dream were he’d been stuck in a room with no doors or windows. It had bothered him deeply, scared him; the claustrophobia, the sense of imprisonment, had lingered on him each morning, long after he’d woken.

There was a smell of fear, he recalled. Stale sweat, morning breath, the ugly odor of Eiji himself who had been living in the field and now had been roused early, unwillingly, to face a cold, unfriendly day. His face was pinched, troubled, unfriendly, looking like a slow horror was dawning on him. But Meera Alam had told him it was simply an anxiety dream, a nightmare about being trapped in Moscow. After some time, the dream had passed.

This new dream didn’t scare him, but it left him with an unsettled sensation that fed uncomfortably into his current troubles. He didn’t dare run. He couldn’t live with running. Couldn’t face the dreams, his conscience. Couldn’t bear to think of the brothers he’d lost. So young, so scared despite their showboating, all of them—they got struck down before him like skittles, random and wild. And luck, more than anything else, had left him unscathed, but he did not celebrate his survival.

He pursed his lips and looked up at the empty sky for a moment, as if watching red clouds in his dreams chase.

Eiji
As he sat at the bar, elbow perched on the rail, he couldn’t help but think about the Mandalorian. The cowboy hero was his favorite (as a kid?), nope, totally today. That swagger as he walked into the bar, every head turned toward the mysterious man in the helmet, knowing he could blast his way in and out of anywhere he wanted, feared by everyone, but hiding a heart of gold? That’s the kind of thing heroes were made of.

Local law enforcement like himself was hardly a cowboy, he Andre did have a swagger about him not unlike the Mandalorian. It was with a self-amused smirk that the lone gunman in the room was propositioned by someone at the bar. The guy struck up a conversation lilted with such a heavy accent, Andre barely grasped faintest of syllables. The tats on their skin transcended the vulgar movements of mere tongues, and he lifted the sculpted lines of a forearm to show them off. “Thanks man,” he said, sharing the compliment in return. “Looks good,” he nodded, “that a full back? I’ve never had the balls to go full back,” he grinned upon their interruption.

Like a kitten drawn by the string, he was pulled into the magic of a show that simultaneously drenched them in darkness and starlight all the same.
Ryker wasn’t the sort of man to harbor a grudge – excluding Ascendancy’s murder of his family and the resounding need for revenge that dominated his life ever since – so when he raised his arm to summon some ass to his will and such beheld a familiar face, it was with a laugh to good fortune. It wasn’t like he knew a lot of people in the city, and despite the irreverent disrespect, this kid was entertaining.

He abandoned the slow-assed waitress and approached the bar. Tonight, Ryker wore his typical attire, a black on black ensemble, no tie, collar open. The suit jacket he wore was sewn with a high-sheen finish that fit snug at the waist. If the ominious presence wasn’t obvious enough, the thin threads of his hair was draped across an eerily jovial grin rimmed by the etches of deep facial scars.

“You and I have more in common than I ever imagined,” he laughed upon joining Mikhail and the other men at the bar. He waved over a drink and saluted their reuinion.
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