Unseen Confluence

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Midian, Aug 15, 2015.

  1. View attachment 81635

    For such a large house, the interior of the three-story was quite modest. Not in its contents, which were certainly not sparse, but rather in their nature: antiquated statuettes, books, lamps that threw gentle, yellow light, and slightly dusty bowls that were mostly empty. Yet the crowd that pumped through the house like blood was out in glitter-studded splendor, sequined dresses and shiny shoes bouncing the reserved lamplight like disco balls. They were all there to see the pride and joy of the quaint, comfortable house: the numerous paintings.


    Dr. Hans Klein had been a professor of art history for the better part of thirty years, and over the course of them had collected a stunning array of paintings. Each was a jewel on the throat of the house, offset in white light and cream wallpaper.

    As he did every year, Dr. Klein had invited them all there at $25 a plate to see the art, dine, and support his department's scholarship. This year only differed in a few things, as Klein was a creature of habit and preferred not to change things if he could help it. His usual front security guard had suffered a broken leg during an amateur MMA competition, but the opponent who had done it had humbly stepped up to take his place at half the usual fee. Their caterer had also insisted he offer gluten-free options this year, which he grudgingly did so despite the uptick in price, sure she was only pushing it because she had had to hire additional staff for the party.

    Otherwise, things at the party were the same. For the third year in a row he'd managed to book Rhoda Roman, one of Metro City's most promising singers, and all of the seats at the table had been filled. With her came the usual patronage and discounts on liquor from the club she usually sang at, The Shooting Star. Their usual chef was there, producing the usual sumptuous meal, and Klein was quite content that things were on course.

    Mostly.

    Beneath the party, in the basement, lay something quite different. When Klein had purchased it, he had assumed it was merely an ancient ceremonial sort of mask or statue. However, within a short three months, he had learned otherwise. Within nine, the mob had begun to try to get it from him, first through bargaining, but more lately through threats.

    View attachment 81636

    So for the party he had hired Sterling Morgan to protect it, calling it only "exceptionally valuable" and conveniently forgetting the woman and strange land he'd seen in his dreams every night since acquiring the thing.

    [​IMG]

    For such a large house, the interior of the three-story was quite modest. Not in its contents, which were certainly not sparse, but rather in their nature: antiquated statuettes, books, lamps that threw gentle, yellow light, and slightly dusty bowls that were mostly empty. Yet the crowd that pumped through the house like blood was out in glitter-studded splendor, sequined dresses and shiny shoes bouncing the reserved lamplight like disco balls. They were all there to see the pride and joy of the quaint, comfortable house: the numerous paintings.


    Dr. Hans Klein had been a professor of art history for the better part of thirty years, and over the course of them had collected a stunning array of paintings. Each was a jewel on the throat of the house, offset in white light and cream wallpaper.

    As he did every year, Dr. Klein had invited them all there at $25 a plate to see the art, dine, and support his department's scholarship. This year only differed in a few things, as Klein was a creature of habit and preferred not to change things if he could help it. His usual front security guard had suffered a broken leg during an amateur MMA competition, but the opponent who had done it had humbly stepped up to take his place at half the usual fee. Their caterer had also insisted he offer gluten-free options this year, which he grudgingly did so despite the uptick in price, sure she was only pushing it because she had had to hire additional staff for the party.

    Otherwise, things at the party were the same. For the third year in a row he'd managed to book Rhoda Roman, one of Metro City's most promising singers, and all of the seats at the table had been filled. With her came the usual patronage and discounts on liquor from the club she usually sang at, The Shooting Star. Their usual chef was there, producing the usual sumptuous meal, and Klein was quite content that things were on course.

    Mostly.

    Beneath the party, in the basement, lay something quite different. When Klein had purchased it, he had assumed it was merely an ancient ceremonial sort of mask or statue. However, within a short three months, he had learned otherwise. Within nine, the mob had begun to try to get it from him, first through bargaining, but more lately through threats.

    [​IMG]

    So for the party he had hired Sterling Morgan to protect it, calling it only "exceptionally valuable" and conveniently forgetting the woman and strange land he'd seen in his dreams every night since acquiring the thing.
     
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  2. Dr. Klein, one of the city's premier Art Historians, if not the worlds. Sterling had often wondered about the man's collections, their history, their cost, how they were kept secure, and tonight he had the chance to see them first hand.

    Sterling Morgan was not a simple security guard for hire. Sterling Morgan was one of the city's top security consultants. He typically worked for the elite companies, designing systems and procedures to keep their products, plans, and formulas safe. He set up routines for physical guards, recommended systems and safes, ensure the clients purchased the best from the honest, and sometimes served as a guard himself. Occasionally he did jobs for the wealthy or the influential who could pay. Dr. Klein was one such client.

    It had taken effort to get the man to understand that his usual security was lacking, or at least to get him to upgrade the basement. In the upper floors was the usual. Plain cloths men stationed so that every corner of any publicly accessible rooms could be seen at all times, a few roaming the hallways to check the other areas, and two guarding the entry area to the basement. The basement Sterling has turned into a full top-of-the-line, modern, vault.

    The mask had been placed on a weight-sensitive pedestal in the center of a moving laser grid. There were motion detectors and cameras set up to cover every angle, and the deed was not only transmitted to a guard in a room on the upper floor, but to Dr. Klein's personal computer where he could check in at any time, and, for tonight only, Sterling Morgan's smart phone.

    No one was getting past him, Sterling had promised, not tonight. He always kept his word.
    "Everything's in order, Sr." He stated calmly, his silver hair flashing in the light. A wizened hand offered up a phone to the Client could see the feed, before tucking it safely back into the breast pocked of a dark, pinstripe, perfectly tailored suit.

    As the guests mingled, and guards watched, more than a few people infiltrated Dr. Klein's residence.
    Every single one of them was after a single target.
    The mask.​


    [​IMG]
    The Hacker
    One of the food runners stepped back from fray waiting for the next cart to be filled with finished plates ready to be taken to the guests. One hand slipped into a too large waiter's jacked to pull out a smart phone and check the screen.
    "Ten minutes out . . ." a soft voice whispered.

    "Order's up!"

    A short, not quite plump young woman stepped forward to take the tray with one hand, the phone securely back in her pocket. Large, brown rimmed, bottle glasses minimized the chocolate eyes behind them, the wire rim of a retainer was easily visible when she smiled, and a tan face completely voice of makeup sported a light smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose. The ebony hair was pulled back in twin braids with a crisp white kerchief folded professionally over the hairline.

    "You ready Kirsty?" a grinning redhead beamed at her over her own tray and a similar kerchief. There was a bit of pink ribbon tied artfully around the woman's slim neck. "You do well on this first gig and maybe they'll keep you!"

    "That would be nice." Shy eyes shifted towards the kitchen door as it swung wide and the servers filed out with their trays.

    The mental countdown continued. Only eight minutes now.
     
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  3. The Hitter

    June adjusted the sleeve of her starched white shirt, making sure the little silver and emerald cufflink was in the right place and picking up signal. The cufflink, impressively useful for its size, detected invisible lasers, while its twin caused some short wave radio interference; no one facing her tonight would be radioing for help. With one last tug on the deep green silk vest, June moved onto the floor and began to flow through the crowd. Dressing to look more like staff meant fewer people would try to mingle with her and impede or distract her. Her goal was fairly simple: get the mask, plant it on someone, and "catch" them with it on the way out the door with a random frisk. While putting it somewhere safe, she intended to disappear into the night.

    Of all of the thieves and criminals out there, June was probably the lowest flier on the radar. A good job teaching self-defense and occasional forays into cooking lessons helped her keep pretty well afloat, and she had stolen enough in her younger days to now only occasionally replenish the dragon's hoard. Unlike most other thieves, June had no particular sort of thing she sought or valued over anything else. A diamond was as good to her as encrypted data, and her outings were spotty at best.

    But tonight she intended to make off with the mask, make a hefty sum of cash, and once again drop off the radar for half a year or so. The only thing standing in her way, as far as she knew, was another layer of security hired by Dr. Klein. The man, Sterling Morgan, was at the top of his game, and apparently had had some last-minute things installed as well, which posed a huge problem to her. The only route she could think was to build trust with him as a fellow security member and hope he'd buy her act enough to let her in. She eyed him from across the room. Not decrepit old, but she had a good decade less wear and tear on herself, not to mention more than a little more training. If she had to, she could lay him out, she thought.

    June made her way over to him, discreetly flashing her security pin as she did so.
    "You're Sterling Morgan, right? How's the new baby?" she asked, although by 'baby' it was quite clear she meant one carved of mysterious labradorite.



    The Grifter

    Rhoda smiled warmly at the crowd as they applauded the song, adjusting the massive white fur stole that swathed most of her thin upper body. It was a blinding white, which matched her gloves and stood out radiantly against the floor-length, sequined red dress that glittered in the soft light. Around her throat was a simple, gold almost-choker and her curls were artfully bouncy above it. Her heels sparkled with equal fervor, but Rhoda could only wish clicking them three times would take her to Oz.

    It was dreadfully hot up there in the fucking stole, she thought bitterly as she blew a kiss to an older patron with her red velvet lips.
    "Here's one more for all of you lovely folks, a favorite of mine, and hopefully a favorite of yours too. 'Wishing', ladies and gentlemen.

    Si j'avais une pièce d'or
    pour toutes les etoile filante,
    j'ai souhaité sur
    que je serais plus riche que
    le roi de France.


    Mais si j'avais une étoile filante
    pour chaque pièce d'or dans ma poche,
    je le ferais jamais passé la porte
    de l'hôtel Ritz.


    Oh, rêves ne vous coûtent rien,
    oh non,
    mais ils certainement ne paient pas les factures.


    Oh, rêves ne vous coûtent rien,
    mais beaucoup de chagrin et de douleur,
    sauf si vous avez de l'or,
    pour les exaucer.


    As she sang she looked around the room, the smile plastered convincingly on her face. Rhoda always hated the waitstaff, she reflected. Always on their damn phones rather than doing their job. One of them, a white kerchief in her hair, had been fiddling with her phone on and off for the last two songs. The other, a man with a red streak in his hair, was too busy seemingly playing a game on his phone.

    Rhoda had sung the song enough times she didn't miss a note when she realized exactly what they were doing and resolved to have a bout of faintness herself to get off the stage and get to work. That mask was going to be hers, and she intended to finally dig her way out and up to the sun again.



    The Thief

    Joe was a thief, and a frequent one, because programming just didn't provide sufficient thrills. Ever since he was small, Joe had always been in trouble, or trying to get out of it, because it engaged his mouse-wheel brain like nothing else. He'd landed the catering gig with a fake ID and now was trying to work through the security system. He'd figured since the old bat was an art professor he wouldn't have anything substantial, but it was proving to be otherwise; the security system was tough, and Joe hadn't found anything that would replace the weight of the statue.

    As he looked around, he noticed someone else from the catering team on her phone as well and paused a moment. She was cute, no denying that, and with the boss coming around the corner, he decided to go "help" her so he wouldn't get thrown out for pissing around on his phone.

    "Heeey, Akira Hiyashi, I couldn't help seeing you're new too. Pretty swanky party, huh?" he asked, getting a glimpse of something that looked like "Disarmed" on her phone before it went away.
    "What's your name?"

     
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  4. the Hacker
    They'd said this new system was good, brand new, never been hacked, top of the line, best security money could buy. The hacker known as Specter hadn't quite believed that when she heard. It had only been on the market a couple weeks, so no one had had much chance to test those assertions. That's why she was here. This new security system had yet to be touched. First person to do it would have their name lit up in a spotlight for the next year's worth of big-time gigs. The next year or until the next system came out anyway. Trouble was to prove she'd hacked it she was going to have to steal the prize at it's center. Good thing Specter knew a good fence.

    Getting hired as waitstaff was easy. She already had a identity with legitimate credentials.

    The waitress shifted easily from one table to the next, refilling water glasses and taking orders for wine or other drinks. In the brief brakes she got before it was time to bring out the meal she's slip a look at her phone. She'd set up her home computer to launch a series of attacks at the system through the owner's link online. That was their first mistake, letting an outside source have a link to the new system. If they'd separated the two this would have been much harder. By the time her ten minutes were up her home comp's attacks would have weakened things enough for her to crack inside. From there she could walk in and walk out.

    Dinner was served, the ten minute mark passed, and Specter was able to find a chance to step back and pull out her phone. Thin fingers flew across the screen as she tried desperately not to make any strange faces or talk to the device in her hand. Whoever had programmed this thing knew what they were doing. She back-doored in and hit a wall, searched fer the chink pushed through and was batted aside. "Oh no you don't," she growled under her breath. Watch code find the pattern. It was like running through a maze, a maze with moving walls and a changing floor plan. This system was every bit as good as they had said it was, and if she spent too much time she'd be caught.

    One more minute, she was better than this thing, better than any tech . . . and she was in. "Yesssss!" she hissed in triumph. And from there everything was a piece of cake. Turn off the weight sensor, loop the camera feed, switch the lasers and motion sensors into passive mode . . .

    . . . DISARMED . . .

    Just in time to nearly get caught. Caught by one of the other wait staff, and a boy. Boys never paid her any attention. In fact the whole point of dressing down had been to get glossed over. No one was supposed to notice the plain girl! She couldn't even suppress her glare of irritation, uncertainty mixed in. If there's a god out there, she prayed, let him forget my face an hour from now.

    "Heeey, Akira Hiyashi, I couldn't help seeing you're new too. Pretty swanky party, huh? What's your name?"

    "K-Kirsty," she managed to mumble. Damn a stutter might make her memorable. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.
    "Kirsty Marborrow. I got really lucky getting hired here. Don't usually get to visit fancy places like this. Don't usually get past the front door even . . . " True enough. Specter didn't normally have to visit a heist personally. Normally she lifted data.

    The retainer shifted her voice slightly, the plastic taking up the roof of her mouth forcing her to form her words in a slightly different manner.
    "Don't usually get to see fancy singers like that either," she added nodding towards Rhoda Roman as she finished her song. Sometimes she wished she had the guts to be a woman like her, unafraid of the spotlight.

    Suddenly it seemed like the singer had gotten light headed, and as Specter took a step forward in unconscious concern her attention was taken completely off the other waiter. When she looked back he was gone.

    "Figures," she grumbled to herself. "Bombshell like that has a fit and suddenly a plain girl like me doesn't stand a chance. For a moment she had completely forgotten she hadn't wanted to be noticed.

    A moment later the hacker known as Specter was making a beeline for the basement.


    Security
    "Safe behind a wall of the best money can buy," Sterling answered, eyes scanning the room when the woman approached him with the query. She wasn't one of his, he noted, so she must be one of Dr. Klein's regular hires. The man did like to keep things as regular as possible.

    Sterling shifted his icy blue gaze to the woman in question giving her a once over. Not as a man looks at a woman, but as one professional sizes up another. She was pretty enough given her profession, though certainly not as dolled up as the rest of the women in the room. She seemed sturdy, fit, she carried herself with confidence and her very stance said she could hold her own in a fight. A good choice provided she was loyal . . . or paid well enough to be loyal at any rate.

    Damn this job was getting to him. Sterling was starting to see obstacles and enemies at every turn. Still, a bit of conversation couldn't hurt, and if she was Klein's regular she might see something a stranger like him would miss. Even a coat-rack being out of place.

    "Forgive me, but I didn't catch your name, Mrs. --" He wasn't stupid enough to say Miss. A woman her age likely had a husband waiting for her at home, and if she didn't, well he knew better than to open that can of worms. He unconsciously raised a hand to scratch at his short, well cut beard. A thinking gesture.

     
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  5. The Hitter

    "Oh, sorry! I'm Ms. Connie Lam, nice to meet you," she said, offering her hand to shake with him. He had a good grip, she thought, and that beard was well-kept as well. Physically he might not be much of a challenge, but she could tell he was going to pose one in other ways, namely his expensive little walls. June tried not to let her frustration at those words show, and instead offered him a grin.
    "Glad to hear it's safe. Klein's really up in knots about the thing, he's convinced someone's going to try to steal it tonight. We pretty much know what to look for up here, but what's it going to look like if someone trips those alarms downstairs?" she asked, out of the corner of her eye catching a couple of the busboys eagerly helping Rhoda down from the stage and away, her clutching the stole as they went. They disappeared into the back and she shook her head.

    "Divas, huh? No wonder she fainted, that stole is gigantic..."

    She tried to hide it, but a lightbulb went off in June's head.
    "I'd better check on her all the same, though. I'll be right back," June said, turning to leave.



    The Thief

    As soon as Rhoda tried to faint onstage and everyone's attention was on her, Joe darted away and melted into the crowd, pretending to help and diverting at the last minute to head for the basement. Finding it had been relatively easy, and if "Disarmed" meant what he thought it meant, then the mask was all his. Given the attitude of the caterer, it also wouldn't be terribly unbelievable that a server had up and left in the middle of the event, he reflected. It would certainly be understandable. However, there wasn't much the woman could so about her missing diamond ring or the keys to her lovely catering van, however.

    Down in the basement Joe removed the can of spray, hidden under his dish towel, that would show him if any lasers were still active. It was small, only good for a few sprays, so carefully he tested a little at the entryway to the basement.

    Nothing.

    He tried again inside, also finding nothing, and put the can in his pocket again. If the lasers were disabled, then...



    The Grifter

    The little busboys who had been salivating over her at every dirty dish collection had been more than happy to help her offstage, although they had tried to take her stole to 'give her some air' despite her protests. Once they'd gotten down the little dark hall she'd sprayed them both, rendering them temporarily unconscious. It was damn useful stuff, although incredibly expensive. Rhoda knew she wasn't strong enough to drag their bodies around without making a noticeable mess of herself, so instead she hurried down to the basement. That was where the mask was being kept, and if one of the thieves had already booked it down there, it must be disarmed or in transit. And she intended to make it hers.

    As she rounded the corner to enter the basement she nearly ran into Joe, who was awkwardly tightening the belt under his tucked-in shirt. She raised an eyebrow at him and removed a small pistol from inside of her stole.
    "Hand it over," she said flatly. "Live to steal another day."

    Joe frowned and resentfully took the mask out, holding it out to her.
    "You're another one of those in it for the fun, right?" she asked disdainfully, hiding the mask in her stole.
    "That and I don't like hitting people," Joe replied, looking glum. "Whatever, it's yours."

    She motioned him by with her gun and followed him out, careful to stow it before being seen. Rhoda quickly made her excuses to the host and tried to hurry to the atrium without looking like she was, but waiting for her there was June, arms crossed.
    "Everyone gets frisked on the way out, no exceptions," she said, to which Rhoda glared.
    "Do you even know who I am?" she snapped, but June blocked her way.
    "Exactly why I'm frisking you," she said, grabbing Rhoda's wrist and moving her aside to begin the pat down. Partway through she faltered as Sterling found them.
    "Morgan, hey there. Just doing a pat down on the way out, you never know--"

    June was not that great at lying for a sustained amount of time and hoped it didn't sound as shrill as it felt. She could feel the mask under her hand and simply took the stole instead.
    "I'm going to go search this more thoroughly where there's a table," June said. "People hide things in these all the time, unless you'd like me to pat it down on you."
    Rhoda glared, but shook her head as June walked off with it. Maybe the idiot wouldn't be able to get into the hidden pocket, she reflected.

    In the coat room June sat the stole in the table and began desperately searching out the pocket, but was unable to find where it opened. Slipping the large stole behind some coats, she darted off to the kitchen to get a sharp knife capable of separating the seams carefully. Upon returning she gently opened the stole, removed the black mask, and returned the stole to Rhoda, slipping the mask under her coat and disappearing into the darkness.

     
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  6. The Hacker
    Specter growled in frustration when she rounded the corner to see the waiter with the red streak in his hair exit the basement with the singer. No doubt they were partners. Worse he had taken advantage of her hard work and gotten the prize first. It didn't matter that they had the mask exactly. What mattered was they she had cracked the system first and needed some proof that she had done so. Perhaps . . . perhaps an arrangement could me made. They had to know it couldn't have been that easy.

    Specter waited until the waiter, "Akira", was alone, before she slipped passed him, seemingly not paying any attention, yet pausing just long enough, close enough, that the algorithm she'd set to play could clone the details of his phone. Specter had the number of the man who had ripped her off now. She would be in contact.

    A moment later she had stowed her device away, and headed back to work. She had every intention of finishing the night. Kirsty Marborrow had a reputation to keep after all, and one more trick to set in place in case she did have to return for that proof.


    Security
    She was an intriguing woman, this Connie. Sterling found his eyes following her as she walked off to check on a singer. She had a good eye, that stole would be a good place to hide something, Or a good place for someone else to hide something . . .

    Sterling made his own rounds, resolving to check on them both himself before either left the house. A good eye meant a trained eye, and in this case he had no idea what Connie had been trained for. He really was getting overly suspicious in his old age. But it kept him sharp and sharp was what kept him employed.

    Sure enough he found Rhoda Roman getting a frisk on her way out, and Connie walking off to search the stole.
    "I'm sorry, Ms. Roman," he apologized for the other woman, "We we do have a job to see done. I'd hate for someone to plant something on you. Imagine the mess that would be." He offered her his most charming smile as they both waited for Connie to return and let her go. Which was exactly how everything played out. As Connie walked off to presumably return to her duties there was something about the tilt of her head that reminded him of someone, but Sterling quickly shook the feeling in order to continue about his own job.

    Thirty minutes later all the guests had finally left. Twenty minutes after that the catering team was gone. The only people left in the house were Dr. Klein, his staff, and security. When the client came to him looking thoroughly chastised and explained that his vault was empty, Sterling Morgan could only grin in triumph.

    "I told you this would happen," The older man confirmed as he opened his coat. "I must thank you for allowing me to play things my way." Under his suit jacket Sterling Morgan was wearing what looked to be a sort of back brace about his middle, the item adding an extra twenty pounds or so to his appearance. From a pocket on the front he removed a carefully wrapped artifact. The mask the Dr. had been trying so hard to protect.
    "it's a good thing that soapstone was about the same size and weight, and that Mr. Johnson," here he nodded at another guard who looked very pleased, "is so good at carving. Here you go gentlemen, safe and sound. Put it back, reset the vault, and give me a call if you need anything else."

    With friendly handshake all around, Sterling Morgan called it a good night and headed home.
     
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  7. The Hitter

    June buttoned her red coat against the wind and touched the mask underneath. The whole thing had been a lot easier than she'd thought, and a whole lot less violent. It wasn't at all that she wasn't glad about it, but June had never been one to shy away from a good scuffle. However, not waking up sore and bruised in the morning would have its perks, she reflected, entering the broker shop. The man had been fencing things for her for a number of years and was actually her uncle-in-law, although they had never been especially close except for letting her babysit his kids on occasion. As he inspected the artifact she leaned on the counter and fiddled with the "Take a penny, leave a penny" dish until his dry-wood voice cut the silence.
    "I'm afraid it's a fake, worthless," he said and she started, mouth hanging agape.
    "What?! There's no way!" she exclaimed, more out of shock than outright disbelief.
    "Sorry," he said, shrugging and handing it back to her.
    "That bitch switched it out for a fake knowing I'd find it," June growled. "I'mma pop those fake--"
    "It's a good one though, I might be able to get you a little for it," he soothed, and June sighed.
    "Yeah, that'll work fine. Thanks Uncle."



    The Thief

    Although Joe hadn't gotten his artifact, he still had had a blast trying. As he walked down the street he couldn't help thinking about the geeky little server he'd left behind. She'd been really cute, and it was a shame he hadn't had time to find her and ask her about going to get sushi. Joe didn't particularly care if the identity got good reviews as a waiter since he didn't plan on using it again. It didn't take long for him to be distracted by the neon sign of his favorite sushi bar and the calls from a good friend inside for him to join.

    Joe plopped himself down with the small group and waved at the familiar waitress, ordering a beer and a tuna plate special. Halfway through the meal his phone buzzed with a bizarre message. He peered down at it, brow furrowed.
    "I've signed up for... llama facts?"
    "What dude?" one of the guys at the table asked, and Joe shrugged.
    "Probably a wrong number."

    After a few more, he tried putting his phone on silent. When that didn't help, he paid his bill and made a beeline for his apartment, stowing his phone under the mattress upstairs. Once it was forcibly muted in that way, he flopped on his giant black sectional, switching on the TV and gradually falling asleep to the muted flickering of it.



    The Grifter

    Clutching the un-seamed stole, Rhoda stomped all the way home and threw the thing on the floor of the entryway, kicking off her shoes to join the small heap of other discarded footwear. As she made her way to the bedroom, the dress came off too, creating a glittering, scarlet puddle on the floor. Once naked, she ran the bathwater as hot as she could stand it, on the verge of climbing in when her phone rang. With a shaky sigh she answered, leaning on the bathroom sink.
    "Well, where is it?" the man's voice asked, and she bit her lip.
    "Security caught me. I lost it."
    "Dammit Roman, we trusted you'd retrieve it. Why was one simple mask so hard to get? And you couldn't get some lenience from security?"

    She made a disgusted noise and turned the tap off.
    "It was a woman, and there was a lot of security around it. The old idiot hired Sterling Morgan to protect it."
    "Sterling Morgan, huh? Well, maybe we're in need of his services too."
    "Whatever," Rhoda huffed. "You need anything else?"
    "No, we need someone competent for this next move."
    "Well, fuck you too," she snapped, hanging up. Rhoda climbed into the tub and sank down to her chin in the hot water. At least it wasn't her problem anymore, although she almost felt bad for whatever "work" Sterling Morgan was about to get from the boss.

     
    #7 Midian, Aug 16, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2015
    • Love Love x 1
  8. The Hacker "Kirsty" made her way home to one of two "penthouse suits" located at the tip top of one of the city's more sought after apartment and condo buildings. Three locks clicked open before the security alarm was set to passive as she stepped inside. The door was immediately locked behind her.
    "You've done yourself a number, Nicks," the soft voice whispered. "Letting them get away with your haul. Better go unwind and come up with a plan."

    A coat and bag were tossed on the white, corduroy, sofa. Shoes were kicked off, followed by socks and various articles of clothing being dumped in a cloths hamper soon after. Bare feet stepped into the master shower, a tanned hand dropped a bit of essential oil into the reservoir, and as soon as the water turned hot the same hand tapped a set of waterproofed controls leading the vents to release a dense fog of lavender scented steam.

    When the steam had faded and the shower finished, a purple flannel covered body flopped onto the sofa beside the bag and the wig that was still darker than even her wet hair. Uncovered chocolate eyes looked at the phone peeking from the top of the bag and an evil grin crossed the tanned face.

    "Pay back time!"

    An hour later red hair streaked waiter boy had been signed up for random Llama fact of the week and well as a personal touch of hers, the occasional random fact about her favorite Scifi show which she was currently binge watching, Galactic Alliance.

    She'd resume randomly over the next few days until Nicki was sure she had gotten the attention she was going for. Pay back would be sweet.


    Sterling Sterling Morgan had intended to go home and hit the sack after the event, but on nights like this, when he was feeling particularly lucky, he liked to spend and hour or so going over old case files from his stint on the force first. He let himself in, took the large sheepdog known as Max out for one last evening walk, and then settled into his favorite brown leather chair in the office located on the lowest floor of his town house.

    Maybe the luck of earlier would rub off on the old files, and as he flipped through them something fell to the floor. It was little more than an old photo form a long dead case, one with no leads at all, but the face looked familiar. The girl in the center of the frame was younger, her hair shorter and cut differently, dyed, but the tilt of the head was unmistakable. No wonder it had looked so familiar.

    "So we will be meeting again Connie," he flipped the photo over to see the name written on the back, "Or should I say June?" Suddenly Sterling knew exactly what had happened to the false mask. Oh she was good!



    Early the following morning saw Sterling go about his usual schedule. Coffee the paper, his morning jog through the park with Max galloping happy by his side through one of the parks . . . he had barely been inside five minutes before the phone rang.
    What he heard made his face go white.
    "You want me to do what?"
    "Acquire something for us," the man's voice answered.
    "And if I refuse?"
    "Now why did we know you'd require some incentive?" The next sentence made Sterling's blood run cold.

    The next twenty minutes saw a very shaken, silver-haired, wizened man sit down at his kitchen bar and weep in despair. How? How how how how how? the word echoed over and over again. He poured himself a scotch, sat in thought, and then picked up the phone.
    He dialed.
    "Jackson? Jackson thank God! Listen I need to call in a solid."
    The voice on the other end sounded very annoyed.
    "No this has nothing to do with my old job on the PD." Sterling snapped. He took a deep breath still trying to calm down. "Listen, I need -- no listen, Jackson, I need you get me June Liu." His hands shook pressing the receiver even harder against his ear. "No, has to be her if she'll take it. I need the best, She's the only one ever to get past me twice. . . . Jackson, tell her I have a job to offer --"
     
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  9. The Hitter

    "Somebody better be on fire, Jackson," June snapped into her phone. It was about seven in the morning and she'd frantically rolled over in bed to get her phone, thinking something had happened to her niece. But no, it was Jackson, a fixer she worked with occasionally. When he told her exactly who she was supposedly going to be working for, and what the price was, she sat upright in bed.
    "H-how? How? How did you think I was going to accept that! The man tried to put me away twice and I barely escaped even when it was ten years younger! Why on earth does he want me? He knows I tried to take the mask, he's probably trying to make that cold file hot again--"

    She paused as he pleaded his case, and then sighed and relented.
    "That is a lot of money. But I'll need help, okay? There were some other people there that night, trying to steal it too. I know Joe Moto was one of them, and definitely Rhoda Roman. She must not had made it out with the mask after all, if the mob was putting pressure on Sterling to get it."

    She briefly wondered what they were using as leverage, but shook it off. A man like that had to have a wife or husband or something that would be a prime target.
    "So count me in and get me a good team. See if you can figure out who hacked that system while you're at it. In fact, do that. I'll call Joe and get the flaky bastard myself."

    Flaky was an understatement, she thought, when she called and it went straight to voicemail. Had the little prick turned his phone off?



    The Thief

    After the 20th text on "llama facts" mixed in with trivia about Galactic Alliance (which he'd prided himself on already knowing), Joe had turned off his phone and taken the battery out. Apparently by getting into the vault first, he'd really pissed off the person that had hacked it; Joe had no idea who it had been at the party, but after some arguing, he'd found out they were Spector and really beat himself up for not guessing who had been the infamous Spector. It wasn't every day someone got to interact with them in person.

    So he missed June's call, but finally got her email and replied back eagerly that he'd be excited to work with the old coot if it meant sticking one to the mob. Although he couldn't tell them who Spector was, he grinned as he typed out that he knew at least how to get in touch with them.



    The Grifter

    Hanging the phone up, Rhoda sat on the couch and leaned back, looking up at the ceiling. She'd just gotten off the phone with a fixer that had offered her a chance at getting that mask again. If she stole it for herself, she'd be free of the mob. If the mob got wind she had the mask, she could simply claim she was finishing what she'd started.

    Rhoda liked games she couldn't lose.



    Once the last player was secured, Sterling got word that they'd all been assembled, and he had a team waiting for him.
     
    #9 Midian, Aug 23, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
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  10. The Client
    Waiting for the call was the hardest thing Sterling had ever done. Would she accept, turn him down, laugh? His mind raced through every possibility, every possible contingency, what he could do on his own, and who else he could go to. The man on the phone that morning had been very clear. This was not a job Sterling could turn down.
    So he waited.

    The call came about three that afternoon. Jackson informed him that June had accepted, and had assembled a team, or most of one. Where could they meet?
    Against his better judgement Sterling gave Jackson his home address. It was the only place he could feel sure was secure. As he waited the former cop had taken the time to sweep for bugs and anything else that could pose a security risk. It helped to keep his mind clear.

    Five in the evening.
    Sterling had been on edge the whole time, unable to even attempt to be productive. When the firm knock came at the front door he was in his office within easy answering distance. He swung the solid wood panel wide and stepped back to the the woman, who had once introduced herself as Connie, step in.
    "Living room and kitchen are upstairs," he said simply, taking note of the container in her arms. "Thank you for coming. I'll explain more once the others arrive. I was told there would be others?" He kept his voice smooth, his face passive, hiding the turmoil inside.

    It was a simple three story town house, with the entry and Sterling's office on the lowest floor and a garage behind it. The office door was closed by the time June entered. He didn't need a known thief getting into his client files. The red brick floor on the entry was well swept, and the hickory wood stair case seemed equally well maintained. Though there was an abandoned basketball in the corner next to the door presumably leading to the garage.


     
    #10 - Falcon -, Aug 23, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
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  11. The Hitter

    June narrowed her eyes at him and looked up the stairs. If this was setup, there were likely people waiting up there for her. Or he was going to use the upstairs to corral everyone so they could be easily caught. Instead she shrugged off his invitation to go upstairs and instead leaned against the wall.
    "I'll wait here," she said. "I'm still not entirely sure why you want me--us. Frankly, it seems more likely you're trying to set up a trap since you could never catch me back then. Maybe I'm getting soft in old age."

    She smirked, digging into the ranch party mix she'd brought in case it really turned into a group meeting.

    "Anyway, Joe ought to be here soon, and Rhoda-- In fact--"

    There was a sharp knock at the door and when Sterling opened it, he was faced with a lanky, grinning Japanese man with a red streak in his hair.
    "Hey, this the place? June! Are those snacks? You brought snacks?" he asked, waving at Sterling as he wandered over and began digging into the container along with her. When his phone went off he growled in frustration and turned it off, again.
    "Stupid thing. I hope miss pissypants hacker is going to be here too so she'll feel better and quit fucking sending me 'llama facts'," Joe complained and June rolled her eyes.
    "Is that what you guys do? Really?" she asked, shaking her head. Joe grumbled something about "old people" and silenced his phone again as there was another, curt knock at the door. It proved to be Rhoda Roman in a plain, deep burgundy overcoat and matching heels. She glanced behind her before stepping inside, taking off her coat and tossing it over the nearest piece of furniture. She shrugged at June and Joe before turning to Sterling.
    "Well, I'm here. Are we missing anyo--"

    The text tune on Joe's phone played and she glared over at him.
    "Are we missing anyone?" she asked Sterling, smoothing down her khaki skirt over her hips. "And you brought food, really?"
    "You don't have to have any," June retorted, closing the lid on Joe's fingers.
    "Hey, I didn't say anything!" he protested, but she shooed him away.
    "Sterling, let's get to it if we're going to do anything. I've got other places to be tonight," June said, looking around. She still didn't entirely trust the situation, and on their way to get settled in, she kept a watchful eye on everything.

     
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  12. The Client
    Sterling was quick to move Rhoda's coat from the small bench to a hook by the door where it would hang properly as he took in those June had chosen to invite. It seemed she'd found everyone involved in the original heist attempt for the mask, and for a moment he wondered which of them had deactivated the system, until Joe mentioned the hacker. In that second he knew, and he suppressed a groan. There were only a few possibilities, only a few good enough . . . Vulture, Chaos, Gizmo, Yield, Specter . . . He sincerely hoped it wasn't Specter. That one was unpredictable at best and harder to find than June. They weren't even entirely sure of Specter's gender never-mind anything else. But then Joe had said female so it was possible the culprit could be Vulture or Gizmo as well.

    "Which Hacker in particular are you talking about?" he started to ask in hopes of clarification, only to be interrupted as Rhoda and June started to pick at each other. A moment later June declared they were ready to listen.

    "Upstairs please," he answered, "you may want a seat for this."

    Sterling led them up and into the living room, the hickory on the stairs extending to the flooring of this room, with a grey area rug and a dark charcoal colored, leather sofa. There was a bookshelf on one side that showed a small family. A much younger, dark haired, Sterling, a woman with vibrantly red hair, and a young boy with hair to match. There was a pair of sneakers sticking out from under the couch, and what looked like a college orientation pamphlet on the counter, yesterday's date printed in bold letters on the cover.
    The small group, however, were very obviously the only people to currently occupy the masculinely decorated house. There were lots of neutral grays and browns, lots of leathers, bull blinds instead of curtains, and at a casual glance the kitchen contained more grill supplies than anything else.

    "Please, be comfortable," their host invited as he moved to the window, peering down to see if this mysterious hacker was about to arrive. When it was clear no one else was coming he turned to the group as a whole, surveying each of them.

    "I received a call early this morning," he started to explain, "A very lucrative offer to retrieve an item each of you has recently tried to acquire yourselves. An offer I find myself in a position of being unable to refuse." He held eye contact with each for a moment, his expression entirely serious. "I promise the payout will be worth it." And it would be, even if he had to empty his own accounts for their help.

    "As a team, I think we can take the Eschaton Mask."

    It was then Joe's phone went off again, and this time it was talking. It sounded like the young man's hacker freind had hacked into the phone's navigation system's voice controls.


    The Hacker
    Nicki was safe in her own home watching the clock and enjoying annoying the hell out of "waiter boy" with random texts. He had yet to give in to her demands. It was a simple thing really, or she thought it was. The man claimed he didn't have the mask, and she was willing to let that go. All she wanted was credit for hacking the system. But he was proving to be surprisingly stubborn about agreeing to let people know the hacker responsible had been Specter. He probably knew what credit like that would lead to. A series of jobs leading to big scores that could set her up for a long time to come.

    She sent two more texts before Joe's retorts went silent and she knew he was in that meeting he'd told her to show up for. But Nicki was not such a fool to show up to a potential ambush. She'd let him go in first, make sure it was safe, and then she'd hack into his phone and join the conversation. It was then her stomach growled and she had, what she thought was, a very good idea.

    She wanted a few minutes more before pulling out her smart phone and using the cloned info from Joe's device to hack into his. She could just imagine the mechanical voice that usually gave directions speaking instead the words she was programming in.

    "Sorry I'm late, if there's still a job you'll have to explain over dinner. Hudson's Burgers on 5th and 9th, 5:30 p.m. Order me a cherry coke. Joe pays for my meal."

    She had fifteen minutes to get there. Perfect.
     
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  13. "The Eschaton Mask?" June asked, tilting her head a little. "Weren't you just guarding that last night? Why do you want it now, and why do you need a team? You can't just ask Klein to let you look at it again?"

    "Klein's not that stupid," Rhoda remarked. "He sits on the thing like a chicken on an egg. Outside of the party, I don't think he'll let anyone else look at it. And Sterling was kind enough to put such fantastic security there. Although without the hacker, it's going to be a lot more difficult than it should be."

    She leaned back in her chair and crossed one leg over the other, resting her elbow on the armrest and idly twirling a curl of dark hair. Rhoda jumped when the voice came from Joe's phone.

    "Sorry I'm late, if there's still a job you'll have to explain over dinner. Hudson's Burgers on 5th and 9th, 5:30 p.m. Order me a cherry coke. Joe pays for my meal."

    "Joe, is that Spector?" June questioned, and Joe nodded.
    "She's been sending me these stupid llama facts forever because I went in and stole the mask after she'd disabled the system."
    "So that's how you got it," Rhoda said. "I wondered."
    "You got it from him?" June asked, raising an eyebrow. "Can't imagine how you managed that."
    "She pointed a gun at me!" Joe complained, glaring at Rhoda as he stood. June rolled her eyes and put the lid firmly on the snack tupperware, looking over at Sterling.
    "So we're going, right? To meet the hacker?" June cut in as Rhoda opened her mouth to snark at Joe. Rhoda snapped her mouth shut like a purse and pushed her chair back noisily, following the group back downstairs as they prepared to go to Hudson's Burgers.

    Once there, in the soft neon and wood-paneled glow, Joe found a table for them and sat nearest to the door, ordering two cherry cokes and trying not to stare at the front door. When Nicki finally sat down with them Joe pushed the cherry coke towards her, smiling.
    "Hey, Spector. No more llama facts, please?"
     
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  14. The Client
    Sterling wasn't given much chance to answer the questions of why he wanted the mask and why now, nor did he go out of his way to address them as the group made their way to Hudson's.

    Hudson's was a brewery, burger joint, and grill. Known all over the local neighborhood as the best place to get a patty and pint for a great price with exceptional service it was also popular enough to be reasonably crowded on any given day of the week without being so crowded the wait was absurd. Sterling had to hand it to Specter. She knew how and where to arrange a meeting. In this place she could enter and exit with reasonable expectation of being neither seen nor followed, and they could all converse, so long as they were careful, without being in too much danger of being overheard. Sterling was also willing to bet that Specter was only an average tipper. Too much or too little tended to get a person noticed.

    Hudson's scrubbed wood floor was littered with peanut shells from the baskets on the bar, the light was comfortably dim. A small crowd had gathered around the big screen in the far corner to bet and cheer on the current game, the radio was on, chatter was everywhere, and neon signs advertising local product decorated the wood paneled walls.

    "We're expecting one more," Sterling informed the waitress as she looked confused over the drink order containing one too many. With a smile she brought them an extra chair. Now the only thing left to do was wait.

    When the woman called Specter finally showed, only Joe managed to look unsurprised.

    She came out of no where. One moment Sterling was lifting his beer to his lips, forcing himself to sip not chug, and looking at an empty chair, the next a short woman in a green hoodie that disguised her body shape had taken the empty seat and claimed the untouched Cherry Coke.

    "I don't normally make personal appearances." she stated bluntly sticking the straw in her mouth and taking a sip, "But for waiter boy here, I decided to make an exception."
    Waiter boy was obviously meant to be Joe.

    "Hey, Spector. No more llama facts, please?"

    "Give me what I'm due and I'll take it under advisement," came the curt retort.

    Sterling squinted his eyes trying to make out the woman's face in the dim light, but she had the hoodie pulled forward to hide her face and a pair of sunglasses in place shielding her eyes. Even her hair was completely covered. A pair of slightly pouting lips, tan skinned hands, and an accent that indicated a fluency in Spanish were her only tells. No gloss or other makeup, no jewelry, the plain hoodie could have been picked up anywhere . . . Sterling chanced a glance down and found the sneakers and jeans were likewise generic . . . Oh this woman was good. Odds were if Joe hadn't pissed her off with whatever he had done they never would have managed to get her attention. Not until after it was too late anyway.


    "Waiter boy here said there was a job?" came the next question, again blunt and to the point, "And don't asking my name, that information has to be earned."

    A moment later the waitress had returned to take their orders and Sterling caught a flick of a smile on the woman's face as she ordered the house specialty and one of the pricier things on the menu. Apparently she did intend to make Joe buy.

    "Bacon portabella melt, please," Specter stated with the tone of someone ordering an old favorite, not even bothering to look an the menu. "House fries and slaw on the side."
    "And you, Sir?"
    "House Classic with the pickles on the side, sweet potato fries and the small salad," Sterling managed, trying to force his mind to focus.

    His brain was in overdrive by the time everyone else had stated what they wanted and handed their menu over to the girl.
    Too many factors, too many unknowns.
    Was he insane? Could they really pull this off?

    It took a probing question from one of the others to snap him back to the present.
     
    #14 - Falcon -, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2015
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  15. Joe grimaced a little as Spector ordered one of the pricier menu items, but as the others ordered themselves, he tried to shrug it off and relax to enjoy the night. Unlike many of them, Joe was in the business strictly for the fun, and he made it a point to enjoy himself whenever he could. To that end, he ordered a large mug of pumpkin beer, a sriracha and bbq western burger, and an extra serving of their famous House Sauce for his fries. June, finally giving in to curiosity and hunger, ordered a double burger with mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon (along with a Coke). Rhoda ordered a grilled chicken salad with no dressing.

    While they waited for their orders, June leaned her arms on the table and nudged Sterling's foot with hers as she spoke.
    "And why are you suddenly after the mask after just protecting it last night, anyway? That's suspicious as shit, Morgan. You're paying out like your life depends on it."
    "If it's my people putting pressure on him to do it, it probably does. They're not averse to mailing off body parts to make a point, let alone killing someone," Rhoda replied, sipping on her glass of moscato wine. Joe shuddered, but thanked the waitress as she began putting a refill of peanuts on their table.
    "And if it's your security system, can't you just disable it or make up some shit about having to go look in on it or something?" Joe asked. "I don't see why a lot of us have to be here, ordering really expensive stuff. Spector."

    "Joe, quit whining. Apparently you were an asshole to her," June admonished. "Although Spector, at some point you're going to have to give trust to get it. I think we all are going to have to, that's how teams work."
    "No one's going to do that right away," Rhoda replied. "I sure as hell don't trust any of you."
    "Well, maybe if you didn't point guns at people," Joe replied, stopping to thank the waitress as she put their plates on the table.
    "Anyway," June cut in. "Sterling, do you have a plan? What exactly do you want us to do to help you get the mask back?"
     
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  16. There was no missing the sudden paleness of Sterling''s face as Rhoda mentioned body parts and killing. His expression made it very clear it was something exactly like that before he managed to wipe it blank. Sterling suddenly found he was grateful for Specter's choice of establishments. The noise was enough to hide their conversation, while the hustle and bustle of patrons and staff gave enough distractions to cover his hesitation in sharing too much too quickly.

    He had to remain in control.

    "And if it's your security system, can't you just disable it or make up some shit about having to go look in on it or something?" Joe asked. "I don't see why a lot of us have to be here, ordering really expensive stuff. Spector."

    "Because I don't do face time unless it's on my terms," the young woman was quick to answer. "And trust is earned not given out for free," she snapped at June in agreement with Rhoda a moment later. As if to prove her point the bickering started almost immediately.

    "Anyway," June cut in. "Sterling, do you have a plan? What exactly do you want us to do to help you get the mask back?"

    "It's not my security system," Sterling continued the conversation almost bitterly as their waitress left and he just stared at his food, watching out the corner of his eye as Specter dug in obviously hungry. "I didn't design it, I don't have that particular skill. What I do have is the knowledge of what works and what the best available tech and methods in the business happen to be. At that time, that was what I was hired to do. Had I know how things would play out . . . believe you me the mask would already be mine and none of you would be the wiser.
    As it stands, I don't have what I need to get it now. That is, not without help."

    Sterling glanced around at them all and sighed. "My position as the man who set up the system makes it impossible for me to get anywhere near the place now. That is where you come in. Ms. Roman, with all the glitz and glam you show off at every performance, you could approach Dr. Klein with an inquiry about his system, claim you're looking for an upgrade to protect your own valuables? June could maintain her previous cover and go in as a hired body guard. Say you were impressed with her the other night. Unless you think it would be better to change your look and go as Ms. Roman's assistant? You two keep the Dr. and his staff busy while Joe raids the vault. Specter --"

    "Let me guess," the girl cut in between munching on fries, a feint smirk on what was visible of her face, "You're counting on my little back door working. You want me to hack the system, again, and control the feed so that they see only what we want them to see, right?"

    "With any luck we'll be long gone before anything is noticed," Sterling confirmed.
     
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