Every Little Thing

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  1. She pressed her fingertips to the coolness of the grand, sweeping wall of glass, still marveling at the sensation and wondering idly if there would come a time her amazement ever ended. She understood, intellectually at least, that the humans all about her did not feel everything anew with every least sensation. She learned the human mind must, by necessity, filter their environment, that they could not marvel at the glint of sunlight in a child’s wide eye while simultaneously catching him mid-fall from a high stair. She was told humans learned, after the first touch, how cool and hard glass would be beneath their fingers, and were not moved by the touch thereafter.

    But she was moved. She always was. And she hadn’t the least idea that the strange heaviness in her chest was the first inkling of sympathy for the fragile, sensory-starved human race.

    Pale grey eyes swept the small universe in miniature spread out below her, where the lights of New Glasgow twinkled like a tiny, earthbound galaxy following the seemingly celestial flow of the remains of the River Clyde. The griminess, the ugliness of the more modern lines and neon and clapboard constructions shoved haphazardly into this ancient city, millennia old even before Flare Fall, disappeared entirely. The night sky blanketed the dingy streets and the squalid buildings jutting from so many once venerable neighborhoods like tumors, and if she squinted her eyes, all that was left were stars: the red giants and the white dwarfs, the yellow suns and even the occasional back hole on this earthly plane.

    And no one would ever know her inordinate and entirely innocent pride at having created that analogy, all on her very own.

    "Come away from the window Imogen." Alisdair’s voice called to her from the darkness, where she heard him moving from the tangle of his bed sheets. “You know I do not share.” There was laughter and steel in that voice, and Imogen obeyed as she always.

    Her flawless skin silver-lit and luminous in the cold moonlight, Imogen padded softly across the chilly and ancient wood floors, shivering deliciously as the sensation traveled up the soles of her bare feet. Certainly she could have explained to the man holding out the long, pale blue silk robe for her, there was simply no way for anyone outside the high tower of the reconstructed Inveraray Castle to see her. She might have explained the physics of the matter, and how the optics of the human eye – even aided with binoculars - would certainly fail to penetrate the glass to perceive anything at all but, at best, a reflection and nothing of the body behind the glass. Imogen had even tried once, but Alisdair had only become annoyed with her.

    And so she slipped into the robe, allowing him to pull the lengths of her dark auburn hair from the collar as he liked, covering her as tenderly as one might a beloved child. He cradled his face in her hands, bending to kiss her forehead as she wrapped her arms about his still-muscular waist, laying her head against his chest just as she knew he liked.

    “Would you like me to draw a bath?” she asked, savoring the warmth of his skin on her cheek, the prickly feel of his chest hairs on her ear, the muffled thud of his heart.

    “Yes Imogen.” Alisdair smiled, and let her go to start drawing a warm bath in the cavernous, marble-lined bathroom off his bedroom. His Grace Alisdair Cavanaugh, the Duke of Argyll: before Flare Fall those titles meant a whole other world, a whole other time that no oneliving had ever known. For the people of New Glasgow and what was left of the United Kingdom and western Europe, this new generation of self-professed nobility had come to stand for forces far darker and more powerful than any of the ancient noblemen could have ever dreamed.

    Yet Imogen remained blithely unaware of the nature of the man who possessed her, and thought not a wit on the halls of power and all the unspeakable evil men would do to keep that power. No, for the moment, Imogen was focused entirely on pleasing Alisdair before broaching the subject of all she truly wished this night.

    Downstairs in the grand library, there hung a painting – and such a painting! Tiny, meticulously precise strokes of color occupied every inch of the canvas, a whirling wind of a night sky, the purples and yellows in the most magnificent profusion as they danced among the stars and the wheat fields. It was magnificent, dizzying to her eyes and she had spent untold hours before that painting, willing it to tell her its secrets. Imogen knew the man who painted this suffered horribly in his lifetime, a suffering of the mind so agonizing he could not bear another moment more, and finally took his own life.

    And yet…

    And yet, he created this painting. This painting that was so… Alive! She could not comprehend how this could be, but Imogen felt sure if she were simply patient, she would eventually understand the impossible juxtaposition, this perfectly human paradox, the ability to teeter between bliss and agony, life and oblivion. Fortunately, patience was a commodity Imogen possessed in endless bounty – she would work out this secret, one day, she felt sure.

    And so for the moment, all she had to do was please Alisdair and beg a few hours from his side tonight. Thankfully, pleasing Alisdair was not difficult in the least. Not when he seemed to bask in her very existence, delighting in her willingness to happily attend to his every wish. Yes, he could afford to be magnanimous with his sweetest of pets.
    #1 Muirgen, Dec 31, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
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  2. A dimly lit strip of neon glowed softly in the darkness of the Archivist's office. The room was far from impressive in terms of size, but at least the ceiling was high. Malcolm's first day had started hours ago; every single one of them had been spent making his new furnishings immaculate. Thankfully, the desk was still in fine condition. The man who occupied this position before him seemed to have decimated the room. Books had lain scattered about the floor, knick-knacks were haphazardly tossed to and fro, and even this fine, adjustable rod-lamp had been left on the floor. The library had not been left in great shape either. How tedious.

    Malcolm received official news on his receiving the position only two days prior. As an Archivist, he was to keep track of Alisdair's personal library. All the in's and out's, what he had, where it was, and what it was about. Books, paintings, pictures, studies, journals, database entries, and nearly any other piece of art or literature. Furthermore, he acted as the Duke of Argyll's personal scribe. Any diction or formal writing that needed to be done would fall to Malcolm. It wouldn't be a hard job; he'd only be here for a few weeks after all.

    In and out, that’s all it was. This man lorded over his slaves excessively, split families, took… and took… and took. At least, that’s how this was all justified. Malcolm hadn’t met this man, didn’t follow him, didn’t care how he behaved. This was just a job. Of course, he never took a contract if his clients couldn’t provide just cause, which was why he spent time trailing and watching his prey carefully; ultimately, it was his decision if they lived or died. Now was Alisdair’s time of reckoning. He didn’t know it, but for the next several weeks, eyes would be on him.

    It was comical, what he’d come to… When he was young, he’d wanted to use his abilities to make the world a better place. What a load of crap… He couldn’t even touch somebody else without having his own mental state entirely altered unless he wore gloves. His childhood was spent hiding his overwhelming power, which only grew by the day… Upon reaching adulthood, he enlisted in the military. In an effort to rise to the top more quickly and change the government from the inside of his city’s higher offices, he showed his powers to his superiors. He was streamlined to Clandestine Operations despite his youth. They told him constantly that he was doing the right thing, so he continued to do as they said. It wasn’t so… a puppet, that’s all they saw him as. And he was a damned good one too; one of the best. Not only did he take their training in earnest, he’d done his own independent studies from books that few had access to. Russian knife fighting and disarming, Krav Maga techniques, and Kukri fighting styles took a special place in his heart as he read and poured his entire being into the only things he took pride in.

    One mission was all it took to completely change him. It wasn’t an execution, it was murder. It was the first kill he couldn’t detach himself from. They lived in a world where death was a factor in daily life for everybody, it didn’t matter what caused it. What Malcolm found out that day was that what did matter was what came after the cause – the effect it had on others around that person. It would ripple onward forever, years down the road it would still be in the hearts of many.

    He’d given up his morality, acting as dog to his leaders, his teachers, his mentors. Terror ripped through him, and they wouldn’t let him leave. His departure meant one thing: they would send somebody else after him. He didn’t leave a letter, no resignation. His psychic curse gave him one advantage: he could leave town without anybody noticing. The next train to depart carried him with its cargo. He had naught but his typical mission gear. He left his credits (currency) behind, as well as everybody he’d ever known. There had been plenty of life between then and now… The last memory he had which wasn’t riddled with regret lie decades past.

    Contract killing had about as much meaning as anything else he’d ever done. He was tired of seeking out the good, fatigue riddled his eyes constantly, and the only solace he took was that he could afford to refuse any job that he thought petty. But a Duke? He had to at least look into it.

    The Archivist shut the book in front of him and swiped his hand over the desk, causing the virtual keyboard to vanish. In front of him, the bifolded “book,” which was really just a hinged, metal-cased plate with a display inside. When opened, it projected its pages over itself, allowing the user to flip through them more quickly than swiping over each page. It was a simple model, for journaling and notes. However, he needed it for not much else, the library kept track of its physical books quite well, though it was mostly aesthetic to keep with the château’s “rustic” outer appearance.

    The room flowed with a melody dating Pre-Flare Fall. From every side, the speakers built into the walls of the office shook gently, filling the room with Begin to Hope by a long-dead girl named Regina Spektor. Some people called it a classic nowadays, but music didn’t have real lyrics anymore. It was hard to come by the digital copies of music so old, leaving Malcolm with very slim pickings on what he could play. The moment it came on, he recognized it and reached for his command pad, shutting the music down in frustration. Dear god, this was going to be a long few weeks. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he took a long draw of breath, rising to his feet.

    Malcolm Findlay, the Archivist. He had to remember who he was. Thankfully, his job left him in solitude unless Alisdair was hosting a party or needed a formal composition done. Of course, he wasn’t working as closely with the Duke as a guard might be, but he was left farther off the radar for it.

    Usually, for a “uniform,” Malcolm would have to be in a dark, long-sleeved shirt that zipped up on the right side of his chest to the collar, which hugged his neck. His pants were black and rather plain. Finally, covered by the bottoms partially, were a pair of plain boots that still made no noise as they pressed into the carpet with each step. The gloves he wore were necessary, he explained to his interviewer, due to scarring and callous over the past several years. He wasn’t questioned for a moment further.

    He ran a hand through his short brown hair before letting it fall to his side lazily as he finally departed the stacks. The library was so dull, but at least it was serene. Malcolm was in charge of every piece of art in the house too. Their names, when they were from, what they meant… He was a party trick, really. If anybody had questions about them, they were referred to him. One of them was disturbingly familiar, it was the only painting he’d ever accidentally touched with his bare hands.

    The Triumph of Death, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder was macabre and disgusting, but to a curious, young psychic, it was a view into the natural emotion of fear. At a young age, Malcolm had been developing his psychic prowess to the knowledge of very few. Psychometry was an ability he’d not yet known he had, but he discovered its interlaced power over his Empathy when he touched this very painting. Terror washed over him, with loss and desperation. Overwhelmed, the young teenager reeled back from it. For only a moment his hand brushed the surface of a replicated version of the image, but he spent weeks, months with nothing but an innate sense of horror at the emotions sent through him by it. Part of him wondered if this was the original, hanging here in the library of the Duke of Argyll… What would happen if he were to feel it? Since so long ago, he’d consciously chosen to look over paintings, even touch a few, but one stuck out to him in particular. It gave him peace beyond any he had felt before. So much so that he knew it was one of the originals, but it was far away from here. In New London, one of the large series hung when last he’d seen it. Water Lilies, Claude Monet. The set didn’t exist entirely anymore. In fact, most of it had been lost or destroyed.

    He shook his head and walked away from the framed image of the undead overpowering the living, his hands clasped behind his back. Perhaps he could have it moved to an inconspicuous part of the house and have it replaced. It would take a few days to know how much decorating power he had. As he left the library, his boots gently tapped the tiled floors, echoing down the long corridors. Just beyond the library doors, Starry Night hung quietly. Something about it was dazzling, but Malcolm didn’t think it was in the strokes. The painting had a personality; its placement was fitting, that was for sure. It was seen on a daily basis, but it didn’t cry out for viewing, it just seemed to accept it as fact. Daunting, how some miscellaneous picture could hold such power over itself, as though it were a living thing.

    Malcolm found it hard not to think of just about everything as living anymore, not when he could pick up any object, even some dusty old tome that hadn’t been touched in decades, and give it a story. A life immemorial, young or old, without it being able to speak. He reached forward and straightened the painting slightly before realizing that it was actually straight before. Five minutes later, he was convinced that he had finally lined it perfectly parallel to the floor. It was almost a pain to have to keep this character up so much. As an Archivist, perfectionism was expected. He had to act almost obsessive about things like this, but in reality, he would have rather not adjusted the painting at all. Still, part of him wondered how much any of the ‘characters’ from his past were a part of him now. There was no doubt that when he spent weeks at a time impersonating somebody false that that “person” had an effect on him.

    From this, too, he walked away, deciding to give himself a tour of the keep, seeing as nobody had done so yet. He arrived that morning and one of the unpaid servants showed him to the library, then left him there to get back to work. It wasn’t uncommon for somebody to be in service to a duke or any other powerful person and not be greeted or met upon starting work. But it would have been nice for somebody to show him the in’s and out’s of the castle. Really, he only knew the route from the library to his chambers, but for the evening, he started in the other direction. What was the worst that could happen? He’d find somebody to show him the way back to his room. He had put in his working time for the day, at least.
    #2 BKenScout, Jan 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2015
  3. With a thoughtless, effortless grace, Imogen traversed the castle halls, a shimmering vision in flowing silver silks and diamonds that glistened in long plaits throughout the lengths of her auburn hair. One might be forgiven the impression she was a shade of Castle Inveraray, so silently did she move. But this silence was deliberate, and entirely for her own benefit, her silver high-heeled shoes swinging by their delicate ankle straps in the fingers of one hand. The castle floors were drafty and cold and Imogen's bare feet were already thoroughly chilled as she made her way from Alisdair's personal suite to the library, but that was a sensation was far less noisome than the staccato of shoe heels on hard floors.

    These were the moments where Imogen prepared her thoughts to gaze upon her beloved painting, meditation in motion before she approached her personal mandala. Alisdair had, of course, been pleased with her ministrations entirely, and said she might have the next hour to herself before they must depart for a dinner party with another of the Dukes in Edinburgh. Imogen had waited with preternatural patience for him to approve her selection of evening dress and coif, and then slipped away just as swiftly as she could.

    She padded through the halls now, only the most miniscule part of her intellect required to nod politely at the few men and women she passed. Some returned her small greeting politely, while others frowned in her wake with open disapproval, and still others simply watched her with expressions that remained entirely inscrutable. Imogen cataloged them all, and continued down the now-familiar trail to the library.

    But what she found when she arrived, pulled her up short. Imogen almost never shared these moments with anyone at all. The Archivist was a tired old man, thin and spindly with almost comical tufts of hair that spiked up at the most unusual angles that seemed to differ in arrangement and thickness by the day. He was mouse quiet and certainly unsociable, and normally more than content to doze in the stacks if he thought he might be caught napping in his office. Imogen never told a soul when she found him sleeping, which was quite often, simply because she preferred the status quo. A sleeping man did not interrupt her enjoyment.

    This was a young man however, a stranger, who did not show the least sign that he might humor her and go off to take a nap. He moved from painting to painting, and Imogen's head tilted just so, an almost human expression of curiosity on her flawless face. She continued to watch him for several long moments, this strange man in black who fussed unnecessarily with the object of her single-minded obsession.

    Imogen frowned, though she did not know she did so. He should not handle these pieces unnecessarily and - though she never would have said as much - she was jealous of the painting she had come to think of as her very own. And when he turned to leave the library, she approached him on her cat silent bare feet peeking from beneath the silvery lengths of her evening gown.

    "You do know this painting needed no adjusting, do you not?" she asked, large grey eyes taking in the whole of the man, head to toe, without the least sign of hurry.

    "Though at least you did use gloves," Imogen added, nodding her head in something that might have been approval toward the man's black-clad hands.
    #3 Muirgen, Jan 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015
  4. As a voice called out from behind him, Malcolm jumped in surprise, cocking his head to look over his shoulder. He jumped... Nobody made him jump, he almost always felt them there before they could acknowledge him. His telepathy passively let him feel the minds around him, even defended ones. However, he had to swallow his pride for now and smile as he cleared his throat, straightening his posture and facing the suddenly intriguing woman which had just approached him. First thing was first, he reached out mentally, hoping to find some kind of opening, but there was nobody there. Not even a glimpse, a wall, or a simple consciousness standing before him. His thoughts passed straight through air and dissipated like sand in a windstorm. Finally, he addressed her sentiments with a soft smile.

    "Yeah, I suppose it didn't. Sometimes things appear askew until I give them a second look," He explained, keeping his expression and tone aloof. "I have a tendency to obsess over perfection and wearing gloves is part of the job when you work with such delicate, invaluable materials." Was she sizing him up? He tilted his head gently, raising a quizzical eyebrow out of curiosity. The woman was fairly relaxed, so Malcolm took a step to the side so he was no longer in front of the painting; he turned, now standing beside the woman to look at it. "Your respect for the art of the manse is admirable, ma'am; this piece in particular has spent centuries as one of the most widely discussed works in history. I would suppose the previous Archivist had it placed here... I think that the way van Gogh turns the night sky into an almost oceanic perspective instills the viewer with a sense that everything, even the very air we breathe, is as subject to change as untouched clay..."

    After a short pause and a breath, Malcolm looked to the strange woman beside him, scrutinizing every detail on her near-perfect figure; one might even say she was unnaturally beautiful. It mattered little to him, women like this existed often in high society, but never one so... impossible. He had to hold her here for a little bit longer at least; there had to be some sort of mistake as to why she literally did not exist to him. The thought of android passed his mind, but then he'd never seen an android with any sort of appreciation for art. Knowledge? Yes. Personality? Sure. But to have the disposition to enjoy it would be ludicrous and therefore ruled out such a theory. Take away the impossible and what is left must be truth. Sometimes, Malcolm silently mused, he wondered if he he'd read too much in his lifetime. Perhaps she herself was like him and developed some sort of mind blanking skill. To him, this was currently the most likely although it would require some investigation. He couldn't lose track of this conversation, making an impression was important. While his position as Archivist made him much like a seer for the Duke, it would be quite easy for him to fall off of the radar for most anybody should he so choose; staying on the minds of specific, strategic people was also equally important.

    "It's brilliant how he's managed to give life to something so inanimate and unfathomable, no?" Malcolm smiled slightly in admiration of the work. His eyes, coloured an intelligent hue of green, met hers as he pulled the glove from his right hand. Time for a real test, he decided, offering her the uncovered hand in greeting. "I'm Malcolm Findlay, your new Archivist. It's good to see I won't be the only one with an eye for the arts in the manse. That's reassuring," He noted, hoping for her to share an introduction all her own.
  5. "I am Imogen," she said easily, as if those three words were all the answer he should need on the matter. She regarded his hand dubiously for a moment, almost taking a step backward though her face remained impassive, unexpressive. No disgust, no horror, no excitement or happiness or any other emotion whatsoever animated her face, or lit her soft, grey eyes. And thought there was likely not a single person in the world who might read this suddenly flat affect, this was as close to panic as Imogen ever came, a near infinite number of variables and scenarios flashing through her head as she stared at the hand he offered.

    The last man who had touched her, had been... Sent away. All she ever knew was that one evening he was there in the kitchens, and the next he was gone, and no one at all would tell her where he was. The rest of the humans in the castle would not even look her in the eye, much less tell her why he left. Imogen missed his eternally smiling face. His name was Joss, and his smile was never "simply polite." Joss spoke to her too. No, not in the same way that this man Malcolm did, with pretty words about her painting.

    Joss was a cook, a "chef," and he alone seemed to genuinely enjoy having Imogen come visit him in the kitchens. She could remember with perfect, undistorted clarity the way his green eyes crinkled at the corners when she arrived. The freckles sprinkled across his nose and cheeks seemed a little constellation of glee as he would wave her in, and ask her to come try this or that new vegetable or fruit, a sauce or a piece of a new cheese, and he would listen to her opinion as if he truly believed her words mattered to him. Joss was teaching her how to cook as well, how to slice and dice and sautee, how to fry and broil and roast. She thought not a single thing of him resting his hands over hers while he showed her how best to use those razor sharp knives, or to put his arm about her shoulders in encouragement and approval when she finally made her very first hollandaise sauce! All those little moments, all those precious lessons on what it meant to be human - they were dear once, to Imogen.

    Even Alisdair refused to tell her much more than the other humans in the castle, about what had happened to Joss. He was gone, and would never return. Alisdair did however, tell her why: Joss had touched her. The chef laid hands on her skin and she was not meant to be touched by any other but him. And though she had only been Alisdair's for no more than a few weeks at the time, there was a certain possessive menace in his eyes that told her this was not a moment he could be moved by her pleas.

    Imogen's grey eyes flickered about, ensuring she and Malcolm were entirely alone. She did not particularly wish to have her silent time with her painting interrupted by the new Archivist, but even less did she wish for anyone else to be sent away on her account. And so tentatively, as timidly as a doe on the forest's edge steps into the wide open field, Imogen let her hand slide softly into Malcolm's.

    "It is good to meet you Malcolm," she said finally, remembering at the very last moment to set aside her concerns and smile, to add something like human sincerity to her words. "Yes, this painting calls to me like no other. I look for hours when I can, to see the human in it one day. That is my hope. And where is the previous Archivist?"

    Her sensitive hand took in the entirety of Malcolm's own, and she savored the strange newness of this contact. His hand was warm, but not wet from being ensconced in a glove. These were strong fingers, surprisingly so, and she wondered whether men in his position needed such strength to carry loads of books perhaps? And then she felt the hardened skin in certain, definite places, and she was positively intrigued.

    "You have strange calluses on your hand, for an Archivist," Imogen spoke aloud, in all innocence.
  6. Curious. Malcolm's eyes pierced through the woman before him for a moment; he had never seen anybody debate an introductory handshake so much before. Of course, it was far from a negative thing to be tactful about how one conducted themselves when making a first impression. Only a moment of silence past, but it felt like a thousand thoughts had been assessed in those few seconds. 'Imogen' seemed almost paranoid as she took his hand in hers and he braced himself for what he expected to be the sensation of her very being invade his mind... Nothing. It was the first time since childhood he'd been able to touch a real, living person's flesh without using every ounce of willpower not to let their emotion show on his own face. In fact, the discovery was so shocking, that he found himself at a loss for words. How? Was the only thought ringing through his head until he realized he was staring at her. Finally, he blinked and shook his head.

    "My apologies, ma'am, I lost my train of thought for a moment there..." Her choice of words was strange, in retrospect. To find the human in it? To him, the painting spoke entirely of man. Then again, he found it in nearly any picture he watched, moreso in those that he made contact with. "Well I pray you find it one day... And on the topic of the previous Archivist, I've honestly no idea... I never met the man, I saw the position open up recently and took it," Malcolm explained, smirking slightly. "But I hope he simply took a retirement... From the sounds of it, he was aged quite well, and... well, from the appearance of his office and the library itself, he must have been having a rather difficult time of keeping things in line."

    An eye for detail, he silently noted as he felt the impression of Imogen's hand move ever so slightly, shifting its pressure about smoothly as she felt along his hand. Again, the question occurred to him: who was she? Was she there to investigate him covertly? Credit to her, she was very attentive and would be excellent at her job if he hadn't already spent years with eyes prying into him at every turn. He had yet to be noticed as a threat before playing Death and vanishing once more. Typically, he tried to keep his callouses trimmed down, as the grips of his kukri did a fine job providing traction for the underside of his hands, but there was little remedy to prevent roughness from developing. After the moment seemed to have been dragged out too long, Malcolm calmly withdrew his hand and looked at it for a moment.

    "Indeed I do, I apologize if it was irritating against your own hand, Miss Imogen," He said, feigning sincerity. "I must say, your attention to small details is quite impressive. But Archiving is far from the only line of work I've been in. After all, it's a dying field as of late and a man has to eat. Perhaps I will soon be rid of them and my hands will soften once more," He lamented, equipping his glove once more, stretching and wriggling his fingers to be sure that it was nice and tight. "Hard hands for hard work, I suppose. Things as simple as holding a broom handle too tightly while sweeping can cause callousing, however, so I may just be stuck with them after all."

    Once more, Malcolm clasped his hands behind his back, "I hate to impose, but if you've the time, I'd love to see more of the master's château. I've seen so little of it, after all. Further, if you don't mind my asking, I'm curious as to what your position is here. I typically don't make such presumptions, but I had thought you were Duke Cavanaugh's mistress or fiancée, simply because of the fine fabrics you have there and the absolute elegance with which you carry yourself. But I'd rather know for sure before jumping to such a conclusion. I would be rather embarrassed if I've already overstepped my place before even meeting the manse's lord. Not to mention on my first day of work as well," The man pointed out, keeping a respectable posture as he walked.

    In all honesty, he missed having his blades readily available. It happened in every mission, yes, but in ones like this - long term covert operations that required he hold a "low status" in anybody's home - were particularly difficult. His Kukri gave him power; he was the one in charge when he wielded them and there was no feeling like it in the world. However, the man had to admit, her curiosity was something he rarely saw in such high places... refreshing, at least. To him, she seemed like an echo of a past long-gone, one where he had thought he would be happy. The naïveté of youth was something he had lost sight of so distantly that he wouldn't even be able to falsely emulate it if he tried.
  7. Imogen's head tilted just so as Malcolm the New Archivist spoke, alternately delighted and amused and curious at his way of speaking to her. His apology for callouses irritating her hand struck a cord in some deep recess of her wondrous brain, and she recalled instantly a child's fairy tale, filed there for some unfathomable reason. The story was called "The Princess and the Pea," where a series of young women were tested to determine if they truly were princesses by sleeping on a pile of mattresses under which rested a single pea. As utterly illogical as this act might be, or its outcome (not, of course, that any fairy tale anywhere acted in accordance with logic), a true princess could not sleep on that tower of mattresses because her tender body would be wracked with the torment of the pea beneath her body. Imogen wondered if that was what Malcolm thought of her, that she might be a princess to actually feel anything like physical irritation at the mere touch of a strange callous.

    Imogen found herself oddly perplexed, when she realized she could not decide if she wished him to believe her a princess, or whether she would rather he not.

    She did the synthetic equivalent of shrugging in her thoughts. Whether she could made a decision or not, reality dictated it did not matter what he thought of her. She switched off the query without a moment's hesitation, and simply addressed his questions.

    "I am Alisdair's Imogen," she replied to his query concerning her status within the household. His flattery of her clothing and her elegance registered as pleasing to her, created as she was to accommodate the preferences and proclivities of men, and she graced Malcolm with a stunning smile. "I belong to him, and have for near two months now. I believe he is well-pleased with me."

    'Enough so, to give you these moments with your painting... '

    The smile slid away. Her nascent emotional programming was sufficient to give her the outward appearance of whatever feeling might best be forming in her thoughts and, though she had no need for breath, Imogen still sighed softly. Her grey eyes turned longingly toward the painting of light and wheat and rivers of stars, but she knew she ought not turn down the valid and - at any other time - perfectly reasonable request of a man in Alisdair's employ. There were certainly places in this Castle where Malcolm would not be welcome, and Alisdair would be terribly put out should he blunder into these rooms unawares.

    She thought of Joss, and disappearances, and did not wish such a thing for any human in the Castle, whether they smiled, sneered at or ignored her.

    "And yes, I will show you the common areas where all of Alisdair's employees are free to roam. I have only an hour, but I would be glad to show you what I may before I must go." One last glance for her painting, and then she was beside Malcolm, the lovely bare-footed Imogen in her evening gown, and the black clad Malcolm the New Archivist side-by-side as they meandered down the grand and stately castle halls.

    "Though I must ask - do not touch me again. I do not wish you to disappear." She nodded swiftly, as if her words had ended all conversation on the subject. "So did you have any particular place in mind, you would wish to start? The kitchens if you are hungry? The ball room? The music room perhaps?"
  8. Malcolm had to take a moment, watching the girl's mannerisms. She was quite the wordsmith, making her choice of vocabulary all the more strange. The Archivist couldn't help but notice her emphasis on possession. One day and this place had already introduced a lot more layers than he expected. He'd only really met one person and held a conversation wtih her for a few moments. Maybe he was just being entirely paranoid, but there was something off about this person. Was she Alisdair's slave? Or an escort? Or was she just extremely submissive and quirky with her reference to a relationship between them? Malcolm hadn't yet spoken to Alisdair, but men of such status did have a tendency to be overly possessive. For now, he would wait and observe; nobody had ever found his trail before the fact in his entire history as an assassin. Rarely did they sniff it out after, and even then the path after him turned cold quickly.

    Rather than pursuing the topic much farther, the psychic merely nodded, "Then you must have a large amount of intelligence. To make somebody of such stature content without crossing any line is a difficult task indeed... Many wouldn't think so, but the balance is delicate. Commendable," He said. Finally, they moved on to the tour. As Imogen began to explain where they would be going, Malcolm made a mental note of the fact that there weren't people in employ all over the house. Where couldn't he go? Sometimes, he wished he was a psychoportationist; despite their power being amongst the most dangerous and rare to manifest, the masters definitely had the easiest time of anything. Then again, the more he thought about it, the more Malcolm knew there were several powers more useful than his own. What the few psychics which possessed them didn't have were neither multiple manifestations nor, for the most part, skill in close-quarters combat. Not to mention, the more powerful you are, the more likely you are to be hunted down.

    Disappear... Even as Imogen said the word, Malcolm felt it ring through his entire body. He'd seen enough 'disappear' to last several lifetimes... There is nothing in this world worse, he decided long ago, than being left in the dark. Those averted eyes, all the whispers, the feeling that everybody else knows something that you don't. But then again, sometimes it seemed like finding out the truth was far worse. The things you see when you go digging places you aren't supposed to can be grim, but ignorance was nausea, not bliss. The Archivist was sure of it.

    However, that was too many red flags in one conversation to ignore. He was going to keep an eye on whoever this 'Imogen' was, as closely as he could. Touching was the line? Either Alisdair was even more possessive than he thought or Imogen had a 'thing' about personal space. "Agreed. I was only trying to be polite; as you can see, I'm one to keep my physical distance from other people," He mentioned, keeping at least one pace between them as they walked. Where did he want to go first? In honesty, he thought there was a rather natural route to follow in the house. However, since he was given the choice...

    "The music room," He answered with little thought. His fingers cracked softly behind his back before intertwining easily, "Always the best room in a house. You can tell a lot about a man by two things: the security and defenses of his home... and his music room. I'm very curious as to what instruments our majesty the Duke of Argyll keeps in his home. Besides, that'll be part of my job - there used to be specialists for music, but for quite a while now Archivists have been keepers of all the arts for our institute of employment. After his anecdote, Malcolm shrugged and looked with interest to Imogen, "What's your favorite room of the house, if I may ask?"
  9. "The kitchens," Imogen replied swiftly and easily, without the least hesitation. And though Malcolm did not ask further than that, Imogen always warmed to that subject quickly. She always would. "I enjoy cooking. I find it... Relaxing, I suppose. And I like to create things that brighten human senses, that please them." In her own vast mind, she replied the words she just spoke for her own edification, and linked yet another insight about her own nature. She was created to give pleasure to the one who owned her, and Imogen knew she did that very well. She was delighted to realize though, that she also genuinely enjoyed pleasing others who were not her Alisdair, for no other reason than she truly could.

    "I have learned to make many dishes, though baking is still something of a challenge. I was only just learning about yeast breads when Joss disappeared." A dark cloud flashed across her face, there one moment, gone the very next as if it had never been.

    "Do you have a favorite dish Malcolm? I would be glad to cook this for you, if you would like," she said in all perfect innocence, never once considering the incongruency of a perfectly coifed woman in a stunningly expensive evening gown offering to cook a man dinner. In truth, she was coming to enjoy the mere fact that Malcolm actually spoke with her, did not seem uncomfortable in her presence or eager to be away from her. True enough, he spent many pretty compliments on her, from her appearance to her intelligence. If Imogen were a true human woman, afflicted by vanity or lacking a true knowledge of her abilities, she would have had her head turned a thousand times over the niceties that traipsed off the tongue of this handsome young man.

    What Malcolm could not know, was that Imogen's needs were far less he might yet imagine. All she would ever hope for, was his simple willingness to actually speak to her. This was, however, only his first day and Imogen knew she ought not expect conversations to last, though she hoped nonetheless.

    "And it would seem your favorite room might be the music room then? I don't believe you'll be disappointed, Malcolm," she said softly, maneuvering the pair through the castle's hallways with a preternatural ease, her gait steady and smooth as silk with every step, as if she floated through the corridors, and did not simply walk.

    Imogen stopped before a tall set of thick, intricately carved wooden doors, her hands rest on the brass turning handles. The mechanism within clicked so very softly, and she pushed the doors wide open as she stepped through. The white washed plaster walls rose more than twenty feet into the air, the ceiling criss-crossed with magnificent thick beams illuminated by three massive wrought iron chandeliers overhead. The floors were a pale-colored oak set in an antique herringbone pattern, all the better to detract nothing from the true stars of this room: the breathtaking variety of well-maintained and exquisitely crafted instruments.

    Her hand waved to encompass the whole of the room. "I do hope you enjoy, Malcolm," she said with a smile. "Do you play any one in particular?"
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  10. This woman didn't really have a filter when she wanted to talk about something, it seemed. But getting too invasive too quickly would be a risk too. He gave a soft laugh as she launched into an explanation of why she loved the kitchens, and he even felt the smile linger on his lips. It was a little bit bizarre to him, simply for the fact that it felt genuine. Maybe in another time, on a different world he could have felt - could currently be feeling - so easygoing and blissful with one so interesting as her. It brought him comfort because another him was still him, and so enduring this life in this shithole was fine. Somebody had it far worse than him, at least.

    Disappeared. There it went again. That god forsaken word. Nothing in this world disappears. Nothing is here one day, gone the next without some kind of explanation. Dissipating is not an option and the fact that this woman... This woman who seemed so intent to learn and grow in her own naïveté was actually satiated by disappearance as an explanation, rather than a lack thereof. Some things are misplaced, some people move away, some people quit... some suffer a worse fate. But never has one simply vanished. It was remarkable how quickly Imogen could rally herself and move on after saying something so dark. For a moment, Malcolm's eyes narrowed studiously, staring into hers as long as he dared. He tried to see beyond the dull grey which sparkled with childlike innocence. He was snapped back to reality when she asked him about his own preference for cuisine.

    "It has been quite some time since I've been allowed to indulge in anything one could considered lavish. I'm a man of simple taste, really... But if I'm going to have something fancy and delicious, I'd say any dish involving shrimp... They're so... succulent," He lamented with a half-joking smirk. "But making my own meal will have to wait. I'll ask the kitchen staff for something later, if we don't have a large dinner planned. I wouldn't want to make a mess of you - you said you've only a little time left before you have to leave and we wouldn't want to soil your dress... I'm sure Our Liege, The Duke would be awfully cross if you were to show up any less pristine than when you left him."

    Finally arriving at the music room, Malcolm watched Imogen open the doors... With such pronounced grace, she stepped inside. It was as though, to her, everything belonged to her; yet, it also seemed that she denounced materialistic ownership for herself over anything. Strange... The Archivist was sure he'd read a story or a philosophical work somewhere which described such a way of life. In truth, it made him envious. But as the Duke's Archivist, he would be walking on eggshells for months until he finally relieved the man of his mortal coil.

    Malcolm followed the woman into the ornate room, scanning each wall, each beam with admiration. "It's lovely... Kudos to the duke on this one; he's done a fine job preserving the castle's most important facilities. From the library to the music room... A gentleman of good stock, I suppose," He pontificated. Oh how glad he was that Imogen didn't quite seem to grasp his dry sarcasm. Then again, most of it was used ironically and without exaggerated inflection so it was only natural for these to be things said by any 'servant' of the house.

    "I do, in fact," He mused with a small smile. "Music is one of the necessities of life, for me at least. I've always admired the strings... To me, they stand alone better than any other section of an orchestra. While I'm partial to the sounds of the violin, I never learned to play it. I suppose one could call me a pianist, but there's a reason I organize books and not concerts for a living; professional, I am not. I simply play to calm my own nerves," He explained as they took a round on the room, finally reaching a grand piano. He gently slid his forefinger along the edge of it, admiring the glossy sheen of black. When he withdrew his hand and looked to the digit which had brushed the smooth surface, he nodded, "I'm glad to see he keeps the room spotless and the instruments void of dust."

    Malcolm took a seat at the bench, making room for Imogen, "Feel free to sit, if you'd like..." His gloved fingers gently ran over the keys, but he pressed none yet as he adjusted his posture. One by one he began to introduce notes, warming up the long unused skill and un-stretched muscles. At first, he didn't play anything, but finally he stopped randomly putting together bars of his own and finally put his fingers in a pre-determined place. "Let's see if I can remember the whole thing... It's only a couple of minutes long, but it's been quite a while since I played."

    Canon in D (open)

    Slowly, he introduced the starting notes to the composition Canon in D. Really, it was only a portion of the full composition, but Malcolm had only that particular section memorized and once he'd found the first few notes, he didn't have to stop to think for even a moment after. Nearly three minutes later, his fingers stopped and the notes still reverberated for a moment, carrying throughout the whole of the room. His hands withdrew from the keys and he placed them at his sides on the bench, letting out a relieved sigh, "I love these old things..." His gaze turned back to Imogen, "It's been an unbelievably long time since I could play... So, thanks," He said sincerely, his fingers flexing on the edge of the bench before he closed the top on the keys, not wanting to let the dust get into them. "I hope Duke Cavanaugh doesn't mind my commandeering his piano, if only for a moment."
  11. Imogen watched Malcolm gravitate across the room almost inexorably to the grand piano, listening wordlessly as he spoke. Strangely enough, if there was anyone in this entire castle who could fully understand what he meant by art as necessity, it would be the non-human creature walking beside him. The silent war in her mind at Malcolm's invitation raged for a small eternity in her thoughts, the worries and the wishes and the wants and the fears for Malcolm - which is to say the time that passed in the real world was no more than the space of two seconds. And so while Malcolm worked through his warm up, Imogen finally slipped beside him on the piano bench. A barely perceptible shifting of weight was the only notice she had joined him while he played, and she took meticulous care to maintain a consistent physical distance at all times between herself and the new Archivist.

    And when the music began in earnest, she held the breath she did not truly need, pale grey eyes wide and rapt for several long moments as the strangely somber notes slowly pirouetted about them. The various movements and timings of Malcolm's fingers were memorized the moment they fell across the keys. Imogen, if she wished, could have duplicated the exact notes, and yet she knew all too well that just as with her painting of stars and wheat set in a reeling night sky, she could not fully grasp - much less replicate - that essential humanity that gave depth to the precision.

    Or at least, not yet. And that thought comforted her and kept her from despair.

    Imogen opened her mouth to reassure Malcolm that his musical offerings were eminently worthy, that she could not imagine Alisdair minding such beauty wrought from the piano, but she never had a moment to speak.

    "For two minutes and fifty-one seconds to be exact," the rich tenor voice intoned from the great entrance to the music room. "And I doubt anyone has ever commandeered anything of mine, not even for a moment. But it seems you have pleased sweet Imogen, and so I can overlook poor word choice."

    Her face lit brightly when she turned toward the tall, elegant man leaning casually in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. His thick silver hair was as immaculately stylish as the black, perfectly tailored tuxedo suit he wore as easily as a second skin. The expression in those dark eyes was unreadable, though the small smile he wore, twisted up in one corner, could very well be read as 'vaguely amused.'

    "Imogen, put your shoes on," His Grace said softly, mild disapproval in his voice as his gaze flickered toward the bare toes peeking from beneath her evening gown. She bent over to do so without question or even a split-second hesitation, quick, clever fingers lacing the straps easily before she stood to her now quite considerable height in those delicate, high-heeled shoes.

    "Malcolm did please me, Alisdair," she said as she crossed the room with a breathtaking grace, wrapping her arms about his waist as he pushed off the doorway, both arms open to eagerly embrace this matchless, perfect figure.

    The Duke of Argyll bent to lay a tender kiss on Imogen's forehead before his dark gaze turned toward the strange man who had been playing the piano alongside his Imogen. He smiled, though not an ouch of warmth touched those lips as he slipped one arm about her waist. "That is lovely," he said coolly, leaving absolutely no doubt there was the least sincerity in his words. "Malcolm, is it?" he asked as if the question was for Imogen, though his gaze never left the man at the piano bench.
    #11 Muirgen, Jan 13, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
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  12. Something brushed against the edge of Malcolm's awareness. The music room was so massive that he'd let his attention slide for just a moment; it didn't long to realize it was Alisdair. He rose from the bench without hesitation, instantly back to being Malcolm Findlay, Archivist. "Your Grace, forgive me, I hadn't noticed your entrance... I fall into my own world, sometimes," The man explained with a small, yet humble, bow. The tapping of his shoes filled the room as he crossed the floor, stopping only a few feet from his new 'boss.' Cock, he thought to himself with irritation. He watched as, in his head, Alisdair's face turned to one of horror and his throat opened nice and wide, pouring thick and crimson, drenching that pompous tuxedo. It was the only thing that allowed him to maintain this submissive position. How did Imogen do it day-in, day-out constantly? Was it all she really knew? If it had only been a month or two since she was placed under the duke's thumb, then what was her life like before?

    This was going to get very interesting, very quickly. "Aye, sir. Malcolm Findlay -- I'm the new Archivist and Imogen here was just showing me around. I hope I didn't inconvenience you by it." His hands remained clasped behind his back, not wanting to offer a handshake unless Alisdair initiated it. Narcissistic alpha male with a god complex and issues with possession; somebody had never heard the word no, it seemed. The lack of sincerity was not truly lost on Malcolm, but he acted as though he hadn't noticed it. "I really appreciate the tour, if only for a short while; nobody had taken the time to show me around yet, so to be honest I even passed on lunch today. I arrived, was shown my chambers and my office, and left to it. I studied a map, but that's not always helpful. I'm still not quite sure where to get food, though..." He mused nervously, waving a hand.

    "That's all beside the point. It's an honour to meet you, sir; I'm rather impressed by your preservation of the castle. So few people, especially of your status, are in touch with the historical side of their homes." Malcolm kept his poker face on while he sized Alisdair up. How much training did this guy have as a fighter? Some nobles didn't have any, others had trained intensively in case of people like Malcolm.

    "You both are dressed quite elegantly - though it's no business of mine, is there a function tonight?" He asked curiously. He wondered if exercising his Empathy would be helpful or just a red flag here, so he decided to take half of a motion to test the waters. Rather than altering the duke's state of mind, he took it as his own, putting himself in the man's shoes by psychically emulating his emotions. Some Empaths with this 'drawback' (when mandatory for the power's use) had an issue controlling themselves when struck by the emotions of another. In fact, Malcolm had to half-sedate himself when he had plans to use the ability, but he hadn't done so today. For a brief moment, the psychic let all of Alisdair wash over him. It was disgusting. Cold, dominating, and an overwhelming sense of arrogance which was absolutely despicable. The world of the privileged, Malcolm figured before letting it go. The very few moments he spent sharing that link with Alisdair hadn't shown on his face - simply because he hadn't made a full connection or overstepped a boundary. It was harmless.
    #12 BKenScout, Jan 14, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
  13. "'Your Grace,'" the elder man replied dryly as the Archivist finally ended his impertinent chat laced with obsequious and unnecessary praise and his impudent questions. "The correct address is not 'sir,' but 'Your Grace,' though you will not be faulted for this if Imogen is the first of my household you have met. She is lovely, and her various charms beyond compare," he continued, his gaze looking down toward hers with a now-familiar forbearance, "But she is not yet mistress of all the proper social graces. She will be though by tomorrow, will you not Imogen?"

    She smiled sweetly up at him, nodding her head in full and uncomplicated agreement with Alisdair's command, couched almost tenderly in his rhetorical question. "Of course," Imogen replied. If there were anything remiss in her training at all, she could download and learn that information in the space of seconds. By morning light, she would have all the pleasing mannerisms and flattering airs that would drive even the most seasoned of courtiers absolutely mad with envy.

    "Not, of course, that she will serve as your etiquette coach," the Duke of Argyll continued as his dark eyes lifted from Imogen to the new Archivist whose name he had already forgotten. That the Archivist considered it an honor to meet him was, of course, a given. Such employment as was provided by the house of Alisdair Cavanaugh was no small thing in this post-Fall world in which they lived. And if the Duke had any need to recall it in the future, Imogen would assuredly let him know.

    "Any more than I will. It is... Regrettable, that the only member of this household to take you under their wing thus far has been Imogen, but you will not be held responsible for that, Archivist." Alisdair greatly doubted the younger man truly understood the gracious reprieve he had just been given - for the moment, at least. Imogen felt the silent outrage and tension beneath her sensitive fingers, even through the cloth of Alisdair's perfectly tailored tuxedo. Without the least hesitation, the exquisite creature pressed the length of her body against his where his arm was wrapped about her, her hand snaking up his chest while her lips gently kissed the length of his neck until the tiny pink tip of her tongue lapped lightly against the sensitive skin of his earlobe.

    Alisdair closed his eyes for a moment and shuddered with a low groan. When he opened them once more, and he smiled almost benevolently. "That too will be remedied by tomorrow, Archivist."

    "And yes, of course there is a function this night, but the manner, timing and location are none of your concern," he added almost airily, sighing softly as Imogen melted once more against him. And for her part, Imogen was simply contented to have staved off the jealousy-born anger that had begun to flare up in Alisdair, against her new friend she so desperately wished to keep. Her grey eyes turned to Malcolm as she let her head fall against Alisdair's shoulder, a quiet plea in them that only he might see to hold his tongue no matter the insult, that he not disappear; and a silent promise she would find him again if only he did not turn from her as so many before him had done.
  14. This man was so high up on his pedestal that he was actually demanding to be called "Your Grace" every time he was referred to? Could he make his insecurity more obvious? No. The answer was no. Or at least, Malcolm thought that was the case... Until he went on to show his dominion over the beautiful woman beside him. Jealousy was a tell-tale sign of false confidence. The psychic relished the feeling of victory, though Alisdair wouldn't see it. "I apologize, Your Grace. It will not happen again," He said, still wondering how Imogen managed to remain so subservient. Was it just a façade she put on for the duke's sake or did she actually enjoy trying to fuse the entirety of herself into him? Malcolm mentally cringed at the words etiquette coach as if he was some ill-mannered piece of trash. One day and he was already giddy to make Alisdair pay for his privileged insolence.

    Then, he looked to Imogen... His mind wandered to the dozens of men in the duke's employ, if not more. Where would they be left without him? It didn't take long for Malcolm to settle on the fact that somebody would likely inherit or purchase the castle and its staff. Not to mention that many of them were likely "slaves of luxury" anyway, and their freedom might just come with it. He would have to take time out tomorrow for more research on the Cavanaugh family. The fact that this directly affected so many people would be a pain in the ass, but that could all easily be figured out later. He'd have plenty of time in the weeks to come to construct this plan down to the detail.

    Again, Malcolm had to prevent himself from scoffing, using more than a little effort to retain a stoic expression as the duke so generously pardoned him for talking to Imogen. He toted the woman around like a trophy and for the briefest of moments, he wondered if Imogen was really just that much of a sex-addicted tramp. Quite honestly, the entirety of his worry evaporated as she stared with pleading eyes to him.

    He bowed his head, "I see. Never an evening of rest for Your Grace, it seems. I hope this one goes smoothly for both of you and that you're granted a moment of reprieve one of these days soon... I'll remain satisfied with the books and art about the manse." With a reserved smile, Malcolm's hands remained clasped behind his back. Rather than encumbering the Duke with his presence any longer, the psychic gave one more bow, deeper than the one prior. "I'll take my leave now so that you might enjoy your evening without this bookworm Archivist standing in the way." Malcolm left the room, not turning his back on Alisdair until he left, to prevent any display of defiance. A photographic memory can be extremely helpful when retracing one's steps.

    In fact, he followed his path all the way back to his chambers, which were among the more lavish quarters in the keep. He was not an advisor, so the room was rather simple. However, because he was an actual employee, Malcolm had a digitally integrated room with its own restroom in it. The bed was queen-sized and, like most nowadays, had a perfectly adaptable firmness to the user's requisites. The carpets were a dark royal blue and the bed set was a simple black with red accents. He was given a window view with thick curtains, adjusted by remote to blackout any sun or city light beyond the third floor bedroom. His walls were a dull biege and he had nothing hanging on the walls, no personal touches... at least not yet. He might have to have one of the paintings brought in from storage to hang here or there... However, for tonight, he just wanted to rest.

    Stepping into the bathroom, he was greeted with a pristine white-tiled room. A shower, a bathtub large enough for three, and even two sinks... Malcolm had to wonder how long the previous archivist had called this home, and if the man had ever had a wife. Both the bedroom and the bathroom elicited such a feel, he noticed as he disrobed. Even the air hung thick with warmth and welcome; somebody had called this place home once. It wasn't just their quarters or their chambers, but rather somewhere they actually felt at peace. It was refreshing and Malcolm drew that same feeling from nearly every surface he touched. As he ran the bath, he pulled his shirt over his head and neatly folded it, setting it on the corner of the counter. He puffed up his chest at his appearance in the mirror, turning his jaw back and forth, looking at the contours of his jaw and cheekbones. He ran a hand over his face... Already, he missed that gruff stubble, prickling his flesh as he rubbed it. Of course, he didn't have to maintain a perfect shave at all times, but letting it grow too much would result in losing reputation as the classy Archivist for a high-ranking household. How tedious, he decided for the hundredth time that day. His eyes moved down slowly to his chest, marked with pricks and scars all over. His fingertip ran over each one. Not only could he easily recall how each one was made, but psychometry let him relive each moment when he focused on the scars. At first, it was terrifying... But over time, he learned to use it for bolstering his skills in combat. He could easily learn from mistakes by watching himself make them - like an athlete watching game footage. One in particular stood out; it had been a gash in his shoulder, just below his collar, near the ball-and-socket joint. A large handgun round was fired at him before being lodged deeply into his flesh. The scar was actually from a third-rate 'surgery' he had to give himself just an hour later to remove the bullet. It was bloody and disgusting, so it hadn't quite healed right until he got back to the military HQ and they patched it back up. While he retained mobility and full use of the arm, sometimes he could still feel his utility knife breaking the skin to remove the round. He cringed at the thought and placed his hands on the counter, sighing.

    Finally, the bath seemed full enough to submerge himself. Malcolm let out a groan of relief as he stepped into the tub, sinking comfortably low in the water. "It's been so long... God that's just what I needed..." Every muscle in his body relaxed and he let go of the entire day's events. He couldn't force Imogen from his mind and that only caused him to smile; Alisdair couldn't control his thoughts, couldn't see them, but if he could... Oh the envy would be palpable. That woman was smart and beautiful; though the psychic didn't know her, he had to admit that she did draw the worst out of him. The lust he felt for her already was incredible, but that was likely true for every man in the castle. With her on his mind, Malcolm found himself taking the most relieving bath he'd had in months, sighing softly and laying back for several moments before finally climbing out of the water and drying off in a small shower-like chamber. It fit him still quite easily as he turned the air blowers on for about a minute, withdrawing as soon as he was dry enough before wrapping a towel around his waist. Taking his uniform to his room, he dropped it in his personal laundry bin, to be taken by one of the housekeepers once or twice a week. He put on a set of black silken pyjamas - perfect fits... To be honest, if he were a different person, Malcolm could live in this life quite comfortably for a very long time. Another world, another time, he mused again. Next, he laid out an identical uniform for the next day, stretching out and rolling his neck around to loosen up.

    He sat on his bed, taking the folded tech-plates which he had retrieved from his office and opened it, adding a short excerpt to the file inside before closing it and setting it aside with a yawn. He rubbed his eyes and slouched in the bed, deciding to leave the screen at the opposite wall off. He wasn't one for television when he had such a rare feeling of easiness. Fatigue from such a long day swept over him... It was pleasant to finally have a chance to place his hands on a keyboard again. He smiled and a soft snore escaped him as he fell asleep.

    ... ... You will burn for your sins...

    Malcolm sat up rapidly, covered in a cold sweat and breathing heavily. The tail end of yet another dream, he realized, gasping for a few moments. The psychic readjusted on the bed rubbing his temples, "Shit... Why... Why can't I just have one pleasant day and go to bed without this crap..." he muttered in pure agitation to himself. What time was it? He had no idea, but he knew that no matter how much time had passed, he felt pathetic. He couldn't remember anything but the final moments of the night terror and was only comforted by the fact that he no longer screamed when he slept. As he lifted a hand, he noticed they were trembling... Malcolm pulled his shirt off and tossed it aside, reaching down next to the bed, where his still-packed bag rested.

    From it, he withdrew a needle and a band to be used as a tourniquet which he wrapped around his lower bicep, pulling it tightly. A bright blue liquid sloshed around in the tube of the syringe, which he flicked and checked. Drugs were of common use in this day and age - recreational or otherwise. Medicine had gone so far that those who depended on it and could afford it would regularly apply their own doses however they were prescribed. Malcolm's was self-prescribed, but it was far from recreational. It was in his application for the position as well, he had insomnia according to his employment profile. In reality, he did have issues sleeping, but he didn't require regular dosing of the injected chemical - it was only on certain nights. Much like this one. He had approximately one hundred and twenty seconds to get comfortable after the needle was empty. He placed it on his nightstand and removed the anti-circulatory band from his arm, placing it near the syringe as his eyes began to grow heavy. His head set down on the pillow, which he clutched tightly for only a few moments before the drug forced his muscles to relax, letting the world drift from focus as his eyes finally closed and his conscious mind began to shut down and finally... release. Dreamless sleep came to him this time and he reveled in the bliss until it was time to wake up again...
  15. The party was... Well, it was a gathering exactly like so many other gatherings before, the dozen or so Imogen had attended in her short lifetime with Alisdair. To do what was needful, to be the charming toy of a powerful man, required virtually none of her true potential. To smile, to watch their faces and know by the subtlest of cues and pauses when she should laugh at jokes she truly did not understand, to dance elegantly with Alisdair (who truly was very light on his feet) or with whomever else he might allow (the His Royal Majesty would have caused no amount of pain and tenderness to her toes, were she merely human) - no, none of this required any conscious effort on her part in the least.

    Imogen could not become bored - not really. She simply was not programmed for that ability. But this night, if she truly were bored? She would have had the closest thing that a creature like Imogen could have in way of distraction, in her daydreams. And though these strange bioelectronic daydreams still did not take up the even a thousandth of her capability, any more than being draped over Alisdair's arm she found pleasure there nonetheless.

    Imogen thought about shrimp.

    Or more precisely, Imogen tried to recall all the shrimp recipes she had ever learned, and then wondered at the permutations, suddenly unsure what spices or herbs, what rice or potatoes or vegetables or sauces her new friend Macolm might be partial to. And so, she let her mind wander over the possibilities, shrimp gumbo, shrimp cocktail, shrimp fettucines, bouillabaise, shrimp with capers and shrimp scampi, shrimp creole and jambalaya. And if Imogen knew more than a century ago, there had been a very popular movie containing several funny scenes where a man recalls a lifetime's worth of shrimp recipes, even she might have laughed.

    But she did not know this, and so she did not laugh. But Imogen did smile at the thought of seeing her new friend smile in return. She hoped he would. She truly hoped he would enjoy her food. She was programmed of course, to please the Duke of Argyle in all ways, and to seek those ways out where she could. Imogen hadn't the least idea that her wish to please Malcolm was a development, a choice made entirely of her own nascent will. Just like the decision she finally made, that one day she would make shrimp scampi for Malcolm, with herbed rice and asparagus.

    By the end of the night Alisdair was intoxicated, which in itself was not so unusual. They were returned to the bedroom they often shared by the Captain and, as was often the case, he fumbled drunkenly at her body, and attempted intercourse that he was never able to finish in the state he was in. And though Imogen knew enough to be pleasant and understanding and acquiescent, there were nights - like this one - that Alisdair's alcohol-fueled rage sent his fists flying, humiliated by his impotence. He never hit her face though, and Imogen stoically absorbed the blows to her belly and her limbs, and waited for sheer exhaustion to push him over the edge to unconsciousness while he wrapped his hands about her neck, futilely trying to strangle a creature who did not need to breathe.

    There was only one bright spot of such nights - Alisdair always forgot to order her to stay with him, and pretend to sleep. On any other night, Imogen might do as much anyway, but not this night. She had not been able to see her painting this night, the whorls of star and wheat and kaleidoscopic color. She did not have permission, but Alisdair had not denied her this chance either - he had even allowed her to earlier. For Imogen's reasoning, this would suffice.

    That this might put her a little closer to Malcolm, whatever he might be doing this night, only added to the luster of her burgeoning happiness.

    The turtleneck sweater covered the darkening fingers wrapped about her throat - she did not need to breathe, but the skin and blood vessels beneath were human enough after all. Unthinking, she had once left the bruises and contusions uncovered. That had only happened once.

    And so in a thick turtleneck sweater, butter soft leather pants and her bare feet, Imogen made her way once more to her painting and, as she settled easily on the bench opposite, she gave a surprisingly human sigh of relief. Grey eyes fell into their familiar rhythm, following the flow of stars and wind and wheat like a river - and yet she frowned. Something felt... Odd. Off... And for the life of her Imogen could not imagine what that might be. A small eternity passed in her lightning swift thoughts, near ten seconds, until her face suddenly brightened, and she laughed. Imogen pulled her feet up, crossing her legs easily on the bench as the strains of 'Canon in D' began to play in her head, from Malcolm's fingers to the bright notes dancing through her heart. This was the perfect accompaniment to her painting, until the morning light.

    And by the time the first rays of dawn touched the parapets of Castle Inverary, Imogen's heart thrilled at the realization she might - just might - have begun to understand...
  16. Roderick was always the first in the castle to rise; admittedly, he loved the morning, but the only exception to those being up before him were those who didn't sleep. The cock didn't crow unless Captain Allaway woke it up first, or at least that's what many of his underlings seemed to think. There wasn't much to his job so long as he stayed alert and did his rounds to make sure the guardpost rotations were operating smoothly. Only a few brave souls had thought to take a nap on their own watches but they never got away with it more than once. Roderick was a fun guy, yes, but he was a fierce ocean storm to those who didn't take a job which he had given them with the utmost seriousness. The house staff were his charges but Alisdair was his friend and the smallest of threats were never taken lightly. Like a proud shepherd watching over his flock, the captain made it his duty to do at least a couple of patrol rounds himself per day, make 'idle' chat with a large number of staff members (idle because they wrongly assumed it to be trivial small talk when in reality he was constantly keeping tabs on the manse), and personally see to Alisdair's affairs for the day. Of course, there were people keeping his agenda, but it was Roderick's duty to make sure each was properly organized and operated.

    One thing he refused to do unless going to a public event was hide his weaponry including a large pistol at his hip which held a twelve-round magazine .40cal ammunition and was equipped with a green laser-pointer sight. It wasn't the most up-to-date weapon, but it was highly reliable, had the perfect weight to it, and it was only meant as an emergency sidearm. There was always a combat knife strapped to his opposite thigh and a smaller one in a sheath on his boot. Finally, when he chose to or needed to carry it, there was a semi-automatic rifle with all the bells in whistles in the armory, locked up tight. It fired more recently developed rounds; they were still ballistic, but held a charge of electricity that released the moment it connected with flesh. They could indefinitely stun the nerves surrounding the bullet's point of contact, thus making the weapon both a lethal and non-lethal form of detainment. This morning he was more than happy to change out of the previous night's monkey suit (formal wear in general was strangling to him) in exchange for his uniform. All of his guard wore grey, digital-pattern camouflage fatigues with black combat boots while on duty. They didn't have patches apart from ones for a very rudimentary three-rank system. New recruits had a single red bar which appeared as a small piece sewn into their collar and as a band around their left arm - after a year, they were no longer considered 'new' and would be given a second bar on their collar and a uniform with their name sewn into the right breast and their band removed in favor of two more 'real' bars sewn into the shoulder along with the title 'guard.' Finally, the third rank had a finite number of spaces, all of which answered directly to only Allaway or, if need be, Alisdair. They were hand-picked from the general guard by the captain and their job was to make sure that their small, assigned squads were ever vigilant, simply because it would be too much work for one man to supervise.

    As he walked the halls this morning, he noticed one person that wasn't in her room, just as he was passing the 'library.' He wondered if the new Archivist was an early riser too, or if he would be sleeping in and staying up late. To be honest, it was far form an important position to him and if they would just stop worrying about physical copies of things and put it all on digital devices, he'd be more than happy to accept it. The guy had seemed harmless enough - his background checked out fine, nothing major wrong with him, so putting him in a small room to work with books all day wasn't something that worried Allaway much. He'd yet to meet Malcolm outside of their initial interviewing process and hiring.

    "Good morning, ma'am," He said stoically as he saw her staring at the painting. How often and for how long did she look at this stupid thing? Anybody could swirl blue and purple on a canvas, splash it with yellow, and call it art. To each their own, he supposed, "Are you not with His Grace this morning? It was to my understanding he would expect you to be at his side as soon as he was conscious. He may be up any moment now," He pointed out, making the actual purpose for the observation more than clear. It was a warning - she was out of place. How could she ever know the concept of freedom? She was given none, whether she knew she lived in a prison of Alisdair's devising or not. Much of the staff was free to do as they liked as long as their work was finished, but not her; her job was to be Alisdair's plaything. What was she doing out?

    "He seemed to have a lot of fun last night, I'm sure he'll not wake up this morning in the best of sorts, I recommend getting him something to quell the headache he's sure to have."

    Meanwhile, Malcolm was just opening his eyes groggily. He hated waking up after a night like that... Usually, he enjoyed mornings, but when he had to take a drug just to sleep, he was never rested well and his morning got off to a later start than he liked. It was a perfectly benign evening, so the night terrors were clearly getting more prominent rather than less. Wonderful, he mused before sliding out of the bed and preparing himself for the morning.
    #16 BKenScout, Jan 29, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2015
  17. Imogen was not truly capable of resentment, because that would imply she believed she had a right to... Well, to anything truly. To consideration. To dignity. To kindness or decency or even a gentle touch. But since she believed no such thing, there was no annoyance, no irritation at all as she looked up to the Captain's stern, unyielding face.

    There was, however, a heavy weight of disappointment that extinguished the joy only just begun to bloom behind those grey eyes. She had been so very, very close...

    "Good morning, Captain," Imogen replied politely. There was never any joy in meeting with the Captain, most assuredly nothing to compare to the opportunity to meet men like Joss and Malcolm, and this morning was no different. She understood the Captain was a creature of Alisdair's, much as she was, though that was where any vague similarity ended. She unfolded herself from her perch, not the least cramped or uncomfortable from having held the same position for hours on end now.

    Bare feet fell to the cold stone and she stood, not bothering to answer any of the Captain's questions. Of course she was meant to be with Alisdair this morning, and would expect her to be beside him when she woke. And yes, he may be awake even now. Imogen chewed her lip for a moment, the only indication the thought Alisdair was awake this very moment, before she returned was truly terrifying... It was just that... Well... She had been so close...

    "Yes Captain, of course," she said softly, nodding her head as she moved to pad by him, pulling the turtleneck of her sweater just a little higher up to her jaw with both hands. Not that the Captain would care about the finger-shaped bruises growing there - of course he would not. But if she did not hide them as she was bade, he surely would tell Alisdair she had been disobedient in that respect at the very least, and she did not like to be hurt. Like most every living creature, Imogen had been created able to feel pain, and hurt, and to know the sensations that meant she might be maimed, or destroyed. She had the synthetic equivalent of nocireceptors, and was capable of a full range of hurtful experiences, from a dull ache to a sharp agony, and she did not enjoy them in the least.

    That Imogen was fully capable of the full range of pleasant sensations as well, was not an aspect of her world she yet knew existed.

    She did not look back as she strode down the hallway in the same direction she arrived, not-quite-running but moving a quick clip nonetheless. Imogen knew very well the Captain was watching her leave, making sure she never deviated - no matter she never deviated before. He took no detail for granted, not even Alisdair's 'plaything.'
  18. Captain Allaway made no acknowledgment of Imogen's affirmative save for a curt nod before watching her walk away. Going, going, gone... Good, one more plausibly deniable fact if she disappears - 'I sent her to your room, sir, I don't know where she went. She was headed that way when I last saw her,' he would say. Little did it matter; Imogen never once disobeyed an ordered or went out of her way to avoid Alisdair beyond random wandering. Kidnappers wouldn't get any farther than the doors as every guard knows Imogen's every feature, as they've been instructed to ensure her safety as Alisdair's plaything. To each their own, Allaway was not fond of women, or anybody, in general. His contradictory cold-yet-outgoing disposition often made him the target of affection at social gatherings, but rarely did it last long before his genuine lack of interest pushed the interested imbeciles away.

    Now, where was that Archivist..? He wondered, returning to his patrol round as he absently made sure to look for anybody in the proper uniform.

    Malcolm rubbed the sleep from his eyes; his morning shower usually helped, but today he was simply left groggy. Simply put, he had a hangover. Of course, this was no drinking-partying-living-life hangover... No, this was a side effect of his sedative, which was possibly the most aggravating part of needing the medication. He let out a sigh, watched himself in the mirror for a few moments as he made several expressions in an attempt to actually feel any of the muscles in his face. His gaze ran over his short hair, which was a damp mess from his shower after a night of cold sweat right down to the green pigment outlining his pupils. He was young, yet his brow was creased and skin was beginning to show signs of an age five years beyond what it should. He ran a hand over his freshly shaven chin, already wistful for the removed stubble which he had grown quite fond of in the past weeks.

    His mind drifted absently to the curiosity that was Imogen Cavanaugh, or rather he assumed she was a Cavanaugh, and how she's maintained an astounding youth to her and a relatively excitable bounce to her step. It was a wonder how she kept a child's curiosity and innocence through her fascination with just about anything... Or at least, from what he gathered she was.

    Finally, he was able to dress himself and leave his room, rolling his neck and shaking out his tired, under-rested joints. As he walked the halls, he barely saw what was in front of him, his eyes losing focus with a foggy mind. There would be little organization to work in today. The Archivist blinked once to clear his eyes as he saw a figure walking towards him. He used all of his willpower just to keep his posture respectable and his stride even, though he could do nothing to keep himself actually focused. As his vision readjusted, the girl drawing near became more apparent and he gave her a small nod.

    "Good morning, Imogen," He said, smiling softly as he tried to hide the envy for her ability to simply float about... No worries, no cares... life was just living, and that was okay. It was something he'd long since forgotten.
  19. Imogen so rarely got what she truly wished for, and that made those rare moments - such as this one, when Malcolm seemed to appear from thin air as if sprung from her very thoughts - all the more special. The wide, lovely smile that had faded in the wake of the Captain's unsubtle dismissal, and his unspoken order back to Alisdair's rooms, was like gentle sunshine - a morning light that would not cause any pain to Malcolm's poor, tender looking and slightly reddened eyeballs.

    No, her newest friend was not looking well at all, not to pale grey eyes that missed absolutely no detail, trained to take in the least subtle twitch or grimace or movement, and translate this to human emotions. This inbuilt skill was only ever meant to be used for Alisdair, but somewhere in the night, the vast and glowing universe tucked within Imogen's mind had shifted, molded by her nascent will alone to begin modeling her perceptions and responses to include Malcolm as well.

    "Good morning Malcolm," she replied, stopping beside him for some precious moments that cost her far more than the young man might ever know. A sudden flash of bioelectric pain arced through her mind though she never flinched, suffering the agonizing band of hurt that constricted about her synthetic skull like an iron cuff, the screw twisting mercilessly. She had been programmed to attend to Alisdair's needs, wants and whims first and foremost, without a single thought for herself, much less anyone else. She should not be here.

    And yet she was, because this was Malcolm. Her friend Malcolm, who was kind to her and who spoke to her like an equal. He gave her pretty music that whispered softly to whatever soul such a creature as she might possess. He gifted her with smiles that were unafraid. Malcolm was truly precious to her.

    "Are you feeling all right?" He did not smell of alcohol the way Alisdair did, but there was still something there, something subtle she noted that felt a touch... Off. If he were in pain, he was hiding it mightily well, but the wooziness was something she could not miss, having seen such a daze multiple times in her short, gilded and brutal lifetime. She denied the urge to run her hand lightly, so soothingly over his forehead and then through his hair as she might Alisdair's, and the agonizing iron band around her head tightened further still.

    She should not be here. She should be in Alisdair's rooms, undressed and readying the pharmaceutical concoction that would dispel his headache in moments. Her own suddenly ratcheted up to heights that would have crippled a grown man, but only the slightest, near imperceptible twitch at the corner of her smiling mouth gave truth to the agonies raging in her head. Her hands remained neatly at her sides, Imogen herself the impulsive touch that would surely make Malcolm disappear. The Captain was nearby, and though she did not see him? That did not mean he was not watching her - her, and Malcolm.

    "I saw the Captain of the Guard, Captain Allaway this morning. He was back toward your library," she said almost lightly, just a small spot of passing conversation in the hallway. When the library had become Malcolm's in her mind she could not have said for sure, but that it certainly was? This was nothing but indelible fact now in Imogen's thoughts.
  20. The Archivist stretched his back slightly, rolling his neck once more as he felt his muscles cry out for relief. Nothing was working at full capacity; his movements were all just the slightest bit more sluggish than usual. However, considering the ease that usually accompanied his actions, it was significant enough for a friend to take note. As the woman stopped beside him, he also took a moment and rested himself against the wall, steadying himself. Letting out his breath slowly, he nodded and ran a hand through his own hair.

    "Yeah, fine. Just a little out of sorts is all. It isn't like my job is physically taxing, so I'll get through it just fine. Bout of vertigo is all," He explained passively, dismissing the fatigue caused by poor sleeping habits. Letting his breath out slowly, Malcolm gently rested himself against the wall as he rolled his neck, his muscles crying out for more sleep and a proper stretch. To be honest, he still wasn't sure what he thought of Imogen, but at least she was sweet... And to be honest, with her closeness to Alisdair, she was an asset. The subtleties of her character seemed so different today, however. She had lost those stars in her eyes, whether they were reflections of a Van Gogh or created by the wonder of her gaze as music filled a room. Her posture was impeccable, but she seemed more stiff today, as though she was trying to be more proper than the night before. Was everything not okay in Paradise?

    My library..? Malcolm wondered as she spoke again, a bit perplexed by her choice of words... It was funny how one word or phrase could change the entire weight of a statement. Even if Imogen was oblivious to the minuscule shifts in her phrasing, Malcolm was not... It felt less like small talk and more like a warning to him as she told him about Allaway's arrival to the least populated room in the keep. The Archivist peeled himself from the wall; he was still excessively fatigued, but he started to work harder to keep his mind alert. Perhaps Imogen simply had the naïveté that made the captain more of an intimidating figure than he really was. Malcolm had met him for a weak interview and a rather poorly conducted background check but the two had done little discussion after the fact.

    "Ahh, Captain Allaway... We've spoken little since my interview," He recalled, shrugging his shoulders. "I'm sure he's a fine man, though." Malcolm decided to keep his guard up, in case Roderick was more threatening than he initially thought; the Archivist was never one to dismiss details as mere coincidence. Be it in (un)conscious speech or the way one carries themselves, everything was important. The hair on the back of Malcolm's neck rose as he heard the incoming sound of boots on the floor. Turning his head, the Archivist saw Roderick approaching. Oaf, he thought to himself as he watched the guard's stride down the hall. More confidence that he deserved came wit heach footstep.

    Of course, both men were so full of themselves that neither thought of the other as a real challenge. Allaway was older, Malcolm was stronger. Experience versus skill. It would be a fight for the ages. However, Malcolm knew better than that - the true battle would be psychological.

    "Archivist," Roderick started with a falsely pleasant nod. For a moment, he quirked his eyebrow at Imogen, but blew the infraction off. If Alisdair woke up, that was her problem, if she knew she had time, then he couldn't care less what she did. His attention turned to Malcolm, "You seem awfully tired today... You okay?"

    "Hanging in there, sir. Just forgot to look at the clock last night after working on getting my affairs in order. Coupled with sleeping in a bed I'm not used to, it was just new, so I had to spend a bit time getting used to it all... I'm okay, though. Adjusting always takes a few days," He assured the captain. "It's good to meet you beyond the desk," He added amicably.

    "Indeed..." The captain replied a bit skeptically, offering a hand to Malcolm, "Well I suppose I should officially welcome you aboard."

    The Archivist paused for a slight moment before pulling his glove off and shaking the man's hand, grasping it firmly. The captain made no mention about his callouses as Imogen had. Just as it had the night before, Malcolm felt the essence of the person before him start to flood his mind. Today, however, he pushed back, wove his own will against Allaway's, unlike he had Alisdair. As much as he already felt an aversion for Roderick, he also knew that planting that seed of trust was important. It was all part of the infiltration; by appearing slightly weak, Malcolm could rule himself out as somebody to be worried about. On the other hand, by taking small steps, like handshakes and eye contact, he could be viewed as an equal or at least somebody likable. The balance was delicate, and his Empathy made it all the easier.

    When Malcolm felt himself hit by Roderick's mental state, it felt much like Alisdair's. However, his alertness was more conscious... There was still plenty of arrogance. But there was something else... The Archivist showed a bit of concentration, but Allaway would hardly notice it; he was too busy starting to notice the little things about Malcolm that made him trustworthy. The firmness of his handshake, his qualifications for the position he held, the dedication to his field, and so on. Meanwhile, the psychic was taking his sweet time looking around Allaway's psyche. What was that..? A little bit of prodding discovered shame... Boy was it hidden deep, though. Malcolm wondered where it stemmed from and why it was buried so deep. Childhood? No, it seemed less like an experience and a shame of himself. He smirked slightly, oh. Next time he and Roderick made contact would need him to issue a bit more of an investigation into it. If it was what he thought it was, this would make everything that much easier.

    The psychic withdrew his hand and the connection was broken. Rather than suspicion and scrutiny, Roderick's gaze was now one that was more intrigued than anything. Imogen, one who would miss nothing, was most likely to notice Malcolm's slight shifts into concentration and the effort he had to put into maintaining his power over the link between himself and Roderick.

    The captain cleared his throat and shook his head, as if getting out of a trance, "Maybe after my rounds today, I'll stop into your office, see how you're doing. If not, some time soon. I always make a point of it to meet our new employees outside of those stuffy interrogations over my desk," He joked... kind of... as he crossed his arms. "But I do have to check on my underlings and take care of work this morning. I'll see you soon. Miss Imogen," He said, nodding to the woman before walking off. He shook his head as he walked away, still a little bit befuddled as to what he'd just witnessed...

    Malcolm smiled a little bit and looked to Imogen, "He doesn't seem so bad. What's on your agenda for today?"
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