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Laying low
#1
Continued from: Baccarat Gala


Light, he couldn't believe he got away. That first night, he was pretty much ready to be shot in the back any second, but kept pounding pavement anyway. The next day, every time he thought about it, which was pretty much every waking moment, he would shake his head and laugh at his luck. But on the third day of laying low, the adrenaline finally burned itself off and the weight of questions squeezed his head. Like, what the hell was that white room? Who were the blokes in it? And how did they know he was coming?

Of course, the longer he thought about it, the firmer a grip his ignorance squeezed in his chest. He was laying low these first few days, but he wasn't idle.

Jaxen rolled off the bed to stretch. He was in a shoddy hotel room in Kitay Gorod, about a block on the other side of Moscow's Red Light district. Which meant this was the sort of place where one's privacy was respected. His room was littered with the remnants of hermit life: cans of energy drink were poorly tossed on the floor around the world's smallest trash can, a mostly empty vodka bottle swam in a bucket of melted ice, discarded boxes reeked of old take-out, and on the wall the television was flashing an infomercial. He flipped channels to one streaming all-night news but kept it muted while he made to take a shower.

Not long after midnight, he tasted fresh air. As fresh as one could find in these narrow streets. His short bike jacket covered a brand t-shirt and jeans, and kept his Wallet holstered and out of sight. Jax smirked as he zipped up the coat. He'd be rather annoyed with someone trying to slip the tech out of his possession on these dark streets. At least not without buying him a drink first.

Another door several rooms down from his opened about then and a man strolled out. They looked at one another briefly, Jaxen suspicious of the coincidental timing, but the stranger locked up behind him and went the other way. Jaxen frowned and took the opposite direction.

Two blocks over he stopped at a vending machine. He swiped a pre-loaded cash card across the dispensery's control panel then went through the mundane ritual of selecting a variety of purchases. Two small tubes eventually came tumbling down, and Jaxen pocketed one. The other, he unscrewed the cap, popped the pill, and chucked the empty container toward the nearest trash can.

He wandered back to his room after that. By way of a liquor store of course. But about twenty seconds after he shut the door, he heard another one close. By the sound of it, the door was a couple rooms down from his own. But the worse news? He forgot to get more ice.

"Screw it."
He double checked the lock behind him, unzipped the jacket and dropped back on the bed, warm bottle within arm's reach, and started flipping channels.
"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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#2
He had to give the Atharim credit when it came to hunting things that went bump in the night. They were experts at tracking the monsters that hid in the dark, or the forgotten places and the urban ruins of major cities. But when it came to tracking a living, breathing human? They hadn't quite kept up with the times. Luckily, they had someone on hand who knew what he was about.

Back when Hood went by a different name, he had been among the very best. Black ops; assassinations, topplnig of third-world governments, and the sewing of general discord. Anything to slow or the spread of CCD interests. He had been on the front line of installing dicators, Fascists, even communists. Anyone who could hold a country and had a suitable dislike of the CCD (or any foreign power, really). With that came a wealth of knowledge of who to talk to, who to bribe, and how to operate unnoticed.

Jaxen was no slouch though. It had taken Hood the better part of a day to pick up the thief's trail, and the Atharim's coffers for this little adventure were quite a bit lighter by the time they were ready to start their surveilance. Hood refused to take the lead on it; it was Atharim business, after all, and he had been brought in as an advisor more then anything, although it had been damn tempting to just kick in the door of the shit-hole hotel the lad had smartly held up in, even just to get his lighter back.

The operation would probably only be a week or two long, and Hood would come and go during that time to check on the lads tasked to the surveilance. Low threat, low difficulty; a good way to get their feet wet. He had done the initial recce himself, booking two rooms in the same slummy hotel, and another a block away; a safe house, of sorts, should things get too hot.

Submachine guns, small and compact and easily hidden, loaded with hollow-point rounds; good stopping power on an unarmered target, and more importantly, low penetration; less threat of civilian casualities. Maps were made, equipment was smuggled in, and eventually they were set up and ready to go. Hood stood in the room directly below Jaxen's, sipping coffee from a thermos and studying the display on the screen infront of the Atharim hunter tasked there. A thermal camera was aimed at the ceiling; it was older and shodier then what Hood was used to working with, but still compact enough for ease of movement, and he'd gotten a good deal on it from his black market contacts.

At one point in the evening, Jaxen left the room, and the Atharim tasked to a room on the same floor was notified. The fellow was sloppy and went into the hallway at the same time; Hood would rip the bastard a new one for that. He'd have to replace that guy with a new face now, and arrange a different room. A pain in the ass.

But, Jaxen returned after a time, settled back in his room, and resumed watching TV. Hood still didn't understand why they were watching him for signs of illness, but the Atharim assured him it wasn't to do with anything the idiot may have exposed himself to when breaking into their facility. Whatever the reason, they paid well, so he opted not to ask too many questions at the moment, although he'd not dropped the question entirely.

Late into the evening Hood took his leave, after the shift change, to assure they properly briefed each other. Passive of information was important, everyone needed to be in the know. He took to the streets, to check on the vehicle that was assigned them incase Jaxen suddenly decided to make a move, then once satisfied returned to his home. So long as they played their cards right, Jaxen would never know they were there, never know he was being watched. And in a week or two, they'd give up and move on.
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#3
You haven’t seen anything unless you’ve circled the Garden Ring road at least at a hundred fifty kilometers per hour. It had deep roots, this stretch of pavement. Laid along where the old Moscow fortress walls once stood, and built to allow people to get around the metro smooth and fast without nuisances like stoplights, pedestrians and narrow streets. But the Garden road was short on pedestrian crossings, and between the jammed traffic at rush-hour, delays for government motorcades, and a high octane need for speed from the city’s elite, the ring roads were oh-so-affectionately known as lanes of death by locals. Simply for the amount of casualties. In Stalin’s time, property along the Garden Road was kept immaculate, but these days, the name could just as easily refer to the fake flowers slung to homemade crosses, sites marking specific fatalities.

In Stalin’s days, you needed a permit to live in Moscow proper: carry an approved permit, marry a Muscovite, or be invited in. See, living in this city was in and of itself to be a higher class of citizen, even compared to other Russians. The decline of Stalin’s Russia eventually eased those restrictions, but the pride remained. Pride that landed Jaxen Marveet in exactly the situation he now found himself.

The whirr of flashing red and blue lights blurred in his periphery. Jaxen laughed and unclenched one hand from the steering wheel long enough to flip the traffic police the finger, though he was traveling so fast it would have been impossible for them to have seen it. His heart thud in his chest, and he immediately regripped the supple leather wheel and checked his mirror.

This was not a sanctioned CCD organized race. It seemed twenty years ago that the illegal drag racing, while profitable in buy-offs for the Traffic Police, that they were unstoppable. So the CCD wizened up and started taxing the events, turning them into spectacles of sport. Once in awhile a Ring Road was closed up, lined with thousands of spectators a la Morocco, and the supercars came out.

But that only made the die-hards try harder. Where was the sport in a wide open road? Muscovites weren’t bloody NASCAR rednecks.

The colored dots faded from sight as he banked. There was no way their puny little four-cylinders were going to keep up. But their high-speed lasers were sure to have clocked him, just over two hundred kilometers per hour. But that was nothing a few hundred bucks couldn’t erase. Definitely nothing to the G’s he’d be bleeding if he lost this race.

It was pitch black out. The Ring Road was always poorly lit. But the dim red glow of taillights ahead were obvious enough obstacles. When he caught up with the next batch of traffic, he rimmed around a Jag and wove to the inner lane to take the next curve, accelerating into it.

But Sergei’s vintage Aventador was right on his tail. Hell, it was trying to circle around! Sure, the Lamborghini looked superb. But the thing was a dinosaur. It was too big; too wide to maneuver on anything short of a test track. Sure sure, any big dog, twelve cylinder Lambo sitting on five-digit repair bills counted as a supercar. But on a real road, a velociraptor could outrun the lumbering T-rex any day.

“A real supercar has to take you to dinner with the devil himself!”
Jaxen had roared the night before, brandishing the drink in his hand to men at his table -- careful not to slush a single drop, no point wasting good vodka -- and to the women: he might as well include them in the conversation. They might be mid lap-dance, but there’s no point in being rude. At the time, he was winning the argument currently in progress, regarding the very definition of supercars. “Nyet!”
He barked at Sergei’s follow-up response, laughing with that mostly drunk sort of sound that swam in a man’s stomach, erupting only at the most thoroughly amusing moments.
“Outright speed is only half of it! A supercar is absurd and impractical for the sole reason of being absurd and impractical!”
Jaxen explained.

Sergei leaned across the table, pointing a finger accusingly. “Speed is all that matters Jaxen! You tell me a Countach passes you on the beltway at two sixty kilometers an hour and you don’t shit yourself, and I will call you a liar!”


Jaxen looked offended, “I didn’t say they don’t look good!”


They went back and forth another two hours, the man from Moscow versus the man from St. Petersburg, shredding one another’s arguments while maneuvering from establishment to establishment in Moscow’s red light district. By the end of the night, the arrangements were made. Twenty-four hours later, Jaxen shifted gears and jerked hard toward Sergei’s lane, cutting him off from the pass.

A cutting edge nine hundred and ninety nine horsepower kicked into final gear and Jaxen shot forward, leaving Sergei’s clunker in a duststorm of hellfire. Twelve illegal cylinders and slick aerodynamics only got a man so far. But Jaxen’s Ferrari was not a mere piece of machinery, hell, it wasn’t even an automobile, it was a piece of technology. His car was two-hundred pounds lighter than the lambo, and featured three hundred more horsepower. Well, not his car; technically, it was a car.

His heart was pounding, but he couldn’t quite seem to stay as focused on the road as he ought. Somehow, Sergei managed to recover from the earlier cut-off and was once again side by side, but a beastly Escalade, obeying the speed limits and oblivious to the danger approaching, filled his lane ahead. Jax grit his teeth and glanced at the man alongside. Sergei flicked him a victorious smile, blocking him in. There wasn’t time to pass in front, which meant Jax was going to have to fall back behind in order to swerve.

Unless--Fuck it.

He took a breath, slightly aware he ought to be cringing, but was instead laughing like a maniac, and swerved down an exit ramp at a bridge crossing to the city street beneath. He flew over the pavement, with a psychotic inattention to cross-traffic, pedestrians, hell he could have aimed right at a bus of widows, orphans and nuns and not cared. He didn’t even look, so completely confident in his delusion of safety, and soared through the intersection and back up the opposite on-ramp to merge back on the beltway just in front of the Escalade and directly adjacent his competition.

Sergei looked pissed.

Jaxen roared with victorious thrill, immediately came back up to full speed, and shot forward.

Three hours later, car gone, since the Ferrari was the wager, and he ended up losing anyway, he was walking some back alley somewhere in Kitay Gorod near where the race ended and trying to find his goddamn hotel, puking his brains out and feeling like he was going to die.

Edited by Jaxen Marveet, Jul 30 2013, 01:04 PM.
"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."
Reply
#4
Jaxen crawled to a wall. Bits of loose asphalt and rock pierced his palms, but he sunk to the ground too weak to swipe them away. He did, however rub a sleeve across his mouth. The taste of vomit, acid and sulfur still burned a hole in the back of his throat, and he spit out what he could. It didn't do much good.

His stomach was knots, like he'd swallowed rocks and their jagged edges scraped the inside of his esophagus on the way down. And he was burning hot. He rolled to his back, unzipped his jacket and let it flop open to the sides. The t-shirt beneath clung to his chest, but the v-neck collar circulated minimal air around his throat. So he lifted it from the lower hem, hoping the fresh air would help. Yeah. Big mistake.

The sudden flush of chill night air pebbled his skin, shooting lightning fast waves of sensation up and down his body. A second later he was rolling to the side and puking before he even had time to shove to his hands and knees.

He laid there a long time afterward, just a slightly darker ridge in the shadows of this god-forsaken alley. He reeked of sweat and puke, or maybe part of the stench was wafting from the dumpster he was laying alongside, and his mind was ablaze with incoherent questions. What the hell was wrong with him? How many stunts had he pulled in that drag race? Where was that goddamn motel??

With some semblance of strength regained, he shoved to one knee, then made to stand, and was careful to not let the cold air flush his feverish skin again. Another wipe cleaned off his face and the short stubble around his jaw and he palmed his hair back from his eyes.

"Hey, you alright?"
A voice called not ten steps away.

Startled, Jax jerked sharply that way. Upon realizing it was just another guy, though as they were only illuminated by the distant lights coming from the streets at each end of the alley and his features were pretty much impossible to discern, he relaxed. Slightly.

"I'll survive,"
he answered flatly.

The man came closer, and Jax frowned. He was definitely not in the mood to deal with--well, whatever the dude had in mind.

"Look, dude I don't have anything on me except this."
Annoyed, he pulled the edge of his jacket back far enough to reveal the holstered Wallet. Most people kept the slim bit of Tech in a pocket, but Jaxen was smart enough to know how easily pockets could be emptied. Which explains his usual attire--a zipped up, snug against his ribs, turned up at the collar jacket.

The man sniffed an amused chuckle and Jax's shoulders sank. He really wasn't in the mood to deal with this.

He shoved away from the wall, intending to get out of here without getting raped, but the man took two steps and was right on him.

A hard grip latched onto Jax's arm, and when he spun to try and knock the guy off, it was he who was hurled sideways. He slammed into the dumpster, the collision rippling a deep, metallic thud across the empty alley, and he stumbled in absolute shock. Then to his horror the dude was already back on him, faster than he should have been, and Jax was shoved to the ground just in time to take a boot to the guts.

Just as Jaxen realized he was about to get the shit kicked out of him, the guy started clawing at his jacket and shirt, trying to-- get at his throat?! What the--?!!

Then all of a sudden, the guy's weight was completely lifted, and panting, Jaxen scrambling as best he could to get away.

Another guy was there--the one who ripped the batshit crazy attacker off him. He was big shape wearing a long coat and was currently completely focused on the attacker. Their fight was over fast, thirty seconds maybe, but it felt like the blink of an eye. Next thing Jaxen knew, the most wicked looking knife he'd ever seen was jammed into the side of the newcomer's throat and ripped out the front. His body dropped.

Jaxen was too horrified to puke, but when the thing that attacked him approached again, he knew he wasn't going to get away.


---


He awoke God knows how long later, somewhere dark and humid, with quiet drips in the distance, chained up, and pretty sure he was in pretty deep shit this time. But at least the fever seemed to have broke.
"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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#5
Continued at: Dealing with devils
"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."
Reply


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