The First Age

Full Version: A friend in need
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Huried footfalls behind her caused Reed to check her firearm and turn around in time to meet Jon as he caught up with her. She was an unflappable reed in the wind, unlike the waving grasses he so poetically described. Lawyers are wordy. Not a big shock there.

His accusation regarding the flare of her ires was met with a blank, unimpressed look. She'd beg to differ. Her orders were directed at Trano. She couldn't help it if Jon's sensitivities were so soft to be riddled when the ricochet bounced off his friend and hurt his feelings. One would think a minority would have thicker skin.

She followed his line of sight to the monitors left open at her desk. Among maps, itineraries, and lists of names there hovered a live feed of the room they just vacated. At least the cleaning crews were decent. Jon had no clue how many times he'd walked across the spot where Abrams' body had lain. If it weren't for her spying, his little friend Trano wouldn't be here for him to teach. So really, he should be thanking her. Not threatening her. But Reed absorbed it all like an old flag hanging heavy in dead wind. She'd had her butt-chewed by men who could actually do her some damage. So she gestured that he continue. She was listening. Kind of.

His admittance that none could hear what he was saying was interesting. For the first time, her eyes left his - she was no weakling who couldn't hold a man's gaze - but only to dart around to seek some sort of evidence of his claim. She could hear him. Did that mean the ear-piece she wore would not record anything? Did that mean the Lens Warrior in one eye was no longer recording. She'd worn both almost constantly for five years now, not excluding when she and Abrams first visited Trano at his Stateside home. She was more than curious about how far this man's 'magic' could go.

Thoughts for later. For now a nice slow exhalation released the tension growing in her shoulders. Jon kept his voice calm, but body language was something any rookie agent could read. Lawyers too, probably and Jon was suppose to be a high caliber one. He did a good job keeping everything about him neutral, but the logical lay-down of his orders tickled Reed's funny-bone. She had to actively suppress a smirk before giving herself away. Again. The whole operation he threatened to kill was in line with the same one he was advocating. They were by all appearances working toward the same thing. How the fuck did he think wars were won without clandestine methods. Arrogant little prick. Who said she was interested in spying on him anyway? She was here for Trano, not him. He walked right into their private suite. Be like fucking at an orgy then complaining about ignorance of cameras in the bedroom. Voyeur and orgy go hand in hand, idiot. Was it really that big of a shock that she had cameras? Eh, well maybe it was. Maybe she'd been a spy for so long, she forgot how shocked 'normal people' would be at what she was capable of doing.

Suddenly Jon's threats took on a darker edge. He seemed to burst with authority, that was almost impressive in its own little way, and lowered his voice. Oh boy. She better hang onto her heels. Shit was about to get serious. For a coyote, she had the unmistakable urge to ruffle the fur between his floppy ears and see if she could get him to roll belly up. Again, she withheld the smirk from her lips.

There must have been something to that whole claim about not hearing things, because Trano showed up with no audible warning of his approach. She made a decent mental note about that. Reed was far more interested in watching Trano's reactions than absorbing Jon's flat-eyed delivery. Trano intently studied something she couldnt see. But then suddenly the barrier broke, and his nasal wheezing reached her ears. So the sound thing was probably true, and Trano had done something about it. Nice way to step up, Trano. She gave him an approving nod, then turned back to Jon, her hands were itching to slap some sense into the man, but then again, she hated slapping people. It hurt her palm.

Jon threatened her. Huh. She took him seriously, finally. ' Do you believe that I could make you do as I asked without your cooperation? Don't make me show you what I'm capable of, you won't even remember it.' That struck her expression contemplative. She thought back to the way Trano wielded the movement of her arm with his very thought, and how had he talked his way out of a detainment zone? The same application of control over her free will not only sounded unpleasant, but downright terrifying. She made a very, very important mental note about the possibility. Was it possible to control people's thoughts? Or read them? She was already deep into the method acting of a double-agent. Just in case, she was going to have to steel wayward thoughts from wandering. If they could read her mind, she was determined to not give them anything interesting to read - beyond her usual charming self of course.

So in answer, no, she did not want to see what he was capable of, but she was glad he told her. Consider the warning heeded. It was always better to know where the weapons lay without actually seeing them discharged.

She glanced curiously as Trano stepped in, clearing his throat with more talk of mind control. Damn. It was like they thought she wasn't on their side.

Well, tazer her into cardiac arrest! Trano showed some fucking meddle! It only took an incredible show on her part to get him to whip out the dick she knew he had. Shit. It would have been almost as heroic if he had stepped in between the two of them cape billowing in the wind and shielded her body from the flaming arrows Jon was shooting. And she wouldn't mind seeing him in spandex. He was skinny enough for it. Actually, scratch that. He was too skinny for it.

Since it looked like she'd dragged as much truth out as she was likely to get today, she supposed it was best to calm things down before somebody (Jon) had a third, red eye opened in his skull. Mind control versus professional agent drawing her weapon. Now that was Russian roulette she could play, but not today. Higher ups might have something to say if she cut down a target like Jon. And the fucking paperwork.

Hands on her hips, she took a step closer to Trano. Of the trio, she wanted to position herself on his side. "Suppose I shouldn't be shocked, a lawyer jumping to conclusions." She shot Trano a dare, "at least now I know you don't go around spilling the beans to just anyone."

"Maybe the Ascendancy is god, but you two definitely aren't. He'd butter his toast with both of you. So keep your threats for him. I'm suppose to be on your side, remember?" That flat, emotionless look returned to Jon. "But if it'll help you sleep better at night, sure. Consider yourself a free bird. Better?" Nobody said she couldn't play nice.
Jon held himself a mere fingernail away from wrapping Reed up in threads of air if she so much as batted an eyelash toward the firearm she'd been so kind to reveal when they'd met just a short time before. Or any other she might have concealed. A bullet only traveled as fast as the hand that reached for the gun and the finger that pulled the trigger. Otherwise it was jacketed lead and encased powder sitting impotently in a metal chamber. Jon didn't need to reach for his weapon.

Come to think of it, Jon almost hoped she'd make a sudden movement in any direction -- it'd drive his threat home with a sledge hammer if she found herself suddenly immobilized, splayed out against her own bedroom wall, unable to twitch a muscle.

What Jon didn't expect was to feel an intrusion on his warding. Nick Trano was breaking into Jon's sound barrier. How interesting - and perhaps a bit irritating. The barrier had been more to keep Nick unaware of the words Jon shared with Reed -- he hadn't any known way to be sure Reed wasn't still recording every word of the conversation, technology being what it was these days -- but it seemed he was going to get in on the conversation anyway. That was potentially problematic, especially considering the dreams Jon had interrupted last night involving Trano and Reed. Where would his loyalties lie?

Trano's breaking of the ward was indeed quite interesting. Jon hadn't known that the power of the Great Spirit could be used to break through another's weaving. Of course, it would make sense. And considering the weaving wasn't particularly elegant, somewhat unsurprising. He made sure to note how Nick Trano had done it.

Apparently, Trano had heard the last part of Jon's message to Reed, and wasn't happy about it. That actually worked to Jon's advantage. His strong stance, facial expression that beckoned imagery of men putting their fists up against one another -- obviously he completely bought into Jon's bluff that he was actually going to seize control of Reed's mind and turn her into a puppet. Clearly she wasn't a malicious person, just a very misguided individual who didn't understand that there were certain things you just didn't do to another person who was supposed to be on the same team. One of which was to spill their secrets without their permission. It was a simple thing called privilege. Even if she'd behaved in a crude and completely classless manner, she was safe from having her own will assaulted.

But she -- and Nick Trano -- didn't need to know that. And for Reed to see Nick buy into the fact that he believed Jon was capable, and willing to control her mind -- made the threat a very clear and present danger to her.

Nick Trano's retaliatory threat to stop Jon was -- well, cute. A good politician should show some mettle when confronted with a situation that violated his values. The fact that he likely had no real way to back that threat up didn't matter. Jon had chosen well -- he'd surely go very far, indeed.

Ultimately Reed backed down. Maybe. Her flippant attitude meant she probably hadn't thought much of Jon or the whole situation. Which meant she was unlikely to actually do as Jon had asked. Jon didn't trust her farther than he could kick her. If he used the power, he'd probably get a good two hundred yards. Without -- well, she wasn't shaped much like a football. Even so, two hundred yards wasn't a far enough distance from which to place his trust.

"I'm glad you are able to see reason, Ms. Reed,"
Jon said to her. "Be aware that if you are indeed on Nick Trano's 'team' as you claim, personal privacy matters to anyone who truly believes in the American way. You don't go digging into interpersonal matters or sharing secrets when you haven't been given permission to do so."

He regarded Nick Trano but remained focused on Reed. He didn't drop his prepared weaves -- and likely wouldn't while he remained in the same room with the woman, ever. "What is this about spiriting him off to Dominance V? While, due to Nick's apparent age, he likely has learned some semblance of control, he is still very inexperienced and without proper guidance he could be in severe danger to himself or others."

He turned to Nick. "Honestly I would recommend more instruction, and the sooner the better. People have died by failing to gain enough of a control over this power, that I know."

Jon glanced over again at Reed. What would she think about it? And whose team was she really on? For all Jon knew she could have been playing Nick Trano for a fool the entire time. It wouldn't be much of a stretch of the imagination. She could also have been lying about saying she would keep any intel about Jon and Nick away from her agency.

He took a breath and relaxed. Things would be all right. After all, she had to sleep sometime.
Edited by Jon Little Bird, Nov 24 2013, 06:21 AM.
Reed crossed her arms. She wasn't too interested in talking about personal liberties. Reed wasn't the one that made the calls about government spying on high profile individuals. Those kinds of calls came from much higher up. Jon needed to take his arguments higher than a single agent. But she could listen to him get it off his chest.

Jon was still poised to do something, but Reed wasn't going to goad him into a demonstration. Still, frustration simmered parasitically beneath porcelain skin. She kicked a nod toward Trano who needed to remain quiet. Mommy and Daddy were talking. "Nick has unprecedented access to the Ascendancy. Remember he's in the Custody Press Corps? You know, the entire reason he's in Moscow at all? He is the only one we have who can track the things Ace can do. Soldiers put their life on the line every day for their country, he's not exempt from doing the same just because he dashed in and out of navy service without a scratch on him. But if you'd rather Trano stay at your side while the Ascendancy squashes the first sembalance of CCD rebellion in twenty-years, then by all means, the US government is willing to accomodate Jon Little Bird's desires." Her lips turned a hard frown.

"And what's all this hostility toward me?" She stepped in closer to Trano. They were a team, a wall through which Jon would have to scale if he were to get his way. Arms crossed, sidelong glance at Nick, it was almost as if she were going to defend him rather than point out that he deserved the share of Jon's blame. "Trano here isn't the innocent little lamb in digging into your secrets as you think. He knew you two were being recorded. It doesn't bother you that a world-famous reporter was involved in video recording your 'personal secrets'?" At least she held government secrets; she'd no sooner betray Jon to the public as she would any clandestine affair. Trano, meanwhile was far more likely to break the news that civil rights lawyer Jon Little Bird could hurl plates around the room with his mind.

She shot Trano a shrug. Sorry buddy. She was on his side, but fair was only fair. Besides, Jon had the 'right' to full-disclosure as to what was going on. If their 'friendship' was compromised by it, well then Jon wasn't worthy of Trano's allegiance.
Jon relaxed a bit further as he listened to Reed's disclosure of what Nick Trano was really doing in Moscow. Perhaps she had meant it as a peace offering, if so he'd take it. He had to admit to himself, the plan was a decent one -- except for the fact that as inexperienced as he was -- and as blindingly foolish he'd acted so far -- he knew Reed was recording them? -- he was half likely to be a liability rather than an asset.

Perhaps he had been a little overly aggressive toward Reed, Jon reflected -- although he wasn't going to admit it. In the courtroom as well as on the battlefield, you didn't ever point out your own mistakes or errors -- and you never let up your attack when you caught your opponent off guard. She was indeed right that Trano shared in the blame for earning Jon's ire, and foolishness was no excuse -- but politics was about making friends, and he needed this relationship to stay strong. How many other potential presidential candidates who also had the ability to touch the power of the Great Spirit were likely to come along anytime soon?

And then Jon burst into genuine laughter at Reed's suggestion Trano would try to publicly expose him. A laugh of simple mirth, only, not borne of malice or scorn. "All right, fair enough Ms. Reed, I'll dial it back a notch. We can be three friends in mutual need of each other here."
He glanced over at Nick. "He'd no more publicly expose me than cut off his left hand. Were he to do so, his own abilities would undoubtedly get exposed as well. It's mutually assured destruction. He can't possibly be that stupid."

Jon paused for a moment and drew more of the power as he stared at Nick. He knew the man could feel that menacing aura around Jon pulse and expand. "You're not, right? After the mess you've landed in here and what you failed to tell me, I kind of have to ask."

That was probably as far as he should push his anger with Nick. The man was like a skittish colt right now, push him too hard while nudging him in the right direction and he was likely to bolt and jump the pasture fence. And besides, Reed was the one who could spill everything to her agency without any fear of repercussion. In fact, she'd likely be rewarded for her efforts. Until Jon found out about it, of course. He wasn't ready for anyone, even his own government -- especially his own government -- to have the first inkling about the emerging ability among the natives and what Jon was doing about it. Besides, who knew how many Atharim were on the inside?

He turned back to Reed. "I don't disagree that this plan for Nick to get close to the Ascendancy so more can be learned about a potential enemy isn't a good plan. And I said I wouldn't interfere as long as you keep anything you've learned to yourself. But there is more at stake here than the opportunity to use him -- and you are using him -- for intelligence gathering. He's too valuable an asset to the entire country's future to be risked this way without taking proper measures."

He paused. Idly Jon wondered how Nick Trano felt about the two of them talking like he wasn't even there. Of course, Jon was still mad at him so he could just deal with it at the moment. He needed Jon as surely as Jon needed him, even if perhaps he didn't realize it yet. "I told you that you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. Unless he learns more, he's more likely to kill himself -- or get killed, perhaps by the Ascendancy, than achieve the objective. Would you send a soldier to battle with a squirt gun?"

Perhaps if there was no way around Trano bolting off to the Middle East at the moment so Jon could keep him here, close by, there was a way to bring Jon to Trano on his travels. He was sure he could convince the Council of Native Americans that it was a good idea to build this relationship with Trano, and he could do most of his work from anywhere. But how would a member of the Press Corps explain why he was keeping a loudmouthed lawyer in tow?

Jon shrugged. Perhaps, now that the three of them seemed to be reading the same book, if not exactly the same page, they could work something out.
After Nicholas managed to get them away from each others' throats, they practically ignored him. Still, he supposed it was good they didn't need him to arbitrate. He almost wanted to shout that they could stop fighting, there was enough of him to go around.

At least he still had control of the power. It muted that annoying sensation roiling off Jon with steadily increasing force. Nicholas didn't exactly appreciate Reed trying to throw him to the coyotes, but at least Jon didn't fall for it. Exposing Jon would be like cutting off his left hand. "He can't possibly be that stupid."
Oh, thanks Jon.
Then he turned to make sure. "You're not, right? After the mess you've landed in here and what you failed to tell me, I kind of have to ask."

Nicholas glanced at his left hand. "Well, I am right handed."
He responded drily. The guy already knew Nicholas was being tracked by Custody intelligence--Jon was lucky the camera belonged to the good guys. Besides, by the time Nicholas was fully awake Jon had already blown holes in the walls. I guess academics just don't prepare you to deal with secret agents.

Nicholas applauded the effort on Jon's part to join in on the scheming. With a lot of people it probably was as easy as pretending you were part of the group to join. But, then again, most people weren't tasked with spying on Nikolai fucking Brandon. Still, Nicholas didn't doubt how useful it would be to have a tutor. Jon shot off into another one of his monologues, of course.

"I don't disagree that this plan for Nick to get close to the Ascendancy so more can be learned about a potential enemy isn't a good plan. And I said I wouldn't interfere as long as you keep anything you've learned to yourself. But there is more at stake here than the opportunity to use him -- and you are using him -- for intelligence gathering. He's too valuable an asset to the entire country's future to be risked this way without taking proper measures."
Jon took a glance at Nicholas before continuing his monologue. "I told you that you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. Unless he learns more, he's more likely to kill himself -- or get killed, perhaps by the Ascendancy, than achieve the objective. Would you send a soldier to battle with a squirt gun?"

Well, at least Nicholas had Jon's love. As it was, he just stood and watched. Better to let them work out their differences now than let it bite him in the ass later. If they kept going much longer he'd have to get something to drink.
So Reed's efforts weren't completely in vain. She doubted Jon was completely distracted by her redirection. She had to remind herself that he wasn't the everyday civvie idiot; just an educated civvie idiot.

She wasn't seriously suggesting that Trano would sell the pair of them out to the public, but her objective was still granted, and she liked the way mistrust shaded Trano's gaze. It would do Trano good to learn to not trust every little pup that landed in his lap.

"You send in soldiers when you see an opening. But he's not completely alone. He has me." She crossed her arms, casting a confident smirk. "His press corps duty is not permanent, and for some strange reason, Brandon wants Trano around him. So we're granting his wish."

Jon removed his spectacles and put them in his shirt pocket. "It seems to me that one might want to explore why Brandon wants Trano around him. Perhaps because he has plans to keep him safely under his thumb until he can squash him like an ant. Should not a soldier be his own last line of defense?"

Reed shrugged. "I'm working on it, but I assume that's the case, yes. But the best defense is a great offense."

Jon glanced at the two of them, and for a moment seemed lost in thought.

Suddenly, her waist was cinched with some sort of snug binding. It wasn't too tight to breathe, no more than any one of dozens of bustiers she'd worn in her time. To save some face, she didn't do much in the way of wiggling, but she did perch a hand on her hip.

Then he turned back to Reed. "What is your suggestion for an offense or a defense in this situation? I am given to understand that Brandon is capable of much more than I am."

Trano smirked. He was just as bound up as she. "Cut the strands and then run away?"

Reed was none too pleased with the turn of events, but she waited to be let go, if not without a good deal of irritation. "If Brandon wanted Trano in some Kremlin rape dungeon, he'd have snagged him already."

After a few moments concentration from Trano, the binding loosened around her waist. Reed took a deeper breath.

"There we go. Granted,"
he looked at Reed, "It would be a lot more difficult if we were actually in danger."

Reed looked back at Trano. "What the fuck was that?" She gestured toward Jon. "He did it. And you... un-did it?"

Trano shrugged. "I guess the best way I can explain it is that he's basically tying you up in rope. All I did was cut them with... sharper rope."

Reed glanced down at herself. Her imagination could go a long way, but it was satisfying to see she could guess the extent of what the two men were capable of doing. Meeting his gaze, she had to wonder, though, just what else he could do with 'ropes'. No doubt the idea had passed through his head before. The guy practically drooled all over himself when their towncar sped away from the hotel. It wouldn't be the last time she used attraction to get somewhere.

Jon nodded toward Nick. "You could see the threads, and you were able to sever them."
He turned his attention back to Reed. "This power can only be fought by another who has the same ability. In a situation like this, you would be useless. He has to be able to defend himself."

Reed rolled her eyes. "If I get myself into a position where I have to defend myself, then I'm a pretty shitty spy."

Jon laughed at that. "Do you expect me to believe you've never been in a position where you have to defend yourself?"

"I'm very careful." Her smile was coy. "And the Ascendancy is one man surrounded by a thousand others that can't wrap me up at the snap of a finger."

Trano piped up, "We don't know that for sure though, do we."
Nicholas continued. "If this is as common as Jon would have us believe, Brandon could have dozens of men who can wrap us up with the snap of a finger."

Reed studied him thoroughly. "That's why you're here." There was a chill in her voice that said she had the balls to send in a weasel to clean out the foxhole. She'd prefer the weasel crawl back out, but people don't always get what they want.

Jon shrugged. "Perhaps not dozens. But it'd be foolish to think he hasn't stumbled upon anyone else by now. He's got years on the both of us, and you aren't the first I've found."

It sounded like Jon and Trano were both advocating for running for the hills and letting Brandon's orbiting the world continue on current trajectory. If that happened, Reed would give five years before Dominance VIII sprawled new orange on the map. She sighed, exasperated. "Fine. What do you two suggest we do? Go for a picnic? Get back to nature? Take a little time off, then come back to Moscow and hope you can get within a mile of the Kremlin?"

Trano spit out another jewel. "I'd suggest we go to the middle east. But a little information and planning never hurts."

Reed tossed her hair back, stared at the ceiling, and laughed. "You're saying you'd do exactly what I've been telling you to do for the last hour?"

Trano's reply was flattened with the obvious. "Why not? You've been arguing with Jon."
Good to know whose side he was on.

Reed's smirk lessened to something resembling consideration. She turned to Jon. "Well? Sounds like the man has spoken."

Jon pulled out his Wallet for a moment and fiddled with it. "All right then, Ms. Reed. Undoubtedly you know the itinerary and all that. If I can't get more time with him here, is there a way for me to accompany him?"

Reed's eyes narrowed, trying to see through the screen on Jon's Wallet to see what he was manipulating. Probably a schedule. Or texting his mom. Still, she was in the information business, they couldn't blame her glimpsing a view. "You can pay your own way and follow us around like some tour groupie. Nobody'll stop you, but you WILL be noticed. I guarantee it. And I know you wetdream about spies."

Jon chuckled. "You have no idea what I dream about, Ms. Reed." His calm composure returned with almost immediate precision. "Money is not an issue. But any notice should be kept to a minimum. I'm sure you can figure a way to make that happen."

The smirk that flashed across Nicholas' face drew her consideration. Yeah well, their wetdreams were probably about each other.

Moving on. "I won't even try to guarantee that. You're not my objective. He is." She told Jon kicked a nod toward Trano. "Remember I have orders. This isn't just the Reed party. So, if you're satisfied, you two mind getting your own bedroom and getting the fuck out of mine?"

"Certainly. But if your orders have anything to do with keeping him safe, you'll make this happen."

She didn't reply, merely waited for them to file out of her space. Can't get everything we want, she thought bitterly.

Edited by Julie Reed, Nov 25 2013, 09:02 PM.
About the same time Reed was trying to kick Jon and Trano out of her hallway, Jon's Wallet went off for the third time, the silent vibration screaming in frustration that Jon wasn't paying it the attention it demanded. He pulled it out and checked it -- indeed, it was his secretary Caroline Marshall again -- if he were to use the term loosely. The woman was probably curled up in bed with slippers and a robe on back in her Boston home at this time of the morning, banging out frustrated "WHY HAVEN'T YOU CALLED ME" messages on her own Wallet.

Caroline didn't work out of an office, since Jon didn't have one right now. As a top-notch paralegal and superb organizer, Jon had hired her to help him keep track of a multitude of contacts, draft arguments and legislation and help put out whatever little fires flared up. He'd met her while she was completing her undergraduate work at Yale, and she'd impressed him enough that he'd offered her a job. And truthfully, he couldn't pay the woman what she was worth, even though she was probably one of the best paid paralegals in the country. Two things Jon hadn't expected from her: her fervent dedication to Jon's work and her incessant nagging personality, especially when Jon's attention wandered. Privately -- though it wouldn't be professional to ever admit it -- Jon referred to Caroline in his thoughts as "Mother Dear."

She was good, though. She'd been the one to navigate the bureaucratic mess that was the CCD legal system in order to find a way to get Jon a license to practice law in the CCD as fast as Jon had needed it -- a supreme feat considering Jon wasn't a citizen of the Custody.

"It looks like work waits on no man,"
Jon said to Reed and Trano. He grasped Nick's hand in a hearty shake and gave a semblance of a bow toward Reed. "I'll be in touch with the both of you. It's been a pleasure."

Jon left the hotel suite and started making calls. First to Caroline. What, by the Great Spirit, was she so impatient about? One phone call put an end to that speculation.

So Jessika Thrice, of all people, had put in a call to request Jon's services! The gubernatorial candidate must have heard from her Minutemen supporters that Jon was here in Moscow and available for representation. Caroline didn't have much in the way of specifics but apparently Jessika's estranged husband had some criminal charges filed against him here in Moscow. How interesting -- last Jon had heard, the famous evangelist was missing and presumed dead.

Jon hailed a taxicab once outside. First home, then to the Custodian precinct where one Mr. Jensen James was held. One did not simply refuse the request for assistance when an up-and-coming political star's husband was concerned. Politics was about making friends, after all, and if there was someone in need, that person would become a friend indeed.

Continued in Stranger than Fiction

Edited by Jon Little Bird, Nov 28 2013, 03:16 PM.
It was a while after Jon left when Reed emerged from her side of the suite in search of Trano. She wandered through the main sitting area first, lingering around the place where Abrams was splayed out on screen. There really wasn't a drop of blood in sight. It was kind of amazing.

Then she checked out the kitchen area. The coffee had gone cold by then, and it looked like Trano had finished off another bottle of scotch. That guy had the liver of a machine. How he functioned slobbering drunk all day was another astonishment.

Finally, she ended up outside the door to his room. She pressed an ear to the door like some ancient analog, but there was nothing to hear. If she was really interested in spying on him, she'd go back and get any one of a number of pieces of tech that enhanced sound. She was here for another reason.

She knocked with only a moment's warning before letting herself in. "Trano? Passed out in here?"
What could he say? It was easier to grab hold of the power when you weren't stone cold sober. It was easier to clear his mind, and the strands were less slippery. Still, by the time Nicholas was starting the third bottle of scotch even he was swaying a little.

The thing about experimenting with the power was that it felt like riding a black bear. Losing hold of the reins probably meant a quick, painful death. Really, it wasn't the most user-friendly experience. Ever since Jon's visit and the verification that Nicholas was not, in fact, completely bonkers, he had been practicing. He didn't even know why he was training himself so hard--after all, it wasn't like he'd be coming to blows with Nikolai Brandon--but there was something rewarding about making new discoveries. It wasn't easy to let go, either.

Still, he was working in a vacuum. He didn't want to take heavy risks and had no other minds to work off of. Really, all he could do was throw together different combinations with a minimal amount of energy and see what happened. As far as he could tell, the complexity of the shapes and the stability of the strands was increasing steadily but he hadn't really brought it down to an exact science. It was like flying one of the first airplanes; a few feet up in the air but far from supersonic. He was combining red and yellow wires in an attempt to make visible, colored light when Reed barged inside.

"Trano? Passed out in here?"

He'd been so focused on what he was doing that he jerked when she made her presence known. Unluckily for both of them, the momentary lapse in attention caused the combination of red and yellow to lose stability. It took a few moments to regain his sight and hearing.

" I've been practicing. What do you need?"
He was probably about to get an earful for practically detonating a flashbang grenade in the room, but she should have known better than to barge in on the resident wizard.
Trano was far more focused than Reed had anticipated. He jumped, startled, when she spoke and a flashbang swallowed her head with light and sound. Instinct flung an arm across her face; for all the good it did.

The next thing she knew, she was shaking out her head and blinking away the sting in her eyes. She refused to give in to panic, but she swore to Lucifer that if Trano deaf and dumbed her, she'd scalp him with the dullest butterknife in the kitchen.

Light returned first. Then a buzzing in her ear that was more annoying than the roaring silence before. But at least both were good signs.

She rubbed her eyes with two thumbs. There went her 'professional makeup look' for the day. A few minutes and she was mostly herself again, "You alright?" She asked as though appeasing a mandatory gesture rather than in sincere concern. There was a searing heat in her eyes that said she might just scalp Trano anyway just to see what the top of his skull looked like. "You really need to suck less at this magic stuff, Trano." She crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe. In no apparent hurry to fully enter and check on his welfare in any greater detail than she could see from the distance.

To get to brass tacks. "I don't like your new friend, and I certainly don't trust that guy. You shouldn't either." A brow lifted. "I want you to tell me what you two are cooking up for this trip. My plate's kind of full in case you didn't notice, and I won't be compromising our mission just to save his puckered ass. You're my key, not him."
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