The year is 2098, and the decade popularly known as the Impossible 90's is rolling its way into the 22nd century. Human nature hasn't changed much at all - the species is still as debased and prone to corruption as it has ever been. The nation-states of men still covet the world's natural resources - and most particularly, those of their neighbors. And yet... And yet, this decade has brought the strangest intersection of cutting edge science, once believed to be relegated to the realm of science fiction; and the world of the supernatural, haunted once only by the superstitious, the backwards and the ignorant - but no more. Finally put into operation in January of this year, Project Phoenix - also known as the Human Revival System (HRS) - was the most stunning of these efforts, a scientific endeavor that could bring the truly dead (not simply the near dead) back to the world of the living. Humanity had made its first significant offensive on the nigh impenetrable walls of its oldest, most implacable foe. Death, however, had a subtler and stranger response to this frontal assault by the merely mortal. The dead would not simply be returned to the realm of the living without consequence, and man would not be allowed his celebratory dance crowned with his newly discovered divine status. Such hubris, to imagine there would or could be no consequences to playing God! All over the globe, reported incidents of supernatural happenings have spiked precipitously, leading to a general alarm, the occasional panic depending on the size of the event and - to a precious handful of the more intrepid and entrepreneurial? The opening of opportunities to capitalize on this strange and unnatural new world. Still, some of the other changes of the Impossible 90's had far more natural beginnings, grounded solely in the everyday [if still often horrific] world of men. After the Great Quake of 2032, where more than three quarters of the American, Canadian and portions of the Mexican west coasts were decimated - and on its heels, the long-anticipated eruption of the supervolcano beneath Yosemite, destroying much of the American West and Midwest - the entire geopolitical map of the world was upended. Refugees and survivors fled to - and in many places, were welcomed with open arms - the renewed and thriving nations in Africa and South- and Central America. One such nation state that happily welcomed these refugees was the Côte d’Ivoire, which by 2098 has integrated a sizable portion of the peoples who formerly considered themselves Québécois - but now, Ivoirian, or simply Africain. Nouveau Abidjan has risen as a coastal city to rival even the once vaunted and hallowed name of New York City, a global center of commerce and international finance, as well as a major shipping port between the African interior and the east coasts of Central and South America. Skyscrapers dominate the cityscape, constructed solidly in the new Art Deco aesthetic combined with not a little of the neo-Gothic architectural school. Solid, graceful monuments of stone and glass and steel rise to touch African skies now, urban growth trending toward the vertical, and not necessarily horizontal, becoming de rigeur. In one such polished and opulent building on the Rue de Montréal, ensconced on the fifty-sixth floor in corner offices providing the most spectacular seaward view, Alicia "Alli" Emy Yeats arrived for yet another day of office hours, accompanied as always by her 45 kilo shadow, the beloved and ever-present German shepherd dog Cosette. Ethnically a third generation Québécois, but in her heart, culturally Africaine, she and her surprisingly dear friend Chad Pilgrim had purchased the small but well-appointed offices that comprised their joint venture, Pilgrim & Yeats. The heels of her fashionable pumps clicked loudly on the Italian marble tiles as she approached an opulent and breathtaking desk crafted entirely of African Blackwood and glass, and the stately, handsome woman who presided behind it. Their conversation was obviously one had many times, but a gladly repeated ritual nonetheless. Finger by finger, the tall, elegant woman pulled the sea green lambskin leather gloves from her hands, holding them neatly as she clasped them before her. For all its benevolence, there was still a small upward tilt to one corner of her mouth, where something impish and vastly amused resided in the smile formed on full, crimson-painted lips. The corners of her dark eyes crinkled just so, laughter lighting their depths as she listened, nodding sympathetically and enthusiastically in turn and - she could only pray - doing so in a way that would both reassure and pay all due respect to the breathtakingly crisp and competent woman looking up at her from behind the desk. "... And, Mademoiselle Yeats, your agenda for today has been forwarded to your personal tablet and to your office processor as well." Murielle Dembélé was, without a doubt, one of the most formidable women Alli had ever met, and this in a life positively chock full of formidable women. The grey in her hair was only just beginning to shine through the full head of tight ebony curls, pulled back neatly and severely into a knot behind her head. Skin the color of deep mahogany remained breathtakingly flawless, with only the keen and intently dark eyes to belie ample years of no-nonsense discipline that had marked this woman's life. When Alli interviewed her for the job of secretary and receptionist, Murielle remarked proudly she had five grown children, and was the proud grandmother of four thus far. All her children graduated university of course, and held respectable jobs: two doctors, one nurse, an architect and a public advocate. Alli could not help but wonder - then and now - whether Murielle's children dared do anything but become successful and respectable, as if they ever had a choice in the matter to do anything but... "Has Monsieur Pilgrim arrived?" Alli asked mildly, reading the answer right away in the tight disapproval in those dark, narrowed eyes. Chad was still not late, but Alli had discovered very early on that a woman like Murielle ran a very tight ship - a half hour early was considered on time, and anything less? Unacceptably late. "Non, Mademoiselle Yeats." Her full mouth was pursed just so. "Soon enough then, no worries. You are a Godsend, Murielle," she said with genuine enthusiasm. Cosette, realizing the daily morning human ritual was likely over, made her way knowingly about the opulent desk, her enormous head tilted up toward the elder woman expectantly. The dog's amber eyes occasionally glanced toward a drawer in the massive desk, a single drop of saliva gathering fall mass at the tip of her long, pink lolling tongue. Murielle glanced to Cosette without so much as a hint of a smile breaking through the dignified visage. Rather, her hand reached to the drawer as if it had a life of its own, removed a single large dog biscuit from a jar ensconced within, and offered it to the German shepherd without a single word. Long fingers ran lovingly over that great, furred head, and Cosette crunched rather noisily, enjoying both the endearing scratch and a treat from a woman who so obviously loved her. A mutual adoration such as theirs, certainly needed no words.