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Da Capo (Manifesto)
Adrian smirked. "You know who I am," he said proudly, although it was unclear whether the self-aggrandizing was a nod to his own reputation or to the kid's awareness of the business world. 

"In that case, I'm always open to new opportunities. Channeling is quite the innovation, of course I am interested." The slim smile that followed was only mildly reassuring. Adrian always had a way of implying he suggested more than he said.
“Innovation,” Natalie repeated. There was a flatness to the way she said it, mired in the thought of things Brandon had once said to her. Thinking, too, of a facility in Texas, now burned to the ground. Little changed in her expression, and she expected they would interpret her silence as simple dullness. She did not care. The buzz of conversation around her was as faint as a mirage, the disconnect deeply disturbing if she cared to dwell on it. They’d flown back from America days ago, yet Natalie was still a thousand miles away.

Sharpness edged the faint smile touching her lips, but its spike was drawn inwards. If she’d been about to say something else, the words were tucked away. Her attention found Zhenya instead. The woman appeared to enjoy the company, observing the conversation with the sort of fondness one might bestow on favoured pets.

“It doesn’t feel like that at all, for us,” she said to Cruz. If he was seeking channelers, it was something she ought to inquire over. The lines of power in Moscow were something she would need to know, and she was hardly going to be able to ask Marcus to show her the registration lists. Cruz would be a useful ally. Kane too, probably. Networking was why she’d come to the club afterall. But in the moment she did not grasp the opportunity; became aware instead of the nails pressed into her palm, of the creeping pull in her chest. The one that pitted the desire to build from ashes with the destructive need for answers.

A sardonic smile broke the frozen planes of her expression; the most human she had felt all night. She let her fingers fall loose, then leaned to deposit her drink back onto the bar untouched. So much easier to chase to oblivion, but not wise. She did not think her departure would be much noted. “Excuse me.”
There was more to it than that, Cruz thought as Adrian Kane answered. Of course anyone who was anyone was interested in channeling. Of course you wanted to exploit it. That's exactly what Cruz was doing in his own research. Granted he was only exploiting himself, but still what could come of this magic and the science of things? Surely they could work together.

Cruz acknowledges Ms. Grey's comment about female channelers -- she was one of them. That was good to know. But she excused herself before he could actually inquire with more questions. "My mentor told me that his sister learned to embrace her gift, let it take over, devour her, though she didn't use those words. I image that there is much we could learn from the fairer sex, but in this no. To embrace the power with in would destroy us. Absolute control is necessary."

Cruz turned is attentions more towards the innovation. "The power could be useful -- imagine being able to heal any wound without ever having to open a person up. Men like Jensen James are already doing it, but what if that guy by the door could do it too, with a machine that harnessed that power?" That was Cruz's goal
"Exploitation is such a negative word. I prefer innovation." He glanced at the others listening with rapt ears. They were witnessing greatness in the making. With Cruz's company and Adrian's network to the real-world, interesting things could be born. Healing someone with a device was savvy and a sound money maker, but such a thing would be far out of reach from the real "working man" so to say. Adrian's investments were far more mundane, boring, and not glamorous. Glittering moon rocks compared to dusty gravel. But it was the gravel that built the world.

He offered Cruz his contact information, digital style, that maybe they could talk more in the future. But it was the departure of blonde hair that pulled him from the group. One contact was made. Another was walking away.

He followed Natalie.

Upon catching up with her, it was with an amused albeit accusatory smirk. "You don't remember me, do you?"
She let them speak without interruption. Zhenya had some experience in the matter, but men did so like to hear their own voices, and she was content to let the boy’s enthusiasm run its course. It was pleasant to witness, for the earnestness lit him up like a sun. He would have to learn some measure of control eventually, of course, and would probably shed some of that adorable naivety in the process. But one was only young once, and it ought be enjoyed while it lasted. She would not be the one to point out that even if he devised the tech, he spoke of a utopia unlikely to come to pass. Not in the hungry, capitalist city they called home. No, she preferred to let dreamers dream.

Natalie departed as swiftly as she arrived. A curiosity for later; there was a story there for sure. Business-woman though she was, Zhenya’s interests were not purely self-serving. Though the sisterly blossom of familiarity over their shared power did not hurt either. She was surprised to watch Adrian follow shortly after, though. Rich Patron’s granddaughters were catches in their own right, but she wondered if it were the discrete confession that Natalie was a channeler which turned his attentions. 

“Such wondrous ambitions, Cruz Vega. Do you have ideas as to how such power might be captured in machines? It would make the likes of you and I quite redundant, no?”
She hadn’t expected or intended anyone to follow.

When her gaze titled up to the man who stopped her, she did not smile. She rarely did these days, beyond the razored edge of something sardonic, and even that could be hard won. Natalie hid the light as neatly as she did the dark.

Adrian was handsome, devastatingly so, if he had the wit to complement it. But she’d never had a taste for straight-laced. His bait was wrapped in sly tease, and there was nothing unfriendly in it, but this prey had teeth and a contrary nature. She realised then how much she disliked that sense of power held over her. Somewhere in deep recesses she refused to look back on, Ryker’s laughter echoed the shape of a noose taunting all she did not know.

Her gaze washed over him, slow enough that it might have been a flirtation or the prelude to dismissal. He could choose for himself. The weapon was tossed back. “If you’re expecting me to soothe that bruise to your ego with flattery, allow me to disappoint you.” Her tone was dry. She didn’t expend any effort ensuring her humour was understood -- and of course, if he truly knew her, or knew of her, he’d know how to take it anyway.

“No, I don’t remember you.”
Both Natalie and Adrian took their leave, but Adrian not before passing along his contact information. Tonight was a profitable night, even if his friends were embarrassing fucks. At least it had all worked out. And they got into Manifesto... Though Cruz was sure he'd have to make up for ditching them. But they weren't really that good of friends. Just annoying ones. He really should call Nox and Sage and see if they wanted to hang out.

But the woman who had stolen his coin in the beginning asked a very poignant question. Cruz grinned. "Not yet, ma'am, but that' only because I haven't met the right people yet -- the right teachers. I have seen impossible thing in my short life time. If there is a way I will find it. I only wish some of the better allies were still alive to help out in the endeavor. Instead I have only their legacy to forward." Cruz had never met Aurora. But her software with the help of Sage was the bottom of the barrel goods that would tart this whole thing. Nox had shown him a healing weave and yet he had never preformed it completely himself. Cruz had tried. And he knew he could do more with it. It was only a matter of experimenting. And then finding the tech to interace with. It had to be possible. It was nothing more than energy and you can harness any energy -- you just had to figure it out.

"But redundant, no. Less of unique gift, but honestly, what are you doing with your power that only you should have access to it's beneficial aspects? Not every surgeon needs to channel if they can use our objects of power. Just like not every weatherman can predict the same weather the same way every single time from every single person. It's all about your perspective. I know I'm not using my power to better the world. Not yet anyway. It doesn't make me any more special than the others out there who can't. It's like being born into money..."
He chuckled. “It’s going to take a harder punch than you can throw to bruise my ego.” The glint in his eye was daring and competitive; a fisherman testing the waters with bait. The study of her arms was more of a measuring of the musculature rather than the usual lustful drooling most men would devour over such skin. A tease surely, but if the fortitude of his ego was as strong as declared, it was dressed-up and welcoming. A fortress of war dressed in the gilded luxury of many years of peace. And ego and arrogance were not the same thing.

He remembered Natalie, though primarily from the news about her family. Having any connection, even as thin as his claim, to a Dominance Patron was treasured thread. If they met, undoubtedly impossible to remember. The thread only cared about the powerful end. Those that tugged were lost in the crowd.

A shrug dismissed the casualty of being forgotten. Whatever their past paths crossed, he didn’t seem to mind being swept aside. “It’s been a long time, but perhaps I can help you find whatever it is you’re seeking. We are united strangers in a foreign land after all.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, he shook his head, knowing the altruism was pushed too far into falsehood. Still, his ego was unharmed. A shrug of the shoulder and slip of the lips said as much.
“How fortunate for us both.” 

He was goading, but she didn’t appear to mind. Though he was quite blatantly studying the wrong weapon. Natalie watched him back, neither repelled nor ignited by the challenge.

“And what do you suppose I am seeking?”

She was a Patron’s granddaughter; it was common currency for others to curry favour to that end. Or try, at least. Less common were those who thought to appeal to the deviancy also in her blood, in the hope that the articles written back then were true, but it wasn’t unheard of either. Not everyone, even in places of power, was happy with the status quo. Natalie was a crossroads in that respect; half cast in light, half swathed in darkness. She didn’t know which Adrian sought. She wasn’t sure she cared.

Her gaze was direct. Beneath the habitual dryness of her tone, the question was more or less honest. It wasn’t a test of his assumptions, or a scathe (though he probably deserved it; united strangers, indeed). The fact was she couldn’t answer it plainly herself. What did she seek? That coin was still spinning, in and out of light and dark. She didn’t yet know where it would land.

Tucked neatly beneath her apathetic manner, Natalie was a woman angry, and frustrated, and hurting still. The Custody had failed her, even as it contained the only thing she wanted. 

“That honey is over sweet, you know. You can speak plainer. I promise not to bite, since it wouldn't bruise anyway.”
He chuckled, “If I knew even the slimmest intentions of women, I would be a made man,” he said. Admittedly, he had no idea what she wanted, but he assumed that if it was worthy of attention, then he ought to be involved. Such investigations, selfless or otherwise, built the foundation that was his empire.

She held his gaze unamused. Natalie seemed to barely tolerate the conversation at all, which made for placing her in a night club an oddity. If she wasn’t here for socializing, then why? Maybe the purpose was simply to show a normal face to the world? A play of power? A demonstration of sorts?

Being plain, he acquiesced, “Roaming around this crowd, for whatever reason, will come across more authentic with company. I promise I am likewise not altogether intolerable, but as I am indeed flesh and blood, a bite is likely to do some damage.” He offered an open hand, an invitation to join him wherever she preferred to go. They could remain in the intimate, private Block or return to other side, but he was willing to wager she was uninterested in dancing. Unless she wanted to leave completely. In which case, Adrian would hardly protest.

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