White Asphodel

White Asphodel

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The war between Heaven and Hell resolved long ago, locking both dimensions off from the material plane... and locking humans into a world with some of the foulest of demonkind.

1,416 readers have visited White Asphodel since Aethyia created it.
Nemeseia are listed as curators, giving them final say over any conflict & the ability to clean up mistakes.

Introduction



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There never was a night
....that could defeat sunrise.

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The city of Tartarus, last major bastion of civilization on the material plane, is Hell on Earth.

Literally.

It's sort of unclear how long ago the Last War was fought. Demon redactors are good at their jobs, and hardly anyone knows much about history anymore. But there are still those in Tartarus who know the truth—that three human generations ago, Heaven and Hell at last met on the final battlefield, and the results were not what anyone had expected. The Legions of the Damned were strong, and bolstered by the ranks of the Fallen, angels who had disgraced themselves and lost most of their divinity in the process, more freshly than the original betrayers who fell with Lucifer.

The combined forces arrayed against them turned Heaven's army back, and so its commanders made the decision to abscond with the chosen few saved, lifting these souls to Heaven and sealing the pearly gates for good. Everyone else was left behind.

Save the Three. A trio of archangels, dissatisfied with Heaven's abandonment of humanity, remained behind, sacrificing their chance to return home and hanging their hopes on their own ability to beat back the Legions. Michael, High Commander of Heaven, Raphael the Healing Light, and Azrael, the Angel of Death, pit themselves against the Four Horsemen and the archdemons that commanded them. Bit by bit, they succeeded, closing the seals the apocalypse had undone, and banishing the demons back to Hell.

And still, something went wrong. No human alive knows exactly what, but somehow, Hell too was sealed off, the Three disappeared, and the demons that remained upon the material plane took control of it for themselves, building the megacity of Tartarus atop the ruins of the Earth, and bringing the remaining humans to heel under their feet. These days, souls are for sale, traded often for a leg up in a cutthroat aristocracy where the Hellspawn are always on top. Android police roam the streets, keeping people in order, and most of the residents of Tartarus just try to keep their heads down and their noses clean.

But rumors are spreading of a rebellion, a group of individuals not content to sit squeezed under the Archdemon Bael's thumb. Unless and until they make more of themselves, though, induction holds: the future of Tartarus looks exactly the same as the three generations already gone.

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Private Roleplay between Aethyia and Nemeseia


Toggle Rules

The GM of this roleplay hasn't created any rules! You can do whatever you like!

Taking place in...

Tartarus our primary setting

Last major bastion of civilization on the material plane

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


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1 Asmodeus
Nishant Residence - Early Morning - Cool
Soleil Nishant


Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage
Then someone will say what is lost can never be saved
Despite all my rage I am still just a—


WHAM.

The ancient alarm clock met its end in a staticky hiss, one matched by Soleil as its crushed glass face embedded shards into the side of her fist.

"Fucking—ugh." Heaving a sigh, she turned onto her back, staring listlessly at the rickety ceiling fan overhead, stirring the cool air of early Asmodeus around her room. She wouldn't need it if she didn't prefer to sleep under blankets; autumn had begun with its usual prompt regularity a few days ago, and the heat of summer already felt like a distant memory.

Blinking blearily, she forced herself to roll out of bed, bare feet hitting the threadbare rug next to her mattress, and shoved herself into a stand. Flexing the injured hand, she grumbled her way to the sink, yanking out shards as she went and tossing them all into the trash can with little tinking sounds. When she was sure they were out, she ran her hand under the water a moment, locking her jaw as the wounds closed up, leaving faint pink marks behind. Minor discomfort at best, but she shouldn't have broken the damn thing. She couldn't exactly afford another.

Splashing water on her face, Soleil stripped off her thin white tank and black shorts while the shower inched towards not-icewater, tossing both back onto the unmade heap of blankets and pulling the elastics out of her hair.

One very cold wake-up shower later, she'd outfitted herself in the durable all-blacks of her work clothes: long sleeved shirt, leather vest, fitted denim pants, heavy steel-toed boots. Her hair was pulled into subtle tails that hit below her shoulders, and she trudged down the stairs, wondering what her sister had managed to pull together for breakfast.

The stairs creaked, so no doubt it would be easy to hear her coming.

“Mornin' sis," Luna called out, the faint smell of something coming from her direction. “Managed to steal some eggs from next door," she stated, flipping over the omelete she seemed to be cooking. She said it as if she'd actually stolen them from next door, but they both knew better than to do that. Still, Luna smiled and motioned for Soleil to take a seat at their shabby table.

"Just steal the fucking chicken next time," Soleil replied, fatigue making her voice come out scratchy and low. Combined with her coarse language, most people would probably assume she was angry, but Luna would know she wasn't. It was just normal morning shit. "Eggs for a while and then something to roast. We could keep it in the attic or some shit." Not like they were using that for anything—they didn't have enough stuff to need storage.

She dropped into the chair with a view of the door, wincing when it protested under her weight. She wasn't even that heavy.

The table itself was a two-seater at best, old and crickety. One of the legs had to be supported by a piece of cardboard, otherwise it would fall. “Do you want ketchup with your omelete?" she asked, pulling it from the pan and sliding it onto a plate.

"Nah, save it," she said, waving a hand vaguely. "I can't taste anything this early anyway." She swore half her diet was eggs, just because they were cheap. The other half was whatever produce they scraped from the Rogenmart dumpster a couple blocks down. Usually kind of wilted, but it was harder to notice if it was cooked. Soleil was in charge of dinner, and had gotten good at cooking things so they almost didn't notice anymore. Condiments helped.

Luna was still laughing by the time she'd set Soleil's plate down, shaking her head faintly and disturbing the platinum blonde tail over her shoulder. She wasn't dressed in her work attire, though. She was in a simple white shirt that was off the shoulder, and a pair of torn capri jeans. She took a seat across from Soleil after plating her own food, and poked at it with her fork.

“Maybe next time I'll steal the chicken, too. It's kinda hard, though, 'cause they keep it locked up. Do you have any tools that can open a lock?" she asked, grinning in Soleil's direction.

"Well there's always the blowtorch. Just make sure it doesn't explode." Soleil did in point of fact have actual lockpicks, but Luna knew that and it wasn't as in keeping with the stupidity of the joke to mention them, so she didn't. "I kind of need it. Even if it's only to threaten Jeremy."

Ugh, right. That asshat was going to be by again soon. It was the first of the month.

Luna's lips pursed together as she rolled her eyes. “If that doesn't work, just punch him in the throat. I swear, if they make one more pass at us..." she started, stabbing at her omelete in a rough manner before shoving a piece into her mouth. She chewed it in an angry manner before she swallowed it.

“We barely make enough as it is," she muttered, stabbing at her omelete once more. “What's on the agenda for today? Oil change, tire rotation?" she asked, arching a brow.

Soleil frowned. "Dunno," she replied, slicing through one side of the omelet with he side of her fork. It had a slightly-bent tine; it was stupid, but since she could tell the difference between it and the others she always used it when it was clean. "Nothing on the books; hopefully someone drives in." It sucked, being reliant on something so random, but her clientele was small. Not too many people this far out had cars, or bikes, over or otherwise.

"Otherwise I'm going to have to see if Mrs. Hamby still needs her fridge fixed." Stingy bitch.

“Yeah, good luck with that one. Just make sure you collect before you do the job. You know how she is," Luna replied as she took another bite of her food. “I'll go around the other apartment buildings to see if anyone else needs something looked at. I think Mr. Henderson might have a printer that's not acting like it should be. Something about paper jams and shit like that," she offered, sitting back in her chair a bit. There was a soft creak to it, but Luna didn't seem too worried about it.

"A printer? Talk about ancient tech. Who prints anything?" Soleil didn't know how to fix a printer, but she could figure it out if she had to. Pulling solutions to problems out of her ass was pretty much how she survived.

“I have to make a run to the convenience store, anyway. We're almost out of toliet paper," she added, frowning somewhat. Basic necessities were hard to come by, not only because work was hard to come by, but most of it was outrageously over priced.

"Might want to wait til tomorrow for that," she advised. "Danny was saying one of the western supply chains is down. Someone blew up some of the tracks, apparently. They've had to move what's left over to hovertruck; whoever it was stole the rest." In Soleil's opinion, you had to be stupid to risk your life like that. Easier to filch a few cans at a time from the local grocer than take out a whole train for a month's score. Way less likely to bring demons down on your ass.

Luna frowned slightly, but nodded her head. “I'll just pick some up after work tomorrow, since it'll be on the way home," she replied. “We'll be fine for now, I guess," she added with a light shrug of her shoulders.

“It's almost Sunday," she stated suddenly, grinning lightly. “Did you figure out what it is you want as a dessert for that day?" she asked in an amused fashion.

"Tiramisu," Soleil deadpanned, naming a fancy dessert she'd only ever heard of. She didn't even know what it looked like, much less how it tasted. Snorting, she shook her head and picked something that might actually be possible. "I think there might be a sale on cinnamon at the bodega still. You want to see if we can get the stuff for cinnamon rolls?"

“Sure, I'll just check to see what our budget is and go from there," Luna replied as she leaned a little back in her chair. If she kept leaning back like that, she was going to fall. She didn't seem too concerned though. “Oh, and remind me to make sure I get the stuff for cream cheese icing. Regular icing is fine and all, but cream cheese just tastes better."

It also cost more, but Soleil didn't mention that.

"Sure." Finishing the last bite of her omelet, she collected both of their plates and washed them down quickly in this sink, fitting them into the handmade metal drying rack next to the sink.

"Guess it's time to go mind the shop. You working this afternoon?"

“Nope. I'm off today so I have the day to myself," Luna replied, tilting her head backwards to glance at Soleil. “Why? Were you going to miss me if I did? I know you do every time I leave, but I'm all yours today!" she added, grinning brightly. “Oh, and—ack!" Luna's chair tipped backwards, causing her to fall to the floor. She groaned slightly before sighing.

“Serves me right for doing that on this old thing," she stated from her spot on the floor. “Anyway, uh, do you need me today to help you with the shop? If not, I was going to try and organize the house a bit. Maybe put in some more caulk around the places that really need it," she asked, glancing up at Soleil. Caulk wasn't easy to come by, either, which is probably why she put emphasis on the word.

Soleil rolled her eyes, bending down and grabbing the back bar of the chair, sister and all, and setting it back on its feet again. "I'll manage somehow," she drawled. "Just don't fall off a ladder or something." Not that Luna would likely suffer any real damage from that, but they were careful not to make that obvious.

Luna chuckled softly. “Alright, fine, have it your way," she said, standing from her spot at the table, and pushing the chair back in. “If you need me, you'll know where to find me."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK



4 Asmodeus
Nishant Residence - Evening - Light Drizzle
Lunaria Nishant


Luna sighed, pulling the elastic band out of her hair, and letting it spill over her shoulders. She swore that it gave her a headache with how tightly pulled back it was, but there wasn't much she could do. She was a secretary, after all, and no matter how lenient the Bailey's were about the dress code, she still had to present herself nicely to the clientele. It was why she was wearing a black pencil skirt with a white blouse tucked into it and a fitted blazer. It was one of two suits that she owned that were even remotely nice.

They also didn't have holes in them like most of her other clothing choices. She made her way to her room to change so that she didn't ruin her suit. A pair of worn black shorts and white tank top later, she made her way towards the garage where Sol would be. It was drizzling outside, so no doubt Sol had the garage door closed. That didn't mean, of course, that she stopped taking potential customers, only that they had to come inside if they wanted something done.

“Sol, are you around?" she called out, looking for her sister.

"Down here." The garage was meticulously-clean, even if everything in it was old and worn like... well pretty much everything else around here. There were only two vehicles in it; one was the junky old hoverbike Sol was fixing up whenever she could skim the parts. It was a way they sometimes made a little extra money; her sister kept old parts that needed a little fixing, and eventually there were enough of them to fit to an old frame and get something functional. Then they'd save until she could afford to do a paint and detailing job, and try to find someone to sell the thing to.

The other vehicle, though, was a wheeled truck, currently settled flat on the ground. Upon closer inspection, Luna could see Sol's long black coat thrown over the workbench, her denim-clad legs and boots sticking partway out from beneath the truck. She must be working on the undercarriage. "Can you grab me the phillips head? Red toolbox."

The red toolbox, distinct from the green and black toolboxes, sat open on the same worktable.

“Sure thing," she replied as she made her way towards the toolbox. She rummaged through it before she found the tool in question, and handed it towards Sol. “Have you had dinner, yet, or would you like me to start on it?" she asked, making her way towards one of the old iron chairs nearby. Luna was the morning person of the two, and she always made sure to have some form of breakfast for Sol, however; dinner alternated sometimes.

It was easier for them to work it that way since Sol could spend hours in the garage fixing a car, or tinkering with something else. There were times where Luna had to remind Sol that she needed a break, otherwise she was going to work herself to the bone.

"It's fine. I was planning to start it after I finish here. shouldn't be more than another twenty minutes—" Her words abruptly cut off as she seemed to focus on what she was doing, either forgetting or not bothering to finish the sentence.

About thirty seconds later, she spoke again. "You were stomping. Shitty day?"

Luna felt herself frown. “Yeah, you could say that," she replied, leaning forward so she could rest her elbow on her knees, and rest her chin in her hand. “Stupid shit head thought he could get fresh with me while Mr. Bailey was in the back trying to locate his file," she murmured softly. It wasn't something that happened often, but there were times when potential buyers and clients came to the Baileys' and tried to push their luck. Luna wasn't stupid; she knew that Sol and herself were rather attractive, but she wasn't eye candy!

“Ugh, Mr. Bailey managed to keep it from escalating, though, when I refused," because why wouldn't she refuse? The man was an asshole. “Last week it was that demoness lady who the Baileys outright refused to work with." It was mostly because the Baileys tried their best to help the human population of Tartarus. Luna knew that not all of the demons were especially bad, but they weren't exactly helpful, either. With the Baileys, they were still a religious sort, and were good people.

"Gross." Sol certainly got her own share of annoying customers, Luna knew, but she had a more forbidding demeanor in general, the kind of deadpan expression that looked like a scowl even when she wasn't particularly upset about anything, and a job that at least suggested she knew a few things about how to look out for herself. So while it wasn't that she never had to deal with jerks, it was a little... different, in her case. Still, even in her flat tone there was detectable sympathy.

"I don't know why people fucking do that. If you want an easy lay go buy one. It's not like there aren't any around. I'm just here to fix fucking cars, and you're there to file paperwork and answer phones."

“Exactly!" Luna agreed. “But what I think they're looking for is a free lay. They can't necessarily afford even the cheap ones," she murmured before shaking her head. “Especially if they're going to a place like the one Alastor owns," she shivered at that. “He's an asshole who charges way too much because he knows he'll get it one way or another."

"Mm." Sol didn't seem to have much to say on the topic of Alastor at the moment, but certainly they'd both spent plenty of breath on him already. "Motherfucker." That about summed it up, actually.

There was some activity under the truck; a soft grunt and the sound of metal giving way, and then Sol tossed something aside, a hunk of steel that clattered to the ground clear of the vehicle's radius. She must have already had the replacement part ready, because she didn't ask for anything else, and there were more metal contact noises. "They say anything about upping your hours?"

“No, they can't afford more than what they're already giving me," she replied, straightening herself out on the chair. A couple of humans in the real estate business wasn't exactly profitable. If they had sold their souls, they might have been able to afford more, and be some of the wealthier humans, however; Luna knew it had never crossed their minds.

“I'm surprised they're even giving me what they have been," she added. She'd worked with the Baileys for about three years, now. They were generous in their hours, but three hours for two or three days just wasn't enough to help Sol with the bills. Rent, electricity, and the dues they had to pay Alastor... she might have to go look for a second part-time job.

Sol sighed, and after installing whatever part she was working on, rolled out from under the truck. She'd pulled both tails into buns on either side of her head, presumably to keep her ink-black hair from dragging on the concrete slab that served as the garage floor. Her face was dirty, streaked in places with grease; her clothes probably were too, but her habit of wearing nothing but black tended to make that harder to tell.

"We'll figure it out," she said, brows knit.

Leveraging herself off the rolling board, Sol dusted off her pants and wiped the screwdriver down, as well as the wrenches attached to her belt, before stowing all of them and collecting the discarded part from earlier. She made a quick inspection of it, then sighed. "Scrap," she mumbled, tossing it into a large bin in the corner with a loud metal clang. It was only about half-full; it'd be a while before it was worth hauling to the scrapyard.

Luna smiled ruefully and nodded her head. “We always do," even if it meant they couldn't buy groceries for awhile, or went without water or electricity. At this point in her life, Luna considered those luxuries, ones that were nice to have, but it wasn't like it would be difficult to not have them. Sol and Luna had come a long way from being homeless children to having a shab of a home to live in. It wasn't much, but to Luna, it was more than she could ask for. More than what most people could ask for.

“So, what's for dinner?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


7 Asmodeus
Nishant Garage - Evening - Overcast
Soleil Nishant


Fuck.

It wasn't exactly surprising that more money hadn't magically appeared in the shop's tiller than had already been there the last time she counted, but it was shitty anyway. Lots of things were like that.

Zinoviev's fucking 'protection fees' had been due on the first, which typically meant there was a five-day 'grace period' in which they could try to scrape together the funds, but it was the seventh, and she knew from experience that this was about when Jeremy and his goon squad came knocking. She wasn't going to enjoy this a single damn bit, especially not because she would not, in fact, be able to hand him the requisite few hundred dollars. Maybe if she had another couple of weeks and didn't pay the power bill. Maybe. But business had been fucking slow, and there was that emergency last month where she'd had to shell out to patch the roof before the autumn rains. It had barely survived last Leviathanus, and while the fall wasn't as rainy as the spring, it'd still bring the rest of the roof down on their heads if they didn't at least get the patch job.

She'd done it herself, but junk hadn't cut it that time, and she'd had to pay out the nose for proper shingles and a tarp. Fuck everything.

At least Luna wasn't home. Maybe she'd get lucky and Jeremy would come and go before her sister had to see his slimy fucking face.

“Sol, I'm home," Luna called out, the sound of the door closing following her voice. “I think I'm gonna puke; a client came in today smelling like rotting fish," she stated, frowning in Soleil's direction when she appeared. “I mean, I volunteer at the shelters and everything, but man, that guy was something else," she continued, furrowing her brows and pursing her lips together as if she was recalling that particular smell. She sighed, though and shook her head.

“They couldn't afford to give me an advance this week," she stated, pulling the tie from her hair. “They're having trouble collecting on payments from their customers. Mr. Bailey says that he can try next time, but it's not a guarantee."

Double fuck.

Soleil gathered up all the cash in the tiller and rubber banded it, save for one twenty, which she slid into her back pocket, under her coat. They had to eat something, after all, and they were going to be late and incur an exploitative amount of interest regardless. Well, honestly the whole thing was plain-out extortion, but it was funny how you could get used to a certain amount of it and still think any more was crossing a different line.

"Sounds like he dove the wrong dumpster," she said offhandedly. You had to be really careful with meat. Lots of people were tempted to it, but Soleil knew to stick to produce and packaged items. You could cut away bad spots on vegetables or cheese. If meat was bad it was all bad. Amateurs.

Slamming the tiller shut with more force than intended, she cursed under her breath and tossed the stack of cash onto the table. Three hundred and eighty-four dollars. A hundred and sixteen short. She scrubbed her hands up and down her face.

Luna sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “Possibly," she replied, grabbing one of the chairs from the table and turning it around. She sat in it with the back of the chair, in front of her, and leaned her chin on it. “You think they'll try to collect collateral this time?" she asked, tilting her head to the side.

They tried before, using the excuse that they were hiring for their establishments. “Do you want me to go get the blowtorch just in case?" Luna sounded almost as if she were half-joking about it.

Soleil shook her head. "Shotgun's under the counter." It was loaded with pellets of rock salt, because she didn't believe in killing people for doing their jobs, even if their jobs were acting as muscle for a scummy wannabe crime lord, and also because actual cartridges were expensive, but Jeremy and his boys didn't need to know that. "You can hold the blowtorch if it makes you feel better, though."

“Only if I get to use it," Luna replied casually as she stood from her spot. She went towards the counter and ducked to grab said shotgun, and pulled it out. “Recoil is still a bitch on this thing, though," she stated as she glanced over it and handed it to Soleil. “It's kind of late already, do you think he'll still show?"

Soleil wasn't worried about the recoil, and she knew Luna really wasn't either. "Of course he's going to show," she replied drolly, leaning the shotgun against the counter in front of her. She was still perched on the stool behind the tiller, so it wouldn't be visible to Jeremy unless she picked it up. "He exists to annoy us."

Sure enough, the bell on the shop's normal entrance—as opposed to the garage door—jangled an alarm as a man in a red velvet jacket and acid wash jeans stepped through. His fedora was black, with a slightly frayed satin ribbon and a king of hearts playing card stuck into it at a crooked angle. She supposed he was going for jaunty. Snakeskin shoes were quiet over the floor as he approached the counter, a pair of other guys filing in behind him an taking up spots near the door, arms crossed.

“Ah, my little sun and moon. Feels like just yesterday we talked last, and yet here you are, prettier than ever." She smiled at them, his line of teeth pristine save for the left eyetooth, which was silver. Soleil had punched the other one out the first time they met. He hadn't touched either of them since then, but he still liked to play at this bullshit.

Her face remained stony, expression dull, eyes half lidded. "Let's just get this over with, Jeremy."

He placed a hand over his black shirt, near where his heart would be if the fucker had one. “So cold to me," he murmured, flicking a glance at Luna. “You should probably teach your sister some of that hospitality the Baileys use you for. She might get more business if she smiled pretty for it."

Luna didn't smile at all, and flicked her gaze towards Soleil. “Didn't you know? That is her smile. I thought it was already pretty to begin with," she replied, taking a step closer in Soleil's direction. She crossed her arms over her chest and held her gaze with Jeremy's. Her expression wasn't as steely as Soleil's was, but it was dull and unamused.

He sighed. “I don't know why you have to be so hostile," he said, still feigning friendliness himself. “Mr. Zinoviev and the rest of us do a fine service for this neighborhood, you know. He's crated more jobs than any other businessman has brought to this area in years, and his employees are well-compensated. We do have to tax for our services, but we're much more reliable than the police, you know."

Soleil just kept staring flatly at him.

Another sigh, and then: “You haven't paid your dues, my dears. It's two-fifty per person, same as always. Unless—"

"No."

Jeremy shrugged, diffident. “If you say so."

"There's Luna's two-fifty and a hundred and thirty four of mine on the table. You'll get the rest of mine when I have it."

He clicked his tongue against his teeth. “Short, are we? That's going to mean compound interest, my dear. Are you sure you can afford that?"

“We'll have it," Luna responded, her eyes narrowing slightly in Jeremy's direction. “He has more than seventy percent of it, there. That's more than what most people pay even if they are on time."

“You can tell Zinoviev he can be expect the rest of it, soon," she stated as she unfolded her arms and placed one on her hip.

“I'm not sure how you think you know that, little miss," Jeremy replied, snatching up the money and handing it to one of the others to count. “Mr. Zinoviev's finances are a very private matter, and I'm quite certain you're not keeping his books."

Knowing they needed to placate him so he'd go away, Soleil sighed under her breath. "Business has been slow," she said. "If Mr. Zinoviev would like me to do some maintenance on one of his cars, or something like that, I'm sure we could work out some kind of deal."

That was a new offer, and she could tell that it had thrown Jeremy off a bit. He usually knew how to speak for his boss, but honestly didn't seem sure what the gang lord would make of that. On the one hand, it wasn't money and it wasn't exactly the alternative he was always trying to foist on them. On the other, it would bring them closer into the gangster's circle, which was something he seemed to want for some reason.

When the other man nodded to confirm the amount was what she'd said it was, Jeremy hummed. “Well, I can ask ladies, just because I like you so much. But I wouldn't expect that to work. Mr. Zinoviev really should get what he's owed, you know?"

“He's owed a punch in the face," Luna murmured softly so that only Soleil could hear her. She turned her attention towards Jeremy, though. “Just let him know; that's all we are asking. We'll have the rest of his dues, soon." She didn't seem particularly happy, but Luna was hardly ever happy when Jeremy and his squad came to collect.

“If our business is concluded, I kindly ask that you leave."

Jeremy shrugged a little, gesturing his guys out ahead of him.

When the bell jangled again as it shut behind them, Soleil sighed quietly. She supposed she'd bought them a week or two, but the last thing she wanted was to be any part of that asshole's organization, down to the janitor who cleaned his floors.

Triple fuck.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK



12 Asmodeus
Shelter #301 - Afternoon - Haze
Lunaria Nishant


The lower slums of the city weren't exactly any better than where Luna lived. The buildings were all structurally unsafe, and any one of the beams could give way at any moment. The result would be multiple people crushed, and possibly killed if they were human. Most of Tartarus's homeless people were human, but there were a handful of cambions as well. It wasn't like the media would care, though. Why would they? These people were nobodies, and that meant that no one cared.

“Hey, Lu, you doin' alright over there?" Kasey called out as Luna turned in her direction. At least some people cared about these nobodies. Luna would be damned if she didn't help out where she could. She knew how these people felt, not having a home or a place to hide for shelter of the elements. It was depressing, however; she shook her head.

“I'm fine, Kase. Just getting lost in my thoughts," she replied as Kasey huffed slightly. She pushed the red fringe in front of her face, away, and continued stirring the pot. They would occasionally take turns cooking, but it came down to whoever could find the most ingredients for the week.

“Luna, do you think you can help find a few hands to help move this beam out of the way? I'm gonna need at least three more hands," Kato called out, sighing softly as he pointed to a fallen beam. His brows were furrowed, and he tucked back a black strand of hair that had become loose from his tie. The beam was in the way of a door, though, and if it could be cleared, they'd have more space to put things out. It'd even give someone a nice place to sleep if they couldn't find other places.

“Sure thing, Kato!" Luna replied as she glanced in Kasey's direction. “I'm going to go see if any of the guys can help Kato with the beam. I'll be right back," she stated, dusting off her hands. She smoothed out her torn black shirt, and glanced in the direction of the people they were helping. Some of them always lended an extra hand when they needed help, maybe a few of them would like to help out, now?

“Hey, guys," she called out, waving towards a small group. “Do any of you think you can help Kato and Ravi with the beam?"

A few of them looked at the beam in question; one of them winced outright. “I dunno 'f it's gonna budge," he said. He was an older man, grey and grizzled, wearing a misshapen hat. She knew his name to be Carlos. “Terry, you seen Mick around today? Maybe he could help."

Terry blinked pale blue eyes, tugging at his dense, wiry brown beard. “Yeah, I bet he's round. Saw 'im near the bridge. Always goin' on about what a shame it is the water's dirty. If you can wait a bit, Lu, I can see about goin' to get him?"

“Sure thing, Terry, I can wait," she replied, offering him a smile. She knew who Mick was, at least how he looked. She had seen him a couple of times, burly red-head who was probably one of the tallest people she'd seen, and he wasn't even a demon, or a cambion. Of that she was fairly certain. She turned her attention back to Carlos, though, and offered a smile.

“Thanks Carlos, do you want me to see if Sofia has your jacket today? I think she was finished with repairing it so it should be a little sturdier for winter," she stated. Sofia was, perhaps, a gifted seamstress which was a little on the rare side of things. No one really had things tailored unless they could afford it, but Sofia was charitable, and did what she could for those who needed it.

Terry nodded and disappeared out the door, while Carlos nodded, smiling broadly enough that she could see the gaps in his yellowed teeth. “Would appreciate that, Lu."

By the time Luna had returned with the jacket and Carlos folded it to stow in his grimy backpack, the door had opened again, and Terry stepped through, an absolute bear of a man in his shadow. Mick was as big as she remembered, easily six and a half feet tall. He wasn't thin like a lot of the others, either, but it was hard to tell what kind of broadness he had, because he like most of them wore what seemed like three changes of clothes at once. Necessary, when you had to carry everything you owned.

He was layered in dark colors, with the occasional touch of something brighter, like a hunter green or burnt orange. His hair was an obvious shade of red, thick and shaggy to his shoulders, the fringe heavy over eyes of an uncommon amber color, almost gold. He had whiskery stubble along his tanned jawline, but nothing approaching the beards of the others, suggesting he shaved at least every now and then.

"Heard someone needed something heavy moved?" His voice was a bass suited to his dimensions, a little rough around its edges but without any of the bitten ends or elision of most of them. He talked like someone who'd been educated well, though it was hard to imagine it, looking at him now.

Luna smiled up at the man, and nodded her head. “Kato and Ravi need help moving the beam that's blocking the way," she replied, tilting her head in their direction. “Carlos said that you might be able to help?" it was more of a statement than a question, but she was still asking him. She was giving him that option to help if he wanted to; if it was too much for him, he wasn't obligated to say yes. She pursed her lips together, though, trying to think of a way to word it better. She couldn't just say if you can't, it's fine. She didn't want to sound like she was guilt tripping him, which she wasn't.

It really would be fine if he couldn't help. How did you say that, though, without sounding condescending?

“If you can help, that would be great, but don't... think of it as something you have to do. I'm not forcing you or anything like that."

Because that sounds so much better, Lu. She inwardly rolled her eyes at her self.

He snorted, an inelegant gust of air. "I'd be interested to see you try to force me to do anything," he said, arching a wry brow and looking pointedly down at her from his lofty height. A couple of the others laughed.

“Don't underestimate our Lu, now, Mick. She's spunky." Carlos tipped her a cheeky wink.

The man named Mick shook his head faintly, but there didn't seem to be anything mean-spirited in it. "You just want it out of here, or set back in the ceiling?"

Carlos wasn't entirely wrong, though. Luna and her sister were always stronger than most people, but she had stopped questioning that a long time ago. She could have helped Kato and Ravi move that beam, but she'd promised Sol that she wasn't going to do anything unneccesary that would expose that. Instead, she focused on Mick's question.

“Well, I don't know if all of you would be able to set it back, but..." she trailed off, glancing in Ravi and Kato's direction. It would give the building a more stable foundation. “You guys can try to set it back, but if it starts getting too dangerous, I want you to stop, alright? I don't need you all getting hurt."

“Are you questioning my manliness, Lu?" Ravi called out from behind her, his lips twisting into an amused smile. Ravi had what Luna liked to call a pretty boy complexion. His skin was near flawless, darker than Mick's, with shoulder length jet black hair. The only thing that stood out more was his eyes. They were a deep blue color.

“Wait, you've been a man all this time?" Kato joked, causing Luna to chuckle and shake her head. Ravi just sighed dramatically and pursed his lips together.

"Don't worry about it," Mick said, shaking his head at the two. "I'm not this big for no reason." He shrugged a little and made his way over to the beam. Bending at the knees into a squat, he fitted both hands—heavily-callused, she could see, even if most of them were covered by fingerless gloves—under the beam, and slowly rose back to his feet. The metal creaked in protest as he shifted it, but a look at his face revealed little strain.

Kato moved to clear some of the debris from the fall out of the area, making it possible for Mick to tilt the beam back into place where it had fallen down, walking his hands further down the thing to get it close to vertical. Once it was set up against the wall, he and Kato took hold of either side and hefted it carefully into place while Ravi scrambled to get the ladder so he could make sure it braced back in the right spot, and weld it in.

“It's always fun t' watch Mick do stuff," Terry said, chuckling to himself.

“Always seems to be right where ya need him, right?" Carlos added.

Luna could understand why they thought it was fun to watch Mick. The man was doing most of the lifting, it seemed, and barely showing any sort of strain. She wondered if he did some kind of construction back in the day. He had to be at least in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. She was bad when it came to telling people's ages, mostly because some people didn't age quite the same way. Shoving the thought away, Ravi chuckled at something Kato said, and by the time they were finished, it looked like the beam was fixed into its proper spot.

“You know, I have a cousin who works in construction," Kato started, grinning in Mick's direction. “He's always looking for people to help out. If you want, I could put in a good word for you."

Kato seemed genuine in his offer, which Luna knew was true. “I think what he meant to say was, thank you, Mick," Luna spoke, shaking her head in Kato's direction.

“You know him, though, Lu. He's always trying to scout people," Ravi chuckled.

Mick smiled a little. Not enough to show teeth, and it was a little wry, but he nodded anyway. "Wouldn't say no to some honest work," he said gruffly, and a couple of the others nodded. They knew what he meant—honest work was pretty much anything that didn't involve selling a soul or working directly for a demon. Considering just how much of things they were in charge of, it was hard to come by, and employees willing to trade in their souls were usually given priority.

It meant that people like these, the ones unwilling to make that sacrifice for whatever reason, were dwindling in number. And usually, well, homeless or pretty close.

Dusting off his hands, Mick settled his eyes on Luna. "Anything else need to be done around here? I'm not bad at odd jobs."

Luna smiled a little at that. “There's always things to be done," she started, frowning a bit. “I just... don't know if we'd be able to pay you for it." She would feel bad if he did work and wasn't paid for it. She didn't get much for an allowance, but maybe she could give it to him the next time she saw him? That was a huge maybe. It felt like their paths crossed only a couple of times; Luna would have remembered someone as large and burly as Mick.

“Oh, maybe I can see if Sol will let me cook you a dinner as payment," she suggested, earning a light snicker from Ravi.

“You make it sound like you're asking him out, Lu. Careful how you word things," he stated, earning a flat look from her.

“Don't be jealous, Rav, that I'm not asking you," she retorted.

“Oh, burn, Rav. Burn," Kato stated as he pat Ravi's back.

Mick didn't seem inclined to misinterpret though, the expression on his face remaining much the same as he slid his hands into the pockets of his large brown overcoat. "No need," he said, shaking his head. "I've eaten here enough times that I'm pretty sure you have made me dinner. Feels good to help out, all that considered."

Luna pursed her lips together, but nodded. She didn't think it was quite the same, but she wasn't going to push the issue. He was right about one thing, though. It did feel good to help out, but maybe she was just being selfish about it.

“If that's the case," she began, glancing back up in Mick's direction, “would you mind helping us move a few of the flat stones over?" They weren't particularly heavy, but they would provide some comfort as a makeshift bed. Kato had been kind enough to bring them from his cousin's construction site since they weren't needed. Even if stone wasn't particularly comfortable, they could lay down some blankets to soften it for the others, especially the older homeless people who needed softer places to lay.

"I can do that," he said simply. "Just show me where you want them."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


15 Asmodeus
Nishant Residence - Evening - Rainy
Soleil Nishant


Soleil moved the pot off the burner, setting the lid askew on top and draining the remaining water out. Rice was cheap, thank the rules of economy, and she and Luna tended to buy huge bags of it whenever they had a little leftover money to last them through times like this, when they really didn't. The grocery store dumpster had furnished them with a few serviceable veggies, and some cheap spices came together with the rest for a vegetable curry. It didn't even taste half bad—the spice tended to cover up any slight decay in the rest, and rice never went off. Their place was always clean, so weevils and shit weren't a concern, fortunately.

"Luna, dinner's done." She didn't have to call loudly; the walls were pretty thin. Even if her sister was napping or something, she'd hear just fine.

Setting the pot back down, she took the lid off and rinsed it before setting it in the dish drain and serving them both half the rice. The curry went on top, and she grabbed two forks—the dinged one for her and another for Luna, setting it all down at the rickety folding table and dropping into her chair.

“Coming!" Luna shouted from wherever she was. It was a moment later when she appeared, her hair wrapped in a towel. It looked like she'd just finished her shower. She grinned in Solei's direction, though, and took a seat in the other chair.

“Oh, curry! My favorite," she stated, taking a bite out of it. It was a known fact that Luna's favorite wasn't curry, but blueberry waffles. It wasn't something they could regularly afford, though. “Ugh, I'm actually kind of sore," she continued, rolling out her shoulder a bit before taking another bite of the curry.

“Pretending not to be as stupidly strong as we are has, uh, downsides," she murmured. “Anyway, what about you? How does it look on your side of things?" She had to be referring to the rest of the fees that needed to be paid, soon.

Soleil almost winced. "Dunno," she said flatly. She'd foregone paying several bills this month in an attempt to scrape together the rest, but she didn't want to deal with the water getting shut off—they both needed to shower, and it was their main source of drinking water, too. It'd be more expensive to have to compensate with the bottled kind. "Hardly anyone's been by, but..." She shrugged.

The most important part was that Luna's fee was paid. The fucker couldn't touch her. Soleil would... figure something out for herself.

"Anyway, why are you having to pretend? The Baileys doing some manual work or something?" It didn't seem likely, but the other place Luna spent her time was a soup kitchen, so... maybe they just had to move ingredient boxes or something?

Luna grimaced a little. “We've been trying to clear space for a few of the people to have better sleeping and resting areas in some of the more rundown areas of town," she began. “Kato, Ravi, and the other guys aren't always around, so it falls to Kasey, myself and at least one other hand to move some of the heavier things to the side. It's not too much heavier that three people can lift it without seeming too odd, but it's still a little odd when two of those three people aren't exactly... well, made for manual labor like that."

Luna sighed softly and took another bite of her curry, chewing it quietly before she continued, “and it might get like that with the Baileys, too. They're not as spry as they used to be, and some of the things Mrs. Bailey tries to do aren't exactly good for her health, especially at her age. They're thinking about hiring some muscle, but they're just not too sure if they can afford it."

It was obvious that something was bothering her, because she was stabbing at her food again.

Soleil hummed a noncommittal note. It was pretty much just like her sister to get involved in extra shit for people she didn't even know. It wasn't exactly surprising that doing loads of free manual labor when they specifically had to keep things about themselves hidden was causing her pain. And of course she was doing it for free. It was by turns admirable and annoying, how much of a shit Luna could manage to give about people who weren't related to her in any way. Soleil thought it was kind of foolish, but then... she'd also done everything she'd done that that Luna wouldn't be a cold bitch like she was. Wouldn't have to be.

"Don't you go volunteering," she groused. "If they Baileys need you to do extra work, they can pay you extra for it. They may be in straits but so are all of us. We need to make rent too."

Well, rent wasn't quite the right word. They owned this garbage pile of a house outright—Soleil had made sure of that. Mostly so some asshole couldn't decide to arbitrarily jack up the rent. If they could just get clear of this protection bullshit, their monthly expenses might even become both predictable and manageable.

Then she wouldn't care so much if Luna spent all her time doing work for free for people.

Luna sighed softly, taking a bite of her curry and chewing it. She stayed quiet for a moment longer before she shook her head, and set her spoon down. “I know you're right, Sol," she began, keeping her gaze on the curry in front of her. “I know we need the money to make ends meet, but..." she paused to lift her gaze.

“The supermarket down the street is hiring for part time work. I'm thinking about applying there as something extra to do," she stated, changing the subject. “They said I could come by for an interview tomorrow evening, so I won't be home until late."

Soleil just barely avoided sighing. Even if she couldn't and wouldn't, she knew Luna really valued her ability to volunteer, and putting more hours toward paying work would mean less of that. Still... it was hard to see another way out, at least not until—

The sound of the fridge whirring behind them cut off suddenly, at the same moment as the lights shut off, plunging the house into complete darkness. Soleil reached over towards one of the kitchen drawers, pulling out a stubby tea light candle and a lighter. She didn't light it yet, though—it was just in case they needed it. Fortunately, she could navigate food to her face just fine in the dark.

"Yeah, all right," she said, knowing full well that the chance of Luna landing that job was tiny. They went quickly, in a place like this, and all the advantage her sister might get for being pretty would disappear when they figured out she had no grocery experience and spent her free time feeding homeless people. For all the food that ended up in the dumpster, it was apparently not okay to hand out the extra.

"Something else bugging you?"

Luna chuckled softly. “Nothing other than the usual," she replied, which meant that the only things that were bugging her were the people who often cat-called her on her way home from work. “I take it we're behind on the light?" she stated, some form of amusement lacing her voice. She didn't sound too surprised. They were used to things like this happening.

“I'll see if the Baileys can do an advance this week. They weren't able to last time, but they might be able to, this time. If they do, where should we put it?" she asked.

"Protection fees," Soleil replied immediately. "The electric company doesn't charge fucking compound interest. We fall into that trap, we might never get out." She sighed. "Fuck him, honestly. Can't he just crawl back into whatever hole he crawled out of? Or slithered. Like a fucking snake."

Luna barked a short laugh. “He'd probably like it if we did," she joked, making a dissatisfied noise in the back of her throat. Almost sounded like she was gagging on something. “Unfortunately if it were that easy, we wouldn't have to worry about paying those stupid fees," she sighed softly, though.

“I think we're actually morbidly lucky when it comes to him. He could be a lot worse and a lot more pushy about certain things. Even if it ends up costing us more, at least he lets us pay late fees."

Soleil loved her sister, but sometimes she was painfully naïve. "That's how he gets you, Luna," she said, expelling a harsh breath through her nose. "He waits until you're desperate, and then pushes the other shit on you when it looks like your only way out. And unfortunately there's nothing easy about it when it happens that way." She has nothing against sex workers, in fact she wished they were treated better by society at large. At least as much as she thought about it.

But the conditions were shit for them, and consequently Soleil had never even considered becoming one, even if there was a certain amount of money in it. Most went back to the pimps anyway, and lots of times the 'high quality' girls had their movements restricted. The walkers were in some ways worse off still.

Luna sighed heavily. “I guess you're right," she spoke softly, returning to her food. She ate the rest of it in silence, and once she was done, she just sat in her chair. It was another few minutes before she spoke again. “I'll ask Mr. Bailey first thing in the morning about the advance. It probably won't be much, but it'll be something. After that, I'll go see about the interview. Hopefully," she paused, taking a deep breath, “it will end well and I can get that second job. Wish me luck?"

Soleil huffed softly. She wished she could say her sister didn't need luck; honestly Luna was woefully overqualified for any of the sort of work either of them could get, but this protection racket had made it impossible to continue saving for her college expenses. Maybe someday, she could get her there.

For now, though, they both needed a little luck.

"Yeah," she replied. "Good luck, Luna."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



23 Asmodeus
Nishant Residence - Evening - Raining
Lunaria Nishant


Luna stabbed at the cut fruit in front of her, pursing her lips into a fine line. Her interview at the supermarket didn't go quite as she had hoped. The manager decided he wanted to go in a different direction. Apparently the person who had interviewed before her was more qualified. Luna couldn't be angry about that part. She knew she didn't have the experience for that kind of work, but she would have taken anything. Anything that would have helped put more money on the table.

What the manager didn't say was that the person who came in before her was also his niece, or something like that. Luna couldn't remember, exactly, but she did overhear the young woman talking about her position and her uncle. Nepotism at its finest, but she couldn't be upset about it. Well, she could be, but she wasn't going to be. Sighing softly, she ran a hand down her face and grabbed her fruit plate.

“Sol, you in the garage?" she called out. She didn't want to eat all of the fruit, even if it was mostly just a few slices of pineapple and oranges. “Got some of your favorites," she continued. The only good thing that this week was providing, besides the rain, was that Mr. Bailey was able to give her an advance. It wasn't quite what they needed to cover Soleil's costs, but it was something.

"Yeah I'm here. But stop spending your advance." Her voice came out a little gruff, but that was probably just the intervening wall probably.

Entering the garage found Sol at the tiller, counting out the day's profits and cursing under her breath. There'd been whole days without business this month, more than usual, and the days where she did get something it usually turned out to be not much.

“You wound me, sis, thinking I spent my advance on this," Luna stated, feigning a hurt look on her face and placing her free hand over her heart. “I would never," she continued, offering her sister a lopsided grin. “I happened to find these in a Rogenmart shopping basket," which loosely translated to she picked them off of someone. Well, the oranges at least. Those were always easy to filch, especially if they were the smaller mandarins. The pineapple she actually paid for, but if she could procure some lemon juice, she'd be able to save the pineapple for at least a few weeks.

Lemon juice was always a good preservative, but they couldn't always afford it. “Mr. Bailey was able to give me a fifty dollar advance," she stated once she entered the garage. “How much more do we need?"

"After the hundred I paid to keep the water on?" Sol shook her head, her expression slightly pinched. It was only a subtle difference from her usual stoniness, but Luna could detect it easily. "We're still a good sixty short. Or rather, I am. Yours is paid."

“Still?" Luna asked, shaking her head. She shouldn't be surprised, really. They really had to scrape whatever they could just to get by. Who knew when Jeremy would come back to collect? They were nearing the end of the month, and they still weren't able to get enough to cover Soleil's fees. It made Luna feel a little like shit because she couldn't help her sister in the same way Soleil helped her.

“I don't think they'll give us any more time," she spoke softly, taking a seat in one of the empty chairs. “Do... you think we should try pawning or selling something?" she asked. They didn't have much to begin with, and everything they owned wasn't worth a dime, let alone the sixty dollars they were short. Anything of real value belonged to Soleil's toolkit, and she needed that.

Sol expelled a heavy breath—a sigh, though she'd probably deny it. "Don't have anything worth that much," she said, echoing Luna's thoughts. "I don't know what I'm going to do here. Maybe tomorrow I can start... calling regulars. Offer big discounts if they'll get a service done early or something. It'll hurt in the future, but it might get us through this."

It wouldn't make much of a difference either way, Luna thought. What they would be able to pay now, they wouldn't be able to pay then. Fees always crept up, and it was becoming increasingly harder to pay them. Even if Luna's part of it was paid, Soleil's wasn't, and it wasn't fair for her sister to have to shoulder that burden. She didn't blame the Baileys for not being able to provide her with hours or work, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't cutting it, and she needed to do something else.

But at the same time, the Baileys were a reliable source of income. They might not always be able to give Luna an advance, but they always did their best to pay her what she was owed for the work she did. “I'm going to start looking around town for other part time jobs. Maybe... I can find something across town, too." Going that far would be dangerous, she knew, but what else could she do?

They needed money, and they weren't making enough. Before she could say anything further, though, the bell chimed at the front door, and Luna almost let herself think it was a customer. But life wasn't fair to the Nishant sisters. He walked with a sort of arrogant grace, dressed in a black suit worth more than Luna could ever make in a single lifetime. It would likely take her four or five lifetimes if she didn't sell her soul, to be able to afford something like that.

The deep red tie contrasted with his golden hair, and his steely blue eyes narrowed in on Soleil and Luna. The smile that crossed his lips made Luna sick, and she glanced in Soleil's direction. Alastor hardly ever came to collect on something himself. He always sent Jeremy, or one of the others to do his collecting.

“Soleil and Lunaria Nishant," he began, his voice oddly smooth and gentle. It was a farce, Luna knew, and it only made her tense. “Pictures really do not do you justice, for even they cannot properly express the beauty that you exude," he stated, walking a little closer towards them. “Such a rare thing it is to see in humans, nowadays," he added as Luna stepped closer in Soleil's direction.

She could tell that her sister was stiff, wary, alert, but the anxiousness she was probably feeling didn't show an iota on her face. "That's funny," she said flatly, blinking slowly. "Jeremy was just telling me the other day that I needed to smile more. Guess you have weird taste."

Luna didn't like the way he smiled. It was almost predatory, and the amused glint in his eyes didn't seem to be a good thing for them. “Jeremy wouldn't know true beauty if it hit him in the face," he replied smoothly, shrugging his shoulders lightly. Even that looked vaguely elegant, but Luna merely kept her gaze on him.

“To what do we owe the pleasure of you personally showing up," Luna asked, though she probably shouldn't have. The way his gaze turned to her made her stomach flip, and not in a good way. He had that same smile on his face as he lifted a hand and waved in a vague, dismissive manner.

“I came to offer a solution, one that I think you might find very useful for your situation," he stated.

It was pretty easy to tell that Sol already had some idea what this solution might be. She shifted slightly, putting herself a little in front of Luna, and crossed her arms beneath her chest. "My fees are the unpaid ones, so you're talking to me. What is it?"

“It pertains to the both of you, actually," he stated, leaning back against the counter, and mirroring Soleil's stance. His arms crossed over his chest, and his grin turned into a smirk. “Like a white dove and a black raven, it would be a sort of beautiful painting if I could lock you up in a cage," he stated, the smirk on his face turning wicked.

“I promise you'll only be birds locked in a cage for all eyes to see, but you'll belong to me," he continued, and Luna felt like she'd thrown up a little in her mouth. She knew that wouldn't be all they were required to do.

“And if we refuse?" she asked, narrowing her eyes in his direction.

“Both of your fees will increase by an extra fifty dollars. This is, what, the third time you haven't been able to pay? Your fees will increase regardless, but if you accept, they'll increase by only ten dollars, instead of fifty."

Soleil's expression and posture did not change; she made no outward expressions of revulsion, but she didn't exactly look pleased, either. It was as if he'd just made a comment on the weather, except for how stiff she still was. "You have to admit that would be a big change for us," she said dully. "We'd need some time to think about it."

Alastor arched a brow at that, and pushed himself off of the counter. “You have till the end of the month to decide. If you agree, I will waive the remainder of your payment for this month, including your late fees, however; if you do not, full payment will be required, and your fees will increase," he stated. Luna felt her throat tighten at that statement.

“Don't disappoint me my little raven and dove. You'll be the most exquisite sights in the area, I can assure you, you wouldn't want for anything," he stated, winking in their direction before he left. Luna expelled a breath she didn't even know she was holding.

“That's not a lot of time, Sol," Luna stated as she turned towards her sister. They had, at best, five or six days to come up with the remaining balance of what they owed. On top of that, Alastor was going to up their fees. They could barely afford to pay their current fees; how the hell were they supposed to pay an increased fee protection?

When Alastor was gone, the tension finally bled out of Sol's frame; she gripped the counter in front of her and frowned deeply. "One day at a time, Luna. We can't do anything else. Worst case... we'll see what we can do about getting a loan using the house. There's no way in Hell you're ending up doing whatever that slimeball wants. No fucking way."

It didn't matter, though, because in the end, they needed the money. Luna could swallow whatever pride she had to do what she had to. She could. Forcing the thought from her mind, she shook her head, and placed a hand on Soleil's shoulder.

“Same goes to you; you're not working for him, either. We'll... take it one day at a time," because that's all they could do.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


26 Asmodeus
Lux District - Afternoon - Rain
Soleil Nishant


Soleil would be the first person to admit she'd had some pretty bad ideas in her life.

Fish from a grocery store dumpster? Bad idea.

Pummeling Tommy Marquette in elementary school because he'd made fun of her for not having parents? Bad idea.

Stealing Motor Pete's favorite wrench because he wasn't using it anyway? Bad idea.

Taking the subway most of the way across town to the Lux District because one of her clients had mentioned offhand that his boss had a very expensive car in need of repairs? Possibly the worst in a long history of very bad calls.

And yet here she was, hand shoved deep in her coat pocket, banged up black toolbox hanging from her other, her grip white-knuckled beneath her gloves. There was a chill in the air today, and even though the rain was mostly repelled by her coat, she could swear something was weighing down her shoulders anyway.

But that was just paranoia, right?

Not that paranoia was hard to understand. She was in Demon Central here. This part of the city was almost entirely populated by them, and Friday had sidewardly alluded to the fact that his boss was one. Soleil didn't know what it was about them, but demons made her skin crawl. She could just tell when someone was one, just by being near them. It was how she knew what most people only speculated: that Zinoviev was half of one himself.

Zinoviev. She was here because of that rat bastard. Maybe if she could fix some rich fucker's car and make it out with her life intact, she'd be able to pay the protection fees. One job, for another month of freedom. Hell, if she had the guts she might be able to get enough for next month out of the thing, too, depending on how complicated it was. She didn't overcharge—but honestly she never got to charge what her work was worth either. If she did, no one would come to an uncertified young woman mechanic out in the Pits. But since this was a house call... maybe.

The house itself was not helping her impression. It was a black mansion, of all things. It was large, two-story at least, and had a lot of large glass windows. On the left side of it, Soleil could see what looked to be a fish tank in the style of a pond, and a lot of koi fish swimming about. The black tile siding accented the white, marble floors that led to a set of metal doors with a large round knocker. There was, of course, a door bell, but it didn't seem functional. There was no light to it, and the owner probably didn't care to have it fixed.

The front lawn was meticulously kept, the lush green highlighting against the floors. Soleil had to take a stair case just to get up to the front door, and even that was black with silver railings. To the left, there was a large carport, probably which led to the garage where the cars were kept.

Taking a deep breath, Soleil squeezed the handle of her toolbox and stepped up to the front door. There was a knocker, but she thought those sounded annoying as hell, so she just knocked on the thing with her gloved knuckles instead. Friday said he'd told the guy she'd be by, which she honestly took to mean someone had informed his secretary or something. Yeah. She probably wouldn't have to actually deal with the demon, right? If he was big-shot enough to live in a place like this, there's no way he'd personally meet the one-time mechanic he was using because his regular was... she wasn't even sure. Busy? Recently fired?

Dead?

Well whatever. She'd almost died in dumber ways before.

The door opened to reveal an impeccably dressed man, not much taller than Soleil. The black suit he wore looked even more expensive than the ones Alastor wore, and appeared almost flawless. There was no wrinkle, no out of place thread. It was smooth down to the silver cuff links at his wrist. His hair had a silver sheen to it, and turquoise eyes narrowed in her direction.

“You're late," he stated, a sort of gruffness to his voice. He opened the door a bit wider as if letting Soleil pass through.

"No I'm not," she replied automatically, brows knitting faintly. She was in fact fifteen minutes early, but her brain caught up to her mouth before she could say that, and she realized belatedly that she'd just backtalked a demon.

Or... no, he was definitely a demon, but something seemed off about it. She couldn't put her finger on it, though. Maybe if she'd been a little less sure she was about to be... whatever the unholy equivalent of smited was. Blighted?

Oh well. Might as well play it cool so she didn't go down a blubbering mess. She nodded politely, as if this was all business as usual, and stepped past him into his foyer, passing close enough to disturb that silver hair slightly with the wake of her movement—he wasn't exactly leaving a lot of room—but very pointedly not touching him.

"You want that doorbell fixed while I'm here? My main job is cars, but I'm good with pretty much anything in a house, too." She lifted her free hand from her pocket, using it to push down her hood. Her hair was in a single tail today, and spilled down her back free of the confinement.

Oddly, he looked a little on the surprised side, as if her first response had caught him off guard. A slow smirk formed on his face, though, when she mentioned the doorbell. “First, we'll see how you do with the cars," he responded, stepping in front of her as if he were leading her towards the garage.

“If you do well with that, I'll see about letting you fix that stupid fucking thing," he stated as he pushed open a pair of french doors. Even the floor inside the mansion was white marble, which reflected off of the greys of the interior. There were a couple of pieces of furniture, white in color, strewn to the side as if they had just been delivered, however; everything else was either in a shade of grey, or black.

“The car you'll be working on is this one," he stated once he stepped through another door, automatic this time, and gestured to a car on the right. The garage was full of them, each one seemingly from a different time, and there were a couple of bikes as well. The car he'd pointed to, however, seemed to be of a newer model. One that was likely released within the last few weeks. It was, not surprisingly, also black.

God, did all demons lean this hard into the stereotypical color scheme or was it just him? Frankly she was surprised there weren't a bunch of blood-red accents all over the place just to complete the look, but apparently this guy had never heard of color in his life.

His garage, though... damn. If she weren't still seventy percent sure she'd be mincemeat by the end of the day, she might have even gasped. They were gorgeous. Some of them were models she'd only seen on the extranet, things with brand names like Porsche and Maserati and old-earth things like that. Even the newer ones, though, the Yrdens and the Galattis and the Tsukishimas, were the top of the line stuff, with motors she knew would purr with even just a few simple tweaks.

Factory standard for any of them was good, but not as good as what she could do.

Soleil took a few steps towards the Yrden Phaser, the sleek black lines of the hovercar all but calling to her. She hadn't picked cars just because they were practical—she kind of loved the damn things. Still, she kept her customary reserve.

"That can't be more than a month old," she said, arching a speculative brow at its owner. "What's wrong with it that soon?"

“I don't fucking know," he replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “That's what I'm paying you to find out." He didn't sound especially upset or anything. It sounded more like he was talking casually, and he leaned on one of the poles, arching a brow in her direction.

"No shit," she replied, rolling her eyes. "But usually people say things like 'it's making a funny whining sound' or 'it won't start.' Just so I don't waste hours they're paying me for testing for that."

“You have your own toolkit, but if you need anything else," he stated, pushing himself away from the pole, and walking towards a large, metal box that was yellow in color. Perhaps the only color in the place. “This has just about every tool you'll need. Anything else can be found in the garage over there," he continued, pointing towards a large room-like area. He pulled something from his breast pocket, a card from the looks of it.

“You'll need this to get in and out of that room, and the conveyor belt and lift are over there if you need them," he continued, pointing in the direction of said items.

Conveyor belt? And a lift in his house? What kind of weird bourgeoisie bullshit had she suddenly found herself smack in the middle of? Soleil tried not to let any of her incredulity show on her face, reaching forward to accept the card instead. "Sure. You want like... an invoice sent to this address after I'm done or...?" Maybe he'd prefer to pay on the spot. She'd prefer that too, honestly, but for as much as she was hoping to be able to charge for this job, she'd deal with paperwork crap if she had to.

The demon scoffed, rolling his eyes as if he'd somehow found her statement beneath him. Instead, he pulled what looked to be a wallet from his pocket, and arched a brow at her. “I might not look it," he began, keeping his gaze with hers, “but I honor all previous and future contracts. The previous mechanic had a pay upfront policy, which I'm surprised you don't, but... since you haven't said that," he drawled, making it obvious that he was in no way in a hurry to find whatever it was he was looking for.

“I'll pay you two credits up front as a deposit, and you'll get the rest once your work is completed depending on what is actually wrong with it."

Credits were demon currency, which meant that it was worth more than the bills Soleil managed to scrape up with her business. One credit could roughly translate to a few hundred dollars. That he was giving her two meant that he was likely paying her anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars. He didn't seem at all concerned about it, though.

Soleil honored her contracts too, and for her part of what that meant was not overcharging. That said, if the guy was loaded—and he had to be, with a collection like this—she would charge exactly what her work was worth. Which she'd have to actually find the problem to know.

"All right," she said with a shrug. "I'll let you know what that comes out to when it's done. Is there anything else?" She was very successfully containing her excitement—even the down payment was enough to tell Zinoviev to go fuck himself, and then for another month on top of that.

Shit, they might even be able to buy some food from the grocery instead of scavenging it.

He glanced around, as if he were trying to see if there was anything else, but merely shook his head. “For now, you'll work on this. If the work is sufficient, maybe I'll have you look at another car or two. And also that fucking doorbell," he stated, turning around facing the door.

“I'll leave it to you. You've access to this part of the home and only this part. When you come to work on the car, you'll enter from the side door outside," he motioned towards a door down the path of the driveway, “I'm sure you saw it on your way up the stairs. It's the door to your left. That key I gave you will let you in from there, as well. If you need anything else, leave a note or something and someone will get it for you."

Okay, asshole. Wasn't like I was planning to snoop around in the rest of your tryhard gothic mansion anyway. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes, though. She'd already slipped a couple of times and used more snark than she'd meant to. He'd seemed to ignore it or find it amusing, maybe, but that was probably only the case until she managed to offend him. Better not.

So instead what she said was: "got it, thanks." He seemed to want to leave, and she sure as hell wasn't interested in keeping him around.

“From what Friday says, you're the best in your field. I'm looking forward to seeing your work. Don't disappoint me, Miss Nishant."

"I won't. I'd say your name all dramatic like too, but I don't know it." It was actually a little weird that he knew hers. Sure, Friday could have told him, but why would he have bothered to remember? She was a temp mechanic, best in her field or not.

“There are other ways to say my name, my dear, if you'd like, but I suppose you need to know it, first." He turned to glance over his shoulder with a strange smirk on his face.

“Samael."

"Sorry. I always sound like this," she said flatly. "No two ways about it, Samael." She wasn't sure why he'd given her what sounded like a first name, but it wasn't any skin off her teeth.

Setting her toolbox down, she flipped the latches open and cracked the lid, expecting that this was the part where he'd just leave. Assuming she hadn't mortally offended him or something.

He barked a short laugh, shaking his head faintly and disturbing the silver tail down his back. “Maybe I should just hire you on as a live-in mechanic. You have a personality I could get used to."

If pressed, Soleil wouldn't have been able to explain it, but it felt like there was the faintest twitch at the corner of her mouth. What a fucking weird day. What a fucking weird demon.

"Anyone ever told you you have bizarre taste?" She picked a few tools out of the box, then shed her outer coat, giving it a toss over the workbench and moving over to the vehicle itself. Her bootheels clicked over the pristine floor—this place was so opulent it was ridiculous. Popping the hood, she braced it open with the rod designed for the purpose and tilted her head at the engine.

“Anyone ever tell you, you have an amazing ass?" he retorted, snorting softly. “But yes, I've been told that my tastes are a bit, ah... acquired," he stated, having made his way back towards her, and leaning slightly in her peripheral vision. There was a light smirk on his face, almost as if he were almost egging her on, somehow.

She rolled her eyes then shot him a narrow look from their periphery. "You must be easily impressed; I haven't even bent over this thing yet." Soleil wasn't sure if people making passes was a thing she'd gotten used to, exactly, but she had her methods of dealing with it. Honestly as long as people didn't touch her she didn't really care what they said. A thick skin was pretty much a necessity in life, and frankly this was, while blunt as hell, not someone trying to get her to agree to work in a cathouse. She'd take it for the moment.

She did lean over the engine, then, not because she was trying to give him reason to look, but because she'd noticed something unusual in the fuel injection system and in fact needed a better angle. "I'm not sure I should be flattered, if someone with 'acquired' tastes is saying so."

“I'm taking that as an invitation, then, to look, since you haven't bent over this thing yet," he stated, a form of amusement in his voice. His arms crossed over his chest as he arched a brow, the smirk slowly moving into an amused smile. It was brief, though, before it returned to a smirk.

“You should be flattered all the same whether or not someone who has acquired tastes is saying so. It really is a nice ass. A shame, though, that it's mostly kind of hidden beneath those pants. You should wear ones that are a little more fitting," he stated in a nonchalant fashion.

"Weird," she said, already making a more detailed examination of the fuel injectors. "It's like I dressed to fix cars instead of be looked at. Life's full of strange circumstances." Years of talking to Luna while she worked had given her a pretty flawless ability to do both at the same time, though she did shoot him a somewhat curious glance over her shoulder. Yep, looking. Not the reason she'd glanced over, though.

"Not to tell you where to be, but doesn't a demon in his big fancy house have something better to do than hang around his temp?" It wasn't an accusatory question; surprisingly she detected a faint hint of curiosity in her own tone. But really, what was he still doing here?

There was a flicker of something across his face, as if he were being reminded of something unpleasant before it disappeared. “Nope," was his simple reply.

“Besides, I'm not a demon... yet," he stated it almost as if it were something sour in his mouth. “Don't lump me in with those fucking idiots," he stated, pushing himself away from the car.

“I see when I'm not wanted, though. When you're finished, you can leave. Like I said before, you've access to the garage so come by whenever you can if it's going to take you a couple of days."

Really? Nothing better? Soleil felt her brows knit, just a fraction, but it only got deeper at the way he said that last part. I see when I'm not wanted. It could have just been a joke—she'd have thought it was a joke, except...

But what did she care? It wasn't like it had anything to do with her. People as rich as this guy could pay for company, if they really wanted it, and it wasn't like his personality was so bad he shouldn't have people around anyway. She'd dealt with way worse.

Feeling strangely uncomfortable, she called after him. "Where did you get this thing, anyway? If I know that kind of stuff I should be able to figure the problem out easier."

“Where else?" he retorted, but he kept walking towards the door. “Ordered it on the extranet and had it delivered. The manual is somewhere in one of those files in that office if you need it," he stated, waving in a lackadaisical manner before he left. His posture had been somewhat slumped, though.

"Sure," she mumbled.

Well, that was weird. People were weird.

Cars were so much easier to figure out. Now, about these fuel injectors...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK



Image


3 Be'elza
Nishant Residence - Evening - Hard Rain
Lunaria Nishant


Usually, Luna loved the rain.

There was just something about how calming it was, and she enjoyed it more than most people did. Most people didn't like the rainy days because it was always gloomy and depressing, but Luna found that she enjoyed them. They made her smile, however; today wasn't one of those days. A frown marred her lips as she closed the front door, locking the deadbolt and the other two locks before walking to the nearby chair and taking a seat into it.

They had paid Alastor the fees he was due, however; he'd decided to make another surprise visit to hear their answer. It had been a flat no from Soleil. The fucker decided that it wasn't the right answer, though, and only tsked. He'd made it quite clear last time that if they refused his offer, he was going to up their protection fees. And he did. The pay that Sol received from that demon guy had been enough to pay the late fees, and the fees for this month, however; who was to say what next month would look like? Luna didn't consider themselves especially lucky, but they had been with Sol's contract.

She still hadn't finished the job, because something or another was wrong with the car she was working on, so she hadn't been paid for that. Luna could only speculate that it might be enough to pay the fees they would need for next month, but that didn't mean much in the face of the future. She sighed heavily, shaking her head. It was so damn hard trying to find a second job. If she could, then maybe it would help. Maybe it would be enough to pay more than her measly check from the Baileys could provide. She appreciated them; she couldn't fault them for her pay.

But it was getting so damn hard. Maybe... maybe if she agreed to Alastor's proposal, it would help.

No. No, Luna, don't you dare. Sol worked too damn hard to get you here; don't you dare do that to her.

She mentally slapped herself and slid further down her chair. She could find something. She would find something. For now, they could only do their best.

“Any luck with that demon guy, what's his name, Samuel's car?" she asked, glancing in Soleil's direction.

"Samael," her sister corrected, voice distant in a way that suggested distraction. She was using their scuffed old tablet, something she'd bought off a pawn shop lady for a few bucks because it was broken. Things being broken wasn't usually much of a challenge for Sol, though. She'd had to spend a couple months accumulating the right materials, but then she'd gutted the whole thing and rebuilt it; it ran faster extranet than the sleek newer ones the Baileys had. "You know these people never have human names—why would he be called Samuel?"

She flicked a finger along the screen, eyes narrowing at what appeared to be a complicated diagram for some kind of engine part. Luna knew more than most people about those, because of her sister, but Soleil could build most parts from a pile of wires and metal, which was a different level of understanding. The picture looked like an exploded sensor array of some kind.

"And I know what the problem is. Working on fixing it. But if he wants it done right, I'm going to need to build him an entire fuel injection system, and I dunno if he'll go for that. It's expensive." She zoomed in on the schematic and clicked her tongue against her teeth, apparently finding it unsatisfactory for some reason. Dinner—red beans and rice—was already done, still warm on the stove, but Soleil didn't appear to be eating.

“Eh, sounds about the same," she replied in reference to Samael's name. It didn't sound the same at all, but Luna didn't much care. They were pretty much the same as far as she was concerned. “I mean, you can tell him how much it'll actually cost," she suggested. The guy gave them—well, Sol anyway—two credits like it was nothing. She stood from her chair and made her way towards the stove. Sol might not have been hungry, but Luna was. She grabbed one of the bowls and filled it before making her way back towards Sol.

“You saw all of his cars and where he lived, right?" it was a rhetorical question. Sol made a house call for this Samael guy, after all. “Just let him know that if he wants his car to be fixed right, it's going to be expensive." Luna knew, though, that telling a demon that wasn't exactly a smart move, but Sol had managed to make it back in one piece. Which meant that Sol had actually managed not to snark the guy, or... well, she wasn't sure.

"It's not telling him I'm worried about," she replied, brow still furrowed as she flicked through a few more schematics. "It's whether he'll believe me or think I'm trying to gouge him." She flipped the tablet around so Luna could see more of it, then pointed at a specific spot on a diagram. "This is a factory standard fuel injection system for the fucking 2442 Yrden Phaser. It's also shit. They cut a ton of corners in the construction of the sensor array—if you want to do this shit right, your microchips need medical-grade abyssium. But some corporate dickbag decided to use an abyssium-silver alloy, which means the sensors aren't sensing right and the fuel's getting mixed all wrong. I can't just order a part for another kind of hovercar, because the whole engine on these was completely redesigned. None of them will fit. So I have to build him a custom one from the ground up, and as far as he knows I'm a two-bit mechanic from the Pits."

She raised an eyebrow. "Plus it's so early for these models that this is probably the first observed case of this problem. It's not even going to be in trade mags for another couple months at the soonest. Maybe if he says no I can still write an article and send it in..."

Luna supposed Sol had a point, though she couldn't help the smile that formed on her face. Soleil was always easily excited about things like this. If these kinds of problems weren't even known yet, then it would be difficult to convince the guy that what was broken, was actually broken, though. “Why don't you show, him, then?" Luna suggested, taking a bite of her dinner.

“These guys aren't dumb by any means, so if you take the time to explain it, maybe even show him what you're talking about, maybe he'll agree to let you fix it. I can't say for sure, though, because unlike you, I haven't met the guy," and she really didn't know what his personality was like. It was unlikely that he was any different than the other demons who were all high and mighty.

"He's weird," Sol said, shrugging a little and putting the device back into a sleep state before flipping the cover closed. She seemed only then to remember that dinner was there, and served herself a small bowl, sitting back down across from Luna with a soft thud.

Luna arched a brow in Sol's direction. “Weird? Weird, how?" she asked, slightly curious as to what Sol had meant by that. It wasn't like the sisters weren't weird themselves, but for a demon to be labeled weird by Sol meant something different. Luna wasn't sure how it was different, but it was.

Sol shrugged, swallowing before she elaborated. "I dunno, just... weird. He feels kind of like a demon, but says he isn't one. When I sassed him, he uh... seemed to find it funny? Weird." She cleared her throat, eyes returning to her food.

Luna had all but stopped eating as she gave Sol a quizzical look. He found it funny when Sol sassed him? Sol sassed him and she's still alive? Luna was certain her eyes were wide with shock. How was that even possible? Most demons wouldn't have hesitated to either remind Sol who they were, or would have killed her just for doing that. But then Sol said that he felt like a demon, but claimed he wasn't one.

“So what is he, some kind of mutant worm?" she stated without really thinking about it. If he wasn't a demon, then maybe he was a cambion like Alastor was. “I mean, he has to be something if he felt like a demon, right?"

"I don't think a mutant worm would have had opinions about my ass," Sol replied bluntly, choosing that moment to take another bite of red beans. She shrugged again, though, and spoke once she'd finished chewing. "It wasn't a cambion thing, either, but like... a demon but not all the way there yet? Somehow... I dunno, like incomplete or something. Maybe he hasn't eaten any souls yet, or whatever the fuck they do. Vegetarian demon, like the vegetarian vampires in those stupid books you used to bring home from the school library and tell me about." The slight quirk of her brow was the only thing that gave away her snark for what it was.

“Don't pretend you didn't like them, either," Luna retorted easily enough, taking a large spoonful of her food into her mouth. “And you found those stupid books just as entertaining as I did," she continued once she'd swallowed her food. She loved the Dusk series; it had been one of her favorite series growing up.

"Not the vegetarians," Sol replied dryly.

“Still, I'm not entirely sure that's how being a demon works," but what did she know? They were human, or at least weird humans. “Maybe you should ask him the next time you see him since he likes your sass and ass so much," she stated, smirking lightly in her sister's direction.

"Oh yeah I see that going over real well," Soleil drawled. "'S'cuse me, Sam, but my sister and I were kind of wondering how that whole soul-eating thing works. Do you have to do it to become a demon, or is it just part of the whole deluxe world domination package? What do they taste like, anyway? Chicken?'" She rolled her eyes.

"He'd probably just flip all that hair really dramatically and tell me I got to find out by being dinner or some shit. He's extra enough to do it."

She couldn't help herself. Luna laughed at how casually she referred to Samael as Sam. Almost like they were old friends, somehow. It was just too funny. Once she caught her breath, though, she pushed a soft gust of air through her nose, and shook her head.

“Hm, well, seems more and more like something you could ask him if the most dramatic thing he's going to do is flip his hair," she stated, leaning back in her chair a bit. “You could just ask him what he meant when he said he wasn't a demon. Very innocent like, and maybe shake your ass a bit, like this," Luna stated, doing her best to shake her own, but failed in her chair.

"Wow Luna, I think if you used those seduction skills on Zinoviev he might actually leave us alone forever."

“You think I should try it the next time he comes over?"

"No. If I have to see it again I might die from proxy embarrassment."

“Oh, come on, it wasn't that bad."

"You didn't even see it; how would you know?"

“I felt it."

"I'm so sorry. That must have been traumatic."

“Yeah, well you had to see it so that might actually be worse."

"I'm glad you understand. Now you know why you shouldn't do it again."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


5 Be'elza
Samael's Manor - Afternoon - Overcast
Soleil Nishant


Soleil made her way to the side door without hesitation, using the keycard thing to admit herself. She knew how systems like that worked, obviously, she just didn't bother to pay much attention. Her mind was elsewhere, and even she could sort of forgive herself for it.

After his awkward exit last time, she hadn't seen Samael again. She'd stayed another couple hours to finish her assessment of the Phaser, and then gone home to do her research and begin building the first version of what she hoped would eventually be a brand new fuel injection system, complete with a custom sensor array. Of course... it remained to actually see how he felt about that, if he was even home. She didn't want to just install it without permission, so she was sort of half-expecting to just slip in and leave a note today, inefficient as that was.

She wasn't sure how she felt about the alternative, though. The guy was kind of...

Weird was correct, if not particularly precise. She wasn't as sure he'd kill her for looking at him wrong as she had been the first day, but beyond that she didn't know what to make of him.

Not your problem, Soleil. You're here to fix the car and maybe build something you can file with the patent office. Then you're done and as long as you're alive none of the rest will matter.

Set to rights by her own reminder, she stepped into the garage, setting down her collection of parts, toolbox, and a spiral bound notebook. She'd even brought the tablet with her today, though she was loath to take it out of the house. It would be expensive and difficult to replace if something happened to it.

She crossed to the car, popping the hood again and setting it in place before rolling back the sleeves of her black shirt. "All right, P. Time for a re-check, and then we're going to cut out the dumb shit and give you some better sensors, how's that sound?"

Was it eccentric to talk to cars? Sure, but it wasn't like Soleil got much company. Luna worked and volunteered a lot and other than her, Soleil had no one really worth mention in her life. Certainly no one to talk to. So if she talked to her projects sometimes, well... who was going to care?

“That would sound as if you plan on gutting my car and turning it into something of your own personal play thing," his voice sounded as if he were right near her ear, however; Samael was leaning against the door frame near the entrance to his manor. “Did you figure out what was wrong with it?" he asked, pushing himself from the frame and making his way towards her.

He wasn't in his suit this time, and was dressed in a white button up shirt and a pair of black slacks. They still looked rather expensive for how plain they looked. The shirt was rolled up to his sleeves, though. When he approached her, he was a few feet away, almost as if he didn't want to get too close to her, though it wasn't apparent why.

It didn't matter, in a way—the hair on the back of her neck had been standing on end since his voice reached her. It was only by dint of a lot of practice that she managed to maintain her stoic visage; it felt like the was a flush half-burning under her skin already. Of course he'd show up when she was being a huge idiot.

Soleil cleared her throat, assuming a businesslike tone. "I don't," she said, then elaborated. "Intend on gutting it, I mean. Most of the parts are pretty much what you'd expect of Yrden. Good quality stuff, for anything off a factory line. But the fuel injection system is fucked." There was a beat of silence, and then she registered her own language, her eyes rounding fractionally.

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. Why did I say that? God motherfucking dammit I'm such a fucking idiot!

His brow arched slightly, and there was the barest hint of amusement that flickered across his face before it disappeared. “How so?" he asked, tilting his head in an inquisitive manner.

“This model has just been released; how is the fuel injection system fucked if it's new?" he continued. If he'd been at all bothered by her language, he didn't show it. He didn't even seem to mind if the curious gaze he was giving her was anything to go by.

"Sensors," she said quickly, not inclined to question it. If he didn't get offended when she swore, she'd probably survive all this. Maybe. Why did it feel like something was crawling up her spine? Was this a demon thing? A not-quite-a-demon thing? She'd never been around anyone like that for very long so she had no idea what the Hell was wrong with her.

"That is, the sensors are inadequate. When that happens, the fuel is mixed in the wrong ratios, which wears on the engine and impedes the car's performance." She walked over to the car, pointing at the offending injectors. "These use an inferior-grade abyssium alloy, which doesn't help, but the sensor design is also bad. And because they refit basically everything for the Phaser's redesign this model year, you can't even just replace it with a better system from some other existing model. So you need a completely redesigned, ground-up system that will fit in that spot and work for that engine."

She straightened further, a little frisson of excitement and dread shooting over her skin. This was the tricky part, but it was also the awesome part. "I'm building one, actually. I'm out of materials, but if you can supply the rest, I can promise you this will be fixed on your Phaser before anyone else has even understood that its an issue for theirs."

He pushed a sigh from his nose, as if he'd already suspected that was the case, or perhaps because he'd found her explanation inadequate. It seemed to be the former when he replied, “Nikolai said something similar before he disappeared." That must have been his regular mechanic, though the way he said the name sounded a little dejected.

“I told you when you were hired that you have access to everything here, and that if you needed something, to leave a note. Someone would have retrieved them for you, or had them bought. What materials do you need?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning on the car a bit. “I can have them here within the hour if you tell me exactly what you need." His eyes narrowed slightly in Soleil's direction in an amused fashion.

"Well, since you asked." Soleil didn't exactly smile. She almost never did, with her mouth. But she did with her eyes, even if most of the time she didn't realize she was. And she was now, though she hadn't the faintest clue, too occupied moving back to the bench and tearing a page neatly out of the spiral notebook. It was a list, in tiny, neat handwriting, of exactly what she was going to need, and how much of everything, down to the gram or centimeter, just in case she had to buy it herself and needed to scrape any change she could get from the purchases.

"This will do it." She stopped so as to preserve the distance he'd initially chosen, not wanting to invade his personal space, and extended her arm forwards into the gap between them.

There was a fraction of a smile on his face before he took the page and pulled out a tablet from the drawer in the large, yellow tool kit. He tapped on it and seemed to plug in the information she'd given him, before he placed the tablet down.

“Should be here in," he paused to glance at the watch on his wrist, “an hour or less." The subtle smirk reappeared on his face as he arched a brow in her direction.

“How long will it take you?"

She hoped there wasn't a wrong answer to this question. "Uh... hm. I've got part of the thing already made, and my designs are done, but there's still the rest of the build, installation and testing, so... maybe eighteen hours?" Belatedly, she added. "That... doesn't have to be consecutive. I can leave and come back during normal business hours. But I also can do it consecutively, if you prefer."

The truth was she'd be about equally happy either way. This project was easily the most interesting thing she had going on in her life right now, and she tended to like a good all-nighter. But that'd be weird, right? To be here in this guy's workshop overnight?

“Would you rather be paid by the hour, or by the quality of your work?" he asked, tilting his head at her. “If you choose hourly, you can stay as long as you want," he continued as if to explain. “I don't care either way," he added with a light shrug of his shoulders.

“Just don't over work yourself if it's too much. Last thing I need to do is explain why there's a dead human in the garage," he murmured the last part with a light scowl on his face, as if he'd had to do it before.

Soleil snorted. "You'd have to explain that to someone? I sorta figured you could just make a phone call and the problem would disappear, no questions asked."

“It's more of a hassle to do it that way," he shrugged. “Gotta make calls to so-and-so, arrange for a time and pick up, and then the proper disposal. It's a very complicated and delicate situation."

"Bet it leaves a mess on the floor, too," she said with a small nod. "And the smell. I'll make you a deal: you pay me whatever you think my work is worth at the end of all this, and I promise not to stink up the place."

“Stains are hard to get out, but the stench is easier to deal with," he wrinkled his nose in an exaggerated fashion. “You'll get paid whatever you think your work is worth. That's how it was done before, and that's how it'll continue to be done. Trust me," he stated, taking a step closer in Soleil's direction.

“You wouldn't be able to stink up the place at all," he smirked in her direction before leaning back. “I'm assuming that once you've built the part, that you'll want to test drive it to make sure it's running smoothly, yes?"

She might have asked him what the Hell he meant by that—she kind of expected someone demon-adjacent to complain about the faint metallic scent she carried around, actually. But that didn't matter half a second later, because he was asking her if she would want to test drive his fucking Yrden Phaser.

"Yes please," she said, surprised and a little awkward at her own obvious enthusiasm. It wasn't like her. Clearing her throat, she shuttered her expression and tried to act like she wasn't flipping a lid on the inside. "That is, uh. It would be prudent to make sure things are working so I don't leave you with another faulty part."

Test driving a Phaser, though. Wait until Luna heard about this.

The corner of his lip twitched faintly before he shook his head. “Hm, I get the feeling you don't get to do it often," he stated, walking to the office area of his garage. He entered it, rummaged for something, and came back out.

“Since it's going to be a while before the necessary materials will arrive, do you want to take last year's model for a test run? Nikolai said it was fine, but if what you're saying about this year's model is true, perhaps you'd like to take a second look at last years' model." He arched an amused brow in her direction as he held out what looked to be the key to the car he was talking about.

Motherfucker. What was she supposed to say to that? Soleil tried to contain herself, she really did, but she was staring a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity down the barrel here, and she wasn't stupid enough to suppose that it'd come around again if she refused. But...

But people didn't just do nice things for Soleil Nishant. Not without some kind of catch, and she was immediately suspicious, too, wary of the offer. These things were worth tens of thousands of credits, never mind regular people dollars. And he was just... going to let her drive it? For no reason? She didn't buy the thing about comparison for a moment, and didn't think he really thought that, since she'd just told him the engine was a complete redesign from the last one.

Her eyes moved from the key in his hand up to his eyes, and she tilted her head to the side, trying to wrangle her emotions under control. "You're really just going to let me drive your hovercar? No catch?" Her voice was flat again, betraying nothing of the heady cocktail of giddiness and wariness washing around in her head.

“The only catch is that I tag a long," he replied, still holding out the key in her direction. “If there's something wrong with it, I want you to tell me about it. That is the only catch. On whatever dignity I have left as a former archangel, that is it," he stated it as if he were making a promise, but there was a strange glint in his eyes. They seemed slightly hazed over.

“If your work with the current project is satisfactory, and if there happens to be a problem with the one you're about to test drive, I might consider hiring you to fix that problem as well."

Former archangel? She couldn't tell if he was joking or not, but she didn't think so. He seemed too serious for that. Honestly, though—somehow that made her more sure. It wasn't that he was a former archangel, presumably fallen now. She didn't know how to make heads or tales of that. It was the fact that he'd been so... frank? Was that the word? He'd just come right out and said something like that, as part of some kind of weird promise to her about his intentions here.

Soleil blinked slowly, then nodded and reached out to take the key in his hand. She was careful not to touch him, still wary and unsure exactly what he wanted out of all this. She didn't understand why, even if he'd gone some way to assuaging her about the fact that it wasn't some kind of trap. Why let her do this? Why come with?

"You're really weird," she said flatly, but it wasn't an insult. Just the only way she had of expressing her confusion at... pretty much everything about him. At her own reactions to him. He still had her on edge, in a way she didn't get.

But still... she was about to drive one of the best hovercars on the market. It was hard to care about her own hangups when that was in the picture. Already familiar with the garage, she hit the automatic opener, trying not to let her step get too springy on the way to the older Phaser, where she clicked the lock open with a musical trill of beeping sounds. The doors, both vertical, popped open like a pair of wings lifting, nothing more than a hydraulic whisper to give them away.

Oh this was so cool. The interior was all buttery white leather, though the outside was a gunmetal grey. She couldn't suppress the tiny twitch to her lips.

"You might want to strap in, Samael. I drive cars like they were built to be driven. Accurate testing, and all that."

And this one was just begging for speed.

“Don't worry your pretty little head about me, I'm built to be durable," he stated, already walking towards the other side of the car. “Accurate testing or not," he began, glancing over the car in her direction, “you won't be pulled over for how fast you're going. Feel free to let it fly." There was a faint flicker of amusement on his face before it disappeared, and he ducked inside.

He didn't even bother to buckle his seatbelt, and instead, leaned the seat back a bit so that he was all but laying down in his spot. “A promise is a promise, though. If something feels the slightest bit off, tell me about it. I don't need my eyes open for that," he stated, pulling on a pair of shades.

Was he seriously taking a nap right now? What a fucking weirdo.

With a small shake of her head, Soleil buckled herself in—unusually hardy for a human or not, she didn't want to risk damage from a sudden stop or something. She didn't want to risk damaging her employer, either, but that was his business, she supposed.

She started the engine, head cocked and eyes closed to get the best sense she could of the sound, and hummed. It was hard to tell if that was a little hitch in the turnover or she was just imagining things. Better to do the whole road test and see for sure.

Guiding the car out of the garage, she suppressed a grin. Driving hover was just an odd experience; she'd only done it a few times before, back when she'd used to work for Motor Pete. As in, did all his work for him and got paid a tenth if she was lucky. That'd been the only way to do it, though, as a teenager and before she had her own garage. That tenth of his business had put Luna through high school, and bought them most of the house.

Traffic was slow at this time of day, but she waited until they were out of Lux and onto the Outer Ring freeway regardless before she really let go, easing the Phaser to its top speed smoothly, careful to evaluate for any difficulty. It was a manual, and the gearshift seemed a little sticky, something she noted but didn't mind for now.

Glancing down once at Samael to confirm that he did indeed not seem to be paying attention, she let the slow smile spread across her face, biting her lip to suppress—she wasn't sure what. Giddy laughter, maybe. Soleil didn't do giddy, but then she took a turn at a hundred fifty in a hovercar on an empty freeway and reconsidered.

It was blowing past the parked police vehicle that did it. A soft ha escaped her, and she was half ready to be chased, but just like Samael had said, they didn't follow. "Not that they could catch us anyway," she murmured under her breath, still biting down on the smile.

There was a slight huffing sound coming from Samael. “They really couldn't even if they tried. It's one of the reasons why they won't chase us because the cruisers they use will only go so fast. A bit of a tip if you're ever on the run from them," he stated lightly, shifting in his spot with a large grin on his face for some reason.

“If you really want them to chase us, just to have that feeling, I can give them a call and see," he almost sounded serious. “But how is it driving so far?"

Soleil didn't quite jump, but it was a near thing. "I thought you were asleep," she said, the tone of it vaguely accusatory, though exactly what she was accusing him of even she didn't know. Still, it was embarrassing to be acting like an excitable child with someone else around.

The latter question was at least an opportunity to reorient herself, though some part of her wanted to ask about the earlier one. "Uh, yeah, actually. It's pretty minor, but your gearshift is sticky. I kind of want to check the gearbox. When I'm not shifting, it drives like a—uh. It drives really well." Thank fuck she had a good excuse to keep her eyes on the road, because otherwise she might have got herself even more tangled up.

He snorted softly and lifted the shades off of his face for a second. “You assumed I was asleep because I was relaxed?" he stated first, seemingly amused by it. “You've a lot to learn if you assume people are sleeping just because they put on glasses and lean their chairs back," he added, but he didn't seem to be chastising her or anything. He pursed his lips together, though, when she'd mentioned wanting to check the gearbox.

“We'll see about that after you finish the first project. If everything is good, I'll consider rehiring you in a few weeks," he stated, pulling the glasses back down on his face, though he was still grinning.

"I didn't mean right this second," she mumbled, feeling a little lurch of awkwardness. She hadn't meant to presume anything, just... well, she saw a problem with something mechanical and wanted to fix it.

She took the next turn a little sharper, shooting him a sidelong glance before flicking her eyes back to the road. He didn't have to be so smug about things, after all.

“Of course you didn't; we're in a car. You couldn't check the gearbox while we're moving," he replied in a facetious manner. The grin on his face had not disappeared, but it did smooth a little.

“I'll give you a credit to look at the fucking doorbell, though," he added, muttering something beneath his breath about someone mentioning it needed to be fixed.

She snorted. Was it weird to think a fallen/demon/whatever he was was mostly just a smarmy fucker? Still, it wasn't like she minded. Smarmy was a personality type she could deal with.

Maybe this would work out okay, after all.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK



10 Be'elza
Baileys' Office - Afternoon - Cloudy
Lunaria Nishant


Luna tapped the pen against her chin, resisting the urge to let out a sigh. Being responsible for doing most of the filing wasn't an egregious thing, but sometimes she wondered if the Baileys ever read their files and invoices. The one she was currently looking at was an invoice for some minor cosmetic restoration on one of their buildings, however; there were charges on it that weren't even part of the work the company was supposed to do.

The charges weren't exactly a small amount, either.

They were charging nearly a demon's credit worth of things. All they were supposed to do was paint the walls, fix a few of the concrete cracks, and be done. Instead, it looked like they had done a major rehaul of the flooring, tore down a wall only to rebuild it, and replaced a few of the windows that had been brand new. She knew they were because she had ordered those personally. There had been nothing wrong with them. This was just taking advantage of someone while not even bothering to hide the fact that they were taking advantage.

If that's what they wanted to do, they could have just called the Baileys, claimed that something was wrong, and say that they needed it fixed immediately or their building wouldn't pass inspection. Hell, all they had to say was that it wouldn't pass inspection and they would have had it fixed without questioning it. The sale and renting of the buildings they owned was their lifesource. It was the only way they made any kind of money. The only way they could afford to pay Luna what they did.

And even then it wasn't much. Robert and Ida were incredibly nice people, and they always undercharged for their rent. If Luna recalled correctly, there was one family of five living in a one bedroom that paid only twenty five dollars a week. If they couldn't pay for whatever reason, the Baileys wouldn't charge them late fees, and only told them to pay what they could, and try to make the amount next time.

Luna couldn't hold back the sigh this time, and placed the invoice to the side. She would worry about it later since the payment wasn't due until next month.

“Mrs. Bailey, do you know if any of the buildings are going to require any inspections this month? I'll need to schedule the contractor if so," she called out, lifting her head towards the older woman. Robert was currently out of the office, getting lunch for both Ida and Luna from the hot dog cart down the street. It wasn't often that he did, but something about making a potential sell meant that he could splurge just a little bit.

Ida poked her head out from her squashed little office, squinting a little before she remembered to put her half-circle spectacles back on her face. They were usually left dangling from her neck by a beaded chain, as she didn't need them for close-up things, which was most of what they did. “What was that, dear? Oh, inspections. Hm, let me see..."

She disappeared, then reappeared a few long moments later, shuffling around to Luna's desk with a file folder clutched in her wrinkled hands. “Let's see... inspections, Be'elza 2441... yes it looks like we have two properties scheduled for inspection this month, though... oh." Her mouth turned down a little. “One of them is the West Street office building. Hm." This seemed to be an unhappy circumstance, just based on her tone.

Luna arched a confused brow in Ida's direction. “Isn't the West Street office abandoned?" she asked. If that was the case, it shouldn't be a problem to get someone scheduled to inspect it. They could probably get someone to do it either today or tomorrow since they wouldn't have to give any notices to residents to vacate for a couple of hours.

Ida pursed her lips, looking far more concerned than the situation warranted. “Well, yes, but... that's just the thing. Robert and I tried developing that one a while ago, but it was just too expensive to be worth it, and we wouldn't get much for selling it either, so we've just..." She made a faintly-distressed noise. “Well to put it directly, if the inspector went now, they'd find a reasonable number of transient folk occupying it, and that would be trouble for everyone involved, I think."

Ah, so that was the problem.

Luna offered Ida a small smile and nodded her head in understanding. While technically the building belonged to the Baileys, the city mostly had control of who should and shouldn't be inside of it. It was a stupid law meant to keep people who had no place to call home, out on the streets. If she didn't know any better, Luna would have suspected that it was the demons' way of weeding out those who were too stubborn to sell their souls. Why would they want to keep people like that alive if they weren't going to be useful in some way or another?

“I can do it for you and Robert if you'd like," the words were out of her mouth before she realized what she'd said. She could almost hear Sol sighing heavily at her, and Luna couldn't honestly blame her. She could blame her damn heart, though, and why it cared so much about people.

“If you give me a list of the things I need to look for specifically, I can inspect the building and send the report to the proper sources," she continued.

Ida's expression softened a bit. “Well you don't have an inspection license, dear, so we'd only be putting the real thing off for a few months, but... I suppose for now that is the best option. When you go, can you let them know that the official inspection will be next Belphegora? I hate putting anyone out, but it's better if they don't encounter the inspectors, I think. Not to mention the fines..." She grimaced.

Luna grimaced alongside her. The fees would be way worse if the inspectors found the homeless there rather than if there was some zoning law they weren't following. And it wasn't like they were getting kicked out, permanently. It was only a temporary solution.

“I'd be more than happy to do it, regardless. I'll see about scheduling the actual inspection for next month after I assure the current occupants that they don't have to worry about leaving. At least not permanently and only for a couple of hours at most," she stated. It warmed her heart a little to do small things like this for people. Maybe she should file for a temporary inspection license? She could learn what was needed and borrow a few books from the library so she could do things like this when it was required.

“No need to make it so soon as next month," Ida said, nodding a little. “As I said, we can push the official one back to Belphegora, as long as we know there aren't any major hazards in the building. You might want to ask the residents; I'm sure they have a better idea what needs fixing than we would."

“Assuming they'd even talk to me to begin with," Luna stated with a wry smile. It wasn't that she couldn't get them to talk to her, but getting them to trust her enough to actually tell her what was wrong and what needed to be fixed was another matter. People weren't naturally trusting, and Luna couldn't fault them for that. After all, who would trust someone who says they aren't there to kick them out? For all they know, Luna could just be a pretty face to lure them into a false sense of security before dragging the rug from underneath them.

Not that she actually would; she wasn't a monster.

“I'll do what I can, though, to make sure that if there at least visible signs of distress, I'll let you and Mr. Bailey know."

“Ah, thank you, dear. That's much appreciated. Robert and I will have to try to find a little something extra to put in your check. Maybe we can get you the inspection fee we would have paid this month..." Already trailing off into thought, Ida shuffled back in the direction of her office.

“Thanks, Mrs. Bailey," she stated. She really didn't do it for the extra money, but if she said no to it, Sol would likely strangle her. They needed the money, and if Mrs. Bailey was going to pay her a little extra for the extra work she was going to do... she could take it this once.

“When should I do it? Today? Tomorrow?"

“Yes, please." Clearly Ida was already halfway somewhere else. She tended to get distracted easily; according to Robert she'd always been like that.

Luna sighed heavily and pursed her lips together. “That wasn't exactly a clear answer," she muttered beneath her breath. “I'll get to it, then," she called after Ida. If she did it today, it would save her some time. Plus, it was still nice outside and she'd be able to get a good look at everything without having to worry about getting rained on or something.

“Once I'm done, I'll compile all of the information for you and Mr. Bailey tomorrow. Have a good afternoon, Mrs. Bailey!" she called out, grabbing her brown tattered coat, and slipping it on. Now, to see about this building and its occupants.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


10 Be'elza
West Street Office Park - Late Afternoon - Drizzle
Michael Asmund


Mick sat back on the bench, one leg crossed over the other, arms splayed over the backrest, face turned up towards the sky. It was raining, but only barely, tiny spots of drizzle occasionally flicking the parts of his face not insulated by scruff.

Have you heard what the humans call it when it rains lightly like this? Angel tears. Isn't that quaint?

He snorted softly, cracking his eyes open and studying the grey slate overhead. His back itched; he shifted it slightly against the back of the bench, figuring he probably looked like a bear in the woods. But that was all right. No one bothered him, that way. The people he cared to help knew he would if they asked, insofar as he was able, and everyone else left him the Hell alone. That was about as good as life was going to get from here on out, and he was okay with that.

At least nobody depended on him this way.

He felt the corners of his mouth pull down as a new presence entered his awareness. A very memorable one, but not anything he wanted to remember. A nephilim was like... a flame held to the fingers. Or a fragment of the song of the spheres, when you knew you'd forgotten the whole song. She in particular was... well, it was a light strain of the melody, to be sure, in the major key, and the fire wasn't really the burning kind. That didn't make it any better.

He closed his eyes again. Maybe she'd just pass him by without saying anything. That would be nice.

“I really wish Mrs. Bailey would have at least made the address a little more legible," she muttered lowly as she did, indeed, begin to pass him. There was a slight ruffling sound as if she were moving a piece of paper around, however; her footsteps came to a stop.

“Mick?" she sounded almost unsure if it was him or not until the raindrops were no longer falling on his face. “It's going to start raining more; you shouldn't be outside like this unless you wanted to catch a cold or something," she stated, seemingly recognizing him.

When he opened his eyes, there was a dotted black and white umbrella blocking the sky. He suppressed the urge to sigh, shifting his eyes slightly over to look her in the face. "Looking for someplace?" he asked, making no comment on her remark about the weather. He was out in the rain plenty, considering he didn't have any permanent place to live. He had a shelter inside that derelict office building, but more often than not someone else was in it, because everyone knew that Mick's stuff was free for other people to use as long as you were polite about it.

Plus he couldn't get sick.

Her brows knit together, but she nodded her head. “I'm looking for the West Street office building. Do you happen to know where it is?" she asked, leaning back a bit. “I'm supposed to let the occupants know that there will be a formal inspection in Belphegora. There was also a concern that it might need some work just in case something isn't safe for those currently using it," she added, smiling just a bit.

"Well, this is the West Street Office Park, so you're heading the right way." Mick straightened a little, sitting up properly and regarding her a little more keenly. Honestly the place hardly deserved the name 'park,' being more of a plaza with a couple stunted trees, but they were trying hard. He liked them.

More to the point, the building she wanted was currently very illegally occupied. He didn't think she was here to make trouble about it, but there were only so many reasons to be looking for a place like that. He had to be sure. "You know who the residents are, right?" It wasn't quite an accusatory question, but there was a little wariness there, beneath his unruffled demeanor.

“I'm quite aware that the people living there are doing so illegally, but the Baileys do not mind. They just want to let the people know that they shouldn't be there when the actual inspection happens so that they don't get in trouble, and that they are welcome to return once it's over. It's also my job to make sure everything is working properly so that the people here are comfortable. If something needs to be repaired, we'd like to know so it can be."

He bought that the Baileys wanted to make sure the building wouldn't collapse, but repairing things in a derelict building so the homeless inside could use them? He doubted it. She might have read tat into whatever they said, but Mick had been around the block enough times to know that it wasn't going to happen. The Baileys weren't bad people, but they were pretty well-off for humans. And humans didn't get anything other than dirt-poor unless they strictly limited their generosity.

Mick considered just pointing out the right building and letting her have at it, but that was mean-spirited even for him. Pretty face and clean clothes like that wouldn't get two feet into that place without someone either trying to chase her out or take her shit. Running a hand down his face, he suppressed a sigh and stood. Sometimes he wished his body creaked, that he felt sore or physically tired, instead of just this constant state of mental exhaustion and apathy that never translated. But he was as fluid and able as ever. Well, almost.

Sometimes it made him think he'd just imagined it all, and in those moments between sleep and full wakefulness he'd have to remember all over again that it was real.

"Follow me." He stepped out from under her umbrella—it'd be pointless for her to try and use it to protect them both from the rain, even if she were inclined to such kindnesses, so he precluded the issue beforehand. "It's this one over here."

“Oh, thanks," she stated, clearly surprised that he was going to show her where it was. “I haven't seen you since the last time at the kitchen," she began, glancing up towards him as if to make small talk. She furrowed her brows as if what she was going to say next might not be quite what she was looking for.

“I'd ask if you're doing alright but... well, it might be kind of moot all things considered," she stated, a wry smile forming on her face. “I guess I should ask something along the lines of is there anything you might need, or some of the others might? I think Sol has an old coat that might fit you, but if it doesn't, it might fit someone else?"

Mick blinked, glancing at her sideways before shaking his head. "Actually it's not moot for most people," he said, shrugging his massive shoulders. "We're still people even if we don't have much of a place to live. A lot of us work, or have hobbies, or take care of pets, or all kinds of stuff like that. You don't have to keep asking us if we need things."

He understood that it wasn't ill-meant, but sometimes it rubbed him the wrong way a little. What didn't? But what all of these people needed was money, or a permanent address, and she couldn't give them that shit. Not her fault, but after a while he wondered how much anyone really saw them. He'd been wearing the same big coat he was wearing today when she saw him last, after all—why would he need another one?

He stepped inside the office building first, holding the door for her to come in after. It smelled a lot like wet dog—Jim had probably brought the strays in again. He didn't like leaving them out in bad weather. Arrayed before them was a vista of blanket tents, some of them made of little more than chicken wire and newspaper, irregular shapes and colors giving the place an air of disorder. Margie was sitting out in front of one of them near the front, using two sharpened wooden dowels to knit a scraggly ball of pink yarn. Her eyes narrowed at the woman behind Mick, but she offered him a gap-toothed smile.

"Didn't think I'd be seein' you again for a week or two, Mick. Need a mat?"

Mick shook his head. "I'm all right, Margie. Just here to escort her." He tipped his head towards Lunaria. She could explain herself—that wasn't his job.

Lunaria cleared her throat a bit awkwardly, perhaps having caught the way Margie's eyes narrowed in her direction. “I'm Lunaria Nishant," she introduced herself first, stepping to the right side of Mick. “I work for Mr. Robert and Mrs. Ida Bailey. They own this building," she continued, offering Margie a small smile.

“I'm just here to inspect it to make sure it's up to code and that nothing is in danger of falling apart. The Baileys also wanted me to let you all know that there will be a formal inspection happening in mid-Belphegora, and that you might not want to be here when it does happen. You're more than welcome to come back once the inspection is over, though. The Baileys are not trying to make you leave. They just don't want you all to get in trouble if the inspector catches you all here."

“Since you know this place better than I do, is there anything you can tell me about it? Anything that's out of the ordinary or might be in danger of falling down or apart?" she asked, keeping her gaze on Margie.

Margie blinked at her, then shifted her eyes to Mick, the expression on her face conveying her skepticism perfectly well. He nodded slightly, and she snorted.

"Girlie, the building's called derelict for a reason. It's standing, but that's about it. The elevator's broken, so a lot of us can't go upstairs. You head up that way, be careful." She shrugged and went back to her knitting.

"Anyone who lives further up does it because they want to be left alone," Mick explained. "Only thing that makes climbing loads of rickety stairs worth it, if anything does." He shrugged. "There anything you need to see to do this? Bathroom or what-have-you?"

She glanced up at him, brows slightly knitted as if she were thinking about something. “Well I have to inspect the entire building," she stated softly. “I'll have to see everything to make sure things are at least up to code. If they aren't, chances are the city will try to make this a condemned building and make it so that the Baileys have no choice but to tear it down. We don't want it to come to that."

“It shouldn't take me too long if it is up to code. I'll try to be as quick as I can so I don't disturb you any more than I have to," she continued, glancing towards the left side of her. “If that's the case with the top, though, I'd rather not disturb those who don't want to be," she pursed her lips together as if she were thinking out loud. “I can just check the general foundation and make sure that it's at least stable and that anything that needs to be fixed will at least get looked at."

The question had been asked mostly to get her to pick a starting point. In the absence of that, Mick sighed under his breath. "Well if you want to check the foundations, let's head back outside first. Margie, if you can get everyone to move their stuff far enough away from the walls that Ms. Nishant can walk the perimeter, I'd appreciate it."

She didn't look entirely pleased; that was a lot of moving. But he knew it was necessary for the structural assessment the girl wanted to make, and Margie probably sensed it. He could just tell her that the building wasn't currently in any danger of falling down, but then she'd want to know how he knew that, and it wasn't something Mick could just explain.

Heading back out, he held the door behind him again and paused for her to figure out the umbrella again before beginning a counterclockwise circle around the building. It was big enough that it'd probably take a while, but Mick kept quiet. To let her do her work, but mostly because he just didn't have anything to say.

She didn't seem to mind regardless, and held her notepad closer to her to shield it from the light rain. She would occasionally mark something down on it, hum some satsified note, before moving to another section of the building. In total, it took twenty minutes for her to assess the building, perhaps because she had wanted to be thorough.

“Nothing seems to be wrong at the moment," she murmured more to herself than to Mick. “But there is a slight crack that might become a problem if it's not dealt with properly. I can ask the Baileys to get that fixed, but..." she pursed her lips in confusion before shaking her head.

“Thanks for the escort?" she seemed unsure of the word. “I'm mostly done with this, but... I have a question for you," she started, glancing up in Mick's direction. “It's not much, and I can probably get the funds to do it myself, but... do you think they might benefit from rainwater barrels? That way they could at least collect the rainwater for themselves and use it? I know it can't be used for drinking, but they could use it as a means to clean, or even if they had a small garden to attend to, they could..." she paused and shook her head.

“Sorry," she apologized. “I'll write this report up and be out of the way, soon."

Part of him wanted to tell her to go ask them what they needed, but he did understand that to her, he was one of them. And there were certain ways in which he was. He slept rough as anybody, when he slept, had nothing but the clothes on his back and a small satchel of possessions to his name, and a few local stray animals who followed him around sometimes.

But the truth was, he wasn't in any danger of starvation, of disease or death. He didn't feel discomforts the same way. He felt them, to be sure, but not the fear they could put in people. He didn't have to live with that, and it meant, in some important sense, he didn't suffer the same way they did.

He'd listened, over the years. Really listened, to what people were worried about and wanted. And he knew because of that that her ideas weren't bad—it was just that they wouldn't work.

"Anything like that has to be installed," he pointed out. A proper rain barrel wasn't just a barrel; it was a feature of a building. And without the heavy filtering that even the most basic home plumbing system had, even bathing had a certain risk of making people sick. Not as high as ingestion, but enough that it was better to bathe at a shelter. Of course... he could and did occasionally make sure some other source of water was clean, but he couldn't make that obvious. "Especially a garden. And that's not something you can just tear out when the real inspector comes by, you know?"

Mick paused, suppressing a sigh. He shouldn't be bothering, but... "But if there was something like that at the shelter, and you let people take food away with them, some of that would eventually reach the people who don't come for meals. And the ones who take it wouldn't feel as guilty if they could contribute to the garden. Assuming you can find decent seeds and soil for less than an arm and a leg." That alone was doubtful.

Her eyes widened a bit at the suggestion with a bit of warmth to them. “I can see what I can do about getting something like that set up. I can save what little I can, and maybe I can have Sol build me a decent garden box," she stated, turning over the notepad and writing something down. “She can probably make one that's a little more self-sufficient if I can find her the right parts. Oh, there's a junkyard not too far from here that if I'm careful, I can..." she seemed to be talking mostly to herself at this point, writing a few more things down before turning back to Mick with a smile on her face.

“Thanks, Mick," she stated, “I'd... uh, I'd give you a hug as thanks for the suggestions but I'm not sure you'd want me to, so," she continued, holding out her hand in a clenched manner. “Sol says fist bumps are easier to do."

This girl could not read a room for the life of her, could she? He knew that everything he'd done thus far carried the weight of somewhat-disgruntled reluctance, because that was pretty much how he felt about it. Or, well, he felt a little more than that, but he was still polite enough not to be outright rude. But here she was, acting like this had been the friendly guided tour. Was she just oblivious or what? How on earth had she survived this long if she was?

It came to mind to refuse her gesture, and he did leave his hands in his pockets for several beats too long, staring with faint incredulity at her extended fist.

They're perfect, don't you think? I never imagined this, but—maybe in some way it was all worth it, after all.

With a heavy sigh, he pulled one hand out of his pocket and knocked a heavy, callused fist gently against hers.

She smiled nonetheless, and pulled her fist away, seemingly satisfied with the gesture. “I'll see about getting that garden started at the shelter, and with any luck, we can have a decent one by Leviathanus. Hopefully sooner than that, but I'm not going to push my luck," she stated, shifting so that she was holding the umbrella properly.

“I'll see you around the shelter, Mick. Thanks again for the help," she stated, shifting the notepad back under her arm.

"Sure, kid. Whatever you say."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK



18 Be'elza
Nishant Residence - Early Evening - Thunderstorm
Lunaria Nishant


Thunderstorms were usually a hit or miss for Luna. Not because she had anything against the weather itself, rain pouring down harshly was always a good way to just relax. It was moreso the fact that sometimes the lightning struck at just the right angle that it caused the power to go out. Luckily, it hadn't reached that point, yet, and she was able to throw something together for dinner. Sol was in the garage, playing with her new materials that Samael had gotten for her. Or rather, the materials Sol needed to fix his car.

“Sol, dinner's ready," she called out into the garage, poking her head inside to see if she could spot Soleil. “It's rice balls stuffed with pickled plums," she added. It was called umeboshi, if she remembered, having seen it passing by the Neo Tokyo restaurant. With the extra money Soleil was able to get from her employer, Luna thought it might have been something to try. It couldn't be worse than most of the things they've eaten before, after all.

Though she could definitely hear her sister moving around in the garage, there was no answer. Perhaps she hadn't heard? Soleil could sometimes get so absorbed in her work that she kind of forgot to pay attention to her surroundings.

“And this is why I made dinner today," Luna mumured to herself, shaking her head and ducking back into the kitchen. She placed the rice balls on a large plate, enough for both her and Sol, before making her way back to the garage. “Soleil Nishant, where the hell are you," she stated rather loudly as she kicked the door open. It wasn't enough to break the thing; that wasn't her intention, and she wasn't necessarily yelling.

“If you don't come eat this, I swear I'm going to find you and shove it down your face hole," she continued. It wasn't exactly a threat, but Sol needed to eat, too. She'd been working almost nonstop all day.

"Go away," her sister mumbled, shaking her head. She was looking down at a pile of components, sorting them rather efficiently, it seemed. Before Luna had issued her threat of sorts, she could have sworn her sister was... smiling? Just the slightest bit. "I'm not hungry."

“Sometimes I wonder which one of us is actually the older sibling," Luna mumbled, shaking her head softly before grabbing a chair and making her way back towards Sol. “Hungry or not, you should at least take a little break. We're not indestructible, you know. Even you need to eat and your toys aren't going anywhere. These are so you can eat and work at the same time, see?" she stated, grabbing one of the triangular shaped rice balls, and shoving it in Sol's direction.

“And you can tell me all about your newest project. I'm all ears," she added.

With a distinctly-exasperated ugh, Soleil broke one of the rice balls into thirds, jamming the first one into her mouth and turning her back on Luna to keep at... whatever she was doing while she chewed. "You're a fucking nag; I can take care of myself," she grumbled around the food. "And my project is what I told you it is—I'm building Samael a fuel injection system for his Phaser."

“You're damn right I'm a fucking nag," Luna replied as she grinned in Sol's direction, even though Sol's back was towards her. “And I know you're building Sam a new system for his Phaser," she added, rolling her eyes a bit. “What I meant is, how is it going? Is it going to be much longer before you're finished?" Luna might not be quite the whiz when it came to cars like Sol was, but that didn't mean she didn't find the things her sister did somewhat interesting.

"It'd be less long if someone didn't keep making me eat," she replied, taking another bite of the food and returning to her work. She had several thin lengths of wire that she was trimming to be of equal sizes; it looked like her soldering iron was warming up on the bench, too. "It's going well though. I finished the prototype yesterday and did a bunch of tests overnight, so now I'm starting the final build. Gotta get this perfectly." The last part, she murmurs to herself more than to Luna; it's easy to tell from her soft volume.

Luna rolled her eyes lightly at Sol's first statement. Sure, they could go a few days without eating if they had to, however; at the current moment, they didn't. Sol's job was more laborious than Luna's was, and despite whatever strange humans they were, they still needed to eat to keep themselves from passing out from lack of ratio of food and work.

“Yeah, alright," she stated. She wasn't going to distract Sol from working any longer, but that didn't mean she was going to leave, either. Sol could work perfectly fine with Luna in the garage, and with that in mind, she took a bite of her own rice ball. Immediately Luna wrinkled her nose. She hadn't expected it to be that sour. Maybe it was the pickled plum that did it? She shook her head slightly, though, and glanced in Sol's direction. She'd eaten it like it was just another dish for the night. Well... she made the damn thing, might as well keep eating it.

“Once you get that perfectly," she began, taking another bite of her food, “are you going to make sure it runs right in the actual car?" Sol had told her about the 2441 Yrden test drive that Samael let her do. She could only surmise that Samael was going to let her do it again with the newer version.

The corner of Soleil's mouth turned up a little. "Yeah," she said, the single syllable somehow not nearly as flat as her sister's tone of voice usually was. "Yeah I am. I get to drive a brand-new Phaser, Luna. With a part I designed and built from scratch." She looked like she was fighting to keep the smile from growing any bigger.

Luna was a little more expressive than her sister, and allowed the grin on her face to widen. “And I bet it's going to be awesome," she stated, nodding her head sagely before taking another bite of her food. “You're lucky, you know that. This Samael guy seems to be giving you exactly what you need in order for you to do your shit, right the first time. I'm surprised he wasn't a little more... difficult about it." Most demons were either too proud to admit that something was wrong with something they owned, or were too proud to have a human service their things.

“It seems like you'll actually be able to charge him what your work is worth, too, which will be nice, right?"

Soleil nodded. "Yeah. He's—" she paused, eyes narrowing faintly as she searched for a word, probably. "I really don't know what to think of him. He really didn't need to let me do that test drive. Or come with, which he did. I guess I could understand if he didn't trust me not to steal it or something, but... I don't think that was it. He was acting even weirder than usual by the end. Like he was kind of drunk or something." She shook her head, then shrugged before looking back down at her work.

"Anyway, I'm pretty sure he'd pay me whatever I told him to."

“And you're sure he wasn't drinking anything before you showed up?" Luna asked. It was weird, for sure. A demon, or whatever the Hell he was, who just let a human test drive a very fancy car without rhyme or reason was a very strange thing, indeed. If Sol was confident that he'd pay her whatever she told him to, then there had to be something. There had to be a catch for him letting Sol do basically whatever she thought would fix his problem without at least wanting her soul or something.

“I know you will be, but still... be careful around him. It might be that he's trying to get your soul by being exceedingly nice," she stated. Soleil and Luna weren't cynical without good reason. Anything that was good for them was bound to turn upside down one way or another.

“Speaking of," she added, as something came to mind. “Do you remember Jax? I heard he's gone missing." He had been a long-time volunteer for the shelter, and occasionally passed by the shop to have something fixed. “Do you remember the last time he was here?" she asked. The last time Luna had seen him at the shelters was about a week ago. That didn't mean he might have stopped here when she wasn't around.

The shift in topic brought about a shift in Sol as well; her sister's face dropped back into its neutral, stony cast, with a faint knit to her brow. "I think I last saw him... three weeks ago. He wanted me to fix his mom's sink. He's missing?"

Luna nodded her head and sighed. “Yeah. No one at the shelter has heard from him, and his mom came by asking if we'd seen him about three days ago." It wasn't a common occurrence when someone disappeared. It was either one of two things: they were dead, or they reneged on their contract. The latter was very rare, and the former happened occasionally. People either were murdered, starved to death, or there was an accident of some kind.

“I just thought maybe he'd have passed by here and would have said something to you."

Sol shook her head. "Sorry Luna. I haven't heard of or seen him since then." Soleil didn't tend to really get attached to people; honestly as far as Luna could tell she didn't even like most of them. But she never berated Luna for caring more than she did, or trying to make friends, or anything like that. "Has his mom filed a report?"

Those were damn near useless and they both well knew it, but at least if they found his body or something they'd say so to his mother. Better than not knowing.

“Probably," she answered. “If he hasn't been seen in nearly a week, I think she can file for a missing persons report right about now. It just depends on how high a priority they make it. You know those in Tartarus PD don't usually care if some human disappears," she felt herself frown at the statement. It was a fact that no one really cared about a missing human. There were so many open cases, after all.

“I just hope nothing bad happened to him." He was a good guy insofar as Luna could tell.

"Hm." Evidently, Sol was skeptical of that possibility, but she said nothing further on the matter.

“Thanks for the reassurance, Sol," Luna stated, but she didn't mean anything by it. She knew how Sol was, and she couldn't fault her sister for it. Life was hard; that was a fact. Still, one of these days, Sol was going to care about someone who wasn't Luna or herself, and Luna would be damned if she missed it.

“So... how was dinner? Should I put it in the line up or scratch it?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


24 Be'elza
Nishant Residence - Evening - Rainy
Soleil Nishant


The garage was mercifully quiet at this time of night. It was past usual business hours, not quite into the full swing of nightlife, not that there was much of that right around here to begin with. Luna had come and gone with dinner a while ago, meaning that Soleil was free to work to her heart's content on her project.

She knew, abstractly, that she was more than a little strange for deriving so much satisfaction from things like this, but... she'd always liked to tinker. To break things down and rebuild them, and then, when she knew how they worked and why, to do it again, but build them better this time. It was maybe the one thing in all the world that didn't make her feel stupid or inadequate. And when she was working like this, she didn't have to think about anything but the work itself, and the work made sense to her, in a way the rest of the world never quite had. She'd learned the rules—never show weakness, keep your back to the wall, trust no one—but that didn't mean she'd ever quite felt that she fit, because frankly she didn't.

But machine parts were logical, and when she was working with them, she could be, too.

The rain was a quiet background soundtrack to her work, white noise that helped her concentrate while she moved delicate parts into their places. She'd have used Samael's equipment for this, but he hadn't requested her back, and she didn't want to go uninvited before she was done, no matter what he said about using his things. Trust no one, after all, even weird fallen angels who let you drive their fancy cars for no reason.

Maybe especially them.

Moving the gooseneck with the large magnifying glass so she could see better, Soleil adjusted the overhead light, which was just a torch that she'd attached to another gooseneck, and picked her tweezers back up. There were more specialized tools, for sure, but these were what she had to work with. She knew she could do it, if she was careful.

The sound of something clattering on the floor filled the noise, and Luna cursed loud enough that Soleil could hear it. Some shuffling around, and a squeaky door opening led to a rather irate-looking Luna re-entering the garage.

“Why is he here right now? The fees have been paid for this month, and it's way too early for him to be here to collect for next month's." It was obvious enough who the he Luna was referring to. Alastor was nearby and headed towards the shop.

God fucking dammit.

That was another of the rules: the world would never, ever leave her alone. Not for a few hours to work on her project, not for a few weeks to not have to worry about Zinoviev and his weird obsession. Closing her eyes for a moment, she released a long, slow breath before cracking them open again.

"I don't know," she said flatly, moving to put the more delicate pieces of her work away in the nearest drawer. She didn't need that fucker's goons breaking anything to make a point. She'd fucking go at them if they tried, and she really didn't want it to come to that. "But I suppose we're about to find out."

Luna pushed a deep sigh through her nose and slumped her shoulders a bit. “Why is he being so persistent? We've already given him our answer," she murmured softly before glancing in the direction of the shop door. The handle turned and the door opened to reveal Alastor, dressed as he always was in a fine black suit with a charcoal grey tie. He was the only one to enter the garage, though.

“My lovely Nishants, how good it is to see you again," he stated, cracking a large smile as if he were trying to seem benign. Luna stepped closer in Soleil's direction as Alastor held up his fingers in a frame like gesture. “Always such a sight when the two of you stand next to each other. It's like night and day in physical form," he continued, dropping his hands to his sides.

"What do you want, Zinoviev?" Soleil asked it flatly. She generally had a policy of trying to be reasonably well-mannered around people who could kill her, but honestly she was pretty sure that would be his last resort. He wanted something else from them, obviously, and he'd come because he thought he had some way to get it. If she had to guess, fee hike. She was already tired of his shit and he hadn't even said what it was yet.

Plus, he made her skin crawl. And not the same way Samael did.

Alastor didn't bother to hide the way his eyes roamed over both Luna and Soleil at the statement, and arched a brow. “What I've always wanted," he stated, crossing his arms over his chest. “Both of you in my employ. From the way you were able to pay both your over-due fees and next month's fees," he began, eyes landing just below Luna's face before he turned back to Soleil, “I'd say you have access to some advanced funds."

“Starting on the first of Victorianus, your fees will be increased to four hundred, each. The month after that will increase again another fifty dollars. Every month after that, will be another fifty dollars. If, however, you decide that you don't want to keep paying an increase..." he drawled out, making it quite obvious as to what he meant. Work for him, and the fees won't increase, but if they didn't, the fees would keep increasing every month.

“You can't be serious," Luna stated, huffing in a manner of disbelief. “We can't afford that and you know it! Now you're just trying to force our hand," she continued as Alastor narrowed his eyes slightly.

“I am a business man, first and foremost, Lunaria. I am an acquirer of fine art, second."

Part of her just wanted to clock him in the jaw. It was an increasingly-large part, as he unraveled the new 'terms' in front of them. It'd be so easy; cambion or not, she knew the first couple would take him by surprise. No one expected Soleil to be a brawler, maybe because of her face.

But she set her jaw instead. Satisfying as it might be to make him feel a touch of the fear and panic he induced in them, it wouldn't last. He was a cambion, and she just a human. She didn't need him fighting back, or more to the point, setting his goons or the cops on them. They'd never manage to scrape it together if one of them was in jail.

Next to that, the fact that his eyes were a palpable, slimy weight barely even registered. She'd never much cared that people looked, because there was no stopping it. She felt like they could just sense that she was some kind of freak of nature, and that had more to do with it than any supposed nice feature, however they talked about it. Luna was pretty. Soleil was just... well, whatever. It didn't matter. It was apparently not enough to stop him wanting her in his sick little birdcage, too, for the set as it were.

Even if he'd only been after her sister, she'd have fought it just as hard.

"Get out of our house," she said dully. "It's after dark and you're trespassing with no witnesses. I might be willing to take a chance on a stand my ground defense. You don't look too much like a demon at first glance, so how would I know any better?"

Alastor made a tsking sound, and shook his head. “Resorting to violence, now? Is that any way to treat a friend?" he stated, unfolding his arms and leveling his gaze with Soleil. “Unfortunately I do not carry my father's, ah, charms, but surely even you aren't that dense," he continued, shaking his head. “It pains me to hear your answer is so set, but it will change. Soon, you will see that what I offer is far more than you will ever get, and you and your sister will live much more fulfilled lives."

With a light wave of his hand, he turned towards the door and exited. Luna expelled a breath and slumped in her spot towards the ground.

“He's never going to give up, is he?" it sounded more like a statement than an actual question. “What are we going to do, Sol? We... we can't afford those increases."

"I don't know, Luna," she admits, crossing her arms and shaking her head. "But he's giving us no choice. We're going to have to do something, and keeping quiet and paying the guy isn't an option anymore." He himself had taken it away, what with the extortionate increases that made it simply impossible.

But now he's really pissed her off, and she's not just going to go quietly to his fucking brothel. She doesn't know what she can do yet, but she has to do something. She didn't spend most of her life scraping and working her ass off for Luna to end up in a situation like that.

This means war, now, even if she doesn't know how to fight one yet.

Luna nodded dejectedly before glancing in Soleil's direction. “In the mean time, I'll see if the Baileys can give me more hours, and... take the train to the other side of town to see about another job," she murmured before standing up from her spot. “Until... something better comes along, we'll just have to figure out what to do about Alastor. It would be convenient if someone could just make him disappear. No one would care if he did."

"You meet anyone who might not mind taking out a cambion, let me know," Soleil replied. "I might be willing to go into debt for that." She was only kind of joking.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox

0.00 INK



26 Be'elza
The Pits - Mid Afternoon - Rain
Samael Lennox


The things that Samael did for talent were not many. He didn't chase after it; didn't horde it, either, but this. Coming to the Pits just to hire a mechanic? This was a whole new level of wanting something and coming to get it himself. And it wasn't necessarily something that he wanted. It was a person with considerable skill for all things mechanical; he would admit that much. That was only a small reason he wanted Soleil to be his mechanic, though. The other reason was those emotions. Specifically those happy ones. Even though she hadn't shown it on her face, she was definitely feeling it.

He wondered if she would feel those things so freely when he showed up at her doorstep to hire her? He certainly hoped so. He pat down his breast pocket to make sure he was still carrying the two cards he needed, and shifted the gear to park. It would be out of place, the Phaser, but it's not like he cared. It's not like it would be in his possession much longer, anyway. Not with what he had planned. He stepped out of it, not bothering to hit the lock button on it, and made his way towards the building that Soleil lived in.

It looked like a piece of shit, honestly.

Like someone had just smashed two shacks together and considered it livable. He supposed it was enough for Soleil to work out of, but he felt his brows furrow together and shook his head. He was almost afraid to knock on the door. It might fall off even if he was gentle with it. Still, he lifted his hand up and knocked as gently as he could on the door. He blinked mildly when the door opened, and it was not Soleil that he was looking at.

“Who the fuck are you?" he asked, tilting his head slightly at the woman. She had some facial features that resembled Soleil's, but other than that, her coloring was completely different. Where Soleil was dark-haired, fair and deep violet blue eyes, the woman before him seemed to have platinum blonde hair and glacier blue eyes.

“Uh, I should be asking you that," the woman replied, but he could sense that she was tense, and perhaps somewhat wary of him.

“I'm looking for Soleil Nishant. This was her given address," he simply replied. People didn't usually talk to him like that, and the first person who had was Soleil. Given the similarities, Samael could only surmise they were related somehow. Cousins? Sisters? He didn't fucking know. Didn't really care. She raised a brow at him, though.

“She's in the garage," she finally replied, opening the door wider to let him through, and pointed towards another. He stepped through, and made his way towards the other door, hearing the other woman muttering something like, “stupid demons." She wasn't entirely wrong; demons weren't exactly Samael's favorite, either. He had, maybe, two at most that he actually liked, and probably another one that he tolerated. Crowley, though... he was a different story altogether.

“Nishant," he called out as he stepped through the door, glancing over the shitshow of a garage. Maybe she'd move in to his place and be his live-in mechanic? It wouldn't hurt to ask, he supposed.

Shitshow though it was, it was at least neat. Everything had its place on a wall or shelf, and at the moment Soleil was perched on a stool, long black jacket thrown over the far side of the workbench and her sleeves rolled to her elbows. She was leaning over some makeshift apparatus apparently designed to magnify her view of what was underneath it; it had the distinct air of the homemade. She was, at the moment, radiating a sort of contentment as she worked on the small parts under her fingers. It wasn't the fierce sort of happiness from last time, being something much less visceral, but it was oddly powerful nevertheless.

At the sound of her surname, she blinked, though it seemed to take her a moment to register that she was being addressed. Only then did she lift her head, blinking a second time before her eyes rounded. "S-Samael? What are you doing in my garage?" Minus the slight stutter on his name, her voice sounded as collected as ever, but her emotions surged, a strange mix of them: confusion, mostly, some worry, and a distinct spike of... interest? Something between the happiness from last time and the content from just now, edged in a way it was hard to identify.

“Isn't it obvious?" he stated, arching a brow in her direction. He could hear a soft snort coming from behind him, and a quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that it was the woman from earlier, leaning on the door frame. She didn't say anything, though, and merely glanced at the two of them. “I'm here to see if a certain someone would like a more stable job," he stated, turning his attention back towards Soleil. Of course, there were other things he was going to offer her, however; she had to accept the damn thing, first.

Something told him that she wasn't going to turn him down, though. Strangely, he felt the corners of his lips turn up somewhat in a small smile. Her emotions were just so easy to read, and even if she was confused, he knew exactly what it was that she was feeling. She was happy to see him, although he wasn't going to question why. No one was ever that happy to see him; not even Leraje. Then again, he wasn't even sure if Leraje could feel happy about something.

It seemed to take her a moment to realize his meaning; her hands froze and she set down the parts she was working on. "Wait, but—I haven't even finished this yet. How could you possibly know you want to hire me full-time on just a—a prototype and some guesses about your other car?" That giddy happiness spiked, but she seemed almost to clamp down on it that time, a lurking suspicion mixing deep blue into the vivid red-violet of the other feeling.

Oddly enough it didn't even feel directed at him, exactly.

Even if it wasn't directed at him, he could understand the suspicion. Why would a Fallen come all the way out to the Pits to hire some mechanic? He shrugged his shoulders, though, as if he were simply making a decision on the whim. He wasn't.

“Because guesses or not," he began, taking a step in her direction, “prototype or not, you've identified a problem by simply looking at the car for less than an hour. The fact that you built a prototype by scratch isn't a feat most mechanics can do. You're talented, and it's quite obvious."

“Talent like yours shouldn't be wasted, and from what I can see," he paused to do a quickover of the place, “you are wasting away without a chance to actually shine. It would be a waste. There are a couple of things you will need to do if you accept the offer, though. They are nothing to worry about, though. Just signing some papers, and you'll be issued a few things as well."

Her brow knit just faintly; she turned around on the stool and hooked her toes over the bottom bar, regarding him thoughtfully. The confusion was back, though in a more general form now. Confusion about him, no doubt, not merely his presence here or the offer itself. But there was something else underneath it, something as yet so small and subtle she probably hadn't even noticed it herself. Curiosity, yes, but also a wanting of a strange kind. Exactly what kind of wanting it was, she made clear when she spoke next.

"I don't get you," she said bluntly. "You don't make any sense to me at all." She shook her head. "What's on the paperwork? I don't know if you deal in souls or not but mine isn't on the table." There was no accusation in her words, just a flat—though perhaps some would read it as defiant—statement of fact, underwritten by a firm resolution he could feel.

Samael scoffed slightly, rolling his eyes a bit and feigning a slightly hurt look. He could hear the other woman snort softly but he kept his attention on Soleil. “I don't want your soul; I want your skill. I'm not quite in the soul-dealing business. Nothing I could gain from it, really," he replied in a nonchalant fashion. Sure, he was supposed to gather souls for Bael, but if he took her soul, then he wouldn't have a talented mechanic. He needed his mechanic to make sure his cars were running as they should be.

“The only thing on the paper work of note is," he began, pulling out two cards. He'd had them made a couple of days ago with her name on it so she could use them. Of course, his signature was at the bottom so they wouldn't give her shit about it. And it would also let whoever she was buying from know that they were getting his money. People wanted that regardless of where it came from.

“You are to return these at the end of the contract whenever you decide to terminate. Think of it as a month-to-month contract. This first card," he pushed the red colored one towards her first, “is for materials only and for the cars. You can buy whatever you need to build or fix whatever is wrong with the cars that you'll be in charge of."

“The second one," he pushed the black one towards her, “is for personal use. Buy whatever the fuck you want with it, I don't care. Think of it as your payment, however; it's not your actual payment. You'll get paid a set credit amount each month, and thensome if something needs to be fixed."

“You're kidding, right?" the other woman stated, and there was a faint hint of incredulous disbelief emanating from her. “There has got to be a catch because shit like this doesn't just happen to us."

“I'm sorry, but who the fuck are you? Are you two related?" Sam asked, genuinely interested. She didn't look like Soleil's secretary, though she could have been for all he knew.

“I'm her little sister, Luna."

Ah, that made sense.

“Oh," he stated, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, Luna, no, there isn't a catch. I'm offering your sister a well-paid job, as... disbelieving as that may be."

"You're seriously just... trusting me not to clean out your bank account?" Soleil blinked at him dully, then exchanged a glance with her sister. "I mean I get that there's probably more in there than I could dream of spending or whatever, but still. For all you know I could just go on a huge bender and take all of my nonexistent friends."

There was a touch of embarrassment in the last part, but she didn't show it much, only offering a slight shrug. She seemed to readily believe him about the soul thing.

That actually pulled a light chuckle from him.

“Trust me... you wouldn't be able to spend it all in one go. Even if your nonexistent friends joined you on your bender. You can take your sister with you on your spending spree, but still... the two of you really couldn't clean out my account. You could try, but..." he trailed off with a light shrug of his shoulders. It was partially the reason he gave his mechanic a personal card. He had so much money it wasn't even funny. He was quite certain they wouldn't be able to spend it all in their lifetime. Maybe if they had at least eight or ten, but by then he'd just continue to accumulate more.

“Oh, and one more thing," he began, pulling the keys out to the Phaser out in the street, “that's yours for as long as you're employeed with me." He tossed the keys in Soleil's direction. “You're allowed to customize it to however you want. It'll only get tossed once you terminate your employement." He wouldn't have a use for it if she did decide to quit for some reason, and it wasn't like he didn't have a spare Phaser around. It was last years' model, after all.

"You—I—you absolute idiot." It would seem he'd finally put a crack in that stoic facade of hers. "I can't just take—that's—that car is worth like ten of my house." She gestures around her to the garage, which, tidiness and good upkeep aside is very clearly in The Pits. "Also twenty bucks says the first wise guy to see it breaks the window trying to steal it. He'll fail because the wiring in these is complicated as hell, but he'll still have busted the window."

And yet for all that, she clearly wasn't unhappy with the gesture.

Samael took a step back, clearly surprised. Even if she wasn't unhappy with the gesture, it kind of caught him off guard. Luna stifled a laugh, it seemed, as a hand was brought up to her hand to cover her mouth. Samael, however, blinked and tilted his head in confusion.

“Can't you just... keep it in here or something?" he stated, glancing around the garage. It looked big enough to at least house it.

“We only have enough room for one car, and it usually isn't something like that Phaser. Plus, Sol is right, that thing sticks out like a sore thumb in this kind of neighborhood. As... grateful as we are about the gesture, maybe you should just keep it at your place," it sounded like a suggestion all the same.

“Fine. I'll keep it at my place, and you can stop by whenever you want to use it or tinker with it or whatever it is you do," he replied, waving his hand in a nonchalant fashion. “You also still have that key card so you still have access to the house," he added. It would be nice if she would tell him when she was there. He enjoyed her company. Perhaps a little too much. He glanced in Luna's direction, arched a brow, and turned back towards Soleil.

“She can come too if she wants. I don't give a fuck."

Soleil looked back up at him, then, the corner of her lip ticked up just the tiniest bit. The flavor of the happiness was different this time. Rather than a giddy spike on the senses, hard and sharp, it was a warmer thing, almost... soft? It made her eyes look warmer, too, the violet more prominent than the blue.

"In that case... I accept."

That was new.

He felt the corners of his lips tilt upwards as well as he placed one arm behind his back, and the other across his chest with a closed fist. He bent forward in an old bow, almost reminicent to when butlers bowed in their greetings, even if he was no butler.

“Then Soleil Nishant, you are hereby under my employ. If anyone gives you shit, just say my name, show them one of those cards, and they'll back off," though he knew a certain someone wouldn't necessarily do it. He just hoped they didn't have to deal with that guy.

"Uh..." She cleared her throat, and he was hit rather suddenly by a wave of embarrassment, that same warm feeling, a touch of panic, and—there it was. A little subtle needle of attraction. There was even a tiny hint of color on her cheeks. "Sure. Whatever you say, Samael."

His grin widened.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

Image


3 Abaddonus
The Pits - Late Night - Chilly
Michael Asmund


The cold nipped at the exposed skin of his face and fingers; really the only parts of him that were exposed, anymore. He vaguely remembered things like true summer, and even before that memories that were more like dreams, of a time before anyone had thought up anything like clothes at all. He didn't really feel one way or another about that, however much Raph had liked to joke that it was too bad wearing them had caught on.

How do they deal with the chafing? he'd ribbed, pretending to tug uncomfortably at his pant leg.

I for one am glad they were invented, Az had replied. Means seeing less of you.

And then they'd laughed in that way only brothers quite could, at once mocking and affectionate, and finished belting their armor into place.

Mick took another swig of the bottle situated next to him, exhaling long and hard and leaning back against the tree behind him. He could vaguely feel bark poking at his back through his layers, but it wasn't a discomfort. The stuff in the bottle was the cheapest they sold at the grocer, and it didn't really do much for him, except put the faintest of warm feelings in his belly and blur the edge of the memories just a tiny bit.

Well, not even that. Maybe all it really did was make it easier to accept the barrage of them as something that was just going to happen to him, on nights like this one.

Running a hand back through his hair, he registered something crawling in it and pulled it away, lifting it in front of him to find a small spider crawling over his knuckles, back towards his gloves. "Sorry, girlie," he said with a little snort. "I'm a bit too mobile to make a good spot for a nest. Try up the tree." He set her down at the roots, and sure enough, she began to climb. He felt a little twinge in his chest, and took another drink.

There was a rustling sound from his right, and it wasn't long before someone entered his line of vision. It was someone he knew vaguely, a young person by the name of Ribs. Called that mostly because they were nothing but skin and bones at one time, however; they had seemed to manage over the months, putting on more weight. They approached Mick cautiously, matted dark brown hair stuck to their face with smears of grease across their cheekbones. Wary grey eyes locked on Mick for a moment, before Ribs approached, shaking a little.

“Mick. Hey, Mick, is that you?" they called out softly, rubbing their hands together as if to find some comfort or warmth. Given that Ribs was only wearing a thin jacket over a torn shirt and dark baggy jeans, they probably weren't getting much as far as warmth went. It was also a known fact that Ribs couldn't see too well. There was something wrong with their eyes, but without a proper doctor, it would be hard to tell what it was, exactly.

"Yeah, Ribs, it's me." Mick kept his voice soft so as not to startle them. Ribs was one of those who'd grown up out here, instead of being pushed out at some later point in life. It had made them hardy, in a certain sort of raw, gritty sense, but they could also be a little skittish around other people. It was hard to trust people—he understood that very well. Still, he knew he'd at least made some inroads with them, enough apparently that they were approaching him for help now.

"What do you need?" They wouldn't be asking for help if it wasn't important though. He knew that much.

Their posture relaxed a bit when Mick responded, and they nodded their head in Mick's direction. “There's... there's something in the waterway. It's blocking the good pipe, but it looks... strange. Mangled, and a bit torn up. I don't know, but it's blocking the way. I can't pull it out 'cause it's stuck on something. You're the only one I found that can help," they replied as they took a step in Mick's direction.

“Can you help me unplug it?"

Mick clicked his tongue against his teeth. That could be anything from a bag of trash to a dead dog or something. Hefting himself to his feet, he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and nodded, speaking so that Ribs wouldn't have to rely on their eyes for the cue. "Sure, I'll take a look. Lead on."

They smiled and nodded their head, waving a hand in Mick's direction so he could follow them. “It's not too far from here, just around the block," they stated, leading Mick down one of the old alleyways. Ribs never really took the main roads or sidewalks, mostly so they could stay hidden and away from other people. They knew different ways around the city that involved little to no interaction with anyone, and it was one of these pathways that they took Mick on.

“I'm surprised no one else has tried to clear it. It's the only good source," they spoke once they reached what used to be an old pond. Now it was used as a dumping ground. Trash bags littered the area, and there was a stench that resembled something that had stayed in the sun too long that had died. Ribs, however, moved towards where the open pipe was. It was large enough that someone could crawl through it if they had to, but just as Ribs said, there was something caught just in the corner of it.

It looked almost like it was dangling halfway out of the pipe itself, and Ribs turned towards Mick and nodded their head towards it. “See. Mangled, torn, something."

"Stay here; I'll have a look." Truthfully, Mick was pretty sure he already knew what they were dealing with, and he was glad Ribs couldn't see very well. Even with as much shit as they'd surely seen in their short life, there were just some things no one should have to deal with.

He could smell it, actually. The stench of death. For a human like Ribs it was probably masked by the stink of the garbage and so on, but Mick had a nose like the old hound he was, and he could separate the kinds of rot from each other. He frowned. Unless he did something, the 'good' source wasn't going to be useable much longer.

Sure enough, as he got closer, his eyes pierced the dark, and he could make out a mat of dark hair, fallen forward over a scruffy face. The corpse was pale, bloated and saturated. He looked like he'd been stuffed in the water pipe; as Mick approached he could see the torn pieces of a trash bag nearby. So they'd cut him up, stuffed him in, and tried to push him through the pipe, only for the flow of water to push him back out... and maybe the bag had caught on something and torn.

Alby, Mick's memory supplied. Jax Alby. Occasional shelter volunteer, at the one on Second Street.

And then his stomach dropped out from under him.

The guy's soul had been ripped out. It was something Mick could feel, the way he could feel when the weather was about to change or feel the bark of a tree at his back. An awareness that required no effort, and could not be shut off. The soul once tethered to this body had been torn from it before physical death.

"Motherfucking hellspawn."

“Mick. Mick, everything alright over there? Did you find out what it was?" Ribs called out as they took a step in Mick's direction. “It's so dark. What'd you find?"

Ah, shit. And now he had to figure out what to do with the poor bastard, or Ribs was likely to have an anxiety attack. "Don't worry, I've got it. Just need a second," he said, frowning down. Alby was in pieces, still half-stuffed into a torn trash bag. Mick was pretty sure he knew where the guy lived, or could find out, but how was he supposed to hand him to his mother in a garbage bag? The indignity of it, the way he'd been tossed out like garbage once some sick fuck had robbed him of his soul

But no. That wasn't how it worked. In order to take a soul, a demon had to have permission. They could bribe and extort for that permission, short of threatening a life, but Alby had to have agreed at some point. If Mick had to guess... he'd probably tried to renege. Got scared and run. And this was what he got. Fucking demons.

If only he'd—

Sighing quietly, Mick resigned himself to what he needed to do now. Stripping off his gloves so they wouldn't get ruined by the blood and offal, he eased the bag away from the metal protrusion where it was caught. No point calling the cops. They'd do nothing, and they'd get up in Ribs's space to do it, possibly depriving them of water for days. Ribs wasn't one of those who felt comfortable going to shelters for that kind of thing. Assuming they ever even made it out here. A dead body in The Pits wasn't even a blip on the radar, especially if this was a punitive murder.

Once he had the edges of the bag, Mick carefully fit the escaped parts back into it, face set and stony as he picked the head and torso up by the hair. Lacking arms, it was about the most respectful way he could do it. Once he was sure he had everything, he tied the mangled ends of the bag together. He'd... figure something out. Scrap wood for a box, at least.

At least.

This was what he could do for people now. Boxes instead of garbage bags.

For a moment, Mick paused, staring down at the black bag in his hand, the earthly remains of a human being inside. A bitter feeling welled in his chest. Bitterness for sealed gates, for dead brothers. For being the only one left. For being alone.

More than anything, for his own failure.

Expelling a breath, he looked up at the sky, only to be hit in the cheek by something cold and sharp for a moment, before it faded to lukewarm damp. Snow. First of the year. In the month they used to call October.

“Didja get it?" Ribs asked, moving closer towards Mick and glanced at the bag in his hands. “Thanks a lot, Mick. That'll keep the good source, good. Smells like death, though," they stated, wrinkling their nose as if to emphasize the point. They rubbed their nose with their hand, though, and gave a toothy grin towards Mick.

“If I find anything good, I'll make sure to bring it straight to you. Oh," they stated, rummaging through one of their pockets, and pulled out a small bag. “It's honey. Good for lots of things. It'd be good for you to have it, too," Ribs stated, holding it in Mick's direction.

It was Mick's first instinct to refuse, but the offer actually provided an opportunity. "I'll trade you, fair and square," he said, setting Alby down carefully and shrugging out of his large overcoat. It wasn't shelter, but it was big, and warm, and if winter was this early this year, Ribs would need it soon. Mick didn't.

He accepted the honey, handing over the coat in exchange. Crouching to retrieve the bag with Alby in it, he touched the stagnant surface of the water with his fingertips and murmured a soft word, feeling a wave of fatigue wash over him, slackening his limbs uncomfortably for a moment before he fought it back. He picked his burden back up carefully and straightened.

"You take care of yourself, Ribs," he said softly. "And come find me if anything else plugs up your source, okay?"

“Thanks, Mick! This'll surely be a warm winter," Ribs replied, donning the coat and offering Mick a thumbs up with both hands.

"Sure hope so," Mick replied, keeping his tone nonchalant. It was really a good thing the kid couldn't see his expression, though, because he had no idea what kind of face he was making. He expected it didn't match his words.

His grip tightened on the bag, and he took his leave.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

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4 Abaddonus
Nishant Residence - Mid Afternoon - Rain
Luna Nishant


Luna sighed heavily, kicking off her boots once she'd entered through the front door and set down her umbrella. The shelter had been lively today despite the weather. Someone had finally located Jax, however; it wasn't exactly happy news. Jax was dead. No one knew how or why, only that he was, and there was nothing else to it. She took the band from her hair, letting it fall loosely around her shoulders before shaking it out. Making her way towards the garage, she glanced around looking for her sister.

“Sol, you in here?" she called out. It wasn't like she went anywhere. The only places Sol ever went were to her garage, sometimes grocery shopping, and other times she went to find spare parts or things like that. Sol was like a homebody in that sense, but Luna supposed there was one other place she could have gone. She hadn't missed the way her sister had smiled when Samael showed up to hire her. Luna couldn't recall the last time Soleil actually smiled like that.

It gave her conflicted feelings, for sure. On one hand, she thought it was absolutely hilarious that Soleil might have a little crush on Samael, however; on the other, Luna wasn't so sure about that. Demon or not, they both knew they couldn't trust him. He might have given them a chance at a better life, a more decent life, but Luna was a little more skeptical about it. Good things didn't happen to the Nishants without there being some sort of catch. There had to be one, but for now, Luna was going to wait it out.

“Soleil, I got your favorites," she called out again. “I got pineapples!"

"Of course I'm in here," Sol called back, her tone distant in that familiar distracted way. "Where else would I be?"

Luna chuckled before making her way towards the garage. Once she was inside, she found Soleil right where she always was, tinkering with her toys. “I don't know," she finally stated when she was close enough to Soleil. She didn't want to get too close since Sol was working, after all. Luna didn't like interrupting her completely. “Maybe you'd be at your new friend's place. You know, your knight in shining armour," she stated, smirking lightly at Sol.

The words put a slight furrow in her sister's brow, but Soleil said nothing at first, continuing to take apart the rusty engine she must have hauled in from the junkyard today. Her hair was pulled into her subtle twin-tails, the ones that rested close to her head and fanned, so they didn't look like the childish kind, suggesting she'd not yet taken a break today. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she said flatly.

“Hm, you sure about that?" Luna replied, pulling one of the metal folding chairs and setting it up backwards so she could sit on it and rest her chin on the back part of it. “Because I could have sworn I saw something there. I don't know, maybe a little smile and a little blush when he bowed," she continued, her smirk turning into a grin.

"Clearly you're hallucinating," Sol deadpanned, lifting a large piece of metal casing off the engine to expose the parts beneath. She set it aside with an effortlessness they could only show each other, and went to inspect the guts of the thing. "I was surprised he came by here of all places, that's all."

“And someone is in denial," Luna retorted, huffing a short laugh. “You know, he was pretty handsome, I'll give you that," she started, rubbing the bottom of her chin. She wouldn't deny that at all. Samael was attractive, with the long silver hair and the teal colored eyes. There was something about the way his facial structure was, smooth and defined in a way Luna couldn't really describe.

“I really can't blame you for being attracted to him," she continued, smiling at Soleil. “It's fine, though, if you want to deny it, but you shouldn't be surprised that he came all this way just for you. You're damn good at what you do and obviously he knows it. Everyone comes to you for their shit to get fixed and you always do it right."

Her sister was damn talented when it came to things like that. Her work should be noticed, and it was obvious that Samael had noticed it. That, or he was probably trying to get in Soleil's pants. Not that he could, Sol wouldn't let him. Luna knew her sister wasn't stupid by any means, and they both knew better than to trust people. But... part of her was curious as to whether or not Sol actually would let him. She snorted at the thought.

Soleil snorted. "And here I thought you preferred guys that look like lumberjacks." She shook her head, though, clearly not inclined to remain on the topic for any longer than she had to. "As for the quality of my work, sure I guess, but that doesn't quite explain why a rich guy comes out to the Pits and gives me a fucking car on top of an employment deal that was already so good I'd have taken it regardless." Her brows knit and she expelled a breath.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it is, but... I can't find the catch."

Luna sighed deeply and shook her head. “Yeah, neither can I. It is too good. I'm almost worried a piano is going to fall on our heads the moment we walk out that door because it's too good," she replied. That deal Samael offered to Soleil was a very good one. They had every right to be suspicious of it.

“Do you think he might just be biding his time before changing the terms? You know, so that he could get your soul, instead? I know he said he wasn't in the soul business, but that might have been just a ruse. Just a way to get you to lower your guard or something," because demons have tried trickier shit with them before.

"I don't know," Soleil admitted quietly. Her hands paused in their work, she expelled a soft breath through her nose. "I wish I could say I did, but..." Her lips pursed. "I don't sense any deception from him, and I've only gotten this far trusting my instincts, but still." It seemed to genuinely trouble her, the not knowing.

“I know," Luna replied gently. “It's just... it's almost like we're living in a dream. He basically gave us something we've always struggled to get. We're able to actually buy food now, and not just scavenge it from the dumpster here or there. We don't have to worry too much about whether or not the lights will be turned off, or the water, or the gas. We don't have to worry too much about Alastor's fucking fee increase."

There were so many things they didn't have to necessarily worry about. And that, in itself, worried Luna. It wouldn't last long. Nothing lasted long that was good. It was just a rule of life, one she and Sol had grown accustomed to. This luxury, or whatever it was, wouldn't last. Sol would probably quit if something turned out to not be okay. Or Samael might grow bored with Sol's work and fire her. He didn't seem the type to just do it on a whim, though, and Luna could understand why her sister was troubled by him. He was giving them things simply because he wanted to.

There was no ulterior motive from him.

“I would still just... be careful with him. I know you're smart enough to take care of yourself, but... don't fall for any of his charms, alright?"

She snorted. "He's not that charming, don't worry." There was a faint bit of humor in the way she said it, though, something that was kind of hard to pin to a source.

Shaking her head, she went back to work, though she didn't abandon the conversation entirely. This seemed to be hunting for scrap parts, rather than a more concerted project. "Any news from work today?"

Luna frowned at the question. “They found Jax," she stated, glancing towards the floor. “He's dead," she added before shaking her head. He was a decent guy, as far as people went. Always great with the people he worked with, and always seemed to smile. He looked like life never really beat him down, but she supposed everyone had their own fair share of shit luck.

Maybe it wasn't even luck?

Maybe it was just a cruel fate, one that would catch up to the rest of them? “Didn't say how or anything like that. His mom doesn't even have enough money to give him a small funeral or anything. She wanted to get him cremated but if she doesn't have enough money for a small funeral, she won't have enough for that," she continued.

“Do you think Samael would mind if we helped her with that?" Luna asked suddenly, glancing in Sol's direction. “I mean, he did give you a card to do, and I quote, 'whatever the fuck you want with it'."

Soleil blinked. "I suppose it'd be a good enough way to find out if that's true," she said slowly, "but are you sure we should risk it on this of all things? I get that you knew the guy but a corpse is a corpse, Luna. It doesn't care what you do with it."

Luna furrowed her brows a bit. “A corpse might not care, but his mother still does. Cremations are a lot cheaper than an actual funeral, and it's what his mother wanted to do." Still, Sol had a point. If they were going to risk finding out if what Samael said was true on a cremation, is that really what she should do? It could be that Samael was just testing them, and that the moment they used the card he gave them, he could easily take Sol's job away. Luna sighed softly.

“I... don't want you to risk your job just because I'm sentimental," she stated, shaking her head. Sometimes she really did hate that she cared so much about other people. People who weren't Soleil, and people whom she hadn't known for very long. She just... she had a bleeding heart, and she knew it.

“We probably shouldn't risk it," even if she wanted to help out Mrs. Alby, she couldn't risk Sol's job.

Soleil sighed. "I'm sorry, Luna," she said. "Part of me thinks it wouldn't matter. That he really does mean what he says. But if we do this, and word gets out, we're going to be the new targets of every sob story in town, and I'm pretty sure somewhere in there, we'd hit a limit. Even if he meant what he said. Money's not infinite, but problems are, around here."

“Yeah, I know," Luna replied softly. She just hated that it had to be like that; that people couldn't even afford to do something so... she didn't even know the right word for it. Mrs. Alby couldn't give her son a proper funeral, or even a cremation, and it shouldn't have to be that way. She should be able to give her son a proper send off, a proper burial.

But life was shit to everyone who didn't sell their soul.

To everyone who couldn't pay protection fees.

Or even buy food to feed their families or themselves.

“You know I appreciate you, right?" Luna stated, feeling the statement come out softer than it meant to. “Everything that you've done for us, for me? You're the best big sister I have."

Soleil snorted softly. "Sorry to report, but I'm the only big sister you have." Her eyes were a little softer, though, and she nodded. "I appreciate you, too, Luna."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


6 Abaddonus
Samael's Manor - Early Afternoon - Clear
Soleil Nishant


"Samael?" Soleil didn't often raise her voice beyond a dull monotone, but it felt weird entering someone else's home without at least announcing her presence. "I'm here." Well... and maybe some small part of her that she didn't want to acknowledge was... looking forward to seeing him?

No, that was too much. It wasn't like they were friends or anything. She was just doing her due diligence so she wasn't skulking around in someone's garage without telling him. It wasn't like she thought herself welcome in the rest of the house or anything.

When there was no immediate response, she shrugged and shed her coat, throwing it over the hook that had appeared in the wall sometime after her third visit. He hadn't mentioned it, and neither would she, but she appreciated not having to put the coat on a workbench. It gave her more room for parts.

The fuel injection build was still where she'd left it; she'd finally be able to put the finishing touches on and install today, if she was lucky. She wasn't, so it might be another day yet, but she was getting close enough to taste it. She knew it was going to work, in part because it had to. She had to make sure hiring her was a worthwhile decision for him. That he wouldn't have a single good reason to take it back. Or even a single bad reason, if she could prevent it.

She needed this job. It was her buffer, between her sister and Zinoviev, until they figured out some way to get him off their backs more permanently. Right now she could absorb the extra costs on her salary alone. She didn't want to have to use the card, but if it came down to that or letting Luna end up with that fucker, there wouldn't be a choice. Hopefully, they'd have a more permanent solution before that became necessary. They had a cushion of several months at the current rate of increase, but she knew better than to bet on things staying as they were if they still didn't fold to that asshole cambion's will.

So this was going to be the best damn fuel injection system there was, and that Phaser was going to run like a dream, or her name wasn't Soleil Nishant.

Rolling up the black sleeves of her shirt, Soleil settled them at her elbows. Her clothes had taken a step up the ladder—well, several, in that she'd actually bought them off the rack this time. Black shirt, pants, vest, even a black silk tie. She figured she shouldn't give anyone an unprofessionalism excuse to fire her, either. It was all still easy enough to move in, and if she got grease on it, well... that was why everything was black. Harder to see, easier to wash. The black half-palm gloves were new, too, but those had an obvious practical purpose.

Frowning a little when Samael did not appear, she caught herself thinking he must be out before she scoffed and shook her head. Or maybe you're not half as interesting as you think you are, stupid. He's got better things to do.

Inwardly chiding herself for even thinking about it, Soleil lifted the hood of the Phaser and got to work.

“I thought I heard something roaming around," a voice called out from the left side of Soleil. It sounded almost as if the person was right next to Soleil, though that might have been an affect of Samael's garage. The person who had spoken was a short woman with dual toned blue hair. The top portion of it was a dark blue, but as it fell, it turned into an almost cyan color. Her skin was bronze in tone, and her eyes were a pale blue.

She was dressed in a crisp black suit with a white dress shirt underneath it finished with a pair of black slacks. The tie she was wearing, though, was a gold color, strangely enough. “Who are you, and why are you in Sammy's garage?" she asked, arching a brow in Soleil's direction. She didn't seem accusatory in her question, but moreso curious. Her eyes widend a bit, though when she took a closer look at Soleil.

“Oh, are you his new pet?"

Demon. If the sense she had for such things gave her a muddy, weird reading around Samael and a subtle twinge around the likes of Zinoviev, it was blaring now. This woman was a demon, and Soleil knew that if she knew anything.

Somehow, it didn't throw off her equilibrium. Instead she only found herself... suspicious? No, not quite. Not quite curious, either, though. Maybe just wary. Was this his girlfriend or something? Did fallen angels even have those? He seemed like he would. People that pretty weren't single, generally speaking, unless they—

Annoyed with herself, she snapped the line of thought short and blinked slightly at the demon. "I'm his mechanic," she said dully, not letting herself feel or show anything at the insulting characterization of pet. Demons didn't think of humans as people. Pretty much everyone knew that, more or less. No point getting wound up about it.

“Huh, I thought he had one of those already," she replied in a nonchalant manner. “Well, mechanic, how'd you come to be his new one? Did Ziegler disappear after screwing up one of his cars?" she asked, making her way closer towards Soleil, stopping only a good three feet away.

“I guess it really doesn't matter if though. What qualifications do you have?" she started. It almost sounded like she was interrogating Soleil, or perhaps interviewing her. “What trade school did you go to to earn your qualifications? And..." she paused glancing almost intensely at Soleil before she continued, “I'd ask who you sold your soul to, but it seems it's still intact. Interesting."

Irritation surged—who was this woman that she thought she had the right to ask all these questions?—but Soleil quashed it. Pulling in a deep, quiet breath, she let the emotion drain out of her, the better to face this with nothing but reason and the kind of obedient response that was probably required of her.

"I don't see how that's any of your business."

Or she could backsass. Goddammit. She really wasn't good at the meekness thing.

The woman only grinned, tilting her head in Soleil's direction as if she'd just witnessed something interesting. “Oh? Is that so?" she stated, the grin stretching on her face. “Where are my manners," she began, standing a little straighter, “I'm Lilith. Samael is my charge, so it's my business to know who he hires for what purposes."

“Not just anyone can be employed by Samael, and he knows this. So, I'll ask again: what are your qualifications, and what trade school did you go to in order to get them?"

My qualifications are: go fuck yourself, I need to keep this job, Sol thought, a touch of bitterness infusing the mental rejoinder.

"Sorry, Lilith, but if you want to know his business, you can ask him. I'm just here to fix the car." Turning away, she picked up the sensor array. This needed to be installed first, so...

“You've never had a job before, have you?" Lilith inquired. “It shows because then you would know this is an interview," she trailed off a bit, peering in Soleil's direction as if she were trying to see what Soleil was doing.

“It's easy to see that you haven't had any experience in trade schools, either. If I had to guess," she continued, glancing so that she was staring at Soleil, now, “you haven't been to a proper school at all." She didn't sound upset or angry about the fact, only slightly more intrigued.

“I guess that's fine, though, considering that you built that fuel injection system from the ground up. Not only is it custom built, it'll completely fix the problem with his Phaser. I see why Sammy was so taken with your ability that he just had to hire you. Hm... alright, then Soleil, you can stay employed with Sammy on one condition." Samael was probably responsible for Lilith knowing Soleil's name, because she hadn't introduced herself to the demon.

“You cannot, by any means, be his friend or lover or close to him in anyway. It's not allowed. Your job is, as you put it, to fix his car. Nothing else. If that seems fair to you, then you can enjoy being employed by him and we can be good friends."

Soleil lifted her head from her work to fix her eyes on the other woman. She neither confirmed nor denied anything Lilith said, because it didn't really matter. She could tell she was convinced by her own logic, even if she'd arrived at the right conclusion for the wrong reason. She wasn't treating this like an 'interview' not because she didn't know what one looked like or because she'd never had a job, but because she didn't recognize Lilith's authority to be giving one. She wasn't her employer, so she got no information about employment terms. That was just business sense.

"Do I look like I'm here to make friends?" she said, rolling her eyes to emphasize the point. "And what are you, his mother? I'm pretty sure the guy can make his own hiring decisions, but thanks for the advice." She'd said Samael was her charge, but that made no fucking sense.

Soleil's statement earned a smirk from Lilith. “You humans are all the same. You say you're not here to make friends, but really, why wouldn't you? Buddy up with some handsome, rich Fallen or Demon who doesn't want your soul in order to take his money. Make him think that you actually like him and want to be his friend so that he'll give you favors and more money. Humans are greedy, greedy creatures. Some are even disgusting."

“As I've said before, Samael is my charge. He is under my watch, so no, he's not allowed to make his own hiring decisions without first answering to me. We do things differently, Soleil, but it seems I don't have to be overly concerned about you. You aren't his type," she replied in a nonchalant fashion. The smirk was still on her face, though.

"Good," Soleil replied, voice utterly devoid of feeling. She left it ambiguous exactly which part of that was supposed to be good, knowing that Lilith was likely to take it as referring to the last bit.

Truthfully, though, she was feeling a little... stung. And maybe a little sad? It was hard to pin down. But the woman's words had made her wonder. They were awfully specific, suggesting that maybe that was something that had happened to Samael before, and that was...

Well she could understand, on some level. People needed to survive, and some of them were driven to desperate measures by it. Sometimes even she felt the temptation to give up, to take the easier road, even if it conflicted with her own sense of who she should be. But she wasn't here to take advantage of anyone's generosity, not that she'd have the faintest clue how to do something like Lilith seemed to be implying. Seduction or anything similar was so far outside her skillset it was laughable to even think of herself trying. She didn't know how to be anyone else. She barely knew how to be herself, whoever or whatever that turned out to be.

But still. If it had happened, that was just... sad.

Lilith, however, just smiled regardless.

“Good. Glad we have that understanding." She didn't seem inclined to say anything more. She was just watching Soleil work.

Well, whatever. Soleil had learned a long time ago how to tune people out when she was working. And the project was way more interesting than talking to some random demon chick anyway. Shaking her head slightly, she got back to work.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK



9 Abaddonus
Samael's Manor - Mid Morning - Chilly
Samael Lennox


Sam, you know I do. Why would you even ask a silly question like that?

He could almost feel the way her breath had ghosted over his ear, warm and soft like she had been. Reluctantly, Samael opened his eyes, removing his arm that he'd used as a barrier to cover them. Of all times to remember just the sound of her voice, why now? He'd done so well forgetting it, and even the way she had looked: sun-colored hair with eyes the color of chestnuts. There was a time when he'd thought nothing else looked more grand, more beautiful than the way her eyes lit up when she was happy about something.

It's not like that, Sam. I just didn't want anything to happen to you!

She'd tried defending it, of course, but had he listened? No, because he didn't want to. He'd seen all he needed to, heard all he needed to, and something uncomfortable clenched in his chest. Sighing heavily, he pulled himself up from his couch. It was likely morning, but he couldn't tell. All of the blinds had been closed, and he didn't want to let any of that light in. Maybe Leraje was in, though? He was a crafty demon, and often more times than Samael could count, had let himself into the manor without so much as being noticed. Samael supposed it was because Leraje didn't like to be noticed. Not that he blamed him, really. It was easier to move, to be forgotten.

At least Leraje wasn't Lilith. Samael couldn't understand how or why they were even paired to begin with. He was almost certain it wasn't by choice, but they at least seemed comfortable with each other. Releasing a heavy sigh, Samael rolled out his shoulders and ran a hand through his loose hair before tying it back with a band. He glanced at the table next to the couch he'd been on, and pursed his lips together, retrieving the glasses there and slipping them on. He'd lost a contact last night which meant that both of his eyes were now his naturally mismatched ones.

But you're the only one I know who has eyes like that, Sam. They're beautiful!

He wasn't so sure about that.

As he headed downstairs, a flicker of a presence made itself known on the periphery of his senses, like a tiny blip on a radar or the smallest noise in a quiet forest. The minuscule flare of aura was likely intentional—Leraje was making him aware of his presence now that he'd begun to move.

Following it brought him to the kitchen, where a young-looking man with square-framed glasses was making himself a bowl of sugary cereal, pouring in a generous amount of milk, most of which would end up down the sink when he was finished, and settling himself at the small kitchen table. Rather than a suit or anything, he wore a shirt with a tan sweater-vest and neat denims that sat close to his slender frame but not right against it. Thin, spidery fingers gripped the spoon; his hair was a slightly disheveled dark shag.

When he glanced up at Samael, though, his grey eyes were sharp enough to cut.

"Samael." Leraje's diction was precise, but he had a detached, disaffected tone, like he was perpetually bored.

“Leraje," Samael replied, mimicking Leraje's tone of voice. It wasn't too hard to do, but getting it just right wasn't worth the extra effort. “You know, you could just live in the basement if you wanted to, or the attic," he stated, making his way towards his fridge. Samael knew they didn't really need to eat quite in the same way as the humans did, but he supposed there was a sort of refinement to it. A taste that he enjoyed beyond understanding.

“It's not like I'd even notice you were there," but Samael knew that was a lie. He would notice if anyone was in his manor. It wasn't their aura, or the sounds they might make, but rather, his home had a lonely feeling to it. He was the only one who occupied it unless Soleil was over to work on the cars. He had missed her the first couple of times. Maybe he should get her a phone? He'd have thought she'd buy one with the card he'd given her, but she hadn't used it, yet.

“What's new in the market?" he decided to ask.

Leraje lifted a spoonful of cereal to his mouth and ate it, the soft crunching sound audible in the quiet of the kitchen. As far as demons went, he was not one of the most intimidating, with an unobtrusive presence and an even more unobtrusive appearance. He worked directly for Bael though, which said something about his competence. Bael tended to go through underlings quickly due to a foul temper, but as far as Samael could tell, Leraje had never been in danger of demotion or dismissal.

At the question, he pointed with his spoon towards a small paper bag on the counter next to him. "Depends," he said in the same tone, apparently having ignored Samael's attempt to mimic it. "Do you want anesthetic, euphoric, or hallucinogenic?"

Samael frowned slightly at the choices. He didn't need anything to numb any pain, and he certainly didn't want a hallucinogenic. He didn't want to take a chance at accidentally seeing her. It would have been better if he could just forget, have his memory wiped completely and have a new slate to work with. That, unfortunately, wasn't how things worked. He pushed a heavy sigh through his nose as he grabbed a few eggs from the drawer.

“Don't you have anything to make memories fuzzy?" he wasn't really in the mood for anything that would make him happy. He just wanted to forget, even if it was temporary.

"Ah, amnesic. I was lumping that with anesthetic, but if you want to get specific, yes." Leraje took another unhurried bite of cereal, setting the spoon down on the napkin lined up next to the bowl and then reaching for the paper bag. "Amnesic, dulling, hm." His eyes narrowed slightly as he peered into it, then quickly withdrew two blister packs of pills. One had several flat-ish, ovular blue ones, and the other had circular white.

"One of each. Should shut off memory function for a while, and the baseline mood is nothing too euphoric. Your senses will be dulled, but no hallucinations. I've calculated both effects to last a couple of hours and end at about the same time, but let me know if that needs adjusting, or if you experience any side effects." He gave the blister packs a deft toss; they landed closer to Samael with a soft rattle.

“Alright, then," Samael replied as he glanced at the packs. “Guess I'll try them after breakfast," he stated, grabbing the packs and shoving them in his pocket for now. He grabbed one of the pans, glanced at it, and then towards the stove. He didn't cook. Usually something was prepared for him ahead of time. What the Hell was he supposed to do with the pan and the eggs? He'd seen it be done before, watched as some of the chefs came and went, but he'd never actually cooked anything on his own.

He knew how to turn the stove on, at least, and so he set it to medium high and placed the pan on one of the burners. He placed the eggs on top, after that, and turned towards Leraje. “That's how they do it, right?" he asked, slightly confused. He wasn't sure it was, but maybe Leraje knew?

"No," Leraje said simply, turning his attention back to his cereal. "You got another human, right? Why not ask her?" His tone was utterly disinterested, still, and he returned his attention to his cereal.

“Because I didn't hire her to be my fucking chef," Samael replied, pursing his lips in Leraje's direction. “You could at least try and be a little helpful. Other than with these, at least," he added, patting the pocket with the packs in them.

“Fine, be unhelpful," he sighed, turning the stove off and grabbing the nearby tablet. He'd just order something from one of the nearby restaurants. He'd get it within a reasonable time, and then he could stop thinking of her. He furrowed his brows deeply. He almost wondered what life would have been like if she had gone with him. If she'd Fallen like she had said she would. Would life be this pathetic? Would they even still be alive?

Samael had fought in the War, of course, but he wondered which side he'd have been on. Would he still have been friends with... he halted his thoughts before they could go any further, deciding that it was best to just ignore the faint twinge in his chest. “Other than bringing these with you, anything else you brought along? News, maybe?" Samael asked, knowing full well that the only news he'd get is if Bael wanted to see him for some reason.

Leraje shrugged, unbothered as always by any of Samael's moods or how he expressed them. He finished off his cereal and stood, dumping the remaining milk down the sink before putting both bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. "Nothing worth bothering about, no. I just came by to see if you'd test the product." It was hardly a question worth asking; Samael always did, and Leraje continued to develop newer and more exotic highs.

"If that one goes well I'll be combining the capsules. Lilith thinks I should call it 'Oblivion.' For the moment it's N-104 and A-12. You can tell me what suits."

Samael snorted softly. Lilith would call it that, however; he would admit that it was fitting. Shrugging his shoulders, he took a seat where Leraje had been and leaned into the chair. “It's fine for a name. She names everything and it still sells like those hot cakes they sell around the corner of Eternity Avenue," he never understood why they would name a street that. It was so... cliché. And honestly it was stupid.

Leraje wrinkled his nose faintly. "Save the judgement on that for after you've tried it. Speaking of..." He bypassed the paper bag and went to a leather messenger one instead, settled on a different, empty chair.

Withdrawing a small box of medical grade gloves, a capped needle, a syringe, and a collection tube, he rolled his sleeves up to his elbows and scrubbed down at the sink before snapping the gloves on. "Your arm, please. I'm collecting befores as well as afters for this one—I'm beginning to think you've tested enough of these that you're no longer a baseline for what other people can expect, even if your resistances should be weaker by default."

“Oh? I do love a good poking," he stated, rolling his eyes a bit. He obliged nonetheless, and rolled up his sleeves, flexing out his left arm a bit. Once he was finished flexing his arm, he moved it in Leraje's direction.

“Ready when you are," he stated, allowing a faint smirk to appear on his lips.

If Leraje caught onto the implication in the words, he gave absolutely no indication of it. He was actually somewhat similar to Soleil in the sense that he rarely allowed much of anything to ruffle his appearance. The difference was, he wasn't positively swimming with emotions under the façade. In fact, it arguably wasn't a façade at all. He just... didn't feel things strongly at all. Most demons didn't, unless it was anger or lust or amusement or something of a darker bent like that. Certainly they were not known for their pure, simple happiness or embarrassment. But Leraje didn't even seem to have those things—it was like he just never felt anything much. An emotional desert, as it were.

He tilted his head slightly at Samael's arm, then confidently slid the needle in, finding a vein without any trouble and drawing a small ampoule's worth of blood before removing the needle. The wound healed over immediately, rendering bandages or anything of the kind moot. Apparently even the needles had to be coated in a very mild dose of poison to blunt the healing factor enough to even take blood in the first place.

"Done," he said flatly, containing the needle in a plastic case and tossing it in Samael's disposal bin for specialized recycling. The ampoule went back into his bag. "You want anything else before I go?"

Samael bit down on his tongue from what he really wanted to say.

Stay a little longer.

“No, I'm good with what I have. I'll make sure to record any changes and let you know what the effects were, if any."

He would be out, hopefully, for a good few hours, maybe the whole day, if he was lucky. Anything to kill what he felt right now. Anything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


11 Abaddonus
Samael's House - Evening - Overcast
Soleil Nishant


Done.

Soleil took a step back from the engine, feeling a sense of immediate satisfaction swell in her chest. Her fuel injection system was finally done, fitted, and the only thing left was the test drive. Dusting her hands off, she settled them on her hips, just where her vest landed, and expelled a breath. It was good work. She was confident in it, especially since she'd run a few preliminary tests already. All that remained was to make sure it drove like it was supposed to, and she'd lay good money down that it would.

In a way, she was laying good money down. She didn't know what Samael would do if her custom system didn't work, but she was willing to bet it would involve the removal of her from his payroll, not to mention that card she'd never used.

The thought of her employer brought a small frown to her face. She hadn't seen him since he hired her. It shouldn't be surprising, really. That associate of his had made amply clear that this was an employment contract, and not really the amiable kind even, but... then why had he gone to all the trouble of coming out to her house to hire her? He'd done that after letting her test drive a car that she now kind of almost owned, and yet he was never around. She'd stopped announcing herself on arrival after a while, feeling too pathetic calling out to an empty house, or one whose occupant didn't care to respond. She wasn't sure which.

It didn't matter, right?

Well anyway, she should at least leave him a note or something. She had the keys and ostensibly permission to test drive, but really he should be the one to do it. She didn't feel comfortable taking the car out without him knowing about it anyway. If he wrote back and told her to specifically, she would, but she wasn't going to take that kind of chance.

Suddenly feeling a lot less pleased at her accomplishment, she crossed to the tablet on the wall and started typing out the message.

I'm done with the install. Did some tests, everything looks good. I didn't want to test drive until you'd had the chance, but if you'd prefer I do, let me know. I'll be back tomorrow and check the messages first thing.

-Soleil


She sent it, then turned to start gathering her things to leave.

“Leaving so soon?" Samael called out, his voice laced with curiosity. “And here I thought you wanted to test drive it when you were finished," he continued, moving into Soleil's field of vision. He wasn't dressed as crisp as he usually was, just donning a white button up with sleeves rolled to his elbows. His grey pants were more in the style of jogging pants, and he was wearing sandals, of all things. His hair had been tied back, but he was wearing a pair of square-rimmed glasses.

“Is it completed, though?" he asked, arching a brow in her direction.

Soleil paused in the act of donning her coat, glad her back was to him so the surprise on her face would remain unseen. It was weird, how he could just sneak up on her like that. Sometimes he was a giant flare on her sense for the unusual, and sometimes she didn't notice him at all. She wasn't sure if her instincts were buggy or what, but it was really jarring when there was nothing and then suddenly he all but slapped her in the face with his presence.

"I just messaged you," she said flatly, resuming her movement and lifting her hair away from beneath her jacket so it would fall over the outside instead of being trapped between layers. She needed to cut it; it was far too long, even if the style she kept it in made it look shorter.

Ensuring her expression was normal, she slowly turned around to face him. It was a weird mix of relief at no longer showing him her back and... something else she couldn't identify. Some weird little feeling that had all kinds of odd edges. And at least one distinct jab of annoyance at herself. She shouldn't be thinking that he looked really good in glasses. She shouldn't be thinking about how he looked or acted at all. Lilith's warning echoed across her head. He didn't want to be friends. He didn't have any reason to want anything from her but her skills. And that was how it should be.

So all this extra stuff had to stop.

"I'm confident it'll work. Besides, shouldn't you test drive it? It'll be the first 2442 Phaser on the road that works like it's supposed to."

Samael huffed slightly and shook his head. “It's fine if I'm the passenger. It's easier to tell how smoothly it'll go if someone else is driving it," he stated, waving a hand in a nonchalant fashion in front of his face. “You're the one who fixed it, after all. If you test drive it first, then you'll be able to find out if there's something else wrong, or if it's driving how it's supposed to be. I don't typically drive it, anyway," he murmured softly, furrowing his brows slightly as he did.

“Plus," he stated as if he'd suddenly remembered something. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone, one of the newer models from the looks of it. “This will be yours if all goes well. That way if something happens or is needed, I can call you or message you. It appears you haven't bought a phone for yourself yet, and you're going to need one."

Her eyes flicked briefly down to the device, and then back up to him. "Why are you doing this?" she asked, bluntly but not harshly. "I get that you want people who have the skills working on your stuff. But you've seen my house. You know I'd have jumped at this job if you'd offered me half as much, or had some goon drive out there and do it for you." She tilted her head at him, scouring his face for any hint as to his thoughts.

"People aren't kind. Not to me. But you—" She cut herself off, shaking her head. Why was she asking him this, anyway? She shouldn't be looking a gift horse in a mouth. She should be grabbing as much as she could while it was on offer, and not for a moment trusting that it would be on offer tomorrow.

Soleil dropped her eyes away, the murmur that followed at once involuntary and something she needed to say. "You're weird." It was the only way she could put the point she really wanted to get at.

You're kind, and I don't understand why. It scares me because I want to believe in it.

“Weird?" Samael stated, arching a brow in her direction and folding his arms over his chest. “I've been called many, many things, weird among them," he continued, shrugging his shoulders before dropping his arms. “And you're right about one thing," he stated, shaking his head.

“To answer your question, though, think of it this way. I've seen your place, and I've seen the lifestyle you and your sister are living. As your employer, it is my responsiblity to keep you employed and alive. I've told you before, you're skilled, perhaps moreso than the common people who would have no qualms with taking what I would have offered to them. I intend to keep that skill for as long as possible. In order to do that, I need to be able to get ahold of you if something goes wrong, and I need you to come fix it."

“Correct me if I'm wrong, but I did not see a phone at your place, and it doesn't even look like you own a car. Well, you do now, but still, that's beside the point. If you don't want what I've given you, just say the word and we can come up with a different contract, but I mostly do these things because..." he paused, something locking in his jaw before he narrowed his eyes slightly.

“That's something you don't need to concern yourself with. Any other questions or comments?"

"Right," she said softly, unable to quite clamp down on a wave of... was that disappointment? What reason did she have to be disappointed? It was like that Lilith woman had said, after all. She was here to do a job, and honestly that didn't require her to understand his reasons or know anything about him at all. Maybe he had weirdly-kind tendencies in there somewhere, but aside from the occasional random expression of them, she shouldn't expect—

Well she shouldn't have expectations. He didn't want to be her fucking friend, and she needed to get a goddamn grip on herself before she did something stupid, like show her idiotic human emotions on her face. She needed to remember her place, or whatever those stupid billboards in the Pits reminded everyone to do.

"I guess not. You said you wanted to be a passenger for this?" She jerked her chin towards the car, trying to force her feelings down and out. Empty shell, Soleil. That was the way to handle things in the moment. Just. Stop. Feeling.

He regarded her with an even stare, as if he were trying to figure something out. “Yes," he replied simply, moving towards the other side of the Phaser. “You know the drill, they won't stop you if you push past the speed limit. Don't even know why they make those things," he muttered the last part almost to himself.

“Alright, Soleil, she's all yours," he stated, patting the hood of the car before getting in.

"Sure," she said, trying to summon up some of her former enthusiasm. It was still cool, getting to drive the thing, and with her own system fully installed, no less. If she worked at it, maybe she could just... think about that. It wasn't like any of the rest mattered anyway. This was a project she'd poured dozens of work hours into in total, a brand-new thing she could probably apply to patent. Maybe if she could corner that niche market, she could—

Shaking her head, Soleil slid into the driver's seat, closing the vertical door with a click. The car started smoothly, lifting into the air smooth and easy. The garage door opened to accommodate their exit, and she guided it back towards the Outer Ring.

"Have you..." she cut herself off, then shook her head. "Never mind."

“No, no, what were you going to ask? Have I what?" he asked, glancing in Soleil's direction.

Soleil pursed her lips. It could be useful information, but it was also kind of a window into something personal, and she wasn't sure she was comfortable with that. Still... she needed to do something, and getting what dirt she could get was the first step. It wasn't like she was swimming in potential sources of it, either.

"I was going to ask if you'd heard of a guy named Zinoviev. A cambion. It's not like I think you all know each other, but..." She shrugged. "He's a nuisance and I need intel if I'm ever going to do anything about him." Maybe she could just leave it at that. He had no reason to care about her life, after all, so why would he ask anything further?

“Zinoviev? Oh, you mean Crowley's boy," Samael replied, his brows furrowing slightly. He made a slightly disgruntled noise before shaking his head. “He's all bark and no bite, that one," he continued, sighing softly, “but he's working his father's business. Which means he's likely extorting people who don't have the money to pay his ridiculous fees. Even I know that isn't the best way to acquire souls."

“Wait, how do you know Alastor? You said he's a nuisance, is he in charge of your neighborhood?" he asked, almost as if he were slightly curious and... there was something else there in his tone of voice, but it was hard to know what it was, exactly.

"I wish he was after our souls," she muttered, picking up speed on the on-ramp. So far the engine was handling everything smooth as butter, purring softly and shifting as easily as she could ask for. It really was a top-of-the-line car. Flicking the indicator, she made a flowing lane-change in front of a wheeled vehicle and accelerated further. "He's a piece of shit and I have to figure out how to handle it, is all."

Samael's brows knit together, and he pursed his lips together. It almost looked like he was pouting, but perhaps that wasn't the case? Our? What is he after, exactly?" Samael asked, seemingly intrigued, now.

“And you're not wrong; he's a little fucker who wouldn't know two shits if they slapped him in the face," he added.

Soleil was quiet for a minute. She'd almost told him right there—because he was asking. She couldn't remember the last time anyone but Luna had asked her anything of importance about herself, or her life. But—

That's something you don't need to concern yourself with.

She shook her head instead. "It doesn't matter. You have enough sense of what he's like, anyway." With a shrug, she eased her foot down on the gas, kicking the engine well up past the speed limit and shifting lanes to weave between the other cars on the road. She left plenty of room, but there was no point testing this thing unless she really put it to work.

“Fine, be that way. Keep your secrets to yourself," he muttered before reclining his seat back. “In any case, you should stay clear of him. He's extremely pushy about things, as I'm sure you know. I told you before, if anyone gave you problems, you could tell them who you worked for. Alastor would get the hint if you told him I was your employer. Crowley might have a few words to say about that, and so might Alastor, but they can both fuck off."

"They might give you problems?" She honestly wasn't sure what to do with that, or any of this. She was not going to do anything that would inconvenience him, because she understood debt as well as anyone did, and even if he'd never collect, she was in his. The salary was one thing, but everything else was tipping the ledger much too far in his direction. She'd have to find ways of making up for it, not making it worse than it already was.

Soleil wasn't quite sure what to do with... any of this. Including his demeanor.

“Problems?" Samael replied and barked a short laugh. “They could try to give me problems. The most they could do is give me a headache. They're a nagging bunch if anything, but no, they couldn't give me problems even if they tried," he almost sounded confident. He rolled his eyes, though, and huffed another short laugh.

“Why, are you worried they'd give me problems? How sweet."

"Not the word I'd use," Soleil replied, shrugging a little sullenly. Must be nice, for people like that to be nothing more than minor annoyances. She stepped wrong or too soon, even the half-demon could ruin her entire life. Or end it, for that matter.

Lights flew by overhead as the car accelerated, well past the speed limit and up into triple digits; it was made to do it, though—the speedometer went all the way to a hundred and fifty, and the engine could push a little further still. Tilting them into a curve, she tipped her head and noted no irregularities in sound; at this speed the thing would have been starting to wheeze if the old system had been left in.

“Hm, concerned and worried are basically the same word, so I don't know what other word you'd use for it," he replied in a nonchalant fashion. “Still, if you are worried about Alastor, I've given you a way to deal with him. It's just up to you whether or not you want to," he shrugged his shoulders lightly.

“How's the car driving?" he asked, apparently changing the subject.

She shook her head faintly. "Well I'm going one thirty five and you can feel yourself—smoth as silk. This is pretty much what these cars were designed to do." She felt a flicker of satisfaction at that; it ran as it should, up to its specs and even a little better, and she'd made that happen. It was good—a thing she'd be able to always have under her belt as a mechanic, and a distinction from a lot of them, especially all the ones who weren't also engineers or builders.

“Feeling it and having someone who knows what to look for telling me that it's alright are two different things. I'm not the expert here; you are," he replied, smiling a little bit before shaking his head. “But if that's the case, then I suppose you've done your job. This is yours," he stated, pulling the phone from his pocket and putting it in one of the cup holders.

“For the next two weeks, I want you to drive this Phaser to make sure that it's still running smoothly as it's intended to. Doesn't have to be every day, you're free to drive it at your leisure, but I want you to text me or call me with the updates. The key will be where the other keys are. Deal?"

He really was a weirdo. Decelerating only slightly, Soleil took an interchange to get them turned around and headed back the right way. "I can do that," she said simply. It was understandable he'd want her to be totally sure the refit had gone how it was supposed to, and that he wouldn't really want to waste his own time going along for all of that. Obviously.

"Uh. Question, though. Can I write this up? I was thinking maybe I could do a paper about the defect and the solution for one of the trade journals, but they'd want a specific serial number for proof's sake, and that means someone could, in theory, look it up and realize the car I'm writing about is yours. I don't know if you care or not, but.. I figured I'd ask. I was thinking about patenting the system, too, if it works well."

Sam blinked and arched a brow at Soleil. “I don't see why not? I'm not the one who built the system, after all. If some idiot tries to take your credit, though," he narrowed his eyes slightly before shaking his head, “just make sure that it is my car that is referenced so that that won't happen. Otherwise I don't really give a shit what you do. If you need to write the paper, you can take the computer tablet in the garage with you to do it. It has most of the stuff stored on it, anyway, right?"

"It does, yeah." She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to bring it back to her place, though. For one, it was impossible to be sure that Zinoviev's goons wouldn't break it when she dropped the latest piece of news on them. She wasn't stupid enough to think there was going to be no retaliation for it.

Shifting her hands on the wheel so they were closer to the three and nine positions, she pursed her lips, darting an aside glance at him. "If you don't mind though... I might leave it and write the thing in the workshop? I wouldn't charge for the hours, obviously, just—" Soleil shrugged.

“Not at all," he responded, perhaps, a little too quickly. He furrowed his brows and glanced out the window for a moment before continuing, “you can write it in the work shop if you'd like. You have access to it. If..."

There was a slight pause, as if he didn't quite know what to say. “If you're in the workshop for a while, you can go into the house and the kitchen to make you something to eat or just... to get out of the garage for awhile. The garage is basically part of the home so you're free to wander if you want." He hadn't quite looked back in her direction, though.

He would... let her in his house? Soleil studied his profile for a moment longer than was wise before turning her attention back to the road. There was something warm in her chest, and at the same time it felt like a lump had formed in her throat. She didn't know where the feeling had come from, or have the first lick of a clue what it meant, but she cleared her throat past it, trying and not totally succeeding to suppress the little uptick at the side of her mouth.

"Okay," she said, trying not to sound happy about it. Why should she be? "It's a deal."

There was a small smile on his face that Soleil could easily see from his side profile. “Okay, then."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


14 Abaddonus
The Pits - Afternoon - Mild
Vesper Kovacs


Vesper pulled the cruiser into the only available parking spot. It was a few meters away from where her actual destination was, but it wasn't like a small walk was going to make her tired. She could feign fatigue very well; she had to in order to keep up her semi-human appearance, and for the sake of her job, after all. She glanced at the small computer near the middle of the car, and typed a few words into it. Tartarus PD had dispatched both her and Wren to question a couple of sisters about a human who had been killed. Normally, a human's death wouldn't even warrant that kind of thing. Humans died all the time, a fact Vesper was quite aware of.

But this particular death was an exception. The human who had died had sold their soul to a demon, however; that soul had been stolen. Vesper wasn't entirely sure how questioning these human sisters was going to help them find who had stolen the soul, but it wasn't any of her business. She had a job to do, and she was going to do it. She glanced in Wren's direction, checking momentarily that she had her badge and cap before stepping out of the cruiser.

“Is there anything on file for these Nishants?" she asked, glancing towards Wren. Vesper knew there wasn't beyond the typical registration information. The oldest, Soleil Nishant, was a mechanic who worked from home. The youngest, Lunaria Nishant, was employed by Bailey Residential as a part-time secretary. They didn't have any records of any kind, and if anything, Vesper would have guessed that they'd lived mostly incognito. The two were a handful of humans who still had souls that were intact, and in their case, very ripe for most demons to take.

“The business is registered. There are also records of high school attendance for the younger sister, and a driver's license for the elder." Wren, more officially known as Officer #3284 of the new AI Division, pushed sun-blonde hair back from her face, tucking the strand behind her ear, where it remained. Her voice was only barely not toneless, certainly flat; she observed her surroundings with apparent disinterest.

“Beyond that, S. Nishant has recently opened a bank account, where she receives biweekly direct deposit checks from Lennox Enterprises." Demons always had fancy-sounding businesses, even if all they really did was let their money sit in interest-gathering accounts. It was one thing they'd taken from humans and run with.

“Lennox Enterprises?" she questioned. She knew who owned it; Samael wasn't a demon, exactly, but it was slightly interesting that he had a new employee. His last one, Nikolai Ziegler, had been the only one, however; apparently he'd disappeared. His body hadn't turned up, but Vesper wasn't going to make any kinds of probabilities as to whether he was still alive or not. She placed the cap on her head, though, making sure that the dark strands of her hair were tucked underneath it properly.

This was going to be a short visit, if anything. The sisters wouldn't likely be able to give them the information they were seeking, and Vesper was checking all of the data networks almost every ten seconds. “I guess there isn't anything too out of the ordinary with them," she stated, shrugging her shoulders lightly as they pressed on towards the Nishant's residence. It only took them fifteen minutes to reach the home, and Vesper pushed a small sigh through her nose. Glancing in Wren's direction, she lifted her hand and knocked on the door.

It took almost a full minute for the door to open, in which time Wren did... not much at all, actually. Like all of the AI officers, she was hooked into Central's information relay, and was probably using the time to peruse something there. The AI officers seemed to be bereft of feelings like boredom or impatience, in any case.

The door stuck slightly in its frame as it opened; a sharp tug un-stuck it, revealing a visage almost as blank as Wren's, this one framed by hair an even deeper black than Vesper's, and eyes such a blue they were almost violet. They flicked from one woman to the other, and their owner spoke in a dry tone.

"Officers. What could I possibly do for the wonderful TPD?" The blunt sarcasm was obvious.

Vesper knew enough of human emotions to know the sarcasm for what it was. Most, if not all, humans didn't trust the police. She had seen enough through files and current happenings to know why. Still, she had a job to do, and formed a soft smile on her lips to try and put the human at ease. It worked some of the time, but not always.

“I'm officer Kovacs, and this is my partner, officer Donahue. We are here to ask you a few questions about Jax Alby. We were informed that you and your sister knew him to some degree," she stated as formally as she knew how. “Do you and your sister have a few minutes?"

The smile seemed only to sour the woman further, but she sighed and stepped back from the door. As much invitation as they were going to get, clearly. "Luna! It's the cops. They're here about Jax."

“Wait, really?" there was a response from somewhere deeper in the home before another woman appeared. She was the complete opposite of the dark-haired woman. Her eyes were more pale, almost icy blue, and her hair was such a platinum blonde that Vesper would have mistaken it for almost ash blonde. She blinked in Vesper and Wren's direction, though, and arched a brow. Vesper recognized who they were, of course. Soleil and Lunaria's photo IDs had been uploaded into the system when Soleil registered her business, and when Lunaria became employed with the Baileys.

“We will only take a moment of your time," Vesper stated. Humans were such strange creatures, however; there was something faintly different about these two. Vesper had been around enough demons and cambions to be able to detect it in them, but the two women before her were different. She couldn't exactly say why, and it was rare that something like that happened. Perhaps she could get a blood sample from one of them and get it to Éva? It wouldn't work, though. Humans didn't just volunteer things like that.

“Why are you talking to us, though? We barely knew him," Lunaria asked.

“That's why we want to ask you a few questions. Even if you barely knew him, it is possible that you might have seen someone acting strangely around him. He might have also been close enough to you that he might have confided that his soul had been sold to a demon. Perhaps even the name of the demon he'd sold it to," she stated, watching as Lunaria's brows furrowed. Her eyes were slightly wide, though, which meant that they didn't know about that part.

“What do you mean sold his soul? Jax... he didn't mention anything like that to us," Lunaria spoke, glancing towards Soleil.

The other sister shook her head, too. "News to me," she said dully, though she didn't look at all surprised.

“Do you know if he associated with any demons at all?" Wren asked, folding her arms loosely beneath her chest where she stood.

Soleil shrugged. "No clue. Like Luna said, we barely knew the guy. Last thing we heard is that he was found—nothing about any of this soul business, and the only demon that shows his face around here is only half of one."

“Who is that?"

The woman's eyes narrowed. "Alastor Zinoviev. If you people gave a damn about stopping actual crime, he wouldn't be around here either."

Alastor was a cambion Vesper knew all too well. His father, Crowley, owned half of Tartarus PD. Most of the other officers were on his payroll, accepted his bribes, and often were at the head of the department. They didn't have much choice but to leave Alastor alone unless the PD wanted to face Crowley's wrath. Whatever that actually meant, Vesper didn't really know. She knew human emotions well, but there were still some things that she was still learning.

“Alastor Zinoviev has committed no crimes so to speak of. If you have proof of any crime he committed, you can submit it to the department for investigation," Vesper stated, momentarily leaving her voice as blank and void as Wren's.

“Is there anything else you want to ask? We already told you what we know about Jax. We hardly knew him to begin with, so what you're saying is news to us, as well. Sorry we can't be much more help than this," Lunaria stated as she glanced in Wren's direction before returning her gaze to Vesper. The most they could do was look into Alastor, however; if she did, she would have to keep it from almost everyone back at the department. If anyone knew Vesper was looking into him, they would likely tell Crowley. Vesper didn't need that kind of attention, not when she had other things to do.

“If something comes to mind," Vesper began, reaching into her back pocket and pulling one of her cards from it, “you can reach me at this number. It's my direct line so you won't have to ask them to send you to me." Vesper knew enough that they wouldn't call her. None of the humans she gave her card to, did. She offered the card to Soleil.

"Sure. Whatever you say, officer." Likely any chance they might take her even a bit seriously had gone out the window when she'd defended Zinoviev to their faces, but Soleil took the card anyway, setting it down on the counter behind her. "If there's nothing else, I'd like you to leave."

“There is not," Wren replied, literal in the way Vesper was coming to expect from her. “Good day."

“Have a good day," was the only response Vesper could give. She might not have found any useful information about Jax Alby, but she did have something new to relay to Éva.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


16 Abaddonus
Warehouse 284 - Evening - Rainy
Éva Devereaux


Éva leaned back in the rolling office chair, lifting her arms into the air and arching her back until several vertebrae popped into place. Honestly—she shouldn't feel this old at twenty-five, but an entire day in front of a monitor bank could do that to a person, she supposed.

Glancing around, she noted that most of the others had gone home for the day, which was good. The shifties would be in soon to take care of night monitoring, and the evening people would drop in to give reports and all that, but for the most part the warehouse was empty now. There were a few people, like her, who lived nearby, in another converted property, but some of these people had families and jobs to get back to, and it was important that what they did cut into that as little as possible.

With a heavy sigh, she reached for the canister of coffee she kept by her side, frowning when it proved to be empty. "Dammit," she whined, mostly to herself. The frown became a full-on pout for just a second before she sighed again and stood, staggering a little when a wave of dizziness hit her with the abrupt motion.

Wait—had she been at the console for one day, or two?

A hand reached out to help balance her out, it seemed, and was placed on her right shoulder. “You know you shouldn't be at the computer screen for so long. You need to sleep, too," it was Vincent who spoke to her. It was easy to recognize the softness of his voice when he talked. Sometimes it was almost as if he whispered because he didn't want to be too loud, or so he'd told Éva once.

“And drinking so much coffee isn't good for you, either," he continued, moving so that he was in her line of sight. His dark brows were furrowed, and Éva could easily see the concern in his crimson eyes. He always looked concerned for her, it seemed.

And of course it would be him who noticed, really. She liked to call it Vincent's Law, if only to herself: anytime she did something graceless, stupid, or awkward, a ridiculously-attractive demon with the world's prettiest eyes had to be there to witness it. Because that was just how her life worked.

She tipped her head back to make full eye contact, soft blue-green meeting with vivid red, and tried not to lean into his hand on her shoulder. Easier said than done, with her body now reminding her all at once that she'd been living on coffee and determination for... sixty hours or so. "I'm fine," she said, feeling her face heat. Ugh, why did he have to be so... so? She'd known him since she could remember—he'd known her parents and double ugh, he'd watched her being a dumb teenager and everything.

"Honestly between you and Ves it's like having parents again." She didn't consider how the words might sound—she just said them, sure it was probably what he was thinking anyway. The oldest twenty-five year old she knew, and she still couldn't manage functional adulthood. She was Polaris, for God's sake! People called her the Star of Hope.

She didn't want to know what any of them would think if they knew she was just a coffee-addicted IT nut with a bunch of misfits doing legwork for her.

He furrowed his brows deeper, but there was a small tug at the corner of his lips. It was the closest to a smile he had. “You are not fine," he replied softly, moving his hand so that he was supporting her a little better. “You've spent almost three days not sleeping," he continued, letting out a soft sigh.

“You shouldn't be pushing yourself this hard, otherwise you won't be of much help to anyone. And... it would make me worry less about you and your health," he added.

"What if I like making you worry?" she snarked back, unable to look him square in the face when he smiled. "Maybe it makes me feel all special. Warm and fuzzy inside." She drawled the words so they sounded like a joke, though really they were uncomfortably close to a truth she wouldn't let be known.

Scrunching her nose at him, she shuffled over towards the kitchen, hands and feet automatically coordinating to make a fresh batch of coffee in the pot—not that she needed to do much. For a warehouse in the middle of the Pits, the place was well-equipped, mostly by things she'd made herself. She was better with programming than building per se, but most of the things they needed around here were pretty simple in terms of actual mechanics. The console unit was by far the most sophisticated, and they'd stolen most of that for her use.

Once the machine beeped, she turned around, leaning back against the counter and crossing her arms. It made her feel warm inside that he'd bothered to follow, a little tickle in her chest that she knew only deepened the red flush over her features. Right now, though, she couldn't afford to be some moony schoolgirl.

"I've been following the TPD datastream. Doesn't look like they're any closer to us after the train thing. Crowley's starting to pressure the department directly, though—probably because Bael's heard of us now." Ves would no doubt have more to report on that. "I'm more worried about this new police initiative, though... AI? They shouldn't have anything near this advanced. Whoever's responsible did most of the work off-network, for sure. Not even a peep in any of the records we have. I thought it'd be at least another decade before Bael had workable AI prototypes, never mind half a police force."

It was a troubling development, to say the least. Androids would probably be a lot harder to fool than the mix of humans, cambions, and low-echelon demons they'd been up against so far. One wrong move and they might find themselves with their backs to the wall. Vincent could no doubt handle a dozen androids easy, Ves one or two, and Éva herself a couple if she was careful and clever, but most of the Heralds were just ordinary people with day jobs and no special skills or training.

Vincent expelled a heavy sigh through his nose, and folded his arms against his chest. “The only working AI is Vesper, correct?" it was more of a statement than a question. Vincent knew that about Vesper, having basically watched Éva for most of her life. He was quiet for a long moment, as if he were thinking about something before he shook his head lightly.

“There are a few possibilities as to how Bael was able to do that," he began, glancing in Éva's direction and holding her gaze. “Someone could have stumbled upon your family's notes, even if most of them have been destroyed, or," his brows furrowed slightly as if in concern for something. “It's possible that we have a mole in our midst."

“It is unlikely that is the case, Mr. Rhisiart," Vesper's voice cut through, straight and to the point as she usually spoke. She walked towards Éva, though, and stood at her left side. “The probability that any of these humans being a mole is very low. Most of them are as they say they are: normal humans with little to no experience in combat, but they have proven their merit."

“You speak as if humans are not fickle and are incapable of deception," Vincent retorted, but it was light and it seemed he meant nothing by it. “Demons are the same way; it's one of the many things we share in common with them," he continued.

"Hey, Ves," Éva said, a little belatedly. All three of them tended to bypass pleasantries for different reasons, but she was the one who most often remembered them.

The possibility of a mole wasn't a pleasant one, but Éva wasn't stupid. It was a real one. The only people she could trust for sure were the ones right here, and neither of them was human at all. She sighed, running her hands down her face, then back up, pushing a few of the dyed-pink strands away from her eyes. "I'll have to look into it," she said. It felt kind of dirty, tracking her own people like some kind of spy. But if someone was a mole, financial records and the like would tell the story clear enough.

"But for now, I think we should operate on the assumption that freaking Hell Incorporated over there somehow developed this independently. If mom and dad could figure out how to do it, so could someone else, in theory." Her parents had been geniuses, the Da Vincis of an age. But that left plenty of room for Newtons or Leibnizes or Shelleys or Michelangelos.

"Anyway. What's the word?" The coffee machine behind her beeped as she inquired after Vesper's report, and she turned, pouring herself a cup and doctoring it with milk and sugar. She could and did drink it black sometimes, but usually only in the middle of a marathon at the console, when she needed the extra bitterness to help her stay awake.

“Drinking so much coffee is detrimental to your health, Ms. Devereaux," Vesper stated first as she regarded Éva with a flat look. “Tartarus PD has diverted some of its resources towards looking for the demon responsible for taking off with a soul that belonged to Crowley. The human whose soul was stolen kept company with rather interesting humans," she replied. Vincent regarded Vesper with a lightly arched brow. He wasn't very expressive, but there were small subtle changes that could be detected.

“Interesting, how?" he asked. Vesper glanced in his direction for a moment before she shrugged her shoulders. She'd learned how to do that in order to express that she didn't actually know.

“They appear mostly human, but they are not, however; they are not cambions, either," Vesper replied. Vincent tilted his head curiously, and furrowed their brows. “Nor are they demons. I cannot find any records that might help explain it, but it is clear that they different."

“Are you certain?" Vincent asked as Vesper nodded her head.

“As for Bael and the train situation, they are investigating rumors but they are not at all close to finding this location. Bael does know that the rebellion exists, but it is unclear what his next course of action is going to be."

Interesting humans, huh? Éva wasn't totally sure what to make of that—she was a completely normal, garden-variety human herself. Sometimes all of this felt a little too big for her, honestly. "Huh. Maybe I should meet them sometime, then," she mused. She was always looking for good help, and she knew better than most that as much as the heart of this rebellion was human... the more of an edge they could get over the demons at the other side of this, the better.

"But for now anyway... we need to do something else. We're on people's radar now, but Bael's suppressing the news again." She frowned, taking a large gulp of her coffee. "I can't help but think he's up to something. I don't know what, but I feel like he'd be coming down a lot harder on us if he wasn't."

Vincent huffed a soft laugh at the statement. “I don't think we've made him angry enough, yet," he stated, placing his thumb and forefinger at his brows. He rubbed them softly before dropping his hand away and glancing towards Éva. “Blowing up the tracks wasn't sufficient enough to incur his wrath, but if we continue and hit harder, he won't be able to suppress the news for much longer. The one thing about humans is that they talk. Talk is more effective," he continued.

“Bael's plans I would presume would be carefully guarded. I presume anything that is of the utmost importance to him is kept offline, and stored either in physical files, or in journals. You know how easy it is for networks to be hacked nowadays, and Bael has been smart enough thus far," Vesper stated as she closed her eyes for a second.

“Either way, we are no closer to knowing if Bael is planning anything. If he were planning something, it is also possible that he's entirely focused on it, and does not care much for what we are doing. We need to make a bigger commotion, do something big enough to draw his attention away from his planning. It was the one flaw I remember him having," Vincent stated, slightly narrowing his eyes as he glanced towards the floor.

Éva hummed softly. Talk was well and good, and they'd be relying on it, but when the state controlled the news, talk could start to sound how the demons wanted it to sound, no matter what they did. The was pretty sure the government media people could make saving a bunch of orphans sound like a heinous crime if they wanted, and what they did... wasn't exactly saving orphans. There was real danger involved, sometimes for innocent people. Éva did everything she could to minimize that. Of course she did. But Bael didn't care about collateral damage in trying to stop them, not when he could easily blame them for it and further his own cause by doing so.

With another gulp of coffee, she shook her head. "Well, we're okay on supplies for a while. I think it's time to do something flashier than ensuring our own survival." In spite of her concern, she felt a slow smile stretching across her face.

"You know that big statue of himself Bael's having built in the Civic Center? I think I'd like it better in pieces."

There was a soft snorting sound coming from Vincent, almost as if he were trying to suppress a laugh. “Pieces? I think it's something we can manage. It would send the message loud and clear, and Bael is vain enough that it'll work at making him angry," he stated, that same subtle smile appearing on his face.

"That's the idea," she said, her shoulders scrunching a little in delight. It was absolutely the first and most important item on her bucket list to make Vincent laugh. As long as she'd been alive, she hadn't heard the sound—not real laughter, easy and free and genuine in its delight. She got a little close sometimes, like now, and that was a shot of adrenaline more potent than a triple espresso. But it wasn't quite there yet.

She winked, though, and turned her attention temporarily to Ves. "Thanks for the update. Find out what you can about this whole AI police force thing, okay? I want to know as much as I can about them—it can't hurt, and best case I might be able to wrangle a way to shut their bodies down without harming their consciousness, and move them somewhere else."

To Éva, AIs were people. She couldn't think any different, not when Ves had practically raised her.

“Understood, Ms. Devereaux," Vesper replied as she nodded her head. “Do you want me to keep an eye on the other two humans as well? It might prove difficult seeing as they do not trust the PD, but if you want me to, I will do it."

Éva shook her head. "I don't want to spook them. Leave that part to me; I can snoop a lot without them even knowing." Finishing off the cup of coffee, she set the mug down on the counter and cracked her knuckles.

Time for some searching.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


20 Abaddonus
Shelter #309 - Afternoon - Sunny
Lunaria Nishant


Luna sighed softly, glancing at the wooden boards that lay off to the side. It wasn't easy coming up with the money to buy them, nor was it easy coming up with the money to buy the soil and seeds, but damn it if she hadn't been persistent. With Soleil's new job, Luna had been able to save a little more of her own check. It wasn't a lot, but it had been enough with some help with Ravi and Kato donating what they could. Kasey wasn't able to do much at all since her child came down with a fever. Without access to a proper doctor, her child required what little money Kasey made and her time.

It was partially the reason why Luna was currently at the shelter alone. Kato had something to do with his cousin's construction company, and Ravi had to pull extra hours at his job. Hours he wasn't going to be paid for. There weren't a lot of people around, maybe four at most, and part of Luna wondered if it was because something had happened to them. It wasn't unusual for someone to disappear, especially if that person was homeless. It made her insides feel like they were tied in knots. Sighing softly, she pushed the thoughts out of her mind and made her way towards the boards. She'd borrowed one of Soleil's hammers and a few of her other tools with the promise that she would be very careful with them.

Luna had worked with them a couple of times to know how to handle them, and it wasn't like she'd borrowed any of Soleil's advanced stuff. Luna knew she couldn't handle that stuff, and she really didn't want to bring out the more expensive kind. As much as she wanted to believe that people were decent and good, the area she was in wouldn't provide that comfort. Still... she needed to build these planter boxes. Pushing a sigh through her nose, she made her way towards the pile.

“Alright, Luna, you can do this. It's just a large square, right? How hard can that be?" she stated to herself.

Turns out it was a little more difficult than she'd thought it was going to be.

She was in the middle of trying to figure out where she went wrong nailing two boards together at the corners when a throat cleared behind her. "Far be it from me to assume, but... need a hand?"

The rolling bass could only belong to one person she knew, and indeed Mick was behind her, bereft of his usual long, heavy coat. In its place he wore a thinner jacket of wool or something similar that fell a little short of his knees, over a thick oatmeal-colored sweater and a reddish scarf. "I'm all for letting people do things themselves, but... you might ruin the lumber if you try too many ways is all."

She blinked slowly in his direction. “No, no," she began, lifting the hammer in his direction, “please help. I'm not the builder in the family and I have no idea what the Hell I'm actually doing. I don't want to ruin the lumber if that's all I'm going to do. I tried looking up a schematic for something like this that was simple, but I couldn't find anything."

Luna wasn't skilled in building things like Soleil was. She tried, but in the end she left it to Soleil. She also didn't want to ruin the wood since it wasn't guaranteed that she'd be able to afford more. She wanted to get this planter box finished as quickly as possible so that they could start planting the seeds before next Mammona.

Mick nodded, accepting this readily enough, it seemed. "Trying to make planter boxes?" He moved to the wood pile, withdrawing his hands from his pockets and beginning to sort the timbers into three piles, by length it seemed. "How many do you want?"

“Trying is the keyword there," she replied, frowning slightly before nodding her head. “I don't think we have quite enough to make three," she began. Three would have been ideal. She had at least four different vegetable seeds: carrots, cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes. She wasn't entirely sure how they would all fare together, but she knew it could be feasible.

“How many do you think we can get? I don't have a saw or anything, but we could probably figure out a way to cut the boards, and then sand down the edges so that they'll work," she stated. She only had two sheets of sandpaper, though, so it would have to be precise. Otherwise they'd just waste the wood.

Mick finished sorting and rose back to his full height, considering the piles in front of him. "It's not number that's the problem so much as area," he said. "We could make five with this; they'd just be small. So how big did you want each to be? What are you planting? That'll tell us how deep they need to be, too—some stuff needs a lot more room."

“Well..." she began, trailing off slightly. “I only have four types of vegetable seeds right now. I have carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, and potatoes. I know tomatoes are vine fruits, and they'll need some room to grow." She just wasn't so sure about the other seeds. Carrots might require some room, too, but she wasn't sure.

“I do plan on getting more seeds, though. I want there to be a variety of food for everyone to get. They might be able to do with potatoes for awhile, but the other three won't last as long. Cabbage will rot fairly quickly, and tomatoes bruise very easily." Potatoes, at least, were a little more sturdy. Carrots were another thing, though. It was a hit or miss with them.

Mick clicked his tongue against this teeth. "They're going to need more than room," he said, referring to the tomatoes. "The vines are going to need stakes or a lattice to grow up, and that means more wood." He crosses his arms over his chest, contemplating the pile. "Since you don't have a saw, I think we're going to have to limit it to two boxes. The vegetables should be mixed in each, anyway—they all take different mounts of different stuff from the soil so that's the smart way to do it in any case."

"All right. We're going to split each of these piles in half. Do you have a drill or screwdriver, or just the hammer?"

“I brought just the basics," Luna replied, glancing towards the table where the food pot was. “There's the screwdriver, the flat head, pliers, extra nails and screws, the hammer," she listed off the things she'd brought with her. “I couldn't take the drill, so I have to make do with the screwdriver and hammer."

She didn't trust herself with the drill, even if she'd be fine if she messed up. It was more a concern that she'd end up breaking it, and she really didn't want to do that. “Which ones do we need?" She honestly wasn't sure if she'd actually need all of those, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

Mick considered this a moment longer. "All right, uh... pull the screwdriver, the sturdiest screws you have, the hammer and nails, and I think that'll probably do for now. A saw would have been nice, but at least the boards are pretty evenly-sized."

The two of them got to work. Mick mostly asked Luna to hold things in place for him while he worked; he shed his coat and rolled up the sleeves of his sweater to do it, pulling his hair back into a low tail with a rubber band. His hands were steady, and it seemed like he must have done this before, or something similar, because aside from a few pauses here and there to assess their progress, he didn't seem to have any difficulty working without plans or blueprints or anything like that.

A couple hours later, they had two large planter boxes, both of them solid and sturdy, as well as enough leftover wood to build something to support the growing tomatoes.

"You'll want to plant those in the back," he said. "Honestly, the weather and climate aren't idea for growing things, around here, but if you're careful about soil and sunlight you'll be able to get some of everything, at least."

He wasn't wrong; growing things without the proper conditions wasn't easy. Most of the food that was grown nowadays was done so in controlled environments. Ones that were owned by demons and controlled by the humans they employed. She smiled, though, and nodded her head.

“Thanks for the help, Mick," she stated. “And for the suggestion. I wouldn't have been able to do this without either." She wouldn't have been able to think of something like this, at least not in the way that they would have needed to help them. Now... hopefully more people could be fed, and wouldn't have to go hungry for too long. If they could mange this well, keep the produce from being destroyed, there could be a real chance that most of the malnourished people would be able to get healthy. To have enough food in their stomach that they wouldn't have to go hungry at night.

“I owe you for this, really. This will help a lot of people as long as we can maintain it."

He shifted, then shrugged, rolling his sleeves back down. "You don't owe me," he said bluntly. "I did it because I felt like it, is all." Picking up his jacket, he shook it off a few times. Oddly the scent it wafter towards her was fresh, like a summer afternoon—clean air, sunlight, something a little woodsy and something a little citrus.

Donning it, he left the buttons undone. "Anyway, guess I'll be off then."

He really was a hard one to make conversation with, wasn't he? She'd noticed it when she'd went to the building the Baileys wanted her to inspect. He'd been... a little reluctant but the fact that he still helped her not once, but twice was enough to at least earn Luna's respect. She just didn't want to let it bother her, even if he did seem a little peeved. Crabby he might have been, but Luna supposed that she and Soleil might have been the same way if they'd still lived on the streets.

“You don't have to go, you know," she stated. She wasn't entirely sure what he did or who he might spend time with, but Luna knew that most people were often solitary. They didn't like being in the company of others. “I might not be the best company, but... well, sometimes it's nice to not have to be alone."

If it wasn't for Soleil, Luna wasn't entirely sure what she would have done. She would be the first to admit that she didn't want to be alone, and she was fairly lucky she had Sol. These people, though... they didn't have anyone like Sol. They had each other, sure, but... well, Luna wasn't sure if it was the same. Mick didn't have to stay if he didn't want to. It's not like she could force him to, and she wouldn't. If he wanted to leave, that was his decision, but she just wanted him to know he didn't have to.

He gave her a look she couldn't immediately read. His face tended to always have a certain kind of... irritated look to it, and with his hair still tied back it seemed somehow more obvious than usual, the rough, sharp planes of his face even more prominent. His eyes were... hard. It wasn't an unfamiliar look, out here, but somehow he wore it differently than just about anyone else.

"It's not you," he said after a long moment, shrugging those massive shoulders again. "I'm no good at being company anymore, is all."

She wasn't entirely sure why she smiled, but she did. “I don't think that's true, but that might just be my own opinion," she stated. “It might have been awhile since you last had a chance to be good company, but no one ever really forgets. It might just take a little longer than people might want to put the effort into."

“But if you ever feel like you want company or just need another presence, I'll do what I can to be there. I'd say you know where to find me, but that's kind of obvious already." Luna couldn't explain why she felt like she wanted to be someone he could trust. Maybe it was the look in his eyes, or maybe it was something else. Luna didn't know because she knew that trusting people was hard. Soleil was the only person she trusted, but... for some reason Mick seemed like someone she could trust too.

Or maybe it was because her bleeding heart wanted to trust other people, even if she knew it wasn't a good idea.

"Yeah," he said, and there was something thoughtful in the tone, almost assessing, but it was something else, too, harder to pin down. "I guess I do."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant Character Portrait: Samael Lennox Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

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#, as written by Aethyia


26 Abbadonus
Nishants' House - Afternoon - Light Snow
Soleil Nishant


Soleil hummed quietly to herself. There was something about snow that made the world seem quieter; she didn't really mind it, but she also just... well, she wasn't sure. She thought she might be in a good mood, but she wasn't exactly in-tune with her own emotions, and she knew this about herself. So she didn't spend too long trying to figure it all out or anything.

At the moment, she was actually working on a small speaker system she'd bought from the pawn shop. They was cheap because they weren't working right, but the quality of them wasn't bad. Normally, she'd never have bought something so extraneous, but she had a salary, now, and liked the idea of being able to pipe music into the workshop while she was working on something else. Soleil had never really been able to listen to much music, and consequently, she knew nothing about it.

But she had a phone now, capable of reaching radio stations or streaming services, so... maybe she could learn a bit more. Most likely she'd forget it was on if she got really into something, but she didn't always do that.

Popping the rear panel off one of the speakers, she tilted her head down at the mess of wires inside. "All right, little guy, what's your malfunction?"

It wasn't long before the faint chime of the doorbell could be heard. It wasn't Luna; she was at one of the places she volunteered at, and wouldn't be home until later on in the evening. Whoever it was, didn't announce themselves until they'd entered the garage where Soleil was working. Alastor was dressed a little differently today. His suit was a dark red, dark enough that it could easily have been mistaken for black. His pants were the same color, however; the dress shoes he wore were white. His hair had been tied back into a low tail, but the tie around his neck was the same color as the suit.

“Ah, it seems my little moon is missing. Shame," he stated, his eyes wandering around the garage. “I would have liked for the both of you to be here," he added, smirking slightly when his eyes landed back on Soleil. “I suppose I can settle for the little sun, today. There is something that needs to be addressed since my little sun seems to have acquired a rather affluent benefactor."

Settle for, huh? Well, he wasn't wrong. She wasn't exactly her sister, and she never had been. It was obvious just looking at them—honestly Soleil thought that whatever they were named, the sun and moon thing was just... off. Not on Luna's end, but her own. She wasn't sunlike in any sense, even metaphorical, that she could name. She really didn't understand his compulsion to 'employ' her as well as Luna, but whatever. At least it kept them both in the same boat and didn't give her sister any ideas about sacrificing herself for Soleil's sake.

She blinked at him, putting on her best blank pokerface. "You know you're supposed to wait for someone to answer the door before letting yourself in, right?"

Luna's current absence meant she didn't feel quite as much need to be careful how she spoke, not that she was any good at that in the first place.

Alastor arched a brow in her direction. “Did you forget that I owned this neighborhood?" he retorted, his face smoothing out to something a little more flat than amused. “Technically I do not have to wait for someone to answer the door to a building that belongs to me." He waved a hand in a nonchalant fashion in front of himself, though, before pushing out a small sigh.

“Regardless of the fact, starting next month, your base fee is going up," he stated, perhaps to remind Soleil of the price increase next month. Fifty dollars would put their protection fees at three hundred per person, however; there was a subtle smirk on Alastor's face. “The new price will be five hundred per person. Every month after next will be an added one hundred dollars per person and will continue to increase."

She wanted to remind him that he did not in fact own her house; she'd purchased it from the city herself, and it was her name on the paperwork, regardless of how entitled he felt to it. But she had more pressing issues—namely, the fact that he was clearly extorting her.

"Did it occur to you that perhaps my 'affluent benefactor' might not much care for the fact that you seem to think you own me?" Her voice was still flat, as bored as ever, save the way her eyes narrowed. She didn't want to do this—didn't want to invoke Samael's name. It felt too much like leaning on him for protection, and Soleil Nishant had always, always protected herself. No one had wanted to do it before, even when she was just a child, and so she'd learned to do it herself, and for her sister, too.

But what other choice did she have? She had plenty of pride, maybe. But this situation was just... beyond her ability to handle. Zinoviev was backing her into a corner. And like any animal in the same situation, she was going to use whatever she had at her disposal to get out of it.

“Oh, but I do own you," he stated, a sly smirk appearing on his face. “The fact that you pay me protection fees is proof of that. I might not employ you, but I do own you. The things I could do with the both of you, though, regardless," he trailed off a bit to let the implication sink in.

Prove it, you sick son of a bitch. It wasn't a sense of self-preservation that stopped Soleil from actually speaking the words. She had little enough of that left, apparently. But despite the fact that everything he said disgusted her, she couldn't let her emotions control her reaction. She had to stay coolheaded and rational. So while her jaw tightened and one of her hands curled into a fist under the table, she used the other to remove the plastic card from her pocket.

A deft toss landed it on his side of the table, right side up. "I don't know him very well, but I suspect he'd disagree. Like I do."

His eyes followed the card as she tossed it at him, eyes narrowing slightly as he seemed to read the name on it. There was something momentarily unreadable on his face, something that looked like anger and confusion all in one go, however; he simply glanced back to her.

“And what do you think this is supposed to do?" he asked, picking up the card between his forefinger and thumb. “You think Samael can protect you, is that it?" he continued, the arch in his brow smoothing out.

“Or are you threatening me, Soleil Nishant?" he asked, tossing the card back in her direction. “If that's the case, need I remind you of who I am and what I am capable of? Samael might be protecting you, but that's as far as his protection goes. I know him well enough," he began, his lips pursing into a fine line. “Your sister is at that pathetic excuse of a shelter, is she not? I need only to make a phone call..." he trailed off, his eyes narrowing in Soleil's direction.

"You lay one finger on her and I'll rip off your dick and feed it to you."

Apparently, she had a limit to what she could tolerate. It occurred to Soleil that Luna was probably a moderating influence when she was present, but otherwise just the opposite. "I'm not afraid of you, Zinoviev. I put up with you for her sake. You hurt her even one tiny bit and I won't have a reason to. And I won't need Samael's help. That's a threat."

“Oh, she does have a weakness," Alastor stated, smirking somewhat. “And it also seems she has emotions. Albeit explosive ones, but they are there regardless." If he was at all fazed by her statement, he didn't show it. Instead, he clicked his tongue behind his teeth and shook his head.

“We'll see about that," he stated, narrowing his eyes at Soleil. “You should take my offer, Nishant. For now, enjoy your freedom because you won't have it for very long. Of that, you can be assured."

"And yet I still have it," she replied, still nearly toneless. "Kindly leave my house before I'm too much more tempted to retrieve my shotgun. I wouldn't trust much to my patience. As you can see, I'm a little emotional right now, and we humans are ever so inclined to poor judgement when we get like that."

Get out, get out, get out! She wanted him gone—now.

The smirk grew into a broad grin. “It's what makes humans so interesting," was the only reply he gave. “I will leave, but not because you are so adamant about it. I have things to discuss with a certain someone. In the mean time, do take care of yourself, Nishant. You and your sister are far from done dealing with me." With that, he made his way back towards the front of the building, the chime of the door signaling that he'd left.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Soleil slumped into the stool, picking up the card and staring sightlessly at the front of it. It had been the last resort she didn't even want to use, and it... it hadn't even done anything. She hadn't missed the look that crossed Zinoviev's face—he wasn't any more fond of Samael than Samael seemed to be of him. And yet...

What was she supposed to do now? They'd had time, before. Time to think of something and money to buy that time. But somehow, that fucker had gotten wind of her new job, and now she was back to square one, with no plan for dealing with him. How was she supposed to? She was one human, and even if he was a young, pretty terrible crime boss, he was still a crime boss, and had plenty of people protecting him. Not that she'd actually kill him—Soleil wasn't a good person, but she wasn't a murderer, either. The shotgun was loaded with rock salt, for fucksake.

Leaning down, she pressed her forehead to her workbench. The pressure on her nose helped her hold back the stinging sensation that threatened. She did not cry. Soleil hadn't cried since the day she woke up alone with her sister and no memory of the days before. She'd been nine, maybe ten. She wasn't going to spill her first tears in twenty years over Alastor fucking Zinoviev, even if he was a creep and an asshole. Even if everything in her life that even started to look like it might be going right crashed and burned.

Before she knew it, she'd reached for her phone, pulling up the only number registered in it.

Hey do you

What the hell was she doing? He didn't care about her problems, and she couldn't rely on him to solve them. She was his fucking mechanic, for God's sake.

Soleil went to delete the message, but, unfamiliar with the device's layout, accidentally hit 'send' instead. Shit. Hurriedly, she typed out another.

Never mind.

There was a ding from her phone, not more than a few seconds later, which was enough to alert her that she had a message. Do I what? it read.

It felt, suddenly, like her heart had jumped up into her throat. Dread? No, it didn't seem to be that, but she had no idea what it was instead. Only that it felt a little like the moment before she made a jump she wasn't sure she could clear, something she'd done a lot as a kid, making an escape over rooftops instead of on street level.

Sometimes, she'd almost thought she could fly.

It's nothing.

She paused a moment. He... deserved a better answer than that, right? It was almost a flat out lie, and she didn't lie to people. Just

Now what? She didn't want to complain or seem to be asking for his help. What was he supposed to do anyway? He was already too generous. But some part of her did want to tell him anyway. Maybe if she just... said that?

Don't interpret this as me asking for anything, okay?

She waited after that, hoping maybe for some kind of agreement before she had to figure out how to put it.

You could if you wanted the first message read. What is it that's bothering you? the second message read, coming through five seconds later.

She could if she wanted? The knot in her throat was suddenly hard to swallow past; she sniffed. Idiot. Whether the bigger one was him or her was up for debate.

I was having a good day, fixing this sound system she started, pausing to take a picture of the opened speaker with her phone in case he was interested. Once she'd sent it, she continued. And then Zinoviev showed up. He found out somehow. That I had a new job, that was paying me well. Now he's demanding a credit a month, increasing.

She hesitated. That really did sound like she was asking for something. Shaking her head, she continued. It's so stupid. Like what kind of petty asshole bothers two people in particular this much, you know? I tried what you suggested, but... it didn't change anything.

It was a couple of minutes before he actually responded back. She could see the little dialogue bubble appear, meaning he'd been typing for those couple of minutes, but the first message he sent her was short. He's a prick who doesn't know how to take no for an answer.

Don't pay his fees next month. I'm going to have a talk with Crowley and Alastor.

There was a third message a couple of seconds later.

Oh, and I'm not doing it because you're asking me. I'm doing it of my own volition.

Soleil pulled in a breath—sharp enough to be a gasp, she realized distantly. I don't Deciding that was the wrong way to start that sentence, she went to backspace, but accidentally hit enter again.

Ugh, stupid send button. Hoping that would explain it, she added quickly. I don't know a lot about this, but doesn't Crowley run the police? Please don't stick your neck out because of me.

She paused for a full thirty seconds before scraping together the courage to send the message she'd originally meant to.

[i]I don't want you to get hurt.


Her breath hissed between her teeth as she forced it out. "God, I'm a fucking idiot."

He owns the police, yes. The first message read.

But the police don't answer to just him. I'm not going to get hurt because of some stupid little fucking half-demon and his dad who think they can just... the message seemed like it cut off before he'd finished, but the next message didn't suggest so.

It'll be fine. Don't worry your pretty little head about dear ol' Sam. There was a small image that looked like a smiley face that followed the message.

Absurdly, the weird yellow smiley caused the same expression on her own face; she huffed softly. I mean, I wasn't going to mention the old part, but since you said it, make sure not to pull a muscle or have a stroke or something, okay?

Just for you.

Thanks for thinking of me, Sam.

She figured that served just as well as a bit of banter as an expression of her true sentiments. The fact that it could be the first let her say it, but she found herself hoping he'd understand the real meaning of it, too.

Always.

That one managed to catch her a little off-guard, and she felt, of all things, heat rising to her cheeks. Always like... always thinking of her? No—no, that was stupid. Completely stupid and obviously not what he meant.

"Get a grip, Soleil," she said aloud.

Fine. This was fine. And it seemed like a perfectly good end to the conversation, even if it left her somehow wanting to say something more. Maybe enough to push that message up far enough that she wouldn't be able to read it and remember her embarrassing momentary misinterpretation and the massive ego necessary to have made it. Shit, she was Soleil Nishant. The only people who thought about her with any regularity were her sister and apparently Zinoviev, gross as that was.

Grimacing, she hit the button to darken her phone screen. Maybe she could salvage this speaker system and her day at the same time.

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Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant
Character Portrait: Michael Asmund
Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
Character Portrait: The Nine Circles

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Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
The Nine Circles

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Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
Samael Lennox

"Everyone has a price... everyone."

Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
Lunaria Nishant

"There's more to life than this... there has to be."

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund
Michael Asmund

"Don't suppose you could spare some change?"

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant
Soleil Nishant

"...look, if it's not about engine parts or the plumbing, I've got nothing."

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Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
Lunaria Nishant

"There's more to life than this... there has to be."

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund
Michael Asmund

"Don't suppose you could spare some change?"

Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
The Nine Circles

[ Codex of Information ]

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
Samael Lennox

"Everyone has a price... everyone."

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant
Soleil Nishant

"...look, if it's not about engine parts or the plumbing, I've got nothing."

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Character Portrait: The Nine Circles
The Nine Circles

[ Codex of Information ]

Character Portrait: Lunaria Nishant
Lunaria Nishant

"There's more to life than this... there has to be."

Character Portrait: Samael Lennox
Samael Lennox

"Everyone has a price... everyone."

Character Portrait: Michael Asmund
Michael Asmund

"Don't suppose you could spare some change?"

Character Portrait: Soleil Nishant
Soleil Nishant

"...look, if it's not about engine parts or the plumbing, I've got nothing."


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Last major bastion of civilization on the material plane

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