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Post by rat king (em) on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:04 pm

as soon as the deal goes south valentine throws up a wall around micah, puts her weight behind it. they’re outnumbered but they’re always outnumbered. one day they will have a single fucking meeting that doesn’t end with blood on valentine’s knuckles or a gun in her face. today is not that day. valentine draws her gun, modded almost beyond recognition, and wills the fire-branded luck that has followed her and micah this far to carry them on through.
when the first bullet hits her it burns through her like lightning and she pushes out a burst of energy blindly, staggers backwards. a grin splits her face out of habit- never let them see you bleed. when the second bullet hits valentine she pushes harder. feels her knees hit the pavement and then nothing at all.

Micah’s breath leaves her and she falters, forgets for a moment the hard jaw and strong nose she’s wearing and feels her face break into a grimace around them as she steps in front of Valentine, away from the wall of energy she feels fading in front of her with Valentine’s concentration. “You’ve done enough,” she spits, knowing she will hate herself for this later, knowing the show of defeat will bruise their reputations, knowing that Valentine is more important to her still and that, more practically, she has no chance of resolving this positively with her friend down, and down hard. “Enough,” she says again, testing her stance in case they decide that it has not been enough. “Forget it.”
They leave, laughing and darkly radiant in their triumph. Micah winces — the consequences of this will not be pretty.
But there is more immediate damage to attend to. She shoves her own gun through the back of her belt and drops to her knees beside Valentine, feeling with adrenaline-slick fingers for her neck with its webwork of blackened veins. Finding the pulse, she digs in the pockets of her coat for anything, opens an entire package of Kleenex and presses it hard against the worse of Valentine’s wounds. “You awake?” she asks, half-hopelessly; Valentine is rarely — very rarely — felled. “I’m going to — take you somewhere, okay? We’ll find somewhere.”

“sorry," valentine chokes and splutters, then: "no hospitals,” reality is sloshing hard against the inside of her head, or her brain is, or black waves crashing on rocks, fuck is it raining, slipping in and out of her grasp with her vision. dark then white-hot knives. she feels herself expanding out and up. the universe flashes code spiraling on top of code on code on bad bad broken code. there is an anchor heavy on her chest keeping her tethered to the ground and she heaves against it. sees the strange business-doing face micah is wearing through a too long tunnel. there’s an echo. the waves beat harder.

Micah nods, breathes "No hospitals," and shifts Valentine so she lies fully on her back as carefully as she can, then stands to heave her upright and maneuver her gracelessly so she's leaning against Micah's back with her arms thrown forward over her shoulders, Micah holding tightly to her wrists. Her mind shudders but forges forward, sifting efficiently through catalogues of information: medics and shamans whose names they have collected, their proximity and projected willingness to help, how many are currently indebted to them (none) and how many ask prices too steep to summit with the pair's current resources and abilities (all). Some she could bargain with, surely, but for an old contact to see Valentine in her vulnerable state could spell destruction for both of then — the dissolution of connections that they have worked so hard to grow and maintain and which they'll sorely need in the time to come, especially if their deals keep turning out like this.
But they haven't all been bad, she reminds herself as she begins walking as quickly as she can (somewhere, anywhere) with Valentine's weight on her back and her feet dragging against the pavement. In fact, many have been startlingly successful, considering they were led by a couple of backstreet basically-kids with Frankenstein guns and too much guts for their own good. They will need the priceless connections if they'd like to keep it that way. So desperation scrapes her memory for an answer and finds one: a biologist, if she correctly recalls, whose magic has something to do with molecular rearrangement, with growth.
How fitting. Micah works on her face as she walks, thinks fierce and firm — stronger brows, square chin — but elegant enough to be respected: high cheekbones and straight nose. Muscles burn around screaming bones but she reminds herself of what Valentine is feeling and pushes herself taller too, though God knows how far she'll get before they reach the lab to which she now navigates by guesswork and memory. Her shoulders ache and she cranes her neck to see Valentine, cursing the steps that jostle her body and the bright blood everywhere. At least the lab should be blessedly nearby.

When Valentine and Micah arrive in the lab, she doesn't notice at first. Her back is to them as she inspects cell cultures with her headphones in. Then, she turns around.
"What the fuck?! What?" Even as she is startled, a row of shining golden symbols appears on her face- an eye. The dots that represent their pupils roll madly and Valentine's wounds stop bleeding.
"What happened to her?" In her panic, she doesn't wonder why they are here instead of a hospital.

"we had," micah says, breathing heavily as she leans against the nearest table, "an altercation." her shoulders ache like fury. with valentine still behind her, the cessation of her bleeding goes unnoticed. "can you heal her? i don't know if the bullets are still inside... i've heard you're a biologist with magic that allows you to manipulate flesh," thinking through her fog of exhaustion and raw, pounding worry that that's been confirmed by whatever the doctor was inspecting moments prior and the strange golden vision that flared as if in alarm when they entered.

valentine's head jerks back as everything rushes into sharp focus all at once, the searing pain in her side and her shoulder, her head pounding, going down in front of micah, aw fuck, "boss-" she starts, and grits her teeth hard around the scream that tries to follow. it comes out a whine, high and strained. this isn't the first time valentine has been hurt on the job but it's the first she's failed this badly and the regret and the fury overpower her pain for an instant. she tries to take her own weight and crashes backwards into a wall.
they're in some sort of lab and for an instant valentine thinks micah has brought them to a hospital despite all the danger and fight-or-flight (broken. bad response. protocol: fight) surges up but. ah. the biologist they'd been eyeing as a supplier. the way her magic manifests is so startling & beautiful it's almost hypnotic to valentine in her half-lucid state and her eyes start to roll back. her legs fold beneath her and she goes down, bringing a tray of instruments from the nearby table she makes a grab for with her and they all hit the floor with a clatter. "shit." she fades back into the heaviness of her mind again.

Wordlessly she turns around and begins grabbing things from shelves. The first is a needleless syringe, which she presses to Valentine's neck.
"Goodnight" She croons, and guides Valentine's body to the floor. The sharp gaze of her real pale eyes turns to Micah.
"I remember her...she and some other kid sold me these" She points to one of the things she grabbed- heavy, rough, black iron bracelets meant to amplify psychic powers.
"She told me I will owe you when I came up short and I guess this is what she meant"
She turns and takesoff her labcoat to slide the iron spiral onto her disturbingly thin arms. She then grabs a few other odds and ends- a beaker of amber liquid, a pitcher of brown sludge, and clippers meant for nails.
Then she heads for a door seperate from the one you came in.
"Bring her" she barks.

Valentine’s whine pierces Micah, but not to the core; everything around her seems to move quick as lightning and take years to reach her. She’s detachedly curious but lifts Valentine and half-drags her to the separate door. So this is a debt they are being paid. Luck, it seems, is on their side today. She settles Valentine as quickly as she can — the adrenaline has faded almost entirely, and her arms really are aching — and looks apprehensively at the components the scientist brought with her. The browns of the substances held in glass seem unnatural to her rather than earthy, though maybe that’s just the atmosphere of the lab.
The question of trust crosses her mind, and Micah does not move her hand but shifts her weight so she can check the touch of her gun’s flesh-warmed metal against the small of her back — something of a reassurance. She glances at Val, paler now than ever, and feels her heart seize suddenly with the overwhelming fear and concern she had swallowed for their flight. They gallop through her now, hot and panicked. She swallows against them and closes her eyes.
<When Valentine wakes> (because Valentine will awaken, of course; Valentine always rises) — Micah can’t think past those words. She will awaken furious, yes, will blame herself for the failure of the deal, the time lost, the reputation damaged, whatever she can get her hands on, but what manners right now is that she wakes. Her nerves feel like lit matches. “You’re sure you know what you’re doing?”

She doesn't answer this question, instead muttering under her breath and absently sealing the room closed. Her real eyes snap shut and thoughtlessly, she removes her clothes until she is down to biking shorts and a sports bra. All over her body, eyes open, snap their attention to Valentine and then their pupils wildly rotate, all in distinct but sensless patterns.
The flesh in the wounds begin to pulsate and make horrible sucking noises while Nebraska keens and growls and lets out low musical tones. Occasionaly she opens her eyes to down the contents of the pitcher hungrily.
The process takes minutes, but its bizzareness streches out time. The bullets slide out of the wound and into her hands with the same horrible sucking noise.

All Micah can do is move to a safe distance, stand back, watch, and wait. The weirdness of the ritual registers, but not too strongly; it is bizarre but in the way inherently associated with magic, though she has never seen any quite like this scientist’s before. She appreciates the strange bright eyes and flinches against her will at the wet hungry sounds Valentine’s flesh makes as it gives up the bullets. Relief follows, though — at least now she’s on the path to healing.

Gently, Nebraska takes her patients hand and with the nail clippers, trims off a bit of excess skin. She drops the skin into the amber liquid, allowing the golden eyes to close and vanish for a little while. She is trembling from exhaustion as the the cells from the clipping grow into a sheet of brand-new skin. When it is large enough to cover the two bullet wounds, she lays it over. The eyes open and the process repeats....slowly the newly grown skin merges with the skin on her torso. Then, suddenly, all the eyes flick towards Micah.
The sensation of thousands of ants crawling under her skin comes as consequence to Micah.

Micah is watching intently, quietly impressed by the integration of new skin over fresh wounds, when the feeling hits. She stiffens and shouts as her body comes alive with — /something/, some kind of fury and fire, as sudden as shock and everywhere inescapable all at once inside her but superficial pouring over everything and she tears at her skin, mindless and forceful, shrinking shrinking shrinking to get away from the swarming streaming screaming as blood opens beneath her fingernails and runs from her forearms to the floor.

She reaches the size of a child in a speed that has to break /some/ record, somewhere.

As suddenly as they flickered over to her, all the eyes shut except for six on her cheeks. She softly chuckles, and in her thick, deep voice she says "Thought so"
Ignoring Micah completely, she pries open Valentine's mouth and places her fingers on her tongue. A black substance is drawn out, and the last of the eyes shut.
"She'll wake up in five, but I'm going to have to keep you two locked in here for the time being" She lopes over to an I.V. in the corner and jabs the needle into her arm.
"Debt repaid. Peace out" She falls asleep instantly, onto a slew of pillows in the corner.

Micah’s mind is white as the feeling fades into blessed numbness. She falls to support her new tiny frame against the nearest table as the scientist crashes onto the pillows in the corner. There is nothing for a few seconds longer and then reality rushes back into her, the humiliation and searing pain lodged deep in her muscles and bones — she avoids settling into the feeling and forces herself to grow larger, back to a natural height, cursing herself quietly through gritted teeth. A child. She shrunk herself into a child in front of a potential ally.
She hurts like hell all over when the growing’s done and is tired to her bones. The strain she put herself through makes her want to drop to the floor; changing her body’s proportions to such a degree is exhausting. Her face she feels with a fumbling hand and sighs. She has no idea what it looks like at the moment, if it changed at all during what she realizes now was the faework of the scientist with all the golden eyes. A test, clearly, and one she doubtlessly failed. This on top of the wrecked deal that put them into this situation to begin with. <Stupid, stupid, stupid.>
Valentine is peacefully unconscious, evidently, and looks as good as new. Micah moves to touch the place where the neoskin merged with Val’s own and notices that her own arms are stinging. She looks and they’re scored in bloodied stripes. Impatiently, wearily, she closes the skin over the wounds; deeper healing requires time and thought and so much energy, too much for her to supply, usually, but the scratches are superficial and will make do with this for now. Val she leaves for now, casting her a look of concern but saying nothing. There are apologies to make, but they’re useless for the time being.
It occurs to her to see if they’re actually locked in, but she dismisses the thought immediately. Like hell would she leave Valentine alone in the clutches of someone like this. All there’s to do, then, is wait.

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Post by rat king (em) on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:11 pm

valentine comes to, shaking out of the fog, and she’s lying on a cold floor and she’s gasping for air and her whole body is numb. it takes her a moment to figure out where she is and in the meantime she does a quick inventory- can feel her arms can feel her legs can see a speckled ceiling above her- and then she remembers the night and thrashes, throws herself up to sitting. she’s shaking, she realizes, and curls in on herself. all of her limbs, oh, her whole body is so so heavy and every movement takes what feel like an excruciating amount of strength. “boss,” she tries to say, but it’s a scraped-raw croak.
“boss-” she tries again, scans the room. her eyes finds micah and she blinks against the dimmed fluorescent half-light which is suddenly too much for her, knives behind her eyes and a sickening pounding in the back of her skull.
the magic usually takes it out of her (takes it out on her), blood magic is dangerous and demanding and cares only for the bargain. worms its way inside you to your heart, sickly sweet, and turns to tar in your veins. but not like this, not like total exsanguination, not like she’s a brittle thing that could snap to dust at any instant. stars dance in her vision, go supernova, and a shudder goes over her. valentine swallows it all down, wraps the pain in layers on layers of will, saves them for later.
“boss.” she scrubs at her eyes, whispers, “mea culpa, my fault, my fault,” her head isn’t clear yet, this is too much pouring out, too much sticky messy raw- no. “fuck. i was too damn slow. it’ll never… it won’t happen again.” she’s back in work mode now, has a job to do, the same job she always has: protect micah, protect the business. she takes in this room she doesn’t remember getting to, the scientist slumped over with a drip, micah’s face pained and drawn. “what happened after i. what happened after i went down?”

Micah looks distant, as Micah often does, but gives Valentine a wan smile, rubbing absently at her own arm. "I conceded defeat, they bounced and I brought you here. It's that psychic biologist you sold the bracelets; she's putting them to good use, apparently." She takes a deep breath, ruminates for a moment, lets it out. "She healed you and locked us in here. Now she's sleeping. Haven't checked for a way out yet. You all right?"
She knows the answer from the way Val looks, of course, and she looks /rough/. The exhaustion, the bullets, the shame — hard to tell what's taking the biggest toll on her, though Micah thinks she could guess. Micah, too, feels dead on her feet. She rocks her weight from side to side, heels lifted just slightly, trying to round up what little energy she has left and stay primed for movement if it becomes necessary. Her gun, still at the small of her back, brings some comfort.

valentine nods, nods again. “hell of a night, huh,” she says, forces a smile, and lurches unsteady to her feet. a job to do. locked in is nothing but she doesn’t have any of her jammers with her for the keypad, the windows are high and thick and made to not be smashed out of. the scientist seems to me out cold but that could change at any moment, she goes for her gun, her gun is, “where is my gun?” does not wait for answer, goes to the door with a limp-shuffle at first she schools into sureness through gritted teeth. “you didn’t think,” valentine starts, leaning against the wall by the keypad for the door, “ah,” as the walk catches up to her, “to try to get out? christ.
“first fuckin rule of the street. no hard feelings.” tries a couple codes in vain. presses her forehead against the wall for a second, exhaustion and rising defeat.

Micah sighs and pulls Valentine’s gun from her belt. She walks over, holds it out. “Here. You want to shoot your way out, you have your way. One thing, though — no, two: First off, you didn’t watch this lady work” — she nods at the sleeping scientist behind them — “and you don’t know what she can do. It’s incredible and it’s horrifying. I know you hate me for it, et cetera, but if I /did/ find a way out I wasn’t going to leave you here, exhausted, at her mercy.” Sensing an interruption, she moves on, keeping her voice at a reasonable undertone: “For one thing, we’re a team, and for another, I know you can handle essentially anyone when you’re feeling top, but everything that happened knocked you down flat and just about kept you there.
“Second, like I said, she is capable, and considering the speed with which she healed you, I think it’d be worth pursuing more of a relationship with her. She bought the bracelets, right? She’s rich and she uses tech to amplify her magic. Chances are she’ll want more eventually. We need those connections, now more than ever.” She examines the keypad herself. The little numbers, neatly ordered, seem to stare back. Micah closes her eyes briefly; her head is swimming. “Our best and only option might be sticking around and talking with her. And if that is where we go, don’t do anything rash, okay? If it comes to it, we can fight, but only then.”

she’s right. she’s always right, with stuff like this, and valentine has come to trust micah implicitly with this kind of decision but. there’s still the supernatural exhaustion, the building anxiety and claustrophobia of being trapped, the unspent aggression of a bad fight, a heavy cognitive dissonance of vividly remembering being shot but not having any wounds. valentine has been in and out of consciousness so much in the past few hours that her grip on reality feels tenuous, slippery, and it’s making fury build within her, hot and wet and nauseous in the pit of her stomach. the bones in her hands throb in anticipation to be fists, to get impact. but.
“fine.” she takes her gun and the relief is instant, feels a little less like a trapped animal and a little more like a predator. valentine turns it over in her hands, absorbs its weight, checks for damage. lets the decision, the submission, settle in. “you’re the boss, boss.” she summons her strength again and heaves off the wall.

Micah smiles again, still small and drawn. She moves her hands to her pockets and stifles another wince at the burn in her muscles, drained and stinging from the rapid self-destruction and subsequent regrowth of fibers and tendons. <Damn good I’ve had practice. Who knows what I’d look like right now otherwise.> Blood and fire, their situation is dark — the thought hits her, suddenly, grim and intrusive in the pit of her stomach, but she reminds herself that they have been through worse, bloodier and more immediate and worse, and that the time to think and the guns with them and the fact that the scientist healed Valentine, whatever her motivation (<what /was/ her motivation?>), are all much-needed assistance. “All right. Let’s wake her. If more than a couple of those golden eyes — I don’t know if you remember, but her magic opens in these symbols all over her body, you’ll. Well, you’ll know them when you see them — if more than a couple come awake, shoot her.” She glances behind her, sizing up the room’s furnishings, steeling herself: she will not let the instinct to shift come screaming into her the way it did before. Micah observes, Micah learns, and Micah adapts.

The scientist's pale eyes look up at Micah. Her face is wan, and without a word she pulls the I.V. needle out of her arm and lopes over to a narrow shelf.
Without the eyes, you get a good luck at her. She is wasted and thin- knobs of bone protrude everywhere you'd expect. The only bit of life was in her golden skin and thick black braid. She was death with a tan.
Out of a pretty little box she pulls a hand rolled cigarette and lights it with a little lighter that says “Proud Cat Mama” in glittery pink lighters.
The smoke smells like incense and lavender and crushed rose petals. It is an oppressively holy smell.
Looking at both of you then, she frowns, then grabs two more of the cigarettes.
“You two probably feel like shit” She taps your chests with cigarettes, in offering. “I think this should help. I don't know. Never done this on a human before and” She lets out a coughing laugh “The mice don't smoke”

valentine grins, wolf-girl, lupine smile, the first true one of the night. shoot is exactly the kind of order she likes. her gun is out and at the ready but her finger isn’t on the trigger, boss said to be smart and valentine can play smart. if she needs to. sometimes. adrenaline thrums in her veins and sizes up the scientist, takes in her skeleton frame and her gait and her bullshit lighter. the smell of mass hits her hard in the chest and her smile widens. takes a cigarette and leans in for a light. “being a guinea pig is my speciality.” valentine glances down at her gun. “well. one of them, anyways.”

"wait, valentine. we don't know what's in those." micah would prefer not to smell the smoke, even — it's cloying and ancient and it takes everything in her not to wrinkle her nose in repulsion. she understands, though, that she and valentine approach the scientist from different perspectives: micah has been only hurt by her, valentine only healed. "no slight against you intended, of course, ma'am," she says, addressing the scientist lightly and evenly. "certain elements found in cigarettes make me itch." in a better state she'd be slathering on the charisma; right now the best she can do is almost mocking politeness.
she is intrigued, though — what the scientist handles carefully is like nothing she's seen before. and intrigued by the scientist herself as well, all string and bones under that surprisingly vital skin. she thinks absently about how long she'd take to waste away the fat and musculature necessary to look so skinny, how the melanin would need to collect to mimic days spent in the sun, the stance she'd affect and the studied practice required to hold the cigarette exactly the way the scientist does.

She laughs at Valentine's tough guy sentiments, and shrugs at Micah's refusal.
She seems to slide inside herself, smoking quietly. Finally, she opens up, facing Micah.
"Sorry about that. I was curious to see what you where. Shapeshifters bodies are on a frequency above what the eyes of a de-winged female can track." With that brief statement, her face sealed off once again
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Post by rat king (em) on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:18 pm

valentine figures that lying around while micah was unprotected is enough waiting for one night. if she doesn’t get to shoot her way out she sure is hell is allowed a fucking drag. she’s antsy enough without. she takes out her own lighter, then, for efficiency’s sake, cig between her teeth for a moment. she’s fine being all bluster & bravado and standing silent while boss talks it out. from this brief observation combined with their earlier meeting when she sold the scientist her boosters she decides she likes her. valentine appreciates efficiency and bluntness. would be a shame to kill her, but, needs must.

<ahhh, de-winged.> fae family, then. micah doesn't disrupt valentine again, figuring that even if the scientist were trying to drug or poison them they could be fucked from the smoke she's exhaling already, and instead focuses her attention on the skinny lady with the closed-off face and the big black braid. "i mean, words work wonders," she says dryly. "and you have fae blood, i assume?"

She suddenly grinned "Oh, you don't know what I am" her head tilts to the side "I suspect fae is the correct word, but that's a scientist's opinion, not the churches." Her smile gets even wider as she spouts a short phrase in italian before translating "A family of fallen angels"

“kyrie eleison,” valentine mutters to herself, does not flinch, does not look away. fuckin angels. of course. the incense is heavy in her lungs, which had forgotten that particular burn, but she takes another pull. her grip tightens on her gun, just a little, just enough.

<angels.> the word goes icy in micah's blood and for the moment she is standing perfectly still, chewed deep in her gut by acid envy, drowned in a river of rocks and salt, chest uncomfortably tight and hot like a room too small and starting to burn. she swallows quietly. "ah," she says, the word lost and lonely in her pounding ears until she finds others. "mind if i ask what happened?"
the tone of interest sounds hollow to her and she's glad her hands are in her pockets because they're beginning to curl into fists. <angels.> delight and wonder, venom and spite — she wants to strike the scientist in the face, almost, with an animal instinct that surprises her, spurred by the desire to take and take and take and take and feel that rejected angel blood burst free. she knows how to control herself, and does, but doesn't want to. <what is it like to have that and lose it?> she wonders, faraway. <to be ascendant and capable and evolved and then to have — well, basically nothing? i would hate myself forever, oh, fury, i would hate myself always.>

She smiled thinly now, with sarcasm and frustration right beneath the surface. Silent, she pulls another box from the shelf- on the lid are tiny gilded wings. She opens the box and inside are two tiny wings, with small downy feathers dyed a deep red. The jagged bones crusted in blood where the wing would attach suggest the violence with which is was removed. In a business like tone, she explains.
"As you can see from the soft down feathers this wing is purely vestigial...no 'cherubim' can fly"
"They exist as an adaptation to increase surface area for the eyes. Cherubim females lose their wings at birth"
"They say the magic 'shrivels the womb' which is not untrue- I haven't experienced a menstrual cycle since I began experimenting with the power" She suddenly snaps closed the box. It hurts her to explain it in any way but this cold way, looking at it from a third person view.

Micah looks, entranced, at the tiny wings for as long as she can, takes in the broken bloodied bones and the soft little feathers and compares them to the anatomy she’s studied, to the hopeless little bumps of flesh that are all she’s ever managed to grow herself. To have wings and be unable to fly — the thought’s horrifying and poetically wretched. “I see,” she says and shakes off the fascination when the scientist closes the box with a telling abruptness of motion. “The powers, then — are they intrinsic or something you’ve had to develop? I hope my curiosity doesn’t come across as rude; since you know the nature of my abilities, I thought it might be impolite not to ask about your own.”

Seeing this earnesty, she can’t help but admonish. “You’re very polite for an arms dealer. hm.” She raises an eyebrow “ And nosy”
Her face closes up for a moment “Luckily for you, I like to explain things.”
“The ability is innate. Even a female infant knows how to fix the scrapes on their friends knee. Gliocchi is more like a 6th sense than anything.What I am missing is the secrets that….make it easier. I know the incense cigar that purifies the magic out of your blood, but as you can see the magic is ravenous. It eats me alive. Somehow… the males who are trained are not sickly. Is it the wings? I doubt it.” Her voice trails away into mumbling and then to nothing at all, as she ponders the question.

“you have the raw power, you just need the tools to refine it.” valentine says. she’s a good salesman, when she wants to be, has been fencing her mechs and blackmarket tech since she was a kid with long hair and big eyes; before her magic, even. but this is more than a pitch. this is a memory of kneeling on cold stone and begging for her soul she had packaged up and pushed way down rising up to the surface. this is her lighting that memory on fire. “she’s not an arms dealer. she’s a visionary. everything else is a just consequence or a tool.” valentine takes another drag from her cigarette and takes a step forward. equal footing, no deference. no glory.

Micah quietly appreciates Valentine’s initiative, removing her hands from her pockets and assuming a more professional posture. The wings, the magic, the scientist’s story seem to crowd in around the edges of her vision, but she pushes them away and picks up where Valentine left off. The idea of having a fallen angel on their task force is powerful motivation — she imagines watching, learning, imitating. It’ll help, surely. “We’ve been in this business for years; we have what you need to begin with, surely, and everything else we can find — or develop. The bracelets have helped but haven’t solved everything, clearly. Amplification, right? But you need buffers and focus and stamina enhancement if you’d like to work to your full potential. They’d just be temporary fixes, though, and the more we learn, the closer we’ll get to eradicating the need for them entirely.”

A brief look of hunger flashes over her face before it's sealed away. She rests her hands on the gilded box.
"So this wa" her voice breaks on the word. It's too much hope to handle all at once. Her teeth clamp down hard on a knuckle.
"You think you can do that?" She says in a small voice, after a minute spent gaining her haughty composure

she relaxes her grip on her gun. step one, you show them the way to get what they want. and valentine knows hunger when she sees it. step two: "she can do that. but it doesn't come free. we need something from you." valentine thinks: a renegade angel fighting with them, fighting for micah's vision. valentine thinks: an angel who needs micah, can heal her if she's injured. valentine thinks: an angel who can rearrange the make-up of a body, valentine thinks: a cure. she doesn't let her heart leap into her throat, doesn't imagine not being able to feel death looming heavy over her, not feeling her magic like posion in her veins. "reciprocation. a... mutually benefitial relationship."
but the thoughts are just a little ways off, hovering there are the edge of her mind. a cure. but first: an accord. valentine looks to her boss, ready to back up what ever she says- shake hands if they make a deal or fight her way out of the labs.
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Post by rat king (em) on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:39 pm

Micah is already nodding when Valentine’s gaze hits her. Hunger rises up in her again, thinking of how much they could gain and how far they could go. Healing would be much easier, too, and incidents like the one that brought them here to begin with would no longer be so looming a threat. With that main concern sorted, they’d be able to focus, plan, expand… Yes, this is what they need. She looks directly at the scientist. “We’d ask for your alliance and healing in exchange for the tech we have that would augment and enhance your magic. You’d get what we have to offer now and the upgrades we come across in the future. Does this suit you?”

She ruminates on the idea, stubbing out the cigarette and exhaling the last breath of incense to cloud her expression. Out of the smoke comes a cheshire cat grin.
“Sounds like fun” She purses her lips, and extends a hand “I’ll join your little band of street urchins”
The sarcasm can’t be helped. It is a protective shield, like her wings were for such a brief moment.

Micah doesn’t bristle at the bite, instead extending a black-gloved hand to meet the scientist’s. She restrains her excitement carefully, reveling, for a moment, in that control, learned carefully from years of studying and mimicking outburst and expression — it feels good to know what she’s showing and when, especially if that means the awareness that her face is neutral while anticipation spasms freely in her stomach. Her handshake is a firm one. “Good to have you, then. If we’re to be business partners, can we get your name?”

She gives a half smile "It's a silly american name." A brief pause "Nebraska"
She dreams the same dream, as she looks over Micah's shoulder. That a piece of her had never been cut away. That she was covered up, wrapped tightly in soft red feathers. The dream calms her down, lowers her heart rate. And feels oddly like a memory, even though she has labored in the hospitals where cherubim are born.

“hell of a night,” valentine says, soft, for the second time in an hour. the air is heady with incense and crushed flowers. the burst of strength she’d managed when there could have been danger is fading out now and she feels raw all over from the strange, angelic magic mixing with her own inside her. a little more god-touched than before. the adrenaline is crashing heavy over her shoulders and in her chest and she lets it roll on off.

“Nebraska.” Micah nods. “I’m Micah, and that’s Valentine.” The exhilaration of success washes through her and she gives Nebraska a thin smile. “I don’t think I’d have said this fifteen minutes ago, but I’m looking forward to working with you.” She looks at Valentine now, agreeing silently: it’s been a hell of a night. It’s surreal, too, to see Valentine still standing while knowing that so recently she had been brutally shot, and Micah feels quiet gratitude rise up in her. She looks back to Nebraska again. “Unless there’s anything else you need, I think we’ll be going now? We’ll send a message with information for when and where to meet us for the tech in a few days.”

She nods absently, still wrapped up in her own head. Suddenly she snaps into action getting up and pressing the correct pin number into the rooms door. "Sorry to keep you captive" She then hands you a business card for "Sister Nebraska Bianchi". It is white with gold lettering, and a cadaceus and crucifix side by side, pressed into the paper in the lower left corner. "My number"

with it squared away, then, she takes what feels like the first full breath since before even the initial meeting, which seems like a lifetime ago now. the surreality is catching up for her. “thanks for the help, doc.” valentine prods at her ribs a little. “good as new.” she slides her gun, finally, into her leg holster. still too soon to be empty handed, in her opinion, healing or no but. show of good faith and all that. she notes distantly, detachedly, that her hand shakes a little but there's no time to worry about that now. she just needs a stiff drink and to sleep off the last of her magic. “be seein’ ya.”

"Yes," Micah agrees, "thank you." She slides the card carefully into one of the many pockets on her black jacket and gives Nebraska a nod. Triumph suffuses her, tempered with curiosity — there's still so much she'd like to learn; the memory of the ants beneath her skin hangs fresh in her mind. She'll get the chance now, at least. She notes the tremor in Valentine's hand, remembers the cigarette, decides it's time to go. "Goodbye, Nebraska."

Nebraska extends to her full, 6 foot height and gives them a cloudy look and a quick wave before turning to clean up the mess and air out the smell of incense. When they are gone completely, she decides to close down the lab for the day. All the work to get her PhD meant she'd earned some perks.
She decided to go to her favorite dive and have an ungodly amount of wine coolers and cheap burgers. It's been a hell of a day.

fucking sloppy work, valentine thinks to herself once they’re out into the open night air and as safe as they ever get. those kind of mistakes can’t happen again. she’s itching for a good fight, itching to get her hands dirty and burn off all the useless nerves she still has rattling around but more than that she needs to crash. “goddamn, boss.” valentine says, curls a little further inside her jacket than strictly necessary as they walk. “guess it wasn’t a total wash,” she adds with a sidelong glance at micah. she pulls her sunglasses on against the rays of sun just starting to break through the murky dawn half-light. no use wallowing in guilt, valentine.

Micah breathes out, long and slow, and puts away the business face for something more natural — just minor tinkering to a shape that’s familiar, nothing too painful or strenuous. The strangeness of not knowing what her first-ever face looked like is not lost on Micah, but it rarely crosses her mind anymore. She appreciates the plasticity, anyway. Quietly she grazes a hand through her hair. “It wasn’t, no. I have the feeling what we just settled with the scientist’ll mean far more to us than the pound of whatever new mindmelter we would’ve gotten from that trade.” She looks at Valentine. “I wish your getting shot hadn’t been a prerequisite, but we never should’ve tried that deal in the first place. We were desperate and that made us careless. Don’t beat yourself up too much, okay?”

“i guess we’ve had worse nights.” valentine wraps her arms around her chest a little snugger to ward off the shakes she feels building. “y’know, when you’re right, you’re really right.” she lets the events of the last few hours wash over her again. “an angel, huh?” she twists her face in a small smile, only baiting a little. since the first day they met she’s loved to hear micah talk about her plans, her vision, her passion. it’s not a dream valentine herself is attached to (she’s not particularly attached to any dream), but it’s a damn good dream if she’s ever heard one, what she’s heard of it. a short warm bedtime story against a freezing heavy darkness, in her opinion, but most things are. micah’s the visionary, she’s just along for the ride.

“An angel.” Since Valentine’s the only one around, Micah lets her face open up, dreamy and fired with starry wonder and fevered hunger. “Blood, can you imagine? It wouldn’t be perfect, I suppose, but it’d be a good next step. I wonder about the vestigial wings — it’s interesting, the nature of their adaptation. I wonder if it’s something evolutionary to do with habitat; flying was a necessity at some point, but once angels started living among humans the wings became cumbersome and unnecessary. But still, that’s only one facet — angel blood, angel magic. Something in there is a component in the next step, I’m sure; something will show us the key, whether it’s to perfect bodies or total incorporeality or minds in metal. It’s just a shame we stunted ourselves before we figured it out a century ago.” Gone quiet and ruminating, she stares fixedly ahead as they walk, not quite seeing the streets and buildings but with her eyes wide anyway, reddened with exhaustion.

“kyrie eleison,” valentine says again, muscle memory, and the words feel like burning coals in her mouth. she spits them out. no holiness here. her smile widens though at the look on micah’s face. aside from the life debt, which valentine feels heavy like an amulet around her neck every time she looks at micah, which would be reason enough- this is why she’s stuck around so long, will keep sticking around until the end. this is why she comes when micah calls and stops when she gives the order, a good little guard dog: this look on micah’s face like she’s gonna find god and swallow him fucking whole, subsume, transfigure, become. if anyone can launch themselves into holiness, immortality, through sheer force of will, it’s micah. valentine is a moth to a flame, will follow her down through hell to get to glory.
“damn shame.” valentine scuffs her boots against the pavement as they walk. “you sound like you wanna dissect her. you think she’ll go for a vivisection? gonna scrape out all her secrets?” valentine is joking but. if that's the plan, then that’s what’ll happen. angel or no. there’s a phantom pain, a throbbing in her shoulder where the new flesh is so she bundles that on down to save for later too and keeps walking without a hitch in her step, is used to this ache in her lungs.

Micah actually laughs, her smooth face wrinkling. “Hopefully that won’t be necessary,” she says, equally jokingly. “And anyways, she probably wouldn’t let me get that close.” She goes somber again, reflecting, and drags her fingernails over the sleeve of her jacket that covers the closed wounds. “I think we’ll be able to learn a good deal from her regardless; she has a dog in this race, too. She’s curious. What do you think of her?”

valentine thinks about nebraska’s quick, bizarre humor, her brusqueness, her tangled up persona all walls and layers and projection. the promise of her power, the irony of working with an angel. the familiar feeling of incense heavy in her lungs. she shakes her head to clear her thoughts- time is slipping around her wet and lyrical like a river, like a sharp current, and she squeezes her chest tighter to anchor herself in the present. “i don’t trust her, but i like her.”

Micah nods. She and Valentine tend to approach subjects from different perspectives, and she holds her friend's in as high esteem as her own. "You like her, huh?" she asks, wondering what it was that cemented that opinion for Valentine, figuring it was the attitude with that sly edge of ruthlessness underneath — something Valentine has always treasured. "Why's that?" And then, noticing her protective motions: "Is everything all right?"

“yeah, i’m. yeah.” valentine looks over at micah for a moment as they walk, straightens her posture, relaxes her arms. can’t have boss worrying. job to do. “can’t a girl get shot anymore?” she jokes, and even to her it sounds halfway flat. “magic’s hitting me hard tonight. i just need a nap.” valentine shoves her hands into her jacket pockets. thinks on micah’s first question. “she’s funny. she’s a knife. i like knives.” she fumbles with one in her pocket, a private joke. people are starting to pour into the streets heavier now, sun almost up properly. she squints behind her sunglasses.

"Nap sounds wonderful." Micah blinks in the brightening sun and looks around them. She should be fine — her face is different from the last time they came close to being recognized, to her knowledge — but Valentine might be at risk; their apartment is nearby, thankfully, so she quickens her pace through exhaustion and bone aches, but only slightly, conscious of Val's leg. "She might be a knife but I don't think even she knows which way she's pointing. Okay, that's enough metaphor for now; we can have our next one after nine a.m. at the earliest." She smears at her eyes and yawns as they near the door, empty beneath the last strains of her exhilarated energy.

“one more,” valentine says as they reach the door and she prepares to unlock is & disarm the security, check for threats. she smirks up at micah as she fiddles with the lock. “i’m real good with a weapon.” everything is just as they left in in the apartment, which is almost a shock, at this point. valentine was half expecting every fucking enemy they’d ever made to be all inside waiting for them together. she pulls off her jacket, heavy with dozens of concealed & filled pockets, and then starts ditching weapons scattered around her person once the door is secured.

Micah releases her tension the moment she steps in, feeling abruptly old in the way that comes from sudden and sustained cell growth in a relatively short period of time. Exhausted, she takes off her own jacket and walks into her study to hang it on the back of her desk chair. She pauses for a moment with her hands on the smooth black leather and looks at her desk with faint pride. Technology is beautiful and necessary, and she's backed up all her files and notes to several dozen different devices, but one of the very few human indulgences she allows herself is the opportunity to handle and manipulate physical manifestations of her research materials with her bare hands. She removes her gloves and does this now: the paper printouts of academia and dogma; the pictures of birds' and bats' wings flayed with medical precision, skin and sometimes muscle held back with pins to reveal the mystical workings beneath; the studies of the most famous states of higher consciousness; the photocopies of pages of the Christian Bible, detailing the alleged origins of cherubim and seraphim — Micah flips through the neat stacks of them on her desk with quiet pleasure, one by one, looking up once she's done to smile at the replication of da Vinci's sketches of mechanical wings that hangs on the wall above. To think of the living information she'll soon have added to her cache.
To think — later. She yawns. "Valentine," she calls, "I think I'm turning in for the night." Kicking off her boots, she heads in her socks for wherever Valentine has ended up. "You?"

valentine paces in the main room for a moment, studies the lead in her bloodstream, her shakes, her exhaustion worming its way into her soul, from somewhere floating just above her. she pulls off her shirt and stands in just her pants and bra, still too hot. she won't be able to sleep. impotent violence and rage and the pain she bundled away so neatly earlier course through her, make the blood roar deafening in her ears. she goes into her bedroom, a dark and spartan affair: a workbench scattered with half-built mechs, parts, and tools; weapons neatly organized but spread out across the floor; a punching bag rigged to the ceiling, haphazard piles of cash and baggies of powder; a mattress thrown on the floor in the corner like an afterthought. her heart pounds like it would burst through her chest, lungs drawn tight & burning. all the nerves in her body stand on end, flayed raw, screaming for a fight. she goes back into the main room to get her hand wraps from where they were laid out to dry on the table and sits cross legged on the floor. she begins to wrap her hands, around the palm between the fore and middle fingers around the palm between- and is sat there working when boss comes back into the room. valentine looks up at her from the floor, feels a little caught.
"can't sleep yet. gotta burn off some of this energy." what she thinks she really needs, next to a propper
fight, is to purge her blood a little, fill up with stolen fresh blood, but she doesn't say that.

Micah knows Valentine too well to be surprised, but still grimaces a little at the thought of her bruised and battered body putting itself through yet more tonight. It's Val's way, though, and in some senses necessary to her wellbeing — convoluted and contrary as that sounds and feels. She drags a hand through her short hair, forehead back, and looks down at Valentine. "Just sleep at some point, all right? And wake me if there's trouble."

"always, boss," valentine says and goes back to wrapping. even the act of preparation for violence starts to lull her into an almost meditative state and as she focuses inward the shakes start to dissipate. she goes back into her room and drops into a fighting stance easy, all muscle memory now, and goes at the bag with control and force, pushing back against the mindless rage that bubbles there right beneath the surface. as she falls into a rhythm it washes over her and she sinks beneath the surface a little, waves on waves, untouchable. in a while she'll fall back on her mattress, sweaty and dirty, dried blood from the now non existent wounds still streaked on her abdomen and chest, and stare at the ceiling, will sleep to come, but for now there is only this. only the rhythm, only the impact.
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Post by rat king (em) on Sun Oct 09, 2016 11:44 pm

Nebraska waits impatiently at her apartment, skimming a few medical books on the subject of her patient and scribbling some beautifully organized notes onto notebook paper. The cedar chest has been dragged into living room, as well as a brushed metal suitcase of lab equipment. She is itching to apply her powers and knowledge on such an interesting case.

valentine hovers in front of the elevator in nebraska's building for an instant and then veers off to the stairwell, takes them fast & hard. it's not that she's nervous. it's not even that she doesn't trust nebraska- well. she doesn't trust nebraska. not like this, any way, to crawl under her skin and into her bloodstream and dig around, to hold her lifeforce in her palms, to be able to tear down and rebuild the very core of valentine's body. but there's no denying the effects from her magic have steeply become worse. her leg went a long time ago and she's used to it now, is very proud of the exo skeleton she built for it. but the heaviness in her veins and the ache in her chest won't leave even after a long purge. she's been so tired that she's been lagging in fights, taking far more hits than usual, and that's not something she can afford to be sloppy with.
valentine gets to nebraska's floor & winds down the hallway slowly, picking apart her hot, messy knot of emotions into single strands and winding them into tight little balls, lets the fight-or-flight surging in her chest wash over her, lets the adrenaline rise- and then raps sharply on nebraska's door. she breathes out, pushes it all away.

Nebraska eagerly leaps out of her chair and flings open the door. Her actions betray her, but her voice is controlled "Come in, come in- and take your shoes and socks off at the front door please" Her lips purse at the idea of those boots on her apartment carpet. She smoothly moves between the chest and the suitcase "Sit in front of me" Not waiting for her to finish and arrive she pulls out her notes and, in her lecturing drone "There are many conflicting theories on what is the issue causing the degradation of the tissue when you use blood magic and as such there are many different therapy options. We're going to throw everything we have at it and see what sticks. I need you to answer some questions in order for me to do this correctly, however"
Taking a deep breath in, she adjusts her tiny reading spectacles and flips the page "Ok. One. How tall are you and how much, exactly do you weigh. Two. How much blood, in pints, do you use when you purge. Three. Do you come from a maternal line of blood witches or did you have a foster? Finally, how many sisters do you have?" After this breathless rapid fire of questions, she stares expectantly.

valentine takes of her boots and socks per request grudgingly and leaves them by the door. she sits in front of the weird little angel, body held stiff, and listens to her lecture. when the questions start her hands curl into fists instinctively and she reminds herself it’s for a cure, it’s for a cure, it’s, fuck. she rattles off the answers mechanically.
“5’6”. maybe 140. three or four pints, never more than half my- never more than half.” her nails press red crescents into her palms, her knuckles ache, “foster,” she bites out and then, “three.” her voice is clipped, tight, and she bit her tongue forcing the last answers out. blood wells up in her mouth but just a little. she shifts uncomfortably, wills her fists to relax but they don’t. “i’m willing to try anything you’ve got, doc.”

She hrms thoughtfully and unsoothingly, and opens the cedar chest. She removes a glass dish and a glass pitcher of golden oil. She pours some into the other and then begins removing bundles of old herbs and preserved flowers from the trunk. She carefully measures amounts of these and crumbles them into the oil in the dish. "Your weight was inexact but the blood you transfuse clarified what I need." Without asking, she moves Valentine's limbs into place. "Stay still like this, please" The legs go forward and the feet point up. The arms rest on the legs and cup upwards. She daubs the oil with her thumb onto the soles of the feet and center of the palm and finally, a streak on the neck. "I'm going to need you to breath slowly and calmly and not to jerk around when I do this" She takes out a tin tinder box and lights a long match, tapping the flame onto her throat. The flame is white, weak and cold and catches to wear the oil is on her body quickly despite the distance. Hurriedly, Nebraska jerks the glass dishes far away and waits.

valentine forces herself still, lets her body be moved and adjusted. she braces her self for a burn and almost jerks when instead the fire is cold, and on her, and fuck, it's cold, but she grits her teeth, tightens her core and her quads almost painfully tight, wills herself through. it's a strange feeling, this anointing, and valentine has to fight not to let her eyes roll back, to float up. her heart pounds heavy in her chest, too fast. the fire dances in her hands and on her neck and it's mesmerizing, and the cold tight slippery feeling spreads over her body, electric.

The fire extinguishes itself, leaving behind inky blue ash on the surface of the skin. Nebraska wipes it off, and then considers her next move. "Where is most of the damage concentrated?"

valentine shivers as the ash is brushed off of her. "my ribs, my chest. my lungs. my left leg gave out a long time ago. it eats away at you. rots you from the inside out." she curls and uncurls her toes, staring at them, picturing the fire. doesn't look at nebraska. "makes me heavy. hell of a bargain."

"Hmm" is all she has to give for that rant "The fire can treat bones but I'll need to use my abilities on the soft tissue"
She begins tearing rough white fabric into strips, dipping them into the oil, slapping them onto the lid of the trunk "You'll have to undress so I can apply these."
She continues her task, and then with a rare second of compassion says "I apologize. Uncover as much as you feel comfortable doing"

valentine shrugs and starts undressing. her body is a tool, a weapon, and she doesn't give it much thought beyond its usefulness, its strength. has no compulsions about nudity. she’d taken off her coat at the door along with her boots and now she pulls off a worn thin, black-washed-to-gray shirt; sturdy, reinforced pants; boxers; and a tight compression top. she piles them haphazardly on the floor. at first valentine stops herself from leering almost instinctively at nebraska- somehow she doesn’t think the doc would find that charming- but then thinks, what the hell, and does anyway. she does manage to bite back a smarmy, “like what you see?” no need to antagonize her. valentine holds out her arms, as if for inspection. she’s strong, but with practical muscle, nothing showboaty, and littered with scars and tattoos. “should i take off my brace?” it’s more of an exoskeleton than a brace, sits flush on her skin from mid thigh to the arch of her foot on her left leg and made from hexagonally shaped pieces of metal, with spaces for her knee and heel to stick out naturally. a band around the ankle and small cartridges at either side of the knee house power supply and a small computer. “i won’t be able to balance real well without it but i can manage.”

She nods "Yes, the brace must go. And sit down." When Valentine complies, she begins wrapping the saturated strips of cloth around the affected areas. With the same tinder box, she touches the flame to the strips which light up copper. The flames are a little warmer and little stronger.
While the flames flicker and whisper, she opens the brushed metal suitcase, pulling out an IV bag and a huge glass container filled halfway with a saline solution. She measures, pours and mixes ingredients from tiny frosted tubes. She ties the IV to a lampstand, frowning slightly at the slapdash setup.
She is surprised to be happy to return to medicine. Maybe being able to use her abilities makes all the difference for her resentment of these petty healing rituals.

valentine takes off her brace with a grimace. over the years she's worn it, tweaking it constantly, cared for it, it's come tp feel like a natural part of her and she loathes to remove it. feels vulnerable and incomplete. she tells herself, as she often does, when she has the time and the money and the tech she'll make it a part of her body permanently. she sits awkwardly, stiff and stone-still while nebraska wraps the strips of cloth around her. when they're lit on fire she relaxes a little, soaks in the sensations tight around her ribcage and leg. valentine smiles up at nebraska and her jury-rigged iv pole.

She looks into the smile with confusion and manages a weird grimace back, while the flames flicker out. She pushes the IV needle into the proper vein and begins another lecture "This is a solution of stem cells that I'm going to direct to the problem areas and grow. It's going to make you feel....very strange. I knocked you out last time for a reason, do you wish for me to do it again?"

valentine doesn't react to the familiar feeling of an iv pushing into her vein but at the mention of sedation she snaps forward and grabs nebraska's wrist. "no," she says, sharp, final, locking eyes. then she releases nebraska's wrist and leans back, settles in, full of performative relaxation. "strange is fine," she says in a jarringly different tone of voice.

Making an extremely unpleasant face in reaction to having her wrist grabbed, she sighs and nods. She understands that there not an ounce of her that puts people to ease, although she has no interest in fixing it. She is an angel, anyways. She slides the heavy iron bracelets on and the golden eyes all wink open, tracing cells and pushing the blood where she wants it to go. She is tuned into the voices, the thousands singing praises and hallelujahs. They surround and drown out anything but the implicit "sight" if what she is doing. Grow, become, divide. Hallelujah.

valentine is transfixed by the transformation. hypnotized. she leans forward without intention and is swept up and seized by the strangeness, awash with sensation. her skin crawls furious. a mutiny under drawn tight bruises and scars, her mind gone white-blank. bright. she can't tear her eyes away. o, fuck.

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