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Elixir of life
Malik very carefully kept his face neutrally friendly. Poor Danika. It wasn't really pity. Marcus was just a voice, at the moment. Spectra could be such a bitch. Every woman an adversary to dominate, to utterly humiliate.

Despite their similarities, they had very different ways of dealing with the world.

Then again, he hadn't been born a girl who had been passed around as merchandise until she found her own place of power. Malevolence at the universe oozed from her.

Malik shared it, of course. It was why he liked her. Shared hatred. And he relished his role as Angel of Judgement. But more than anything else, it fueled him to bring the world to its knees, to break it- crush it all- and remake it in his image.

Spectra had ascended the ranks and had found a power base of her own. But even that was limited. She had been in town yesterday. And yet she had not, after all, been invited to the Ball. Not personally. She could have duped some rich fool to bring her, easily, he was sure. But that was not the same. She had to be seething at that.

The projection completed itself. Spectra was bored. Frustrated. And that excited Malik.

He noticed the changed in Danika's look. She had glimpsed something. He tried to figure out what it was, small feeling of worry spiking his heart. The walk was so delicate.

He smiled at her reassuringly even as she stood. He stood himself, his voice pitching low, Marcus drifting to the surface. He had done nothing wrong, and yet Marcus wanted to reassure her. "Do you have to go?" He paused, Malik prodding him. "I had a wonderful time."

Malik rolled his eyes internally.

Let her go, he said irritably. He did not like Danika at all.

"Let me at least call a car for you."
Spectra leaned back, legs crossed at the knee and smiled triumphantly. The sweet little white girl fled with barely a swat of the hand. Spectra's smile glittered like uncut diamonds at Marcus, "She's adorable, Marcos." The little extra roll of the tongue sweetened the sound of his name on her lips. It was the small sort of trick that once curled men's souls around her pinkie finger, drawing them in like a fist tugging their ties. They didn't realize until it was too late that such would become the noose with which they would hang themselves.. Metaphorically at least.
Marcus sat back down as Danika left, relaxing as he leaned back to consider Spectra, seated so innocently. A cat who had played with her prey before smiling, tail dangling from lips.

Malik laughed. "You look like the cat that ate the canary." He gestured with his head in the direction Danika had left. He had no interest in swelling Spectra's ego. "She is rather important. And the work she is doing. Her...'adorableness' did you call it? Well, it is a nice bonus, don't you think?"

He sipped at his coffee as his eyes swept over her. She radiated a dark malevolence he found intoxicating. With a twinkle in his eye a look that would not melt butter on his tongue, he added, "I wish I had known you were in the city. You could have accompanied me to the ball."

He was fairly sure this small barb would provoke her. But what was a prick, even a small one, without a prize as well. "I rather think you would have enjoyed the festivities. He paused. "Especially there at the end."

The sentence dangled there. Despite the events with Danika last night, Malik had already begun to think on his own plans. Intricate puzzle pieces sat on the table, useful only when fit together just so.

And it wasn't like the Ascendancy could keep what had happened from being known, not with the attendees being the creme de la creme of CCD society. Sans Spectra, of course.

With a hint of secret and promise of more in his eye, he went on, "In fact, I made the most fascinating of acquaintances last night. An amazing woman. Though in truth, not rightly called a woman."

He stifled his memory of the infinite agony and endless torture he'd experienced, preferring instead to remember the destruction of those ijiraq, their screaming deaths. And the feel of the Force slicing through another's connection.

Especially that creature with the bearing of a queen that had possessed Oriena Rusayev. In a small voice, he went on. "I'd imagine you and her might have found each other interesting."

Finally, he allowed the mask to drop a hair, a hint of promise. "She had presence that reminded me of you."
As soon as the girl slipped away, it was like a costume was doffed and the real skin beneath was exposed. Marcus used people. He admitted as much. Spectra found no shame in it. Good for him to grapple for handholds and clench tight to the wall he climbed. For indeed it was a mountain he scaled. Likewise, Spectra would not hesitate to let him carry her to the summit. She had no desire to rule the world or play queens like life was some ghastly game of endless thrones. She would be included, though. Marcus' hint flickered shadows across her sculptural face. Not invited except as someone's date and not on her own value. As property. For all she attained in the world, shackles still bound her wrists incarcerating her to the life she refused to be destined to live.

These stories that he alluded to, though, did not chase away the shadows nor did they inspire them to dance in jubilation. "I am not a sadistic monster, Marcos." Her words clipped a dangerous warning. For all the beauty on the exterior, maybe poison flushed beneath the surface, but not by her own choosing. "I heard rumors. In fact, I am glad to have avoided the danger completely. I am told a woman was a victim."

She searched the inner lining of Marcus' costumes for hints of truth. He dropped crumbs and carrots, and for now, Spectra was willing to chase after so long as she got a satisfactory bite once in a while. "If she wasn't a woman, what would you call her?"
Marcus looked at her quizically, for a moment trying to understand. And then he saw his misstep. "Ahh. I did not mean to imply you were a sadistic monster. Especially given the imaginative rumors of last night." He did raise an eyebrow while giving a nod in respect. "Though I doubt any deserving object of your rage might not see it that way." A grin. "I know they've thought me so." It was why he liked her. He could be himself. Malik. Not completely. But close enough.

"I merely meant the 'woman' had a certain....bearing." Malik's eyes went distant as he remembered the massive amounts of Force that permeated the room. He'd gloried in it, the raw power swirling around him, those he could feel and those he could only see with his mind, coming from the women. "In a room of channelers, her minions destroyed, surrounded and defeated, she held court as if she were in charge. And in every way that mattered....she did."

He stifled a shiver. Covetous fingers curled around his heart. It made Ascendancy look a child. He let his awe drift away, purposefully focusing on her. "In seeing you here today, I saw similar bearing." The pieces were there. He just needed to see how everything fit.

He waved his mug as he took a sip. "As to what 'she' was....well I only know a few things." He wasn't going to give her an info dump at this moment. A thumbnail explanation would do. "She is an ancient creature called an ijiraq. On more than one occasion they have come after channelers, to kill them." He stifled the memory of it almost succeedng. "They are largely immune to the power. Not completely, of course. They can be killed. I wouldn't have survived two encounters with them without learning how to do that." He shrugged.

"She appeared to be their queen, for lack of a better term. And she wanted to stop those who were using her servants. Ordinary humans were forcing them." He wondered if she understood the magnitude of what he was saying.

He did not hide his interest. Purposefully. Finally it was time. Honesty was so very useful. And underrated. "It's just the tip of the iceberg, really. As if a blanket has been ripped away, exposing a reality we had no idea existed. A new world for us. And now, all of that is being channeled-" a smile at his unintended pun- "through the Consulate."

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