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Machiavellianism
#1
Continued from Sisters of the Moon



Attention @Sage and @Jaxen Marveet 





                Aiden and Sage sat in the back of the limo, idling outside of Jaxen Marveet’s high rise. How long they had been there, Aiden did not know. Cooper had taken them towards Aiden’s estates out of the city, but as soon as Rowan’s bonds had melted away, Aiden had his driver change direction. They sped along the highway like a bat out of hell as Aiden turned into a blubbering mess, clutching to Sage and letting a torrent fall from his eyes.

                What had come over Rowan? Who was that man and that woman? Something was wrong, that much was clear. After years of reading the true crime genre, Aiden was certain that she was kidnapped by the pair and perhaps suffering from Stockholm syndrome. That had to be it; that was the only thing that made sense.

                Perhaps he shouldn’t have avoided her for so long? Maybe it was his own actions that had driven her away? But that would imply that she was not kidnapped and that everything she had said and done was of her own volition. That hurt even more.

                Aiden had been crying so long and so hard that a migraine had formed, holding his skull in a vice grip. He pulled away from Sage, who now looked half drenched due to Aiden’s outburst.

                “I’m sorry, babe,” Aiden said as he fussed with his boyfriend’s damp shirt, “I’m a fucking mess.”

                Sage was probably wondering why they were here, Aiden hadn’t explained; although Sage might have been able to guess. The last time Aiden suffered trauma from a relationship, he had escaped to the CCD. At least this time the trip was planned before the ‘break up.’ It wouldn’t completely look like Aiden was running away from his problems again.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#2
The whole thing had gone up in smoke. Except it was probably air if he had any indication of what Rowan had done. He knew even less of what woman could do with this power, than what he knew of the men who could weild it's fantastical power. But it was Aiden's sister and that hurt more than anything - not for Sage, he didn't know the woman. But Aiden clearly took it hard.

Sage knew he wasn't the best boyfriend in the world - this being the first truly committed relationship he'd ever had. Sasha was always a standby - or he was her's, either way, it didn't amount to what he had with Aiden. So Sage held Aiden well he cried. He didn't know what to do or say so Sage just held him. He was rude if he thought about it, he could do any number of things while he did his boyfriend duty. And there were always things he had to do in the background if he wanted to rebuild his empire of information. Sage was still broken about that. Grim had tarnished his name. His own friend. Not that Sage hadn't started the movement himself, but still.... Brian had taken it all away from him.

And now they sat in front of Jaxen's apartment waiting for what? Aiden fussed with his shirt and he couldn't help but smile. "It's alright, babe. It'll dry. You know it's not your fault right? Your sister is a big girl and can make her own choices, just like you made your own." Sage ran the pads of his thumbs under Aiden's tear streaked eyes with a smile. "Does Jaxen even know we are down here?" Sage was sure things were ready to go but what if they weren't. He drifted into cyber space - the calm inside his head to look for those answers. Aiden was probably running away, but he was taking Sage with him and that was all Sage really cared about. "I'll tell Nox that we won't be around for a while but he can use your place still." Nox was their friend. Sage felt bad but Nox was a big boy too, he was probably already living it up the way he always did. Nox and Aurora had never stayed in one place long, it made staying friends with Aurora difficult, but it was a challenge. Though Nox was easy to find he didn't even mind that Sage was tracking him. It probably felt like someone cared. Sage took a mental note of where he was and sent him a text and then he returned back to Aiden. "I can send Jaxen a message too."
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#3
Jaxen knows everything. 

The message was sent as the man of the hour exited the building. Voxel and Sage remained in communication since their first meeting. Of course, Sage knew his true identity. Jaxen wasn’t bothered by the reveal. Rather, he enjoyed the attention that someone finally recognized the accomplishments of his alter-ego. A few moments later, a thud-thud rapped the limo roof and the door promptly opened to deposit one spritely Jaxen Marveet.

Having chucked a travel bag at the driver to do with as he will, he slipped expertly into the supple seats with a relaxed, “ahh,” of relief. He was dressed stylishly with a designer tshirt beneath a moto-jacket with a pair of gray, acid-stained ankle pants that showed off the slender physique of a skilled traceur. The impish smile that flushed his eyes with playful delight curiously devoured the somber sight before him. Red eyes and soggy shirts, his brows lifted, “You’re not breaking up are you? If so, go on and get it over with. I’d rather we get the depressing shit out of the way early.”

He tapped his knee and waved that they carry on.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#4
“Let’s go, Coop!” Aiden yelled to the front, ignoring Jaxen’s smart comments. The limo pulled away from the curb, descending once more into the thick traffic of the CCD. “Tell Nox he can grab the keys from my assistant, Dimitri,” he added to Sage.

                Aiden needed something hard if he was going to switch off the melodramatics. Lord only knew what shit Jaxen would talk if Aiden kept up with the tears and the sorrow. Oh, it was there, and he would let it all out- multiple times to be sure- but right now he needed to forget.

                Aiden crawled down the long, leather seats until he got to the minibar. Out came a chilled bottle of champagne. In a flash, he embraced the Power and removed the cork with a thin thread of Air. Foam and sparkling golden liquid sprung up from the opening and Aiden caught it all with three long-stemmed flutes. He downed one in a single gulp before refilling it and placing the bottle atop the fridge. Reworking the thread of Air, Aiden floated the two other glasses down to Sage and Jaxen. He knew Sage didn’t drink much, but they were embarking on an adventure. Time to celebrate.

                Right?

                “You know damn well this would be a completely different scene if Sage and I had decided to call it quits. For one, we wouldn’t be doing it in front of you. Second, shut up,” Aiden said with a little heat. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out from a side compartment and lit one with another thread of the Power. One of the windows went down as he took a long drag. Smoke curled from his lips and was sent straight out of the cab of the limo. Sage didn’t like the smoke, Aiden knew as much, but he needed this. Using Air again, Aiden created a simple flow to ensure that no smoke gathered inside of the vehicle. He tied it off and slumped back, relaxing into the cool leather.

                “My Sister basically just told me she never wants to see me again. She’s got these two creep asses whispering in her ear, making her act strange. I think she’s joined a cult, if we’re being frank,” Aiden went on before downing more of the booze.

                Oh yes, he was in a huff.

                Better than tears.

                Now where was that whiskey?

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#5
A message crept across his screen and Sage grinned. Turn about was fair play. It wasn't uncommon to have a friend who had access to your systems and messaged you frequently, while Sage didn't consider Voxel a friend exactly it felt good to start those connections again. He didn't get a chance to reply as the man himself pushed into the limo making himself at home accusing them of breaking up. Aiden didn't wait a moment before he was off. Running away. A trait that seemed to be prolific in his choice of friends recently.

Sage was in the middle of sending Nox a message when a single word filtered into Sage's mind from Aiden and Jaxen's conversation. cult

That was where Sage knew the man from. That nagging feeling he'd had but couldn't place. And his digital recognition software wasn't working because of the technological devices the man wore to hide his identity. And that alone made all the pieces fall together. Sage pulled away from Aiden and rummaged under the seat, he'd learned the last time to keep his laptop close, having a driver meant they were less likely to listen to him - he was nobody.

He didn't need the images usually, but this time he was going to have to find the information by sight and not a digital footprint. Sage was oblivious to what was going on. He had moved back to sit next to Aiden though his laptop had his full attention. Nox's files were easily accessed, Sage had dozens of copies of them hidden in various data strongholds until he could build his own server again. Fuck the Ascendancy had taken his wealth from him and Sage hadn't included money in that figure - all his data was now the property of the CCD.

The images flicked by at break neck speed while he used his eyes to find the right image. He knew what he was looking for but he didn't recall everything Nox had told him. And then the image of the man stood in stark contrast on his screen. Sage sent everything to Nox. Nox was hunting this man - or rather the Ascendancy was. He'd tried to kill the supreme ruler and Nox too sorta - not once, had this man tried to kill the most powerful man in the world not once but twice and failed both times all thanks to Rogue Atharim. Sage regretted some of the things he'd done when he was broken, but now, he'd fix some of it.

He sent Nox the live feed of where Rowan was. He sent the files he'd gathered in his search for Rowan, but most importantly he sent Nox the picture of the man he couldn't identify in the footage. He also sent the failed searches of all other persons in their company. The woman clearly visible failed in every possible database search - every single time. As had many others who had entered and exited that building. A singular message was sent with all the data to Nox's secure wallet.

Dead man - a live and well, but possibly not stationary.

The entire data packet was sent over a triple encrypted line Sage himself made sure was secure - no one but Nox would get that information. Sage knew this was dangerous. And there was much at risk.

Sage looked to the limo occupants and finally spoke. They'd probably been wondering what he was doing? "She did join a cult. Or something like it. The man she's with was Atharim. He's presumed dead, but he's tried to kill the Ascendancy twice." He hadn't been paying much attention to their conversation, and he wasn't sure how much time had passed before he revealed his revelation to the occupants. He's been absorbed in his work. It was viable information and he doubted the Ascendancy would pay him for it, but Nox he'd owe him a favor.

[[ @Ascendancy @Regus Information purposes only - Nox will contact the Ascendancy ]]
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#6
Aiden had a bit of feisty to him after all. Rock stars were melodramatic like that. It was probably why he got on with them so well in the first place. In kind, he mimicked a wounded reaction, like a kicked puppy, "Ouch," he yelped even as he winked at Sage. There was a lot of drama in one car, and it came to be seen, also a lot of champagne. Jaxen wasn't crazy about the stuff, but accepted the floating glass anyway. There was that ever-present tiny sense of foreboding while the singer flashed the Ancient Power about the car. It gave off a resistance, almost a menace, and he was glad for the pending absence. No need to add any more sour to this lemon.

After a small, bubbly sip, he let the flute nestle between his legs. The impending chill spread through the material of his pants, but rather than cast a tempting lure at Sage again, he figured he should probably stop flirting if they were to survive getting out of town at all. At least, stop flirting for a while. He did enjoy Aiden's squirms, and who didn't like the attention?

Talk of his sister did perk up their guest momentarily. He didn't know of a sister, but if she was anything like Aiden, maybe he wanted to get to know her a little more. "Bah, come on, sounds like a dream come true. I'd be plenty happy if my siblings vowed to never speak to me again," he laughed, but the laughter was cut short when Sage dropped the name of the so-called cult.

That time, a snarl took over his lip, "fucking snakes," he said, all the more glad to be out of town.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#7
Aiden dropped his fluted glass and his jaw.

               Was?” Aiden asked after Jaxen snarled out a two-word reply. The champagne spilled from the glass and immediately soaked into the black carpet of the stretch limo. Aiden picked the glass up and set it on top of the minibar. Suddenly, he didn’t feel much like drowning his sorrows.

                “Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea,” Aiden breathed, “Who in the fuck hasn’t been a card-carrying member of the Atharim? Jaxen, buddy, were you one of them too? Got a snake you wanna show us?”

                Surely, Rowan hadn’t joined up with the Snakes. Sage said ‘was.’ Aiden very clearly heard that word. No. She couldn’t have joined them. They were sworn to eliminate all Channelers; that was why Nox ultimately left them, right? No. Not the Atharim, but maybe something worse? That older man had tried to kill the Ascendancy twice. Perhaps Rowan was sympathetic to that plight. Aiden admittedly didn’t know where his twin’s mind was at, so it was a very real possibility. Still. Rowan was no extremist.


                “I'm not trying to doubt you, babe, but you're sure, right?"

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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#8
Sage gave them a grim smile. "I'm sure she's with him. But I'm more concerned that he's presumed dead than anything." Dead men don't have a problem taking other people down with him. "Nox said that their leader went with the Bacarrat Mansion when it melted. That was his last known location. How did he survive?"

Was he one of those channelers too? Was he like Nox? But he didn't like channelers. At least from what Nox said - few Atharim actually liked the reborn gods. What would they do if they found out their leader was one? Sage sighed and closed his laptop. "But we have other things to worry about Aiden." He put his hand on Aiden's leg with a soft smile. "Rowan clearly doesn't want your help, so let's go help Jaxen like we promised we would." He turned his gaze to the man across from them. "What can I do to help?" Between the two of them they didn't need his money, not that he'd offer that anyway, but this was an adventure, maybe he could help Jaxen where Voxel couldn't. Not that he doubted the man's talents.
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#9
Aiden’s wasn’t an overreaction. Heat gripped Jaxen’s spine just thinking about the Atharim, but it was a smoldering heat, one contained where Aiden’s was flash-fueled recent. They knew pieces of the story, and Jaxen was happy to supply nuggets of information along the way. He wanted eagerly to catch the euphemisms flinging back and forth between the three men and bend it to an entertaining end. However, some of the plump of bravado leaked from his previous mood.

“The only good snake is a dead snake,” he said, pulling his collar down just enough to hint at the skeleton tattooed on his shoulder. It was an incredible piece of art. The ink alone rippled the illusion of movement with the barest flex of muscle. Saying the mantra conjured memories of Sora, though. The snake people that he surely hallucinated during some bad trip. Then there was that Atharim girl with the rainbow hair that was going to shoot him in his pretty face. He’d escaped somehow and ever since nightmares of giant talking snakes slithered into bed alongside him.

Revealing his experience with the Naga was not a secret he was willing to divulge at the moment. At the right time, perhaps. For now, all he did was smile proudly. “Who do you think melted the mansion?” He tapped himself on the chest. “That’s right. I was there. I escaped, surely others could as well. The basements were a maze. Likely to have many possible hatches to the outside world. I don’t remember seeing that guy though.”

To prove it, he summoned the digital versions of the documents he found in that exact place and shared with the two men. “The Atharim is who we have to thank for this little trip of ours. It seems they are the keepers of all the best secrets. It's best to assume we do not want them to know what we are up to.” Unless -- no. Not now.
"So?" said Loki impatiently.  "This isn't the first time the world has come to an end, and it won't be the last either."
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#10
“Why did he want out if he was their leader? He has to be able to Channel. I can’t think of another reason why he would leave them… Surely it can’t be because he suddenly disagrees with how they do business,” Aiden said ponderously. He tapped a finger under his chin as the other two men went on. The ex-leader of the Atharim was a mystery, but not one Aiden cared much to figure out.; not at the moment at least. Rowan could fend for herself if things came down to it. A reconciliation between them could wait. She clearly needed some space to get her mind right.

                Sage was correct, what mattered now was the adventure.

                Jaxen’s white-hot anger was intense, but he seemed to be over it once he brought up his own escapades. Typical. The man tugged at his shirt, slightly revealing a tattoo. Aiden figured that Jaxen was trying to remind them of the Atharim brand. Surely, he did not possess the same mark. Sage would’ve already told Aiden if Jaxen was an ex-member of the cult.

                “You melted the mansion, Jaxen?” Aiden asked, not bothering to hide his curiosity, “Like… literally? What did you use? Surely it would take more than Fire to melt a structure… I mean, unless it was completely made of metal. And am I right in assuming you were only there to get their information on the treasure?”

                It’s not that Aiden was trying to encourage Jaxen in his vanity, there was enough of that between the two of them already, he simply wanted to learn as much about the Power as he possibly could – and perhaps learn a little bit more about the man and his motives in this venture. Part of Aiden was deeply terrified that Jaxen just wanted to use Sage and himself to get his hands on some treasure. The man did not exude trust. The next few days could very well play out like an old Indiana Jones movie, the group getting to the treasure only to be double crossed by Jaxen. Which way would the cat jump if it came down to that?


                The countless questions served another purpose. Aiden had a need to keep his own mind occupied as much as possible, lest he grow sad and angry all over again. No one liked a weepy Rockstar.

Russian Dolls and Broken Gods, a new Fantasy novel by best-selling author, Aiden Finnegan, out this December! Preorder online and instore today!
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