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AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam’s eyes darted between his target, seemingly desperate to escape, and his partner, who was pulling the weight of at least six AVG agents, and keeping him free to pursue the son-of-a-bitch. It was a tough decision, but… Augh! Adam’s decision danced on his toes, but he took off in the opposite direction of the commotion, up the stairs, and quickly lost the sight of Hector around the corner to his left. His ear crackled with the grunts and groans of men in pain, and Jake’s fruitless cries to stop—one tap from his finger quickly put an end to that nonsense. There was no time for this. Jake could hear the obnoxious spinning blades of approaching helicopters just as well as he could. They had no idea if it was backup for them, or an aid in their certain death, were they to fail this mission.

There were too many people counting on them. Too many lives had been lost, here.
Adam’s eyes perked as he caught the sight of the edge of a door closing, and he bodied his way through, following the sound of footsteps with only what little light peeked from the stairwell while the door slowly closed shut.
In an instant, his legs halted, his body stunned. No. Now was not the fucking time. Slam. Now was really not the fucking time!!

“To think, that Nikolai would allow his son to grow up soft…”
Hector’s deep, gravel-toned chuckle rippled through Adam’s chest. The sound alone filled his heart with fire. Without warning, he drew his gun, only now realizing, he was in near complete silence, the only light now pouring into the room from the square window in the stairwell door. He turned wildly as a laugh reverberated around him, seemingly from all directions. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

“You should know better than to feel such guilt for that which you could not control.”

“You shut your goddamn mouth, motherfucker!”

“The blood of all those innocent people, Adam,”

“Hector, I swear to fucking God!”

“Spilled for… nothing…”
Blip [3 ]. Blip [2 ]. Blip [1 ].

“… What the fuck!”
---

Finn briefly closed his eyes as he watched the footage before him fade in and out on the screen. He’d been in the same spot for hours, but not a peep had come through from neither Adam or Jake once they’d stepped foot inside the dilapidated building. A yawn escaped him, and he briefly adjusted his headset, so he could comfortably rest his head in the fold of his elbow… all he could do was—

“He…or, …swear to….God!”

Like lightning, Finn bolted to his feet, startling the other agents around him, who quickly asked him what was going on and crowded around him. Their cries, unheard, he quickly tried to get into contact with at least one of the two idiots obviously in some sort of trouble that they bothered to tell no one about! “Jake!? Autumn!? Can either of you—??”
One answer came in loud and clear,

“…What the fuck!”

Finn’s voice cracked with terror, “No…”

BOOM!

The building on the screen erupted on the left side, in a flurry of flames and smoldering concrete. Just outside the walls, civilians screamed, fearing for their lives. Nervously, the agents eyes each other, then stared slack jawed at the screen as another explosion erupted, before Finn angrily smashed his keyboard against the side of the wall.

“FUUUCK!” His foot made contact with the computer, cracking the case, and causing it to fizzle out slowly in response. “NO, you gotta be FUCKING kidding me!!” A struggle quickly ensued as the irate tech reached for his service pistol, hardly deterred by three of his teammates shouting for him to calm down.

“I am not about to let Hector get away with this shit again! Let me fucking go! I’ll end that fucker myself! I’ll--!!”

Ava, the only tech left at her computer, spoke up, her back to the commotion behind her, “He’s gone, Finn…” The room fell silent.

“…The fuck did you say?”

Ava turned, only slightly, her eyes downcast, “Hector… is gone. He got away… There’s nothing we can do but report back to—”

“Oh, fuck off, Ava! You have always been such a fucking pushover! The only words that ever come out of your mouth, are about what you can’t do, and what’s out of your control! What in the actual fuck is wrong with you!? Our friends just fucking died at the hands of a madman. Did you forget? He murdered your goddamn husband in the attack at HQ!”

“And you think it’s right to go tearing out of here like we weren’t screened and trained for years to handle situations like this?” Ava stood, finally, meeting Finnigan’s gaze as she ripped his gun out of a teammate’s hand, “You think we’re going to solve anything by trying to jump in and be heroes!? Jesus Christ, Finnigan! We’re not heroes! We’re just. Fucking. People!” She pressed the barrel to his chest and pulled the trigger… Click. Empty.

“We’re just regular fucking people and we can’t save anybody… Somebody get the fucking Chief on the phone. Now!.”
---

“Oooooh my Gaaaaahhhd, Jake. Get the Chief on the phone. Now!”
Adam swiveled playfully in his chair, spinning himself around the empty room, stopping on the opposite wall with his toe, and repeating, ad nauseum. Two months! Two months they had been in Italy, for surveillance, to watch the goonies of a man who had yet to be identified, sling drugs in the slums of an Eastern European country. Seriously? “I am so fucking bored.”

By now, of course, they had very much gotten to the point where they had acquired the names and information of a few high profile clients… but nothing that would destroy several governments, and crash multiple economies, as Adam had previously hoped. No one had told him life in the Avant-Garde would be wondrous, and exciting all of the time, but surely, a field agent was more suited for life outside of four walls and a roof!

Still, there was a chance this mission could redeem itself, if only… “Ah!” Adam’s eyes went wide, and he glanced at Jake, a smirk already stretching across his face, as he cupped a hand over his ear, listening eagerly to the conversation that played out.

Two gruff voices, seemingly incredulous at their awful luck, that their boss would want them to “take out” a pretty young woman that had waltzed her way into the shit show of the life of one of their clients, and was now blackmailing him with all she had learned while engrossed in his circle.

“An’ so he says he wants the girl gone, jus’ like that, can you believe it?”

“She don’ deserve to be taken out without, ah, one last round o’ fun, you know what I mean, ha!”

“Hahaha! You’s ain’t right, man, I like your style…”

Adam clapped his hands together, “Finally.”
I’ve been waiting for this for so long.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" [right [i One Mississippi…]]]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake’s feet pounded on the hard floor as he tried to chase after Adam, that stupid idiot. He was going to get himself killed. It would be Jake’s fault. All his fault. He was responsible for the dolt. After these many long months of sleepless nights and early mornings, Adam was going straight into the lion’s den without a care in the world. And no matter how much power Jake possessed, he was unable to stop him. Adam’s priorities were clear, take down Mikhail Vetrov no matter the cost. That fowl excuse for a human would pay for the crimes he committed. Crimes performed against law and nature. The fucked-up things he did to science, to human life, was unforgivable by any deity. The long scar that permanently parted the hair on the back of Jake’s head was proof enough for that.]

[font "Sitka Small" [center [i Two Mississippi…]]]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam and Jake locked eyes from the opposite sides of the hallway. Three large men stood menacingly between them, backs against Adam. Their attention was fully locked on the smaller man, which he could only assume was by order of the lunatic upstairs. Adam wasn’t as much of a threat to Vetrov’s escape as Jake. Frankenstein was fully aware of his monster’s capabilities. Jake’s eyes shouted at Adam to wait, to not rush off in his heroic escapades as usual. He could handle Vetrov by himself. Jake knew it; Adam knew it. And yet, he couldn’t argue with the chopping screech of the helicopter several floors above them. He could hear it even through the layers of concrete between him and it. Adam was about to make a rash decision.]

[font "Sitka Small" [i Three…]]

[font "Sitka Small" The next several moments meant life or death. The more Jake and Adam stood arguing wordlessly to each other, the more Vetrov, the bane of Jake’s existence while also being the cause of it, was getting further and further out of their grasp. And so, Adam made a dash for the stairs and the minions attacked all at once. Jake cursed through his sharp canines as he started forward. The emerald eyes saw everything happen a few frames per second. A fist abnormally huge ticked its way toward Jake’s face. His eyes went wide as he effortlessly ducked out of the way and rolled to avoid a grapple from minion number two. Sweat beat down his brow with his heart racing in his chest. Jake had been in battle before and never felt anxious previously. This time felt like the whole world rested on his and Adam’s shoulders. [b [#006400 “Adam!”]] Jake shouted before stabbing minion three in the throat with a dagger. For some reason, Jake couldn’t shake this feeling that something bad was about to happen. Adam was in danger from something, but he didn’t know what. The nightmares that have plaguing Jake’s dreams for weeks were starting to give him a Déjà vu moment. He had witnessed this before, but he could never remember what happened next.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake dashed off ignoring the injured henchmen writhing on the ground. They did not matter right now. Jake got the feeling that finishing them off would be pointless soon. [b [#006400 “Adam Wait!”]] Jake yelled desperately. His partner was in trouble and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. For once in his life, Jake felt powerless.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake was halfway up a flight of stairs when an eruption shook him to the core and launched him against the building wall. Fire exploded throughout the top floor. The small man didn’t remember anything following the explosion. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious before hearing a panicked voice over the earpiece. Coughing to wakefulness, Jake groaned as he saw his body was sheltered by crossed beams that deflected most of the debris. His whole body was in pain and even some charred marks on his clothes and face. [b [#006400 “Control, do you copy?”]] Jake’s voice was scratched and barely recognizable over the weak signal. No response the first time as Jake struggled to get up. [b [#006400 “Anyone? Can anyone hear me?”]] It took less time for a voice to reply back to him with relief in the tone.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Jake? Oh, thank God. Are you alright?” It sounded female at first, but the voice quickly changed over to a male. “Report in Jake! What in the hell happened out there?”]

[font "Sitka Small" The rustle of dark brown hair was coated with white debris and peppered with bits of drywall. His face scratched with black smudges all over it. His field clothes were torn and burnt. Jake was certain that he was missing a shoe. He crawled forward so that he could stand up, although the action took a great effort. He had bruised ribs, a broken right arm, and a minor concussion he assumed. The question was repeated to him as he tried to gather himself. What happened? Jake looked around at the mess that was littered around him. A giant hole opened up to the city and smoke billowing out of the glassless windows. Sirens were blaring in his sensitive ears and the lights almost blinded him. [b [#006400 “Adam…”]] His voice finally broke out as he felt tears blurring his vision. [b [#006400 “Adam is dead.”]]]

[center ---]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake banged his head on his folded arms that rested on the desk in front of him. Adam had whined to Jake for the past hour about getting the Chief on the phone to complain about the boring leg work they’ve both had to do for this current mission. While Jake was used to the menial duties of reconnaissance, Adam was a “doer” in every sense of the word. He had to be “doing” something whether it was women or other hands-on tasks in fieldwork. Jake had honestly never seen one man bring home that many women back to their apartment before. Jake couldn’t understand it at all. This blond guy was just so annoying. He didn’t understand how he did it. He was like a child, complained a lot, and constantly finding himself into trouble.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake on the other hand was a silent observer that was comfortable in the shadows. He had grown up the outsider around everyone else at AVG. As much as he would like to do more fieldwork, the head officials didn’t think it was a good idea. They always kept him under strict surveillance and locked away secrets about his birth. At least in Italy, Jake could be more himself away from headquarters… which was still a standoffish nonchalant person with a very annoying partner.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#006400 “Adam, I’m trying to listen to the-“]]]

[font "Sitka Small" “Ah!” Adam interrupted as he leaned forward at full attention to the voices in the headset.]

[font "Sitka Small" Sighing, Jake gritted his teeth once more and turned away. [b [#006400 “Never mind.”]] He muttered as he turned up the volume. [i Definitely sounded like this woman was next to be bumped off the list it seems] Jake thought to himself as he wrote notes on the conversation. After weeks of listening, Adam and Jake finally had something to go on. [b [#006400 “Sounds like we got a lead now.”]] Jake stated.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Working quickly, Adam tabbed through his little black book behind the wheel, passing it over to Jake so that he could read him directions to Isabella’s flat, in the high-energy, bustling metro of the downtown streets. While they had been confined to their desks unless they were conducting beat work on foot and had never been allowed to directly pursue their targets, with careful notation of their movements, it was little more than simple deduction to pinpoint Isabella’s location. Adam tossed Jake a pointed glance as he put the car into drive, “Don’t go past page 97 in there.”

Seeing the scenic countryside begin to disappear out of view was…bittersweet. The blonde sighed thoughtfully, leaning back in his seat a bit, taking it all in. Jake probably wanted nothing more than to drive in silence, but Adam opened his mouth anyway, “Ahh, I’m going to miss home, mi ricorderò di te…,” and he wondered if Italy would remember him, too.

“Knowing those two, they’ll grab a couple of cheeseburgers before they think about heading over to cap Isabella,” Adam sighed, reclining the seat a bit to ponder their game plan, “How anyone can eat before they cut off a pretty woman’s hands and head, and toss her into the ocean and call it a fuckin’ day… If I ever get that deranged, just shoot me.” And knowing Jake, he probably would gladly take the chance. Nonetheless, it gave them some time. After three months of moonlighting in Italy, following two overweight bastards, it was clear these two had their priorities a little out of order.

But that was just fine in the eyes of the Avant-Garde.

Getting to Isabella’s penthouse-esque apartment in record time wasn’t the hard part. Putting his ear to the door, Adam could hear the soft beat of pop music juxtaposed to Isabella’s whiny drawl. Already, he could feel Jake’s disdain, radiating from his body. Before the science experiment had a chance to voice his thoughts, Adam turned and gave him a look out of the corner of his eyes, as if to say, ‘Don’t overreact. Don’t screw this up. Don’t. Say. Anything.’

“Just, leave it to me.” A rough, single tap was enough to stop the music. ‘Who the fuck is that?’ Footsteps quickly approached the door, and the girl that peeked her head out from behind it was enough of a sight to make Adam’s jaw hit the floor.
5’5” out of heels, impeccably straight, blonde hair to her waist, big brown eyes and an Instagram model body. Just the way he liked it. Adam cleared his throat and gave the most dashing, persuasive Cordova smile that he could muster as he eyed who he surmised to be his future wife.

“Scusa.. Isabella?”

“Si…” A coy smile tugs at the side of her lips as she eyes Adam and opens the door, exposing her short, slinky black dress. Adam’s, er… “heart” …leaped. Good. Goddess. “You are…Italian?” She asked, albeit in a thick accent.

“Ah, si, si..” Adam assured her, approaching her confidently from beyond the threshold of the door in front of him, half tempted to shut the door in Jake’s face. Quickly, though, with the imminent threat of Hector’s men on their way, he moved straight to the point: your pimp wants you dead. We want to keep you safe. But we need to know what you know in order to do that.

Isabella smiled darkly, gently reaching her hand to meet Adam’s waist. “I go with you? I go anywhere.” Good. She was compliant. But there was just. One. More. Problem. She leaned in for a whisper, and Adam lurched backwards, throwing a worried look at Jake. “She wants $100,000!!!”

The telltale ‘ding’ of the elevator down the hallway was jarring enough that it brought Adam enough sense to quickly throw the petite escort over his shoulder. Through her yelling, and his ears ringing as a result, he managed to get a word in to Jake, “Stairs. Now.” It took everything in Adam’s power not to shed a tear or five. They were on the 23rd floor…
By some miracle of fate, they had slipped into the stairwell just as the two thugs rounded the corner. With Isabella yelling all the way, Adam slammed his hand over her mouth and nose, “Shhhh!!!” Thundering footsteps stopped abruptly. Adam could hear one of the thugs outside curse loudly. Surmising that they had seen the open door, and a woman inside who was decidedly not Isabella, he took the opportunity to scurry downstairs. Girl in the backseat. Car started. Engine revved. Like a shot, they were gone, into the night, breaking just about every traffic law in existence.

Finally. Adam leaned into the headrest of the car, and sighed. Halfway relieved and halfway preparing himself for the lack of silence that was going to rule his life for the next two days. Not wanting to wear Isabella out before she was boxed in and questioned for days on end, he chose to refrain from engaging with her, watching his rearview mirror for any signs of cars that hadn’t split from their path.
Sure as shit.

“That didn’t take long at all.” The blonde furrowed his brow. How? No time to think about their methods. His only concern was losing them entirely. Shifting into a lower gear, he gave the gas a generous push, boosting them down the crowded streets and intersections. It wasn’t an issue until the back window shattered, and Isabella unleashed a piercing scream. “… Great.”

At the next opportunity, Adam hooked a sharp left, onto the ramp of the freeway, pushing the car to at least 120mph. Again, they were behind him, shooting. Adam weaved in and out of traffic, causing the stray bullets meant for his head to fly into the cars of unsuspecting citizens. The ensuing chaos was a blessing, and a curse. The pileup that resulted bought them enough time to make considerable progress towards the embassy airstrip. But, not enough to warrant any semblance of relief.

“What the—” Adam slammed on the breaks, causing the car to slide at an angle to a halt. In the distance, was a car driving slowly, searching for them. It stopped directly in front of them, four blocks down, and looked poised to come straight for them. In sudden realization, he glanced to Isabella, who was…oh. On her fucking phone.

Despite her cries, Adam snatched the device away and threw it out the window, shattering it against nearby brick wall in his anger. “Figlio di puttana!!!” His screams echoed as the opposing car faded out of sight.
With the sort of vigor only an angry Hispanic man could have, Adam pulled up to the embassy airstrip in the battered company car, and roughly pulled Isabella by her wrist towards the plane, passing Jake on the way, who he could tell was judging his late arrival. “Don’t. Ask.”
___

“Good Christ, she has the mouth of a fucking machinegun, no wonder he wants her dead!” Adam winced as the interview door slammed behind him. Loudly.

Try as they may to understand her barrage of Italian obscenities when she spoke about her boss, Adam had to ask several times for clarification. Trying to keep track of all the different people affectionately named “Asshole 1-5” and “Dickhead 2-17” was amusing, but made for horrible story telling. More importantly, it wasn’t getting them any gainful information. But she just couldn’t seem to grasp the definition of the word, “succinct”. It had driven a good six to twenty agents—expertly trained in interrogations—to leave the interview room in absolute frustration. Some gems included:

“What the fuck is her problem!?” and “If punching her in the face wouldn’t ruin her profession, I’d Ronda Rousey that bitch.” from Finn. Adam shook his head, glancing tiredly through the two-way mirror in the room with sympathy in his eyes for Isabella’s latest victim. Poor Eva…

“Isabella,” Adam’s accent was coming out more thick, the longer he argued with her, “Chi ti vuole morto!?” He stressed every word with her. Who. Wants. You. Dead!?

“Asshole!! Where is my money!?”
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" After being kept in the cage for so long, it felt odd being outside. The “cage” did have home-cooked meals and internet access, but Jake mostly spent his eighteen hours of wakefulness working or thinking about work. Currently, it was his opportunity to stretch out the muscles in his legs and back. Of course, for someone like him, being outside had its disadvantages. Wherever he went, a disguise was company policy. He needed a hat to hide the unusually pointy ears, sunglasses for the diamond irises, and long sleeves ans pants for the grotesque scars on his body. For the most part, Jake looked like a normal civilian. Except, it was evening, and hotter than Hades outside. If anyone on the streets started to question this wardrobe choice, then Jake would pretend to be a visually handicapped person and use Adam as a guide. It was an ironic situation considering Jake had the ability to see in the dark while Adam did not.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Blind people can’t drive” was the excuse Adam used on Jake multiple times so that he could sit in the driver’s seat. It was some sort of masculine power status that Jake did not understand. Adam never let him drive anywhere because it would injure the fragile state of his manhood, according to Jake’s observational conclusions. It was irritating, but it gave Jake the opportunity to do other things, like give directions or shoot at bad guys.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Don’t’ go past page 97.” Adam warned with a stern expression on his stupid face. Jake raised his upper lip in disgust as he looked down at the black book as though it were moldy bread. [i Just don’t ask.] He thought as he began reading off directions.]

[font "Sitka Small" The car ride was, like most moments with Agent Cordova, was not quiet. Ever since the plane ride to this country, Adam has not ceased to bring up nostalgic feelings of Italy. Also talking about his past and how he had these adventures almost Jake jealous. Well, maybe more jealous than he cared to admit. He listened only because he didn’t have a choice. Fortunately for him, the drive was short. The apartment building was across the street and the two needed a plan before barraging in. “If we go in from the back first, then we won’t get seen,” Jake suggested as he stepped out of the car. He took off his sunglasses to peer up at Isabella’s floor. It was several stories up so scaling it on the outside wasn’t an option this time. Before entering the building, Jake replaced his glasses on his face. His pupils didn’t look normal under the light.]

[font "Sitka Small" Even from two stories below, Jake could hear the thumping of the horrendous music being played. If he had to go in that loud ass apartment with that god-awful music playing, then he would prefer to wait outside. If there was one thing the hybrid hated loud music. Jake’s perception told him that he would severely dislike everything about this Isabella person.]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam’s order for Jake to stay silent during this encounter angered the hybrid incredibly, but he didn’t have a chance to argue when the door opened. The whole appearance of this woman was completely off-putting to Jake. He could already tell that Adam was no longer thinking objectively to this situation. Underneath those dark lenses, Jake rolled his emerald eyes in irritation. Thankfully, Adam moved straight to the point of why these two men were at Isabella’s door. The worried look Adam gave did not bode well, though. The asset demanded a substantial amount of money for information. It took a great deal of willpower to not burst out into a fit of laughter. Who was she trying to fool? They were saving her life! That should count for something! She was in no position to negotiate considering her assailants were close by, ready to pull the trigger.]

[font "Sitka Small" The bell of the elevator saved the situation by making the tension worse. The ears hidden under the hat perked up. Jake cursed under his breath. [i They’re here already?] He thought. He turned to Adam with an expression of slight panic. It seemed like the stairs were the only option left. Groaning in agitation, Jake held the door open for Adam and “the other one” to escape through the stairwell. The two hitmen shouted and waved their guns around as soon as they saw the short Italian woman kicking and screaming over Adam’s shoulder. They drew up their aim, but Jake thrust his palms forward sending a force of energy to knock them off their feet. That would buy them a few seconds to head down the stairs. Bullets pinged by their heads as the trio darted down the many flights of stairs.]

[font "Sitka Small" Somehow, by a grand miracle, they made it to the car safely with the target harmed in the backseat. Screeching off into the nighttime streets, Jake breathed just a little easier. It didn’t take long for the goons’ back up to show up. Jake braced himself on the dashboard and the handlebar on the car’s roof while the momentum of the sudden stop forced him forward in his seat. [b [#006400 “Jesus, Autumn.”]] Jake hissed before looking up to spot a prowling car. [b [#006400 “How did they catch up so fast?”]] He pondered. Adam took the initiative and drove into crowded streets. Honestly, it was like riding with someone wearing lead shoes. Jake ducked in his seat as the back window shattered causing Ms. Biglips to scream, further damaging Jake’s hearing. [b [#006400 “Stop screaming!”]] he yelled at her as he glanced back at the people shooting at them. This night was a big mess and turning out the way Jake hoped it would.]

[font "Sitka Small" The bullets and the car chase continued while Jake cursed in his seat. He couldn’t really do anything to help. He couldn’t fire back and chance hitting a civilian. He couldn’t use his powers on a public and busy street for the same reason. The exposure would get him in trouble with the chief as well. The high speeds left a gut-wrenching feeling in his stomach as Adam raced to the embassy’s airstrip. Isabella was panicking in the back seat, on her phone. Adam yelling at her in Italian There was a lot of yelling and crying and Jake’s poor ears were on the verge of bleeding through his hat. All he wanted to be was for this car ride to be over.]

[font "Sitka Small" He soon got his wish as the three panic-stricken passengers arrived in the Embassy’s territory. Now it was just a plane trip back home where the madness would be over. At least, Jake had hoped it would be over.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Good Christ, she has the mouth of a fucking machine gun, no wonder he wants her dead!” Adam spoke as the two agents stood watching the interview of Ms. Isabella happen for the fifth time today. Jake was beyond peeved at this woman. She had done nothing but cause them trouble since they first met. Now, she was refusing the Garde’s help and making unreasonable demands of cash. Jake’s forehead pressed against the one-way window as an expression of complete weariness claimed his features.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#006400 “Should have left her in Italy.”]] He mumbled as he turned lean on the glass with his back. Agent Eva stood next to Jake in the private room looking very exhausted and fed up with the woman on the other side of the mirror. She had already tried to take a crack at a round of questions, but it didn’t end very well. She seemed to be in full agreement with Jake’s statement.]

[font "Sitka Small" Another demand for money was the last straw Jake could take. [b [#006400 “You little harlot. I’ll tell you where your money is-“]]

[font "Sitka Small" Eva grasped Jake’s shoulder before he could leave the room. “Jake don’t! If you use your abilities on this woman, then the Chief will get pissed.” She begged the man to stay put, but Jake wouldn’t hear any of it. He had been shot at, cursed at, endured loud screams, and horrible music. He had enough of this Isabella woman.]

[font "Sitka Small" He jerked his shoulder out of Eva’s grasp and burst through the interview room. Adam wanted to protest, but Jake held up a hand to silence him. [b [#006400 “Don’t.”]] He stated. [b [#006400 “We need this information.”]] He said with stern eyes peering through the sunglasses at his partner. Whatever the cost, she [i will] tell them what they needed to know.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake approached the woman, force her seat to the side so that her face was inches away from his. [b [#006400 “I know you can understand English, so you better listen. I am tired of your games. You either answer our questions, or I will personally deliver you to those goons myself. You are in no position to make demands. Your life is not our priority.”]] Jake removed his glasses and hat so reveal the monster underneath. Isabella gasped at the horrid sight before her. [b [#006400 “Tell him what we need to know, or I will extract every memory from your brain until you’re a drooling vegetable.”]] His voice was metallic and dark. He shook the chair causing her to screech out of fear. [b [#006400 “Tell him!”]]]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam stood, making his way around the table and gingerly patting Jake's shoulder. "Enough~" His voice was uncharacteristically heavy and exhausted, though some enthusiasm peaked through as he could sense appreciation from across the table. Glancing over to Isabella, his eyes were overcome filled with guilt and concern.

They'd been here for hours. Grilling her. Yelling at her. "Quite frankly, I'm sick of playing Good Cop/Bad Cop." And Isabella looked like she absolutely agreed with his sentiment. The mascara that had once run freshly down her cheeks had dried and began to flake badly. At one point, Eva taunted her, telling her to wipe off her foundation and take off her fake lashes, hoping to break her down and make her drop the bribe nonsense she was spewing. Isabella did as she was told without flinching, the dirty rag as proof on the table in front of her. And she was still as stunning as the day was wide.
Wait...what did that even mean...? "I think we could all use a break, and I need a fucking nap."

For several moments, Isabella froze, her animosity heightening the longer Jake occupied her personal space. And she didn't dare back down from his icy gaze.
A barrage of tears rolled down her cheeks, juxtaposed by the stubborn half smile on her lips. It was… a confusing moment for everybody involved.

"You take me from home. You tell me I am wanted dead. Why do I trust you? How I know you are not like... Like--"

The buzz of the intercom interrupted her, and immediately drawing Adam's attention. "Getting quite late, gentleman." A light flickered, illuminating the cold metal room behind the two-way mirror, with the Chief hunched sternly behind the microphone. "I'll expect you in my office in an hour for a debriefing." Adam could just about hear his own eyes rolling to the back of his skull. What she really meant was "disciplinary counseling." As one might have guessed, Agent Cordova was certainly no stranger to it. At least this time it was Jake's fault, and not because Adam had grabbed the receptionist's ass (or really any young, female employee of the AVG), this time.

"I do believe I'm on strike 94." Adam chuckled, although not even he himself could decide if he was amused or annoyed by the tide of the atmosphere.

"Come," He held out his hand to the feisty blonde beside him. Although she could certainly have stayed seated as she was, eye level with his hips--just the way he liked his beautiful women. Adam cupped Isabella's face and used only his fingertips to force her to look at him once she was in his grasp. Her eyes watered in response. "We must dry your tears and get you out of those heels. You're too beautiful, my porcelain doll, to be crying in this stuffy metal room--"

"You asshole...!" Isabella whined, pathetically beating at Adam's chest, "Don't touch me, I hate you...!"

"No, if I had it my way, you'd be in the penthouse, drinking champagne, I would treat you like the princess you are~ My 'bella, you are worth nothing less than perfection." In an instant the tears stopped. The Chief very quickly leaned off of the intercom, cutting off Eva's audible heaving from Adam's words, even behind the thick glass separating their rooms.

Hey, don't hate the player, Eva, hate the game...

Without missing a beat, Isabella turned a pointed, dagger-laden glare in Jake's direction. Her words were stern and shook the room with pure conviction, "Chain up your dog, and then we will talk, mí amour." A chill ran down Adam's spine as she pulled a finger down the length of his chest. Half out of arousal, half of sheer fear of what the next indeterminate amount of months with Isabella would bring.
Two neon signs lit up in his mind: Chaos, destruction, and Isabella was the goddess Eris in the middle of it all, with Adam at her beck and call. A nervous smile crossed his lips.

"Talk we will, 'bella. Talk we will." He tossed a halfway apologetic glance to Jake before snaking his hands around Isabella's waist, "I'll see the lady to her chambers, my good man. I'll see you in purgatory."

The door to the interrogation room creaked open, and within seconds, Adam was gone, chattering on sweet nothings, in Italian of course, to Isabella as they made their way to the elevator, with the intention of carrying on a conversation in Adam’s room. An intern, mesmerized by Isabella, received a knowing wink from Adam as the door to the elevator closed.
They probably weren’t going to make it to the room. The intern, flustered, turned to all those who had stopped to watch the couple disappear, and was only met with exasperated glances in response.

Standing five foot eight to nine inches in heels, the Chief watched from the open doorway of the observatory, shaking her head with her arms tight against her chest. "How much do you want to bet his hand is already on her ass?"

Eva nearly spat out her water, "No, no, no. I've lost a lot of money to you by giving him the benefit of the doubt." This earned a hearty laugh from the greying woman towering over her.

"Can you blame me? You support my coffee habit." The Chief, which was coincidentally her affectionate nickname by the majority of the Avant-Garde, pushed a lock of her short, suburban bubble behind her left ear. Eva frowned as she gave her boss a subtle once over. Had she lost more of her blonde recently…? “Especially nowadays. Agent Cordova is—”
“Driving you up the wall? Ruining your life?” Finn chimed in, paperwork in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other, as he passed by the door. “You’re preaching to the choir.” The room fell silent as his footsteps faded into the chatter amongst the rest of the busy office floor.
“Took the words right out of my mouth. Speaking of words, I must go have a few with our heroes. If not Agent Cordova,” And the women’s eyes rolled in tandem, “Then, at the very least, with Jakob… ‘Jacob’ with a ‘c’? Jasper?”
“Just ‘Jake’, ma’am.” Eva sighed. Although that’s not what the paperwork said.
“Hm… Are you sure? That’s not what his paperwork says.”
___
By the time Adam and Isabella had boarded the elevator, his hands had roamed from her waist, to the tops of her thigh, and traced back up the length of her dress. He was nestled into her neck, whispering in Italian, kissing her gingerly with every sweet word he spoke. She laughed receptively, responding where necessary, returning the favor when Adam would pull away to see if she would chase him. Even if it was only the intent glistening in her eyes—that was enough for him. “You’re beautiful.”

“And you, are a man. So what do you want?” Isa batted her eyelashes, smiling through a narrowed and sexy glance. Again, Adam could feel a shiver crawl up his spine. Her gaze was absolutely chilling.

“Just a man…?” The elevator opened up on the 24th floor, and Adam stepped off, with his companion close behind. Word had already spread to the agents in the upper floors, that a beautiful woman was on their way up with, no surprise to anyone, Agent Cordova, and plenty of eyes had peeked from their rooms to catch a glance of the blonde making her entrance in the lion’s den that was the Avant-Garde.

Jealous murmurs followed them, and rightly so. Adam grasped Isabella’s hand, just in case anyone might want to test the boundaries of his territory. The gaze of the other men from the floor, and the sheer animosity from the women, made Adam feel as though he were a stray dog, protecting his meal from the rival pack of coyotes. The women were Isabella’s problem. Wouldn’t want to burn any bridges, now, would we? The men, on the other hand…

Not a moment too soon did they arrive at room #504, and Adam, feeling the stares burrowing into his back, quickly unlocked the door, showing Isabella inside. The chaos he thought would once rule his life, was now but a distant memory, wasn’t it? Now they could be tucked away from the world, share a private moment, and then talk to the Chief once he’d acquired a… taste of paradise from the woman in his room. Everything was just as it should be.

Until he shut the door.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" So, Isabella and Jake squared off in only mere glares, but Adam quickly put a stop to that. Jake shrugged off Adam’s hand. If this idiot wasn’t so blind by artificial looks, he would take this task more seriously. Undermining Jake’s tactics left a bitterness like vinegar in his mouth. He did not like being toyed with and he did not like being restrained. Nevertheless, Jake did what he was told, like always, and let Adam handle the situation. “Quite frankly, I’m sick of playing ‘Good Cop/ Bad Cop’.” Jake merely rolled his eyes. Adam stepped in between Jake and Isabella; however, both were throwing glares past Adam’s shoulder.]

[font "Sitka Small" "You take me from home. You tell me I am wanted dead. Why do I trust you? How I know you are not like... Like--"]

[font "Sitka Small" [i Like who? Who are you so afraid of?] Jake wondered. His mind reached across the physical plane and latched onto Isabella’s mind for just a moment. A sear second of the information was all he needed. Who was this mysterious hand dangling all the puppets? Within that one second of peering into Isabella’s mind, Jake saw the Puppet Master, or what he thought was the leader to this organization. He saw the man through Isabella’s eyes. He was a short man, perhaps 175 cm, wearing some form of a formal suit. He wore small round glasses that gave his face a mousey look to it. A strong mustache decorated his upper lip and was paired with a sharp blond goatee on the chin. Most of the features were blurred from the brief moment Jake connected to Isabella’s memory.]

[font "Sitka Small" It was hard to get a clear description of him, but Jake could sense what Isabella was feeling. She was afraid of the blurred face. Something about this man shook even this crazy woman to the core. The intercom ceased any further progress f the mission as Ironside called them for a debriefing later. Jake wiped his face with one hand as the stress was beginning to wear on him. He was jet-lagged and worn out from the adrenaline. As she left the interrogation with Adam, Jake and Isabella stared down each other like old rivals. He was not surprised that Adam, lust-struck and irrational, lead her out of the interrogation room, probably back to their apartment room. [i Well I won’t go back there any time soon.] Jake thought as he joined Eva outside the room.]

[font "Sitka Small" “I don’t like her.” The shorter woman huffed while crossing her arms.]

[font "Sitka Small" [#006400 [b “Me neither.]] Jake muttered as he watched Adam and Isabella enter the elevator together. [#006400 [b "She’s hiding something. I can feel it. But I can’t do my thing without getting reprimanded for it."]] He grumbled as he put his sunglasses back on to hide his eyes. He mulled over the image he caught from Isabella’s memories. Who was the man she recalled? Why did he scare her so much? Was that Vetrov? He walked over to the elevator and pressed the call button.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Where are you going?” Eva called out to him.]

[font "Sitka Small" As the elevator doors opened, Jake stepped inside. [b [#006400 “I’m going to let off some steam.”]] He replied before the doors shut on him. Maybe some time training would clear his mind.]

[center ~~~~~]

[font "Sitka Small" Ironside monitored the arena behind thick bulletproof glass. Her arms were folded to match the frown on her face (a permanent feature for her these days). The Observation Deck oversaw the entire holographic arena from an overhanging room filled with windows. Ironside stood by the large wall window as technicians and on-staff workers sat at the simulation desks trying to keep the superhuman project busy with whatever they could throw at him.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake was upset. It was clear in his fighting style. His movement was all over the place. His hits were not direct. He was just using his abilities to smash through everything. He threw a car without his hands touching it. He caught an RPG in mid-air, turned it around, and sent it right back to its origin without so much as a paper cut. His abilities were getting stronger and wilder. Yet, Ironside only saw Jake as a child holding a missile launcher.]

[font "Sitka Small" The woman standing at the window, watching a seventeen-million-dollar liability throw a hologram tank against an impenetrable wall. Her security badge hung from the torso pocket of her suit above her folded arms. Black hair pulled back into a low ponytail as dark, almost black, eyes watched Jake’s movements with extreme scrutiny. She was the one that suggested that he did fieldwork. And now, every time he goes out there, she wonders if he’ll be the cause of her termination.]

[font "Sitka Small" Having enough of this tantrum, Ironside pushed down on the intercom button and spoke, “That’s enough, Jake. I need you in for debriefing.” Jake simply turned, out of breath, and waved confirmation to her. He looked annoyed, but he would do as he was told, just as he had always done.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Partners.

Adam spun on his heels, ready to continue where they’d left off in the privacy of the elevator, only to be met with an open palm smack to his cheek. A beat of silence passed, and he could only chuckle wryly in response.

What left Isabella’s mouth for the next twenty-odd minutes were a barrage of ‘how could you’ and raunchy, unrepeatable insults in Italian that left any native speakers in uncontrollable fits of laughter in any room directly above, below, or beside them.

“Letting him talk to me that way! Letting him make me cry! And where were you!?” Isabella grabbed the nearest object to her, a lamp, and reared it towards Adam’s head. “You’re not a man! You’re a dog!”

C R A S H Adam had managed to dodge that one, but only by an inch. Using the opportunity whilst her hands were free of projectiles, he stepped over to her swiftly and grabbed her by the wrists, restraining her. “Devi calmarti (calm down), Isabella!”

“No!” The petite girl struggled with all her might, kicking her heels off in the process, and causing the straps of her red, lacy bra to begin to slide off her shoulders. Not wishing to expose herself, she turned to Adam with an icy cold gaze, and whispered, “Only dogs lie down the way you did in that room. You let them humiliate me. I’ll never forgive you.” Adam’s grip tightened, pulling Isabella’s arms so taut that he was able to lean to her ear and whisper in return.

“Non posso lasciarti andare (I can’t let you go)...” Hoping she wouldn’t retaliate, he quickly moved his hands and roughly gripped her by the hips, turning her to meet his gaze. Her response was swift, passionate, Jesus Christ, did it turn him on. The feeling of her lips, the sight of her in that lingerie. He tossed her onto the bed, hastily removing his shirt while she composed herself.
“Do you want me?” Isabella brushed her fingertips against the straps of her bra.
Adam didn’t respond with his words.
___
Tap. Tap. Tap. “I told Cordova to be in here an hour ago.” The Chief’s index finger typed in Finnigan’s desk extension, as she’d done 1,000 times, and she asked him whether he’d seen Adam or their suspect at any point within the past couple of hours.
“… I’m surprised you can’t hear them from your office.” Ironside’s face turned a shade of red that should only be possible in cartoons at Finn’s response. “They fought for a good 20 minutes and have been pounding away in the sack ever since. You want me to page him for you?”

“No, Finnigan, I want you to invite him to my office for fucking tea.”
The devil swung open Ironside’s office door, wearing sunglasses and drinking from a martini glass, filled to the brim with what smelled like sugar and alcoholism. “Oh, how nice of you to join us, Agent Cordova.”

“You know me, Chief. Always on time. Always taking the job seriously.” Adam downed the remainder of his glass, and set it gingerly on Ironside’s desk, folding his arms across his chest and crossing his legs in his seat directly beside Jake, whose direction he didn’t even want to look in right now.

The stares of imminent murder from everyone else on his way downstairs had been more than enough for him.

Heavily irritated by this point, Ironside turned to Jake, “So. Who’d like to begin? And where would you like to begin?” She leaned slowly over her desk, clasping her hands together, already thoroughly amused by what was to come. "Do you want to start with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage estimates billed to us by the Italian branch of the Avant-Garde, or with an explanation as to why your presence was noticed and the entire mission jeopardized? Because we gave you very specific instructions. Observe, report, extract the target, remain unseen."

Adam began to shake his head about one word into Ironside’s diatribe—irritating her greatly. “Isabella had her phone on. Had we known that, they’d have likely never noticed us leaving the scene.” A lie. Adam was so focused on Isabella’s face (read: her body) that he never thought to check her for objects or devices that could have been bugged. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Why didn’t you confiscate it? Tell her to leave it at home?”

“That’s—”

“Why didn’t you destroy the phone?”

“I did, eventually. When I caught the mistake, I rectified it, as quickly as possible.”

Slumping back in her chair, Ironside pinched the bridge of her nose, sighing heavily. “You are… unlike your father, in so many ways…” Adam stood, just as the Chief caught her mistake. “A—”

“I’m sorry?” The silence that followed was deafening. The glare on his face could kill. “I didn’t put in my application, so you could compare me to that—” Adam breathed heavily, brow furrowed as he tried to calm himself, formulating a… respectful response. “I. Am. not. my father. My name is Adam Cordova, Agent number 609246, with a passing preliminary score of—need I remind you, Chief Ironside—one of the highest physical, tactical, practical scores of—”

Ironside stood to meet Adam’s gaze, her fire growing as their voices grew louder, raising over each other. “Enough, Agent!” Silence fell over the room. “Like it or not, given that this is your first official out-of-country mission, that was pending because of your general incompatibility or inability to otherwise get along with the other agents in our employment, you are on homeland duty until further notice. And considering your insubordination, you—and your partner—are suspended until further notice. That’s all.”

“No, we’re not—” Ironside’s door swung into the side of the wall. Startled, Adam drew his weapon, facing only Eva and several other agents to come to the Chief’s rescue. “I cannot believe you’d hit the panic button on me. Of all people.”

Eva cocked her weapon, her gaze never wavering. “Out, Adam.” Her gaze only turned sympathetic when she glanced at Jake. No matter how subtle she would have liked to be… Adam noticed.

Weapon holstered, and ego bruised, Adam pushed past his fellow…perhaps, former…agents and exited the building without much fuss, and without an escort. Once alone, he offered Jake as simple an apology as he could muster.

Sorry for the trouble, partner.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Everyone in Ironside's office was uncomfortable, anxious, and just a bit pissed off for more than one reason. It was cold and uncomfortable sitting in the office waiting to be punished, waiting to be scolded for someone else's wrongdoings. Agent Finn and Chief Ironside were nervous to be around Jake, he could tell. He didn't understand why considering her space was lined with power-blockers so Jake couldn't read anyone's mind even if he wanted to. The only positive thing about his obnoxious partner was that it was a distraction for everyone else to focus on. Adam might be a smug asshat, but his charismatic personality drew attention away from Jake's dark presence.]

[font "Sitka Small" However, the Chief was growing even more impatient and yelling at Agent Finn to call Adam [i again] to come down for the meeting. The man had to point out the loud obscene noises coming from the apartment. Jake rolled his eyes and placed his forehead in his hand. Why did he have to say something? Jake was beginning to scrub those noises out of his memory. ]

[font "Sitka Small" And just like an unannounced fart in small quarters, Adam Cordova arrived looking freshly fucked and a smirk to prove it. There was a collective sigh of irritation from everyone in the room as the blonde hoodlum took his seat in front of the Chief's desk. Jake's green eyes glared at him the entire time. As Adam parked his rear in the chair, folding his arms, Jake parroted his movement. He slumped in his chair with crossed arms and a pouted lip. It had the appearance of two children sitting in the principal's office.]

[font "Sitka Small" "So," Chief Ironside announced to the class, "who’d like to begin? And where would you like to begin?” She looked over at Jake as though she expected him to retell the events accurately. Of course, she expected as much from him. He's nothing more than a talking bloodhound to her. A loyal spy to seek and report back. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to proclaim his account of what happened in Italy because Adam had to speak his mind first.]

[font "Sitka Small" The room grew heated very quickly as it often did with two of the world's most stubborn people in the same room together. Upon the mention of Adam's father, there was...a pause. Even Ironside seemed to regret her mention of this man that Jake had never heard about before. Was Adam's father a member of the Avant-Garde too? If so, where was he now and why hadn't anyone mentioned him before? Jake sat up as the two practically screamed at each other. Adam's face grew hard and cold, which was a rare sight indeed. Jake had never seen him so serious and angry before. The sight was a shock that Jake almost didn't hear his suspension.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 "What?"]] He shouted as he stood up. Why was he being punished? She meant homeland bound meaning no field missions, no foreign travel, no freedom, no fun, no nothing. Just boredom and paperwork.]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam tried to argue, but a group of agents bursts into the office with weapons raised, silencing any retaliation. Jake furrowed his eyebrows as he glanced back at Ironside. His eyes trailed down to her right arm, a hand slyly partially under the desk where he could imagine a finger rested on a small button. So, she was nervous this whole time. Adam was disappointed in Ironside for getting other agents involved with this meeting. Eva glared at Adam with annoyance as everyone holstered their weapons. She gave Jake a small glance, clearly wishing he wasn't part of this. Adam stormed out followed by the quiet brunet. The meeting had finally closed.]

[font "Sitka Small" Once they were out in the fresh air and given space to clear their heads, Jake could hear Adam's thought whisper its way into his consciousness. [i "Sorry for the trouble, partner."]]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 "Oh yeah? Well, you should be sorry."]] Jake sneered as he clenched his fists. [b [#008800 "Do you have any idea what they could do to me if I fuck up too many times? Do you have any clue?"]] He didn't bother waiting for a response. [b [#008800 "No! No, you don't! You don't think past your dick!"]] Jake shouted at the blond man. He turned away as his fingers ran through his mud-brown hair. There were some AVG employees staring at these two men arguing right outside the main building. Jake glanced at the people staring and quickly covered his eyes with his sunglasses. He felt a bit exposed out here with all eyes on him so he lowered his voice before continuing. [b [#008800 "For Christ's sake, Adam. Now we're grounded and nowhere to go. We're not getting any closer to whoever is behind all of this shit."]]]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam didn’t utter a word. The blonde put a hand to his lips, running over his stubble. Almost anxiously, undoubtedly deeper in thought than he had ever been in the past couple of weeks. He needed to shave. But, more importantly, Jake was right. The fact of the matter was hard to believe, and even harder to swallow. Like flightless birds – whose wings had been clipped. A dilemma, but not an impossible situation.

“I can fix this.” But, first, they needed to leave the open street. Get back to their room. Adam gracefully barged his way back into Ironside’s office like a bull in a china shop. Demanding that anyone on the 5th floor promptly escort Isabella into the witness protection unit.

“We haven’t finished interrogating her!” Ava angrily shot back. But she was stopped in her rebuttal by Finn, who has shaking his head.

“Adam is… Adam has a point.” Aha, he had almost said it. Almost admitted that the reckless Cordova might be right. No way he wanted to be in the way of the flames when that ego was fanned. “We’ve been chasing a ghost, what are the odds that a high society prostitute will give us anything if she isn’t awarded her compensation, first? We ought to keep her in lockdown for now. Maybe she’ll talk after some time spent living with the peasants.”

It was all Adam needed to hear. “Let’s go, Jake.” And a brisk walk to the elevator later, they had disappeared. Ava and Ironside glanced at each other, unsure of what to make of Adam’s forcefulness. Nevertheless, the deed had been done once they retreated back to the confines of their room, all the while bouncing Jake’s words around in his head. With the distraction of Isabella out of their hair, Adam took a seat on the plush fabric of his bed and thought to himself. A moment passed as he stared into Jake’s eyes.

“We may be on homeland duty, but that doesn’t mean we’re up shit creek. Suspension just puts us back to good old beat work. Feet on the street.” No use of government provided electronics, monitoring equipment, access to files for which they did not have clearance. A suspension was merely sentence of inconvenience. Interviewing witnesses or persons of interest and accessing public information was entirely fair game. As trained operatives of a global network of special agents, they were more than capable of handling themselves when it came to accessing restricted areas. Adam and Jake – they were the best. Rarely seen, rarely caught, few qualms of silencing others to preserve the integrity of their mission.
Suddenly, Adam’s expression turned uncharacteristically serious. “There’s been trouble in the city, too. Those hollowed out stores, the bodies. All fronts for this ghost that we’re chasing. We know it’s where he gets his money. How much would you bet they’re connected to those guys in Italy?” He said. “In the time that we were stationed in Italy, there must have been incidents similar to those.”

It had started long before the Avant-Garde had become aware of it, and six months since they had officially begun to gather details that would hopefully lead them to this elusive mastermind.
A local daycare. A convenience store. The lumber mill, whose parent corporation had revealed itself to be phony. A quick search of the local news turned up three new locations – and two names. A car dealership, a laundromat, and a distribution warehouse. All burned, each victim shot execution style. Cold blood.

Adam turned to Jake, a devilish smile on his face. A confident smile, with lofty goals and dreaming of the accolades sure to come their way. “We follow the trail, and we find what the police, the AVG, the news – we find but one iota of information, Jake.” It was stupid. Reckless. But it was about the only thing they could do. It was all they could hope might put them back into the agencies good graces. Was it so wrong for a man to dream?

All great detectives – fictional and real – made their mark through their fearless, incorruptible endeavors in their tireless search for justice. An ambition now marred by the crushing realities of being a part of a bureaucracy that dictated how you spent your time, how you interviewed people, and when and where you were slated to be. Suffocating, at best. Suspension brought some modicum of peace to the agent named Cordova. The kind of peace that followed when one knew they had been abandoned. When they knew they were on their own.

“Don’t give me your applause all at one.” Adam eyed his partner intently, waiting for the inevitable response. The putdown, the admonishments, the disturbing ambivalence, the acceptance, the refusal – any and everything. “Do you want to do this? Or, not?”
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Oh no. He had the look. [i The] look. The look whenever Adam was determined to solve a problem. Jake had not known Agent Cordova for a long time, but he was beginning to pick up on this man’s facial expressions. The curve of the lips, the squint of the eyes, the rubbing of his chin, all were signs that Adam was planning something. Like a hound that never learned to let go, Adam couldn’t let this mission rest.]

[font "Sitka Small" “I can fix this,” he stated as he began to storm back into the building. Jake couldn’t help but feel his hopes of living to the ripe age of thirty fell through the ground from under him.]
[b [#008800 “What are you planning?”]] Jake asked with a rightfully concerned tone. Adam didn’t reply as he made his way back to Ironside’s office. The brunet quickly followed behind his partner. He was getting increasingly more and more concerned as he watched Adam waltz into Ironside’s office and demand for Isabella to go into witness protection. Jake would have argued about the true value of Isabella’s worth, but it wasn’t his place to speak on such matters. The decision had already been made, whether Jake approved of the idea or not.]

[font "Sitka Small" Content with the results, Adam motioned, “let’s go, Jake” as the two agents returned to their room in the living. Jake could practically hear the wheels turns in the other man’s head. He could swear he saw sparks flying off the sickeningly perfect hair. Jake stuck close by Adam, waiting to be let in on whatever half-cocked plan he was morphing in his head.]

[font "Sitka Small" Then he spoke his half-cocked plan aloud which sent a new wave of uneasy feelings up Jake’s spine. He pinched the bridge of his nose as Adam explained his ploy. On one hand, he applauded Adam’s tenacity. The unyielding conviction was one of the qualities Jake admired and hated at the same time. On the other hand, Adam was set on getting Jake killed, whether it was by thugs and criminals, or by the AVG itself.]

[font "Sitka Small" And yet, despite all of that, Adam was on to something (as he usually was). There were loose ends, dots that didn’t connect. Something was missing. They [i could] theoretically follow through with this. It wasn’t impossible, and they have worked with less. Something still didn’t feel right about it all. Jake wouldn’t be able to rest until he uncovered the secret to this mystery. He knew Adam wouldn’t either. So, as much as Jake wanted to say no, as much as he wanted to put this problem to rest, he met Adam’s equally intense gaze.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Before I agree to anything, there’s something I have to show you.”]] Jake answered as he straightened his posture from the bedroom doorway. He approached Adam hesitantly before reaching out his hand. God, he was breaking so many regulations by doing this, but it was for the mission. [b [#008800 “Grab my hand. I have to show you what I saw. What I saw in Isabella’s mind.”]] He explained as he waited for Adam to accept his offer.]
[right [pic https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/329430962859671553/724995118494384208/Mikhail_Vetrov.jpg]]
[font "Sitka Small" Humorous comments aside, Jake closed his eyes as Adam accepted his hand. It had been some time since Jake transferred thoughts to another being. It was part of his telekinetic training, but he wasn’t really allowed to use it unless absolutely necessary. He relied on his old exercises as he slowed his breathing and focused. The image was clear in his mind. It was like a painting displayed in a showroom. The painting was of the blurred image of a man with a blond mustache, small round spectacles, and mousy face. Now Jake imagined that he sent the same painting through a mail chute as though it were a letter. He knew that Adam could see it in his mind’s eye when Jake peeked over at the stern expression next to him. Once he knew Adam could see what he saw, Jake released his hand.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “When Isabella was about to say who she was afraid of, I read her mind. This man was there in her mind, the first thought she came to. She is afraid of this man, whoever he is. I think he’s the key to this shit pile. At least he might know someone in the center to it all,”]] he explained as he folded his arms, [b [#008800 “we need to find him.”]]]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

The surprise on Adam’s face came, and retreated, quickly. He had never expected Jake to humor him so quickly.

The image could hardly count as such, and Adam closed his eyes to concentrate. Committing what he was seeing to memory. What details he could make out were scant. Like he was peering through a frosted glass window. He groaned uncomfortably, attempting to clear the image, to prepare himself for whatever features this faceless man could possibly have. Though the features were largely obscured, one thing was clear: whoever Isabella was afraid of, dressed impeccably. The gig line of his shirt and belt were aligned just so, as was the placement of his round glasses, perched upon a small, pert nose. The tip of his tie tucked neatly into his waistband. Everything aligned to the left – his posture, the part of his hair. Was he left-handed? It could be personal preference, but more often than not, Adam found that details like this were a consequence of an anal-retentive personality. Or otherwise one that tended to glorify its own existence.

It was a confirmation, but not the kind that Adam could say he wanted. Clearly, Isabella had met this man. His image would not have come to her otherwise. But the quality of said image was concerning, to say the least. Long after Jake had released his hand, Adam continued to think, eyes closed. “How do we find someone who obscures themselves, even to his clients, and likely his employees?” Who they were set to investigate now, they were the lowest rung on the criminal ladder. A small price to pay, with little else to go on. There wasn’t much else they could do.

It wouldn’t be long before the nerds tasked with combing through their internet histories would discover their transgressions, unravel their plot, and attempt to put a stop to the agent’s intended course of action. Everything had to be recorded by analog. Adam hastily copied the relevant information down, never bothering to wipe the history in his browser. It wouldn’t have done them any good, anyway.

[center ---]

Adam had convinced Jake enough to trudge through the dilapidated remains locations in question with little enough resistance, but nothing could prepare him for the state of it all. The convenience store was closest, and therefore, it was the first point of interest. Adam marked the occasion in a rudimentary map in his notebook. With their assets frozen, their issued credit cars were useless. Personal funds were always an option, but the odds were against them that such an aspect of their lives was also being monitored by the AVG. Phone data could be easily accessed, analyzed. It was a risk neither agent wanted to take.

They had only talked about it briefly, their options. But their reality was common knowledge. Their energy was better spent wading through the waterlogged remnants of charred file cabinets, blown open safes, and jungle of loose wires cascading from the ceiling.
The remains of a paper long since burned and drenched in water, crumbled in his hands. It was an irritating feeling. As though he were on a wild goose hunt armed only with a metal bottlecap as ammunition. The feeling of hopelessness manifested itself with a deep sigh. Last time he had checked, Jake was combing the area behind him. What had once been the store front, while Adam had spent most of his time inspecting what used to be the manager’s office. It was separated only by a piece of what used to be one-way glass. “Find anything?” Whether by feeling, seeing, hearing – [i anything]. In the second hour of searching, Adam had only discovered partially salvageable papers that held little useful information. Perhaps Jake was having more luck than he.

And, then, he felt it. A loose floorboard. But not due to the structural damage of the building that had come during the fire. No, this was intentional. The wood shimmied naturally, as though it had been built that way. “Hey, Jake.” Adam cautiously pulled at it with his fingertips, taking up other pieces of the floorboard with it. The hollow space stared back at him. “Do we know anything about the history of this building?”

He didn’t wait for a response. The space could only be accessed by a grown man willing to get on his arms and knees, and Adam was just determined enough to find out what secrets the space held. Booby traps and other dangers be damned. It was dark. Yet there was still enough space for him to reach back to grab a flashlight from his belt. The agent continued on, wading through the dirt without stopping. Light was shining in from the floorboards above him and illuminated a sloping path at what would have been the storefront. Unsure if Jake might be following behind him, or perhaps above, Adam called out. “There’s something down here.”
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" The two agents waited until evening to start their groundwork. It wasn’t Jake’s favorite part of the job, but at least there was a sense of freedom about what they were doing. He didn’t have to worry about being monitored by a crew in a van somewhere. No technological restrictions. No call to report in. Nothing like that. It was just him and Adam solving a mystery. It was-kinda fun? Like a heavyweight had been eased from his shoulders. Jake was beginning to understand why Adam wanted to do this in the first place. Not just to solve the puzzle, but to do it [i their] way.]

[font "Sitka Small" Combing through the corpse of this building wasn’t proving fruitful so far. The fire really did destroy most of the evidence. Whatever remained was in another file neither Adam nor Jake had access to. He remembered that the Fire Marshall said that the origins began in the back room where Adam was investigating now. Meanwhile, Jake scanned through the rest. His normally diamond-shaped pupils were now large round orbs that flickered reflective light from Adam’s flashlight. He had no trouble seeing in the dim light, no flashlight required.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Do we know anything about the history of this place?” Adam inquired. Jake quickly glanced back at the blond man in the other dilapidated room. He recalled some snippets of information about this old building.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Used to be a speak-easy in the twenties, then was forcefully shut down by state police. Years later, it was a drug run for cocaine in the fifties and sixties. Lots of bad history. Probably why everyone avoids the place,”]] Jake contemplated aloud. He moved some debris with his foot but uncovered nothing. He waved his hand in the air causing burnt beams and heavy debris to move on out of his way. Certainly, a handy skill for this situation.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake turned when he heard something shifted behind him. Adam was gone. Slight panic rose in his chest until he heard muffled footsteps coming from beneath. Curiously, Jake moved to the spot where Adam stood a second ago to discover a secret pathway. One eyebrow raised; Jake jumped in after his partner.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Interesting,”]] Jake muttered, [b [#008800 “I don’t remember this being on the floor plans.”]] he knew exactly why it wouldn’t be. The building wasn’t supposed to have secret tunnels at all. [b [#008800 “Down the rabbit hole”]] Jake mumbled as he followed close behind Adam, [b [#008800 “where do you think it leads?”]]]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

“I’m surprised there were floor plans left of this place to find.” He would have figured that their enemies would have covered their tracks at every turn. The local library, city hall records, microfilm evidence of old newspapers. The errant clipping in their grandmother’s hoard, dating back to the Civil Rights Era. There were few enough people that knew this place for what it was. Not too many people they would have to silence. If the cleanup crew had thought to silence them at all. The sheer amount of debris in the upper level was promising. Generally, these known fronts were swept from top to bottom. Adam took some comfort in knowing that those who were tasked with this location seemed endearingly sloppy. “Honestly, I think it leads to

The firefighters had really done a number on this building. When Adam stood upright again, he landed in ankle deep water that had seeped in from the floor above. No matter. Other than that, the room he was in was relatively untouched. Fire had done little to affect the overall integrity, and the water was an annoyance at best. He thanked his lucky stars that he hadn’t been immediately electrocuted. That probably meant that there was no wiring in this room, modern or otherwise. Just a man and his flashlight, now, to illuminate the darkness.

Adam waded slowly, using his feet to search beneath the darkened water for objects of interest while his eyes scanned the room above. Aside from the dust, the grime, and the distracting smell of mold in the air, there sat a banged up safe. Centered perfectly on the back wall. But Adam was much more interested in the surrounding area for the time being.

“A white board, papers… all these red marks…” He shined his flashlight over the peculiar pieces of information, where none of them quite made any sense. Perhaps this area had been left unscathed by the fire, but what information there was left scattered about on paper was drenched – smudged, or mildew-ridden, definitely unreadable. The area had been festering for nearly four months. Once he had reached one end of the room, Adam returned his attention to the safe he had briefly passed over. Surprisingly enough, it was in impeccable shape. “You think they forgot about this thing?” Such a large oversight. Professionals didn’t light this place up – they made the scrubs do this. It was the only explanation as to why this room, so cleverly hidden and obviously important, had been glossed over by everyone.

He tried the handle first, but the hinges wouldn’t budge. There was much too much ambient noise to try and open it by ear, and so he had no choice but to leave it to Jake. There was no doubt in his mind there might have been a partial combination for them to find, but time was of the essence. They had been under the shroud of darkness for far too long – if they scrambled back to HQ after curfew, they would have some explaining to do. “Hang tight on that safe and let me know what you find.” Adam sauntered back over to the map, trying desperately to decipher the blurred lines of what was once hastily written notes in bright red ink.

“Well, it’s a map of the city, that’s for sure…” But aside from that, not much else was discernible. Adam couldn’t even tell where their current location was, relative to other marks. Again, his notes were hastily scribbled down in a notebook. Maybe they would be able to determine the meaning sometime later. Hopefully, Jake was having better luck with the contents of the safe that Adam had left in his very capable hands.

Just when he had given up, Adam turned to the wall through which he and Jake had entered the basement room and froze. He gulped. Half in admiration, half in awe. “An ouroboros…” He muttered. The eternal symbol. Of life, death, and rebirth. With a singular stake through its head – an obviously recent addition. Apt. Throughout all this building’s incarnations, it only made sense to mark its end and its destruction accordingly. The eye was painted a glaring red, and in fact, staring into it made Adam’s head begin to ache. He had to avert his eyes. But he tried to keep his reaction under wraps. “That looks like a calling card if I’ve ever seen one.”
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" The smell of mold and mildew permeated the air as the two agents toured the underground hallway. Jake about heaved from the unpleasant aromas that slammed into his hypersensitive nostrils. Covering his nose with his shirt didn’t seem to be doing the trick either. He was rather envious that Adam seemed to wade through this waterlogged tunnel unphased. Even now, Jake could pick up scents from decades ago: the distilled alcohol, the cigarette smoke, the wet steel, and old stagnant water. Their splashing feet made it difficult to hear anything else down there too. Jake had a list of things he wanted to complain about their situation, but at least darkness wasn’t one of them. His large orbs for pupils absorbed the light reflected off the water and Adam’s flashlight, allowing him to see much further in the tunnel. The room ahead was clear as day.]

[font "Sitka Small" There was a table placed against a brick wall, a filing cabinet to the right, steel safe to the left, and a whiteboard hung on another brick wall. Jake glanced around impressed that any of this still remained. This had been the most evidence they had seen from this elusive organization ever since they were assigned this job. It wasn’t much admittedly. The floating soggy papers were a representation of the efforts so far. Even the whiteboard only had remnants of papers, photos, and other valuable pieces that were no longer available. The only hope was whatever rested in the cabinet and safe.]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam tried for the safe at first, with no success. Couldn’t be immediately cracked, so he left it to Jake for brute force. Jake crouched down on the balls of his feet in front of the rusting safe. His green and black eyes traced all around the block fortress looking for weaknesses. None were seen on the [i outside], but perhaps the inside would fare better luck.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake place one ear near the door of the safe and knocked. With the echo reverberating through the locks and mechanism, he could almost see inside. Placing both palms on the door, he began to concentrate. The combination knob began to turn on its own, slowly, methodically. One-click, slow turn to the left, another click, turn to the right, click. Then, the door popped open. Jake afforded himself a smirk to himself.]

[font "Sitka Small" [i Bingo,] he thought as he swung the safe open. The safe was disappointingly bare save for one forgotten sticky-note. It was pink and the adhesive strip on the back had long lost its usefulness. The scribbles on the front were the name of a company and an address. [i Midcity Washroom, between 23rd and Primary street.] Jake read to himself. That was a start. The most progress they had made in months.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake stood to Adam with the note about to tell him what he found, but Adam was distracted by something painted on the wall. White spray paint on the brick wall, over the doorway they had arrived in, a symbol of a large snake eating its own tail. Jake didn’t smell it before, but now the scent was strong. The stake through its head was fresher than the original graffiti. Finally, a symbol of the faceless group. The red eyes seemed to stare down at the two agents, mocking them. Adam looked away, but Jake continued to stare at those painted red eyes, analyzing it. It seemed, familiar somehow. Jake swore he had seen it before. Maybe in a dream? A faded memory? It ate away at his consciousness. [i Don’t I know you?] Jake thought.]

[font "Sitka Small" “That looks like a calling card if I’ve ever seen one,” the sound of Adam’s voice broke Jake’s hold on the graffiti, blinking him back to the present.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “What? Oh-uh yeah. I found this too.”]] Jake held up the pink note between his index and middle finger. [b [#008800 “Name and address to some laundry mat a few miles away. Seems like our next step,”]] Jake spoke as he continued to look at the haunting image on the wall. A shiver ran down his spine.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “You’ll drive, I assume.”]] Jake muttered as he took one last look around the room. This place didn’t seem to hold any more secrets for them to uncover.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam made his way back to the entrance of the basement room. Back through the past, and out of the open floorboards. At any moment, he was scribbling away in his notebooks. Thoughts, speculations, a crude sketch of the symbol they had seen on the wall. There wasn’t yet enough information to jump to any conclusions, but still, there was…something bothering Adam. It wasn’t enough to dampen the mood, but it was enough to spur a question to Jake when they finally made it back to the car.

“…That symbol on the wall…” Just the thought made Adam’s head throb, again. Once he’d put it out of his mind, the aching stopped. “Nevermind.” He would wait for them to gather a little more information before he asked too many unnecessary questions. But it was curious. Jake’s reaction had not gotten past him. Did he experience this same sensation?
Regardless, their curfew was near, and it would behoove them to arrive at HQ before they would be questioned in any capacity.

Luckily, the lobby was nearly inactive. The duo were able to slip back inside without being prodded by Fin, Ava, or even Chief Ironside. Whether they were all too occupied to notice, or simply did not care, Adam did not want to find out. There was work to be done. Preparations to be made for their second night of investigations.
Adam had unilaterally decided to seek out information on the ouroboros symbol that they had witnessed painted on the wall. Hours would pass. All the while Adam scribbled notes. Findings not pertaining to historical representations and meanings, ancient gods of civilizations long since dead, and the occasional fanatical website were far and few between. A search of any local connections only placed Adam on questionable websites asking him to buy tickets to a startup convention.
“There’s not one book club out there that we can investigate…” He spun in his chair, just to momentarily clear his mind. “And here I thought I’d be able to talk some sweet, young divorcee into being my main squeeze.” Adam sighed, but quickly returned to work, not wanting to suffer from his partner’s indignance. It was always the same stare, with those same, cold eyes. [i Don’t you think about anything other than sex?] The answer: only sometimes.

“Anyway… a lot of these associations for this are with alchemy… transmutation, changing the form of something from one thing to another…” Adam waved his hands around in a vague gesture, unsure of what else to say. “Nothing around the city with any relevance to us. Not even so much in the general vicinity of the first two locations.” It was frustrating, to say the least. Feeling like they had come so close to [i something], just to hit a brick wall at the end of the street. It was either time to turn around and start from square one or keep going and hope that something else jumped out at them.

After a night of discussion their newfound findings, and some well-earned rest, their next location beckoned to them with open arms. They walked into the maw of what used to be, as Adam had read online, one of the shadier laundromats in town. Talks of drug deals on the sidewalk, drops placed within its walls and a complicit (or complacent) manager that allowed it all to happen under his watch. A man who was unceremoniously tossed through a window doused in gasoline to start the fire. It was said that he had desperately tried to use patron’s clothes in the dryer to put himself out and that’s how the fire spread. Just some stupid rumor started on the internet. News outlets reported that, once the autopsy was released, that the manager had been shot rather unceremoniously.

And then set on fire with the rest of the building.

The laundromat was in much of the same condition as the building previous. The burned-out shell of what used to be a place of business. Adam’s first course of business was to check what was left of the floor for another secret hatch, but, to no avail. All that stared back at him when he kicked back the remnants of the linoleum was a hard, concrete floor. So much for hidden secrets.
The single room was an underwhelming location in its entirety. “I think we hit our cash cow with the convenience store…” The safe, which had been a clue previous, was broken open. Dark darks surrounded the wall it sat against. Explosives? “What were they eager to get out of here?” Whatever it was, it was all gone, now.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Both Adam and Jake returned to the car in silence, which was very unusual for them. They were deep in thought, that ouroboros burning in their mind. The first real connection to their target in months. The first appearance of a mind pulling the strings. The first time Jake was really nervous about this mission. He couldn't shake this unwavering dread nagging in the back of his head. It was like a dream he couldn't quite recall. A bad dream from long ago.]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam's words broke Jake from his mental concentration again. He turned to the blonde man, clearly distracted. Despite the fog cloud hanging over Jake's head, he noticed that Adam was particularly inattentive. There was a certain uneasiness on the man's face.]

[font "Sitka Small" "Nevermind," and, just like that, the subject was dropped. Jake strangely felt his spirits drop slightly at the wave of dismissal. He had hoped he wasn't the only one that felt odd.]

[font "Sitka Small" Sneaking back into the apartment was a new experience. Well, "sneaking" might have not been the word Adam would have used. It was more like avoiding certain confrontations in the future. Jake had seen him do this to some of the women at the office before. Jake never imagine he would be participating in this stealth exercise.]

[font "Sitka Small" Once they were safe in the apartment however, the real grind began. Both men wordlessly broke off onto their own personal laptops and sat for a few hours digging for any information they could get their hands on. News articles, blog sites, Wikipedia entries, anything that was public knowledge. Jake researched about this laundry mat business as much as he could. Adam and Jake both spent a few hours quietly staring at their screens, Adam wrote down notes, Jake memorized what he could. Apparently, the laundry mat also burnt down three months ago.]

[font "Sitka Small" [i We're getting close.] Jake thought as he turned to Adam. He didn't seem to have much luck with the symbol either. He did make a comment about making relations with divorced older women, but he didn’t care to see Jake grimaced expressed. The number of inappropriate comments Adam made could fill a book. If he was able, Jake would write a memoir of the unfortunate coexistence, but that would be revealing too many company secrets. Jake just didn't want to admit his jealousy about Adam's widely accepted charisma.]

[font "Sitka Small" After talking about their discoveries, the two agents retired to their separate corners for the night. Although, rest was a relative term. Jake did not "rest" at all. He often spent his time awake or meditating. Sleep had always alluded him. When he did sleep, he was plagued by nightmares. Flashes of horrible imagines of bright lights, discolored liquid, monsters in light blue robes, and white hands. They reached into his body and tore out his intestines and bones and replaced them with mud. He had woken up screaming a few times before he had been assigned as Adam's partner. Surprisingly, the night terrors happened less and less now.]

[font "Sitka Small" Tonight. Tonight, was different. Jake found himself standing in a room consumed by fire. The flames licked at his heels and arms. He couldn’t breathe. The flames roared all around him. There was nowhere to go. He felt powerless, weak, pathetic. His panicked green eyes looked up to see Adam, his back facing Jake. He was running away from something, maybe towards something? The flame curtain kept Jake at bay. He called out to his partner, but his words were swallowed up by the fire. Then, the fire swallowed him, and Jake woke up in a cold sweat.]

[font "Sitka Small" All morning, Jake was on edge. But that wasn't too unusual. Night terrors were just that, terrors to plague the mind. He was more distracted and absent-minded. It was hard to focus on searching the burnt skeleton of the fake laundry mat. What was the name of it again? Did he even eat breakfast this morning?]

[font "Sitka Small" "I think we hit our cash cow with the convenience store…” Adam spoke causing Jake to jump slightly.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 "What? Oh. A safe?"]] Jake asked as he stepped into the dilapidated back room. There wasn't a symbol in sight this time. No ominous spray paint scent. Just wet burnt wood and metal. And something else... lilac?]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake's ears twitched as he heard footsteps approaching. [b [#008800 "Adam!"]] Jake hissed as he donned his sunglasses. [b [#008800 "We have company."]]]
[right [pic https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/329430962859671553/726530502143770724/Morgan_Leon2.png]]
[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Strange to see two men standing behind police tape without a uniform on. You don’t look like detectives.”]] A woman’s voice spoke as a figure stepped out into view. She had long dark brown hair tied back and piercing harsh eyes that glanced between Adam and Jake. She wore a nice dress shirt and pants. A press badge was pinned to the fold of her button-down shirt. There was an undeniable intelligence there that was, frankly, very intimidating. Jake glanced at Adam then back at the woman standing by the blackened doorway.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “I don’t [i suppose] you have proper permits?”]] She scoffed.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “What?”]] Jake asked aloud before he realized what he had just done. He did the stupid bad guy question. The question that all dumb bad guys do when they’re caught and can’t think of a proper cover story. He was punishing himself in his head right after the one word slipped from his lips.]

[font "Sitka Small" The woman smirked as she tapped on her press badge. [b [#712793 “Press badge? Detective badge? Are you even cops?”]] She asked as she put one hand inside her purse. Jake held up one hand out of habit. No. He couldn’t use his powers in front of a civilian.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “I wouldn’t,”]] He warned, palm facing outward. If she pulled out a gun, he would disassemble it before her finger could touch the trigger.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Or what? Let me guess. If you tell me, you’ll have to kill me?”]] She asked facetiously.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake shrugged and said in a dead-pan voice, [b [#008800 “yes.”]]]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Like a ghost, a strange woman had waltzed her way in right behind the duo. Pointing fingers, asking questions. Without hesitation, Adam drew his gun. “Hands where I can see them.” It was a reflex – something Adam had been trained to do. When someone steps into your six and doesn’t properly announce themselves, or otherwise isn’t supposed to be there, you shoot first, and ask questions later. Adam’s finger lay flat against the trigger guard, but it wouldn’t stay there, if what she was about to pull out of her purse was an invitation to get violent. Adam hated killing beautiful women. It was against his nature. An act of sacrilege. The woman complied with his commands almost immediately; eyes wide at the sight of the firearm aimed directly at her face.

“You first, beautiful. What’s your name?” His words might have been sweet in any other context, but with his gun drawn, he could see the apprehension in the stranger’s face. Slowly, without putting her in reach of the barrel of his weapon, Adam eyed the press badge dangling from her shirt. “Morgan Leon…” Without meaning to, his eyes scanned the rest of her body and his brows raised. If someone had told Adam she’d just been freshly minted in a factory, he’d had been inclined to believe them. Swiftly, he reached over and grabbed the press badge between his index and second finger, dangling it in front of Morgan’s face.

“I’ll be keeping that.” For what it was worth, she seemed harmless enough. Adam slowly lowered his gun, and Morgan never took a step towards he or Jake. That was good. A very good sign. “We’re federal agents, Ms. Leon.” Morgan cocked an eyebrow but said nothing. Adam had figured that would be enough to satisfy her curiosity while keeping he and Jake’s true affiliations under wraps. Reaching into his back pocket, Adam produced a badge case with ‘FBI’ printed in bold white across the front. He moved his fingers, exposing the photo, badge, and badge number to Morgan, and even handed it to her so that she would relax. She took it quickly, checking for any indication that it was poorly made, hastily thrown together, or any sign that it was an obvious forgery. When she found nothing, her expression returned to neutral. Adam finally felt safe enough to holster his weapon.

It didn’t make sense. What good would snooping around in a burned-out laundromat do for an investigative journalist? “Are you here on official business for your blog, or your podcast, or something?” Morgan grimaced at the implication. Adam was waving her press badge around, giving it more attention than a cursory once over. It was, indeed, government issued. Technically, she was allowed to be here. But, “There’s no lead officer on this scene. So, I don’t believe you have clearance to be here… Do you?”

[#712793 [b “…Shit.”]] Morgan’s arms dropped defeatedly to her side, before she placed her hands on her hips. She tapped her foot, trying to find the words to explain herself. But Adam wasn’t prepared for what came out of her mouth next. [#712793 [b “Don’t tell me the feds found out about the ouroboros already?”]]

“…Excuse me?” Adam watched as Morgan’s eyes rolled back into her head. When they came to rest, she was staring directly at him, intently. [i Don’t play stupid,] she wanted to say. His stomach bottomed out and a distinctive fluttering had taken it over. It hadn’t been his attention to avert his gaze, but when he did, Morgan pointed a finger in his direction.

[#712793 [b “Then you do know.”]]
It was something about those eyes. Hot and smoky, impossible to see through, like thick smoke. Adam’s charisma came naturally to him. And he often prided himself in his ability to read a room. To peer into the eyes of any man or woman and whisper what they wanted to hear. Coax them gently into airing their dirty secrets, list their fears, wants, desires. Some women want passionate sex in a public space with a stranger they hardly know. Others want to be swept off their feet, come home to rose petals trailing from their front door to a candlelit table and a gourmet dinner. Isabella was a gold digger. But what did Morgan want? Try as he might to see through the smoke, its darkness taunted him. Coyly calling his name. It was unlike anything he had ever experienced before. It was frightening, and a deep uncertainty filled his chest whenever he tried to meet that penetrating gaze.

Adam inhaled sharply to calm his nerves, if only a little. “The question is, why do you know about it?”

[#712793 [b “Hand me that badge back. And then we’ll talk.”]] She offered Adam his FBI badge back, and he took it, giving her press badge in return.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" The once confident smirk on Morgan Leon’s face drifted ever so slightly as Adam and Jake expressed aggressive body language. She was a professional, Jake would give her that. He, too, eyed Morgan’s personage, but not for the same reasons as Adam. Morgan could tell. He noticed her footwear was rugged and durable. Perfect for galivanting in ruined buildings. Her jeans wear thick and worn at the knees. Her hair was up and out of the way of her eyes, she was carrying a flashlight in her raised hand. A notebook was sticking out of her large purse/ personal bag, pen hung on her left ear. Jake could even smell the latex gloves coming from her bag. She was trying to find evidence. She was hunting for something just like them.]

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan was no fool either. Jake could see her inquiring eyes scan the two gentlemen. Adam was a tall, muscular man, young to be a detective, but not green around the gills like other cops she had seen. His clothes were too refined to be local police: a white button-down shirt with rolled-up sleeves and fancy jeans. His shoes were dark expensive boots, polished recently. His fingers were well-manicured and his firearm was not a usual model for detectives. He looked like a well-paid FBI agent. The badge he gave her looked real enough. Federal agent Adam Hoffman, huh? She will have to remember that name.]

[font "Sitka Small" Her dark brown eyes drifted over to the other man, a stark contrast to his partner on his left. This man looked slightly older, and far more mysterious. He wore dark-tinted sunglasses that obscured his eyes completely. He wore a beanie hat that covered his ears despite the heat of summer. His hair was more unkempt and his hands were far more rugged and rough-looking than his blond counterpart. She caught a glimpse of the sharp canines in his mouth His clothes were not nearly as nice nor expensive, simple long-sleeve button-down shirt and pants. He wore clothes that were not meant for the heat of the season, but he didn’t appear to be bothered, nor wipe any sweat from his brow. His shoes were tactical and seen some use. No, this man was something to be fearful of. His posture, his mannerisms were not of a federal agent. Curiously, he didn’t draw any weapon, unlike this Agent Hoffman. Perhaps he wasn’t a gunman? He certainly wasn’t a federal agent, unless he was a damn good undercover one.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake could hear her thoughts as she and Adam spoke. She seemed to be exactly who she represented. Morgan Leon, an investigative journalist for a local news station. In-depth research mostly. She was evaluating them as well. Jake peered down at his clothes, suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious about his appearance. Adam [i did] complain about Jake’s clothing style a lot. He assumed it was because Adam was so…[i “particular”].]

[font "Sitka Small" However, Adam did notice one thing. “There’s no lead officer on this scene. So, I don’t believe you have clearance to be here… Do you?”]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Shit…”]] She seethed to herself. Jake raised an eyebrow.]

[font "Sitka Small" [i Nice catch.] Jake thought to Adam as he glanced from the two parties.

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Don’t tell me the feds found out about the ouroboros already?”]] Jake darted a glance at Morgan at the mention of the symbol. He felt his pointed ear grow hot, the tell-tale of when someone found out his secrets. Her mind was clear. The same symbol spray was painted in white on a wall, hidden among other graffiti tags. As she recalled it, Jake could see it just as clearly as though he had been there himself. His hands clenched and released a few times. She saw it. Briefly, but she did see it, but where?]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake’s attention on the conversation was lost. He had to find where she saw it.]

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan’s gaze eyed the brunet man strangely as he simply wandered off on his own. Her eyebrows unknitted when she spoke to Agent Hoffman. He was the one to talk to about these matters. She took her press badge back and handed over Agent Hoffman’s badge as well. She felt-relieved. Now that they both were on the same page; she could be more open about her findings. Of course, not give them everything she had. She didn’t exactly trust these strangers with her work. But holding back would be difficult. She had been working on this mystery for months. Everyone at the office thought she had lost her mind and wore tin-foiled hats! Perhaps this federal agent would believe her?]
[right [pic https://media.discordapp.net/attachments/329430962859671553/726530502143770724/Morgan_Leon2.png]]
[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Well, as you probably know, there have been a lot of unsolved arson cases. The ones, in particular, leave a body, shot execution-style, in the burning mess. There’s a pattern. All these shops just come from out of nowhere and then get burned within a month or two apart? Too coincidental, I thought, so I dug further. Crazy thing is, I’ve seen this symbol at all of them,”]] Morgan explained as she looked through her phone to find one familiar logo, [b [#712793 “the ouroboros had been on every location with an executed body.”]] She held out the phone so that Adam and Jake could see. Jake’s eyes glanced at the phone screen; it was the same symbol he saw in the woman’s mind. The exact same position.]

[font "Sitka Small" [i She knows where that is.] Jake thought to Adam. They needed to get her to tell them a location. Perhaps even multiple locations? This woman was impressive. She single-handedly gained more information than most AVG agents could. [i Very clever.] Jake thought.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam understood the delicate situation that Morgan was rattling around in her head. Though she hadn’t disclosed exactly [i why] she was pursuing this case, Adam need only take an educated guess. The world of investigative journalism was fierce – and especially with the advent of technology. Anyone can search online for information, ask strangers in a forum to aid in the solving of a cold case, or to help track down a missing person. It is no longer only meant for those who are unforgivingly tenacious. Not many people would give the repeated burning buildings and trail of corpses much of a thought. So few details had been released about the cases, as they are all considered active investigations. Working within the scope of her duties, however… did not seem to be in this woman’s nature.

He listened attentively as she talked, placing his badge case in his back pocket. The way she spoke so animatedly, using her hands to make small, vague gestures in the air, before she took out her phone to eagerly share her findings. One image caught Adam’s eye. Particularly because it looked like it had been taken from a distance. The image was of a badly scorched wall, partially covered in heaps of twisted metal shelves. How hot did that fire burn, and for how long, to turn industrial shelving indistinguishable? Of what could be seen, there was a partial head, piercing red eye, and tail of the ouroboros marking. It had very clearly been painstakingly drawn. Adam brought his index finger down to the phone screen, “Where did you find this one?”

Morgan regarded Adam carefully, and she bit the inside of her lip. When his brow furrowed, her eyes lit up – so he believed her. But, could she trust him enough with this information? If he and his friend were truly federal agents, would they merely push her out of the investigation when they had gathered enough evidence? She couldn’t let that happen. She had to ensure that this story would be [i told].
[b [#712793 “Hold on.”]] Morgan’s eyes narrowed. She looked like black coffee tasted, Adam thought. Bitter, sharp. [b [#712793 “If I do this, I want your word. My notes, the evidence collected, are mine alone.”]]

“That depends on the nature of the information.” Adam said. Morgan couldn’t help but frown – he was being very matter of fact with her. The thin line of his mouth hadn’t scarcely lifted since he had started making eye contact with her. Trying so hard to keep his façade. But this Agent Hoffman was an open book. Under the pressure of her stare, Adam let out a resigned sigh. Their methods and their missions were the same. And what information Morgan [i did] have was worlds ahead of Adam and Jake’s paltry efforts, hardly out of infancy. It was unfortunate, but they needed her. “Look, we can only offer compromise.” She didn’t need to know that they had extradited themselves from the scope of the AVG.

Morgan raised her brow, considering Adam’s words for a beat. [b [#712793 “Compromise? You mean, you take everything and leave my body floating in the aquifer just outside of the city?”]] Adam’s face finally cracked. For such a tense moment, Morgan thought it odd, but couldn’t help herself from chuckling at her own joke just from Agent Hoffman’s reaction.

“Look, you have information that we need. And you need a way into active crime scenes without law enforcement interfering.” Morgan shifted her weight uncomfortably. “The location of that ouroboros painting. It’s special, isn’t it?” Morgan said nothing.

“Take us there.”
[center ---]
The distribution warehouse, as Morgan explained, on the northeast side of town looked worse for wear. Of course, it was exponentially more difficult to destroy a building of its size without a wrecking ball. But from the state of the inside, someone more experienced with cleanups was responsible for the shambling mess that the trio was forced to wade through.

At the first moment of convenience, Adam had to take Jake aside, “Think you can hold off on your whole ‘Superman’ dynamic?” Anticipating that Jake would have absolutely no idea what he meant, Adam continued, whispering sharply, “Don’t go around lifting shelves off of doors by yourself. No feats of superhuman strength.” Morgan looked back to see what was keeping her escorts a few lengths behind her, and Adam walked ahead of Jake almost immediately.

Flashlight in hand, Morgan stepped through a broken window with an errant piece of wood partially blocking the entrance. She held it up for the agents to follow in behind her. Then she took her place at the head of the line, quickly navigating them to the mural of the ouroboros on the wall. [b [#712793 “This was a distribution center, but it’s not actually known what it was… distributing.”]] Typically, restaurants and supermarket chains would have their orders for products or ingredients shipped out directly from places like this. Most managers would know where they receive the items that fill the shelves. Most major production companies – the people that own those famous name brands – know where their product is sent to. There was no such information available for this address. At least, none that Morgan could find. [b [#712793 “I couldn’t get anyone in the area to tell me whether or not they were actually receiving shipments from this place. It didn’t supply local restaurants, online retailers, or any supermarket chains…”]]

“Who was found after this place went to shit?” Adam asked, referring to the deceased.

[b [#712793 “The only other person who could have told us what exactly this place was. The manager.”]]
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan was forced to cooperate with these gentlemen. Of course, she would have to, since they had the authority to ask for her information. They must have gotten the cases recently. She didn’t mind so much as working with federal authorities. She just hated being left out of the discoveries. She was lucky that Agent Hoffman was willing to let her tag along with them. He could just as easily demand everything she had and left her in the dust. No, he seemed to be willing to work with her, for now anyway. Was it willingness that she detected in his tone? Or was it desperation? She didn’t know this man so both possibilities were technically true.]

[font "Sitka Small" The other man was a stone wall of secrets. He merely just looked between her and the agent, void of anything to read. His glasses made it difficult to even see his eyes, so nothing could be gained from that. His mouth was unwavering and still as well as his dark brows. Agent Hoffman was similarly unreadable until Morgan tried to joke with him. There! There she saw a person underneath that red tape. Better than most officials she worked with. She smiled at them both. Perhaps, a compromise was possible between the two opposing sides of the investigation?]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake stayed silent as Morgan escorted them to a burned down warehouse not far from the Midcity Wash laundry mat. He and Adam both donned on gloves as they arrived on the scene. And a scene it was. The building was large and the outer walls were blackened cinderblocks at this point. The roof had almost completely caved in and the floors were black to match the destroyed décor. Adam held Jake back for a moment.]

[font "Sitka Small" “Think you can hold off on your whole ‘Superman’ dynamic?”]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “What?”]]]

[font "Sitka Small" “Don’t go around lifting shelves off of doors by yourself. No feats of superhuman strength.”]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake sighed and his jawline tightened as he replied, [b [#008800 “I think I can manage that.”]] His words were almost always sarcastic when aimed at Adam. Jake mumbled his displeasure under his breath as Morgan turned to check on them. Jake nodded that they were coming. He understood why Adam was concerned about this topic. Morgan was a civilian and they would have to work closely with her. Normally it was just the two of them when investigating; Adam never minded Jake’s flex of his abilities. But hiding them in front of someone was tricky, especially when he relied on them a lot when combing for evidence. Additionally, Jake didn’t have super strength anyway. And who was Superman?]

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan led them to the inside of the warehouse as best she could. There was plenty of rubble that still lingered on the floor. She cautiously stepped through and revealed with her light the strange graffiti on the burnt wall. That sinister white snake eating its tail was almost camouflaged with the white slanting letters that were almost illegible to read. Jake approached the wall art and sniffed. Similar spray-painted scent mixed with the charred wood and metal. The art was old now, but the letters were fresher. Someone had defiled the ouroboros [i after] the fire. The white snake was scorched, and blackened, but not the letters covering it. They were clean comparatively. There were other graffiti tags on the outside of the warehouse, possibly some street artists trying to plant a gang symbol on here. These strange words covering the ouroboros was inside, unlike the rest.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Someone came back to cover up the symbol. But why?”]] Jake whispered to himself. He needed to find out what the warehouse stored.

He listened to Morgan explain the purpose of this place. She mostly stood and talked to Adam since he was the only one willing to cooperate with her. Jake wasn’t the charismatic people person of the duo anyway. Adam generally interviewed witnesses. Jake’s eyes were locked onto the ground, trying to find anything important. Morgan did notice that Jake wasn’t using a flashlight at all. How could he see through all this junk?]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “The only other person who could have told us what exactly this place was. The manager.”]]]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake picked up on the conversation as he sifted through debris. He couldn’t shake the faint lingering of chemicals? All different kinds that mixed together and almost made him gag. He hated that smell always had. He hated the smell of hospitals and cleaning supplies. It made him incredibly uncomfortable. The further in he traveled, the more he could smell it. He kept the information to himself for now until he and Adam could talk freely. He also caught a shimmering form under a roof beam. Adam’s warning still fresh in his mind, Jake bent down and craned his neck to look at the twinkling item. His gloved hand reached out and picked up a broken glass vial that was sheltered from the flames. His eyebrows furrowed as he looked inside to see multiple vials smashed to pieces underneath a burnt-up crate.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Medical supplies, or maybe chemical supplies.”]] Jake called out to the others. He stood up as the other two approached. He held up the broken glass vial for Morgan and Adam to inspect. [b [#008800 “The scent of chemicals is still heavy in this area. They were distributing chemicals. There are broken vials underneath here.”]] Jake pointed out where he saw the burnt crate.]

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan’s eyebrows raised in shock. Chemicals? She didn't smell any chemicals here. That scent probably would have been washed away with the firefighters' hose.]

[font "Sitka Small" She eyed the vial meticulously. [b [#712793 “There’s a green stain inside this lip too. Whatever it held has evaporated, but there’s a green stain from the substance.”]] She said as she pointed out the mark with a gloved finger.]

[font "Sitka Small" [font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Good eye, Ms. Leon.”]] Jake nodded respectfully. Maybe an extra pair of eyes was a good idea after all?]

[font "Sitka Small" However, the feeling of accomplishment didn’t last long. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. Jake looked around immediately. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it in his bones. He absent-mindedly handed off the broken vial as he continued to make his way to the other side of the warehouse. The roof had collapsed and the city skyline could be seen a little further in. Jake couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched.]

[font "Sitka Small" As he peered through the open roof, he caught as a glimpse of something across the street on the roof of a neighboring building. A dark figure stood there, too far to make out details. Jake rushed outside to get a better view of this silhouette. The debris and room beams slowed his process down. By the time he made it outside, the figure was gone. [i Shit.] He cursed to himself. Whoever was on that roof would be long gone by the time Jake crossed the street. Someone was keeping tabs on their progress. Adam would need to know about this.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

Adam pinched the bridge of his nose and groaned quietly. [i Great, Jake. Just let her know that you can smell a fart from 75 miles away! Then she won’t suspect us!] Morgan, overall, did not seem to let Jake’s revelation bother her, too much, and Adam could only hope that she would simply… forget about it.

Morgan eventually came to a stop in front of a shelf, smaller than the rest, blocking the entrance to what looked to be an office. With Morgan’s flashlight cutting through the darkness, Adam could see that it had been relatively insulated from the blaze. A lonely office chair sat unscathed in the middle of the room. The filing cabinets beside it were scorched but looked relatively intact. Probably locked. A desk and its contents, closest to the fire, took a majority of the damage. So, the fire hadn’t been burning for too long when the firefighters arrived. And that was good news for the group. Adam and Morgan glanced at each other knowingly. “How much do you want to bet—”

[b [#712793 “That cabinet’s important? Hm… $20?”]]

When Adam tried moving the melted hunk of metal to create an opening, it budged slightly, but was far too heavy for him to do on his own. Morgan attempted to help, but the result was much of the same. All the duo had managed to do was create a slight space between the top of the doorframe and the shelf itself. [b [#712793 “Boost me up?”]]

Adam shook his head, pointing at the dark room, “There no way out except the way you came in.” But Morgan’s mind was already made. If Agent Hoffman wasn’t going to give her a boost, she would find her own way in. Shambling atop of the sturdy piece of metal, the agile woman hoisted herself between the gaps in the shelf, landing on her arms on the way down with an audible [i oof].

[b [#712793 “I’m alright.”]] She said, quietly.

“No one was worried.” Adam rolled his eyes, smiling in spite of himself. And though he could not see it, by the subtle movement of her neck, Morgan was rolling hers, too.
Amongst the piles of soot that stained her gloved fingers, the journalist carefully sorted through anything that may have some meaning to the investigation, but her findings were wholly underwhelming. The burnt remnants of a typewriter caught her eye. What was left of the paper sticking from the top, was burned away, save for a partial address in the top right corner.

[b [#712793 “Veles… 4… n-a… e-c-e.”]] Morgan handed the piece of paper to Adam, who quickly deposited it into a sealable evidence bag. If the name had sounded familiar to him, Adam didn’t say anything, so Morgan kept digging. The next object of her attention was the file cabinet. Though the top drawer was locked, a bobby pin and a few seconds of wiggling back and forth to release the pins was enough to get it to bend to her will.
Morgan had very low expectations for the clutter of papers that stared back at her. Each fistful seemed to just be a mix and mash of financial documents spanning back just a couple of years. Invoices, receipts, torn pages of printed bookkeeping records. All original hard copies, she noted, looking through one after another. Most of the money seemed to be moving [i in] to the distribution center, but some of it was moving out – to unnamed accounts based in Panama, Singapore, and Switzerland, to name a few… And then she saw it. Her eyes flew open, and she quickly began shuffling between papers in a frenzy. Reading and rereading.
[b [#712793 “Those morons!”]] Her outburst had caught Adam’s attention. Invigorated, Morgan hastily grabbed the entire top drawer of the file cabinet and began to make her way to Adam. [b [#712793 “We need to take all of these. They left their financial records!”]] At least, she could only surmise, at this point. The true test would be for the investigators that she had thrown her lot in with. If anyone would be able to tell if she had made a break in the case, it would be them. Or, at least Agent Hoffman.

Adam looked at the papers in the drawer at his feet, access partially blocked by the shelf in front of the door, with a flat expression. Shuffling and arranging the papers into a pile wouldn’t take too long. But he didn’t want to risk disturbing too much evidence. There could be traces of hairs, fingerprints exposed by being dusted with soot at risk of being smudged. The smartest thing would be to take the file cabinets in their entirety.
“Hey!” He called to Jake, motioning him over. “I need you to help me with this.” If only for a few seconds, they would push the shelf out of the way to allow Morgan to wedge the drawer out onto their side, where it could be safely carted to the car when they were done. They had spent far too long in this warehouse, and now that they had what they were looking for, the likelihood was very high that something might go wrong.
Morgan did her part by placing all drawers on the floor, to minimize the time spent trying to get these papers to the car. Once the evidence was safely out, it was her turn. Somewhat unashamedly, Adam eyed her from behind as she crawled out of the burnt-out office on her arms and stomach. Obviously, a woman who was unafraid to get her hands dirty.

Adam enlisted Morgan’s help to gather two drawers in his arm, balancing them on his shoulders, and leaving the other two to Jake and Morgan. “You’ll be sharing a backseat with at least one of these things. Hope you don’t mind.”

Morgan laughed, [b [#712793 “What, do you have a high-powered rifle in your trunk that’s too big to move?”]] Adam said nothing. [b [#712793 “…Oh.”]] Right. Stupid question.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Jake’s ears picked up Adam’s call from further into the building. Jake’s emerald eyes still stared at the top of the building across the way, hoping the figure would reappear. There were answers. Somewhere out there, there were answers to the questions he had held for so long. The person on the roof could have been the one to hold those answers. Could have been. But his partner needed him, so he must go. Hesitantly, Jake retreated back into the dilapidated building. The lies were buried here. Perhaps, here he can find a clue to help him. Help them. Through the sunglasses, Jake peered at Adam and Ms. Leon. Maybe the lies that were burnt here would reveal something. Something of importance.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake reentered the burnt building at the call of his partner. Adam motioned for Jake to move some shelves for Morgan to pass through. Piece of cake. Jake wasn’t as physically strong as Adam, but he could move shelves all day with his other abilities. The idea to catapult the shelves to the other side of the warehouse was a tempting offer, but that would be going against protocol. So, Jake hefted the shelves with Adam using only his arms and legs. It wasn’t most fun way, but it was just shelves. He could always go to the simulation room later if the urge to launch heavy things across a large room still lingered.]

[font "Sitka Small" As they carried the drawers out to Adam’s car, Jake heard him mention Morgan sharing the back seats with the evidence. Jake didn’t think anything of it until Morgan jokingly asked if the trunk was already taken. Jake briefly halted in his steps and his lips pressed together. Morgan noticed as well as took note of Adam’s silence. She raised her eyebrows in response. Probably best not to ask, she thought to herself.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake cleared his throat nervously as he tried to change the subject. [b [#008800 “So, uh, where are we taking these exactly?”]] The question was subtly directed at Adam, but Jake turned his head to Morgan to hear her suggestions. He had to make it seem as though they were cooperating with her. If she knew of a place that was safe enough to examine the files, then it would avoid unnecessary complications. Considering he was supposed to be on desk duty, Jake wasn’t too thrilled to be going back to [i his] place just yet.]

[font "Sitka Small" Morgan glanced between Agent Hoffman and this unnamed man. She suddenly felt put on the spot. [b [#712793 “Well, we can head to my office. There’s a conference room we could use that will be private for us to look at these documents.”]] She suggested. Honestly, she was just excited to get the chance to look over the documents at all. These guys could have easily taken whatever she found and prevent her from seeing any of it.]

[font "Sitka Small" Jake nodded in approval and shrugged his shoulders at Adam. [b [#008800 “Sounds like a good idea.”]] He stated. He half expected Adam to make a comment, or two, about the situation. He always had to have the last word on everything.]

[font "Sitka Small" During the drive, the image of the silhouette on the roof still persisted. Maybe Jake imagined the person there. Maybe it wasn’t anyone of significance at all? It could have been a civilian just passing the time on the roof. Jake wondered if he should tell Adam what he may or may not have seen. How could he have known someone was there watching? Jake didn’t get a good look at who it was anyway. Perhaps it was best to keep this to himself, he decided.]

[font "Sitka Small" Getting the drawers up to the third-floor conference room wasn’t as issue. Ms. Leon’s co-workers didn’t bat an eye at Adam and Jake appearing while carrying file drawers. It seemed that they were used to Morgan’s ambitious antics by now. She spoke to what Jake assumed was her supervisor that she would need the conference room. He was a mousy-looking man with an impressive beard and small round spectacles. The man merely sighed and held open the door for the three of them to place the drawers down. Jake glanced back at the bearded man before the door was shut and the rest of them had privacy behind the enclosed room.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “That’s Reggie. Don’t mind him. Great boss, very strict though.”]] Morgan explained as she hefted the file drawer on the long wooden table in the center of the room. [b [#712793 “He knows how I get when working a job. We shouldn’t be bothered in here.”]] She breathed heavily and rested her hands on her hips. [i This might take a while], she thought as she peered over all the papers.]

[font "Sitka Small" This part of the job was the worst, Jake mused as he tossed another ruined sheet of paper over his shoulder. Half the documents were illegible or soaked. He couldn’t find anything of use on his end; however, Ms. Leon was much more excited about paperwork than Jake was. She reminded him of the Energized Bunny- constantly moving, constantly going. From what Jake had seen so far, he noticed that she was a lot like Adam in that way. Both were determined and great problem solvers. It was hard to shake Adam from an idea (even a stupid one). Jake could feel similar stubbornness in Morgan from the brief encounters he had met her. [i A female version of Adam. Now that’s nightmare fuel.] Jake frowned. The last thing this group needed was another danger-hungry risk-taker.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “You know you would probably see better if you weren’t wearing sunglasses inside.”]] Morgan’s quip broke Jake from his thoughts.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Huh? Oh.”]] Jake nervously touched the eye wear on his face as he glanced over to Adam’s nervous expression. [b [#008800 “Fluorescence lights, they give me headaches.”]] Terrible lie. Jake could see the pained expression on Adam’s face, but Morgan’s eyebrows pulled together as she kept looking at Jake. Come to think of it, she never did catch his name…]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 "So, what did you guys find?"]] Jake quickly asked as he moved over to their section of the table. Morgan glanced down at the paper scattered across the wooden surface giving Jake the opportunity to subtle give Adam a "I don't know" shrug with his shoulders. [i It was the first thing I could think of!] Jake remarked telepathically before gazing down at the paper collage. He wasn't as experienced in undercover work like Adam was. Normal people are intimidating.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

“What did we find?” Adam repeated, intent on not letting Jake’s [i awful] lying jeopardize their cover with Morgan. “The question is, what didn’t we find.” He set one of the file cabinet drawers on the desk, covering the surface in a light layer of soot, filling the room with the scent of smoke. It wasn’t acrid by any means, but Morgan covered her mouth and coughed - having spent so long in it, she wondered if it would stick to her clothes, to the conference room desk and chairs, rousing suspicions. A small price to pay, she thought, if their find were as good as it seemed.

Adam tabbed through a few pages at the top, and Morgan followed suit, in another drawer on the floor. Columns and rows filled with dollar amounts typical of the dealings of a large company - more money than she would ever see in her lifetime. She looked to Agent Hoffman for some support, some indication that she had been right when she discovered the stash of evidence back at the warehouse. These were financial records, detailing each and every transaction over the company’s most recent fiscal year before the fire.

“These are the records…” Adam muttered. Morgan’s eyes lit up, but there was something unsettling about that pensive and brooding stare that the federal agent was giving the papers in his hands. Morgan looked down at the ones in her own grasp… And then she saw it. “These show where the money was going, but not [i what] was going.”

[#712793 [b “Of course.”]] Morgan responded flatly. Why would it be easy? It was never easy. By all appearances, this was the smoking gun. But it was starting to look less and less like anything other than a very good lead. They still had the names of each company that had done any dealings with the mysterious warehouse, which in turn was listed under a single name in all capital letters: VELES.
[#712793 [b “It’s clear whatever they were dealing in was expensive. Medical grade drugs, maybe…?”]] Morgan bowed her head, thinking hard.

“I like to think that drug dealers are a bit more covert than [i this].” Adam laid the papers in his hand on the desk. “It has to be legitimate. There were people in the neighborhoods of the laundromat and the convenience store that remember them being in business before the fires. Who’s to say it’s any different here?”

[#712793 [b “Who’s to say it [i isn’t]?”]]] Morgan had to try hard to keep from sneering. They could sit here and speculate all night. But it wasn’t going to solve their mystery.
She slipped her cell phone from her pocket, and after unlocking the screen with a long and complicated string of numbers, she began a cursory search of some of the names of the corporations in the paperwork that had once been in Agent Hoffman’s hands. Every business leaves a trail, and in the digital age, even something as innocuous as a bad review online could prove useful. But each search turned up nothing they could use in the moment. No recent lawsuits, scarcely any physical addresses associated with the company names, few phone numbers, websites… It was absurd.

Adam couldn’t help but to watch over her shoulder, leaning over in his chair to get a glance of her results. His expression slowly turned from wide-eyed and curious to brooding. “What the hell…?”

[#712793 [b “My thoughts exactly...”]] Morgan’s lips formed into a thin line. There was [i nothing]. [#712793 [b “Some of these addresses and phone numbers aren’t even for companies in America… Whoever’s behind this…”]] Is sophisticated. Sophisticated enough to cover their tracks like [i this].

“There’s only so much we can do for now. Let’s stop here, today.” Adam responded with a sigh. Morgan was ready to argue her point to continue on, but Agent Hoffman, apparently, hadn’t finished speaking. “We’ll need the rest. It’s going to get busy from here on out.”

There was little other conversation to be had. Adam helped Morgan carry the files to her personal office for safekeeping. There was little hope of trudging into HQ with four file cabinets of smoky paperwork without being questioned. A more permanent solution would need to be reached over the course of the next week, while they were hunting down information about these mysterious companies. It was quickly after that she saw the two agents to their car, watching apprehensively as they drove off. Wondering if they might be hiding anything from her. Wondering if she were in with the right people.
___

The drive to HQ seemed much longer than it actually was. If only because Adam could not remove the image of Morgan’s face from his mind. There was something about her - and not simply her body, as it had been with so many other women. He’d been around intelligent women before, obviously. He worked with plenty. None like Morgan. If Jake had been speaking to him for the duration of their drive, he hadn’t noticed. “She is something else...” It was a mutter that Adam hadn’t meant to let slip. But he was otherwise so distracted that any attempts to play it cool had casually flown out of the window of his car.
JakefromStateFarmThe Hero   2y ago

[font "Sitka Small" Green eyes went back and forth between Ms. Leon and Agent “Hoffman” as they discussed the evidence they uncovered. Jake was ultimately lost in their conversation since he hadn’t looked at their portions of the evidence mound. He suddenly began to reminisce that one sport, what was it called? Ping Pong. Jake was mostly unfamiliar with the activity, but he had seen some agents play it in one of the break rooms back at the dorms. This conversation felt just like that.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Medical grade drugs, maybe…?”]] Morgan asked. The ball of questions hit over to Adam’s side.]

[font "Sitka Small" “I like to think that drug dealers are a bit more covert than [i this].” Adam retaliated. “It has to be legitimate,” he continued to explain, “who’s to say it’s any different here?” The ball quickly returned to the sender.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#712793 “Who’s to say it isn’t?”]] Morgan retorted. Jake’s eyebrows raised as he glanced at Adam for a response. She wouldn’t let him counter as she pulled up her phone and began typing away. Jake counted that as one point in favor for Ms. Leon. He kept the smirk to himself as he stood to look over Morgan’s shoulder at her searches.]

[font "Sitka Small" The brief online research went about as well as going through a mirror maze blindfolded. Each tap on a name or phone or even address gave Jake the sensation of hitting his heads against a wall. His spirits dropped further and further as the group ran about in circles in this digital chase. If he ever doubted the abilities of this enemy, Jake certainly wasn’t going to underestimate them now. How long had this operation been running? This group, this organization, This syndicate, whatever it was. Whoever they are, they had seemingly unlimited resources. [i Like an agency.] Jake pondered. His face hardened like stone at the thought.]

[font "Sitka Small" After Agent Hoffman and his silent partner left Ms. Leon at her office, Adam and Jake rode back to headquarters. The ride was mostly quiet for the first several minutes before Jake spoke up. He reflected on what they discovered so far. Ms. Leon believed that something was being moved with the money transfers and shipping numbers. Jake recalled that crate of broken vials from the warehouse. Medical grade drugs didn’t seem that far off now. Maybe not drugs so much as chemicals? The green stain on the glass flashed in his mind. Perhaps there was enough of a sample to track. He and Adam would have to get the vial analyzed. Finally some clues were left behind besides burnt bodies. It wasn’t much, but it was something. Enough to keep Jake’s ever present optimism going.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “What do you think Veles means? Do you think that’s the name behind all of this?”]] Jake asked as he glanced over to the man silent behind the wheel. Adam had that familiar thousand yard stare. He was clearly deep in thought about something. [b [#008800 “Adam?”]]

[font "Sitka Small" “She is something else...”]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “What?”]] Jake’s eyebrows pulled together and his head whipped to Adam's direction. [b [#008800 “What does that have-”]] Wait. Of course. That blockhead wasn’t listening at all. For the past fifteen minutes, Jake had been basically talking to thin air about important espionage business, while Adam had been day-dreaming about the attractive brunette woman they had just met. Why did Jake ever think this conversation was going to be productive? How foolish he was.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “Yeah she is. She’s a journalist, educated and clever. Clearly a vast difference from your usual victims.”]] Jake grumbled as he stared out the window. No point in talking about the information they just discovered. Adam was focused on other “priorities”. That was Agent Cordova, alright. Always focused on the damsels rather than the distress. Meanwhile, his partner was left to protect both.]

[font "Sitka Small" Pinching the bridge of his nose, Jake sighed. [b [#008800 “Good to know I’m talking to myself now. Shouldn’t bother mentioning she’s a [i journalist], an asset. Would probably sell you out for a story if she knew who you were.]] he pointed out. Jake removed his sunglasses briefly and rubbed the weariness out of his eyes before placing them back on his face. [b [#008800 “I don’t recommend it, but since when has that ever stopped you.”]] He mumbled aloud. Ms. Leon was a valuable asset to their efforts so far. She would have access to sources both Jake and Adam were restricted from currently. Hopefully, Adam wouldn’t do anything rash that would compromise this useful temporary friendship.]

[font "Sitka Small" Once the car parked at the lot next to the dorms, Jake placed a hand on Adam’s shoulder before the man could get out of the car. His face was stern, which Adam knew was when Jake needed to say something important.]

[font "Sitka Small" [b [#008800 “There’s something else about that warehouse I didn’t say in front of Ms. Leon.”]] Jake began. His odd cat-like eyes displayed an unusual anxiety before he continued. [b [#008800 “Someone was watching us. On the rooftop across the street. I didn’t see who it was, but I knew they were watching us the whole time. When I got outside, they were gone.”]] Jake explained as he sat forward in his seat. He didn’t think Adam would find it important, but he didn’t feel what Jake felt. Like a puppet on a stage, cognizant of the audience watching it. It was unnerving, and Jake didn’t get flustered easily. Adam did his best to reassure him, but the anxiety was still there. Still lingering. The glowing embers still ignited from the dream he had last night.]

[font "Sitka Small" Adam didn’t like it when Jake was this serious. Jake could see his usual antics becoming more and more apparent as a mechanism to distract them both. Jake caught a glimpse of the plastic bag poking out of Adam’s jacket knowing that the broken vial with the green stain was inside. Sometimes the distractions worked. Sometimes.]
AutumnReaperAdam Cordova   2y ago

“Wha--!” Adam lurched to the side in his seat, gripping the steering wheel for the only sense of comfort he would ever know in Jake’s presence. “I was [i listening] to you!” He scoffed. Jake would have no reason to believe Adam’s incredulous assertion. Usual victims? What exactly was a usual victim for Adam Cordova? [s Pretty, stupid, and young.] Sure, Morgan was different - exceptional, even - but he was very much within his rights to acknowledge it. It didn’t [i mean] that just because he [i usually] acted upon his urges that he was going to do it [i now]. Adam Cordova is not so predictable.

...Adam Cordova, if he believed this of himself, is an idiot of the highest degree. But there was little chance he would admit such a thing to his gruff partner, while he was in such a mood.
“I’ll answer your questions and concerns in the order that they have been submitted.” But Jake was going to be disappointed in what he had to say. “We’ll need to find someone who knows more about etymology or cryptology before we can tackle what the word means. For now, we should focus on what they [i are], what they do, what their primary location is.” The vial in Adam’s jacket pocket shook with the bumps and curves of the road, never letting him forget its presence, its value, or its importance to their newfound mission. He had a plan in mind for it, a course of action.

There were few times that Jake said enough to form an opinion of ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Adam would use the word intuitive to describe his other half - it just so happened that Jake’s intuition seemed to never fail him. But, Adam didn’t feel that he was being fair to Morgan. “I’m not taking up for her or anything,” He clarified, “But, she’s clearly not [i just] a journalist. The sheer fact that she knew about the symbol, and where to look for them, connecting the pieces of all of the buildings, the incidents - You get the point.” Few people, regardless of employment, chose to go so far outside of the scope of their duties on mere hunch or whims. There was every chance that Morgan had more information than she was letting on, and Adam was determined to have it for himself. If that meant playing nice with someone who was just as likely to sell you out as she was to help, then, so be it. The benefits outweighed the possible consequences.

Still, there was an unpleasant condescension in the way Jake spoke to him, this assumption that Adam might try to pursue Morgan and drive her off. “What do you take me for? Don’t answer that.” Besides, the fear was amply misplaced. Jake knew, as did Adam, that the secrecy of the AVG would be protected, no matter who or what threatened to expose its existence. It was more likely that Morgan Leon might suffer an unfortunate accident, else go missing, than it was that she could ever successfully publish an exposé on Adam and his employer. She’d never stand a chance. “I appreciate the concern, though, partner.” That wasn’t it at all, but the car had stopped, and it was time to return inside.

Adam moved his hand to the handle of the car door, when he felt Jake’s troubled, steady grip on his shoulder, and met his firm stare with his own brows drawn together in a questioning sort of look. “Someone watching?” From the rooftop across the street?
Uncomfortable silence plagued the car. Adam glanced away, eyes landing on the dash of the car, but focusing on nowhere in particular. As much as he didn’t want to entertain Jake’s information… the cold rush of uncertainty running through his chest could not be avoided. It bothered him. “...Maybe it was just a janitor or a window washer.” The laugh he’d let escape at his own joke wasn’t genuine, but it was all he could muster.

“That person on the roof can’t stop us from finding out what’s in this vial, or erase what we saw in that paperwork. While they’re waiting for their chance to strike, let’s see what we can find out.” That worried expression still hadn’t left Jake’s face. Adam felt no choice but to keep talking, and finally made his way out of the car. “C’mon. I’m due for some food and a nice, stiff vodka cranberry. The sooner we get this started, the better.”

The AVG building runs on the fumes of a skeleton crew at night. When all the department leads, and the Chief, turn in for the night, the lights of the lobby dim to a quarter of the intensity with which they shine during the daytime. Documents need filing, reports need reading and proofing, and samples need testing all through the night. Adam thought it best to part ways with Jake at the lobby. But they needed to find someone they could trust with the sample. Someone with tight lips and without a vendetta against Cordova - preferably, someone who had not (yet) been ensnared in his web of one night stands. Jake wouldn’t have any idea who to look for, and so, Adam felt most inclined to accompany his partner, lest they both suffer the consequences of an ill-fitted pick.

Let’s see what chumps work the night shift.

Adam gazed through the port window of the laboratory doors, looking for the telltale signs of a late night presence. The bobbing head of messy brown hair of a short woman who always seemed on the verge of falling asleep. She sat perched on a stool in front of a microscope, headphones in, dead to the world around her.
“That’s her.” He muttered to Jake. “She’s the only one in there. Definitely not my type.”

Messy, mousy, squirrely - thick rimmed glasses on a round face, sitting atop a perky nose. Dark skin washed out by the lack of sunlight, and a mop of thick, short curly hair pulled into a messy bun made for a cute girl. But those clothes, Adam thought. She looked comfortable, but would it have killed her to put on some jeans? Wear a pair of cute, heeled boots? Night shift takes the piss out of everyone that works it, sure, but--
Adam shook his head and turned the handle on the door. The girl on the stool didn’t stir. With a swift motion of his index finger, he popped an earbud out from her head, which startled her.

“B-Boss! I-I wasn’t sleeping, honest, I-I was just--! I-I’ll get this sample! To...the…”

Adam smiled, eyes glancing down at her nametag. “Samantha. Just the girl I wanted to see.”
Samantha’s brows flew up in surprise as she stared into the expanse of Adam’s blue eyes, with her own lighting up with recognition.

Oh.

[i Oh no.]
JakefromStateFarm     19d ago

"You're- You're Agent Cordova, AN 609246!" The mousy woman, (Samantha was it?), could barely squeak out Adam's name. Her big brown eyes looked up at him with a look Jake had not ever seen someone give Adam before, pure unadulterated adoration. 
"Oh… my god. Agent Cordova is in my lab. I mean, not my lab, but my shift!" Her hand pushed her chair away and flew up to her mouth to hold back the excited gasp. "Oh my god. I can't believe you're here. I knew I should have worn my lucky sweater today!"
Jake and Adam both shared a confused look. Jake interpreted the expression to be a mixture of [i "What the hell?"] and [i "Save me"].
"I have been following your career through AVG since training. They still reference you in bootcamp for solving that sample crime scene in under two minutes." Samantha stood up and bounced in the balls of her feet several times. "I mean, I know it's all hush hush and all, but I just really admire your work! It's pretty much why I joined the forensic lab!" 
The short woman was gushing over Adam to where even he was speechless. Jake snorted and smirked as he watched the exchange. Finally, someone that can put him in his place. Jake thought as he leaned on his elbows and said nothing of use to lend aid. 
The snort that escaped his nose backfired immediately as the excited Samantha turned her excitement in Jake's direction, though it was tangibly less enthusiastic. 
"And you're AN 508344! Oh wow, you're like- a legend around here! You're like Big Foot or something. Heard stories but hardly anyone spots you. I can't believe I'm the first one in this building to talk to you!" 
The squealing commenced again and Jake gritted his teeth as his ears groaned at the high decimal. She at one point reached out to touch both Adam and Jake's arms as though to make sure they were real. His sunglasses hid his squinted eyes as he looked down at the excitable lab tech. The young woman caricature with wild big blue hair, unrealistic large blue eyes, and exaggeratedly drawn bosom contoured oddly on Samantha's shirt as she moved her arms up and down.
"Wait," the bouncing ceased, "Aren't you guys-like-grounded? I'm surprised to see anyone here right now, actually. Hardly anyone submits requests at this time." Her attention fully back on Adam now with an index finger going back and forth between the agents. "What are you doing here anyway?"
Jake looked expectantly at Adam with raised eyebrows and nodded his head towards Samantha. [i "Go on. Do you people - person thing,"] Jake's voice insisted in Adam's mind. [i "Please don't make me do the talking."]
Being swept up in the unexpected admiration, Jake almost forgot why they were in the forensic lab at all. Although Adam's usual sauve nature could manipulate anyone, the energy this woman held was immense. Jake wanted to go to bed just by standing in her general vicinity. 
[b "What Adam is trying to ask is if you can analyze anything interesting on this vial."] Jake interrupted as he withdrew the evidence bag from inside Adam’s jacket. This show needed to get on the road and stop lingering in the parking lot. There was an awkward pause before Jake added, [b "Please."]
Samantha’s eyes wandered to the transparent bag containing the cracked blackened cylindrical vial. The inside was still stained with the mysterious dark green hue from whatever substance it used to store. Her brows knitted together confused. Her expression changed as she looked back up at them with what Jake could swear was a twinkle in her eyes. 
"Oh!" the enthusiasm rising in her voice, "Of course! I can do that, no problem!" Her dazed demeanor let her hands absentmindedly reach for the bag, but stopped before she held it. "But, aren't you guys suspended? Like, aren't you not allowed to investigate right now?" She asked innocently.
Jake paused with his eyes closed for a moment. Right. There is that.
[b "Yeah, um,"] Jake breathed out a response. [i "Adam…"]
“Because like, I think you guys are cool, but I also don’t want to get in trouble with my supervisor. And I really like this job even though it’s hard to stay awake sometimes. And I just got trusted to run this section of the lab by myself, and I don’t want to get in trouble and lose that privilege."
[b "Samantha,"] Jake began as he straightened in his posture, [b "we could sign something for you in exchange for your discretion. How does that sound?"] He tentatively placed a hand on Samantha's shoulders, her eyes followed as though the world was moving in slow motion. [b "It...would mean so much to us if you did this."] Jake smiled through gritted teeth revealing his pointed canine teeth.
Samantha paused as she looked at Jake's hand, then back up to the dark shades that covered his eyes. She glanced back at Adam with a surprised expression, "are you bribing me?" She asked in disbelief.
[i "Shit,"] Jake thought.
"Because if you are... it's totally working." Samantha finished as she grabbed the plastic bag and looked up at the two agents with sparkles in her eyes. "I can do discretion! I'll run tests in this if you sign my notebook!"
Jake hid a sigh of relief, [b "Sure, whatever you want."]

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