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Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

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INV ONLY Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on October 24th 2018, 4:19 pm


This is a continuation of the Facade arc, following A Little Lady & A Big Cock




December 19th, 2018
Boston, Massachusetts


Cynthia shivered as she exited the car. The sun had set some hours ago, and the already cool air had become bone-chilling. With the waterfront so close there was little to break up the wind, making matters worse.
Her usual clothes would’ve made the cold more bearable; the invitation had specified semi-formal attire at minimum, however, leaving her wearing a cocktail dress and heels. Her jacket kept her from completely freezing, at least.
She left her keys with the valet and made her way to the venue.

The restaurant had a usual appearance for the area, clean metal-clad pillars bridged by high windows. The lighting was more colorful than most, a banner over front the giving the reason: “Masquerade Night.” There was a sizeable crowd, many patrons mingling outside despite the weather. A line had formed at the door, wrapping around the sidewalk.

Cynthia located her contact readily enough: even in a tuxedo, the man’s figure was easily recognized. She only knew his surname, Powell.

“Hey.”

He turned to face her, already wearing a mask that spanned from cheekbone to brow. It had an onyx appearance, with bronze inlays in the shape of lightning radiating inward from the edges.

“Hello. Glad you could make it on such short notice.”

“I’ve had a busy day, but not a productive one. I didn’t really have anything else to do with my night, and well, they say it’s better to do something than nothing if you’ve got the time, right?.”

“I wish I could say the same. One of my prior commitments canceled, freeing up time for this.”
He extended his elbow.
“You must be freezing, let’s go inside.”

Cynthia hesitated.
“I thought this was a job interview, not a date.”

“Exactly.” He gestured to the crowd. “Let them think it is. It’s all about appearances, really. Give them false hints to guess at, and leave the truth safe. Besides, would you rather wait in line?”

As if to reinforce his point the wind picked up again, and she shivered. She hooked her arm under his, loosely.
“Alright. Lead the way.”

The doorman let them in, eliciting groans of protest from those waiting. A hostess greeted them.
“Oh, one of our VIPs. The kitchen just finished your order, and your table is all set. Would you like me to bring you to it?”

“Of course, but first, my associate will need a mask.”

The woman looked Cynthia over.
“Blue, to match your dress?”

“Yeah, sure. Thanks.”
The hostess handed Cynthia a mask, simple, save for its jewel-like finish. She put it on. Judging from her reflection in the window it managed to cover just enough of her face to make recognition difficult

“Now, if you would just follow me…”

They followed the hostess past the crowds of revelers and into a quieter section, where she led them to a booth by the wall. They sat down and the hostess let them be.

Cynthia started on her salad immediately. Powell played with his meal a bit, his focus more on her. They were close enough that she could see his eyes behind the mask, that same stare from earlier.

“Does it need energy?”

She looked at him, confused.
“Huh?”

“Your power, does take its energy from you? You ordered prime rib and a full salad, after all.”

“Uh, no. It’s just not often that a prospective employer offers to pay for dinner. I can get away with eating less tomorrow, now.”
She blinked.
“How did you know? I mean, I assumed you knew, after you messaged me. But how?”

“My power lets me see energy potentials. I can see something around you, faint, but clearly there.”

“So that’s why you were staring at me.”

He looked down, sheepish.
“My apologies if it made you uncomfortable. I’m something of a scientist by nature, and your power was quite the mystery. I would love to see it in use.”

“First I’d like to ask you some questions. Our mutual friend sent me an email with your name involved, but I’m guessing you don’t want it said aloud.”

“Good, good.” He sighed. “Good that you’re getting a handle on secrecy. Covering up that loose end might be a headache, though. Anyway, go on.”

“Who are you?”

He smiled, holding his left hand up with index and middle finger spread apart. There was a brief snap and the smell of ozone as an arc formed between the digits, lasting a few seconds.

“You’re Conduit. I guess the mask should’ve made it obvious. I thought you retired?”

“I did. You saw what happened in New York, though. The politicians say that adversity brings us together. I won’t deny that it does, of course, but there are always the darker elements in society, waiting for their chance to strike. I intend to stop them.”

“And you need people.”

“Yes. On a lighter note, I’m glad you recognized me. The media stopped caring within a year, and fame doesn’t last as long as they make it seem. There’s good and bad with that, though it still stings, to be forgotten.”

“They shouldn’t forget you. You helped a lot of people, it’d be wrong to forget that. Especially after what happened to Domain.”

He sighed.
“I suppose you’re right.”

“Were you two… close? There were rumors in the media, that you were dating.”

“She was my sister, actually. We’re twins.”

“Oh, oh. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. You remember what I said earlier? Let them have their false hints? When those rumors started it’s not like we could deny them, that only fuels gossip. Stating our real relationship would have made it easier to track us down. So we let the rumors go along. That’s the past, though. If your curiosity is sufficiently sated, I would love to see that power of yours.”

Cynthia shrugged.
“Here? Now?”

“Of course. It’s masquerade night, after all. Who’s going to know?”

“It’s just, I was fired for using it on the job. I’ve been trying to be more careful after that.”

“Doesn’t need to be spectacular. Something small.”

“Alright.”
She moved the now-empty salad bowl to the end of the table, reaching over to get her main course. As she slid the plate along she used her field on the cut of prime rib, neatly separating it into bite-size squares.
“That enough?”

“Fascinating. That was much clearer. And you can do this at will?”

“Yeah, all it takes is a thought. I can feel objects inside my field, which helps with imagining it.”

“That’s all you need to do? No recharging? It’s always there?”

“It can be mentally draining if I try to do really complicated things with it. It’s never gone away, not since it first appeared.”

“How did you acquire it? Your power.”

“I, I don’t really know. It was a bad time for me: my mother was sick, and I was living with a friend’s family out in the midwest. I felt like my life was falling apart, that I didn’t have any control. I was desperate, and I guess something broke.”

“Hm. That must’ve been hard.”

“I hated it at first, I felt like I’d ruined my life. ‘Course, I adjusted eventually. By the time I started college I was confident enough to experiment with it. I realized I could use my power to my advantage academically. That’s why I switched to the double major. Which, thanks to my carelessness, I can’t afford now.”

“Never considered hero work?”

“You’ve seen the big names out there. Throwing buildings around like they’re nothing. Hell, you can shoot lightning out of your hands. I can pick up a car, maybe a truck. I felt like I could contribute more to society by living a normal life, get an education, get a good job.”

“I can sympathize; I wish I had that attitude when I was younger. My sister and I were born with our powers and they only got stronger as we grew, so being heroes seemed like destiny. Looking back, we were two dumb kids hyped up on power we didn’t understand. With everything that’s happened now, though, it feels wrong to be held back by regrets. To let myself be a bystander, when I could do more. Would you agree?”

“Well, when you put it that way, yeah. This is legal, right? The whole hero thing?”

“Completely above board. We won’t be law enforcement, exactly, but I know enough people to get us the right legal coverage.”

“Consider me interested then.”

“Excellent.”
Conduit opened up his briefcase, removing some papers.
“Let’s get to business.”


Last edited by REDSHEILD on October 24th 2018, 11:08 pm; edited 1 time in total

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on October 24th 2018, 10:34 pm

"--with a straw, please."

"Of course, sir."

Isaac spun his stool a quarter-turn, surveying the restaurant nonchalantly. From his place at the bar, he had a nearly uninterrupted line of sight to the vast majority of the restaurant's patrons. It was the ideal locale, with its high ceilings offering a glimpse of the upper levels and its open floor plan seating just over a hundred patrons in the main dining area alone. Opposite from the street-side perimeter, the wall was lined with semi-circular booths that afforded more discrete clientele some marginal privacy.

The tailor had been right: the suit was a good fit. He managed to catch glances of himself through the eyes of curious patrons, borrowing their insight just long enough to make the same snap judgements they did.

-- looks sharp

A good fit fo--

-- could do worse for a rebound

They were minor experiences, not quite pleasurable. Instead, they were merely reminiscent of satisfaction or happiness, vague half-feelings to his emotionally dead psyche.

It was addicting all the same. Isaac lived vicariously through the eyes of others, desperately absorbing as many of their insights as he could. With the help of Rasmus -- the porcelain mask that completely concealed his face -- Isaac could look at a beautiful, rare steak and not only ascribe the adjective beautiful to it, but also acknowledge that it looked delicious.

They were minor experiences, not quite pleasurable, but they were all he had.

Isaac sipped his drink leisurely, barely managing to snake the straw under his mask each time he raised the glass. It seemed most everyone in the main dining area was enjoying their meals and conversations. Here and there, a few pairs of eyes shot daggers at one another. Nothing interesting, and it was not the sort of emotional voyeurism that took Isaac's interest regardless.

He began to eye the booths next, and was not the least bit disappointed to find a variety of women observed to be attractive, intelligent, and witty. Many were escorts, Isaac figured, given that they were often accompanied by either ugly men who were much older or men who only qualified for one of those descriptors. Even still, Isaac gorged himself on the opinions these men held for their companions, and for only price of a gin-and-tonic.

One booth held a more interesting pair. The man was not unattractive, judging by the insight Isaac could glean from the man's companion. She looked at him with some faint unease, not threatened but still wary. Though Isaac couldn't read lips to understand their conversation, he noticed that the man seemed to speak with a level of practiced ease. No, not practiced: he was simply genuine.

Evidently, too genuine. Isaac nearly dropped his drink as, through the woman's eyes, he saw the man raise his hand in a V sign and conjure electricity between his fingertips.

Isaac got the bartender's attention and paid off his tab, relocating himself and his drink to the bar on the upper level. He was now on the street side of the building, leaning on the railing and overlooking the dining space. Directly ahead and below, the booth with the electric man. He spent some time observing them without the assistance of Rasmus, but found he couldn't see anything particularly interesting. The man had pulled out a stack of papers from a briefcase, and was shuffling them around while speaking. Choice packets of paper were passed to the woman occasionally. It was the perfect opportunity, a chance to get some tangible information.

He refocused Rasmus, looking to the man below. As he settled into the man's eyes, Isaac lost the grip on his drink, startled by flood of alien sensory data. The glass fell to the ground level, shattering loudly.

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on October 25th 2018, 1:11 am

Two memories played in Aaron’s head, side by side, clear as the moment they were recorded. Not by him, of course. Human memory was lousy, more noise than signal in comparison, optimized for a bare minimum of information. The machine mapped to his brain was built to a higher standard.
Each memory was taken mere moments ago. The first spanned around a minute: he was talking to Cynthia, making eye contact as was polite, but his focus had been drawn to a detail that seemed out of place. An aura around each of her eyes, pale, conical. He’d almost missed it among the light gray fog of the woman’s potential field. The second was much shorter, barely a second long, essentially a still-frame: Cynthia’s power demo, where the faint gray fog had erupted into sharp white gridlines, neatly dicing a cut of prime rib.
They were different. He dismissed the second memory, calling up ones recorded earlier. For how worried she’d been about displaying her power, Cynthia had used it subconsciously several times that evening. A brief bit of force when she lost her footing in her heels, a slight push to keep her hair out of her face.
All different from the auras.

“I hope I’m not the only one you’ve talked with.”

Her voice broke his concentration, and his visual focus returned to his eyes. He looked up from the meal he’d been eating to see her paging through the first contract.

“What makes you think you are?”

“Well, like your email said, you’re looking for people without experience in the whole hero deal, who also have a good handle on their powers. Just seemed pretty exclusive.”

“I’ll be honest, you’re the second.”

She shrugged in response.

“Forgive me for asking, but, you don’t need glasses, do you?”

Cynthia looked at him, brow furrowed.
“Uh, no. Why?”

“You haven’t even marked off the first page.”

“Just doing my due diligence.”

“Ah. Carry on”
Damn. Not her.

“Must’ve been slim pickings, if your second choice is a broke student.”

“That puts you a few pay grades over my first, actually. I have yet to meet her, but she’s already exceeded my expectations.”

“Oh?”

“You heard of the attack on that mall in Marlborough? This afternoon? She managed to stop it, despite not having time to prepare.”

“I should thank her, then. A friend of mine was there today. Will she be meeting us here, or…?”

“You’ll meet her tomorrow. I’d like to have a meetup in costume; get familiar with each other’s powers.”

“Looking forward to it.”

Aaron reached out to a cluster of circuits in his thigh, a bluetooth antenna. A few connections later and he was mentally interfacing with his phone. Like the virtual machine in his head it ran faster than he could easily track, but the surface programs were meant for human input.
With a thought he sent out a text message.

Just confirming for tomorrow. Impressive as today was, I’m too busy to reschedule another meeting this week.

Fuck.
Shit.
Stop listening!
ugh
sorry
voice to text turned on
ill be there dont worry

Good.


A haze appeared in his peripheral vision soon after his focused shifted away from the phone. Within a second the haze expanded forward, dominating his field of view. The aura.

In that same moment there was the distinct sound of breaking glass. Aaron turned his head towards it. There were some gasps from patrons seated near where the glass had fallen, dropped from above.

Aaron traced the trajectory upwards to a man in a white mask, hand still out with fingers curled.
The man’s mask resembled an owl by the few contours on its surface, and it had a peculier glow about it when seen with his powered eyes.
More intriguing were the mask’s eyes, a conical aura poking out through them.
Another target? Or the source?

He focused on his sight: as it grew sharper and more detailed the world began to darken, fading altogether. Now he saw a world of energy, from the faintest static buildups to the brilliance of the building’s electrical grid.

Even now the auras were faint; observing the others made worse by those over his own eyes.
He reached up to adjust his mask, his hand visible from the currents coursing across it. As his thumb obscured an eye he let loose a small shock. It traveled through the pupil and onto the optic nerve, filling the eye with light, an overload. Harmless, but blinding.

Aaron’s mind had barely registered it, the shock lasting under a millisecond, but the machine was faster. He let his real sight return as he shifted focus to the recording. In the moment one eye went blind, the aura flared in the other. Beyond it, the auras of the masked man flared as well.
His sight was meant for energy; fortunately, information was roughly the same. He could sense the connection now.

Cynthia’s voice interrupted his concentration once again. She held the contract, pen pointing at some portion.
“Should I initial here?”

“Just mark it, a check will do.”
Aaron glanced at the man in the owl mask.
“You never know who might be watching.”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on October 25th 2018, 9:24 pm

Rasmus' power left as quickly as Isaac could urge it. He turned away from the railing, nearly causing a pair of patrons just behind him to spill their drinks. His thoughts raced as he hastily made his way down the stairs and toward the restrooms.

Somehow, the man had identified him. He'd given Isaac the gift of sensory overload twice over, as well. Though Isaac's eyes hadn't truly experienced what Rasmus had fed through his sight, Isaac found himself stumbling on the last step down the stairs. There was a sort of emptiness just behind his eyes, a feeling not unlike a blindspot caused by bright lamps, though he could see unimpaired.

Isaac entered the restroom hurriedly, and after a quick scan to make sure he was alone, he removed Rasmus from his face.

Setting the mask by the sink, Isaac rubbed at his eyes, first with index finger and thumb, then with his palms. He contemplated leaving, slipping out into the street and disappearing. Accidentally discovering powered individuals had not been on his agenda.

Contracts. Some kind of field around the woman. At least two parahumans were in the building with him, and at least one was aware of him. Whatever business dealings they had going on, he wanted none of it.

But...

There would be others. In some capacity, each of them would be part of a network. Maybe two or three more parahumans they were aware of or even interacted with.

Maybe a healer among them.

Isaac stopped rubbing at his eyes and rested his palms on the countertop. He made eye contact with himself in the mirror and considered his next course of action.

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on October 26th 2018, 3:15 pm

The minor commotion of the dropped glass had barely managed to get Cynthia’s attention. She was used to louder, more chaotic environments, thanks to her former workplace.
She checked off the relevant fields of the first packet; liability and legalese, mostly.
What did worry her was Conduit’s comment.

“Do you think we’re being watched?” She asked.

He seemed to hesitate a moment before responding. “No. Not us, exactly. Much as a place like this attracts those trying to stay hidden, it also attracts those prying for secrets. Better to exercise caution, just in case.”

Cynthia nodded, though it didn’t help her sense of unease. She opened the cover of the second packet. This one was financial in nature: pay, insurance, tax withholdings. Meatier subjects than the first one, with language that was only slightly more understandable.
As she gave the contents an initial read she picked at her dinner, grazing more than eating, hoping to extend the meal to last the evening.
The insurance portion seemed fairly standard, roughly equivalent to the plan offered to most full-time employees, combining dental and health. It surprised her a bit at first, but made sense upon reflection: a superhero team would be fairly useless if the heroes weren’t in good health. She winced, recalling the news of the mall attack: details were scarce, but the hero had to be carried out on a stretcher. Serious injury was a real possibility.
Next was compensation, which caught her eye. A hundred dollars a day for being on call, with an extra hundred for timely response and potential extra based on the scope and risk involved. In the grand scheme it wasn’t much, but it added up over time.

“So, how are you funding this? Sponser?”

Conduit had been looking at the crowd, having already finished his meal. He turned his focus back to her.
“Do you doubt I can provide?”

“Well, it’s just, this seems beyond the means of…” She caught her tongue, having nearly said graduate student. “…Of someone coming right out of retirement.”

He smiled.
“Our mutual friend mentioned the paper I’m working on, yes?”

“He did.”

“That’s the most exciting one, since it relies on my talents almost exclusively, at least for the initial design work. But it’s only one in a series of published work. I’ve been selling patents for a few years now, nothing that’s hit markets yet, but enough to invest. When the team goes public I’m going to look into contract work for us for some real income, like I used to do.”

Cynthia nodded, looking back at the papers. Her thoughts dwelled more on Conduit’s words, though. She hadn’t been wholly truthful earlier about her reasons for opting out of cape life. She’d fantasized about it before, and one summer those fantasies became something more material. Using her employment at the scrapyard to pick up several hundred pounds of steel for cheap. Building a costume, a suit of armor; testing it, refining the design. She’d almost made the leap, but ultimately held back.
Being a hero meant living a double life, having a reputation that wasn’t built on visible foundations of personality and history. She hadn’t been ready for that then. She wasn’t sure if she was ready now, but she didn’t have other opportunities either.

Conduit stood up, drawing her attention.
“I’ll be back shortly, just need to use the restroom.”

“Oh, sure.”

He disappeared into the crowded restaurant. Cynthia took out her phone which she’d kept tucked into a fold in her dress, held in place with her power. She opened the calendar and turned to the availability section of the packet, marking down her on-call times and preferred off days. On a weekly basis she filled in every day except Sunday, adding notes about what remained of her daily routine for completeness. For the year she looked back and forth at her calendar, marking off important dates and times she would be unavailable: certain holidays, appointments. She looked it over for any mistakes. Her eyes settled on the block for Sunday; after some consideration she marked it as available too, save a block of time from five to eleven in the morning. Enough time for Church with her parents after her morning run.

The phone buzzed, a text message appearing, from Alyssa.

heyyyyyy
cindy can i use your kitchen

I thought you’d be sleeping. Did you get your car and your stuff alright?

yeah
took forever
kitchen please though
took a nap now im hungry

Okay, just clean up any mess you make, alright?

your not my mom
but yeah fine
bye bye

Cynthia regretted the text right after she sent it. Alyssa had never been the most careful or attentive person, nor a good cook. Her kitchen had fire extinguisher, at least. And the fire department was nearby. She shook her head and went back to the papers.

~~~

Aaron used his sight to navigate the crowds beyond the quiet dining area. It couldn’t quite see the future, not with movement at least, but it helped picked out the patterns in the way people moved about.

He’d used it to try and track the owl-mask’s wearer, but the man had gone out of view. Aaron could see through objects somewhat, if an energy potential was nearby or particularly power, or the object unsubstantial. The mask, however, looked fainter than it should have been, as if it were concealing itself. The man had come down the stairs, only to be lost in the crowd.

Aaron made his way around the ground floor, scanning the area. No sign of the mask or wearer among the tables, nor outside. With how packed the restaurant was, it was doubtful the man had managed to leave already. Which, ironically enough, left the restrooms.

As he pushed the door open he scrutinized the room, his sight again at its full extent, adjusted enough to make out the shape of the environment, more like a thermal image than true vision.
He saw the aura of the mask, sitting atop the sink counter. A mass of heat next to it, tall, masculine in shape. The wearer.
From his sight he could tell the restroom was free of interlopers: the stalls cold, unlikely to have occupants. He leaned up against the door; though he wasn’t particularly built, it would delay anyone who may enter unwary.

“Enjoying the sights?”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on October 28th 2018, 2:07 am

Isaac quickly scrambled to re-place Rasmus on his face, keeping his head turned down and away at the same time. When his identity was once again concealed, he looked up to face the man who had just entered.

The parahuman stood leaning against the door, effectively trapping Isaac in the room unless he wanted to make the confrontation physical. With so many unknowns, from the stranger's abilities physical and paranormal to Isaac's dubious combat ability, it was difficult to justify going down that route.

Rasmus was activated so sudden and quick that Isaac couldn't register if it had been a conscious action on his part or not. The man's sight-based powers were, as far as Isaac was aware, perfectly replicated for Isaac's benefit. The initial shock had been weathered already, and Isaac set himself immediately to the task of deciphering the strange new images around him.

A faint aura overlayed his vision, apparently from a source just in front of his eyes. Additionally, a barely perceptible cone extended from each eye socket to the respective eye on the stranger. More oddities filled the world, waves and ghost-like entities gently swirling in and out of sight. Static, as well. Isaac had no clue what to make of it.

Locked into the same sight as the parahuman, Isaac found himself tensing up periodically as the colors and shapes shifted unexpectedly here and there, but he did his best to keep it from being too obvious how startled and confused he was. He considered answering the man, but decided against it a verbal reply. Instead, he slowly and deliberately held his hand out, parallel to the ground with fingers spread.

Isaac rolled his wrist back and forth a little, a small 'so-so' gesture.
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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on October 28th 2018, 10:35 am

Aaron saw the conic auras appear again as the mask met the man’s face. The wearer’s hand gesture was somewhat difficult to make out, but the message was clear enough. Aaron dialed his sight back, the world brightening and sharpening as his vision approached something normal. The mask’s aura seemed to solidify in the process, remaining as a haze around it, as if the mask and aura were one.

“You dropped your drink, earlier. Right in the moment these-” He gestured to the auras around his eyes. “-appeared.”

“I’d guess you weren’t expecting what you saw; which does put my mind at ease. However, it makes me wonder: what were you expecting, and why?”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on October 30th 2018, 3:43 am

Rasmus seemed to hum as the world faded to something approaching normality in Isaac's eyes. Still, some minor visual artifacts lingered.

Isaac considered the man's question silently, appearing to simply stare as he stood utterly still.

"Not..." Isaac gestured, vaguely waving his hand as if to address reality itself. "Not this."

He spoke quietly, though the mask itself didn't seem to serve to mute his voice any further.

"I don't want any trouble with you and yours. I just came here to... I just came here."

The tension didn't leave Isaac's posture in the slightest with his words. Fight or flight, fear, adrenaline... The list of chemical reactions Isaac could still consider reliably functioning was short, and these past few minutes had leveraged nearly all of them.
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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on October 31st 2018, 1:04 pm

The stranger seemed uneasy, unwell. As Aaron looked at the man, vision tinted by the auras around his eyes, he realized why, at least in part. His sense of sight had never been normal, though he could imagine what others saw. To him the world was built from two overlapping images that remained distinct: able to magnify one and diminish the other, but never remove either. This would be truly alien to the masked stranger.

“You understand I can’t ignore this?”

In spite of the mask covering the stranger’s face, Aaron could tell the man was tense, cornered. He couldn’t be sure if the man had other abilities; some were invisible to his sight until the moment of action.

“Many use this place to do business openly while protecting their private lives. Some are like me, others are more mundane. What you can do, what that mask lets you do, threatens this delicate balance. And while I don’t want that, I don’t want a confrontation with you, either.”

“So I’ll ask you again: why are you here? I doubt you’re a spy, but I’ll need a good reason to believe your answer regardless. Otherwise…”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on November 2nd 2018, 10:48 am

"I have no interest in material gain, not here."
Rasmus flared, an effect Isaac could now see with the stranger's sight power. Isaac was no longer borrowing the power from his confronter, instead borrowing the man's eyes. Through him, Isaac could see the tension in his own stance, felt the faint anticipation of action that affected the man as he watched Isaac. He also saw the auras overlaying each of their eyes, dull as they were.

"I'll leave here, leave you to your business. But I'll be back. It's an ideal locale for... voyeurism, I suppose."

Isaac thought for a moment before continuing. If the man was doing business with one parahuman, perhaps he was doing business with others. And maybe...

"We could meet again. Work out something more comprehensive, for the sake of your... privacy, as it were. Again, this is not a materialistic venture for me. It's more personal."

I can't read you. I don't know what else to put forward. Just let me go, damn it.
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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on November 2nd 2018, 2:10 pm

Aaron hesitated, considering the stranger’s words. They didn’t sit well: this man could subvert the ultimate precaution of eyes-only, easily skim the crowd for all manner of sensitive information, and yet he used it to get his rocks off?

Reaching into a pocket of his suit Aaron retrieved a business card. It was black with a bronze border, decorated with electrical patterns similar to the mask he wore. The only writing on either side was a phone number in plain font, matching the border’s color.

“I believe you, much as I’d rather not.”
He sidestepped, clearing the door, then held out the card.
“If you’d like to arrange a deal, call this number. It will go to voicemail, leave a message, I will respond when I can.”
With his other hand he gestured towards the auras around his eyes.
“Until such a deal is made, I don’t want to see these again. Understand?”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on November 2nd 2018, 4:46 pm

Rasmus reverted to borrowing the man's sight power, the auras in front of the stranger's eyes dissipating and replaced with faint lines drawn between each of their eyes. As the power switched over, Isaac bobbed his head in acknowledgement.

"I'll leave these," he said as he gestured to the empty air between them. "You'll know when I've left."

Isaac took a few slow steps toward the man, toward the door. He stopped just outside of arm's reach.

"What sh-- should we? Pseudonyms? Or total anonymity."
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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by REDSHEILD on November 4th 2018, 1:03 am

“Conduit. I don’t need a name from you now: I’ll recognize your voice when you call. However you wish to be addressed, include it in your message.”
Aaron left before the man could reply. Briefly he considered reporting the man to the management despite their tentative deal, but there was so little he could prove on the spot, and with how disruptive the accusation would be… the hassle wasn’t worth it.

~~~

Cynthia had gotten somewhat lost in thought, staring at the final signature page, when Conduit’s return snapped her out of it.

“Almost done?” He asked, sitting down.

“Mostly. That guy in the owl mask give you any trouble?”

“You noticed.”

“I kind of put it together a bit late, but yeah. What was he doing?”

“The mask lets him see through other people's eyes, I think. I was worried he was skimming for financial or other sensitive information, but his motives were more… personal, to put it nicely.”

“Personal?”

“Voyeurism, or so he claimed.”

“Oh.” Cynthia couldn't help but think of her dress. While it wasn't that low cut, despite being more of a party dress than proper evening wear, she had been looking down while working through the contract.
“Creepy.”

“Quite.” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Sorry you had to go through that experience twice in one day.”

“I’m a bit numb to that sort of attention by now. I worked in a very male-dominated environment for a few years and there wasn’t a premium placed on manners, you know? Stares are easy enough to brush off; worrying about where I’m looking does add an extra dimension of weirdness. But trying to control that hurts me more than it hurts him, so it’s better to not worry. I’m alright.”

“Good to hear. Getting back to our project here, it looks like you've been on the signature page for a while. Having second thoughts?”

“Some. The gravity of it kinda caught up to me.”

“It’s quite the commitment, not to be taken lightly. I'm glad you're aware of that.”

“Well, it's more…” She smiled, nervously. “I could get hurt, or worse, die. I've worked in dangerous places, with equipment that could tear your arm off if your shirt snagged on it, been around machines that grind cars into an oily pulp. But this is different. Capes fight, and more than a few fight to kill.”

“Too true. Another thing I wish I'd realized when I was younger.”

“Oh, sorry, I didn't mean-”

“It's fine. Do you have any other pressing concerns, questions?”

“What's in the cards for tomorrow? Just a meetup and power demos, or something more in-depth?”

“I’d like to get a proper assessment done. Powers, skills, knowledge, whether we can stand working together. Should take a few hours at the least, though I made sure to have the entire day open. I hope to have some fun while we’re at it, too. The exercises I have planned will give you a taste of what it’s like to be in the field, as well. When we’ve wrapped up here I’ll text you the location.”
He reached over to his briefcase at the far end of the table, popping it open.
“Given the evening’s circumstances, it’s probably best if you hold off on signing. I can bring the papers with me tomorrow, if you want to review them.”

“Sounds good.” She gathered up the packets, stacking them neatly. When they had all been put away, she held out her hand.
“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you, Conduit.”

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INV ONLY Re: Bound In The Gaze Of The Abyss

Post by MissingAxis on November 8th 2018, 5:52 pm

Isaac could almost feel the 'tethers' between his eyes and the man's eyes snap as Isaac stepped out onto the street and walked around the corner.

The world felt... emptier, somehow. There had always been a sense of lack when Rasmus' power faded, but this was a stronger sensation. The electric man's eyes had made the world seem abuzz, full of clutter and chaos. It had been an overload of information, something to adjust to, but ultimately more alive.

Rasmus was tucked away now, slipped into an interior breast pocket Isaac had ordered to be specially tailored into his suit. By no means was it totally hidden, but it was more convenient to carry and the actual item itself was unrecognizable.

Isaac Bell walked quickly, building up some slight measure of warmth in the cold Boston night. A cab would have been warmer, and quicker as well, but there was something about the chilly air and the slight burn of pumping muscles that triggered a primal reaction in Isaac. It was one of the few systems in his biochemistry that felt normal.

His phone buzzed in his pocket somewhere around the halfway point, an unknown number. Hesitantly, he answered it.

"Hello?"

"Isaac?" He recognized the voice, and felt a pang of dread.

"Yeah."

"We-- I'm calling in that favor. Bring Rasmus and meet me."

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"Okay."

---

The warehouse was decrepit, one of many that was abandoned in the economic downturn following the incident. With the lack of human activity in the area, city pests had turned it into a shelter from the elements. Pigeon and rat dropping littered the concrete floor, cobwebs built up in the rafters. The man, Isaac noticed, didn't seem to mind.

Isaac didn't remember him so twitchy and restless. The man paced in circles, murmuring to himself as he completed endless laps around the pile of garbage bags and shopping carts that evidently belonged to him. Isaac simply watched, standing silent with Rasmus in his hand. Unprompted, the man raised his voice.

"It's not right. It's not right!"

Isaac flinched as the man was thrown inexplicably through the air, hitting the ground and rolling a short distance with a dull thud.

"What the fuck!?" Isaac's voice was raised this time. He began to take a few steps back as the man slowly and painfully brought himself to his feet.

"Richard!" Then, lowering his voice, the man continued, "We have a guest. Rasmus, come closer."

Isaac stopped his slow retreat, and held out the porcelain mask. The man beckoned him closer. Hesitantly, Isaac complied.

"I know, I know. But he's the only option I have. He doesn't need to know. Fine!"

The man suddenly jerked his head up, making eye contact with Isaac.

"Put it on."

Once again, Isaac complied, nervous. He brought Rasmus up to his face and let go, the mask effortlessly hovering just millimeters from his face.

"Rasmus," the man said. "Go ahead."

Unprompted, Isaac's sight changed. Suddenly, he could see who the man was arguing with. Or what.

A hulk of a man, his head replaced by a rooster's and his legs receiving like treatment below the knees. He was covered by nothing but sparse feathers and blood. His hands, Isaac saw, were some chimeric form between a human fist and a rooster's talons.

Beyond him, a massive hare standing upright, built not too dissimilar to a kangaroo insofar as it had uncannily human features.

And a gigantic pigman resting on its haunches, head disproportionately small. It was chewing, but made no sound.

Two more figures were present, but Isaac couldn't focus on them. They flitted around quickly, barely making an impression in his sight before disappearing. After a few seconds, he gave up tracking them, noting that they always hung around just out of the corner of his eyes.

"Richard is upset, he was bested--" The man was once again thrown across the warehouse, and this time Isaac could see how. The rooster-man -- Richard -- moved with incredible speed, crossing the distance between himself and the man with a mere stride and backhanding him with enough force to send the copper-haired man through the air. As before, Isaac flinched and began to retreat backwards.

"Ignore him, he can't hurt you. Not right now. Listen, the fey want hosts. You're going to find some."

"What?"

"The fey-- I've made a list. Just find people for me, matching the list. Then we're settled. Please, Rasmus. It's the only way."

Isaac stared, dumbfounded, then took the crumpled scrap of paper from the man's hands.

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