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Not terrible
#1

The beer was not terrible.

Then again, when Ryker put the bottle to his lips, any memory for comparison was long ago dulled. He was studying the logo of a griffin on the bottle label when a voice interrupted.

"Well? Did I tell you, or what?" The waitress, hand on her hip, was smiling expectantly. Long brown hair, wide-eyes, and a narrow waist. She wasn't ugly. Ryker lifted the bottle in mini salute. His leather jacket crinkled softly with the movement of his arm.

"You were right. It's not terrible,"
he replied.

She chuckled and journeyed to the next table.

Not terrible summed up the entire bar, come to think of it. The floor was old, but mopped. The tables wobbled on uneven legs, but were wiped down. The servers competent, but not dreadfully unattractive. It was the kind of place he could blend in when he wanted. It was filled with the kind of people that he needed to study.

He swung the stool slightly, bottle resting the cap of his knee. The jeans darkened slightly where the condensation dripped. He shifted the bottle aside, then, casually swiping the wetness away.

His best eye sharpened as he measured the entrances and exits, the manner and carriage of those in view. A kitchen smelled like cooks worked at a steady pace. When the door to the back swung open, he glanced two such cooks. He wasted no more thought on them.

Beer sipped, he watched.

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#2
[[Continued from here]]

Gus glared across the bar when they walked in the door, earning the sweetest of smiles in return. He absorbed the split lip, of course, but didn't bother to comment; it was hardly the first time Ori had walked in here with evidence of her more violent proclivities branded on her face. Instead he grunted and unscrewed the cap from a bottle of vodka. Ice clinked in the bottom of a glass, which she swiped before he had a chance to fill it, her other hand outstretched for the bottle. "And whatever he wants."


No name swung above the door, the sign long since chipped and never replaced; colloquially it was most often referred to as the hole, when it was spoken about at all. It was a place thick with locals more than tourists, though from time to time it attracted those too; at least those brave or stupid enough to seek out an 'authentic' experience.

While Mikhail ordered, Ori turned to survey the land, her lazy gaze absorbing the group shooting pool, the couple huddled around the old fashioned duke box, and the various shadows ensconced in booths tunnelled into the walls.
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#3
Doll was all kinds of in a hurry all of a sudden. Somehow, it just made him want to move more slowly. Ehh...not really. That was maybe a bit too childish. But he'd felt the impulse, anyway.

And of course she walked- maybe stalked was the better word- ahead of him. Not that he minded in the slightest. He rather enjoyed the view. Well, no rather about it.

So one way and another, he found himself walking into the hole with her. He was a regular, if only on certain nights. You couldn't learn everything by staying in one place, after all. Territory being what it was- and his jobs being what they were- he was lucky that he frequented dozens of places like this.

Being part of a former (and disgraced at that) family gave him all kind of freedom. Being ignored had its perks. He moved between areas well enough and had an easy time making acquaintances and small talk. And then the not-so-small talk as one drink became 5 became 10 and someone let slip stuff they shouldn't.

And he'd just nurse his vodka on the rocks, letting his speech and manner mirror theirs, a bit of a slur here, a bit of complaint there, slight stumble when hitting the head.

Gus caught his eye and raised an eyebrow, the hint of a frown barely showing. Mik smirked at him. Yeah yeah yeah. He knew. Doll face- Well Oriena, if he wanted to get technical about it- here was probably trouble.

But all the fun ones were. Not on the hot-crazy scale. Nah, not her. They needed the other chart. The hot-mean chart. Was more dangerous in some ways. Buuuuuut....less likely to try to break your windshield or walk up to a table when you were with a date and start screaming in your face or whatever.

But a gamble was a gamble. And he was Game.

As they walked to the bar and she ordered, he took a quick look around. Usual types, of course. Not exactly a bar for folks looking for craft beers or whatever. Heh....nope. He noted faces he knew and those he didn't, cataloging them. Mook. Chump. Pro. Tease. Mark. Unknown.

He'd keep an eye on the unknowns.

But two faces at the pool table jumped out at him and he started chuckling. "Well fuck me,"
he said quietly.

Ok. Yeah. The universe was a joke. But god-DAMN it was a good one. Not quite what he had in mind, at least for starters. But what an appetizer. Or a meal. All depended. That little prick Stanislav was over there with Valentin. Kolomovs.

And the pieces fell together. His chuckle became a small laugh. Dominoes all lined up pretty as you please. Alright. Alright alright alright. This could work. He glanced at Oriena. She was lounging back surveying whatever and Gus was waiting. "Just a chilled glass, filled with ice. Oh, and a lime."


Gus met his eye but slid the order over. Dick. Glass wasn't even chilled. Still, Mik took it and turned, partially facing the pool table and partially facing Dollface. Heh...he leaned in, his face closer, as she had done at the apartment, looking into those dangerous eyes with a tease of his own, as if he were making a move. He snaked his arm around her front, only to grab the bottle of vodka she'd left on the bar.

He leaned back onto the bar and poured himself a drink.
He held up his glass in salute. "Cheers."
Took a slow pull. Nah, he wasn't gonna get tanked. Not tonight. But he did like the ice cold chill slipping down his throat, the sharp tang mixed with lime on his tongue.

He looked at Oriena for a moment, savoring the experience- which? Well, all of it. His voice quiet, he said "So....to the Game. How would like to take down one of the families tonight?"



Edited by Mikhail, Feb 9 2018, 06:15 PM.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
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#4
The server that recommended his beer circled the pool table when one of the players slapped her on the ass. She spun, claws out, but only curled fingers under his chin and played to the trope. Ryker watched openly. Kat wasn't ugly, if she was a little more pudgy around the hips than he preferred. The way she took that slap though made him wonder if she liked it. Maybe. He took another slow sip of the beer.

Bravado and chaos walked in the door, then. His neck turned, the cords on his throat popping around the collar of his coat. They both sauntered to the bar like they owned the joint. Locals, then, calling the bartender by name and stealing rocks glasses like their names were etched on the side.

Ryker never took to vodka. There was a bar called Alchemy in Kiev that had been 'his place' much as this hole was theirs. Alchemy was truly a cauldron of concoctions. Vodka had its place of honor on the shelf, but so also did other tasty spirits. Alchemy was where he first met Galina. Thinking of her made his hand fall toward the pocket of his coat, wherein he brushed a thumb across a data stick, making sure it was safe.

Bravado and Chaos snuggled up to the bar, flirting over a bottle of vodka. The place wasn't packed, but there were few pairs of stools open other than the two immediately beside him. Ryker's amusement for their game held for the time being. She was clearly out of this skinny kid's league. Like watching a black widow toy with the mate it was about to devour once she had what it wanted. When he caught her eye, he tipped the lip of his bottle her direction and silently asked her what the hell a goddess like her was doing with a peon like him. He might have asked when a tap on the shoulder turned him swiftly about, only for his elbow to smack into the vodka bottle that Bravado confiscated.

It crashed to the bar top, crystal clear liquid spilling out over the wood and running down the front of his clothes.

Ryker jumped up. "FUCK! You little fucker."
Vodka seeped into the supple leather on his arm, it darkened the denim of his pants around the thighs. The black shirt beneath glued sticky to the ridges of his abdomen.

His good eye flared sharp, he rounded on the kid like he may punch him, but instead stayed his hand. One punch and the kid was likely to crumple like a wad of paper.

In the seconds that followed, he felt eyes on him, waiting to see what he would do. The bartender that tapped him on the shoulder stood back, waiting like this wasn't the first cusp of a fight he'd ever witnessed. Kat watched, one slender brow lifted high and curious. Chaos glinted like she may find far too much amusement in the ordeal.

Ryker swallowed his pride and left them there, looking for a bathroom to clean himself up. He couldn't leave yet. That data stick was still in his pocket. There better not be vodka gumming it up, now.

He slammed the bathroom door behind him and disappeared into one of the stalls.

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#5
Mik silently waited for Oriena's response. He wasn't sure if she was thinking about it or merely drawing out the wait for somerthing she had already decided. In truth, it could only have been seconds.

Best guess tho? The wait. Of course. It would always be the wait. He smiled, content to see what she said, and his gaze went back to the two pricks at the table. All the pieces, lined up in a row. He'd checked his wallet when they'd first come in.

They had a little time before they had to begin. Tempers had to be primed and what not. Not too soon, not to quick. What was the story? Goldilocks or something? Not too soft, not too hard. The slow burn, with a slew of drinks to keep it simmering. The little prods.

All the pretty maids lined up in a row, just waiting for the first push.

He was peripherally aware of the mook next to them. Meathead who fancied the scar made him a tough guy. And maybe he was. Big guy. Big whoop. Mik had been it fights before and would be in fights after. Some you win, some you lose.

And just like everywhere else, people liked to not really see him. They saw what they imagined. What they wanted. What they needed. Mik the sad son of old muscle of a fallen family. Not knowing that growing up, there had been other enemies.

The families mostly left him alone or used him, as go betweens, something he used to move around with ease. Gopniks and others, tho, just liked to stomp. And he'd had his time with them. Beaten more often than not, (be honest asshole. Almost always when it was a group.) When it was 5 against one? Come one, anyone who said otherwise was a fucking liar.

But one on one....yeah. He did alright. Better than alright, mostly.

So he didn't sweat the mook. Worse came to worse....well, there was always the lighter...and the power. Unless the guy channeled, not really much to worry about. And what were the chances of that?

Course channeling here- or a fight for that matter- would ruin the fun he had in mind. He needed to.be careful.

Still, the dice would come up what they came up.

Aaaaaannnnnnd so of course, the universe itself might be a joke. And might have let him IN on the joke......But that didn't mean she wasn't a fucking bitch either. He had to and salute her.

Because somehow mook got his panties in a twist, knocked over the bottle of vodka and then lit into him.

Mik held his drink, still lounging against the bar, just looking at him quizically, trying to understand why this was his fault. He noticed the waitress and kinda did a mental take. This guy was trying to alpha him for Kat? She was cute and all- definitely nice curves-
but she'd seen bar fights hundreds of times. He doubted they'd impress her.

More than that, though. Mook would prolly be disappointed to know her boyfriend was this doofy painter. Had the whole starving artist sensitivity thing going on. Definitely not a fighter. Wrong tree buddy.

So he didn't flinch when his arm cocked back. You never flinched. Like begging for it Give him this, though. He was not stupid. He could read a room. Not that Mik had friends here. He took a small sip of his drink, enjoyed the slow burn.

Mik was maybe a hand shorter and while he wasn't skinny or weak, he didn't give off the aura of mass or strength, not like this guy anyway. Which suited him just fine. Underestimation and all that. Either way, tho, between this, that, and the other, Mook would end up looking the moron in all this. Not the tough guy.

Like I said, give it to him. He didn't back down and yet he still managed to walk to walk to the bathroom with most of his dignity in tact.

Mik hadn't even said a word. Hadn't provoked him. He did feel the smile come on as he left. Gus had already started on the spilled vodka. "Another bottle, when you have the chance."
Guy rolled his eyes.

He turned to Oriena, wondering what trouble was brewing in those depths. He laughed to himself. Well, time to toss the dice. He gave her a half smile. "Where were we?"



Edited by Mikhail, Feb 6 2018, 11:08 PM.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
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#6
Ori downed the first hit in one, pressing the cool glass to her throbbing mouth for a moment before refilling. After Gus slid another glass across the bar, Mikhail brushed his arm around her, dangerous close to the smarting bruises beneath her shirt. She tensed reflexively, capturing him with a dark glare as he leaned in close to snake his fingers around her vodka bottle. The spark of a dare lit his eyes. He shouldn't challenge her like that; he wasn't likely to enjoy the consequences of striking such a match. Most of the time, Oriena was pure gasoline.

Her gaze followed him lazily as he retreated; less a sign of docility, and more one of calculation. If he'd known her better. The power wreathed like smoke as she watched him lean back and sip, tipping the spoils of his theft in her direction. The glass in his hand was moments from shredding his palm to bloody ribbons when her eyes caught on another salute. It was the scar carving up his face that drew her attention, not the question of why he'd sought her attention in the first place.

Then the bottle smashed, and Ori's scrutiny unravelled to a purely dark anticipation as the stranger jerked to his feet. The promise of violence drew her sharply, an edge of black lust flashing interest in her stare. The same inclination that urged her to seek out the blunt end of Luka's fist. That burned the Baccarat to the ground and longed for the sharp edge of retaliation.

Mikhail barely shifted. He eyed the confrontation with about as much interest as he might give to the crunch of an insect under his boot. Gus, with his folded arms and blank glare, would be proud; he brooked no nonsense in his bar -- as Ori well knew, though it hadn't stopped her jamming her grip around someone's throat the last time she was here. She leaned slightly forward. Urging him on. Either of them.

But the stranger reigned it in.

She watched him leave. The disappointment was bitter, but the spark didn't die. Her gaze still blazed.

Mikhail brushed the encounter off with controlled practise, which should have been an admirable quality, but Ori only saw it as a lost opportunity to play. She idled the liquid in her glass much as the chaos churned in the gaze she landed back on him. Her lips parted to speak, and then her Wallet buzzed. She read the message with a smirk before sliding the tech back in her pocket. Flicked her gaze back up to Mikhail's half smile.

"I like you, Mikhail. I was warning you. I don't play by the rules."
Her smile glinted wicked, vodka wet on her lips as she emptied her second drink. The ice in it tinkled when she gestured towards the pool table and the men he clearly recognised, neither of whom had much glanced up from their game. This was Zamoskvoreche; it wasn't even worth paying attention until the first punch landed.

Mikhail's game, and his move. Every line of her expression taunted impress me.
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#7
Mik listened to her, savored that wicked smile, the one with no warmth. Well, not any kind of warmth of concern and shit. It would never be used to lift up someone's spirits anyway. A different warmth, though, one he recognized. The curve of lips that might- might - kiss. (Be damn nice, too.) But might bite also. Draw blood. Likely both, one flashing to the other in a heartbeat. Something he'd get around to trying some time.

He had been right about her, though, up at the apartment. What he'd seen in her eyes. And he didn't forget she could channel either, for all he couldn't feel anything. His smirk become a slow smile and his eyes lidded. Heh. His voice dropped to a low, deep whisper, the kind one might use on a lover and he leaned in a little closer to her- felt the heat of her that seemed to radiate from her eyes. "Yeah, doll, I kinda figured."


After a moment, he turned and focused attention on the table. He nodded to the bigger of the two. "Stanislav. A Kolomov. Sure you already know. Vendetta with Mordvinov. Unofficial one with Stoya, on account of their alliance."
He didn't add that he was mostly responsible for that little row. Not so little now. Quite a number of years ago. His first real foray into the game. Roman Mordvinov had almost died. Hadn't mattered either way. The chaos was the goal.

Well, not the only one. He wasn't going to lie. He had beef with Kolomov. Big time. The continuing violence and shrinking of Kolomov was like a gift of the month club, or something. Every so often, like a package in the mail, he'd enjoy a little treat. And it was sooo good.

He continued. "Kolomov is struggling. Trying to survive. Already everyone can smell the blood in the water. They've lost many top guys. Some defected. Some ran. Others....well, they had too many beefs against them. Kinda disappeared."


He took the bottle Gus had put down and poured another drink for himself, held it out to Oriena. He hadn't realized he'd downed the first one. He did enjoy the warmth that filled him. He glanced at her. He knew she was listening no matter what was on her face.

He looked back at the one he'd pointed out, kept his voice low. "Believe it or not, mook like that's one of their top guys now. That's alive anyway. And tonight is their last shot. He's meeting with some of the Yakuza. If he can give them what they want, a reason for an alliance, Kolomov will survive. If not,..."
he trailed off with a grin.

A grin he held for a lot of reasons, actually. He was no fool. Nope. No rules. "Well....you can guess what will happen if they can't. It's too bad Stanislav is such a hot head. Damn, but he hates losing. And when he loses, he drinks. And when he drinks he loses. Really a shame he's the guy who is gonna meet with those honor obsessed fools they need so badly. So...."


He pulled the lighter from his red leather jacket and watched from a distance. Everything became sharper as he seized the power, as if he'd gotten closer. The big man was about to take his shot when Mik struck. Not hard. A little bump on the cue. The shot went wide. He definitely did not laugh out loud. The cursing from the table was loud enough to cover, but there was no point in ruining their fun. White had gone right into the pocket. Scratch.

He flashed her a grin and flicked an eyebrow at her.

((Slight edit: I had forgotten which family I had been setting up to fall. Kolomov, not Stoya. Writing the new OC thread reminded me.))


Edited by Mikhail, Feb 9 2018, 07:09 PM.
"Good and ill. 
We're like the wind, 
we blows both ways."
- Mad Sweeney, American Gods
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#8
There were plenty of places to go. Plenty of faces to see, but Yun seemed to always return to familiar places. She was a cop, but she was also a local. And she wasn't really in cop gear. But the power vibe still carried as she walked into the hole. Kolomov's guys were here - again. Falling apart as usual.

Yun was interested in the so-called alliance and was here to watch the final results. She expected there are many eyes and ears here. Yun could have sent a man to watch, but she wanted a drink anyway, and it was always good to let people know you were still around. That was one of the things the old man had not been able to do before his heart gave way. Now Yun made it a habit.

Kolomov couldn't foot their bills anymore and Yun was tired of keeping their noses clean. Tonight would decide that - sink or swim little fishies.

Yun headed for the corner booth that could see the whole room. There was a pair of green thugs staring back at her when she looked down. She smiled at them. It hadn't been a friendly smile. She waved her hand and Pierre slide in next to them. He reminded Yun of the old boxing movies. Big, sometimes dumb with a French accent. The thugs gave a sharp look to her they scurried away like the little thugs they were.

She sat down and surveyed the area. She only had two men with her. But Slav was missing - another job - more important. He'd join her later. Andre brought a bottle of top shelf vodka to the table from Gus. Yun gave the keep a tip of her head and a smile. And a big tip if things went well tonight. If not there might be a mess to clean up and he'd pay a little bit to get it all squared away. It was win-win for Yun.


Edited by Yun Kao, Feb 9 2018, 07:30 PM.
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#9
The door to the bathroom slammed into the latch behind him with the thud of cheap plywood slapping a bad frame. The level of his gaze surveyed the shit hole that he found himself in. Literally. Two urinals, one obscured by a middle-aged guy standing in front. One private stall. A dirty porcelain sink. No windows. Graffiti decorated the tile. A narrow mirror was chipped.

He grabbed the guy mid-stream, digging deep into the soft flesh of his shoulder. "Get the fuck out,"
he growled and practically kicked him out of the bathroom. Ryker locked the door on his heels, turned and examined his soiled clothes.

His jeans were soaked to the skin beneath. He looked like he'd pissed himself. He fluffed his shirt, fluttering air against his abdomen, but it too was beyond saving. He stripped of the leather jacket to drape it across the stall door, lip curling at the dark circle on one sleeve. Obviously that wasn't acceptable. At least the data stick was dry. Even with the Power, he wasn't sure it could be saved if it had been soaked with vodka.

The noise of the bar beyond filtered through the thin door. That soft asshole was on the other side knocking at the wood, "SHUT UP!"
Ryker yelled. If you have to piss that bad, use the fucking women's room, he thought. He pinched his eyes together and took a breath. There was only one answer. The power. Pull the liquid out of the cloth. It had to work. In solitude, he sensed the answer.

That light of fire and brimstone was always there, floating in the back of his mind. But it was no more reachable than yanking on the stem of his brain. He tried to seize it, just in case it worked. Someday it would, he was determined, but there was no getting to it now. Not yet. For a moment, a flicker of fear touched his expression. Or maybe anger. Or maybe something else.

Whatever it was, he would not allow it to take hold. He pulled a switch blade, flicked it open, and put it to his arm in one fast, clean, easy slash. He cringed, but the sting would fade fast. It always did.

In its place something far more terrible took over. The light flooded his bones until the pain on his arm was a dull and distant memory. Reveling in it was joy and life, and he took a deep breath, relishing in the fire.

With it in control, tendrils of the light plunged into his clothes, wringing the fibers of liquid. The darkness faded and a puddle of vodka pooled at his feet.

He was finished by the time the pain on his arm subsided. The light disappeared then. A bittersweet departure, one last burst of power flashed the switchblade with flame, sterilizing it before it disappeared into it's pocket again.

He pressed paper towels to his arm until the bleeding slowed, pulled his coat back over his shoulders and emerged from the bathroom only to find the face of one pissed off fat man. Ryker just stood there, staring at him, silently asking him to give him a reason to put him down. The fat man skulked aside, and returned to the bathroom when Ryker departed, probably to slip on the vodka and break his fat ass. Ryker didn't stay to find out.

He returned to the bar to find his beer bottle confiscated. His seat at the bar was also taken. His gaze fell on Bravado and Chaos, still lingering together. Go ahead little spider. Waste your time, he thought and turned his attention elsewhere.

He found an empty table near the corner, and flagged Kat down to get another beer.

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#10
Continued from Quality Control

Moscow's public transit was among the best in the world. Not exactly a historically accurate statement, but times changed. So he sat on a surface-street bus, most of the toys he had been playing with all night handed off to a Pervaya driver, and off to find a place to have a drink.

He had some time to kill before deciding what to do about the 'boss' and the rest of his boys. Technically, his job was done, message delivered. But he'd been bored of late, and fucking around with a bunch of bottom-tier drug-dealers that thought they were big stuff was always a nice spot of fun.

The sort of fun that CCD cops seemed to not look too deeply into, so long as it was handled properly.

A few bus stops down the line and he hopped off the bus and absently dug his thumb between the knuckles of his left hand. Dmitri was a talkative idiot, but he had had a hell of a thick skull. A moment to flex his shoulders, and he made his way up the street. A few of the lads at the office had mentioned a place in the neighborhood. Stocked a few US imports, wasn't the worst dive in town.

Until he decided what to do with the rest of his night, a beer for a job well done was in order.

Dark slacks and neatly laced boots to which the term 'tactical' could easily be attached. He forewent a jacket; it was off with the Pervaya driver, as well as the shirt and vest he'd been wearing, all sporting a few new holes that matched some fresh bruises on his ribs.

A simple but well-fitted suit jacket and white dress shirt, top buttons popped and a loosened tie. At first glance, he could almost have been just an average every day office worker. Minus the hint of the shoulder holster and revolver under the open jacket, of course.

So maybe some mob bruiser type. Except he didn't ooze the bravado and arrogance of some meat-head mafioso. No challenging stares, no itching for a fight or to prove himself as an alpha dog.

He simply was one, and had no need having to prove it with boorish action.

He gave the room a brief survey and made his way towards the bar. A nod for the waitresses, another for the tender, a quick scan of what was on tap. Then he snaked a bowl of beer nuts from behind the bar with a grin to the tender, an order of a pint, and he made his way to a nearby table, intent to sit, relax, and ponder.


Edited by Hood, Feb 9 2018, 10:09 PM.
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