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Her Vodka, His Books: A Cautionary Tale

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Her Vodka, His Books: A Cautionary Tale Empty Her Vodka, His Books: A Cautionary Tale

Post by LostTroubadour on July 13th 2013, 1:17 am

The afternoon was damp and breezy, and for the entire day it had seemed like a perpetual dawn as the clouds filtered the sunlight into a blue and gray hue. The outdoor halls of the college grounds funneled the wind and chilled the environment further, blowing at the jackets and hair of the few individuals present indiscriminately. If you were lucky, you would only need to walk through the wind tunnels and open courtyards for a minute or two before reaching the main parking lot, but for those who remained, there was little such fortune.

John listened to the light echoes of his steps as he made his way across the grounds. In his rush to escape the college as it slowly became the prison of his will, the college graduate had forgotten he had been loaned several textbooks by a professor. Should he refuse or forget to return them, his so-called insurance deposit would be forfeit. Jobless, John wasn't quite willing to part with his twenty dollar per-book payment.

It wasn't much warmer inside, but at least he was out of the wind. Balancing the textbooks in one hand, John flexed his fingers and reached for the door handle to the lecture hall. Instead of grasping it and pulled the door open, however, he hesitated, suddenly aware of an itch in the back of his mind. Something was prodded from his subconscious upwards, a familiar yet oddly devilish voice whispering to him.

“You don't need hands.” It was true, he didn't. He could sense it now, the ocean of forces surrounding him. He could command them now, and why shouldn't he? Glancing up the hall both ways, John retracted his hand and focused on the door handle.

The door shot open, far faster than John intended. Reflexively, his hand jerked upwards to catch the edge of the door and he took a quick step back, nearly losing hold of the books.

“Oh, sorry.” In the doorway stood the professor John had come to see, a gray-haired but otherwise healthy man known almost exclusively by his surname, Harray. He had one hand on the door, and held an old leather briefcase in the other. “I didn't see you there, or I wouldn't have pushed it open. Ah, you did remember.”

Of course, that was it. John didn't lose control, it was simply that Harray was pushing as he pulled. Fortunately, it didn't seem that the professor had seen John's hand shoot up to grab the door. He was invited into the lecture hall, and the pair walked to Harray's desk. John set the books down and rubbed his hands together for a moment as Harray dug through his briefcase. The man straightened himself and held out a small envelope labeled simply “J. Monty”.

“Here you are, then. Is that all?” Harray was tired, as evidenced by his voice and expression. John nodded as he slipped the envelope into his pocket. The pair walked together up the stairs and out into the courtyard, John remaining beside the aging man out of politeness. At this pace, it would take them a noticeable time longer to reach the parking lot than if John walked alone.

Still, he didn't want to be rude. The professor had taught him a fair amount in the years John had taken his physics class, regarding both the forces of the universe and the forces of society. Most of what he owed to sources other than his supernatural gifts, John owed to Harray.

A few minutes passed before Harray spoke, kindly liberating John of his polite obligation. “Go on, I'm sure you have things to do. I've safely reached my car a thousand thousand times; the odds are in my favor.”

“All right. Have a good day, professor. I'll see you around.”

John eased into his regular pace, almost running compared to Professor Harray's gait. He was nearly out of yelling distance, at least that of Harray's, when the professor shouted after him.

“John! I nearly forgot! A young lady came by a few days ago, looking for you!”

“Thanks for the heads up,” was all John shouted in reply.

Several minutes later, John parked the old Corolla in his friend's usual spot, stepping into the apartment long enough to drop the keys in the mailbox. John himself lived half a block away and across the street, usually using the bus stop nearby to reach the college. As he walked, he ran it over his head. Why would someone be looking for him?
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 13th 2013, 1:18 am

Lillian's daddy had taught her many things, but restraint was not one of them.

A half-empty bottle of vodka dangled from Lillian's fingers as she dropped into an overstuffed chair. She'd been drinking for a while. She didn't know how long, but it didn't matter much.

Lillian lifted the bottle up to eye level in an attempt to gauge how much was left. Enough for the rest of the night. She glanced dully at the empty shot glass on the granite coffee table in front of her, but deemed it too much effort to retrieve, so she took a swig directly from the bottle instead.

"Perhaps you've had enough for the night?"

Lillian sucked in her breath slowly and sat up, setting the bottle down on the ground next to her. "Your job," she snapped to the bulky man who had spoken, "is to guard me, not babysit me."

Roland regarded Lillian calmly. "It's not a command, merely a suggestion."

Eyes narrow with suspicion, Lillian picked up her bottle again and examined it critically. Maybe it was time to call it quits for tonight. With a growl, Lillian reluctantly handed the rest of her vodka over to Roland. "Don't drink any," she ordered irritably.

They sat in silence for a bit while Lillian picked at her fingernails, her head fuzzy and thick with alcohol. After a minute, her eyes lit up, and she turned to face her body guard. "Hey. Wanna see a trick?"

Roland rolled his eyes. "Lillian, you show me this every-"

"No, no, it'll be great," Lillian interrupted excitedly, ignoring Roland's protests. She clawed her way out of her chair and tripped over to the kitchen, grabbing a steak knife from her silverware drawer. Clutching it in her fist, she went back into her living room. "Ready? Watch."

Roland cast a lazy glance in Lillian's general direction. Seeing that he was watching, Lillian put her left hand straight out in front of her, palm up, and cut a deep gash from the webbing of her fingers down to her wrist. Blood welled up and began to pool in her slightly cupped hand, threading along the hundreds of wrinkles adorning her palm. Lillian watched, entranced in her drunken stupor, as her flesh stitched itself back together seamlessly, leaving nothing but the rivulet of blood trickling down her wrist.

"Roland, it's am-aaa-zing," Lillian said breathlessly.

"Sure," Roland said, getting up and fetching a damp cloth from the kitchen for her to wipe her hand on. Lillian ignored his indifference and stared in awe at her palm, as though this weren't the hundredth time she'd tested her 'secret' power. Roland offered her the washcloth and she accepted it absently, washing away the blood to reveal scarless skin underneath.

"How does it work?" Lillian asked Roland, handing him the bloodied rag to dispose of.

Roland shrugged, uninterested. "How should I know? I'm not a scientist."

"Not… a…" Lillian's brow furrowed, her brain trying to work under the fog of that evening's vodka. Suddenly, her eyes popped open huge. "Roland! That's it! I need a scientist!"

"Okay," Roland yawned.

Lillian's mood shifted from inspired to irate at his noncommittal response, her eyes shrinking into furious slits. "You are still my employee, whether I'm drunk or not," she hissed. "Go find the best goddamn college in the area and fucking find me a physics professor or something. No, never mind, you'll fuck it up. Go find the college and give me the number of the professors in the science department. I'll do it myself."

Roland quickly ducked out of the room, unwilling to stay for longer than he needed to. Lillian glared after him. "Sassy fucker," she muttered to herself, forcing herself to stand and stumble her way into her bedroom to pass out for the night.
----

The next morning, Lillian woke to find a glass of water, two ibuprofen, and a sheet of paper with a couple of phone numbers scrawled at the top on her bedside table. She blinked at it for a few seconds before remembering what they were for. Groaning, Lillian chugged the glass of water and popped the ibuprofen, grateful for the coolness against her parched throat.

An hour later, her headache had disappeared and she referred to the list of numbers Roland had found for her. "These better give me results," Lillian grumbled, grabbing her cellphone and punching in the first number.

Lillian was pleasantly surprised by how quickly she was able to reach the physics department at the university. "Puget Sound University, Professor Nikoli speaking… How may I help you?"

Lillian ran her tongue over her teeth and paused before speaking. "I'm looking to employ someone from your department to assist me with personal research and experimentation. I was hoping to perhaps speak to some of the professors that may be looking for additional work..?"

The man on the other end of the phone was silent for a few moments, then he said, "Our professors are very busy, Miss…?"

"Carraway. I understand your professors are busy, but I pay VERY well."

"Ma'am," the man replied, sounding irritated, "unfortunately our professors are currently in high demand to provide education for the students attending this University. I appreciate your calling, but it simply isn't a possibility."

Lillian snarled silently. She did not like being told no. "ExCUSE me, sir, but this is not an issue I am willing to give up on-"

"Oh, hold it for one moment, would you?" There was a sound of paper rustling on the other end of the line, and then the man was back. "Miss, our professors are absolutely out of the question, but there are several students looking for part time jobs that may be interested. I assure you, they are quite hardworking."

Lillian took a deep breath, extremely frustrated. "I am not looking for a NOVICE--"

"I think we may have a candidate that will meet your needs, Miss Carraway. He has the highest marks of any in his class, and is a remarkable pupil. He has a very thorough understanding of even the most complex concepts in his courses. Would you like his contact information or would you like me to redirect you to a different university that may be willing to give up their physics professors?"

With an unsuppressed growl of anger, Lillian relented. "Fine, give me the boy's contact information," she spat, snatching a pen off her bedside table.

------

Three days later, Lillian was regretting her decision. This student, John Monty, was proving to be FAR more trouble than he was worth.

After trying and failing to contact him by telephone, Lillian suspected she had the wrong number and marched down to the campus of Puget Sound University herself. Upon her arrival, she was briskly informed by the secretary at the visitor's desk that John Monty was no longer enrolled as a student  of their esteemed institution because he had, regretfully, dropped out.

Lillian's wrath was unfathomable.

At that point, she realized to give up would be defeat, and her unsuccessful attempts to locate him only fueled her desire to find the elusive John Monty. Despite Roland's protests, she put her bodyguard to work, ordering him to track down Mr. Monty at ALL costs. Roland begrudgingly did as he was told, and was able to track down the young man's address.

All of this had taken place over the span of a few short days, and now, finally, Lillian found herself standing on John Monty's street, angry, determined, and feisty as hell. She had ordered Roland to stay behind, insisting that she would be "just fine" on her own. And now, she had finally arrived, and it was time to talk to the mystery student face to face.

Walking down the sidewalk towards his apartment now, she wondered briefly if she had made a mistake. Perhaps she should have just given up on Monty. After all, he DID drop out of college…

But before she had time to truly question herself, she realized she had already arrived. Just a couple of doors down was Mr. Monty's apartment. She smirked in satisfaction. "Found you," she muttered, her high heels clicking as she walked up to his door and raised her fist to knock.
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 14th 2013, 2:01 am

Whatever the woman's purpose, it was not something he could predict. John had laid low for a long time, not out of necessity but out of habit. There was likely not anyone looking for him due to a past misfortune, and unless the government or another body had developed a means to locate individuals with supernatural powers, he wasn't in danger there, either. John had no lost possessions that he could think of, and had not put out any ads as such, nor any postings on Craigslist, Freecycle, or Ebay. He was, for the first time in months, perhaps even years, clueless.

When he next raised his eyes from the ground, it was on the second floor of his apartment building, just a few doors away from his own room. His next step was hesitant, as he noticed a woman standing in front of his door. But John was quick to recover, planting his foot firmly and bringing his other leg forward as he continued to stride towards the woman.

It didn't require much for his ability to kick in, the unique sense of his to detect the feelings of others nearby. Almost subconsciously, he willed the power to the surface and examined the stranger before him, turning just two doors down and acting as if he was fumbling with his keys as he glanced at her. Triumph, or some form of satisfaction... A fading frustration... It seemed she had found him, and knew it. If it was, indeed, the woman in question, that is.

John began picking through his keys, glancing up at the woman once more. "Looking for someone?"
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 14th 2013, 10:03 pm

Just as Lillian was about to place her first few triumphant knocks on John Monty's door, a voice shattered her concentration and made her twitch. She turned around and found herself looking up at the face of a stranger.

"Uhm," Lillian replied, attempting to regather her thoughts.

Pull it together, Lillian thought to herself, irritated at her momentary lapse in composure. She couldn't let this opportunity slip through her fingers because of a blunder. Once she had recollected herself, her confusion turned quickly into irritation.

"It really isn't any of your business," she said, narrowing her eyes coolly. "But thanks for asking."

Even Lillian herself wasn't entirely sure why this operation was so important to her. Was it understanding? Ever since she had first discovered her talent, she'd had no one to discuss it with, no way of knowing what was happening to her. Yes, she wanted to learn more, figure out how it was possible for her to regenerate. But was that all?

How amazing it would be, to unlock the secret behind her ability, and use it... Lillian shook her head to clear it. There would be time to think about her end goals later. For now, she had to focus on the task at hand.
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 14th 2013, 10:59 pm

Not a friendly one, is she? John grabbed his house key, pausing once more and looking up at the woman to buy himself some time. If he went about this too quickly, and inserted the key, it would be apparent it didn't fit. The key was the last illusion he held.

"Would you like me to relay a message? I'm not sure John would appreciate you banging on his door all day and bothering the neighbors while he's away."

John inserted the key, jostling the knob as he did. Fortunately, most of John's immediate neighbors were out for the day, including Gareth, whose door he was claiming as his own.

"Damn key..."
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 14th 2013, 11:06 pm

"... while he's away."

Lillian took a very slow, deep breath. So. John was away. Well, then, she could be patient. She disliked it, but she had the capability. She was far too tenacious to let this one slip through her fingers. Heaven forbid she leave such an important message with this neighbor.

"Oh, that will be just fine, thanks ever so for your kindness," Lillian replied drily. "I will wait until Mr. Monty returns to avoid... 'banging on his door' all day." She turned away from the door and leaned against the wall next to it, suppressing a flash of frustration. In her peripheral vision, she caught the neighbor jostling his key in the door knob. She rolled her eyes and began fishing in her bag for a carton of cigarettes. She may have a long time to wait for this John Monty.
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 14th 2013, 11:51 pm

She wasn't leaving. The single worst thing she could have done was to stay. Cursing the apparent malice of the universe, John withdrew the key.

"What do you want, anyway?" He was in front of his door now, the key sliding in easily as he unlocked it. He could feel her frustration, see it in her posture. It faded fast, however, replaced with an ox-like stubbornness that may have been infectious had he been intent on doing anything. John pushed his humiliation and defeat out of his focus, letting the ocean return to his sight, prepared for the possibility of a heated ending to this exchange.
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 15th 2013, 12:01 am

Lillian's fingers had just curled around her cardboard carton of cigarettes when the stranger sidled over to the door she reclined by and slid his key into the lock with ease. Her brain flew through a hundred possible explanations over the span of a few seconds before she came to the only realistic conclusion. This man, this stranger, was John Monty.

"You're John Monty?" Lillian asked, fighting to keep an incredulous note out of her tone. She needed no answer, however: his actions spoke for themselves. There was no other explanation.

Quick, Lillian. Game time. Lillian brushed a curl of copper out of her eyes and tucked the unruly strands behind one ear. "Mr. Monty. Pardon me for simply showing up on your doorstep like this. I have gone to some lengths to contact you, none of which were successful. May I come in?"
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 15th 2013, 12:26 am

John took a bit of pleasure in her surprise, picking up on it easily despite her attempts at hiding it. It was a short-lived enjoyment, though, as her determination surged back to the surface and she messed with her hair.

"I don't usually invite strangers home on the first date." John gave the knob a twist. "Is it a topic we can discuss elsewhere? A park?"

He swung the door open a bit, taking half a step in. Pocketing his keys, he faced the woman completely, one leg in the apartment.
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 15th 2013, 12:41 am

First date? Cocky. Lillian shrugged it off quickly. She had his focus and an offer for further conversation, that was all she needed. Now she just had to keep him interested. Lillian was familiar with the give and take system, she learned it at a very young age. If she wanted to receive, she would have to convince him. Make sure he knew it was worth it. And she had all the resources in the world to do it with.

"Sure. Let's go for a walk," Lillian agreed, refusing to acknowledge John's snide date comment. "Want to lock your apartment back up?"

Fuck, I knew I shouldn't have worn heels, Lillian grimaced to herself. She slid her purse further up her shoulder and turned to face John expectantly.
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 15th 2013, 1:42 am

"Of course. Just a moment."

John took the envelope from his jacket, weighing it for a moment with his eyes before pocketing half the contents and slipping the envelope in a drawer by the door. With his apartment secured, he led the young woman out to the street and got them started on a route to a nearby park. He didn't wait long to question her, now comfortable in presence of the public.

"Who are you from?" It was clear from his expression that the word was not misplaced. A pointed question, implying he believed she was representing someone he had associated with.
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 15th 2013, 1:53 am

Lillian patiently waited for John to shuffle his papers around, then followed him out onto the city streets. It was fortunate that she had plenty of practice moving efficiently in high heels, or she may have had trouble keeping up with the man's long strides.

"I answer to nobody," Lillian answered, wanting to make that clear from the very start. "My name is Lillian Carraway. I am hoping to conduct some personal scientific research that I personally do not have the knowledge or the expertise to do myself."

She paused for a moment, thinking carefully about how to word this. "I attempted to contact some higher-level professionals in the field, but as you can imagine, they are in high demand. I was redirected towards you. They claim you have unparalleled intelligence, for a university student. They weren't wrong, were they..?"

Lillian was somewhat satisfied with this wording. If he had any scrap of pride in his talents and accomplishments, this would be interpreted as somewhat challenging- or at least, that was her hope.
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Post by LostTroubadour on July 15th 2013, 2:26 am

It was a weekday, and it was dreary. Those two factors limited the number of people walking about significantly, but even if this Lillian wasn't here to carry out a mob hit on him, he felt comfortable with the variety of witnesses there'd be if things went wrong. As she continued speaking, John shrugged off his early apprehension as paranoia. After all, what had he done?

"Depends on what kind of research you have in mind. I can't build a particle accelerator to rival the one in CERN, but I might be able to help on some more theoretical grounds. What exactly do you have in mind?"
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Post by SongOfStorms_ on July 15th 2013, 2:31 am

Lillian hesitated. Now, if anything, would be the moment that defined how much involvement John Monty had in her research. If he was unwilling to work with metahumans, she would have to start all over with her search, and that would be a royal pain in the ass.

"Well," she said carefully, "I am hoping to conduct some research on the powers of metahumans. I intend to be able to fully understand how they function, and what in ou- their genetics produces these powers. Obviously I would fully fund the construction of your entire laboratory, and you would have full access to whatever equipment you need, in addition to being paid hourly for your efforts."
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Her Vodka, His Books: A Cautionary Tale Empty Re: Her Vodka, His Books: A Cautionary Tale

Post by LostTroubadour on July 15th 2013, 2:52 am

The girl was serious, or at least a good liar. John couldn't sense any of the usual emotions associated with lying, just a hint of nervousness. It made sense; metahumans were a controversial subject. There was something that bothered him about it, something he had to pick up on himself. Why would a stranger offer a college student so much? Either the lab would be a cardboard box and a store-bought chemistry set for children to make crystals, or she was absolutely insane. No one could be this confident in a stranger's ability.

"Well," he began. An alarm went off in his head, and he realized he had led her to an emptier street, a shortcut he took when traffic was heavy both in the streets and on the sidewalks. Lillian didn't bother him nearly as much now that he had read her a bit more, but there was something else. He felt the feeling of nervousness spike, not from her, and not nearly enough to be him.

"I'm not sure what to say. You're offering quite a lot." His voice trailed off as he glanced up and down the street, confirming they were alone. John's empathy told him otherwise. When he took his next step, he realized too late that the pair was passing an alley, as a hand shot out and yanked on his hood.

He tripped, the hand still latched firmly on his hood as another grabbed the front of his sweater to drag him to his feet. Pinned against a wall, all John could see was the black ski mask a few inches from his face, and the red hair of Lillian in the alley, at the edge of his vision.

"I don't want any trouble, just your wallet and anything else you might be carrying of some value. Same goes for the girl. Peter, get the hell over here, the girl shouldn't be any trouble for him."

As far as John could tell, there were three. The one pinning him against the wall, the second who apparently had Miss Carraway, and a third, who came into view moments later, barely visible behind the first.

He glanced at Lillian as best he could, barely picking up on her emotions in his distraction, trying to take out his wallet.
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