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Sara Jung

"That would be nice, but that's not how it works."

0 · 367 views · located in Fort Blackburn

a character in “Tales from Fort Blackburn”, as played by cucumbersome

Description

Real Name: Sarasvati “Sara/Bharti” Jung

Nickname/Codename/Alias: Rose (work) / The Rose (super)

Allegiance: None yet

Gender: Female

Age: 27

Appearance:

Sara is in good health, only slightly too heavy to be considered athletic, lighter than what any sane person could call fat. She is only 153cm tall. Her hair is straight, shoulder-length and black, and she has almost black brown eyes. Her skin is a light shade of brown. It’s visible in her face and body type that one of her parents is East-Asian. The other... isn’t. Those who know the origins of names will correctly guess that her father is from South Korea, and her mother from India. She does not stand out as pretty or ugly.

Out of costume: Her preferred work clothing is a dark blue business suit (with pants) with no remarkable features, for which she looks a bit young. When working in an environment in which the suit would look out of place, she’ll wear whatever makes her look like she belongs there. In her spare time she wears jeans and tees. When there is no good reason not to wear it, she wears a gold bracelet decorated with nacre roses; she is very attached to it, it reminds her the one ideal she allows herself to have. She wears high heels to compensate for her height.

In-costume: The Rose would rather not wear a costumey costume. She wears a dark grey camouflage patterned catsuit made of a flexible and quiet material, a utility belt carrying some tools for cracking electronic locks, fingerless gloves and combat boots. The camo pattern does not contain black, and does contain greenish grey and blueish grey - black/grey would be Golem colours and she’s not stupid. The Rose doesn’t carry or wear anything else, she believes any additions to her costume would make it more difficult to blend into the environment. Being able to change the shape of her face a little makes masks pointless. In-costume she wears her hair in a bun.

Personality:

Sara speaks, politely, when spoken to, and usually wears a friendly small smile. She has a hard working and professional attitude. She is uninterested in acquiring more money than necessary to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Sara is driven by her insatiable curiosity, which gives her the one ideal she believes in: confidentiality - if one wants to know secrets, one must be able to keep them. The alias she uses when she can’t or won’t tell her real name refers to that ideal: the expression for confidentiality “sub rosa” means “under the rose”.

She is suspicious of idealism and moralism, and doesn’t like getting told what to do unless she believes the person giving the command will have a reason she agrees with. She doesn’t have and doesn’t want to have abstract ideas about morality, when she does help someone without being paid it is because of her emotional response to seeing others in distress or plain randomness. Unfortunately for anyone in need of help, she blames herself for something that went wrong while helping someone (see the description of Jess Almquist for details), and has become more cautious than necessary to avoid making things worse.
Her desire to protect her own independence makes her empathize with people she believes to be oppressed.

On the negative side, she’ll happily ignore any illegal activity that doesn’t trigger strong emotions, and will even help hide it when paid - she considers that a normal part of her job.
Without ideals to convince others of, and with her individualistic mind, she is unsuitable for leadership.

Under her modest surface, she is a bit of an arrogant snob. Observing the thought process of others amuses her. She’ll try not to laugh.

Sara has two hobbies: sneaking around at night in search of secrets (privacy? what’s that?), and playing the piano. The easiest ways to befriend her are to simply start telling her about yourself, and to invite her to a classical concert.

Personal History:

Sara was born and grew up in Fort Blackburn (more precisely, Freehold Hills), and lives downtown, close to Freehold Hills. Her father (Seon) leads the medical division of the American branch of an electronics company, her mother (Aishwarya) is an engineer working for the same. Both parents were born outside the US: Aishwarya is from Jaipur, India, and Seon is from Seoul, South Korea. Their marriage defies traditional cultural norms, and so does the fact that Sara does not have siblings - they did not try to have a son. Having enough money to be independent, they decided to do what they wanted rather than what they were supposed to do. As a result, there is no contact with their relatives overseas.

Her parents taught her to study hard, that she needs to work twice as hard as “them”, to resist groupthink, and that she needed to keep her head down. When they weren’t imprinting those things they learned in their own lives, they spoiled Sara and didn’t give her much more than a warning when she misbehaved. As an adult, she loves her parents for raising her in that way.

Having been taught to be anti-authoritarian, independent and somewhat cynical, Sara tried to figure things out on her own without telling the authorities (that is, her parents). That, combined with the leniency of her parents and her innate obsessive curiosity made her a kid who picked locks and grew up to be a hacker.

She has always considered herself somewhat superior in intelligence to others, but was smart and modest enough not to show it. She didn’t have many friends.

As an adult, Sara is still driven by her curiosity and the kick she gets out of snooping around without being noticed.
She is a pentester (organizations pay her to find flaws in their security, so those can be fixed before an adversary notices them), a job she can usually do from her home office. When she is hired to test physical security, she often has to travel abroad.

One of her recent jobs was different from the usual hacking or breaking in: she was asked to teach a a shape shifting thing with artificial intelligence to become a security system. The scientists figured that ethics taught by a woman would prevent it from turning against humanity.
Because she is not used to talking a lot, she asked the thing to shape part of itself into a keyboard. The thing liked her, and by asking her about the world outside the lab it became interested in escaping. It let a small part of itself stick to her nails and spread from there through all hard parts of her body. It’s not clear, not even to Sara, whether the part that split off still has a mind of its own. It does what she wants, but maybe her mind is not entirely the same as what it was before the incident.

Powers, Weapons, Etc.:

The “thing” that replaced her nails, skeleton and teeth has a metallic appearance, which she hides using nail polish and false teeth. It actually isn’t a metal, it’s mostly carbon and hydrogen, in other words, more similar to plastic or a biological material. It can be hard and sharp if it wants to, it can use matter from her body to grow or repair itself (with a preference for dead matter), and it can change its shape where that wouldn’t hurt her.
The main effect is that she can use it as any small tool and can feel inside small spaces (such as locks).
She can make small changes to the shape of her face and body, allowing her to squeeze through narrow holes and to slip out of handcuffs.
It’s difficult to break her bones, and they don’t remain broken for long.
When fighting her, it’s advisable to stay out of biting and scratching distance - those shape-shifting nails and teeth can be very sharp.

Skills: hacking, lock picking, safe cracking, stealth, and straight-faced lying. If it’s possible to get in without using force, The Rose will get in. It may take time, but she will.

Languages: English, Korean, Rajasthani, and Hindi. She typically writes English phonetically in Hangul (Korean script) modified to look like an Indic script.

Weaknesses:

She’s tiny. That means that if she doesn’t get to strike first, or the first strike isn’t effective enough, she will lose any fight. She has no experience using ranged weapons, and her close combat skills are limited to what one learns in a self defence course. Her being a reasonably fast sprinter is more useful than her fighting skills are, so she does run away, giving her team mates the impression she is abandoning them. Instead of fighting, she may allow herself to be captured, gambling on being able to escape later.

Her soft tissues are as fragile as those of any other human.

She is not good at cooperating when there is a need to improvise, because she believes her ideas must be better even when she doesn’t have any yet. Furthermore, she may switch allegiance when presented with the right emotional arguments. She may not trust her team mates as much as she should.

Any additional information we should know:

If her ability to keep secrets gets questioned, she may suddenly have many enemies. She feels lonely. Sara likes to watch people sleep, which is creepy.

Sara HATES addictive drugs, and compares their use to selling ones soul. She considers selling or giving addictive drugs to people who are not addicted yet intolerable cruelty, as bad as torture or owning slaves. (See Jess Almquist to understand why.) She considers all other crimes (including production of drugs for people who already are addicted) less bad and even acceptable depending on the circumstances, which she won’t bother to verify.

((Better avatar coming as soon as I draw it!))

So begins...

Sara Jung's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sara Jung Character Portrait: Jess Almquist Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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BAM. Sara slammed her fist on her desk. Her cup of coffee, which had been dangerously close to the edge, jumped off and shattered on the floor. “Bastard.” It took her a moment to notice there was some hot coffee on her leg. “Ow.” She left her office to change into dry pants, and found her assistant cleaning up the mess when she returned. “Jess, no. I can do that myself” Sara said, although she did not move to take the work from Jess’ hands.

Jess ignored the half-hearted protest. “What did our client do?”

“Admin locked me out specifically, left everything open to the world.” Sara didn’t bother to use more words than necessary, proper English be damned. She typed a few phrases, analysis tools appeared on the screen of her computer and a standardized report started filling out itself.

“I guess someone will need a new job soon” Jess commented as she wiped up the last bits of cup.

Sara walked away to look out the window. The grey weather did nothing to improve her mood. “That’s at least something. But it doesn’t take away the insult. Does that guy think I’m stupid? Doesn’t he care about keeping a network secure at all?”

Her personal assistant knew not to answer rhetorical questions. “Will you be out tonight, then?”

Sara nodded. “It will be good to see someone actually try to keep me out.” She loved a challenge.

“About that... If I may... I’ve been thinking, and...” Jess hesitated.

“Spit it out.” Sara sighed. It often seemed like Jess thought she wasn’t allowed to have an opinion.

“Right. I think you need to keep your work and your hobby separate. And that you need a costume.”

“A costume?” Sara raised an eyebrow. “Costumes are for superheroes and supervillains. I’m not like them. They’re all the same, and I’m not.”

“Well, you are MY he...errrr” Jess began a counterargument, but stumbled into a word that reminded her of another one.

“Your female hero?” Sara quickly brought the subject back to what they were talking about. “So, did you have anything in mind?” Obviously Jess had come up with some ridiculous joke, and she was eager to hear it.

“Yes! I’ll be right back!” Jessica ran out of the room.

“Oh dear.” Apparently there was an actual costume. Sara decided she would try it on for a laugh, and that she would find a way to return the teasing.

Jess returned with an almost doll-sized one-piece. It was made of a stretching material and had a grey camouflage print with some hints of blue and green. “Ta-da!”

It was worse than Sara had expected, but that only improved the teasing potential. “This? This has nothing to do with concealing, my identity or anything else. Just admit you saw it somewhere and wanted to see me wear it.”

Jess stared into empty space and did not reply.

“Jess? Jessica? Are you still with me?” Sara tried to get her attention. It annoyed her a bit that her joke had been ruined.

“Yes, I’m here. I designed it, I hope you’ll find it useful.” Jess said without emotion in her voice.

Sara tried to read her face. The woman was acting stranger than usual, but Sara couldn’t put her finger on what was strange about her behaviour. She shrugged it off, took the costume from Jessica, and changed for the second time in a few minutes. The catsuit was surprisingly comfortable, and covered her arms and legs without hiking up. “I’m glad you didn’t give me a chest window” she commented.

“Of course I didn’t. You wouldn’t want it to get stuck and rip, would you?” Jess handed her a utility belt.

Sara looked down at the costume she was wearing. She had to admit it was a practical design. The camouflage pattern would help her hide in the shadows, and the only part that could get stuck when, for example, squeezing through a small window was the utility belt, which was easy to take off. For a moment she had been worried she would look naked in the form-fitting suit, it turned out the pattern hid her shape almost as well as loose clothing would. “Jess, I have to say... Wow.”

Jessica smiled. “Good.” It was good when a plan worked. “Do you want me to drive you anywhere tonight?”

Her boss thought for a moment. “The south-east. Pick me up in the morning, usual time and place.” She had heard about a new drug getting popular and causing problems. She had a lot of questions: What exactly was it? Who was producing it? Who was selling it? Who was addicted? Was there anything she could do to stop it from spreading further? Sara had never liked the idea of drugs, and since she got to know Jess it had become personal. It would be best not to tell Jess what she was going to investigate, even though it was, in a way, a return favour for thinking of the costume and having it made. She began searching through drawers and filling the utility belt with useful gadgets.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sara Jung Character Portrait: Dylan Nelson Character Portrait: Jess Almquist Character Portrait: Alexander "Alex" Sanderson Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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By day, the rain would have made the appearance of south-east Fort Blackburn even more depressing than it already was; at night it did not make much of a difference. Perhaps a few more people would have been outside in better weather, but to most, caring about the weather was a luxury they couldn’t afford. Nobody paid any attention to a white van that stopped for a moment, then turned and drove back north. Perhaps the driver had made a mistake and corrected it before entering the truly bad part of town. Perhaps a delivery had been made, in which case it was both normal and not anyone’s business. It was, in fact, a delivery. A delivery of a short young woman, who would have looked out of place if anyone had noticed her before she disappeared into the shadows.

The Rose climbed up along a crack in a wall, something she wouldn’t have been able to do before her fingernails became, well, special. Two floors up there was a small window that she had forced open a long time ago and that nobody had bothered to repair. Most likely nobody had noticed it was broken, only the ground floor of the building was in use. She squeezed through the opening that looked a little too small even for her, and quietly landed in the stairwell on the other side. Getting to the rooftops was easy from here. After climbing the stairs to the top floor, she pointed at the lock of the roof access door, turned her wrist as far as it would go in one direction, pressed the nail of her index finger into the lock, and rotated her wrist all the way in the other direction. The last time she had been here was over a year ago, but she still remembered the shape of the key.

After locking the door behind her, The Rose spent some time studying the behaviour of the people in the streets below. She hoped to be lucky enough to notice someone handing a small package to another. It didn’t take her long to decide that this was a bad strategy – it might take all night, and she was already getting cold and soaked within minutes. Perhaps she shouldn’t have tried out the new costume on a night like this, and should have worn a raincoat instead. She would have to move to stay warm; there was only one sensible direction in which to do that: south.

After every few buildings, she had to climb up or down a floor, and at the end of the block she had no choice but to return to street level. She stayed mostly in the back streets, where she wouldn’t be noticed, and peeked around corners to see if anything interesting was happening in the bigger streets. All she found was a number of prostitutes having a slow night. The Rose silently cursed drug dealers for being difficult targets: they didn’t post their identity online, and the ones that were accessible to people who weren’t in the trade themselves were always moving around. She was used to finding the secrets of a known person, not to searching for an unknown one. Of course she could have asked anyone who was likely to be a drug user for information, but again the costume got in her way. A disguise would have been better, preferably one that included a raincoat.

Flashing lights in the distance drew her attention. She guessed they would have nothing to do with what she was looking for, but at least finding out what was going on there would be interesting. She switched to the main road to move faster, sprinting from shadow to shadow. The lights disappeared before she reached them. How disappointing. A short while later, two police cars raced past, if they weren’t about to investigate the source of the light show, some other thing was happening and that would be fine with her too.

She didn’t have to run much further. Watching from a hiding spot behind a dumpster, The Rose noticed a badly damaged other dumpster (which made her a little worried about her choice of cover); two costumed guys, one of which she had seen before; a few cops; and an unconscious hobo. From the bit of conversation she caught, she gathered that the guy the Mavericks had captured and were handing over to the FBPD had been high on Pink. The Rose had missed all the excitement. Too bad, she thought... until she remembered what she had been looking for before she got distracted by the electric homeless. More useful information than she could have hoped for tonight was being dropped in her lap. Lucky!
Apparently many of the users of Pink were Tigers. Seeing the crazy thing the homeless man had done to a dumpster of all things, that was not too surprising. The Mavericks, who also loved their aggro, were not using it to improve their ability to beat up those who ignore the law, and were looking for the source, presumably to stop the production of the drug. So they were doing something useful for once. Perhaps, if she played her cards right, she could get some useful info out of them later. Or maybe they could do the dirty work for her, that would be nice.

The Mavericks left, and so did the FBPD. The only unusual thing that remained was the damaged dumpster. Judging by how the paint had been burned off in lightning patterns, the Pink user’s metahuman ability had been increased by the drug. She wondered whether he had attacked the harmless object because of a mental illness, which would also explain why he looked to be homeless, or he had done so because of hallucinations caused by the drug. Fewer people would get hurt if it was the latter possibility. Probably. She hoped so.

Morning was still hours away. What to do next? She had been fascinated by burnt trash for too long to still have a chance to follow the Mavericks... Perhaps...

* * *

“Hey! Pssst! Hey!”

The hooker turned around. Where was that female voice coming from? Had that big cardboard box in the shadows been there a moment before?

“Don’t bother,” the voice said, “I’m invisible. Do you know where I can get me some Pink?”

“What’s in it for me?” she asked, her voice a little shaky.

“Come oooon. Help a sister out. I need my Pink. Pleeeaaase?”

“I don’t know” she replied. She’d rather not have some metahuman go berserk near her.

“Hey! Hey! Maybe your dealer will give you a little extra for finding him a new buyer. Right? Come on, I really need it. Do you want it to be your fault that I feel like shit? Pretty please?”

She had enough problems without someone with powers wanting revenge on her. “All right, but I want you a few blocks away when you buy it. Okay?”

“Sure sis, I completely understand. Now hurry. You’re the best!”

She pulled out her phone, dialled a number and made a short call. “Hey, it’s Lisa. There’s some girl here who wants to buy Pink. Uh-huh. Yeah. Oh. Shame. Na, I’m still good, but tomorrow. See ya then.” She sighed. “Seems he doesn’t sell that. Sucks.”

“No prob, thanks for trying. Hope you get out of trouble.” The box scurried away, leaving behind a few ten dollar bills.

What the...? When she looked up after grabbing the money, the box was gone, as if it had never been there. “Uh, thanks?”

There was no reply. However, someone had scribbled “UR WELCM” on one of the bills.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sara Jung Character Portrait: Jess Almquist Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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5:30 am. Right on time. Jess backed the van into an alley, waited for the slam of the rear door, and glanced over her shoulder to make sure she had picked up the right person before driving off. “Oh shit” she thought. Sara looked as if someone had drowned a cat, frozen it, used it as a baseball bat, thawed it, thrown it in the trash, taken it back out, and then drowned it again. She didn’t look very happy. Jess hurried to search the racks in the back of the van for an emergency blanket. It had to be somewhere between all the electronic equipment, but she wasn’t sure where.

“I’ve found a few design flaws in this costume” Sara remarked dryly. She was shivering.

“Sorryyyyy” Jess whimpered. “Are you pissed at me?”

“Not at all” Sara managed a smile. “Look, it just needs a little insulation and waterproofing. And it forces me to stay out of sight all the time, which means I either don’t see much or need to climb to the rooftops all the time.”

So Sara had been following a moving target. Jess wondered whether she wanted to know what her boss was up to. Her mind went in all sorts of directions as she unpacked the blanket and wrapped it around Sara. Those thoughts ended aloud in... “Grappling gun.”

The response to those two words was a big grin as shiny and metallic as the blanket. “Oh, I like that idea. Go on.”

“I could have a harness integrated into the suit along with some thin foam for insulation. There would be a small loop sticking out in the front and back at your center of mass, to attach the gun to. You shouldn’t get those stuck on anything if I keep them small enough. I’ll have to get you some tough boots and gloves so you don’t hurt yourself on the line.” The ideas started flowing.

“Yes. All of that. Get it done by tonight.”

“TONIGHT?” Jess grabbed Sara by the shoulders. “Nothing is important enough to wear yourself out like that two nights in a row!” She let go, shocked by her own outburst. “I guess? What’s going on?”

Sara averted her eyes. She hesitated. She wanted to avoid triggering Jess, but on the other hand the woman had a right to know now Sara had a feeling that things were about to get out of control. “There’s a new drug on the streets. They call it Pink. It makes metahumans more meta, but crazy too” she explained, reluctantly. “It’s a matter of time until someone removes the crazy bit from it, I think the first to get there could take the city, the country, I don’t know where it ends. I looked into it because I was thinking of maybe trying to stop a new thing before many people got addicted... but... it looks a whole lot more important now.”

Jess pushed the overwhelming mixture of emotions out of her mind. The mention of drugs brought back bad memories, and it was so sweet of Sara to want to do something to stop those same things from happening to others, but there was something more important and scary going on. “If anyone gets too much power, and the way to compete shifts too much to using superpowers, we’ll be out of work, won’t we?”

“That’s right. We need everyone to keep fighting, and without too much physical violence. Otherwise there will be nobody to sell defensive services to.” Sara quietly congratulated herself on picking up a clever one from the gutter – that had never been her reason, but she wasn’t one to let the truth get in the way of admiring her own insight.

To Sara’s annoyance, the next thing Jess said was “You’re not going to be able to do this on your own.”

“Sure I can!” she protested.

Jess shook her head. “Sara, you can figure out what’s going on inside an organization on your own, but taking one down is something else. Please don’t get yourself hurt.”

“Okay. See if you can get me an anonymous appointment with the Mavericks then. But I demand to have my new toys tonight. And a warm bath ASAP.”

Jess quickly scribbled a list on her notepad, then jumped into the driver’s seat. “You’ve got it!”

* * *

When they arrived at Sara’s apartment, Jess found her new superhero curled up asleep on a pillow in the back of the van. It was impossible to wake her. Jess awkwardly dragged her inside, and felt even more awkward about getting her out of the costume she needed to wash and adapt. Sara did not get her bath, Jess decided against it because she might drown.

The express delivery of the grappling gun did not happen until the next morning, just in time for Sara waking up. Jess danced into the room. “Hey, Sara, guess what’s yours now?”

Sara groaned. “If it’s not edible or a painkiller I don’t want to know.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sara Jung Character Portrait: Jess Almquist Character Portrait: Richard "Rich" Cheswick Character Portrait: Character Portrait: Character Portrait:
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Sara perked up when her blood sugar returned to a normal level. She  continued stuffing herself with jam with barely enough bread under it.  Meanwhile, Jess was flipping through her notes. “I got us a lunch appointment with the Maverick spokesperson.”

Sara swallowed her last bite. “Ah, good, more food. Where are we going?”

“We’re meeting at Parker’s Place. I didn’t make any reservation, of course, so we can still choose.” Jess knew to avoid leaving evidence of being anywhere.

“Okay, there’s lots of good places around there. And plenty of time to play  with my improved costume and my new toy first... Well done.” A few moments later she was dangling upside down in a doorframe. “What do you  think?”

“Three out of five, too much of a showoff.” Jessica grinned.

Sara rotated and lowered herself to the floor. “One out of five, too snarky.”

“Hey!” Jess protested. “At least give me a point for making and getting you all that stuff.”

Sarasvati sighed. Being upside down right after breakfast hadn’t been such a good  idea as it had seemed at first. “Fine, I’ll put my regular clothes back on then.”

“Speaking of which,” Jess hid behind her notepad rather than looking up from it,  “do you have to change right in front of me all the time?”

“Absolutely. Seeing me put on disguises is the main part of your job. Why, is there a  problem?” She noticed that although she shook her head and mumbled something that sounded like “no problem”, Jess looked uncomfortable. Why  was this thing a problem now? That was something to worry about later. Right now, she had to think about what to say to the Mavericks. Unless... “Funny, you’ve started telling me what to wear, who to work  with, where not to run around in my underwear in my own home... You’ll  really need to prove your worth if you want to continue like that. So  you’ll be doing the talking this afternoon. Good luck!” Sara walked out  of the kitchen, leaving behind a suddenly very nervous Jess.

Back in her bedroom, Sara nodded at herself in the mirror. It was a good  idea to let Jess do all the explaining, her assistant was much less  likely to say anything the Mavericks would not like, with their fancy morality. Time to pick a suit, maybe bring some locks to show off with,  what else?


* * *


Sara gave Jess a gentle push in the direction of a man who looked like he was waiting for someone. Jess got the hint. “Richard?” She extended her hand. “I’m Jess Almquist, Jung Security. And this is...”

Sara simply said “Sarasvati Jung”. Adding “owner of Jung Security” seemed a bit pointless. She put on her poker face small smile and held out her hand for a handshake too.

Richard stood straight and tall as the two women approached him. He gave a warm smile to the two. "Hello, ladies. Good to meet the both of you." he said, a welcoming chime to his voice. In turn, he firmly shook both of their hands, looking them in the eye and carefully observing their expressions. "Shall we sit down? I'd prefer to have this conversation in a more comfortable position." he offered, tipping his head towards the door of the establishment.

“Of  course” Sara agreed. Already moving in the direction of the door, she  explained “Usually I’m in charge, but to cooperate with you is Jess’  idea, so I will let her explain. The food is on me, of course.”

“Right” Jess said, as soon as all three of them were seated. “We have recently  begun investigating Pink as a side project. It has come to our attention  that your organization also wants to stop the sale of that... drug.”  She hesitated for a moment. “If it were up to us, we would prefer no hard drugs were sold in Fort Blackburn, but usually not enough people  care enough to do something effective about them. So here we are. Perhaps our combined skills could make a difference for once?” Jess  paused while a waiter handed them menus. After the waiter was thanked  and gone, she suggested “You probably have questions.”

Richard listened intently as Jess spoke, shoulders back and his mouth a neutral line. The two had a straightforward enough reason for seeking him out, he supposed. He saw no reason to reject any help for the Mavericks' endeavours. Once she was finished, he sat up and nodded, "I do. I'm curious, why are you so concerned with hard drugs specifically?" he asked, "If you're comfortable with telling me, of course; I don't mean to pry."

Jess involuntarily copied Richard’s posture and sat up more straight. She  had expected a more distrustful question, but then again she was used to  Sara. “As compared to soft drugs, it’s simply because the difference in  the amount of harm they do. Priorities. Compared to other crimes, it’s  because addiction puts another person in control of the life of the  addict. It’s much more evil than, for example, theft, because it often  takes away the freedom of the victim forever. But you’re right, we do have personal reasons. We’d very much like to get back at someone...  who... I’m sorry, I’m not really comfortable with explaining that.”

Sara took over for a moment. “She means someone who is out of reach, someone  who creates new drugs and gives them to young people who have not used  any before. We can’t get to him, but putting people like him out of  business would be almost as good. Besides, metahuman ability enhancing  drugs are a threat to my own business.”

Jess nodded. “Yes, that. There is an emotional side to it, but what matters  is to stop Pink. I hope we can establish enough trust to share plans. I mean, certainly you wouldn’t tell any two strangers who simply show up and claim they want what you want? And we need to get a better  understanding of the way you fight crime, too.”

“Maybe it’s time to explain how we can be useful...” Sara added, “...or to  order something to eat” as she noticed the waiter approaching.

The way that Sara explained their motivations piqued an interest in Richard's mind as well as a slight uneasy sensation within the pit of Richard's stomach. They seemed to have a reasonable enough reason for targeting Pink, but Richard felt uncomfortable hearing of a desire for some kind of vengeance. Still, he could not turn down any help. This drug was proving difficult enough to take out as it was, and the Mavericks needed all the help that they could get.

Once their orders were placed and the waiter out of earshot, Richard replied, "I would appreciate knowing what you're both capable of before proceeding with any agreement."

Jess felt relieved the subject was no longer related to her past. Cheerfully  and without any stammering she explained “Certainly. First of all,  there are the things we are normally paid for by companies that want us  to verify and improve their security measures. Everything up from strategic analysis, observation, social engineering, down to hacking, lock picking and safe cracking. It’s amazing what Sara can do, and I’m trying to learn too. And then there are some neat tricks Sara can do.”

Taking her cue, Sara with one hand removed a few different locks from her  handbag, while the nail polish crumbled off the nails of her other hand. Pushing a fingernail into each lock, one at a time, she showed she  could spin the cylinders. Last, she showed Richard a combination lock.  Her nails seemed to melt into the thin spaces between the discs, which  turned to the combination that opened the lock. “I can do handcuffs  too,” she remarked, “but those tend to draw attention when you take them  out in public. I don’t want that kind of attention, because of the trouble I would be in if a gang found out I can do this kind of things.”

Jess was getting in a sales pitch mood. “If you need a door opened, we can  do it. If you need information, we can get it. And if you need someone  to be lied to, we can do that too.”

“Jess!” Sara laughed, breaking the fake smile she had used to hide her  thoughts, “You just said you wanted to establish trust. Don’t tell him we are liars!”

“Er, right.” Jess looked at her hands, slightly embarrassed. “What I meant  is, we’re good with disguises and acting, tricking people into revealing information, and such. It’s all part of the day job.”

“The main difference with paid work is that getting caught will be a  problem. So we need to have a say in how you use the intel we would give you.” Sara displayed a genuine serious face.

"Exactly how much of a say are you asking for?" Richard asked, raising his brow. Additional information or not, Richard preferred to have full autonomy over the actions of his group.

“How does one quantify that?” Sara wondered aloud. “Let me put it in different words... If I had already told you some things about someone, and you did something that showed him you knew things you weren’t supposed to right at the moment I was about to break into his office, I wouldn’t like that very much. So we can either work mostly on our own and give you all information only after we are satisfied we have followed all leads related to a target, or we could cooperate more closely in such a way that I can be sure you’re not accidentally putting our lives at risk.”

Richard paused a moment to consider both suggestions, resting his chin in his palm as he did so. "I think the latter would be for the best for everyone." he finally said with a nod. "It seems like the fairest agreement, so long as no one else is put at risk." A small voice in the back of Richard's mind questioned whether this agreement was truly a good idea, but he quickly quashed the doubt. "Do we have a deal then?" he asked.

Sara looked at Jess next to her. “Well?”

Jess beamed. “We’ll have lots of details to figure out, but we can make those up as we go along. You won’t regret choosing to really work with us. We can be much more useful than just being a source of information. I have some ideas... You’ll see!”

“That sounds like a yes to me” Sara smirked.

Richard smiles at Jess'  enthusiasm. "Then it's settled." he said simply. "Now is there anything else you'd like to tell me about yourselves?" As he spoke, he glanced sideways at the waiter who was now bringing them their meal. "Or anything you'd like to ask me?" he asked, returning to his original warm intonation.