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My Coin-Operated Boy Toy's avatar

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                              indent'It's always the same..' The though reverberated in the young man's mind as he made his way down the landing ramp into the Los Angeles Regional airport. Glancing around, purse coming to his lips as he realized far too late that he hates the hustle and bustle of these places, Casimiro quickly tried to find his bearings. Turning the music that pulsed in his ears up a notch, and checking his phone for any missed messages, the male carefully navigated towards luggage claim. Bouncing slightly as he watched the conveyer belt pushed luggage in it's eternally circular pattern two bags caught the tanned male's attention. Snatching them quickly, Casi began towards the exit, dialing a number clumsily into his phone. "--'ello? This is Alesia, correct? Okay.. Oka-- slow down, I'm.." Carefully fighting to get through the airport, Casi's conversation continued with the woman's rambling in his ear and his struggling to understand anything she spoke of.

                              indentOnce Casimiro broke free of the crowded airport, and hailing a cab, the male dug through one of his two suitcases for a change of clothes. The taxi driver had begun to prattle on about something or other, and Casi paid little attention until the vehicle filled with silence. One arm out of his shirt, the other struggling to break free of it's confinement, the boy explained, "Eyes on the road, I'm just changing real quick. That flight was far too long.." A fifteen minute drive later Casi stepped out of the cab clad in a fresh tee, paid his driver, and moved into the cafe that he had been instructed to meet his teammates at. Once inside, after catching a strange look from the barista behind the counter - most likely due to the luggage the male was dragging along - the woman realized whom he had to be. "You must be with the other two, yeah? The blonde and her friend?" For a moment Casi's face went blank, a sign that he didn't remember what his contacts looked like, but then the expression shifted to a smile and a nod. "Oh, yeah. Yeah! I'm with those two." Either the woman didn't catch his confusion, or didn't care, as she quickly lead Casi towards the back, up a flight of stairs, and into the second story, and to a small private room.

                              indentThree menu's sat upon the table, two individuals sat there, and an empty seat lay in wait for him. The first was a blonde woman.. and blonde was an understatement. Her hair was stark white, cut short in a pixie cut, and her bright blue eyes honed in on Casi the moment he cleared the doorway. "Casimiro Torrado, I presume? Took you long enough, I mean we've only been here for nearly an hour. The airport is only a fifteen minute drive from here, and your plane landed.." Alesia never slowed down as she spoke, though she did glance at her watch, "..twenty-two minutes ago. How can you waste so much time?" This assured Casi that the woman before him was the one he had spoken to many times over the phone. "Pleasure to meet you too Alesia." Giving a dry chuckle, Casi's gaze drifted to a slightly older man who looked quite bemused. "Solomon?" In truth, Casi had never spoken to the man, but he had been told plenty about him by Alesia. The man gave a simply nod, the mostly bemused and slightly smug look still on his features. "See? What did I tell ya? He's like a rock."

                              indentSitting at the open slot, his bags tossed to the floor against the wall, Casi gave a cautionary glance towards the doorway before asking, "Okay.. I've got the gist of what we need to do.. but how about you refresh my memory. We needs a coin, yeah?" Frowning, Alesia remained uncomfortably quiet for a moment, before scolding, "Can't even remember the mission? What a shame. We have to.. acquire a specific coin, one that used to belong to King Belshazzar, to be precise. It's--" As Alesia fell silent once more, Casi's eyebrows arched high. "So, can I take your orders? Or rather.. can I take yours, handsome? And how about I get you another coupl'a drink you two?" Jumping in his seat as he realized that the barista had returned, Casi muttered, "Drinks? Oh, yeah. How about a cappuccino? And whatever they were drinking. My treat." Smiling towards his new companions, the waitress chimed out, "Okay then, that's two cappuccinos and a triple shot espresso. Be right back." Narrowing his eyes to Alesia, the male knew who the espresso had to be for. "So..." The word seemed to hang in the air until the barista was well out of earshot, "Like I was saying. Your job is to get the coin before the show opens.. and our job is to help ya. So here." The woman gave a quick gesture to Solomon, who pulled something from his pocket. Placing a dark coin upon the table top, the replica looked to be ancient. Picking up the item, Casi turned it over in his hand slowly, examining it.

                              indentAs the woman returned with their drinks, the conversation hushed again. Setting the cappuccinos in front of Casimiro and Alesia, and the triple shot espresso in front of the ever silent Solomon, Casi couldn't help but tease, "You've got to be kidding me, right?" Passing a dark colored debit card towards the woman, who swiped it on a little device she had brought with her on the drink tray, the trio was left alone once more to their plotting. "Okay. So what exactly is the plan? I mean.. we have this one.. and we need the other one. So..?" "Switch them." Alesia seemed startled as the Solomon spoke. "I swear, that's the first ********' thing he's said since I've met him. Scared me right outta my skin!" Rubbing at his temples, Casi explained, "I figured that.. but how? I mean, do we know anything about when the coin will get here? If it's already here? Anything?" Alesia rolled her eyes, muttering, "Of course we do, dummy. That's what you've got me for."

                              indentTwo hours later the trio split up, heading to their own hotel rooms for the evening. Their plan had been formulated, and now that Casimiro had been caught up the boy seemed more at ease. Waking the next morning, they were to regroup near the location of the art show, which was still being set up and 'stocked' with art. The venue was in a public part of town, near many other shops and restaurants - which meant witnesses. But that was why he had Alesia and Solomon. The woman was young, but apparently had an affinity for gathering information. Then there was Solomon, master of illusion. He didn't have any supernatural qualities like most people Casi worked with, but was an exceptional counterfeiter and master of the art of disguise. Together, with Casi's knack for ending up with objects that don't, technically, belong to him hopefully was a recipe for success. "We need a way to get into that building.. something that won't attract too much attention. That's where you come in. I've heard about what you can do, and I want you to steal something from one of the owners of this show. We can 'return' it later, and hopefully that'll get us in the door." The target's name didn't matter, but had been pointed out to Casimiro by Solomon. He was tall, had a bit of grey in his hair, and leaving the art show's location only twenty feet from where Casi stood. Continuing forward, the Colombian-American feigned a stumble, a shout and a pair of hands clawing towards the taller male. One hand clutched at the shoulder, the other one caught the edge of a sports jacket, "Sonnova.. Oh! I'm so sorry! This is entirely my fault!" The man had stumbled as well, looking to the pair of women he had been flirting with as they left the gallery briefly before musing out in an upbeat, far too understanding tone, "Oh! Don't worry, you're just fine!" Helping stand Casi back up, the man brushed him off, gave a grin, and seemed to hurry away as quickly as possible.

                              indentTurning away and beginning to bustle back the way he came, Casimiro pulled the wallet he had recently acquired and flashed it towards the cafe across the road. Pocketing it as soon as he saw Solomon, flashing a smile and giving a nod, noted that Casi's job was done. A black sedan pulled up, screeching to a halt as one door swung open, and the Colombian hopped in. Looking to Alesia, in the driver's seat, the woman gunned it and they were off. "Took ya long enough, I swear.. do you always move at a snail's pace? It's a miracle that your usual team ever gets anything done." Sighing, and looking out the window, Casi retorted, "And it's a miracle that you haven't killed yourself with your driving yet. Have you seen how reckless you are? Not everything is a race." Snorting, the woman hissed back, "It's a race if I make it one.." Shaking his head and pulling the wallet out again, Casi began to probe through it's contents. There were far too many credit cards, some cash, a few pictures of family members, and then one cream colored business card. The card was both an advertisement for the man himself, who apparently was named Julian Vaskanti, as well as for the weekend's event. Turning the card over slowly, letting his fingers trace it's textured surface. Hearing the blaring of the horn, Casi's attention shot up towards the windshield where an SUV had run a red light and cut across traffic. Giving a muted shriek, Casi's eyes clamped closed as his whole body cringed.

                              indentBut nothing happened. Opening his eyes, everything looked grey scale. Casimiro wasn't in the car any more.. but he recognized the location. He was somewhere within the art venue, and he was.. talking on the phone? He could hear a voice, and see that his arm was holding the phone to his ear, but it wasn't him. Though they had only spoken briefly, Casi recognized the voice as Vaskanti's. "..That's right, nine o'clock tonight. We've gotta get the final pieces in place if we're going to be ready for tomorrow night." Casi felt his body get pulled forward, and soon found himself pacing the room. "I'll be there, yeah.. yeah.. Just come in through the back, I'll leave the door unlocked until, at the latest, ten thirty. By then I need to get goin'." The voice snickered, Casi feeling his head move in a nodding motion, "That's right, both of 'em. Nah, Susan is back home in Seattle.. so it's just me and those twins we met last night. Yeah. Tell me about it!" Suddenly the images changed, Casi was back in the car, and everything flooded back with sudden sound, color, and clarity. "What happened?! Wait.. watch where you're driving?! I told you that you were going to kill us!" "Forget my driving, you dunce! What the just happened? You see somethin'?"

                              indentHours later, Alesia, Solomon, and Casimiro pulled up in the alley behind the venue, lights off as they coasted nearer the rear exit. In the alley was another large truck, the back open and ramp laid down to the street. "Okay.. you need to get in there, find the coin, swap 'em, and if they see you just claim you're 'returning' the wallet. Understood?" Frowning and crossing his arms as he looked out of the back seat window, Casi muttered, "Yeah.. I guess, definitely no glaring flaws here, hm?" Sighing and opening his door, the male began to get out of the vehicle before Solomon's hand caught his forearm. "Stay safe." Giving a mock salute, Casi chimed out, "Always!" As soon as the door closed behind him, Casi heaved a sigh and began towards the doorway. The door itself was slightly ajar, and without touching it the youth slipped into the building. Chewing at his lower lip, and rounding a corner, Casi couldn't tell who was more surprised. Vaskanti was standing there talking to another man, who was leaning on a dolly. Casi's jaw dropped, mouth hanging open a moment, while Vaskanti demanded, "What the..? You can't be in here!" As the man took a step towards him, Casi flung out his hand that held the wallet, muttering in an Alesia-esque manner, "Wait, I'm sorry I was just trying to return this! You dropped it earlier when we ran into each other! Here take it!" Hesitating, Vaskanti narrowed his eyes, elaborating, "I.. remember you.. Thanks.." As soon as the man swiped the wallet from Casi, and began to rummage through it, Casi began to explore the room. "Some place you got here, eh?" Wandering about all of the art pieces, Casi teased out, "Total stab in the dark here, but lemme guess? You like art." Vaskanti scoffed, beginning, "What gave you that impression, I mean-- Wait, I said you couldn't be here. You need to get out, now." That was when Casi noticed the display case right behind the taller man. Within it was a collection of various coins and gems, one that matched his replication perfectly.

                              indent"Hey now.. there's no need to be like that! I'm a friendly guy, you two might enjoy spending some time with me." Chuckling, Casimiro moved closer to the man, circling the display case before leaning against it. "Oh! Neat, coins. You know, my grandfather used to collect these.. well, he collected pennies and the like. But same concept." Vaskanti seemed frustrated now, barking, "George! help me get this guy out of here. He's pissin' me off." Casi quickly reached down, swiping up the coin in question, at which point Vaskanti shouted, "Don't touch that! Do you know how old that is?" Leaning off of the glass, Casi muttered, "Well it looks old.. so I'd say at least fifteen years or so? Do they mark these like they did pennies?" At that comment the man lunged forward, leaving Casi to stumble back and fall onto his a**. Scrambling back to his feet, Casi gave an, "Eep!" Getting to his feet and racing towards the door the man that Vaskanti had called George moved to block his way. Diving low, and squeezing the coin hard enough to leave an imprint of it's markings on his palm, Casi slid underneath the man. "God dammit! Get him!"

                              indentThe exit wasn't far, and Casimiro was a quick runner. Racing down the hall, the male took a moment to glance behind him to see just how far ahead he had gotten. It was at this time that he heard a gunshot and a bullet streaked past the young man's face. Paling and reaching into his pocket the boy searched for the fake coin desperately. Finding it, and wrapping his fingers about it, Casi tried to pull the hand from his pocket. "Damn jeans!" Knowing that if he stayed still the next bullet wouldn't miss, Casi darted out the door. Alesia's car was gone, but that meant the alley was mostly clear. Sprinting down the narrow way, Casi released his grip on the coin in his pocket, pulling the hand free. This time reaching with just two fingers, Casi's fingertips slipped along the coin - pushing it deeper into the pocket. Two more gunshots were fired off, and Casi could hear Vaskanti talking on the phone. "Please no police.. please no police.." The sirens in the distance didn't comfort Casi in any way, shape or form though. Rounding the corner of the venue, and pressing tight against the wall, Casi finally pulled the fake coin from his pocket, giving a small sound of victory as he did so. Pulling his body around the corner, fake coin in hand while the legitimate one was pocketed, Casi began to shout, "Calm down! I don't want--" As he rounded the corner two things happened, the first was a final gunshot, the second was Casi slipping once more to land on his a** in a puddle of water, just dodging the bullet. "I DON'T WANT THE COIN, DAMN!" Throwing the coin towards Vaskanti, who had gun in hand, the man raced forward, dropping his firearm, to catch the glinting coin.

                              indentA car's horn blared from his right, Alesia and her sedan blaring at him to get up and go. Damp from the puddle, and groaning as he could feel a bruise forming on his thigh, Casimiro stood and began towards the car. Stopping briefly, and peeking just his head around the corner, the young man shouted, "And you should be ashamed of yourself! I hope Susan finds out and leaves your a**!" Casi was breathing heavily now, sprinting and jumping into the vehicle. "You better not have screwed this up! I mean, look at you! You're a mess!" Solomon reached out and gave a pat to the woman's arm, asking, "You okay?" Thankful for the man's gentler attitude, Casi ducked down in his seat as they raced off. Pulling the coin free, and throwing it up onto the dashboard from the back seat, Casi breathed out, "There, the coin! Happy? And yes, I'm fine. Thank you Solomon." Lowering his tone, Casi hissed, "At least someone can take a moment out of their busy schedule to ask!" Sighing, once more Casi took a deep breath, trying to calm down his racing pulse. Once he began to pay attention he heard the end of Alesia's ranting, "..Awesome. Okay! I'll make sure that this coin get's shipped back to the NO in the morning, great job team!"



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                                indentThe scent of stale pages and time had long settled into the aisles of The Hole in the Wall. The small bookstore was tucked away within New York City, and always a must-see when Roane was spending time, for business or pleasure, in the towering metropolis. Wandering between two overladen bookshelves, fingers trailed along weathered book spines, some completely unable to be read while others still held a dim gleam of the faux-golden letters that told what was within. Tucked under one arm, Roane carried three books, one of them a dated picture book from the sixties, the second entitled Fairy Tales, Now First Collected, and the last one leather bound and blank. Stopping and climbing atop of a step stool, the dark skinned male chewed at his lower lip, reaching with his free hand to try and pry a fourth and final piece from the shelves. As the male balanced precariously a sudden burst of noise and vibration startled him, causing the man to fall into a heap on the ground. As he pulled his phone from his pocket, the alarm still sounding and the screen flashing '4:30 - Pub', Roane mostly ignored the few books that had fallen and landed on either side of him. Chuckling as he did note that the one he had been reaching for had fallen just in arms reach, the male tidied up and moved to the check out.

                                indentNewly purchased books now hanging in a bag on his forearm, Roane reached up to tie his hair back as to not let the wind continue to stir it into a flurry. The bar that he was heading towards was only a few blocks away, which would quickly come into view. Pushing into the Brawling O'Brian Pub - which was far more modern than the name suggested - Roane noticed that only staff seemed to have arrived yet. No one seemed to care that he had come in minutes before the establishment actually opened, but then he was a regular when in the city. Navigating behind the bar, back through a set of double doors, and down to a lone office that had seen better days Roane gave three hard knocks on the door. "Aye? Git away! We're closed, an' I'm not seeing anyone today!" Grinning, the olive skinned man teased back, "Oh, I'unno about that O'Brian. I think you'll wanna see me. Unless you'd prefer I go an' tell your crew that they can all go home?" A sudden rustle of paperwork, what sounded like something metal, and a pair of loafers quickly tap-tap-tapping along the floor was apparent, followed by the door swiftly singing open. "You gotta be shittin' me. I ain't done anythin' a'wrong. So you can march yerself back out to the public section o' da' bar." The man that now stood in front of-- well below Roane was 4'8" of fight and malice. The man had unruly red curls, a goatee to match, and was sporting half of a dark brown business suit. The jacket was missing, but that was how Roane often saw O'Brian - half a mess, half high class. "Again, I'unno about that. We've gotten far too many reports abou' this place.. again. I think we need ta' have a lil' talk."

                                indentThe pair began to head from the back and into the pub proper once more, heated remarks coming from the smaller man and snarky retorts coming from Roane. "I know what yer doin'.. yer tryin' to get me riled up! But it won' work! WON'T WORK I'LL TELL YOU!!" Roane merely grinned for a moment, continuing to provoke, "Clearly, I'm sorry to say it. But you're right, I obviously canna' get under your skin. Not one little, itty, bitty, bit." Two of the nearby bartenders were trying to listen in, bemused looked on their face as they spied, using 'wiping down the counter top' as an excuse. Catching Roane's look to the pair, O'Brain hissed out to them, "Git outta here now! I ma' not be able to get ridda' this bloke, but you two are on my pay role! Scram!" As the pair rushed out, O'Brian looked up to Roane, contempt in his eyes. "So, what has th' NO gone an' accused me of now, hm? Lemme guess, I'm a'dealin' with banshees? Oh, betta' yet! I gotta be smuggling in black listed good from back home? Am I close?" Rolling his eyes, making sure that the action was noticed by the leprechaun, Roane corrected, "Not really, no. But.." Pulling a file from the bag that held his books, Roane passed it to the pub owner, reciting, "We've received reports and ample proof that you're servin' up hexed food an' drinks, compelling patrons to consume more and gamble away their money.. as well as hosting illegal fighting and gambling circles.. none of which you are paying out with legitimate currency." Clearing his throat, and noting that O'Brian's complexion had paled considerable (though that hint of contempt was still in his eyes), Roane questioned, "Startin' to sound familiar, yeah?" Moving to sit himself upon one of the bar stools, O'Brian muttered out, "I knew this city was nothin' but trouble. Trouble an' narks." Positioning himself on the stool next to O'Brian, the young Irishman tried to console, "..'ey now, look back at HQ we had a long discussion over this. I've known you off an' on since I got workin' with the NO.. I know that you don't break the rules.. well not constantly. You jus' bend 'em far more than you should." Two green eyes darted to glare at Roane, the minimum statured male admitting, "So, 'ow quickly do we need to shut down? I mean, we open in," O'Brian glanced down to his watch, "..fifteen minutes or so. So shuttin' the doors tonight or?" Reaching out to clap a hand on the bar owners shoulder, Roane grinned and almost cheered out, "Oh! No, no, no! That's why you 'ave me, old man! I'm here to save the day." Closing his eyes, the red head began to rub at his temples, whispering, "Jus' what I needed..."

                                indentThe rest of the evening was spent with Roane sitting in the corner of the pub, legs crossed as he paged through his new purchases and sipping at various drinks from the bar while a nervous leprechaun paced from his office to a small step ladder that pulled him high enough to see through the windows on the double doors. Each time Roane caught that tuft of red curls, he'd give a wave before snickering and continuing to read. The night was loud, music playing from various genre's, Roane making the occasional note in his new leather bound notebook - though his notes were a jumble of things he was learning in his books and regulations that needed to be corrected. As three in the morning rolled around he music and crowds began to die down, Roane tossed back his last drink with a breathy sound, and clean up began. Rising from the corner table that the NO agent had been perched at, Roane wagged the notebook towards the double doors, calling out, "Noon.. no, two tomorrow. Today. At two o'clock later today I'll be back, and we need to sit down an' have a little talk." Bidding the group farewell Roane ducked out of the pub and made his way back to his hotel room.

                                indentClad is a rather relaxed, and unbusiness-like outfit, Roane made his return to the pub, dark glasses shielding his eyes from the sunlight. Rubbing at his temple with one hand, the male relished the darkness of the pub and it's darkly tinted windows. Flopping down in the same spot as the night prior, Roane began to lay out pages, and some ripped snippets, from his notebook. Organizing them in a pattern only he would be able to see, the Irishman shouted loud enough to be heard from the backroom, "O'Brian! Get your rule breakin' rump out here!" A series of muffled curses echoed from the back, but soon the doors swung open and closed, and the short man came out from behind the bar. Climbing into the seat across from Roane, he noted in a groggy tone, "You're gonna cost me. You know that, yeah?" Shrugging, and quipping out, "Either I cost you a little, or I have it all taken away. We've got two weeks to get this place workin' legit. Let's make haste." The next hour and a half was spent with Roane making suggestions and pointing out changes that had to be made, while O'Brian popped three aspirin into his mouth followed by something that smelled of strong liquor.

                                indentRoane once more left, returning to his hotel, knowing that O'Brian would be on the guard at least for that evening. Two evenings later, however, after no contact.. it was well overdue that Roane made a visit. Still lingering about his hotel room, the Irishman looked to the clock above the television set. Green numbers blinked 9:00, 9:00, 9:01.. Sighing, and reclining back upon the bed, the NO agent's eyes closed slowly, taking in long, careful breaths. Laying there quietly, Roane began to doze off, letting the heaviness of sleep consume him. But right as he would give himself over entirely the male pushed himself up and forward. His body tingled as it felt as though he were suddenly weightless, and when his eyes opened he was standing in the dim room. Turning to check on his physical form, Roane's astral form faded in an instant, and suddenly he was standing amidst the crowd of the pub. It was always strange to be able to stand there, no one noticing his presence, meanwhile the gentle hum of the television set still buzzing about in the back of his mind. But it was this way that Roane could observe easiest. pacing about the room, everything seemed to come in and out of focus, as if his eyes just couldn't adjust in the darkness. But he knew where to find O'Brian. In a matter of mere seconds the long haired male was sitting within the leprechaun's office, relaxing in the corner of the room in a chair, Roane listened in to O'Brian as he whispered a conversation softly into his land line. "..I already told you..! No. No.. they know. So we can't do it here anymore. Wha' did I jus' say? You American's.. I swear." The leprechaun shook his head slowly, blotting his brow with a handkerchief, "So. From now on we switch to your place. Yes. Okay, see you Friday." Arching a brow, Roane merely gave a negative shake of the head before vanishing entirely.

                                indentThe trip back to his body always made Roane's stomach upset. It was as if all of his actions were in rewind. He felt himself being drawn about the same path like water swirling down a drain until, bam, his eyes truly opened and he found himself taking a shuddering breath. The male's pulse had doubled since he last remembered, as if trying to catch all of the beats it had missed while his body was unoccupied. Sitting up and steadying himself by placing a hand on the night table, Roane muttered, "They aren't gonna be happy abou' this.. Leprechauns and their tricks.." Contact between Roane and O'Brian during the next couple of days was sparse. The olive-skinned man feigned ignorance about what he had overheard, and thanked O'Brian for his cooperation so far, but each day Friday loomed nearer and nearer.

                                Waking up Friday morning Roane went out and purchased clothing that he wouldn't usually wear. Black jeans, a black shirt with some logo on it that he didn't recognize - most likely some band - a dark maroon sports coat, and a black hat with a matching maroon band that ran along it's middle. After much struggling, all of his dark hair was tucked up into the hat, and he was on his way to the pub. Lingering across the street near the entrance of another establishment - this one more of a club than a pub - Roane lay in wait. The Brawling O'Brian's doorway opened, and instead of a drunk stumbling home O'Brian himself toddled out, Roane moved after. Keeping a fair distance away, close enough to hear that the red head was prattling away on his cell phone but far enough to not understand what was being said, O'Brian unknowingly lead him to a second bar. This one was larger, older, and it looked beaten down. The sign no longer lit up, and there was no parking lot to speak of, but still a crowd had gathered. Those there seemed crude, and were already clearly inebriated as they shouted profanity freely. It even appeared that a trio had broken out into a fight in the alley way nearby. Following the sounds of the scuffle, three men were indeed fighting - however they were encircled by a crowd of spectators who cheered them on in their own intoxicated slurring ways.

                                indentPulling his jacket around him tighter, skin crawling, Roane continued to investigate the gathering, 'Assumin' that this is the fight ring we were warned about..' Crossing his arms atop his chest a sudden cheer from the crowd caused the dark skinned man to jump in place. As a coppery scent wafted into the air, his nose would wrinkle knowing it was blood. Stepping a few paces back, trying to put some distance between him and the fight, a broken phrase commanded Roane's attention. "..the ******** is going on?! You told me that your place would work! You said you'd keep doin'.. whatever it is you do and we'd keep rollin' in the money? What did you do!" "I didn' do 'nything! Let's just say we've.. attracted the wrong kind o' attention." Near where Roane stood there was a fire escape, and two landings up two men were speaking far too loudly. Noting O'Brian and someone that Roane didn't recognize, the Irishman narrowed his eyes and continued to try and eavesdrop over everyone else's noise. "Well, you know what, that's fine. You want to turn your back on us, turn your little tricks else where.. I know what to do with you." At that stranger hoisted O'Brian, who was now kicking and swinging his little fists, through an emergency escape door and into the old club itself.

                                indentPulling on the fire escape, testing it's strength, Roane pulled himself up onto the stairway and slowly maneuvered to the same door that the pair had disappeared into. Glancing down, and gulping as he watched the fighters and the blood thirsty crowd below taking their rage out on each other, Roane gently prodded at the door. The steel escape door swung slightly with a creak, but inside there was mostly darkness and silence. "What ar.. why.. how..?" O'Brian's words echoed in the large empty space, but they were clearly slurred. Though it wasn't alcohol that debilitated the man but blood that had begun to pool from a split lip. The man had both hands tied to what used to be a bar stool, which was soldered to the ground, and as Roane's eyes began to focus in the darkness a boot print covered the leprechaun's chin, lip, and cheek. "Your greed.. it'll be the undoin' of you. Do you understand that now..?" The sound of a chair being kicked across an adjoining room made Roane's heart skip a beat, but shouting from that room - what seemed to be a phone call - reassured the NO agent that he had a bit more time. Kneeling and quickly loosening the ties, both men fled to the open escape door.

                                indentBack at the Brawling O'Brian the scene had drastically changed from it's usual hustle and bustle. Instead of patrons and dancers there stood Roane, O'Brian, and a handful of New York's finest. Roane kept his distance, arms crossed tightly as they got statements from O'Brian. As the two had made their way back to the pub Roane lectured like no other. The taller of the two had made one demand, "No more games, O'Brian. You're gonna get yourself hurt. Well.. more hurt. The NO can't step in and keep.. whomever that was away from you. You've made your bed, now lay in it. But you can fix this yourself.. stop all of this nonsense before we have to shut you down and send you back home.. and help the police get rid of that menace." At first, ever reluctant, O'Brian had argued, but in the end his swelling face, and a few pokes and prods from Roane, were enough to convince him it wasn't worth it.

                                indentRoane's check-in's continued for a few days, and eventually the male was satisfied enough to call the case closed. Laying in bed once more, Roane had his leather bound notebook and a pen, choosing to avoid the laptop that had been given to him by the NO months ago, and began to write up a summary of the past events. Sealing them away in an envelope, and scrawling his information atop it, the male tucked it away into his belongings before preparing to deliver his report himself.
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                              Terry

                              It was a pretty simple choice to Terry, when Rajesh gave them their options for a vacation or for a smaller mission. More missions equaled more paycheck, in his mind, and a few people could attest to Terry's greed. He was also a closet workaholic, and feeling good about the last mission when all was said and done. Rajesh had praised him, even though he told himself it didn't matter, a small part of him beamed nonetheless. He'd also saved Casimiro, which was the big accomplishment. Even if Ladli had negotiated the deal like she did, Terry wasn't sure the aitu had cared enough about Casi's well-being to give a s**t if he died from shock or something. To top it all off, Terry had managed to get – well, half the team – safely outside of the police zone. Though, it turned out to be unnecessary, since Rajesh had shown up in the nick of time and saved Ladli, Benji and Mikhail from incarceration. Terry was sure to take Ladli aside for a moment after things had quieted down, and told her that he admired her guts in the situation.

                              He was assigned to work with Mikhail, something that Terry didn't mind that much. Mikhail, thus far, had been relatively low-maintenance and kept to himself. Terry still didn't have a great feel for what the guy was like, other than his … interesting fashion choices. Honestly, the foreigner's accent was difficult to understand, so half the time Terry never listened to him anyway. Now though he would have to pay more attention to the model and get to know him just a little better. They were teammates after all, and they would be relying on each other a lot for this mission. So when Terry met Mikhail in New York to catch their flight to London, he used the down time between flights to download and print a series of maps of London, as well as catch up all on the files the NO loved to give them in crisp, little manilla folders.

                              Mikhail

                              Mikhail was no longer sure about why he had opted for a mini-mission instead of going home to rest for a bit. It made him a bit nervous doing a mission with only two people. There was no real way for him to hide that he did not really contribute and that he still wasn’t sure about his powers. What good where they if he weren’t able to use them? Still, maybe this could be used as practice, and he could avoid bumping into any people at home who might ask questions. He still felt as if there were too much responsibility on him though. Thankfully, it seemed like Terry had everything under control. They had met up in New York and Mikhail had showed up very much unprepared while Terry had maps and papers and plans for everything. It relieved Mikhail and made him feel bad at this new job they had. So he told himself that he was just so good that he could rely on improvisation and didn’t need all that planning that Terry obviously needed.

                              Terry

                              With all the planning that Terry obviously needed, he read the file and explained their mission to Mikhail. They needed to arrive in London and make two individuals meet, one of whom was a nephilim. They had access to funds, clothing, fake I.D.s, expenses for travel and food, and other kinds of support. Terry read out loud the information the NO had on nephilim, which talked about their angelic heritage and their natural attunement for the world around them. It was titled, “Respect the Difference! Nephilim in the World Today.” As he leaned on the table and finalized the plan with Mikhail, Terry suddenly removed his hand from the map it had rested on to see a big hand-shaped spot of pure white. The ink had absorbed into his skin, leaving that spot on the map bare. “We'll need another map,” Terry said sheepishly.

                              Mikhail

                              Flying to London took an awful lot of time. Mikhail had begun to realize that he disliked flying. It might be relaxing but at one point it was just boring. The air was bad and all those other people being disgusting close to him. Business class or not, flying wasn’t good for you. You didn’t look super fresh after such a long flight either, and that was probably worse than the bad air and spreading illnesses. So it was a very exhausted Mikhail that got into the shower as soon as he came to the hotel in London.

                              Terry

                              Terry's job, once they arrived in London, was to get a bookstore vacated in order for the two people to rendezvous. From what he could gather, and the information was vague, Terry knew that the girl who worked in the bookstore had some kind of connection to the NO. She was an asset of some kind, he was pretty sure, and if he had to hazard a guess he would say that she was going to try and recruit the nephilim in some way for the NO. Unfortunately, she also needed the space inside the bookstore where her uncle (her legal guardian) lived. It was up to Terry to get that uncle out of the way long enough for the nephilim to arrive and for the girl to do her thing. Before they split up, Terry ordered two rent-a-cars; one for the each of him. He made sure that Mikhail could drive, then handed him one of the car keys and sent him on his way.

                              Mikhail

                              Mikhail was in charge of finding that Nephilim person and get him to the book store where the girl worked. At first this seemed easy enough to Mikhail, how difficult could it be to get one person to where you wanted? Without a good plan it was a bit difficult he realized. It was hard enough for him to actually get to the shop where this Nephilim person worked. Partly because the rental car he had did not work well (or Mikhail was bad a driving) and everyone kept driving on the wrong side of the road. Stupid Englishmen. It made Mikhail wish he had said ‘No, not legally.’ when Terry had asked if he could drive. Being driven somewhere was much better, much more classier. When he already was sitting in the car trying to not get caught by the police and finding his way it was a bit too late for regretting that though.

                              Terry

                              Of course, Terry had a plan. He had gotten the idea from Rajesh in Hawaii, and with NO resources his scheme was not difficult to prepare for. The biggest obstacle was the disorienting driving in London, but one crazy ride across town later, dressed in the nice but cheap suit he had bought, Terry was in the bookstore. The place smelled of old things: old furniture, old books, and old people. The ancient shelves looked very comfortably settled in their permanent resting places, each crammed with an assortment of books of varying sizes and thicknesses. The building had been constructed long ago, in what was now an older part of the city. The only modern conveniences that stuck out in this portal to the past was the white plastic fan sitting in the corner and a decent-looking but certainly outdated computer on the desk. There seemed to be nobody around, so Terry walked further in. “Hello—?” he started to call out, but the nearest stack of books shushed him. Terry glanced around, confused, until a petite girl stood up from her mountain of books – or maybe it was her fortress of books – and greeted him.

                              “Sorry,” she said quietly, “my uncle upstairs is taking his nap. What can I do for you?” Terry took her appearance in. She was on the smaller side, with short, brown hair that bounced as she moved. Behind her clunky glasses were bright, perceptive eyes, crystal blue and full of intelligence. Her clothes looked like the formal wear they used fifty years ago – or more. Terry nodded and replied, “Hello – Abigail? I'm Mr. Merret.” Abigail's eyes widened slightly in recognition. “Oh! So you're—?” “Here to see your uncle, ma'am. I need him to come with me for the afternoon.” The relief in the girl's eyes was tangible. “Thank you,” she told him, “thank you for coming. I'm so excited to meet him!” Terry nodded. “Just get your uncle. I'll keep him busy for a few hours.” Abigail turned and made a dash towards the staircase, only to catch herself and walk slowly. Terry flipped through a few books as he waiting, but a loud yell from upstairs startled him. The conversation above was clearly audible, turning quickly into a one-sided argument. Terry grimaced and waited for her or her uncle to appear. The man finally did, looking irritable and sleepy. He was an older gentleman, lanky and balding, dressed in some nice but wrinkled clothing that he had obviously scooped up off a floor. “Yes? What do you want?” He asked in a rather peeved tone. “Hello, sir. My name is Mr. Merret, and I'm with the press.” “The press? I don't want to talk to you. Go away,” the man snapped. Terry just shrugged. “If that's how you feel, I'll just publish the article without your input.” This seemed to stop the man in his tracks. “Article?” Terry smiled. “Yes, my article. You see, I have some sources that indicate that your bookstore has engaged in some fraudulent activity. Namely, that some of your literature here is unlawfully gained. I'd love to talk to you about it over a late brunch.”

                              “What!?” Abigail's uncle was visibly horrified. “Who told you that? Was it Margaret? That old b***h is lying. She has it out for me.” Terry shook his head, trying to maintain a neutral expression. “Sorry, sir, but I'm not going to reveal who said it. I'd like your side of the story before I publish a potentially damaging article, though.” “I'm sorry, I-I'm not … prepared for this.” Abigail's uncle regained his composure and his hostile tone. “Don't publish that thing. I'll talk to you … tomorrow. I need some time to talk to some people.” That wasn't going to work. “The article publishes tomorrow. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but to make it up to you I'd like to treat you to a meal. Wherever you like, my treat. Do you feel like lobster, sir?” Terry didn't actually have any proof of any wrongdoing, but he knew how to beat around the bush, how to bullshit, and how to procrastinate. Part of his job as a paper pusher in the police department had been to learn how to say a lot without really saying anything at all, especially when dealing with the press. When Terry finally got Abigail's uncle out of the bookstore, he managed to get 'lost' in the confusing streets of London, taking a wrong turn and scaring the man half to death with his horrible driving. When they finally arrived at the high-class restaurant, they ate a lavish meal of expensive seafood, and Terry covered the whole bill. Finally, when conversation eventually got around to the big article he was writing, Terry gave as little information as possible away while he drew Abigail's uncle into talking about the bookstore. The uncle seemed convinced that Terry's source was Margaret, a woman who apparently hated him. After a few hours had passed, Terry pretended that the uncle's words had suddenly convinced him that there was no fraudulent, illegal activity after all. He agreed not to publish the article, but as they left the restaurant to head back, Terry's car had mysterious car trouble. Eventually the frustrated man hailed a taxi and left, and Terry sent Mikhail a heads-up text at that time. He was confident that the nephilim and the girl would have had plenty of time together by now, and he was sure that he had already left the bookstore, but in the possible case that he hadn't, Mikhail would know to get him out of there.

                              Mikhail

                              When Mikhail finally found the shop, a more luxurious clothes boutique, he was frustrated and annoyed and had to sit a few moments in the car to calm himself down slightly. Then he thanked himself for getting into modelling so he had learned to act and fake a bit better than most people. As he got out of the car he put on a most desperate looking face and flipped his hair as he confidently stalked into the shop. He took a moment to look around until he spotted the tall and tan man he was looking for and went straight up to him. “Excuse me? Are you David Wood? You must be!” Mikhail spoke with a rushed voice and dramatic intonation. The other man looked slightly confused as he looked up from the pile of clothing he was rearranging. “Yes I am. Can I help you with something?”

                              Mikhail had memorized this young mans folder nearly completely and quickly found the info he needed from his memory. “Yes, you see, I am a friend of your sister, Sarah. She, euh, asked me to come get you. Sounded important,” the nephilim looked dubious about what Mikhail said. “What else did she say then? Why couldn’t she just come get me herself? Besides, I do not think she‘s spoken of anyone like you…” Mikhail let his eyes widened and went for looking like he was really, really stupid. “I am Jean of course! Haven‘t she mentioned me?” “No.” “Oh well, ” Mikhail shrugged slightly before continuing. “I work with her now at ze new office. She asked me to get you because…” Mikhail let out a dramatic sigh and waved a frustrated wave with his hands and shook some blonde hair away from his face. “I can‘t really say. She said it is a big surprise. I just needed to get you.”

                              The word surprise seemed to work magic on the nephilim and inwardly the Russian smiled a content smile as he saw the light bulb go on in the other man’s head. This sister (half-sister technically) of his apparently was a bit of a wild child who enjoyed surprises and pranks and the day after tomorrow was his birthday. So her wanting to surprise him close to that date wasn’t something out of the ordinary. ”She said you have lunch now soon. Pleas say you trust me and come with me?” Slowly the nephilim nodded as he looked from Mikhail’s top to toes. Probably to asses the kind of danger he could be and considering Mikhail’s skinny stature he figured he wasn’t that dangerous. “Fine. Let me get my things.” “Oh, zank you so much!” Mikhail put on a most stupid and giddy smile to really show the nephilim that he wasn’t smart enough to do something evil.

                              The ride to the bookshop went faster and smoother since the nephilim still was a bit cautious and insisted on being behind the wheel. When they arrived Mikhail said he would just go and pay the parking ticket and be right in after him. That, of course, wasn’t true and Mikhail couldn’t help but to grin as he watched the man disappear into the bookshop. Then he went and sat down at a nearby bench from which he had a good view of the bookshop across the street. There he were to wait and see if the nephilim suddenly came running out or something. He would also have to wait until Terry contacted him about that uncle being on his way back. So Mikhail sat and waited and waited…. And waited.

                              When his phone, finally, buzzed it startled Mikhail so that he jumped high in his seat. Looking at his brand new iPhone he saw a text from Terry saying that the uncle were heading back to the bookstore. Immediately Mikhail rose and hurried across the street to let them know that time was up. On the ride back to the nephilim’s store Mikhail learned that the meeting had went well and he made sure to take notes of everything he were told. These notes he then took to Terry who, being the more organized of the two, composed most parts of the report and got all that done. Mikhail spent that extra time he got manicuring his nails to perfection which he thought was a much better way to spend that time. Writing reports weren’t fun. Having to wait an extra day so that the NO could be positively sure they were done was a bit more fun. Mikhail got to do a few more touristy things (while doing his best not to look like a tourist of course) so when they finally were heading back to New York he actually felt quite content about the mission.
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                            It was the same as before. Benji had a night to settle into New York, talked to his son on Skype for a little bit, and the next day walked into the nondescript NO building and was handed a manila folder by the ever-cheerful receptionist. "Head to Floor Five! Rajesh is waiting for you all." Maybe he was getting in the swing of things. He opened the folder and the first thing he saw was cold. They were going someplace cold. Not even cold. From the looks of it they were going to need some serious gear and his eyes fell onto the location. Russia. Not just Russia but Siberia. Oh no, oh no oh no no no. The Argentine summer was always wonderful, and now he was going straight into the Northern hemisphere for a Russian winter? He tried to hide his misery as he walked to the board room where Rajesh was waiting. He grabbed a seat next to Ladli and waited as everyone settled in. Rajesh had a never-failing smile that made it hard for Benji to continue his attempt at a glower.

                            "First order of business we have is a new member for your crew - please welcome Raone o Nuallain. He's from Ireland and we'll be very helpful with the mission you have ahead." "How come he didn't have to go through the death house?" Benji blurted out. Rajesh seemed to ignore his request. "As you may or may not know, the Nocturne Organization has a strong partnership with the Fairies. Their headquarters are actually located right next door and there are rules and regulations on them, as there is in all things we do. Because of an epidemic in Denmark and Scandinavia during the 15th and 16th century, there are very heavy sanctions on the Fairies against changelings. That's when human children are replaced at birth and it can be by a variety of things. Either by a magical plant or by fairie children, and this can be either a good or a bad thing. There is no one right way. All the lore is fairly accurate. But there is a town with a lengthy cryllic alphabet name I can't pronounce that seems to be exhibiting similar signs to the outbreak we had earlier.

                            There are a disproportinate amount of deaths of infants, around the age of 2 or 3, as well as unusual displays of athleticism and intelligence for children from such a backwater town. Not tos ay that people in rural areas are not smart, but the rate is enough to cause alarm. We take these sanctions very seriously and we need you to try and see if they're being violated so the N.O. can take appropriate steps."
                            It sounded very serious. Benji couldn't imagine at birth, someone taking Tomas from his crib and giving him... a weird child that wasn't his. "We'll give you good cold weather gear for the trip as well as a translator. You fly out from New York to Moscow, from Moscow to Tyumen, and from there, a local will be picking you up and driving you the next 65 miles to the town. While they have a few amenities, it is not much. I advise that you tread carefully in your investigation. Good luck." They would be leaving at night. It was going to be a long flight. At least around 22 hours to get there. Maybe he would go to the stores and buy some Mad Libs.

                            - - -


                            It was long. It was very long but they arrived at the airport where a worn-down man holding a sign that said 'N.O' waved them over. A child next to him, with similar features, patiently waited. "This is my father, we take you," the child said, going around and solemnly shaking hands. "The other man, translator. He rent a car and it not work on the way here, so he is not here. We drive you to our home." Could this child be a changeling? Benji stared at the kid. He looked enough like his father. And they didn't have much of a choice except to get into the man's car. Although car was a bit of an overstatement. It was a truck, and it ran, although barely. The shocks were worn down enough that Benji could feel most of the pot holes in the poorly-maintained road. And they drove for ages. For ever. The child was able to relay any questions or comments between the drivers and the Nocturne workers, although Mikhail was also Russian and therefore helpful. But it was so cold, even with his jacket on. Occasionally he was sure that he could see his breath. But they arrived, still.

                            They were shown to a small empty house. It was sparsely decorated, had a loud generator to keep the heat, and a variety of thick quilts and blankets that smelled a bit of whatever family lived there before. "There's five rooms so some people two to a room. We have here, butcher, market with fruits to eat, machine-fixer, and whatever." It was going to be interesting. From the small house, they could nearly see the other side of the small town. There were only a few big buildings, one that looked a bit like a store and the other a bit like a school. Any other small shops were unclear. The locals hurried along, only slowing to look at the strange group of foreigners. I guess we look kind of funny. Although Benji never spoke a word of Russian in all his life, there were times when he could simply zone out and simply just... understand a few words. Even a sentence. Was he getting better at this weird ability that Josephine said he had? Maybe. But cold and tired, Benji went back inside. This town was stuck in 1920, it wasn't going anywhere soon.
zfatal's avatar

Toothsome Fairy

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                              Terry didn't hate his job, but it was miserable work at times. Their trip to Bellasco had been interesting, creepy, and terrible in the end. Hawaii had been warm, nice, but everything went to s**t very fast. London had been quiet, easy, but the mission had been way too simple and actually sort of felt demeaning, like a waste of his time. Sure, that was a little bit of ego talking, but Terry also got paid a heck of a lot now. He didn't know what to do with that kind of a salary, so he just had everything deposited in his private account and left it at that for now. He was a workaholic, so the idea of doing cheap work for high pay didn't sit quite well with him. But then again, who was he to complain? If they were willing to pay him … why not? Sometimes, he sure loved his job.

                              This time, though, it seemed that he would thoroughly earn his paycheck. Traveling to Russia was not a thrilling idea, especially not when the photographs in the file made it look like a frozen death trap. Not some winter wonderland. Reading through the files they were given, Terry's frown grew with each turn of the page. These were some serious problems they could be dealing with. Changelings, child kidnapping, and replacing them with superhuman … things. An unwelcome sensation passed through Terry as he felt his chest go numb and his mouth dry out. He tried to swallow, had to cough into his sleeve for a moment. It took him back to the few cases he had worked on, back in Chicago. He'd seen his fair share of kidnappings, of missing persons cases, even if he mostly worked on the sidelines for that type of thing. They always drove a spike into the pit of your stomach, grim business that almost never ended well. The worst, though, were the cases that didn't end. Cold cases. No family should ever have to endure that.

                              With a grim expression, Terry nodded his agreement to Rajesh. “If it's happening again, we'll get to the bottom of it.” He glanced down at the photograph he'd left the file turned open to. Three happy children smiled at the camera, all of them cute as buttons. According to the file, only one was a changeling. But you couldn't tell which one. Rajesh was talking about an epidemic now, some kind of outbreak of changelings. “How often have these 'outbreaks' happened?” Terry asked. “How many kidnapped children could we potentially be looking at here?” Rajesh's answer made his skin go cold. “You might only have a couple new changelings every year, per country. But if things have gotten bad there could be a dozen, maybe two, maybe more, in this town alone.” Furthermore, the location in Siberia was not only cold, but backwater as well. This equated to Terry, a lack of possibly water and electricity. He'd be bringing high-powered flashlights and plenty of batteries, and other basic survival necessities. He doubted things would get that drastic, but it was Siberia. He did not want to freeze to death somewhere. Glancing at the rest of his team, Terry decided he should bring triple the amount of necessities. Maybe quadruple. Or maybe he'd just make sure to talk to everyone about bringing along their own essentials. It would be a damn shame to lose any of their team to the biting cold of the tundra.

                              It was after business was settled that Terry paid any attention to this … Roane character. He supposed that it was inevitable, replacing Sasha and Tudor from their respective … departures. The guy seemed friendly enough, honestly, but Terry felt weird about having him along. Terry felt almost … protective, of his team. They weren't the most cohesive thing but they somehow managed to work out all right, and that was important. He didn't know if this Raone guy would try to come and (Commandeer? Usurp?) take over. Or maybe he was an N.O. supervisor, come to keep an eye on them after their ******** up in Hawaii. If it was, after all, a ******** up. They didn't get much performance feedback, so maybe Terry would need to ask about that later. He cared about doing his job well, after all. When the meeting had drawn to a close, Terry stood up and offered a smile and a handshake. “Hey, Roane! Nice to meet you, uh, welcome to the team. Name's Terry. What do you bring to the table?” Assuming they weren't dumping Roane off on their team because they had nowhere else to put him, he had to have a skill set that Rajesh figured would be useful to them. That meant it was in Terry's main interest to find out what that skill set was.

                              You would have thought that they would be used to the plane flights around the world by now, but some still had trouble with it. Terry preferred reading a good book, rather than playing any of the games Benji brought on board. Not surprisingly, there weren't that many people flying to Moscow, so their plane was a bit smaller than they were used to. Terry remembered his first plane out of Australia, how horrible an experience that had been. He had nearly gone mental from all of his anxiety, fearing that the plane would crash. That had lasted until the entire trip was over, but obviously there had been no crashing then, and there was no crashing now. He purposely avoided sitting next to Dha, though; she had claustrophobia or anxiety or something and she always had to squeeze somebody's hand when they flew. It wasn't going to be his. Terry remembered slipping out of unconsciousness during the final hour, looking out the window of the plan, and noticing how remarkably not white the place was. For a place that averaged below freezing temperatures, apparently there wasn't much moisture. But then again, Tyumen was somewhat near the Trans-Siberian Railway. According to Google, the reason there was little snow was the fact that there was little precipitation in the region, at least during the winter months. Shrugging his coat against the cold and pulling up his hood, Terry still realized just how miserable he was going to be.

                              Instead of an official N.O. translator, waiting for them was local man and his young son – who was apparently their new translator. Any child could be a changeling. If this kiddo is one of them, he has us at his mercy. Unless Mikhail spoke the same kind of Russian that the child did. Terry didn't know if there were different dialects of Russian. He'd have to ask Mikhail about that. The soil under their feet was hard, and cold. Terry imagined everyone walking around in big, fur coats and sleeping in beds of fur. How else did they survive without electricity and running water? He wondered if they had toilets. Toilet paper? How backwater was this place...? He snapped out of his reverie when they came into sight of the van. The thing was barely holding together. Before they left, Terry made sure to talk to Ladli and Mikhail specifically. “Look,” he said, “with our translator out of commission, I don't know if we can trust this kiddo. Mikhail, do you speak their language? You shouldn't let them hear you speaking it. If they don't know you can understand them, we might be able to figure out if we're being lied to. This is important, can you do it?” He turned to Ladli. “I know we can count on you to talk to these people and not leave a bad impression or anything.” ... Like I would, he didn't say. “I know you're both very capable, and these kids, if the real ones have been kidnapped … by fairies … they're counting on us. We have to work together. Go team?”

                              During the drive through pretty, but freaking freezing Siberia, they got to know the cold much better than they got to know the local father and son driving them. Terry found himself passing out chemical hand warmers, wondering if he had packed nearly enough. He couldn't help but huddle next to someone, trying to keep warm. He kept mostly quiet during the car ride, unsure of what to ask the child translator that unnerved him a bit. He was sure, though, that someone else would probably ask the questions more tactfully anyway. He just focused on observing – the child, the child's father, and Roane too. He tried to be inconspicuous about watching each of them, pretending that he was too cold to care about the conversation at hand. They had some kind of cover as government workers, and Terry got the sense that the kind of people they were dealing with didn't care what kind of workers they were. He wondered if they couldn't do just about anything they wanted in the name of the government. These people might be too ignorant and uncaring to do anything but accept what they were told. It was certainly something to keep in mind, if Terry ever needed to do something urgent and not explain himself. But he also had to realize that these people would be watching them, too.

                              When they arrived, he realized just how much a spectacle his team was. They would need to be very careful with their abilities, if they could manage. There was no telling how these simple, superstitious folk would react if they realized. The home that their local guides took them to had five rooms available, for seven people. As far as sharing room went, Terry really didn't care. He was pretty comfortable with his team now, with the exception of Roane who was understandable, because he was new. Terry threw his considerable luggage into a room and announced to any of the guys that someone could bunk with him if they wanted to. The place had power for heat, at least, though the generator was loud and that would be annoying. But less annoying than the cold. Once he was settled in his room, Terry found the biggest quilt he could find and cocooned himself with it. After that was done he continued to organize his things so that all of the survival-oriented supplies – batteries, first aid, dry foods, chemical hand warmers, etc. – were easily located. He also packed plenty of paper and a laptop, but those things he left alone for now. As soon as he got a chance, he would return to write down some notes about both the child translator, and the father thereof. These notes he would keep in a locked briefcase when he wasn't using them. (No sense in leaving important things to be searched while he wasn't there.) However, the next order of business was to find his teammates, maybe in whatever living room they could gather in, see how they'd settled in, and drown them all with instant hot cocoa.
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                                indentAfter cleaning up the debacle in downtown New York, Roane had been given a brief vacation. Knowing that he would soon be back in this city, as when he had returned his reports and been given leave, they had also informed him that soon after he would be heading out with a group of relatively new 'recruits'. They had handled two cases already, the first having ended miserably, involving a death that had sent the more sympathetic N.O. staff into a brief state of mourning, and the second mission had been almost fatal for one member. But, in the end, their missions had been more or less successful, and rumor had it things were turning out better for them. The team was out handling their own individual cases, so in the meantime Roane managed to secure a hotel room all to himself. The weeks were spent wandering the concrete jungle, eating hotdogs bought from suspicious street vendors and taking in a show here and there. When he wasn't out and about, though, the man lingered the Hole in the Wall bookstore.

                                indentNot even a week later, however, his leave was through and it was time to get back to work. Packing up his things, paying for the last night in the room, and checking out Roane made his way to N.O. Headquarters. Moving past the bland exterior and into the hustle and bustle of the building Roane chimed out greetings here and there to those he was familiar with, "Top of the mornin' to you, Lucille," here and "Yeah, good to see you too! Glad to see you made it back safe, remin' me to ask you abou' Paris?" With a cappuccino in one hand and a light coat flung over his other arm, the long haired male made it to a flight of stairs that would eventually lead to the meeting with Rajesh and his new team. Pushing the door open, a slight breeze following his arrival, the male flashed a smile at those that had arrived before him and took a seat.

                                indentRajesh gave them the details of the meeting quickly enough. The primary concern was a possible outbreak of Changeling children. Pursing his lips and receding into thought as the others seemed to be wrapping their mind's about what a Changeling truly was, Roane had already begun contemplating the grim possibilities that could come from this possible turn of events. “How often have these 'outbreaks' happened?” Hearing the comment snapped Roane from his thoughts, looking to Rajesh before slowly continuing, "They don' happen often. The fey aren't ones to really involve themselves with mortal-kind. I mean.. they're stuff of legend-- well, clearly they're not legends but.." Pausing, Roane seemed to look for the right words, "Faries used to be worshiped, long ago. But tha's when humans were weaker willed. As we grew more intelligent and began to support ourselves the fey secluded themselves - for the most part. And they like it this way. No threats, no humans meddlin' in their affairs. So Changelings are rare.. usually an act of a solitary fey. If there is a large number of switches happening, I doubt it's from either of the rulin' powers of the fey. They adhere fairly well with regulations." Sighing, and looking to Rajesh, the male noted, "Let's hope that it's just one mischievous, rapidly reproducin' fey out there. Wouldn't need another group formin'." Roane was a mix of curiosity, contemplation, and wariness as the meeting came to a close, only taking glances at the pictures they were handed and keeping his attention honed for important information.

                                indentAs the meeting came to a close, Roane tried to catch as much of the group as he could, wanting to make proper introductions. Always eager to shake hands and exchange names, the dark haired male swiped up hand after hand, shaking with one hand while letting his free hand clasp over the handshake, introducing, "Truly a pleasure to meet ya. The name's Roane, but please. Call me Fable. Picked it out m'self. Thought it fit well enough." Chuckling, Roane's interest piqued as Terry came forth, introducing himself and asking, “Hey, Roane! Nice to meet you, uh, welcome to the team. Name's Terry. What do you bring to the table?” Grinning, and wagging a finger at the other man, Roane teased, "All work, eh? Don't become a dull boy, ye hear?" Laughing once more, the male continued, "Well, they fairies are my specialty. I've been known to deal with them better than most, as they can be tricky, fickle buggers. Stubborn as a mule too. But when you need to know something about, or how to deal with, their kind I'm your man. But.. I'm assuming you mean what brought me to the N.O. in the first place?" Arching a brow, he recalled the letter he had gotten long ago, memories of hospital smells and noises invading briefly before he shoved forward, "I'm a body hopper. Well, I guess it's technically called Astral Projecting. Perhaps I'll give you a show sometime, though it can be hard to see exactly what I'm up to most of the time." Out of the corner of his eye Roane noticed one of the other members having taken up a look of curiosity. "Ye'?" The curly hair brunette jumped a bit, surprised briefly, before noting, "You can really just.. get up and leave.. yourself behind?" Pursing his lips in thought, Roane muttered, "Somethin' like that. But like I said, I'm sure we'll get a chance to trade tricks. Just remember, I'll only show you mine if you show me yers."

                                indentThe beginning of the trip went by in a blur of taxi rides, hotel rooms, trips to the airport, flights here and there, and eventually the large group standing huddled together with a pair of natives. The boy was the talkative one, if you could call it that, which didn't bode well considering their warning not to talk to, let alone trust, the children. Wrapped up in his winter coat, the hood drawn over his head so that only bits of his hair, his pale face and red, wind-raw cheeks peeked out of the hole. "I'll be damned, remind me to have a talk with Rajesh about my next assignment. They've gotta have somethin' in Jamaica or somewhere nearer the equator." Once more Roane laughed heartily, the sound somewhat dampened by his chattering teeth and frigid form, but his liveliness still apparent. The ride up to the town.. village, it was more a village than anything.. was pleasant enough. At least they were mostly shielded from the elements and got to see the landscape from safely indoors. A small journal lay in Roane's lap, the man making notes here and there in it as he spotted things along their ride. Names of the plants in the area, things that seemed out of place, any caves or large hills that were embedded in the landscape. To most it would seem like he simply had an affinity for nature, but each item had it's importance. Shocked as the vehicle came to a stop, Roane's body fell forward slightly, catching himself on the seat ahead of him, "Oh! Sorry abou' that! No 'arm done." The village they had come into was tiny, and quaint just didn't seem like the right term. Dated seemed to fit more. Ancient even better. But instead of worrying Roane, the male muttered softly to himself, "I see why they'd pick this place o'er other cities.." Pursing his lips, the male grabbed his belongings and moved into the five bedroom house along with the team. Lingering about while others seemed to be moving towards the bedrooms themselves, Roane's interests were in the trinkets and old furniture in the home. It wasn't until he heard Terry's call for a possible roommate that Roane moved towards that end of the house, "Y'know, why not? Better to get t'know each you all if I didn't hide in a room all alone." Moving into the same bedroom and tossing his bags in one corner, Roane mused, "Thank you for the hospitality, roomie." Grinning, the man watched briefly as Terry began to fiddle with his belongings, seeming to organize this and that. Glancing over to his own items tossed haphazardly on the bed, Roane shrugged, muttering, "I'm gonna take a peak around before we all get settled."

                                indentEasing the front door open again, Roane called back softly, "I'mma take a look aroun' outside, if no one objects.." Pausing, hearing the ruckus of everyone getting settled, Roane gave an affirmative nod before stepping back out into the cold. Pulling his coat around him tighter, and tucking hair behind his ears, the male thought aloud, "If no one has any objections then." Moving down the path towards town, it became clear just how small it was. It would take him less than ten minutes to sprint from one end of the town to the other, if he didn't get sidetracked by this or that, and just the same to get back. Looking about the town already he caught wary glances from various individuals (an old woman in a shawl, two little girls that were playing what appeared to be a mixture of hop scotch and word games, and the young man who shooed them both indoors and away from the stranger. Roane kept a smile on his face, teeth chattering, but keeping his distance. He only wanted to look, not interact.. and it seemed that he would be safe of that. Somewhere down the street an elderly couple shouted something at him in Russian. Roane didn't catch a lick of it, but the couple repeated themselves twice before beginning to walk his direction. Waving at the pair, he called back in English, "No.. no-no! I'm fine! Tha--" Jumping as a hand touched his elbow, Roane twisted to see their little interpreter, who said matter of factly, "You should be with others, yes?" Taking Rajesh's advice, Roane merely nodded before turning and starting back up the path - still trying to force the goosebumps from his arms.

                                indentBack inside Roane found the others gathered, warming up, and relaxing. Cocoa had been passed out, and Roane quickly got himself a cup before beginning to devour the cups contents. "Tha' hits the spot! Far too cold out there to not have a warm mug in hand, eh?" Flopping onto the nearest couch, the moth eaten thing sagging under the new weight, Roane reported, "I don't speak a word o' Russian, unless vodka counts, but they seem fairly normal so far. I mean, I didn't speak w'any of em.. but for the most part they seem like your usual secluded mountain folk. I mean, I don't think I was cursed or anythin' while I was out there. Gotta be a good sign, yeah?" The male began to laugh though another swig of cocoa drowned the sound out.

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                                                  They were going to Russia. To Russia! His own sweet homeland. Sure, he had lived most of his life in France and sure his eight years in Russia had been in poverty and those more political problems his parents hinted about sometimes. But it still was his first home, it’s where his soul felt the most at rest. Despite living a sweet life in France for so many years Russia was his real home. That’s why it’s not so surprising that he found himself rather excited at going there. Sure, there were going to be horrible things happening but them happening in Russia would make them easier to deal with. Yes, Siberia might not be the nicest part of Russia if you preferred properly heated houses, streets with luxury shopping and all that but it still was beautiful. Also, finally Mikhail might feel useful in the mission. After all, as far as he knew he were the only one who actually spoke Russian.

                                                  Thinking about going back to Russia again made Mikhail smile where he sat listening not so intently at Rajesh who spoke about changelings which to Mikhail sounded odd and silly. No crazy ghosts who were going to kill them or no ghosts who ate hearts? This felt like it would be a nice vacation, oh, nice mission he meant of course… There were just one thing that soured Mikhail’s mood (though not enough to break away that flicker of a content smile on his face) and that was that new person. This new one was… well, he was new and not part of the team and that could be difficult adjusting the team to. New people you know… Could be difficult to integrate into the group properly. Also, what if he was some kind of psychotic crazy person? Even worse than Ladli? Yes, new people were dangerous because they were new and that was the main reason Mikhail didn’t like him. The fact that this Roane fellow were handsome and had longer, fuller and prettier hair than Mikhail had absolutely nothing to do with it! At least not if you asked him about it. Sure, generally Mikhail preferred good-looking people over the dull normal or awful ugly ones. But now the blonde had gotten quite comfortable in the role as the pretty long-haired one in the team. He did not much appreciate some stupid man unable to speak proper understandable English coming there to try and steal his place as the best looking and most fabulous person in the group. Mikhail decided that trying to freeze this Roane out and ignore him would probably be the best way to deal with it. Then maybe he’d be miserable and leave.

                                                  Mikhail didn’t pay much thought to the mission at all until they were flying towards Russia and he were reading through the files they had. The whole thing about smart kids sounded rather creepy actually he decided and the fact that they were asked to observed not interact were quite relaxing. If he were to be murdered it would be nice if it weren’t by some crazy smart mutant children… That was his only thought of worry before they stepped out into the crisp air. Mikhail closed his eyes and took a deep breath with a smile on his lips. The coldness of the air just made it even fresher and he cherished the way the chill felt against his skin. For a moment he wondered just how he could have survived the heat of Hawai’i.

                                                  When their van arrived it turned out that their translator wouldn’t be there and the van itself looked like it had seen it’s best days a long time ago. If it had experienced good days at all… It was a small bump in the plans but not too much. The group still had him, the amazing and spectacularly talented Mikhail! He could have easily translated everything by himself. He would have appreciated not doing such a lowly job really, but oh well, he simply had to see it as being useful to the group. Of course, he wouldn’t even be able to properly translate since Terry decided it was fun to boss him around and tell him what to do. “Please don‘t speak Russian, I do not want you to be useful because I am already jealous at you!” That’s probably what Terry had been thinking… Though Mikhail regrettably had to admit that spying on the people were quite smart… If only he had thought of it first…

                                                  After a long, slightly awkward and bumpy ride they arrived in the small town. Getting out of the van and looking around made Mikhail think about his early childhood again. Those few times in the summers he vaguely remembered when he and his parents would visit his father’s family out in a small town very similar to this one. It had been fun, playing with his cousins, going on adventures fighting evil with sticks and stones. Mikhail’s brows furrowed slightly as he thought about how much easier it was to fight evil then. No one got hurt more than a scraped knee or something like that. Now people died when you fought something evil… The blond man had to shrug to bring his focus back to reality and he took his bags and shuffled inside with the rest of the group. It turned out that there were not enough rooms in the house and Mikhail did not want to share. However, he figured it would be quite rude to just declare “I am not sharing!” So he quietly walked away and found a room to settle himself into. Sharing. What did they take him for?


                                                  After unpacking his stuff Mikhail did his obligatory freshening up and then ventured back into the common rooms. He did not feel particularly sure about how they were going to go about doing this mission. Were they simply just going to look at the children? Talk to a few people? It felt quite simple and that feeling of simplicity worried Mikhail. His experience of missions were death so… Mikhail nibbled lightly on his lip and turned away from the window he had stared out of and approached the room in which the others had gathered with hot chocolate. Appreciatively he took a cup and took his place close to another window glancing out at the beautiful landscape past the small town. He found it truly gorgeous in a more savage way there out in Siberia. The new guy spoke about not being cursed while outside and Mikhail couldn’t help but to snort slightly at that. He wasn’t under any curse, that he knew of… You never knew when you dealt with these things.

                                                  ” ’ow should we deal with ze mission?” Now, usually he wasn’t all business but he just really felt like proving himself when that new guy spoke so much nonsense and all. Running a hand through his hair he fell silent for a short moment as he picked out a few more words to speak. ”Split up and look around? Look around all together? Try talking to people?” He had to admit is wasn’t much of a strategy planner or anything like that. So he just tried to get the conversation started so the others could say what they wanted and manage to plan something without his input. Then, since he brought it up, people would still think he was smart.

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                                              It was cold.

                                              ******** bollocks, colder than New York had been. Getting off the plane and seeing an older man and, presumably, his son. Terry pulled her aside along with Mikhail and her dark brows folded together with curiosity before glancing over to the Russian-made Frenchman, apparently he still thought she was crazy or something. She shrugged it off and looked back at Terry. He was so serious. But telling Mikhail to keep his Russian a secret was a pretty good idea. She really didn't have any idea why she'd been pulled aside. "I know we can count on you to talk to these people and not leave a bad impression or anything." "We can? I mean - Of course we can." She quick looked at Mikhail to see his expression before walking back toward the van with the rest of the group. She shivered despite the wool leggings, gloves, hat, scarf and sweater. Her long black hair was braided in two pigtails and they hung heavy over her shoulders. She pulled her winter coat closer around her, "Chriiiiiist." Why did it have to be cold? Ladli slid into the dilapidated van and looked around at her team, everyone looked a little miserable, besides maybe Mikhail, but he always looked smug, so she didn't pay attention. "This van is great." Her wide smile faltered a bit as they went over a bump and the van jostled for ten seconds after the fact. She licked her lips quick before plucking up the smile again.

                                              When they got to the also somewhat dilapidated house, Ladli hopped out of the van, shouldering her duffle bag with another smile, "Oh, it's adorable, thanks love." She held out her hand to shake the child's hand, "Thank you for all your help so far, picking up where our translator screwed up. You're wonderful." She was all smiles until she looked over at Terry and wrinkled her nose. Was this good enough? She felt even more pressure than when her father told her to smile and be polite, after all, this was work. And usually where work was concerned she stayed in the chilly basement sucking all of the fluids out of and then putting makeup and clothing on the deceased. She didn't usually interact with the families. That was both sad and awkward. Some people didn't want to know that their seemingly sweet and virginal daughter had a c**t piercing and looking at them knowing they didn't know was just weird... The child and his father left and Ladli turned back to Terry again, her nose wrinkled but the Colgate smile still on her lips, "Hope that worked for you." She walked passed him into the house, rubbing her hands together to tease some warmth into them. "I'll room with whoever, it doesn't bother me none." Secretly she hoped that Dha wouldn't take up that offer - since she'd received the letter she was hoping that the creepy events of Belasco would just kind of slough away, but that wasn't the case. She still felt a bit of twinge of something amiss in the relationship. She told herself that it would go away with time. Her fingers started to burn and she told herself that it was just because they were warming up.

                                              The small woman went into a random room and dumped her bag onto one of the beds, missing her dog - her hell hound. She screwed a smile up on her face heading back out to the rest of the group in time to see their newcomer leave the building. She hadn't had much time to talk to him, but really, they'd be stuck in this tiny, backwater town for a while, what else would there be to to other than get to know each other even more? When Roane came back Terry was passing out hot cocoa and she'd accepted a cup. It was instant but at least that meant no milk. Dairy was a kind of enemy as far as her body and it went. She could take pills for it but really, why tango with something when it kind of just wanted to make you vomit or twist your intestines into knots? She went to bed when the others did and woke up a couple times because of either cold or her right hand being on pins-and-needles. She shushed it and went back to sleep, whatever whatever had to tell her could wait until the morning, she was jet-lagged enough as it was. And when she finally got up the sun was peeking up a bit and she tied her hair back into its braids and dressed warmly again. Nibbling a granola bar, she went outside to try and get an idea of the town and the people. Without talking to the children would be a bit difficult. They were supposed to be keeping an eye out for kids who seemed exceptional beyond normal standards. Walking along a porch she was trying to keep a low profile and tripped face-first into a pile of snow. Sitting up she wiped the water from her face and looked around.

                                              Only a few people seemed to notice. "Low-key... right."


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                                        Changelings were strange fairy things that the fairies used to replace children that they stole at birth. It was a complete switch, without the parents knowing. Dha stared at this for a minute. Children were taken. Taken. From their parents. “What.” Why were the fairies allowed to do this? It was so very criminal – how – how could they – ? The woman was utterly horrified. “They get away with this? They get away with this? She couldn't even imagine the horror it would be to go through all the pains of child birth – again – only to have that child stolen away from her. Dha tried to keep quiet for the rest of the briefing. Her cheeks burned slightly as she felt people glancing her way for overreacting to the news. She smiled when Rajesh introduced Roane, but did little more than exchange pleasantries with him before she slept. She felt cold and she needed to go to her hotel and take a warm bath before eating a hot meal.

                                        After hours and hours and hours and hours of travel, her first impression of Siberia was: cold. She was not used to this kind of temperature, not here and not in Maine. At least in Maine the vehicles had used proper heaters (and shock absorbers), whereas the car ride here had been miserable. The flight before that was also miserable, but Dha had managed to fall asleep for that. But plane rides were generally comfortable, and the ride through Siberia had not been. She tried to listen to the conversation, but the child translator's accent and grammar was difficult for her. The landscape, the amazing landscape, was the place's only redeeming factor it seemed. Why was it that the most beautiful places in the world were also the most unpleasant places to be?

                                        The people were completely foreign to her. Secluded mountain village folk were always watching them, from when they rattled down the bumpy road into town until they had unloaded their things and entered the small house provided to them. The villagers had no problem openly staring, but they gave the outsiders a wide gerth. In particular, they stared at Dha with her darker, cocoa skin. “I don't like this,” she said under her breath. Any child in the village could be a changeling. Was she being paranoid? She didn't think she was imagining all the stares she got. After feeling eyes on the back of her neck for too long, Dha hid behind Terry until all their luggage was safely inside.

                                        To be honest, Dha did not want to room with Ladli. They were still having problems, problems that started with Belasco and never seemed to stop. Sleeping in the same room together probably wouldn't work. So either Benji and Casi would have to share a room, or Benji and Ladli would. With an apologetic expression, Dha claimed a vacant room for herself. They were all going to be close regardless, because the house was small. Dha wasn't a stranger to small, cramped living conditions; a few of her homes in Cape Town had been nothing more than two rooms put together for her family to live in. She knew poverty, and she knew what it was like to live in an unhealthy place. This place didn't seem so unhealthy, except that it looked harsh to survive in. The cold got to her bad.

                                        After they'd mostly settled in and Terry produced hot cocoa – bless him – Dha wandered over to where Mikhail sat, staring out of a window. She touched his shoulder briefly, warmly, looking at the landscape he saw. “Pretty,” she commented. “Your home country really is something.” She looked in silence for a bit, before Roane walked in from outside looking silly and sheepish. It was a little adorable. “Oh, come in,” she said as she stood, “get out of the cold and have a mug and a blanket. Where's a blanket? Benji pass me that blanket please.” It felt good to be fussing over her flock again.

                                        In ways, this place reminded her of Africa. It was much less civilized here, of course, but even in Africa there were areas with less technology. Mainly because of how aggressive the vegetation was, which made traveling difficult in less populated areas. She'd only spent time in major cities all her life, for the most part anyway. So this was a different experience for Dha, though maybe it shouldn't be. “Mikhail?” she asked. It seemed like a stupid question that followed. “You've never been in places as uncivilized as this, have you?” He was Russian, and this place was Russian …. Dha thought it couldn't hurt to ask. She was a little concerned for her friends' well-being here. It seemed … dangerous. At least that was the vibe she got.

                                        Over more cups of hot instant cocoa, they discussed what to do next. Mikhail mentioned looking around and talking to people. “Well,” Dha chipped in, “I don't think we should travel alone, for sure. This place makes me uneasy.” She'd feel better if they traveled in as big of groups as possible. They were so far from any source of outside help if things went wrong. It really was time to put away the training wheels. “I'd assume that the parents could tell us about any unusual changes in their children's behavior,” she suggested as well. Terry cut in, “That's good, but we need a plausible cover. People'll get creeped out if a bunch of strangers moved into town just to ask intrusive questions about their kiddoes.” Yeah, Dha could see how that might go poorly. She was at a loss for this part though; deception and tricks weren't her strong suit.

                                        One idea that popped up was to say they were taking some kind of government survey that asked for the names and ages of all children – or all people? – in the town.
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                              indentStating that the trip was long, that Russia was cold and desolate, and that the town was in disrepair and worn by time would be redundant. But all of it was true. Casimiro wasn't thrilled to be in such a cold climate anymore than the native Russians would be to take a job through the Arizona desert. But, once cocoa was passed out, and the chill slowly beginning to creep from his limbs, Casi began to ease into the new surroundings. One sip of the powdery-chocolate drink and he had thawed enough to pry his fingers from his bag handles. Two sips and the male was muttering softly, lyrics to some song. By his second cup he was more or less in his usual state, observing everyone with his typical wide-eyed expression and trying to play catch up on everything that was happening and being decided.

                              indentIt was then that Casi realized that he was one of the few that hadn't claimed a room. There were seven of them in total, and only five rooms. One was taken by Terry and Roane, a man that the brunette hadn't quite decided about how he felt, Mikhail took one for himself, Ladli had as well though, like Terry, she volunteered to bunk with another, and Dha had just claimed a room. Casting his gaze over to Benji briefly, Casi's lips pursed in thought. 'Steal a room for myself..? Or bunk with someone..?' Sighing, and tapping his fingers anxiously on his paper cup, the male muttered, "Ladli? If you don't mind I'll hop in there as well?" Shifting his gaze back to Benji, he elaborated, "Unless you really want to share with her? I mean.. up to you." Lastly, cracking a grin, he teased Ladli's direction, "So long as you don't mind my cooties getting everywhere." Chuckling softly, the male returned to his bags, groaning as his palms touched the handles which seemed to still be frozen by the freeze outside.

                              indentOnce Casi had returned, and gluttonously taken another cup of cocoa, the messy haired boy moved over towards where Mikhail and Dha were speaking. "’ow should we deal with ze mission?" That definitely was the million dollar question, wasn't it? "Split up and look around? Look around all together? Try talking to people?" Humming to himself, the male listened as both Dha and Terry spoke up, nodding along with their suggestions. "I have to agree with both of ya there. If these kids are really.. faeries, well they're supposed to be showing signs of exceptional strengths in various areas, yeah? Not sure I want to be left alone with one if they begin to get crafty. That and, no offense Mik, but I've seen Frankenstein. I've seen the pitch fork riots that happen in places that look like this.. and I don't wanna be chased away by myself." Snickering softly, though his tone was mostly still serious, he suggested, "Well.. I agree we need some kind of.. cover. But I all I can think of is backpackers, seeing the landscapes and such, moving from city to city. Though, backpackers usually die in the Syfy movies I've seen.."

                              indentRubbing at his temples, Casi sat there a while longer, listening to the chatter about him and wracking his brain for what to do. They had a lot of work to get done, and Terry was right.. if they just targeted the kids and asked them all sorts of personal questions they'd look like.. whatever the Russian word was for child abductors. After coming up with nothing else himself, Casi gave another resigned sigh and began back towards the rooms. "Maybe.. something will come to mind in the morning. But right now, I'm beat. I think I'll go lay down." Finding his way back to the room he ended up staying in, Casi began to undress for bed. As soon as his shirt went up and over his bed, and the chilly air of the room crept across his flesh, the shirt was thrust back on and Casi went straight under his covers fully clothed. Cursing softly, he hissed, "Damn cold.. I'd bet that one of us comes back to the states with frostbite.. assuming we make it back at all." Casi's sleep was restless, dreams filled with angry mobs, pitchforks, and getting chased out of town and into the country side.



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                            Things were more or less situated now in the town for Benji. ”So what do we do if we don’t talk to the people?” he wondered aloud to himself. Dressing for the weather was a pain for him – the moment he stepped out of the shower he was sure his nipples were going to fall off and that other parts would retract into his abdomen. But he put on warm layers under his jeans and sweater, and then pulled out the thick winter coat that the N.O had given him for the duration of the mission. He was glad to have people like Roane with them – he seemed to know a lot about faeries and would rather listen to someone friendly-ish who knew a lot. The man had different features, and looked like any given brown person that would belong to Argentina or even Brazil (even though being Argentinean, Benji was reluctant to credit Brazil with anything). He made a breakfast in the morning consisting of scrambled eggs and some sort of meat that he didn’t question. He already missed the fresh fruit of anywhere-besides-here.

                            Benji squinted his eyes nervously as he went the little house they stayed in to see what it was like in the air. Poop. was the nicest thing he could think at the moment. It was just cold and he wanted to do something like communicate with a ghost of sunflowers in the field of happiness, if that was a possibility. Not scary little changeling children hiding and lurking. He had the ability to spot subtleties the way a bull moved gracefully on ice. The language filtered in and out of his ears. Maybe he was learning to use his gift better. But the words were still coarse and harsh and the locals stared at him funny. Going back inside, he looked at the group before him. Ladli, his friend (although Casi had hinted that they were more and that horrified Benji, not for the obvious reasons but because now he was worried what she would think), Casi, Roane, Terry, Dha, and Mikhail. Mikhail spoke Russian even if he wasn’t allowed to use it and Roane knew stuff about fairies and the others were at least nice most of the time.

                            ”Roane,” Benji called out, although he was pretty sure that the name came out all wrong and Spanish-sounding. ”So if the changelings are not the kids the parents had, what happens to the kids?” He wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the answer, thinking of curly-haired Tomas in Argentina and his smile. Could things like that happen to him? This mission would be the death of Benji due to paranoia. But he listened intently, trying his hardest not to visibly wince. It didn’t work, either that, or he looked constipated. ”I want to go walk around,” he announced. Maybe he would be useful. Did he sound affirmative? Probably not. His sentences came out more like word vomit than anything resembling confidence. He held up the little Satellite phone that they received for their job. ”I will try to call if I am dying.” No, that wasn’t exactly what he wanted to say but a fatalist attitude seemed to be the norm for their motley crew.

                            As he walked around, his nose started running a bit from the cold and he kept sniffing to try and avoid looking like a child with snot dripping down their face. His hands, protected by gloves, were shoved in his pocket and he felt quite pathetic. No! You can do this. You’re not as put together as Terry or as coherent as anybody else at any time but you can do something to help. He recited it to himself as he tried to find a random store to go into. Somewhere that maybe he could strike up a casual conversation with an adult comprised of gestures and eyebrow wiggling. He was trying to decide between a shop that started with a backwards R and one that started with a K when he noticed a few adults chatting quietly outside a building, smoking. An old man with a sunken face squatted and turned his untrusting eyes onto Benji. He started talking and maybe Benji's gift was kicking in. But all he heard was "Missing child." and "Foreigners."

                            They were in trouble. We can't do anything right...
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                                indentThe morning rush went by quickly for Roane, getting into the kitchen when food was getting served up and getting himself some nutrition as well. As Benji's voice caught the dark haired man's attention, Roane cocked a brow. "Hm? Oh.. the human children.." Pausing, and taking a spoonful of rather tasteless cereal that he had chosen, the male chewed a moment in thought. After finding the mildest way to explain it, Roane continued, "Well.. it depends on the fey that makes the swap. Many fey, especially the Seelie fey.. keep them. They exchange one of their own for one of ours. Think of it as a rather strange adoption policy. You see faeries are often just as fascinated with us as we are of them." Taking a second spoonful, and even more time to contemplate, the male muttered, "The Unseelie.. are a different story." Looking up towards the ceiling, not wanting to meet any eyes that came his way, the male sighed, "Some Unseelie want to keep us as pets as well.. but others find us to be delicacies. Faeries aren't all fun and games, pranks and pixies. There are some that are the stuff o' nightmares." Smiling broadly, and moving to place his bowl in the sink, Roane forced a broad smile on his features.

                                indent"And with that.. I think some fresh air would do me some good as well. I'll stay close, but no need to stay cooped up in here all mornin', eh?" Beginning to wrap his coats about him, a softer inner coat and a thick outer one, Roane chimed out, "Dun' be a stranger, if you 'anna come, feel free." Pulling the door open, and grimacing as the icy air hit his face the male pushed out into the cold. Behind him he heard at least one set of footsteps, looking back to spot Casi quickly getting ready and following as well. Beginning the short trek towards town, but moving slow enough so that anyone else who wished to follow could, Roane called behind him, "Pleasant day, all things considered, being as were in the middle o' no w'ere." Bundling the coat around him, and gritting his teeth so they wouldn't chatter, the male skirted on the edges of the town, but close enough to stay in sight of the house. "An' I hope you all don't min' me a'taggin' along for this mission. I mean, I've heard some things about your group in th' past.. don' wanna intrude or nothin'."

                                indentAs soon as the words left his lips something else caught his attention. "Запустите вдоль девочек. Хотите вашей матери поддержанию вас от сказок сегодня вечером." The words sounded like gibberish at first, though as the nearby conversation continued one phrase sounded familiar: сказок. Knitting his brow together, and trying to recall the word, and why he knew it, Roane gasped as recognition set in. "Fairytale." Running a hand through what hair peeked from his coat, the male grumbled to himself, "O' all the days I wish I knew Russian.." Shaking his head, the male caught that the old man and young child had noticed his presence some distance away. Putting on his best 'poker face', Roane twisted and faced away, failing at being inconspicuous. In a hushed tone, the old man whispered to the little girl, "видеть Вас сегодня вечером в шести." As was the bulk of what he was hearing, the words meant nothing to Roane. But it was possible that someone else could translate the comment.. or that their child interpreter (though they were warned to not speak with the children) would be honest enough to translate. Sighing, Roane looked about the small town, trying to spot the rest of his group on it's outskirts. Returning towards them quickly, the male remained mostly silent, though occasionally muttering things under his breath - repeating the Russian gibberish as best he could - until the return journey to the house.

                                indentOnce home again, the male quickly took off his coats, and wrapped his arms about his body, hugging his sweater about him. Closing his eyes as he flopped onto the couch, the male piped up softly, "Okay.. so, anyone know what.. erm.. 'видеть Вас сегодня вечером в шести..' or.. yeah. What does that mean...?" His repeat of the words truly butchered the language, but at the same time he opened his eyes and glanced about warily towards anyone in the room. "Probably entirely useless.. but I heard someone say.. that. They whispered it while I was about, and my curiosity set in." Pursing his lips, and chewing on his lower lip in the process, the male kept the talk of fey to himself until he could try and figure out what they had been talking about. One thing was certain, however, Roane was interested. Now, if he could only translate Russian fairy tales.. that all assuming he hadn't mistaken the word for something else.
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                                                  The next morning Mikhail woke up feeling more refreshed and had more energy than he had woken up with since he began this job. Well, it probably was longer since then that he slept so well during a night. It was such a great feeling to be back in Russia. He was in an extra good mood too since Dha the day before had expressed that she found the place pretty. It filled him with some kind of ridiculous pride, as if he had anything to do with how it looked there. She had called the little town ‘uncivilized’ though and he almost wanted to snap at her. Then he had remembered the pretty comment and replied with the politer: ”Actually, my father’s family live in similar town.” And Mikhail was the only one who could call these places uncivilized. Which he of course couldn’t say because he did not want any ridiculous drama over that. Besides, she was right about the pretty part of it all.

                                                  Finally dragging himself out from beneath the warm covers Mikhail started to get dressed and remembered the worst thing about this mission, (so far) it was quite cold and they needed to wear a ridiculous amount of clothes and the winter coat they got was absolutely hideous. The cold also made his bleached hair gather static and he had to braid it down to keep it under control. The breakfast then of course wasn’t exactly luxurious… Not that Mikhail ate a lot of breakfast, he had to think of his figure, but the little he ate he wanted to be delicious. During breakfast that newcomer decided to go on and on about faeries to brag or something. What was wrong with him? Did he think he could just come and think he was better than them because he had read a few fairytales or what? Sure, it might be useful information but he didn’t have to brag so much about it… Mikhail shook his head slightly and did his very best to appear utterly uninterested in what the other long-haired male had to say. Mikhail was pretty good at appearing uninterested.

                                                  Then the group pretty much disbanded for individual exploration. The Russian wasn’t entirely sure he thought that was a good idea. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his group members to behave well and stay out of trouble. Or, actually, that might be a big part of it. They did not understand how it was here, and what good could any of them do without him? They did not know Russian! But, if they thought they could actually gather anything useful anyway they were allowed to try… That way they could come back with nothing while Mikhail got a chance to shine. So, after a few had left and Mikhail had calmly finished his breakfast he said to the remaining ”I am going out for a little bit too. Just a quick look.” And then he smiled and then he left.

                                                  The whole atmosphere in this little town wasn’t really that welcoming. Walking around he could feel how the people there stared so hard at him that they burned holes in his clothes. But he simply ignored that and strutted down the small town as if he were walking on a catwalk. It seemed like it would be difficult to find anything, the few people he found outside suspiciously quieted down whenever he got to close, even though they did not know he spoke Russian. So Mikhail began sneaking more and more. Walking down the narrow paths between houses and listening before turning a corner. He simply had to hear something useful. But the few times he heard some voices slipping out from a window it mostly was things like ’We need to buy some milk, can you fix that darling?’ or ’I am tired of listening to you complaining! If you do not like the food I make, cook something yourself!’ And unless they were talking about eating children Mikhail doubted those sentences were of any use to them.

                                                  Then finally, before rounding the corner of a house he could here to children playing an talking there. Mikhail immediately stopped and sunk down behind a pile of random discarded objects and trash. It smelled awful but he actually managed to ignore that. The children spoke of meeting up there again at night to go out in the woods to play. First off, Mikhail was impressed, when he was that young there were absolutely no way he would dare to go play in the woods after dark! Never. He might want to, but he would actually never dare to. But these little ones did not seem awfully afraid of it all, just determined. So Mikhail guessed kids these days were tougher (in no way could it have been him who had been a bit of a scaredy-cat).

                                                  After that conversation Mikhail decided that he should head back to their little house. He figured that he could wait there and then go follow those kids into the woods by himself (he was an adult and thus no longer scared) and then they would probably be good as bait for some faeries and Mikhail could, somehow, save the day! It was a great plan. According to him at least. The plan of ultimate magnificence met something unforeseen though when Mikhail got back. On the couch he found cocky von know-it-all aka Longhair the not-good-looking talking about what he had experienced. Then he asked about what something meant. Mikhail did not completely understand that Roane was speaking Russian at first. Then he furrowed his brows and sat quietly for a moment jumbling around with the sound in his head. ”I zink, not sure since you can’t speak Russian good, but I zink it means ’See you at six’.” Then he shrugged and gave a small smile. ”Not really something special...” Mikhail then walked around and sat down where he could be seen better for his big reveal. Sure, he had decided to stay quiet about it at first. But now he just felt the need to brag about it. ”I over’eard two children talking about going out to woods tonight. I am going to follow zem. Maybe zey can lure something out or… they are changelings.” After finishing talking Mikhail did his best to not appear as proud of himself as he was.

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                                                      Ladli felt eyes on her the rest of the time she was out-and-about. It was definitely creepy, so when she entered their little house, she felt a little better. But only a bit. She still felt so lost, she was willing to bet they all felt like that. Investigate the children - oh but definitely don't talk to them or even really look at them in any kind of obvious manner, heavens no! Little bump in the plan there, you'll figure it out. Bollocks! She flopped down onto her bed, trying to think about what their newest member had talked about with fey. It seemed out of their league. I mean, really, all any of them could do was look at the kids and for those who'd never encountered a Changeling, how were they supposed to know what they were looking for? Were they really supposed to just sit there and spy on the kids, waiting for one of them do display some kind 'super human' ability? It seemed ridiculous - but then again, she was sharing a shack with people who could do incredible things. She could do something most people couldn't. So really, she shouldn't be feeling as hard-pressed as she did. She could figure it out. They all would - right? With all their limbs and body parts? She hoped so.

                                                      But sitting in her room, being chilly didn't seem like the best way to find them. So the short woman stood up, adjusted her big lumpy knit sweater and heaved the winter coat on before marching back outside, stares or no - she was going to figure this out. The town wasn't really big at all and it shouldn't have been hard to find the kids. Ladli sighed a large puff of swirling fog, wishing her Hellhound was with her. She would have just had to ask and then Chico would have found the non-humans and it would have been a done deal - that and she could have stuffed the relatively small dog up her sweater and had a portable space heater. And company that wasn't strange people - just normalcy for her. Although normal wasn't really anything Ladli was used to, she shook her head a little and continued on her chilly exploration. She heard giggles and laughter a little ways off and decided to follow it. Rounding a corner, Ladli could see a few kids playing in the snow. Squatting down, she leaned against the building next to her and watched them play. They seemed normal to her. Three little girls just laughing and talking in a language she couldn't understand. But they were smiling and running around. Something that she felt like she rarely experienced as a child. They seemed nice.

                                                      Suddenly, Ladli felt an insistent tapping on her shoulder. Turning around she did not expect to see an attractive Russian man, she was expecting a team-member - probably Benji. Her brows crinkled and she licked her lips against the cold, "Can I help yah?" He didn't seem to understand and the woman felt stupid for thinking he would. But that feeling was erased as he pulled on her hand. He was speaking rapidly, urgently. "Help." The word wasn't perfectly spoken, but it came through well enough that Ladli understood. He needed help? That's what they were supposed to do, wasn't it? Help the people in the town? Maybe he saw something that he wasn't supposed to? Something related to the Changelings? Swallowing hard (and ignoring the tingling in her hand) she nodded and followed along with him. He seemed younger than her but older at the same time and she had a feeling like maybe she should be getting someone else to come with her - but what if there wasn't time? The black-haired woman looked around. Maybe she could call out if she saw one of her team-mates but there were none in sight and the man in front of her tugged her urgently again. They stopped in front of one of the houses and she took a deep breath as he opened the door.

                                                      Maybe this was a bad idea?


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zfatal's avatar

Toothsome Fairy

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                              Breakfast that morning looked rather questionable and Terry wasn't sure he wanted to try the foods here. He had brought enough granola bars and others things to tide him over if he was feeling peckish later, but for now the Australian man didn't have an appetite. He sat in the kitchen, watching the others pick at their food, and listening to the talk. These missions weren't exactly cakewalks, but up until now they had always had some sort of direction, some sort of hand holding theirs. The most difficult part was the language barrier, and Terry was starting to regret asking Mikhail to refrain from translating. Still, he was their only ace in the sleeve at this point, and he could always start translating if it came down to it. The chilly air frosted over the window next to Terry as he pondered his thoughts, until Roane announced he was going to explore. Mikhail left right behind him, and a few others drifted out at the same time. At least none of them would be alone in the village, so Terry wasn't concerned that they would get too lost. He decided to stay around their house and keep track of 'home base,' in case anybody returned to report or to get help.

                              Somebody should pose as the curious visitor, he thought, and find that translator kid and annoy him with questions. The best person for that would have probably been Benji, though the South American was already outside roaming somewhere. Benji just had the childish curiosity and naivety down, so there was no doubt he, better than anyone, could avoid raising suspicion with any questions he asked. While he waited around the house, Terry ended up gnawing on a granola bar, and he set some out for the others to find when they came back. During his waiting spell he decided to open up his briefcase and start writing down everything he remembered about the villagers he'd met. He also wrote down some notes about the car ride and how their actual guide's car never arrived, because he was getting more adjusted to the flow of things and he knew that the NO liked their reports. They'd be more detailed this time around, and Alexei could stop grilling him about writing better reports. It wasn't like he asked to be the record keeper of their team, just because he did a lot of paper pushing at his old job. But still, he had to admit as his hands flew across the page in neat, nearly perfect handwriting, that he was well-suited because the ink and the paper never messed up, never ripped or spilled or blotted, for him. That he sometimes drifted off and doodled pictures of big, unrealistic guns in the margins, was besides the point.

                              He spent a lot of time staring out of the window in his room, bundled up slightly against the cold and just plain bored. He saw Mikhail wandering around confidently once, but other than that, he mostly saw adult villagers attending to their daily lives. After an hour or two he didn't recall seeing any children, which meant they were probably told to stay away from this end of the village, where the foreigners were. This reminded him of the close community that small towns in the United States had to offer. He wasn't very familiar with it, personally, having resided in big cities for his entire life in the States, but he knew how books and television portrayed small towns. That the book In Cold Blood came to mind didn't help Terry, since that was about outsiders to a town coming in and brutally murdering a small town resident family. This small village was probably closer knit than most if any U.S. Town, and Terry had to then wonder how they dealt with justice here. If one of them was arrested, would they ever see the outside of this country again?

                              Motion caught Terry's eye outside the window he had drifted off at. A group of villagers seemed to be gathering, and while he couldn't hear what was happening, some of the men looked restless to Terry. At first he was concerned that they had cornered one of his teammates, the foreigners, up for some kind of gallows type event, but that was just his imagination running wild of course. He saw no pitchforks or torches, so it was no angry mob either. Or so he hoped. Still, Terry closed his briefcase and clicked the lock shut, sliding it under his bed before he gathered his clothes and left the building's threshold. He heard distant voices speaking in languages he didn't understand, but he got an overall sense of unrest. As he drew closer, some of the men threw prolonged glances his way, but Terry wasn't going to let that bother him. “Excuse me, hey! Hey, anybody speak English? Can anybody tell me what's happening?” People stared at him, no real surprise there. Others edged away, until finally one shorter guy was pushed forward. He stared at Terry for a brief moment, a look of annoyance plain on his face. His English was very broken but Terry got the message. “Us child gone. Us search.” With that, he pointed in the direction of the distant forest, outside of the village. The village had a missing child, and this was a search party. Terry gestured at himself and talked slowly and clearly when he replied, “I want to help search.”

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