qdesjardin: (Default)
2016-06-26 01:03 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 12 - snake eyes

12 – snake eyes

The Staff of Ra. A few thousand years ago, it was held by Egyptian rulers as a symbol of ultimate trust, and now David Bateson is retrieving it from a hermatically-sealed glass chamber for this evening, up in his private chambers.

He's just finished checking on the hotel's finance records, certain that tomorrow's gigantic event with the Black Rose will give his shareholders the huge boost they've been waiting for – over ten millions in ticket profits (not including the other income sources).

/

When he goes to check on the Black Rose's rehearsal backstage – they've already gotten the gist of their acts, with Renton now being able to fish out yin-yang (Baoding) balls from an unsuspecting audience member – having practiced on a waitress who has free time to spare.

Good.. if everything runs smoothly, along with the auction, I'll be sure to go down in the hotel's history as its best owner. Not to mention a suave retirement.

"For my next trick," LeBlanc twirls with her staff, smirking, "I'll make your 5G reception bars disappear."

Satisfied with the proceedings, David sips a small brandy from his pocket bottle. The Black Rose's itinerary of magic seems solid:

1. Opening act – Lulu and Heimerdinger are French chefs, serving ratatouille (real). LeBlanc is a demanding food critic. Involves one or two audience members.
2. 2nd act – Swain and LeBlanc have a tango ("Roxanne"), involving the dizzying heights of the ceiling.
3. 30 Minute Intermission
4. 3rd act
– Twisted Fate and Renton try to outfox one another in games involving cards, chess, etc. leading to heated duel of words and tricks.
5. Finale – A ballad involving all cast members, leaving everyone with the promise of finding magic in their own lives (metaphorically speaking).

Swain calls everyone over for a group huddle.

"Remember what we need to do.." he goes, once he's sure David has gone away. "While our show is on, the auction will be occuring during the intermissions and afterward. I just found out David will be giving away his staff the first thing."

He nods at Heimerdinger. "Heimer's come up with a duplicate, based off observations. It'll look like the real thing, more or less, just that it will feel a bit off to a familiar hand. We'll be swapping the staffs, so no one will be alerted. By the time they find out, we'll already be stepping foot in Italy."

Renton gulps at the mention of Italy. It's only been around three days since dropping through the rabbit hole to this alternate reality, and he's just getting used to the idea of grandeur – the feeling that you could do anything you wished for, the stuff you'd see in TV, movies and comics, and now being in another country?

He'd never even contemplated that possibility, except as a young child when his father was still alive, promising him someday he'd get to see those beautiful gardens his father's seen in Belgium, where the white water lilies seem to sift on the ponds.

And now, it's as much in his reach as Evaine's billowing cape before him.

She smells like.. a bizarre mixture of oranges and plums that hit the nose in such a manner as to bring your senses to an allured stillness..

"Renton..? Renton!" Swain is calling out his name. "Can I trust you with the actual swapping of the staff? Nobody knows your face yet, and your innoceous looks can prove disarming."

Renton feels like being the lead role of a spy movie, so of course he says "Yes!"

"This is what you'll be doing before the 3rd act.."

/

Being canned is an uncomfortable fit. Singed, in a waiter's outfit, is lugging a cart of canned fruit – along with Zac (in a can).

They are part of backstage catering, and will be checking in on the Black Rose, hoping to glean any info out of their doings. In short, they're just like villains-for-hire in a Saturday morning cartoon.

So far, what they've found out is that there's an auction they're really concentrating on, and a staff of Ra they want to acquire.

"A staff of Ra?"

Yes. Those artefacts which are fabled to ascend anyone to a higher plane of existence. Viktor has searched through his data files and discovered the thread which the Black Rose has been chasing after. A fascinating thread – that would seek to quench that underlying question about magic. He isn't sure what they've already acquired, so he is hoping to forge a temporary alliance with them, despite their long-standing rivalry.

It is a bit of a long-shot, but Swain is enough of a reasonable man to be swayed. A long time ago, Viktor pulled Swain out of a messy situation from the Russian Mafia..

Now Singed puts the cans under the catering table, where Zac is to listen in, and heads on back so he could refill the drinks.

While this is going on, Rumble and Veigar are putting on the finishing touches for the stage lighting.

"Spotlight check!" the head electrician goes, and up in the control booth, the coordinators test each of the spotlights, one-by-one, making sure everything is in working order.

Rumble has set his Tristy mecha on standby, by the ceiling, when everyone else has left the stage. He's dressed it up in a Super Galaxy outfit. Having seen the Black Rose's perfomance itinerary, the idea is to interrupt their finale – giving the audience a real shocker, like something out of wrestling when another wrestler comes by unexpectedly for a showdown. It might seem rude initially, but whatever makes the crowd cheer, so Team ROCHAT can have some publicity, as well as getting the Black Rose's attention to their joint-venture proposal.

He's also reprogrammed the routines in the control room, so the lights will dim and re-focus accordingly when they crash the party. "It's a change of plan sirs," he told the control guys, showing them a written letter with Swain's signature (faked). "They're orders directly from the Black Rose," and with the time pressure, coupled with his convincing tone of authority, the control guys don't bother checking the purpose of these routine changes. An extra dim here, some spotlight focuses there – these seemingly innoceous changes – and the show goes on like normal afterward.

Veigar wipes his forehead. Mon dieu! Thank god it's over, everything is set to rock.

"They have Kool-Aid in this place, non?" he says to Rumble, when the rest of the technician team are busy congratulating themselves.

"There's 20-year old Merlot and Sherry," Rumble goes, having glanced at their fine wine collection. "I'm pretty sure they have your favourite somewhere."

/

Alone in her makeup room, LeBlanc is playing around with the blushes and lipstick, experimenting with her new look she'll be presenting outwardly. It's like with Madonna, who's able to reinvent her image with every one of her new albums, which is something LeBlanc's always admired.

Currently, she dabs a bit of lipstick just in the middle of her lips, and pulls back her hair in a fanciful bun. When she spent time imitating a geisha, she found it suiting to be poised like a mime. Ready to suggest people through her hands and gestures, not with her words.

The door creaks open.

"Evaine?" Renton goes. He sees her wiping away her makeup, and catches a momentary glimpse of what she was going for in the brightly lit mirror. She is immensely talented, and his already pounding heart is erupting now, like a volcano.

He inches himself inside the same room as her, and the scent of vanilla caresses his nose. Bursting out of him, those moments which have been underlying himself the whole time.

The way she's kissed him, sliding her lips back like how the ocean waves retreat, before diving deeper in his mouth for more.

Losing all sense of himself under her embrace..

It touches the innermost recesses of his mind, that he's yet to feel comfortable revealing.

"Why do you love me?" he says. "It was so sudden, and.. and.." Nothing can express the confusion he's having over this. "I don't understand. Do you know me from somewhere, like distant cousins?"

"Non." She exits her chair. "Renton.. you don't know what I've been through. Seeing you brings back so many memories. I'm not related to you or anything. I just.. used to have a son, and his father.. that's such a long time ago."

This revelation isn't really that stunning for him.

"I'd have thought you were together with Twisted Fate or Swain," Renton goes. "You're so beautiful, why aren't you in love with-"

"I was. But it grew exhausting on them after a while, and so we had to break it off, keep professional. Ever since, I've hidden my feelings from everyone, though they know about it.. how I had my heart torn to shreds, and left with nothing but despair."

"What happened..?" Renton approaches Evaine's still figure.

"My lover was killed! And they took my son – he was all I had left in my world. My SON, Renton!" Her arms are clasped over her chest, like trying to stifle a bleeding wound. "It's not the Black Rose. Someone else. Katarina.. Cassiopeia.. Riven! Oh god, I can still remember all their names..!"

And she slams the table with her fists, the items on the table clattering. It takes a second for her to recollect herself.

"My son's name was Booker, Renton," she goes, her eyes partly caught up in her memory. "I was going to look after him, hold him tightly in my arms, grow older with him. I don't even know if he's even alive! The last 23 years, I sought to find those bitches who took him – hoping that the next city we'd venture into, I'd find them, and my son with them. Or the next city after that. But they're all gone now, and.. I'm sorry.."

She is weeping, and Renton is agape trying to comprehend what she's saying. He just knows her feeling of loss, thinking of his long-gone father, and that he feels this pull towards her.

"Hey, there's no need to be sorry." He tugs at her shoulder. "When I was around 10, I lost my dad in a truck crash, and it's never been the same for me since. I miss him every day that's passed – it's just something that happens, and I live the best I can for his memory. I try to, at least."

It makes Evaine smile. "He must be so, so very proud of you.."

"I can't imagine how it's like to lose your child like that. But if Booker were here, knowing you still care about him after so long, he'd be so happy." Renton flashes her a reassuring grin. "You never stopped believing in him."

"Oh-!"

A lipstick falls to the floor.

He finds himself suddenly cradled in her embrace. Passionately warm and soothing and intoxicating. His cheeks pressed by her neck, while his breathing is slightly constrained within her arms – every inhalation makes his chest press back against her soft breasts.

It's like before, where he is shuddering at experiencing the entirety of her being up-close. Her fingers running along the back of his neck, curling up at the soft parts she finds.

"Does this.. feel good?"

They look like lovers caught in a still frame of an intimate waltz.

"You're so beautiful.." Renton goes.

"What are you talking about?"

She leans in to kiss him – holding still in his mouth, before slowly drawing back. And then another, this time with a trail of saliva linking their lips which makes her smile.

The excitement proves too much for Renton, and his breath noticably trembling, he tries to lunge towards her life-giving mouth, but she draws away from his unrestrained eagerness.

"Slowly.." she instructs him, a finger on his cheek – not wanting to break the feeling of delicacy – and when he kisses her again, he remembers to relax, and let his mind be saturated with those sensations her soul delights in showing him.

/

Tomorrow evening's show has almost a hundred thousand showing up. The parking lots have been congested with varieties of car colours – when a spot is filled, the ground underneath it is set aglow, which is a nice touch for the event. There's also small business owners inviting other cars into their backlots (with cheap Christmas lights to replicate an MGM Grand spot), and a huge lineup of viewers, reporters, stretching down the sidewalks as far as the hotels some of them are staying at.

Police and security dot the vicinity with their presence, from the parked cruisers that help redirect traffic, to the guards who do random patdowns to check for weapons and laser pointers.

Even refreshment tables are there since the entire line has been growing for hours long.

In the actual hotel/exhibition centre, David Bateson is chewing on a Snickers bar – his reflection silhouettes his walking cane behind the glass. It's like a piece of him is going away with it. And a weight off his mind. Then the custodians tow his cane away, along with the numerous treasures he's found throughout his travels.

And Renton, he is also chewing a Snickers bar. While his stage outfit is ready in the dressing room, he's wearing normal clothes.

"Just talk with David Bateson and lead him into letting you have your hands on the cane. The loading area has a few blindspots in their surveillence, and I'll show up moments later to congratulate Bateson and his crew in their efforts – that's when you make the switch. Hide the real staff in a blindspot, and we'll retrieve it later."

Everyone is already murmuring in the stagearea, and Renton can feel the hefty weight of the retractable cane in his pockets, as he wanders into the loading bay, where David is overseeing the process of every item, film memorablia, jade doll being fitted into its display case.

How am I supposed to get his cane? It's not they'll be willing to undo the boxing just for me..

Doubt gives Renton pause over Swain's idea. A part of him wants to turn back and ask Swain if maybe he should rethink it. He continues forth anyway, and with a slight change of perspective, sees the glass case beside David in which the cane rests.

"Young lad-!" David goes, spotting Renton. "I know you're not one of the faces I usually see here! It's not an appropriate place for you to be – were you looking for the washroom?"

The loud whirs of the drills intermittently erupt through the room.

"Yeah.." Renton scratches the back of his neck. "I was. I got a little lost – I'm in a hurry for the show. Can you show me?"

Bateson checks his watch. More than enough time. So he leads Renton back to the halls..

"Around your age Renton," he says, with a slight lisp in his step, "I didn't really dream big, truth be told. I was what you'd call lazy and modest. I thought the best I could aspire to was being a content pencil-pusher in the offices."

"I don't know yet what I want to aspire to," Renton goes, feeling a tinge of embarassment go through him as they pass by a WC sign that has the gendered stick people pointing in the right direction.

"There's no need to hurry yourself. A lot of the historical greats didn't know what they really wanted to pursue until they were well into their middle ages.. you, my lad, it seems like you've got a lot of spirit showing through you."

"That's really encouraging."

The men's washroom, you turn right at a juncture between the men's and women's. Some music from the first act plays very distantly, as the frightened yelps from Heimerdinger suggest that LeBlanc is slapping his ass over the poorly-made Antoinette cake.

"There we are," Bateson says.

Renton is at an impasse – Bateson is just going to turn back around, and he'll be left in awkwardness if Bateson sees him stumbling by again. Why did he even run along with 'going to the washroom'? That was foolish-

"Oh, now that I think of it," David Bateson goes, "I could use the little men's room too."

So after Renton takes a whiz, he mentions to David about his 'famous' cane that he used to be walking around with. "What happened to your cane?"

"I'm giving it away for the auction tonight."

Renton notices his frown in the washroom mirror.

"You're going to miss your cane, aren't you?" Renton goes.

"We've been through so much together." David pats his face after he's given it a splash. "It even saved my friend's life."

"Really? That must be one cool cane..! If I could have had the chance to touch it beforehand.."

A beat. David eyeballs Renton, and then the idea hits him – the last thing he does with his cane should be something happy, and what better moment for finality, than to let this boy take a look with his own eyes?

"Tell you what Renton," he goes, "You can run your fingers along all its intricate lines if you like. The auction isn't for another half-hour anyways."

"Oh – you're so gracious!" Yeesss!

Coming back to the loading room, David is opening the cane's display case. The workers ask him what he's doing, and he's explaining that he's giving his cane a last, sentimental hurrah. After the case's security alarm has been deactivated, he unlatches the cover, and lets his fingers carry it over to Renton.

It's really thrilling to hold a piece of history in your own hands. By touching it, it's like you become a part of its history. No longer is it just a vague idea you'd find off a library book, with the old picture to prove its existence outside of words.

The light faintly sheens over the staff of Ra's surface as Renton turns it over, revealing the numerous micro-scratches it's accumulated. Somehow it feels lighter than the fake staff Renton's been carrying, and then the thought hits him – wouldn't Bateson know right away that it's fake from the switch? If he gets his hands on the fake..

Where is Swain? He's supposed to show up any second.

"I like it very much," Renton goes, hoping that light talk will let him hold the staff longer. "What did it look like when you first picked it up?"

David snatches the cane from him. "There were bronze gildings over it. 1952. The excavation site of Hamunaptra, where we were looking for the Egyptian tomes buried by Nasus's tomb. Mon dieu, it was so hot. It was a souvenir from what we found, and I kept it – helped me trek back through the desert."

"Ooh. You were an archaeologist?" Renton's hands are just eager to get the staff back.

"Yeah. From China to Greece and the Mayan ruins. Now I'm selling off the last of what I have. It'll be lonely with just my memories, but my work will go on better appreciated once I stop clinging to the past, so to speak." Bateson runs his hands down its whole length, and Renton could swear that there was a weird glow from the staff, before his focus snaps back to his mission.

"Hey, I'm not done looking at it."

The magic show is being broadcast on TVs, and Renton hears the applause over the first act's ending. Swain's going to be in the second act..! It's going to be starting very soon, and he hasn't even come yet.

"I have to put my cane back now, young lad," Bateson goes.

A deluge of confusion. What is Renton to do now? His head is swirling, wanting to snag the staff away and run, or just plain head off and report back to the dressing room.

Then after he hears: "Ladies and gentlemen, we apologise. One of our principle cast members is currently unavailable. But we promise, the show will go on! He should be around shortly." And the groans and uneased murmurs of the audience.

"Umm, excuse me," Renton pips. "I need to be somewhere." And he is striding off – his hesitation dispelled with the fact that Swain is missing from the whole picture. Everything is starting to go wrong..

"What's that all about?" David asks to himself. "Funny lad."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2015-03-25 12:24 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 11 - preparations, pt. 3

11 – preparations, pt. 3

Her morning-after contraceptive is a pink pill from the drugstore – its brand is Alea, and it's one of the few decent pills you could pick from the shelf without needing a prior prescription. Immediately after LeBlanc walks out the mall with Renton, she downs the pill, feeling it slide down her throat with a gulp.

She wouldn't imagine how it would look like, having a child with Renton. (If it were to be a boy, she'd hope he'd have Renton's good looks and natural charm, without the shy self-consciousness of herself.)

Seeing her take the pill, it flashes through Renton's mind, their moment together, and he could barely contain a tremble.

/

At the hotel, Swain and the others are midway through their breakfast in the lounge, and LeBlanc with Renton join them after having packed his outfit.

"I've gotten his things ready," LeBlanc tells them, and she hastily whispers to Renton to sit up straighter – he's slouching in his seat beside, and.. it's still morning, and boys like him would be rousing at this time. But it's making her look bad.

"Renton," Swain goes, munching on a bacon sandwich, "what we'll do now is have you ready for our upcoming performance in a few days. You'll be performing duo, as Twisted Fate's partner on stage."

"My two-timin' card-dealin' partner," Twisted Fate says.

Renton glances down. He wishes he could be on-stage with LeBlanc instead..

"What's the matter Renton?" Twisted Fate goes. "You aren't looking forward to it?"

"Oh, no, no, I'm just wondering.. does it have to be you, or can I pick-"

"I can't think of anything else to put you in currently," Swain says. "Lulu and Heimerdinger have already set up their routine with each other, and I can't think of how it would be very entertaining if you were cowering under my storm of crows. And LeBlanc.."

Renton beams upon her mention.

"Her function is to have the element of audience participation, one-on-one. It wouldn't work if you were there with her."

"Oh.." But what about the last time, with the whole Back to the Future interruption thing? What about her promising me I could be her partner earlier..? Renton wants to say that, but another thought makes him more resigned – that this intimacy he feels about her, it is not exclusive to him. Surely he's not the first she's enticed, and sadly, he probably won't be the last. "So what do I gotta do with TF, are we playing-"

"Playin' Hearts, and you're going to be pulling off funny stunts as the casino dealer. It's a hit especially in Vegas. Shouldn't take you too long to get the hang of it."

"Our stage will be set in MGM Grand," Swain goes. "It is just a matter of getting acquainted with the layout, setting up environmental cues accordingly, and if we are lucky, our audience will be especially receptive.. but that is only the easy part.

"What we're here for is obtaining the second-last artefact; the staff of Ra. Long-sought after, we've manged to pinpoint it to the current owner of the MGM Grand, David Bateson. An old, bald man with a penchant for collection of rare artefacts. I've only just found him two weeks ago, finding an old photo of him from 1986, with what resembles the staff.

"Why none of us has ever heard of it.. it is because everyone else has been expecting to look for it in the museums, or hoping to find it still undiscovered in the archaelogical dig sites. When it's been in Bateson's hands, all along. Just happened to be mis-named as his faithful walking stick, painted a different colour."

"Swain has real brains," Heimerdinger goes, wiping his mouth. "I would have never realised that in a million years!"

"And it's lucky for us that I've found this out when I did," Swain goes. "Bateson is going to auction off the staff the night we perform. If we don't get our hands on it then, it could disappear away in the hands of another, as just a mere walking stick.

"Our two options: we can partake in the auction – bidding online, or we can steal it beforehand, when Bateson thinks his million-dollar stick is safe in the vaults. Preferably, I think we steal it."

/

The MGM Grand Hotel – it is a splendour of a building, exemplifying the Vegas spirit of hedonistic pleasures in its combination of being a hotel, a luxurious casino, and a grand stage to perform in front of an audience of ten thousands.

At day, it is just a building, with many vehicles parked in the lot for the people who stay for the upcoming Black Rose's performance. But at night..

The rented limo drops Swain and everyone off, and Swain leads them through the lobby to the stadium – their presences inconspicuous amidst the people, like distant dreams of a yesterday night.

Right now, the stadium happens to be vacant, with the janitor boys sweeping the littered popcorn and pop drinks from the floors. The vast stadium, all the seats sweeping around the arena, surrounding the centre stagefloor that is to be where the performances are.

"Waw.." Renton says, gawking at how big the whole stadium is. It's like a hockey arena, mixed in with the theatre, and up above, the spotlights are set to a general white lighting.

They've entered through one of the aisle entrances, being led by one of the stage managers, making their way down to the backstage. You can tell the manager is so giddy in their presence – he's babbling on and on about how it's his privilege to help host their show, and how he's got two daughters who'd line up by the TV or their computers for all their shows..

On the bright side, the manager's eagerness is certainly going to translate over to the efforts put into setting the stage up.

While Heimerdinger narrates to the manager what they'll need (a table, hula hoops..), Renton asks LeBlanc if she still gets stage fright.

"All the time," she says. "Lulu holds my hand every time before we're introduced, and I gulp. When we step out from the curtains, it's like a fever dream when you see all those faces gazing upon you. It's so riveting to feel, yet so perilous when you know that every slip-up you can make, everyone is watching. My first couple of performances, I choked because once I was in that moment, I could not get rid of all their attention, bombarding me on what I'm supposed to do. The thought that there'll be some people in the audience who'll hate me on the stage, no matter what I'd do."

"So how did you manage to overcome that?"

".. I just do it." LeBlanc notions at the blank stage displays, that'll be zooming in on them for the benefit of those in the bleeder seats up above. "But more importantly, don't be afraid to fuck up; you can find moments of improvisation, when you least expect it, and you'll wind up taking the show to a new, unexpected direction."

/

Out of a rented utility van, Team ROCHAT step out by the MGM Grand – their leader Viktor in holographic disguise as a normal plumber. They've flown anonymously on public airway, stowing away their belongings in a trans-dimensional pocket (hammerspace), and they are going to make their stay in low-profile.

There was a call from the hotel for extra servicemen, because the stage is going to be packed at full capacity, and they need extra pairs of hands to get things running smoothly.

"Oh, you're part of the hired help? You'll be staying in the utility quarters," one of the valets tells them, trying not to mind how foreign they look, and they're led down to one of the basement levels, past where security rooms monitor the casinos, vaults, and other entertainment venues – and to what looks like a barracks, where other servicemen are idle, either resting on the bunk beds provided, or joking around on MewTube videos.

"You'll find there's a call sheet for whatever duties they need help with," the valet goes. "If you get lost or confused, the others will help you get more acquainted." And leaves them be, thinking them experienced enough to be leaving it up to their hands.

"What kind of crap room are we stuck with!?" Veigar exclaims. "This is not suited for someone like us! It's a six-star hotel, I'm sure they could afford much better for the poor plumbers and electricians! I demand more comfort!"

"Quiet boy," Singed goes – waving away the attention from Veigar's outburst. "We won't be staying here long. If we can deduce what big thing the Black Rose scum are after, our trip will be more than worth the paltry quarters we're residing in."

"Oohh! I hope I do get to play with the white tigers..!"

Zac is mumbling, snugly fitted inside a canister. He hopes they'll let him out soon.

/

After the Black Rose have been suitably familiarised with their grand stage, Twisted Fate is shuffling his cards with Renton at a table backstage. He is going to show Renton how to play the part of the no-good dirty-rotten casino dealer.

"So you're wearin' one of them tight uniforms, with the black shirt and red vest," Twisted Fate goes, shoving half the shuffled deck to Renton. "The room temperature is kept cool, to keep the gamblers in a concentrating mood. But you're still sweatin' by your armpits, because your job is not only to be slick with the cards, but makin' sure your consumer ain't cheating you over the game. You keep your eyes on theirs – watch if they get anxious, or if they're putting their attention on something funny. Not on their hands, because an experienced card shark will easily pull a fast one while you blink."

"Got'cha." Renton is enjoying Twisted Fate's cowboy accent; and soon, he's getting acquainted with the game of Hearts:

The object of the game is to win as many hearts as you can, by duelling your opponent with the biggest card in your hand, and the winner of the duel picks a random heart from the pile. At the end of the game, when you've spent all your non-heart cards in duels – you sum up the value of the heart cards you've picked up, and the one with the larger value wins.

The first few games, Renton always gets beat by Twisted Fate (somehow).

"How are you winning?!" Renton goes, slamming his fists on the table in frustration. "I don't get it. Seems like you always have higher cards than I do.. it's your deck of cards."

"Mmm, I ain't cheating you-" Twisted Fate grins. "It's strategy; you don't blow your whole load right from the beginning, you pick the card that you think will marginally beat your opponent's – I look at the cards I hold, and then I deduce the other cards you're holding. See, you've blown your kings and queens on my threes and fours, and then I savour getting the upper hand over you, because now you ain't got no advantage no more."

"Damn!" Renton shakes his head. "How do you come up with these.. I mean, you're a much better card-player than me.."

"Kid," Twisted Fate goes, re-shuffling the cards. "About your age, I did this to make a living. I went around in card-playin' shows and casinos, and outplayed most of them competition at their own game. Is just a matter of figuring out your hand, and their hands, from what's already out on the table, and what to do with the luck that's been given to you.

"I was so good at the games that they swore I was cheatin' them somehow, and I got my ass booted out of some casinos, hauling them short of hundred grands in cash each time I came. Wasn't supposed to be that way for them, but hey, 'the house always wins.'

"I was livin' it large, and I went to see how them fancy Frenchmen would deal 'em in grand Pariee. Little did I know, I was gonna be robbed of my entire life savings, and then some. Faster than a rabbit gets- you know."

Renton shifts in his seat. "What's your name? Your real name, that is."

Twisted Fate looks him straight in the eye. "Owen Thomas."

As it turns out, Twisted Fate has grown from a poor Rancher family, and bored with his family's lack of any ambition (besides herding cows), he's gambled his way to France, where he's lost all his cash against the much more sophisticated French players – and barely survived through the various oddjobs he took, until he met Swain, and was cast as the card manipulator, Twisted Fate.

He was the third member to have joined the Black Rose; there was Evelynn, who was LeBlanc's predecessor, who played the role of the invisible seductress, and who was Twisted Fate's lover, until her feisty temper got the better of her during a confrontation with police.

They continue practising the card game while Lulu is doing something with Heimerdinger – she is turning the thrown hoops into doves who poop out rainbows of skittles, and commanding the doves to fly in formation so that it looks pleasing to see, and some audience members could reach out for the skittles.

By the ladders, LeBlanc seems to be doing a slow box dance with her staff, her eyes seemingly entranced with her staff's crystals, and her reflection in them.

"I think LeBlanc's taking quite a liking for you," Twisted Fate mentions, upon which, Renton spews out his Sprite drink, and starts blushing very red.

"I.." Renton decides to feign innocence here. "Why?"

"Because. Ever since you jumped on board, I've seen her smile more, and whenever she thinks anyone isn't looking her way, she gushes in private. Usually, she is quite serious. I've never seen her like that, except maybe once or twice long ago, in an affair with Swain."

It is a thought that wraps up Renton's head – imagining her kissing passionately with the bald Swain. The seductiveness he's seen from her, and she'd once shared it with him..

"Seems like I've caught you in a doozy," Twisted Fate goes, smirkng. "Well, how about let's get back to our skit; you're thinking of fudging the deck in your favour.."

/

The owner of the MGM Grand, David Bateson – he is a spry man of age 78, and thanks to his diet of vegetables, multi-vitamin pills and daily exercise, is able to hobble along on his new titanium walking stick like he's 30 years old. He's told his friends in his past that a rich lifestyle is nothing if you cannot live healthily too, and now his friends are eating his words at the nursing homes.

Here is David's daily routine: get up at 7, write a journal entry of his dreams, eat fish and high-protein vegetable bars, do a strenuous workout at the gym, and return up to the penthouse floor to catch up on social media while eating lunch, with maybe an old classic movie or two afterward.

While the others of the Black Rose are practising, Swain has caught David just after he has taken a shower from the workout sweatiness – there is not a wrinkle to be seen on David's face, what a miracle!

"M. Bateson?" Swain goes, getting his attention. "I'm Jericho Swain – I'll be performing as the Black Rose this Friday?"

"Ohh! Swain!" David is gleeing.

"I'd prefer if we'd keep the conversation down," Swain goes, almost in a whisper. "We operate under a low profile when we're not performing, and I'd like to keep it that way."

"Oh, sure. What can I do for you? Are the staff treating you well?"

Swain thinks of something to get closer to him. "Yes, they are treating everyone exquisitely-"

"Ooh! Exquisitely! I always like to hear that-!"

"What I'd like is if you can show me around your grand hotel – I always enjoy getting acquainted with the place I'm going to be performing in."

David takes off the sweatband from his head. "I've got to prepare myself for the afternoon first – but you are absolutely welcome to join me for a cup of tea, up in the penthouse."

So David takes Swain up to the elevators, greeting everyone along the way.

You seem like a nice old man, Swain thinks, glancing at David's new titanium walking stick. It is too bad I will have to unceremoniously part you with your treasured old 'stick.' As you'll mourn about it, you'll never know of its true significance.

/

Up on the penthouse floor, David Bateson's dog can be heard barking all the way down the hall.

"What is with that dog..?" Viktor goes, dusting the hanging portraits of David and his collegue on the wall. He's had a pleasant time dusting while Singed is doing some kitchen cooking ("Spicy Indian, anyone?"), and what on earth is Rumble thinking, making a show of himself with the ladies as a valet?

Then Viktor sees David and-

It's Swain!

Even though he is animatronic beneath his human-form disguise, Viktor still tenses up with Swain's presence, fearing for a second that Swain could see through it.

"Carry on, good sir!" David tells the young-looking lad. "Those portraits look dazzling!"

If Viktor could sigh a breath of relief, he'd be doing so. But more importantly, he could find up what Swain is up to, so Viktor hurriedly finishes up the dusting and follows the two into Bateson's personal chambers, where David's dog (Benny) leaps up onto his master, licking his face and giving David a light-hearted chuckle.

Then Benny turns towards Viktor behind them, and starts to bark angrily in his direction – something doesn't smell right about that one.

"Ohh, Benny..! It's just visitors.." David tries coaxing Benny to calmness, and finally, he carries the dog over to a playpen, where Benny's apprehension goes ignored – a resigned whine.

David Bateson's room is the intersection of the MGM Grand's plus shape; a four-pronged crossroads, where David can enjoy the bird's eye view over the lots, and the Las Vegas cityscape – at night, if you have the lights off in the room, you can enjoy staring out at all the artificial awe of the citylights, snuggling with someone beside you.

But nearing the afternoon, the room maintains a business-like tone – it resembles the post-postmodern office room of the current business world, mixed in with the comforts of a luxury home.

"I'm sorry about the mess.." David is gathering up the pile of papers on his desk. "I was busy all week getting the upcoming auction affair sorted out. My walking stick here, one of the salesmen in Texas Astronautics Sciences was a tad too convincing for my taste. Ergonomics.. it's better for my walking posture, so I'm afraid I'm going to be parting with my old stick, since 1958.

"I was born with Polio, and the doctors thought I'd never get to walk in my lifetime. Then my parents took me to see a Chinese mystic, and with acupuncture and herbal medicine, I was able to walk with my own two legs – but not entirely well. So I have this gait.. and I was friends with this nice, absent-minded professor of Egyptology, who gave me the stick that supported me up to this year, on concrete, linoleum, dirt, carpet.."

David tucks the legal paperwork away in a folder. "It's funny, how you bond with an object. You attach all these feelings.. all these fond memories with it over the times."

Swain glances at the folder, while David hobbles over to the stove, and prepares a cooked salad of salmon, beets, onions and pistachios over some Bibb lettuce for himself.

"If you're getting hungry," David Bateson goes, "I can call up my personal room service for you two – I imagine you aren't vegetarian like I am."

"I've already eaten my lunch," Viktor says flatly (he doesn't eat).

"Um, I'll have marinated chicken with soup," Swain goes, and David gives the order through his phone, before serving himself the sizzling salad on a plate and eats the dish by his desk, knife and fork.

The dog is playing with a ball, punting it along the playpen's walls – but really, he's trying to slam the ball into Viktor, whose eeriely metallic scent he strongly dislikes.

/

The aftermath of the meeting is where Viktor is leaning against the hallway walls, seeing David and Swain trail off into the elevators. He is apparently frozen, still mentally processing the revelations that took place as the salad disappeared from David's plate, bite by bite.

Swain seems awfully interested in David's old walking stick, and it is very clear that whatever significance the stick has to Swain, it is something pivotal for the Black Rose.

It's going to be stolen around the auction. Maybe that's why the Black Rose are performing here.

The one thing Viktor has always felt resentful about is how his own Team ROCHAT seems to be left in the dark, while he sees other groups make major headway, stumbling upon the strands of a grand web that looms and affects everyone. The Du Corteaus of Corsica were the prime instigators of the Great Magician's War, and the Freljord Clan exploited their proximity to the North Pole, controlling one of the last few reserves of Emperium-laden land.

In general, how it seems none of Team ROCHAT have struck upon the same kind of massively-affecting success the other groups seem to stumble upon; despite being the pride of Quebec, they would be doomed to being second-rate in comparison with everyone else. With the likes of the Black Rose.

But, perhaps that is all about to change.

The tactic being employed right now is beating the Black Rose to the punch of what they desire, putting themselves into a position where they can make demands to be let in whatever Next Big Thing is taking place.

And the fact that this David Bateson said his 'walking stick' came from an Egyptologist..

Viktor is recalling vague mentions of a long lost Egyptian artefact. The Staff of Ra, which is said to be instrumental to an ancient ritual, relating with the legendary isle of Avalon – it's rumoured to be the origin of all magic on Earth.

Could it be.. the Black Rose believes the Avalon isle is real? It's currently believed to be hogwash by many other groups, but then again, many people believed the Earth had been flat, long ago.

Viktor begins to smile; he's not about to let this golden opportunity slip away. Not while he can help it. He whispers into the earpieces of Team ROCHAT: "I know what the Black Rose is up to. It's something massive – we discuss this during our mutual break times this afternoon.."

The dog is heard growling from the distance, as one of David's maids is tending to it.

/

At Winkies (a fast food diner), the little girl Annie is munching down on a quarterpounder cheese sandwich, pretending to feed some pieces to her stuffed bear Tibbers – "Yum yum! You'll grow big and strong with beef!"

Her much older guardian, Brand, he is intently focused on his phone, sipping some iced tea one second, then the next second, reading the article about the recently stolen egg from Vancouver; how the police had seemingly lost the trail of the 'professional thieves' to a destroyed white van, and arriving on the scene is Bezu Fache, an Interpol investigator who insists there's a correlation between the inexplicible crime and the presence of the Black Rose in the city.

"Tell Mr Tibbers to pipe it down," Brand says, his voice gruff. (He looks like the kind of scruffy vagrant who has been hitchhiking the numerous highways of America.) "Trying to read something important." He has a near-photographic memory when it comes to reading news, but he needs the concentration, and that can't happen when Annie is loudly involved in a play session-

"Tibbers want you to say please," Annie goes, making her bear's arms crossed from rudeness.

".. please."

"Oh c'mon! You didn't mean it! Now you have to say pretty please!"

"Pretty please."

"See?" Annie munches off on her sandwich. "The power of being polite can take you anywhere!"

"Now pretty please, with a cherry on top, shut up and let me finish reading Annie."

Annie gives her caretaker a raspberry. "You're no fun sometimes."

Despite the rough bumps like these, Brand and Annie have a strong bond (her Tibbers included too), inseparable in their performing travels together (except when they use the washroom) – more devoted to each other than a brother and sister, more faithful than a husband and wife. Because of the deeply ingrained feeling that they're all they have in the world.

Together, with their pyromancy, they are the Infernal Inferi; their public appearances sporadic – primarily to replenish their funds from the willing donations of their gathered audiences.

And together, they embark on the search for Avalon also, for the meaning behind their magic. Why, you might ask? It is like the grand question that comes to us Muggles, of the deeper meaning behind our existances – why are we the only ones alive and intelligent in the world.. in space? Where Science cannot adequately answer that question beyond the facts and theories, Religion seeks to provide us with the spiritual answers, sent from God and His divine prophets.

And likewise, the isle of Avalon is a symbol of hope for the true meaning behind their magic. From Avalon, one could derive true power, or better yet, discover the next step for all Magicians alike.

Brand is still reading through the article.

Bezu Fache, the French Interpol agent – he has been a long-time investigator of magicians; specifically, how crime seems to occur around them wherever they visit – and if you tell Fache it's just coincidence, he'll likely fly into a fit in your face, and give you an extensive rebuttal of murders, thefts and other acts of capery; not minor crimes, mind you, but major ones. Influential figures who get poisoned, or suffer 'accidents,' because their agendas happen to stand in the way of a magician group.

Etc.

The trend has been continuing on to this day, and Fache has fought against Interpol's internal affairs division, in order to keep his investigations going – to prove that his efforts are not just chasing after mere conspiratorial fancies, but to bring to a definitive light the malice of Magician-kind.

"Once I do catch them in the act," Fache comments, "the world should not be thanking me; it should already have been obvious to those who do pay attention to things."

An unrelated news article mentions the disappearance of a boy named Renton Thurston.

"This Bezu Fache might prove to be a problem," Brand goes, putting away his phone and finishing up his fries.

"If he comes our way, we'll blast him into ashes!" Annie spurts. "Isn't that right, Tibbers? - Oh yes yes, Fache is Ash!" Tibbers nods.

"No, we aren't allowed to do that. Actually, he'll be on the Black Rose's trail, and bam, if he does catch anything, we'll be long gone with the staff."

The two have coincidentally stumbled upon David Bateson's possession of the artefact, and they've arrived with only two days to spare before its auction.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-11-01 07:30 pm
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 10 - preparations, pt. 2

10 – preparations, pt. 2

There are more ways to kiss someone than by mouth.

By hands, for example. Your hands are clutching his, your fingers intertwined as you feel every tension translate through his joints. Or your fingers would be running over his body, touching his skin and adoring the way he just feels under your presses, his underlying muscle and body fat and skeletal construction.

Or by body, when you're laying atop of him, sliding yourself up and down to the drive of your senses' pleasure, his chest pressing against your breasts,tum-tum-tum you'd feel your heart pumping, and you feel satisfied that you aren't just sandwiching [crushing] him against the flat floor in full embrace. You'd swallow all his shudders, cradle him tightly to you, and take an occasional break from his mouth as it suits you.

"Uahh.. hh..!" you hear him go in-between. "You're going.. too fast.. I.."

It's been a while since you've really made love with someone, so.. it is only natural you are hungrily into the act, like someone who hasn't tasted sweet Belgian chocolate in a very long time.

It is Renton's first time, doing this. When she'd guided him, gently coaxing him into her, he did not immediately recognise the sensation, a soft feeling, vaguely pressing upon him, making him stiffen especially – and even thought that he was still outside of her somewhat, until they'd begun moving.

At first, he does not feel the urging pleasure he'd usually get by himself, at his own hands. It aches for him though, and then it hits him that he should not be so hasty to rush to the end.. it's already nice, caressing her whole body.

She'd felt his ankle bracelet brush by over her leg, several times (she'd have to do something about it).

It is a claustrophobic embrace throughout, so close to each other; a beautiful contact with another person. Nobody's ever told him about this, his whole life. If he'd get light-headed from a wonderful romantic moment in a show, you could multiply the feeling ten-fold and you'd not be close to this.. expression of love.

It is so suffocating. Like most of the air he inhales is shared with her also – in the moments when her mouth is locked onto his, he'd feel her moaning from her very core, and he remembers to breathe in fresh air through his nose, as to not be overwhelmed by the suffocation.

He is feeling like in a daze.

Then the urge comes, arriving, welling up in him, like wanting to pee. A sense of inevitability. When her lips pull away from him again, he tells her, "Please.. Evaine, slow down.." I don't want this to end, ever..

But she doesn't..

He opens his eyes and sees her – as if she's gazing off somewhere past him he can't see. Now she is in a frenzy, and she is rapidly, desperately rocking back and forth by his pelvis, a tear escaping from her eyes.

"Slow down-!" Renton wants to say, but his voice is muffled in her mouth, drowned out amidst her intensifying utterances as she clutches him all the harder over his shoulders, on his cheeks. Stop.. stop.. I can't.. it's.. I'm..

going to..

His dam bursts, and all the pleasure that's mounted in him is letting out, in her, in her- he sees lights dazzling before his eyes, and a surge of adrenaline spilling out- he convulses, losing control of his limbs-

But she still continues on, far past when he is done letting it all out – and then she clenches, and yelps out, a very beautiful agony reverberating, and kisses him as the very room seems to dizzy, so disorienting, like free-falling from the roller-coaster she hasn't rode in forever, and she holds onto him in every way she can, like when she was young and she held onto Philippe with her eyes closed, afraid of the acceleration and the rush of velocity, and the turns and twists of the tracks.

She holds onto him, even after her shuddering has subsided, and when she pulls her lips away from his, she realises she is crying.

The salty tears drip onto Renton's nose.

"I.. I.." Evaine goes, her voice hoarse, unsure of what to say. She notices how Renton is shuddering like her, his head in an apparent Cloud Nine. "Are you alright, Renton? Did I hurt you?"

It takes him a moment to get his mental awareness fully back into the room with her.

".. I'm so happy.." he tells her, smiling, as his chest seems to expand relievingly, a warmth of pure, blissful euphoria spreading from his heart all over to his arms and legs.

"I'm glad.." She blows her strands of hair aside, and fondles Renton by his face, as she senses their mutual wetness dripping out of her.

Together, they linger like this, feeling so warm and sweaty and spent.

"Evaine.." Renton goes, gazing at her. "You're so beautiful.."

/

And so they take a shower together, the water steaming, spilling over their contours, washing away the detruitus of last night and this morning, and that silky scent of pheromones. It's pleasantly comforting, the water.

After, when they've dried themselves with the towels, Renton sees her pick out her wardrobe – an elegantly casual dress of a fur jacket over dark shirt, where you could see the white fur on the inside, and she swiftly applies miniscule dots to her cheeks, and dyes her right hair white. It would suit her nicely for the bustling streets – her own brand of Las Vegas savoir faire.

She is a bit unrecognisable compared with without makeup on.

Then she scavanges through her bags, looking for something – the birth control pills. But nothing; it's been a while since she last did it with anyone, and she'd tossed out the pills earlier for expiring.

"Merde.." she goes. "We'll have to make a trip to the pharmacies. Hold on Renton, I'll get you your outwear.."

While LeBlanc fetches his clothes from the dry cleaning, Renton checks the Weather Channel for today's climate – it'll be purely sunny for the whole day, with some minor showers over the week. And do they have 'Francois Deux-Deux' the cartoon on somewhere? He flips through the channels..

She bursts in the room, his clothes all wrapped up in plastic sheets. It smells lemony fresh when Renton pulls out his jacket and pants, and LeBlanc gets him his socks which were drying overnight.

So he is all fully ready to go.

When they head downstairs, LeBlanc shows him to the hotel's dining lounge – a large chamber of red chairs and fountains and overhanging chandeliers, where they sit down and she gets a coffee with the eggs, sausage and toast with a yogurt. (The yogurt is there as a 'digestif' – to help ease the digestion.)

I guess I'll have the same, Renton thinks. Well, except the yogurt; he's never had a taste for that thing, and adds on some hashbrowns to his plate, with a cup of milk.

At the table, Renton's groin aches.

"Oohhh.." he goes, drawing a curious look from her. "It's numb.."

"It was your first time with a woman, oui?" LeBlanc goes.

He nods. She's the one who he's lost his virginity with, mere minutes ago, and she is innocently grinning, a light scoff out her mouth.

"Physiologically speaking," LeBlanc explains, her voice lowered so others don't easily overhear, "your body recognises naturally when it is truly going to fertilise someone. So- I think you touch yourself, oui?"

"Mhm." Renton blushes.

"So it's just your hands, alone. But it's like eating potato chips and calling that a satisfying, wholesome meal. You miss out on all the other things, the bodily embrace, the scent, the warmth and my quivering. Let alone the fact of my presence with you. As you have more encounters, you get used to it. Your loins aching after a session, because it's poured much of itself out. I'll show you more.. later on, if you want."

She bites on her buttered toast. "It will be our secret, Renton.. you and me. Please don't tell anyone else about it – not Swain or Lulu, or anyone."

Her eyes invade him; she's entrusting him with her naked heart.

"I won't, ever," Renton says. For how can he betray her – when he's said she's beautiful back in the washroom, he doesn't mean her outward appearance, but how she's made him feel in that moment, and that wonderful, enlivening person he'd sensed existing at her very core.

It would be a strange kind of relationship – a far deeper connection than marriage, he feels, or even parenting. Maybe it is like both.

Maybe it is more than either.

/

The taxicab carries them to a shopping mall, where there are outlets for clothes, shoes, jewelry, electronics, and the like. Actually, it's more than that – it is quite lavishly decorous, with balloons floating under the ceiling lights, and the animated display maps, where you can tap on the screen, and it will show you the path to get there from here.

It is around 7:10 am.

"We should do it fast," LeBlanc goes. "They'll be up around 8:20. I'll sort out your clothes first, and then my contraception.."

She strides, swift steps, Renton having to almost jog to keep up with her. He's much energised – look around! He's never been in a mall this large before, and he's breathtaken by the rich sights, the diversity of outlets.. if he weren't so occupied right now, he'd easily spend a whole day exploring the mall for himself.

LeBlanc finds one of those maps, and she's looking for a boutique shoppe, one for males. Alors – there's one called 'Unicorn,' and it's just short walking distance.

So she leads him to that store.

She gets the occasional glance from guys, and a few women too.

"Hey, why are we up this early anyway?" Renton goes.

"We'll be very pre-occupied for the whole day," LeBlanc goes. "Morning to night. This is the only free time to get you your things. A luggage bag even, and personal belongings-"

Suddenly, Renton's ankle bracelet is buzzing – to Renton's shock, the bracelet's light is glowing a menacing yellow, shining through his pants, and he's hopping on one leg, pulling his other pant leg up, as if to confirm that this is really happening.

Oh non, what a nightmare!

"Why's it buzzing like that?!" Renton yelps, as LeBlanc tries to tug away the offending ankle bracelet – the scene drawing attention of passers-by.

Then LeBlanc decides- she hauls Renton over to the privacy of an alley, and tells him to hold still as she clasps her hand on the bracelet, frying its electronics with a small jolt of her energies.

It's a dead bracelet now, and Renton sighs with relief.

"I don't get it.." Renton goes. "I thought I'm far out of range for this thing to work – I mean, it's Las Vegas, right? Not Vancouver."

"I'm not an expert on these bracelets," LeBlanc goes. "I think.. it might have been a radio wave or something that made it throw a fit. From an electronics store. I should get this off of you when I can. But at least, it won't be bugging you again." She smiles.

They step back into the public area, and a few bystanders are awaiting them.

"Hey, are you folks alright?" a bald fat guy goes. "Sounded like an emegency."

"Oh.." LeBlanc thinks of an answer. "That was his insulin bracelet – my young friend here needed a sudden injection.."

Renton nods in agreement.

"Hm," a lady goes. "Well, take care, you too."

And they wander off.

"Apparently," LeBlanc goes, "they don't know about the house arrest bracelets. It's lucky for us. I think you should roll down your pant leg, in case someone does recognise it."

After Renton does just that, they finally enter the Unicorn boutique (based from Belgium) where she heads to the l'hommes section, and-

"What's your size Renton?" LeBlanc asks him, before she puts her fingers by his collar and checks the tag – L, for large. "And your pants.."

"I dunno my pants.." Renton goes.

"Sit down for a second."

So Renton sits on his bum on the bench, and LeBlanc loosens his belt, and checks the inside back of his pants. Hm.

"Alright," she goes, resetting his belt. "I'll get you a new wardrobe set – the one you're wearing now, your sports jacket, I'd call it 'civilian.' When you show up on stage, you must fit in with the atmosphere – a stage attire."

Without hesitation, LeBlanc is picking out a stage attire for Renton; the white dress shirt/skirt (shirk?) and black pants she gets him resemble pajamas, or a karate robe.

"Try putting it on yourself," she goes, "and let me see the result."

In the dressing room, Renton gets everything but his underwear and socks off, and to his amazement, he finds the wardrobe easy to put on, with the shirk sliding over his head and the pants only needing a string to tighten it by his waist.

It's a loose yet comfortable fit, and he sees himself in the mirror – he almost looks like an elfin jester; just needs the cap with bells on it.

He comes out of the room; it takes LeBlanc a second to gander at him, before she bursts out giggling, her hand to her mouth.

"Awww.. it's cute," she goes. "I like it. What do you think of it Renton?"

"I.. it fits me nice."

"I think you could be my partner during my show routine. I just need to get you a cap to complete the picture.. maybe Lulu has a Santa hat handy." LeBlanc glances at his feet. "Hm."

She winds up buying the outfit, along with a pair of soft, fuzzy slippers – a suitcase too, and a bottle of perfume (Van Cleef & Arpels) that will fit him when audience members get up-close. A total of $475 spent, not including the taxi journey.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-07-02 02:55 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 9 - preparations, pt. 1

9 – preparations, pt. 1

LeBlanc can still feel the taste of him in her mouth when she wakes up. She brushes her hair aside, and licks her lips – Renton is still sleeping, his eyes closed in peaceful sleep, his arms clutching her softly.

The last day had been quite an ordeal for her, and he looked so scared, so relieved at the sight of her in ROCHAT headquarters when he was running away from them.

And then she remembers feeling so worried, so frightened for him too. It was a subconscious feeling, noticable now in her retrospection, and her focus is on his sleeping face, and.. she makes a vow to herself to always be by his side. To protect him. To nurture him.

To never allow anyone to take his existance away, as much as she can muster.

I'm so sorry.. Booker..

Perhaps Renton could be her second chance at love – it was dirty, what she'd done with him. Washed him, and touched him all over in the process. By normal standards of decency, this is far from appropriate, but when has she ever tasted normality? Not in a very, very long time.

And 'selfish' is how she'd describe her own feelings about him. She knows she is goading him into closer and closer intimacy, taking the opportunity of his pain, his crying over her – so she could nurse away that emotional wound and get closer, pulling him deeper into the void in her heart.

And..

She wonders about those very feelings aroused inside her. Is it so bad? Must it be so bad? The feeling of taking advantage of this boy come to mind.

But.. I'm not doing this to hurt him, or act like he is some object to project my own feelings onto. I know.. he hasn't fared too well. He has no one else to turn to.. his own mama, from the impressions of it, she isn't really helping him at home, let alone loving him the way he needs.

I'm the only person he has at this point.

Swain.. Lulu.. and the others, it's not the same with them. I know how nice they can be, but in likely reality, they could all decide to just drop him as a hinderance if he doesn't perform well; I don't imagine Swain is willing to spread himself thin, giving Renton true membership in the Black Rose.

So I'll look after you Renton..

It just seems like the last 23 years, she's spent sleeping in a coma, a leaf floating adrift in the breeze, and now she is waking up, finding again the real reason for her existence, laying dormant inside her all this time in her deep memories.

On the stage, her part has always left audience members with melancholy – it is her interpretation of her past, which hardly anyone really knows about. She's done the same act mostly, just with a thousand different variations of the theme of memories, of sadness, of the early 1990s.. and it seems the reason for it is just becoming very clear to her now, with Renton.

The greatest thing in her existence is just to find love – to love, and be loved in return. The most important thing her heart always searches for. It is the source of life, of all meaning. Without that.. everything else does not really matter. You would suffocate otherwise, asphyxiate on your own air, and all the moments feel grey.

It is a sad truth in life that in all the world's population, not everyone has had a good chance at love. If Time were governed by destiny, by fate – then Fate is a merciless element who is too willing to leave petite children starving, to allow people to die broken-hearted, old and young.

No one should have to be destined to suffer cruelly in life, without love.

So LeBlanc would believe that it is just merest chance. Perhaps you are born in unfortunate circumstances, but there should be no reason why you should not be allowed to find your way to genuine happiness and fulfillment. No reason why one wallowing in the ultimate despairs can not ever feel the ultimate joys.

You think of all the amazing chances, how even Life is allowed to flourish on this planet Earth. It just happens to be the right circumstances; the planet is not too close nor too far from the sun, and it has nourishing water in abundance. And from this, you have protozoa evolving into multi-cellular organisms; the flies, the lizards, the bears and dolphins, and the apes evolving into intelligent humanity. [If we condense all that's happened up to now into one 24-hour day, starting at midnight, life itself does not appear until a little before noon, and all of human history occurs on the last half-second before midnight strikes again.]

And one day, from all that has transpired, humanity can one day find their way outside the Earth's boundaries, and share the Gospel of Life with all the other planets in the Universe.

And likewise, that bird brought Renton into her arms.

I'll hold you, and cherish you as much as my heart can bear.

You and me together we'll be..
Forever you'll see,
We two can be good company
You and me
Yes, together we two
Together, that's you
Forever with me
We'll always be good company
You and me
Yes, together we'll be..

/

"Bonjours," LeBlanc greets him awake – patting his dried, folded clothes onto the bed. She sees him stir, and his eyes are open, and he groans, groggy at the end of his hyposleep session.

"Hey.." he goes, smiling, a bit of excitement about the things in store for this day. He notices how it's relatively early in the morning; he's still willing to rouse though, and he shifts out of the comfy blankets, only noticing how he has utterly no clothes on too late, when she can see him- "Waaaah!"

"Hehe," she giggles, as he is scrambling for his sports jersey outwear. "Non.. don't put it on yet; we have to get rinsed fresh for the day first."

"But.. I just took a bath yesterday," Renton goes, instinctively covering himself up with the sheets. "I always take showers before I sleep." When he wakes up for school usually, he doesn't have that much time besides a quick breakfast eating and dressing before the bus comes.

"Mmhm. Now you will get used to the idea of good hygiene." LeBlanc pulls away his sheets and hands him a bath towel to wrap around his waist. "You shower in the mornings – to wipe off all the sweat and grime that accumulates over the hours you sleep, and also, it's a good day freshener, the water."

Inside the washroom, they do the routine of teeth-brushing and face-washing, and LeBlanc allows Renton the privacy of relieving himself by the toilet-

Alone, he wonders about the last night with her; was it a dream? After washing his hands by the basin, he puts his fingers to his mouth, touching his lips..

the sensation of her mouth, her tongue sliding over his,

non, he couldn't have just dreamed it, could he? It's too vivid in his memories – that moment having a 'too good to be true' feeling tied down to it; but then again, he's always expecting to wake up back at home, and here he is with her, in Las Vegas!

What does it all mean?

Renton gets out of the washroom, and waits while she does her business- it's a faint morning for Las Vegas, and the bright lights are still blooming, where the morning sun has barely popped out of the horizons.

It's only 6:20 in the morning.

He hears her flush the toilet, and the sink's tap running. What is he doing up so early in the day? He's had a long time for resting, so he is oddly quite awake at this point.

"Renton- come in," he hears her say, and he heads for the washroom door- opens it.

And before him, she is laid wholly bare before his eyes – a total and utter shock for him, and his first reaction is to recoil.

But her pose is very cool, and she has her hand out – her finger asking him, "Come hither."

Is she wanting to do it with him?

Renton sees the thinly, almost bony frame of her body; her breasts are quite supple – they're what his eyes are drawn to, and it is a bit different than what he'd first pictured them in his dream. Her areolae are a little dark, and 'full.'

He's trying to maintain his composure in her presence, his heart thumping.

"You remember," LeBlanc goes, "last night.. I kissed, and I held you in the bath?" Her chest visibly heaves with her breathing. "That was just a mere taste. This is me, Renton.. this is how I really look like, under the polite clothing. Look at me. My eyes." Her eyes are intent on him, studying every ounce of his feelings, prodding him. "Not my body. My eyes."

She takes a step forward, and he is backing up against the wall, still intimidated by her sight.

"I want you to know.." she goes, "this is how I look. So you won't be overwhelmed by the time we get to truly touch."

She is a mere arm's length away from him.

"Why.. why are you like this?" Renton goes, panting nervously. He's unable to find better words to ask her about her kind of attraction towards him, this sudden revelation. "I don't understand.." If it were the thing of looking at a static image of her body, a photo or in a magazine, it would be a different story – but here, it's uncomfortable in a way he can't explain. "You're.. naked.."

"Yes," she goes, and reaching for his arm, she puts his hand over her ribcage, a bit over her breast, and he feels underneath the steady thumps of her heart beating. "For so long, I've touched and been touched by other people, men and women. And all they know of me is how good my body feels. But I've never felt anything much for them, outside of the immediate pleasure.

"And it gets so lonely for me, in a way you might never understand.

"I've always.. I've wanted always for someone who I can love, and who can love me back sincerely – not for how pretty I look, but because how lonely it is.. it's almost unbearable, how I have so many feelings accumulating inside of me, but I have no one to let it out to. And the last time I felt for someone.. I lost him."

"Don't you have.. Swain?" Renton goes. "Or Twisted Fate?"

"Them?" LeBlanc looks aside, her eyes reflecting with a bit of resentment. "I tried it with them, and.. they don't have the right kind of heart for me. And I look at my audience, and all those people who I make eager about me.. they don't really care about the real me. They just want the beautiful image I've projected outward, and they'll gladly feel the same about me if I had the inner person of a bum.

"But you Renton.. I know you are different from the rest of them. I know – I see it in your eyes, you're sensitive, and you won't feel afraid or repulsed to know my love.. I look in your eyes, and I also see him. The person who loved me, who I loved. You're.. so similar with him."

"Who is him?" Renton goes, his anxiety seeping away with her words.

"I loved him," LeBlanc goes. "His name is Philippe – and I had a child with him, and I call my child 'Booker.' We were.. I was only 14 then, and he was 15. It was so wonderful.. all the time I enjoyed together with him. If only.. those absolute bums didn't come.. and steal the both of them away from me.. I.. I-"

And LeBlanc is really crying; it's the first time she's ever let herself go with someone, and her tears escape her eyes, and her hands are just there- clinging onto Renton's arm.

"I'm.. I'm sorry," Renton utters; this is a completely different person than the one he's managed to see – the sad, tempramental girl who's been hiding all along under the composed exterior. Don't cry..

He just wants to do something – if it could mean the same of what she helped do with him last night. To make her feel better.

So he leans in, and kisses away the tears dripping down her cheeks.

"I love you," he tells her, almost in a whisper. "Evaine, I don't want to see you sad anymore.."

It's like a sudden dose of torrential feeling, bursting through the very fibres of her being, and her eyes seem to glimmer with a new light, of a pure desire.

"I know.." And she advances herself onto him, tenderly, against the porcelain wall, and finding no other way of letting it out, she just kisses him, endlessly all over, suddenly clutching him in a tight, trembling, irrational embrace – clinging to him like all life itself.

They slide down the wall, eventually winding upon the cold, bare ground, their bodies in absolute heat.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-06-29 01:48 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 8 - frosted cake

8 – frosted cake

Renton feels the blankets, tucked over to his head. It's very comfortably silky on his contours. He hears the whir of traffic outside, and the bustling noise of the populace, the banjo music muffled. He's always been hearing it faintly through his sleep, but only now does he become acutely aware of the noise.

So he shifts himself in the sheets, almost expecting his mum to bust into his room again, burst the door open, "Wake up!" when he prefers another half-hour of nappy time.

Except..

This bed is different. It's more gentler and softer than his own bed.

He really opens his eyes, and to his partial surprise, he doesn't recognise the sparsely elegant hotel room he's woken up in. All the lights have been dimmed – in the corner by the closet is an open luggage bag, and he sees the ornate makeup bag on the table, along with a white paper carton.

Feeling groggy, he gets himself out of bed, noticing he's dressed in the same clothes he wore that night at his home city, except for his socks, and shuffles over to the haze of light streaming in through the window curtains.

His heart beating, Renton pulls aside the curtains.

He doesn't recognise the numerous colourful lights over the horizon, or all the skylights which seem to fight against the darkness of the dusk. And the airships up low in the sky.

Then he realises – he's in Las Vegas!

It's the city he's never thought of ever visiting; of course, he's seen the city as viewed through the TV and movies; the original CSI show, Scorsese's 'Casino' (1995), but this is.. with his own eyes, the sight of the city is overwhelming, and almost makes him want to faint..

Just how high up on the hotel is he? He glances below, and far down, he sees the fountains spew out alight water jets, and a sense of vertigo washes over him – he is backing away from the window, afraid that he could just drop down by accident (even though there's a window).

He thinks of the luggage again; who's in here with him? He turns up the lights, and the anodyne lamps shine and he sees the beige carpet and walls clearly, with the beds and couches and counters complenting the layout. On the walls are portraits of dancers, in inky sketches, and Renton heads to the open luggage, his hands sifting through the contents, the box of chocolate and sweet perfumes (it smells just like her)-

He's with LeBlanc!

And just inconveinently, the door opens, and she's striding in.. with a red bathrobe that isn't wrapped too well, so he sees glimpes of her bare midsection.

"Oh, Renton.." LeBlanc goes, "you're awake."

"Yeah.." He gulps on the inside, suddenly nervous, seeing her exposed like this. But he can't help staring as she gets an outfit from her wardrobe, and heads inside the washroom to change.

Then a question hits him — "Hey, how long have I been out?"

"Did you just wake up?" she asks him.

"Yeah."

"Then I'd say about the whole 10 hours," she goes. "You've slept through dinner and much of our enjoyment time here."

".. damnit!" he exclaims, angry about the missed time he could have spent having fun. "What did you guys do?"

"Oh, we went to Casinos, I watched Twisted Fate and Lulu try their hands at poker.. they scored three times their original bets overall, and I myself did a game of baccarat – no such luck for me, unfortunately."

And Renton imagines the rich atmosphere inside the Casino, with the chattering people yelling whenever they'd score a big win, and the ringing of the slot machines, and with an air of desperate excitement around it.. the guards would be there, patrolling, always waiting to catch someone even thinking of cheating, or someone who's gotten so absorbed in their gambling they need a time-out.

It's such a vice, like cigarettes, but in this city of vices, where you can practically drown in electric dreams, it seems even your wildest dreams might come true.

"With their winnings," LeBlanc continues, "we treated outselves out to some nice buffet, where I saved some food back for you to eat, and we saw a marathon of Alain Delon's crime capers in a vintage movie theatre."

"You should have woken me up-!" Renton goes. "I.. I can't believe I missed-"

"Non," LeBlanc goes. "Actually, I'm very glad you managed to catch up on your sleep. It is something you should not take for granted, a good rest; I rarely get the chance to have that, and all I can do is micro-nap or meditate, whilst putting additional caffeine into my system."

She comes out of the washroom, now in her pajamas.

"You were.." Renton goes.

"I was bathing on the first floor, in the pools." She's hung over lingerie over the shower railings for drying, having been washed in the sink. "Lulu.. I think she's a bit tired now of riding the carousels. I'm not sure about Heimerdinger and the others currently."

Renton starts to feel weak and peckish; he thinks of the white carton on the counter, and wonders how-

"There's a microwave, right beside the freezer," LeBlanc points out, remembering Renton's hunger. "You can warm it up; I'd say about two minutes will do fine."

The food, a pack of spiced noodles and onions, broccoli, peppers and marinated chicken – it comes out sizzling from the microwave after those two minutes.

"Aahh-!" Renton yelps, touching the paper carton inside.

"I must have been too generous with the time," LeBlanc goes, giggling to herself. "Sorries. Just wait a while until it cools down.. there's forks under the microwave counter, I recall."

So Renton gets out a nice fork with napkin, and lays them by the microwave. While it's cooling down, LeBlanc turns on the TV, and the news is eagerly reporting about the Black Rose's upcoming show in two days. She does some stretches, and yawns, leaning back onto the comfy couch – realising how spent she's been recently. You never get any room just to breathe, and it's nice just to be able to do nothing, except your pleasure's whimsy.

"This is Melissa Redgrave, reporting live from FOX News 28!" the reporter goes, standing in front of the blocky MGM Grand Resort. "We're at the MGM Casino & Hotel, and two nights from now, we'll be witness to an extraordinary showing from the grandmasters of illusion and magical delight – the Societe de Black Rose!"

There are a bunch of eager fans by the camera, all doing wild antics to garner attention; waving, jumping, one of them doing an improvised scatting session.

"And as you can see," the reporter goes, "we have plenty of fans who are just as eager as anyone else about their presence here in Las Vegas- excuse me, sir, what's your name?"

LeBlanc's hand is idly reaching underneath her shirt, giving her own belly a gentle massage.

"LeRoy!" the guy goes – he was the one scatting. "And I'mma tell you folks on your couches something real! I send y'all good will, love and peace through all your television sets, just as LeBlanc sends me her good love and peace on the stage! Wooo!"

LeBlanc giggles; it's encouraging to know how mesmerised you can make people.

"And what about you ma'am?" the reporter goes, pointing her mic at an old lady who's doing jumping jacks.

"Oh, me?" the old lady goes. "I was doing some jumping jacks.."

"Do you have anything to say about the Black Rose?"

"Oh.. erm, I thought this was some exercise group or somethin'.. but I wish them all the best in dazzlin' and razzlin' everyone's eyes. I need to get home to feed my puppy."

Renton is snacking on his food by the table – he's delecting with the rich, salty flavour, with the somewhat oily noodles sliding down his tongue as he chews. Mmmph. It's so good. And so filling that by the time he's done, he is bloated (in a good way). *Brrrp!*

"And you, little lady?" the reporter goes, notioning at a petite girl with a pink headband.

"What's your favourite a-minal?" the girl goes, grinning. "A bear?" She giggles. Then someone (heavily tattooed) in a trenchcoat takes her hand and leads her off.

"Oh." The reporter regains her composure. "Well, for the record, I like tigers. Rawr! But anyways, this is Melissa Redgrave, and we're all excited about the Black Rose! I wonder what they have planned up their sleeves. Now back to you, Goodman."

LeBlanc switches the TV channel to something with a flashy cartoon on it; and Renton recognises it as Claymore the Third, where all the 47 Claymores protecting the land are up against a fog of deceit and treachary from their own organisation. His eyes are eagerly peeled to the screen, and he utters, "Hey, can you turn that up?"

"What's this?" LeBlanc asks.

Renton explains the gist of the show to her, and how it's one of the top 10 watched shows across the world – everyone is hyping up for the season finale, and he doesn't want to miss a thing.

"Oh. That sounds cool," she goes, her eyes staring in a sort of disbelief at the flashy action – she recalls back around the late 90s, when little kids have been hospitalised from an episode of Pokemon, and she wonders if standards have changed somehow over the times.

And all the while, Renton is energised by the thought of her seeing something he really likes. He wonders if she'll ever realise he sees her like Clare on that show.

It turns to a commercial break, and they're advertising a new 'Clap On—Clap off!' for modern homes.

Then he remembers.

"Hey.." he goes, approaching LeBlanc on the sofa. "I dreamt something.." He sits on a spot beside her, and now she is glancing at him attentively.

"Mhm?"

A beat. Renton's trying to recall the images. "You and I were in a field together, and.." He hesitates.

"A field?" LeBlanc blinks. "And what happened?"

She notices him gulping, like he's suddenly stumbled onto a psychological speed bump. His eyes quiver.

"Erm.." he begins, tugging at his collar. "You.. and I.. we-"

(touched)

She thinks it is a bit of a steamy dream he's had about her – it can get awkward, trying to get it out of your mouth. So she comforts him. She rests her hand on his shoulder. "If you don't feel like telling me Renton.. you don't have to. It's alright."

For some reason, it makes him so – frustrated and a little sad, a combination of the two. She'll never know how it had felt for him, the experience of his dream with her.

And now he remembers the haunting sadness, feeling it vividly, welling up in his chest, and it is like he could choke from the feeling, and his awareness grows faint-

once, he's read through a beauty magazine in a lounge somewhere, and he remembers a whole page devoted to an ad, just a black-and-white image of a woman, with the tulips grown over from the hanging branches, and he couldn't help staring at it – peeking every once in a while to gaze upon its evocative beauty-

"Renton?" he hears her.

He barely stirs out of his induced stupour – he is beginning to tear up. (He's so close to telling her how beautiful he finds her, but surely, there are 10,000 other people who must have already expressed the same thing in the past, and how in the hell can he make his own feelings matter if he's just a mere drop in that big ocean? Alors, such a loss for words..)

"Renton, are you alright?" In his eyes, LeBlanc recognises the same tinge that was barely detectable before, but it is much more overt now. A teardrop falls down his cheek, and another one.. She raises a finger to brush away the wetness.

"I.." he begins. ("I" what? "I"-dea? Eye got your tongue? Hehehehe.) Non.. I don't have any right to just tell her I love her. Is this even love? I don't know. It's just a selfish feeling maybe. I'll just ruin myself in front of her..

non, I can't..

"Help me.." he whimpers, sobbing, reaching for his chest, where his heart is beating, no, crumbling under the emotions. "It hurts.."

There is a bit of detachment in her, seeing him like this. It reminds her too much of herself, when she is faced with unbearable pain – and seeing that in him here, it is like glancing through a mirror, and it makes her feel self-consciously shy.. how someone else can feel the same things as her.

A pang echoes in her own heart, and she finds her own arms wrapping around him, pulling him close against her, and feeling him letting go onto her shoulder.

And he's so warm, and just to hold him, there is a pleasure in doing so.

She suspects that his hurting has something to do with her – he started crying when.. he wasn't able to get his dream out to her. It must be important to him.

Her hands reach underneath his shirt, and she just pets him, her hands rubbing down his bare back.

Wordlessly, she continues doing this, to soothe him.

"LeBlanc.." he says, starting to float on a cloud. "I.. it feels so good.."

"Does it?"

"Yes it does."

..

To touch another human being in kindness, it is innately good. It's the first way a newborn knows he won't have to be alone in the dark, facing the nothingness of the night.

"LeBlanc.." he whispers, "do you like me..?"

"I do."

"Do you.. love me..?"

She looks at him, his eyes noticably red, open, and pure. If she'd told him that for even one second, from the moment she's met him that she didn't love him – it would be an absolute lie. How she would have never thought that bird.. out of purest chance, would have brought someone like him into her arms.

She can still sense the pizza flavours clinging onto him, along with his body odour, and the leftovers he's eaten from his mouth.

"Renton.."

Then she pulls him up by the hand. "Come."

She leads him over to the washroom, where she flicks the flourescent light on; the sink is her focus, and she opens up another toothbrush parsel.

Renton is passive to her actions, a recipiant. He isn't sure what is really going on, only that it is benevolent. Before he knows it, she puts the toothbrush in his mouth, with the pink bubblegum syrup (as provided by the hotel), and lathers his teeth and gums with the crisp flavour, and rinses his mouth with the water.

In her hands, he is like a pretty doll, who she's making up for bed.

And after she's scrubbed his face, and run a disposible shaving razor over his growing whiskers – she does not hesitate in telling him, "Get undressed."

".. right now?" Renton asks.

"Oui." She heads to the bathtub, where she plugs in the drain and starts filling it with water – not too hot that it is so unbearably scathing, but also she needs it to be suitably warming, so when he gets out, he's left with a blushing feeling.

This is so resembling of his dream.. is this alright? It isn't as if she's just pervertedly wanting to see him bare and naked.

Besides, he wonders if it would lead to more of him floating in clouds.

So he peels off the sports sweater and shirt he's had on for a while, and lays it on a stool, and then his pants, and socks, and finally underwear. He can really feel the cool, air-conditioned room, and the tub is already filled close to its brim, steaming, and LeBlanc has added a few drops of bubble bath to it so it's lathered.

She holds him steady as he steps inside, quickly getting used to its heat, and when he's all in, she dips his head in the water, wetting his hair, dripping, and lathers the vanilla shampoo-

It had been quite silent between them, a bit uncomfortably so for her, and all she's heard out of him is the occasional moan or whimper when she's bumped the toothbrush on a particularly sore spot with his gums.

"I miss doing this.." she confesses to him.

"Mmh?"

"When I was younger," she tells him, "before I joined the Black Rose, I had clients who I made love to. I was a courtesan."

"A courtesan.." Renton digests the word.

"In plainer terms, a prostitute," she explains, reaching for the body wash. "I'd wash them myself before I did my business with them, because some of them could be quite dirty, without knowing it. Cleaning them was a way of me getting to know them, and also.. it just feels nice doing so."

Suddenly, Renton is having funny feelings stirring inside, and she is going over his neck, his shoulders and arms, and his chest..

What is he supposed to say to her? He's been taught all through his life about the hazards and dangers of grown-ups taking advantage of younger people, with the PSAs and the Sex Ed. classes. It is supposedly traumatising, even for life – but.. (yes, in cases where the grown-up is just a mean bum on the inside, like a priest with very repressed desires)

Here, he actually doesn't mind her doing this. Her hands go over him gently, and she's rinsing around his belly button, where under that, she detachedly goes over his genitals (he ticklishly squirms) and then around his inner thighs, and his knees.. and his legs and his ten little piggies who have been weathering inside the shoes, and need a good scrubbing.

"I know it is not appropriate to be touching you," LeBlanc goes, her arms sopping wet too. "Like this. But you looked so hurt to me, so I wish to comfort you. I'm too.. am alone."

And once that is done, he's rinsed as throughly as she can give him, she tells him to undo the drain, and grabs a towel for him to dry himself off.

"My clothes..!" Renton goes, but LeBlanc shakes her head as she gathers them into a pile outside. "What will I wear.."

"The first thing I'll do for you is obtain you a good wardrobe," she tells him. "These clothes.. I don't like the idea of you sleeping in them, not after you've been wearing them for so long. I'll send them downstairs to the laundry to be washed."

So she leads him to the bed where he was sleeping, and tucks him under the sheets, taking his covering towel back to the washrooms.

The lights are dimmed, and the TV is still on, where Clare is in a rocky situation – she's pinned down to the wall by the Maestermind, and he is making a big revelation towards her- gasp! He is her father, and she's always been his experiment from day one! Dun dun dun!

Renton scoffs – it's a cheesy twist of events, but it still works wonders when he really can't wait for the last two episodes of the show to air the following weeks.

He finds it very airy, sleeping under the sheets in his bare skin. He was never allowed to do that at home, even if it got so sweltering hot during the summers; his mum would gasp like he just did when she'd pull away his sheets the following morning, "Wake up! It's late!" and act like she's stumbled across him caught in the act.

As if his mum has never seen him naked before.. but that was when he's very young, and he.. he really sort of misses the genuine tenderness that was there, with his parents, that he didn't realise had existed until he's older and had the chance to look back.

LeBlanc is quick in asking an attendant on the first floor to get Renton's clothes washed and ready the first thing next morning. It's around 11:22 PM, and the bustling of the decorous lobby, where there are usually lots of people who scuttle from the casinos to rides to the drink bars.. it's quieter now, and you get the sense of some people wanting to be in their beds by this point. Unless you're expecting to win $50,000 dollars from a slot machine (and rightly so; people have heard rumours that the Casino has rigged one of many slot machines to give out that sum in cash, once every month).

When she's back up on the 12th floor, and she makes her way into her room again, the TV is blaring what looks like a Hindi melodrama – lots of reaction shots, the family members so surprised and shocked.. because Aamir Khan has revealed that he's pregnant, and he'll be the third man in India to have carried a baby to term.

She's feeling quite.. "Yawwwwnn.." Tired. So she scuttles for the remote – it's by Renton's bed, and he seems a bit bored of the TV, so she shuts the telly off.

And it is just her and him now, against the nightly backdrop of a still-thriving Vegas.

She lingers over him, a barely lit silhouette, listening to the sound of him breathing, and then she pulls herself under the same sheets as him.

"LeBlanc.." he goes. "I don't feel tired.."

"Oui.. but I am. It just takes me a while to fall asleep.. can you tell me about anything, Renton? Such as your dream? I want to hear.."

"I was.. we were playing at the local mall, where the arcade machines are. And I was showing you how to play this game.. BioMenace.."

"Oh? What's BioMenace about?"

"It's where you are a CSIS agent, Snake Logan, and the whole world has become infested by mutant monsters because of a 10th grade biology experiment gone wrong. So you are just fighting wave after waves of monsters, hoping to survive to the next level. And.."

"You shoot them? The powerups? The high scores?" (She knows the gist of arcade games – having played several herself earlier on. The mechanics of the gameplay are designed to be addictive, to allow the player to [begrudgingly] accept failure by pumping in a few more coins. And a few more after that.)

"Yeah. And I showed you how to play the game.. you eventually get a high score."

"Waw.."

"I wanted you to type in your real name.. but you typed in mine instead, because- I think because you said it was me who goaded you into the game, into winning."

"Mhm."

"And.. I'm in a nice room, and there's a washroom.."

"Oh, did it look like this room?"

"No, it's different. But I went into the tub, and I was playing with a rubber duckie.. and.."

"It's cute."

"Heheh." Renton clears his throat. "And suddenly, it was like the I was chasing the rubber duckie down a water slide.. if I didn't, then the other people in line behind me, they'd call me a coward. So.. that's the end of my dream."

"Oh."

A beat.

"But I don't think.." LeBlanc goes. "There is something else, that you couldn't tell me.. and you cried because of it."

Renton is more comfortable now, being able to tell her without inhibitive worry. "We were naked, on the stage.. dancing, holding each other against the cold."

A beat.

Then he feels her shuffle her hand up, finding his face, his cheeks, just brushing his shin with her fingers.

"I.." Renton goes, finding the words to express that one desire – the way she had painted her lips alluringly black. "Can I.. kiss.. you?"

She answers him by pulling his head towards hers, and she finds his mouth alongside hers, and she pecks him gently at first. "Absolutely."

And in the enveloped darkness, he tastes her – the fine, delicate texture of her lips, nibbling on his, rubbing, and then she fully presses her mouth over his, and there, they each savour their shared breaths, and she lets out a throaty moan that is caught onto him,

it is the carnal desire that only ascends, more and more,

and she prods him with her tongue, two tongues who are set on attempting to taste one another, a petite dance, as he tries pushing back against her protrusion.

She feels him wheeze for air, and she pulls back away from him – mutual saliva drips down between their gap, just to let him recover.

And then another round of kissing, and this time, Renton is more assertive in this playful pas-de-deux, his hand running over her face, through her hair to the nape of her neck, and she shudders a bit, being touched there-

By accident, her teeth clench down on his tongue's tip, and he yelps in pain, retreating.

"Oh.. I'm sorry," she tells him.

"Aauouh," he goes, panting.

"Here.. I can help. Just stick your tongue out, and I'll make it feel better.."

So he does, stretching his tongue as far out as he can go – further than usual, when he'd blow raspberries at people.

She wraps her lips around his tip, the region where he'd taste sweetness from the sugary things, and merely sucks onto it, a popsicle. All her saliva leaks out from her lips, and he tastes it like it is his own, except it has a foreign composure that makes his mouth more wet in turn.

It does feel better, and he is aching for more, from her.

But she withdraws from him, her head resting on the pillow.

"I want.." he goes, and she nudges him by his chin.

"I'm tired. But tomorrow.. I promise, I'll show you the reason why a body is the best thing you can ever have.. bonne nuite, Renton."

"Bonne nuite.. LeBlanc."

".. Evaine."

But before he can ask her about it, her name, he hears her snoring, her awareness out of here – and so, all he can do is hold her by himself, like a pillow for his own body.

She's so warm..

And pretty soon, he too slides out of waking alertness.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-06-20 02:53 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 7

7

In the wide open field of roses, he wanders. The sky a vast, open vale of deep blue hues. He could call the tall flowers roses, but they are not all red, some of them are white and fuchesia and even golden, and they bear no thorns upon their stems, so it is alright for him to move freely through the field, for they would want no harm to do him.

A breeze blows, and some of the pollen from the pedals float up and get carried away in the airs, and some of them would get caught on his face, near his eyes and his nose, and it would make his eyes water, and his nose want to sneeze in pleasurable exhaultation.

He doesn't remember ever being allergic to anything, let alone these flowers.

It is ticklish, being in this field.

And who is that waiting for him in the distance, with her back turned? He sees her wearing a pure black-and-white silken dress, which wavers as the air blows, and the loneliness of solitude getting to him, he decides to run over to her.

He knows her black hair, and her delicate form.

The same sadness is there in her eyes, as he's always remembered. He can stare into them, and it is Chopin's music which echoes in his recognition of the depths and the hypnotic abyss where all notes echo in the emptiness.

And when she smiles at him, it is a real smile.

So he is with her, and now they are on a bare, dark stage, with the dim lighting revealing only her lithe silhouette and her face is cast in shadow, and he smells her very resonately as she cradles him in her arms as they dance, bare feet on the black ground.

One two three, one two three, like how his dance teacher would always say when the timely music is playing.

He is so close in her presence, and his skin is touching her bare skin, and it is both warm and cool as they hold onto each other against the chill air, for warmth is a feeling foreign to this abstract environment. They must make their own warmth, the warmth of breathing, of being, of their hearts beating and their exhaled breaths expelled from their lungs.

So she holds him against her ripe breasts, and her nipple rubs by his cheek as he feels the bone of her rib cage, her heart thumping faintly yet vividly, and the little quivers of her breathing now getting excited.

Her fingers slide down his back, her hands reaching under his arms, and it is like she draws out the sweat from within his epidermal shell, and a strange aura of excited arousal runs through him; he is spinning around and around with her, the eye of the vortex centred by the space between their feet, and the air whooshes around them, riding a merry-go-round at the amusement park, the ride floating over everything else on the Earth, blue oceans and green fields and all the city lights which resemble stars and Christmas decorations and the pinball machines at the arcade.

And he can see the game machines with which he used to so eagerly play, as a petite child, before they've renovated the area and it became a mere coffee shop, the tables lining by the windows, the serving counter where Contra and BioMenace used to be.

See, this was the game he's enjoyed so much, on BioMenace when all the mutant monsters have flooded the underground base, and it is up to him (as Snake Plissken) to set up all the turrets and obtain all the ammunitions before the mutants arrive in swarms after swarms, and it is an endurance test to see how long he can prolong their numbers until the timer runs out.

All the people would stand by and cheer him on, waiting until his win or loss, upon which he would relish the excitement he's felt and watch how the other kids (and sometimes grown-ups) would play the arcade game.

He teaches her the controls and time seems to fly as she tries and tries again, pumping an endless number of quarters into the machine until she makes it to the top #10 list, upon where she is asked to input her name to be recorded in fame for those to come.

As much as he wants to see her actual name, he doesn't get to; instead, she inputs his own name, because, as she tells him, he was the one who wanted her to play, indulge herself on a taste of his cherished fun.

Then he starts to grow tired, his eyes gnawing with the ache of his mind having exerted itself in continuous activity for too long.

He thinks of a cozy bed he would like to rest in, the best bed that he's known, and fear not, for he is in an exquisite bedroom where the dark rosy, velvet bedsheets await the imprint of his body weight.

But first, he must wash, and he enters the blank washroom without the curtains on the shower, and the tub is filled almost to the brim with comfortably steaming water, where he gladly sheds his clothes and peeks his toes into the liquid, finding it the perfect warmth (not too scalding, nor lukewarm) and dips the rest of himself, legs and thighs and torso and finally his chest into the ocean of peace.

What comes to mind is the yellow duckie he played with as a young toddler, when he would take baths with mother who would rub his hair and skin with bubbly lather from the soap; how he wishes he can relive such an innocent time, an era bygone before the word 'independence' is thrust upon his life and he must learn to endure the separation from the intimate touch and warmth of mere, and the eventual absence of his pere.

His eyes are closed and he imagines swirls of sparks and gaseous forms that emanate from the canisters of that shadowy figure, chasing him down the hallways, the school hallways whose layout is unfamiliar, and he remembers the desperation where it is like his voice is a mere squeak of a chased mouse scurrying from kittens, the kittens who make his throat hurt and ache with bittersweet bile when he looks at the mental image.

He is sad now, for some reason.

He can never come home again, even though 'home' is a place which has lost its lustre over time, and his real mere must be withering away with numbness, and he wishes she could be happy again, just like the way she was before it seemed she's lost all her purpose in life, her raison d'etre, and the wrinkles overcome the youthful, smooth skin and turn it all into coarse, dry sandpaper.

The tears pour out his eyes until he hears a squeak, and rubber duckie is floating on the current of the water slide, tumbling down the meandering curves, and he gulps with anticipating fear again as the other kids with their parents are standing in line behind him, awaiting the moment he slides down inside.

He has very little choice, for to turn back now would be tantamount to cowardice, and people would laugh and tell him "I told you so!" when he just wants to escape the cycle of normality, and only wind up proving them right in that he is only meant to be fixed down the life path they've set in stone for him. The grown-ups 'in charge,' like his teachers and principals.

So he leaps down the slide.

Into the blackness.

He feels himself being carried by a strange gravity, his direction uncertain, his ultimate destination a mystery that is found best by groping whatever comes next in the darkness.

The lights of the train subway pass him by, and he remembers the howling of the train in the tunnels, hearing it now.

And..

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-06-19 04:25 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 6 - visit

6 – visit

The first time she met Renton, there was a twinkle in his eyes that she saw. A special feeling she has no words for.

At first, she dismissed it during her performing. Maybe the mood happened to wash over her that time, like an old memory, a snippet of a song that just popped into mind.

But when he showed up backstage, and she felt it once more, looking at his face – she knew it then.

This boy is.. she wouldn't say handsome or beautiful. Cute?

Whatever it was, it tugged at a feeling in her that hadn't been felt for so long. Because she'd long since given up trying to justify its existing.

It was tenderness.

It was like finding your old childhood toys, and being able to play with them with the same joy you had before. Like being able to sit down on the couch, and worry only about missing your favourite show on TV, and the smell of dinner being cooked.

Not anymore, when you're 37 years old.

Not anymore, usually.

Even looking at him now, Renton, while in the air.. maybe that's what her petite Booker would look like, had she been able to see him grow and blossom into adolescence.

When the plane was lifting off, she felt his anxious hand over hers, squeezing, hanging on.

She'd hoped he wouldn't notice her blushing through her makeup, or the leap of her heartbeats.. or her eyes tearing up a little from the fond feelings that seemed to rush through her so suddenly, before she recovered her composure.

And would Renton understand what she's feeling, about him? If she tries telling him.. non, she doesn't want to spoil it. He just looks so happy and carefree, the way he is now – even though he's just been through a lot, just this past night.

If she tells him, he'll recoil. She'd overwhelm him. Not many people can take realising that they mean that much to this one person, when prior before, this one person is just some stranger whose personal life is otherwise none of their business.

So it's better just to keep quiet.

She sees him drinking the Pepsi from the bar (soft drinks are very bad for your body; most of them, if you distill the fizzy liquid away, it is just a sludge of sugar, caramel, and whatever other processed ingredients). And join in a conversation with Twisted Fate, and get taught how to play Texas Hold Em' – where Lulu and Heimerdinger soon join in also.

Card games, LeBlanc finds them only mildly interesting – it's fun to play if you're looking for a casual distraction, to pass the time, but she isn't particularly involved in winning or losing there. Not as much as say, Twisted Fate, who you'd see rambunctiously cheering when he'd get a Royal Flush, or downright throwing his poker chips against the wall whenever he'd lose.

And whenever Lulu plays, she pretends that the face cards are chivalrous members of the royal court, and you'd hear her whisper sotto voce, as if she were their hushed voices, coming to a decision on the next move, or whatever frosty cakes are being baked in the kitchen. (Twisted Fate exploits this as her 'tell' – a cue that lets him know of her degree of confidence in calling cards, or at least, the fact she has face cards in hand.)

"I could go for a Strawberry twirl!" Lulu goes, holding a Jack of Hearts.

LeBlanc is half-there, watching Renton get the hang of a straight flush valued higher than three Kings and two Queens. And half-absorbed in her ruminations about him, haunting her. Because she's never felt anything much for anyone else in a long while – not even her comrades in the Black Rose.

Even though she is living the uncertain life, what meaning is there to be able to delight in the strange and exotic locales all over the world, and face the dangers of her tasks.. the stealing, blackmailing, killing and intrigue – those things that would easily garner thrills in a movie, if there's no one else she can share it all with?

Non, this doesn't mean that she does not care about her mates. To her, they are quite good friends who will be there with her, today and tomorrow.

But they don't.. it isn't that she finds anything much wrong with them, as varied and different as each one of them are. It's that they don't have the right quality to their person.. the right temperament that she's comfortable with truly opening herself up to. The right kind of sensitivity, receptiveness, and understanding.

Lulu might be the closest person, and whenever LeBlanc is feeling melancholy, Lulu would be one of the first she'd confide with in private.

About loneliness, about feeling enclosed in a solitary bubble.

How it would be better if she could die, so she can come back and revisit her past.. before she'd became LeBlanc.

And most of all, those sexual urges she's had to repress, even from the Black Rose. It was a drug that overcame her in her adolescence, those feelings blossoming with her body, that eventually led to her child Booker being born. Before they took him and nearly everything away from her.

Renton is really getting into the poker game – he's made an allegiance with Lulu against Twisted Fate and Swain, and she's exchanging her Ace of Spades with his Seven of Diamonds, so he'd have a good chance at making a Royal Flush with the Spades on the table.

As the plane is about to descend, the Black Rose members change into civilian attire – they would look nearly unrecognisable from their flamboyant stage personas.

It is a late morning in Montreal, the sun hidden behind the overcast clouds, and when LeBlanc steps out, the crisp, conditioned cabin air gives way to the warm, humid climate.

This time, two taxis await them in the hangar. The first taxi, LeBlanc sits in with Twisted Fate and Swain, while Renton sits with Lulu and Heimerdinger, and Heimerdinger fills Renton in on the rivalry between the Black Rose and Team ROCHAT.

"We've had incursions with them for a good while now," Heimerdinger goes, the taxis proceeding from the Montreal-Trudeau airport down a highway.

"Who's on ROCHAT?" Renton asks.

"Oh. They have Viktor as their grand leader.. he's a scientist like me, but he specialises in Texhnolyze – augmenting or outright replacing his limbs with artificial ones that are like Swiss army knives.. his legs can sprint from 0 to 130 km/h in three seconds, for example. See."

Heimerdinger gives Renton his tablet, which is on Team ROCHAT's official site; the profile's section. Viktor looks a bit like Iron Man.. well, he is a real 'Iron Man,' except that his suit is his body. A gold sheen on his metal, almost as if you might unwrap him and find tasty chocolateunderneath. When he sprints down the football field, Viktor's arms also move with rapid motion. He's the 'brains' of the group, similar to Swain.

"Next, we have Veigar," Heimerdinger goes. "He's like Joe Pesci – looks small, but has quite a temper to compensate for his height. He loves disintegrating matter into bare atoms."

Veigar, the tiny master of doom! He's like Lulu and Heimerdinger – a childly midget. Except he's wearing dark outwear; you can barely see his face underneath his top hat and robes, just the glow of his demonstration clip involves splitting a statue of Buddha into two halves, revealing Ferrero Rocher candies inside for the petite kids to eat.

And the other three on their team: Rumble, who owns a giant mecha suit and handles mechanical matters; Singed, the chemist who practises intoxicating mixtures; and Zac, a green flubbery blob who was once a scientist before he volunteered in one of Singed's experiments, and got changed into mimetic material (boop).

All together, they comprise a formidable team, whose objective is to spread Quebecois pride and become one of the leading magician groups in the world, performing-wise and power-wise.

"They've been paining our bums especially," Heimerdinger explains. "Their main strategy is reacting to other groups' desires and getting there before the other group can, or otherwise, make petty squabbles over performances and try to win away the fans from other groups. We just happen to catch their eye more, as we're also a French group – a threat to their regional pride. I'm German though."

"Man.. this is like the Mafia, or gangsters," Renton says. "You guys ever seen 'The Godfather?' That's what it reminds me of."

"Meh. Boring movie," Heimerdinger goes, resuming a chess game on his tablet. "I'm not too much into those power struggle stories. It's bullies bullying other bullies. That's what it's like for me. I prefer 'The Ghostbusters!' Who ya gonna call?"

"Ghostbusters!" they all squeak.

In the other taxi, Swain discusses the logistics of their operation.

"The anti-coagulant used on me came from snake venom," Swain goes, recalling Heimerdinger's analysis of Swain's blood from yesterday. "It's Collett's snake specifically – a species native to Australia. Geez.. how excruciating. Perhaps our attacker might have come from Australia, or he might have just obtained the venom from some outlet. So far as we can tell, there's no one new hired for Team ROCHAT's roster."

"He could be some 'sassin-for-hire," Twisted Fate goes. "Or maybe it's a she even. I always like a gal who can kick some ass."

"In any case," Swain says, "we need to do preliminary checking on our main rivals. Sending a hired gun is quite new for ROCHAT, and it doesn't seem like their M.O., personally speaking. We can only guess, and see for ourselves if they're up to something."

"Hey, are you guys.." their taxi driver goes.

Swain stares hard at him. "No."

/

Their taxis arrive at theirdestination of an old apartment, in the middle of Greenwich Village – a residental neighbourhood that's grown over the decades, layered with trees and pizzerias and thin housing with the fire escapes.

The apartment has a spare room, which nobody questions its state of vacancy because Swain is good friends with the landlord. It's a place for them to stay, in their covert visit of Team ROCHAT's hometown. (Staying at a hotel would likely give away their presence; ROCHAT has eyes and ears here.)

When they enter the room on the third floor, Swain pulling the key from his sleeves, it looks just as fresh as the last time they stayed here, four years ago. No dust has gathered on the ornate furniture populating the main room, the kitchen and the washroom; one of Lulu's prior enchantments was a spell that repelled dust particles.

Renton inches past the table and counters to the balcony door, where stepping outside, he catches a good view of the whole street.

It is a little disorienting for him – he's never been out his hometown in his whole life, and seldom does he ever get to visit a new place. It almost seems like something from a dream, the bohemian feeling of the area.

Somebody pinch him.

He glances down at the people walking down the street, like they're figurines in a Lego set, striding along to some destination in their daily lives.

The sun is glaring through the clouds now, and he can feel its heat beating down on his face.

"Renton.." he hears LeBlanc say. "We need you for a second."

So he turns and back inside, he notices just how relatively plain she is, without all that stage makeup on. If she were a stranger on the street, he could easily pass her by without so much as a second glance.

With Swain and Heimerdinger, they're standing by the table, Heimerdinger's tablet showing a map of Montreal. In the North-Eastern quadrant of the city, a castle mansion where ROCHAT's headquarters lie.

"Now that you're with us," Swain tells Renton, "this will be your first operation. Our objective is to determine the identity of our assailant, and what we're wondering is if Team ROCHAT has anything to do with it."

He taps on the mansion's location, and the tablet shows the image of the mansion; it's like a cathedral, dominating the square – Quebecois and Canadian flags are flown over its frosted glass windows, with an archway bridge extending from the flat plaza to an elevated main entrance.

There's other doorways too into the mansion, that lead to the basement levels – those are the entryways usually taken by servicemen who would be delivering material to the organization.

"What you can do for us Renton," Swain goes, "is investigate the premises, look for any material, like documents, overhearing conversations, or if you get lucky, see the actual assailent himself."

Renton nods, the urge to yawn coming over him. He hasn't gotten much sleep on the plane. "You want me to find out if that guy who shot you is there or not?"

"Oui." Swain notions to Heimerdinger to get Renton an earpiece, along with custom sunglasses that have a camera attached in one of the lenses. "We'll be watching over you as you go along; if they see us anywhere nearby, they already know our faces, and our discretion will be blown."

The earpiece is a single earbud with a microchip, that you just shove inside your ear, and it'll activate. Renton takes it from Heimerdinger's hands and does just that – it feels a little uncomfortable at first, like it's air pressure building when the plane's landing.

He hears a beep.

"Testing, testing," Heimerdinger goes. "Renton, can you hear me?"

The petite laboratorian's voice sounds a little too quiet from the earbud.

"How's.. that?" Heimerdinger fine-tunes the volume from his tablet.

Now it's a little better.

Renton tries on the large, blocky sunglasses – it looks like the kind of sunglasses shady perverts might wear, and finds that he can see a laser display by the corner of his eyes, showing the signal connection strength, and the date and time. How conveinent.

Heimerdinger tests out this video feed on the tablet, and tries out if Renton can see the sample images he's putting out on the sunglasses; he might need to break a code, or look for an item in particular for example.

"All set?" Swain asks, whilst LeBlanc giggles to herself over the outfit Renton has on, as a Pizza Mutt delivery boy, red cap and all. He does look kinda silly, but in a cute way.

"Ready!" Lulu and Heimerdinger go, thumbs up.

Without Lulu's knowledge, Pixy is travelling along with Renton too, all cooped up in his jacket pocket.

/

Renton's riding a scooter that's loaded with boxes of steaming pizzas, various flavours (they were originally biscuits which Lulu polymorphed). The landlord Louis had been happy to lend out his son's scooter as a favour.

The wind rushes by Renton.

He's driving down the winding streets, often having to honk the people out of the stony roads – while back at the apartment, Heimerdinger has set the GPS to the mansion's location.

It's quite exhilarating for him to be able to explore the city all for himself. It's so fresh, seeing the mimes perform by a produce seller, the ultra-chic fashion sense the young women have, the horses pulling carriages carrying tourists along. He's never been able to see something like this before. What else has he been missing out on?

A Volkswagen Beetle rushes across Renton at a crossroads, narrowly missing him. Gee. That guy's in a rush.

Eventually, Renton is able to find the Jean-Baptiste square, where the ROCHAT mansion is.

It's 11:54 am.

He only starts to realise how peckish his stomach is getting. A gnawing feeling, along with a sense of general weakness – screaming out, "Food! Food! I wanna eat much a goodly!"

At home, he'd just grab the chips or microwave a frozen meal to sate himself. Munch it all down, and have some juice or Pepsi to go with it.

Here though, he's starting to think that Pizza's looking real appetising.

"Man, I'm hungry," he mutters, parking his scooter somewhere by a set of cars. "Can I eat one of the Pizzas?"

LeBlanc rubs her nose. "It'll look quite silly, a pizzaman eating the pizza he's supposed to be delivering, don't you think?"

"Oh. Gosh.." His tummy makes another rumbly, and he blushes – did anyone else hear that? "And I don't have any money on me, I don't think.." He searches his pockets, his hands bumping into a napping Pixy, and finds only a bit of pocket lint.

Damn, what a conundrum. They couldn't have provided him with a wallet too?

"We're in a hurry," Swain goes. "We need the Pizza being delivered to them, right around lunchtime. They're quite fond of pizza, and our best bet is to have you arrive at this time, unannounced. No time for forging a false ID in your wallet."

Hmph.

Renton stares at the stack of Pizzas at the back of the scooter. That's a hefty amount; maybe if he can ask them if he wouldn't mind a slice himself – as a tip of course.

He carries the stack; it's a little heavy, going up to his nose when he's carrying it by his hip.

Along the way, he almost stumbles over from the weight, and he hears one bystander say, "Waw, that's quite a huge delivery! Smells good too!"

It does smell good; the rich scent of pepperoni and pepper and onions and.. sweet cheese and BBQ chicken..

Renton is salivating quite badly – his only chance is to get to the double doors, and as he crosses the bridge, he notices how high the bridge is taking him over ground level. Even though the slope isn't too bad, carrying these Pizzas especially – it's like if this is the way the ROCHAT members enter and exit their place, they'd enjoy the feeling of towering over the common folk, up from their thrones.

Is it like that for magicians generally? He thinks of Swain and LeBlanc – imagining them making much evil laughter as they're standing on clouds, over the petite dum-dums.

It can be so intoxicating, possessing magical powers ordinary people don't have. If you have the power of poofing someone else into a cute, harmless bunny, then one of the things that come to you might be, "I want to get rid of that annoying bum in class. That guy who always cuts me off on my way to work. Etc."

You can do all those things nobody else can have a grasp on, and there'd be some people who'd resent this imbalance of power. If someone like LeBlanc can say.. make duplicate clones of herself, then it wouldn't feel fair if she gets to do that, but I can't.

But that sense of fairness, garnered from the imbalances between different people, of varying bodies, sensibilities, degree of intelligence and power, it is only illusory. Because it is only inevitable that there will be differences, the diversity.

Some people will have a natural aptitude for making beautiful art, while others excel in mathematical logic, and others are able to people cheer up in the dourest of moods.

Some people happen to be magicians, and one magician might turn cookie biscuits into pizza, while another one flings playing cards with deadly vigour.

It is that diversity which can be celebrated – that lends itself to a sense of individual identity. No matter how it might seem there are people smarter than you, stronger than you.. more charming than you, there is one thing you can absolutely excel at, that they never can. Being you. For all the things you are worth, the light you shine as a star bears its own unique wavelength, and there are moments when your wavelength will resonate the most out of everyone else's.

The initiative-taking leader excels at leading, but they bear only a limited ability to mull over and patiently reflect.. to allow themselves to take the moment, simply as it is, and allow the gradualness of subtle motions to seep through their awareness, in acceptance.

And sometimes, it is better to cherish the simple joys of a human life, than to take all the magical ability in the world to serve as extensions of a heart that's turned ruthless, disdainful of that humble happiness which makes life worth experiencing.

Now Renton's by the doors; he knows the cameras must be on him, and he gulps, as he lays down the steaming pizza boxes beside and – finding no doorbell (it's a public 'residence') he pulls open the doors and squeezes the pizza in with himself.

Another set of doors in front – glass and transparent. Luckily for him, they're automatic and they slide open in his presence, letting him wander into the lobby.

It is like he's stepped inside an immersive world of psychedelia. The mahogany layout, and the bright checkerboard floor; everything's lit from below.

The suits of knights and sentinels stand guard by the doorways, while the butlers and servicemen waltz around, some of them carrying toolboxes to and fro, or chemistry equipment up the stairs.

"Can I help you monsieur?" their receptionist asks, sitting by the widely-spanning desk. She looks at Renton like he is a mere distraction from the usual goings-on of filling in ledgers, and watching the screens.

"Erm, I'm here for a pizza delivery.." Renton goes, shyly wanting anywhere just to put the heavy pizzas down.

"Pizza delivery.." She is scanning through her timetable.

"Renton!" LeBlanc goes. "Assert yourself! You came all this way from Pizza Mutt, and you didn't come all this way, just to get the shaft from this woman."

"Right." Then Renton decides to take a step forward, landing the pizza boxes on an empty spot on the counter. The smell of it wafts from the boxes, catching his nose. "A dozen pizzas for Team ROCHAT, with various flavours from pepperoni to cheese and tuna.." (He's just making it up as he goes along.) "Fresh from the oven!"

"Sir, I'm not aware of a pizza order being made," the receptionist tells, frowning. "I'm afraid I might have to ask you to leave. We can't accept any unauthorised deliveries."

She's tough.

"Can't accept any 'unauthorised' deliveries..!" Renton says, playfully mimicking her. He smiles, and gives a pat on her desk. "Look, why don't you go tell them yourself there's fresh pizza down here, awaiting their hungry tummies. All paid for already. If you refuse me, you'll be the one who tells them that they missed out on some finger-licking good food. How's that going to look on ya?"

His tummy really starts to feel grouchy. Better get this going fast.

"Sir, perhaps you don't understand," the receptionist goes, her hand flitting under her desk. (A hidden button.) "We can't allow any unauthorised deliveries.. even though they are tasty pizzas.."

Pixy flies out of Renton's pocket, a brief glimmer before turning invisible. Renton doesn't notice – he's too busy in this hassle with a woman who seems in a bad need of a break.

"Hey, listen.." Renton has an idea. "I'm hungry too. I haven't had a bite to eat since dawn; and I just pulled off an all-nighter delivery spree. I'm thinking you in need of some slack. So tell you what, I can share with you one of them pizzas here, on the house. If they start complaining 'bout one missing pizza box, I'll just say 'my mistake,' and I'll get them another one. That fine with you ma'am?"

Now the woman looks enticed by Renton's offer. "Hmmm."

LeBlanc and Heimerdinger give Renton a thumbs-up; good idea.

"Yeah.." the receptionist goes, licking her lips. "What flavours do you have? Say, is there one with sausage in it?"

"Lemme see."

Renton sifts through the boxes – he wonders what Lulu's come up with. "Pepperoni.. chicken.. onions.." Alors, he finds one with sausage, with a bit of olive and bacon and mushrooms. "That's the one."

So they enjoy snacking on the sausage pizza together. It's so relievingly filling after just a few slices.

Even some of the butlers stop by for a slice or two.

Renton is grinning; he finds out her name is Camille, and she's just signed on as a receptionist only two months ago – the previous man had so faithfully served for 19 years since ROCHAT's inception, and now he's probably doing the hula dance with some chica in the Dominican Republic. Gosh, she's jealous! But at least, her pay's quite decent – it's $15,000 more than what a schoolteacher makes in a month.

It gets somewhat tiring though, having to multi-task doing their ledgers, while checking in with the working butlers and seeing the humdrum happen on the monitors. She almost prays for a nice magical accident to happen, just to break the monotony.

Then a loud explosion in the distance!

"Whoa!" Renton goes, leaping up from her desk. "Something's happened.."

"It sounded like it came from the chemistry labs," Camille goes. "Don't worry, the butlers will help take care of it. Singed's usually careful when he's tinkering with his ingredients – explosions usually shouldn't happen nowadays."

"Singed.." Renton mutters.

An icon pops up on his sunglasses's HUD. It's a short recap of who Singed is on ROCHAT; their chemist, a man who currently holds a PhD in Biochemistries from Concordia University – he originates from Amritsar, India. In performances, he parodies the witch stereotype, where you usually see the evil witches boiling frogs and chicken stew together. Instead of that, he invites the kids to step inside his giant beaker, where he soaks them in soothing solution that heals the skin, the bubbles steaming and floating from the froth, and then he pretends they're floating out at sea, bombarded by waves and the whales, and get involved in ship-to-ship battles with pirates. It's like a bathtub dream, come to life.

"He's the guy who makes all the kids cry from the fumes, right?" Renton goes. "I think I might have seen him on TV."

"Hahahaha – not quite," Camille says.

Renton glances at the ledgers on her desk. Maybe there's something that might let him know if they have anything to do with the bow & arrow assailant, or at least, what Team ROCHAT's blasting off about next.

He wonders what he can say next, to get her to share with him that kind of info.

"Well, from what I've heard of Team ROCHAT," Renton goes, "they're a very.. very proud group, yes? They're proud of their own French heritage-" (Just like M. Fourier. It must be like that with most Quebecois people, I suppose.) "And competitively speaking, I think they're on my top list of magicians I'd want to attend watching."

"Ooh, so you're a fan!" Camille goes. "I think you should keep that fact quiet though.. we've had our own fair share of fans, did you know, wanting to stream in the building for autographs or go dating with Viktor. We've had to bar them from casual entry – unless it's something truly urgent, they can be denied from seeing one of ROCHAT's shows. Of course, it's just a bluff; we don't have the resources to enforce a blacklist of offending fans. But it's good enough to keep them from swarming in."

"Huh.." Renton says, his eyes wandering around the foyer, the stairs that lead to hallways out of sight, the tapestries and coat-of-arms hung on the walls, while the daylight streams in through the frosted windows. "I guess it must be pretty busy with Team ROCHAT these days."

"You guessed right," Camille goes. She tosses her styrofoam plate and fork into the dustbin.

Heimerdinger is giving Renton a heads-up of ROCHAT's performing schedule: they've recently performed in Spain, and are taking a five-day hiatus before touring Malta and Italy on Tuesday. (It's Saturday currently.)

"What's up with them taking a five-day break?" Renton asks, and before Camille can say anything, Singed is plopping down the stairs, in his white laboratorian's suit, rubber gloves and blue goggles.

"Hello there," Singed says. There's a deep cyan stain on his suit, and he doesn't seem too pleased about it. Sniffing, he smells the pizza. "Ooh, what's that? Is that pizza?"

"Why yes it is!" Renton goes, grinning. "It's been paid for already, so you don't need to worry."

"Paid for?" Singed's at the bottom of the steps, scratching his chin. "Hum.. did Viktor ask for pizza today? Oh shushems, never mind, I'm starving! Just wait me a minute, I've got to get myself out of this stained outfit.."

And Pixy flutters back into the safety of Renton's pockets.

Singed heads in and out of a hallway in just under a minute; he's fabulously dressed in a nice suit now, like this is what he wears when making public visitations. Perhaps he's going to treat Renton to something, like lunch.

Renton is feeling quite full though. He's already eaten plenty from the Pizzas, and doesn't feel like wanting to stay in this place any longer, despite the possibility of further investigation.

"I think I'll go now," he says, before heading for the entrance-

"Non, stay please!" Singed goes. "You've been so kind as to bring us good food, and it does seem like you're a good loyal fan. Why don't you make yourself more comfortable here for at least.. half an hour, or so? Do you have any more pizza deliveries you have to attend to.. Monsieur what's-your-name?"

"Erm, Renton," he goes, blurting out his own name before he realises it. "Yeah. I do have more pizzas to deliver. That's why I'm going to go-"

"Hey, hey!" Singed nods at the still knights, who suddenly bar the entrance doors with their halberds. "Your accent.. you're not from around here, are you.. Renton?"

"Oh schisse..!" Heimerdinger mutters, starting to get visibly worried. "Renton.. I think we've been made!"

"Renton.." Singed is grinning, approaching Renton with stark steps – his figure tall, bald, menacing.

Up close, Renton notices the coldness in Singed's eyes. The wrinkles by his eyelids, betraying the apparently young and handsome face.

"Now I know why that name rings so familiar to me!" Singed goes, suddenly clutching Renton by his arm. "You know, I've watched you on their show, yesterday night in Vancouver. Dancing with LeBlanc on one of her gallivanting, self-pitying spiels. She smells good, doesn't she? Doesn't she?! Take those shades off, si vous plait."

Renton looks at Camille; she works for someone like that guy?! She's shrinking away, sitting on her chair, like she wants nothing to do with what Singed has in store.

"Or I'll take them off for you – there we go-" Singed tears away his sunglasses, holding them up in the air. "Salut mon amours! Were you hoping to use this lad to snoop around? Too bad." In his grasp he crushes the frame, the lenses fracturing into petite shards that clatter to the floor. "So sad."

Renton's heart is pulsing, he's breathing heavily. It's like when M. Fourier or another one of his mean teachers would take delight in his troubles. Except it's not going to be a mere strike on his school record; he could actually die.

"What did they offer you in return for this job?" Singed asks, thrusting poor Renton against the desk, as his hands frisk Renton's pockets. "Money? The chance to be one of them?"

Luckily, Pixy is able to flee invisibly before Singed's grummy fingers start prodding. He's fluttering over them, wondering what to do to help Renton out of here.

Renton shudders as Singed finishes patting down his legs.

"Or were you hoping to get your 15 minutes of total fame from the world's cameras?" Singed goes. (His garlic breath really reeks!) "In any case, I would have never expected themto get that petty.. a young boy like you ought to be studying for a fine vocation, don't you think? How old are you anyway, sonny kid?"

Then Renton decides to look him in the eye. You know what, this Singed guy is nothing more than just some bum at heart, no matter how many PhD degrees he's got, or what chemicals he's been brewing. "I'm 17-years old.." he goes. "And I'm not just some 'sonny kid' on any street. I'm Renton Thurston! And I'm doing this for them because I just want to! I've got nothing else to live for!"

Singed is actually taken aback by Renton's show of attitude. "Oh.. you don't say Renton? A desperate child who thinks he has nothing to lose.." He thinks to himself for a moment. "Putain.. why did I have to break your glasses? Why did I do that..? Anyway, why don't we let's find out.. where the Black Rose is hiding out in our city! You're going to tell us – whether I have to foist truth serum up your ass or not!"

And he tugs Renton along.

/

"Merde..!" LeBlanc slams the table counter. "Swain, we've got to get him out of there! They'll mess him up!"

"Wait.. I've still got audio!" Heimerdinger goes, hearing all of what Singed is saying from his tablet. "I think they haven't taken out his earbuds yet!"

"Pixy?" Lulu's voice comes from the kitchen; she's looking around for where her faerie companion has gone. "Where's Pixy? Has anyone seen my Pixy? Where'd he go..?"

"Okay.." Heimerdinger reconfigures his tablet to track Renton, based on his earbuds now. "They're taking him upstairs.."

"My Pixy's missing!" Lulu pips.

"Pixy.." LeBlanc goes, getting an idea. "I think he went along with Renton – Heimer, look for Pixy's frequency too!"

So Heimerdinger does just that, and Pixy's location is hovering just by Renton's side. "Lulu, Pixy's there with him!"

"Eh?"Lulu flouts over to the tablet. "So that's where you are! You've been watching over Renton all along."

"I've got a plan," Swain says. "TF and LeBlanc- you two go. I'll guide you along from here with Heimerdinger." It's too risky if Swain goes; embedded inside him is an emperium crystal – a super-rare mineral that allows Swain to grant powers to himself and the other members.

"Got it-" LeBlanc is already heading out the door with Twisted Fate.

"What you two are going to try-" Swain goes, talking into their earpieces while they call for a taxi. "Twisted Fate, you can set a waypoint somewhere close to their headquarters; you'll be the escape route. And LeBlanc.."

/

In a room of bookshelves, Singed seats Renton onto a leather armchair. The fireplace crackles and wavers and burns – the only source of light in this dense room with a piano.

"The others will be coming shortly," Singed goes, as he sits by the piano, unfurls the keyboard covering and tries tapping a couple keys. "Drats. I've always wanted to try out music, but it seems I don't have the talent for it. Oh well. Being a chemist is as good as anything; I put stuff in, it boils and fumes, and new stuff pours out."

The leather armchair is quite comfortable for Renton to sink into. He'd enjoy when his mum would go shopping at the mall, and he'd visit the furniture store where he can just rest himself on the new memory-foam beds, or sit on the chair and play Angry Birds on his phone.

But here, it is almost like having clasps holding his arms to the armrests.

The room is so foreboding. Do they usually conduct their business here in this darkness? (They must be like the evil villains Renton sees on Saturday morning cartoons.)

"Mwahahahaha," Singed goes, and in through the doors come Viktor and Zac. "There you guys are. Look who's decided to snoop around for the Black Rose!" He gestures at Renton.

"Ahh.." Surprisingly, Viktor isn't that tall – he's actually around Renton's height, more or less. "Renton, right? You were quite nice with LeBlanc on stage." The light glimmers on his metallic form.

Zac the blob plops himself on Renton, meshing into a constricting wrap that holds Renton tightly against the chair – as if he needed restraints! "Mmm," Zac goes, "I was made for doing this." Like being held by body-temperature jello; now Renton can't even move his hands to scratch his ankle bracelet itch.

Only his head isn't covered.

"You're Viktor..!" Renton blurts out.

"Right you are," Viktor goes, and he notions at Singed to put in more cinnamon logs for the fire – the bundles of special logs held in a bag by the fireplace, engineered by Zac and Singed, so that the logs don't char into ashes, but instead evaporate into aromatic, herbalscents. So Singed chucks a few more logs in there, and Viktor unleashes his laser ray – a robotic arm protruding from the top of his head, whcih zaps the fireplace with concentrated energy, and now the flames truly roar into life, giving the room an extra warmth. "I've been told you'd delivered some Pizzas for our stead, yes?"

"Yeah, they're quite good actually.." Renton goes. "I ate the sausages and bacon one.."

"I don't imagine the Black Rose would attempt to poison us all now," Viktor goes, musing. "The last thing anyone wants is to spark off another Magician's War. No.. no.. they sent you here because they must be wondering what we're putting up our sleeves, right?"

"Magician's War?"

("Renton!" Heimerdinger goes. "Don't worry, we're coming for you!")

Renton hears Heimerdinger's voice – what a relief, he's still in touch with them.

".. you don't know the Great Magician's War?" Viktor asks. "Well, I wouldn't expect you to anyway – it's not something they teach in schools, and anyone who dares ask about the event will look like a UFO conspiracy loon."

Renton feels like shrugging, but Zac's envelopment is quite confining. "Hey.. I've got an itch, I want to scratch it."

"Where?" Zac asks.

"My ankle."

Then Renton feels a slick rubbing sensation over his ankles – Zac is conforming himself underneath Renton's pant legs, and-

"What's that on your ankle?" Zac goes. "Is that also from the Black Rose?"

"That's.." It's a long story. "No, I was.. in trouble with the police."

"Ehh?"

This surprises everyone present in the room. "Ohh, you're a bad boy!" Zac goes. "Bad boy, bad boy, what'cha gonna do when they come find you.." Zac still continues rubbing that spot, and it's very comfortable.

"It was house arrest," Renton goes. "I punched my French teacher in the face-"

"Ooh!" Singed winces.

"—he poked an insult at my Dad," Renton continues. "I was so peeved at him that day, and I wound up paying for it with a Summer-long house arrest."

"Well, that doesn't seem too bad actually," Zac goes. "It's summer, you could-"

"No. You don't know what it's like.. my mum, she's so.." Renton sighs in exasperation, then he's aware of what he's feeling, under Zac's embrace. "Suffocating! I couldn't bear living under the same roof as her, and I always feel her restraining me even while she's gone out. So I broke my house arrest.. I took a chance and went over to see the Black Rose."

"But now you're here, because of them," Viktor goes, chortling. "Out of the frying pan, into the oven! Isn't that how the saying goes?" He walks over to the restrained Renton and leans a hand on his shoulder. "I will cut you a little slack, child – on two conditions. You tell me the truth, where they're hiding in this city, and.. you never see them again. I'm not asking much kid; it's not like I'm asking you to join us instead. You've been with them.. for just one night already. That's not that much time to form attachments to people, is it."

Renton is frowning, his eyes in contemplation. I don't have anyone else to turn to.. me, just leave the Black Rose like this? And LeBlanc..

LeBlanc..

(her sweet scent)

(her melancholy eyes)

No, I won't leave her. I won't!

He shakes his head. "I guess you have never heard of love at first sight.."

"Aww, our dear Renton's in love!" Zac goes. "I love you, you love me, we're one happy family.."

"No! Not- I'm not in love!" Renton goes, blushing to his very core. (He shouldn't have said that.) "I.. it's possible to just get attached to people in a short span, don't you guys know?" He's recalling what Sandra Bullock said in that movie 'Speed' (1994): "I have to warn you Jack, relationships based on intense experiences never work."

"Ahh, love," Viktor says. "Yeah. That LeBlanc woman, if she weren't such a total stuck-up on the Black Rose, I might actually consider dating her, if only to see what her favourite kind of food is. Anyways.. where are they hiding Renton?"

"I won't say," Renton says.

"Tell me boy. Where are they?" Viktor ignores what he's said, grasping Renton's shoulders harder.

"Nuh-uh."

"Okay. If it is going to be like this.."

And Singed pulls out an empty syringe – Renton seesthe bald chemist plunge the needle into a petite vial of clear liquid.

He squirms, but Zac is practically crushing him against the seat, outside-in.

Now the syringe is filled, Singed dripping out any air pockets within the needle – the chemist holds on Renton's exposed neck, and finds a jugular vein to inject it in.

..

It is much more painful than a regular injection; a sharp stab just in his throat, that makes him feel swollen inside after, and he can't tell when the needle is taken out until seeing Singed holding an empty syringe in hand again. (Owies.)

A sharp, bitter taste rises from the back of Renton's mouth, like bile.

He feels the urge to vomit – he manages to resist.

But moreso, his awareness starts to blur. It's like a heavy, dreamy drowsiness that washes over his head and eyes.

"Muhhh- I.. what did you.."

He hopes this isn't poison. There's just too much to live for.

"Renton," Viktor goes – and for some reason his eyes are filled with cute kittens. "Where are the Black Rose?"

/

"Pixy..!" Lulu whispers to the tablet. Heimerdinger has established a connection with the faerie butterfly, and they're seeing Pixy, looking over Renton slurring his words to everyone in that room. "He's going to tell everything – you have to save Renton now!"

And elsewhere, LeBlanc with Twisted Fate are getting out of the taxi, paying the driver a generous tip for breaking through traffic lights. They're in the plaza square, and LeBlanc sees the scooter-mobile Renton drove off on.

"Not a lot of time," Twisted Fate mutters under his breath, hearing Lulu's pleas over his earpiece. "Alrighty then. I think we can haul ass with this here scooter.." He looks around in both directions, like he's about to do something bad, and he slips in a Joker card onto the scooter's trunk. That's the waypoint – the card serves as his marker to do a teleporting to, from any place.

The further the distance though, the longer it takes for Twisted Fate to muster the ability up. Thus, it is about 7 seconds from within ROCHAT headquarters to back here again.

"Hurry," LeBlanc goes, taking Twisted Fate with her to the mansion. "Heimerdinger, which room's Renton in?"

"He's on the third floor," Heimerdinger goes, checking his tablet.

/

Pixy is fluttering above the unfurling scene, still unnoticed by the ROCHAT members below. Lulu's telling him to do something quick, but what can he really do? If he reveals himself – firing a glitterlance bolt at them, he could get their attention for a bit..

But Zac is strapping Renton in.

The fire flickers.

Oui.. they all have their eyes on Renton, and stoking the fire can really distract them.

"Mugnnh—" Renton mumbles.

"I didn't quite catch that, I'm sorry?" Viktor goes, leaning in his ear.

In Renton's state of drowsiness, it just feels like all of his inhibitions have been released. He'll tell about anything he's asked about. He's never gotten a good look though at the street where the apartment lies.

"Apartment.." he just says.

"An apartment?" Viktor goes, while Singed is busy glancing at his newest concoction in a vial; a yellow efferescent liquid that can instantly refresh Zac, without having to put him in the rejuvenation chambers for an hour.

"Yes," Renton goes, his voice monotone. "I don't remember where."

"Ok." Viktor muses to himself for a bit. "An apartment.. not at a hotel. Huh. What are the Black Rose going to do after their show in Vancouver?"

"They're going to perform in Las Vegas tomorrow," Renton goes, the memory of being in the limo flashing into mind.

"Why?"

"I dunno."

"Were they after anything during their stay in Vancouver?" Viktor goes – if his glowing eyes could say anything, it'll be that he's eagerly fishing out the contents inside Renton's head.

"I heard it's the egg of Xephon from a museum.." Renton says.

To Renton, he feels like he's fast-asleep in bed, and he's speaking out words just so his mum could shut up and allow him more moments for sleeping.

"Ahh.. I see." Viktor glances at Singed. "Rumble and Veigar should be back any moment now from lunch. Get everyone together; I think we're tripping off to Las Vegas tomorrow on short notice!"

"Can I come too?" Renton asks, his head now drooping down.

"Will you promise to be a good boy?" Zac goes.

"Yes, I promise, let me sleep mama.."

And the fireplace explodes, bursting into sheer spreading flame – the fire spreads rapidly outward, and Singed yelps, some of the flames catching on his suit.

"What the hell-" For an instant, Viktor sees a flicker of faerie glow.

Pixy has sprinkled pixie dust onto the fireplace, which in this case catalyses the flames into great intensity, and the heat devours the carpet, the flooring, the surrounding bookshelves..

"Merde merde merde!" Singed utters, rolling onto the floor to extinguish his fires. "Ouaahh! It burns! I swear, it wasn't me, I didn't do anything!"

Viktor gets out his foam extinguisher extension to blast the flames with anti-flammable foam, which sizzles as the gel lands on the fires.

"She's on fire!" Zac sings. "And the name of the game is to fuel her flame..!"

Damn! Zac's still attached to Renton.

How will Pixy get Renton out of here now? Viktor's attention is on the fire, and Singed is recovering from the flames – now's the chance! The faerie comes over Zac and sprinkles more pixy dust – this time, with various dust compositions.

"Hehe, ooh, stop it, it tickles!" Zac goes, his gelatinous mass wiggling in reaction. "Renton, what're you doing inside of me?!"

And Renton sees what Zac doesn't notice – Pixy's hopeful glimmer.

The boy wakes up; with grunts, he tries wiggling himself out of Zac's grasp, and he rocks the chair along with his motions.

"Knock it off, pal!" Zac goes, feeling his own mass give way to Renton's struggles, and the chair tumbles over on its side, with poor Zac spilling out onto the carpet.

Singed turns around and sees Renton trying to get up onto his feet. "Hey! We were just starting to be friends..!"

(At the apartment, Lulu has her hands clutched together in hopeful prayer. "Come on Renny.. you can make it out..!")

"You're not my friend!" Renton shouts, just as Viktor finishes putting out the last of the flames. "You guys are bums! Bullies! And I'm walking out of here back to the Black Rose!"

("Yes!" Lulu shouts, doing a jig! "Yippie!")

"Oh, really..?" Viktor goes, and there he sees that same glimmer again, floating around Renton now. "Ahh, you have a bit of help by your side, I see."

Renton starts to bolt for the door.

"You're not going anywhere!" Viktor lasers the area in front of Renton's path, setting fire around the doorway. "Mouwahaha. See, you decided to break into our home, and we'll make you pay for it Renton! One way or another!"

Renton really is trapped now, in-between the flames and the ROCHAT guys who are taking steps toward him. He has no idea where to go.

Then Pixy showers the door fires with soothing dust, and the fires dissipate, with a charred doorframe.

Renton notices this, and without hesitation he runs straight for the door once more.

Viktor fires again- this time, Pixy blocks the laser with a shield, and the laser deflects sporatically across the room in a shower of blinding sparks and thundering *pops!*.

It is a little hard to see; Renton makes out the pure gold doorknob on the charred door, and he tries pulling the door open-

it burns!

Renton yelps – he clutches at his poor hand; that handle's still very hot!

The mahogany door looks quite battered from the flames, charred with stress fracture lines running down its height.

Pixy can only hold his defensive stance for so long, under Viktor's barrage of lasers; Zac has managed to regain a cohesive form and has propped both his arms against the floor, stretching his body back – to slingshot himself onto Renton.

Renton rams the door by his shoulder. It doesn't seem to budge.

"C'mon!" he shouts, throwing himself again and again on the door, aching from each impact – and bit by bit, the door caves in until the whole inner frame is hurled outward in splinters.

Zac launches himself..

Renton narrowly avoids getting hit by the blob, as he quickly rounds from the frame, and Zac splashes onto the hallway wall instead, leaving a dent and a trace of slickness.

The exhausted Pixy follows behind Renton, too spent to do anything more besides keeping afloat.

All Renton does now is run.

Run like hell from those bums, as his heart just pounds away within his ribcage, and his legs are on fully automatic, his feet pushing away on the floor, his breath sending acid into his lungs expanding and contracting and expanding.

He doesn't know where he's going – just running by instinct, like a wild animal scared out of his wits.

Help me. Somebody please help me..

He looks behind him and sees their oncoming forms, vague in the shadows, the nightmarish monsters of his bad dreams.

He bumps past a butler, splattering aside the plate's contents of bubble tea.

He finds his way to the winding staircase at last, where he can see the main floor just miles below.

And..

There's LeBlanc, with Twisted Fate, who are climbing up the stairs.

"LeBlanc..!" Renton goes, so relieved by the sight of her. His legs are being propelled not by fear anymore, but by the desire to be by her side once more.. to be in her embrace and hold her tightly against him, and catch her beautiful scent..

And he runs, down and down, until he meets her halfway and he finds sanctuary in her.

She finds him in her arms. He's panting, visibly sweating, so scared, and with her fingers she brushes away the sweat and ash from his face.. from his lips. "Shhh.. it's alright."

"We've got Renton," Twisted Fate tells Heimerdinger. "Let's roll."

Relieved, Pixy tucks himself in Renton's pockets.

"HEY!"

LeBlanc glances up at where Renton's running from, and there, Singed and Viktor have emerged from the third-floor hallway, with Zac bouncing alongside.

Time to make a runnings!

It is Twisted Fate who leads the way down, and reflexively he's holding on the railings as the steps are a little narrow for his likings.

"Camille!" Viktor shouts. "Shut all the entrances! Now! We have the Black Rose in here with us!"

The receptionist who Renton had been talking with before – she locks eyes with him, sorrowful that it has to be like this; in nicer circumstances they could be dating in a nice restaurant with the salary she's got.

She hits one of the emergency buttons under her desk though, and an alarm klaxon sounds through the entire building – a metal wall suddenly expands over the entranceway, clanking sealed with a bang, and other such noises can be heard, muffled in the distances.

"Merde!" LeBlanc utters, as she stops a few steps away from the door. "Don't worry, everyone hold onto me tight—"

Twisted Fate and Renton do just that, and LeBlanc focuses – she imagines the bridge on the outside, and wills herself to that location.

But nothing happens.

"Come on!" Twisted Fate goes, seeing Viktor and Singed about to descend the last flight of steps. "What are you waiting for?"

"I.. can't!" LeBlanc wails – it's no use; it's like a mental block which prevents her from recalling the name of someone, except it's with willing herself out of here. "They must have shielded the whole building to prevent blinks in or out!"

Renton turns to Camille. "You don't have to do this," he pleads with her. "They'll kill us all! Do you understand?"

"I can't," she tells him, with a trace of fatality, stepping away from him, out of the room. "Only they can release the emergency shut-off now, not me." Then she runs off.

Twisted Fate slams on the metal plating. "Well, unless you're in for putting every chip down against those bozos, looks like our only ticket outta' here is through me. Gotta find a safe spot though." He points that way, a wide open hallway, and starts running down that direction. LeBlanc and Renton too.

Viktor wishes he can just launch himself directly from the staircase to get them – but Zac and Singed still need the stairs too. So he's pacing down to the bottom floor, where he's now able to risk the use of his augmented sprinting in this open space. (It's very hard to shift direction and turn corners at a high velocity, even with his current technology.)

He stands still, his feet transforming into hooked hooves, and his legs elongating into thinness. Drawing more power from his tex core, Viktor launches himself into the hallway, rapidly accelerating to 63 km/h – the fastest speed while still having a manageble maneuverabilty.

In one second, he is a small figure to Renton in the distance.

In the next, he is right in front of them, his feet-hooves grinding to a sudden halt on the floor, and he throws down a small contraption in their midst, which attaches to the ground and extends out into a zone of flat metal conductors.

From the conductors, a dome field is created, which takes virtually immediate effect on the trio being enveloped. A gravity field, that multiplies their current gravity up to five times.

Luckily, Twisted Fate manages to roll out of the field before he's helplessly pressed to the floor, and he flings out a couple cards in Viktor's direction – hitting him square on the chest and head, mildly disorienting his body with the electric shocks.

In the brief period where Viktor is dazed, Twisted Fate tosses a mini-explosive Ace of Hearts towards the gravity device, detonating it into fragments and freeing Renton and LeBlanc from its grasp.

LeBlanc shoots a chain from her right hand; it latches onto Viktor and a feedback effect occurs, where LeBlanc's end of her chain folds up on itself into black thorns, cascading all the way to Viktor, until the chain blossoms out into a tangle of ash rose thorns which envelop Viktor, rooting him to the ground.

His head is still visible, and Viktor projects his laser ray extension out-

LeBlanc fires a bolt of concentrated negative energy from her left hand, shocking Viktor's systems into immobilisation.

"I've jolted you with negative charge," she explains to him, her right hand reaching for him. "If I hit you with positive energy from my right hand, it will be like the electric chair in an instant." She snaps her fingers. "You will fall dead."

".. you won't," Viktor says. "If you kill me, you won't be shocking me only. You'll shock all the magician communities around the world with your act!"

Twisted Fate's face gnarls with stress.

"What do you mean?" Renton asks.

"The Great Magicians' War," Viktor tells. "I'll tell you – in the mid 1980s, every magician was fighting and killing each other in a huge massacre! You know what makes our magic possible? The Emperium minerals, which makes the group leader their leader for a good reason! And by that time, there was no more Emperium to be found in the world. The fear of scarcity overwhelmed many, and there was death everywhere, and the only end seemed to be total annihilation for all magicians.

"It was only when the surviving groups convened in council in April 1991, that it's been decided no more bloodshed will occur, under pain of council retribution! So if you kill me now LeBlanc, you'll damn your Black Rose to nonexistance! They'll kill you all and make it look like some freak accident!"

"He's right," Twisted Fate goes, nudging away LeBlanc's extended right hand. In her eyes, there's only utter frustration.

"Did you send an assassin after Swain?" she asks, sighing.

"You mean when someone shot arrows at him last night?" Viktor goes. "Non. That's absolutely not what I'd do. Even though I know you were there for a vital artefact, which Renton has thankfully shared with me as the Xephon egg, I wouldn't have been that desperate to obtain it. Besides, you people are such interesting rivals, it would actually hurt me to see you disappear."

"Let Renton go," LeBlanc tells him. "He's a boy – we can do this confrontation another time."

"Non," Viktor goes, his systems restoring their function, the negative charge fading. "For my purposes, I consider him as another member of your group, a recent addition at that. And I'll not let you go so lightly Renton, just because you happen to be new. Is that why you folks are here? Non non.. you couldn't actually have believed we'd have anything to do with that attempt on Swain's life. I think.. you're really here because you've grown suspicious of us! What must we be up to these days, to be taking such a break?"

LeBlanc and Twisted Fate are almost shaking their head no – that's just paranoid speculation from the likes of Viktor.

"We're going," LeBlanc tells, just as the fire alarm sounds off.

"Putain.." Viktor says. "I guess our butlers need help with something so simple as putting out fires!" (The bookshelf room had been practically drowning in flames when they were chasing Renton.) He struggles against the vines holding him, pulling out whatever gadgets he has in his body to try cutting the thorns away.

LeBlanc sees Singed and Zac at that end of the hall where they came from. Singed is now in his full gear; his biohazard suit, vials of chemicals on his belt, and carrying canisters of various fumes on his back.

Zac is preparing another slingshot leap towards them, and Singed starts to sprint in their direction.

"Heheh, you'll never escape," Viktor goes. "You're rats in our maze!"

"Oh shut up," Twisted Fate says, dinging Viktor on the head with another card.

Heimerdinger is twiddling his thumbs – he watches the three blips scurrying north upon the layout of ROCHAT's headquarters, a public blueprint of it from 1972. Gosh, he's hoping they haven't changed the fundamental layout up to now.

"Monsieur Wizard!" LeBlanc goes, and Heimerdinger gulps, nervous about having to find them another escape route. "Where are we running to?"

Phew.

"We've got to hide long enough for TF to get us all out of here!" she explains, and Heimerdinger is already scouring the nearby rooms, and branching hallways.

"Erm.." he goes, "let'see."

"Hurry, or we'll be their goddamn prisoners!" LeBlanc yells, as Singed is rapidly catching up behind them like some football quarterback.

(On the wall behind them, Zac is recovering his form after missing once again.)

Twisted Fate tosses a smoke-and-mirrors card in Singed's direction, and while it bursts into a hue of white smoke and sparks, it does nothing to slow him down.

Singed releases his incapacitating nerve gas from the canisters, eager to catch one of them.

LeBlanc shoots a chain at Singed's legs, but he is expecting that and dodges her shot with a side leap.

Then Pixy comes out of Renton's pockets, and fires a bolt of glitterlance at Singed, hitting him and affecting him with numbness – he trips over onto his sides, his canisters clanking against the ground with a *thunk!*.

"Phew," LeBlanc exclaims, as they manage to gain some distance from the fallen chemist.

But Singed is now recovering from the numbness, and he is rising onto his feet, pulling out a vial of stimulants (mixture of EPO, steroids, and hormones) to inject into himself.

"The hallway just circles around," Heimerdinger goes.

LeBlanc catches a glance of a room with filing cabinets and shelves and stacks of paper. "Never mind, I think we can- everyone, this way!"

They all run into the room, and LeBlanc slams the door shut – tautly chaining it locked.

"Let's out of here," she tells Twisted Fate, forgetting a word.

Singed is trying the door, but it doesn't budge against the chains. Zac manages to catch up to the locked door, while the thorns holding Viktor immobile, they gradually decay in LeBlanc's absence.

In the room, Twisted Fate begins channeling; all his cards fling out of their deck sheaths, and they flutter and fly around him like scattered debris caught in a swirling vortex.

Singed lets his gas seep through the small gaps of the door, as well as Zac squeezing his mass inside too.

Renton pants, staring at the door in horror. It's something out of 'The Outer Limits' when strange stuff oozes into a room. He only hopes that Twisted Fate is able to actually teleport them all out of here, this horrific place.

The cards converge, until they're fully enveloped in the house of cards, unable to see anything outside, and then they blow apart – revealing that they're outside in the Plaza, right by Renton's scooter.

It quite dazes Renton, to know he was once in the mansion one second, and the next second, he's out here. (The stone ground he's standing on is certainly real.)

"Clear as day," Twisted Fate quips, glancing at the scooter. "I don't think that'll carry us all."

Renton frowns – he's had fun riding the petite scooter here, and he'd hate to just leave it behind. That's the landlord's son's scooter, isn't it?

/

Zac finds no one in the storage room. He scours around the musty cabinets, all the paper scattered over the floor – wondering if they have camoflauged themselves. "I can't find them!" he goes, before he notices the chains on the door evaporating into smoke. "I think they're gone! You can come in now.."

Viktor and Singed enter the room; Viktor tries seeing the infrared spectrum of light, and finds heat emanating mostly from his two comrades.

"They've teleported out somehow.." Singed goes. "I thought our headquarters' shielding is proofed from zapping in and out the walls."

"Yes, the walls are shielded," Viktor goes. "But only if it is a straightforward 'from point A through to point B' teleport. But perhaps, if they can bend the fabric of space somehow.. then it's a different story. Our shields can only do so much- OR, they might actually still be around here, having blinked to a neighbouring room."

"What can we do?" Zac asks.

"Veigar! Rumble-!" Viktor talks to those two outside, who are currently waddling home in the vicinity of the mansion.

"Yes-sirrie?" Rumble goes, hearing Viktor's voice over his around-ear headphones. (Rumble always likes the idea of being able to listen to good music 24/7, and also, the headphones filter out crowd noise so he can concentrate on his own thoughts.)

Veigar is dancing away to "It's Raining Men, hallelujah, it's raining men!" just beside, having his own pair of earbuds plugged into Rumble's pocket player also.

"Do keep on the lookout for LeBlanc and Twisted Fate," Viktor goes. "We've almost had them, they might have escaped outside."

"Got it."

And by sheer coincidence, Rumble spots what looks like LeBlanc and Twisted Fate (without their stage appearances), walking away to where some taxis are waiting for fares at. Along with a boy in a Pizza Mutt outfit.

"They're with the boy, Renton," Viktor goes. "You know, there's a pile of steaming pizzas in the lobby, thanks to him."

Rumble nudges Veigar – pointing in the direction of the taxis.

"I think we've just found them!" Rumble goes, grinning. "Want us to nab them now?"

"Don't make too much collateral damage in the process," Viktor says, clapping his hands together. Knowing Rumble, the little guy ("Little! Why you..!" Rumble tends to grow red-faced with a temper whenever anyone even dares to mention his diminutive height) has a habit of causing far too much unnecessary destruction in carrying out a task. He's a jackhammer – a heavy-hittin' son of the bitch who, if you'd ask him to hammer in a nail, he'd wind up leaving a mile-wide crater just because the nail wouldn't go in all the way to his likings.

But maybe Veigar's sense of precision can counter-balance Rumble's unwieldiness.

Yes.

LeBlanc has picked a cab – she's standing by the driver window, negotiating the apartment's address with the cab driver, when she notices something in the background..

Rumble has gotten out his Rubik's cube, which is rapidly unfurling itself to reveal his bi-pedal mecha, that clanking, mechanised monstrosity he nicknames 'Tristy' because for some reason, there's a romantic feeling of piloting its hulking mass he associates with his long-term crush, Tristana. (As a kid, when he was together with Tristana, he made a joke about stomping all the bad guys under his feet, Transformers-style. She laughed, thinking it was such a cute thing to imagine. Well, looks like his joke did come true. If she could look at him now..)

"Hop on Veigar!" he tells his partner-in-crime, helping Veigar up onto the passenger's seat of his mecha. "Time for kick-ass action!"

And the mechanic boots up the mecha's systems, flicking the engagement switches, and 'Tristy' stands upright, now ready to move.

"All systems go," his mecha's on-board computer reports.

That is Rumble in the distance, LeBlanc surmises – and he's caught sight of her. "I need your taxicab," she tells the driver. "Urgent." Without waiting, she smashes the driver's window with a chain, unlocks the door, unbelts the old driver and pulls him out, and she leaves him with two $100 Canadian bills, as if to compensate for the rest of the cab driver's day ("Sorries!").

She climbs in behind the front wheel and – seeing that it's a manual stickshift, she changes it to first gear and floors the pedal, driving off, the wheels burning smoke in their wake.

The poor cab driver is wondering why the sudden shift in that woman's attitude, the breeze threatening to blow the bills away, and then he sees it.

The unnatural sight of Rumble's mecha, advancing rapidly towards him – the eyes of people peeled over its very existance, some even pulling their phones out to record.

Is he really seeing that? Before he could answer his own question, the former driver instinctively rolls out of the mecha's path, and each footstep left by 'Tristy' leaves an etch on the bumpy stone ground.

LeBlanc shifts the taxicab into higher gears, as she drives down the road where traffic is reasonably sparse enough for her to sift in-between the other cars, cruising casually.

"Right on your tail..!" Rumble goes, feeling the velocity winds breezing over his face, as his mecha accelerates to faster speeds, the leg servos audiably whirring, smoke spewing from the dual exhausts at the back.

In the cab's back seat, Renton is trembling as the mecha slams away the bystander cars in its path towards them. "Step on it!"

"I need faster road," LeBlanc goes, referring to the slow pace of this current traffic.

Rumble can show reckless disregard for the other cars who stand in his way; LeBlanc can't – even if she wanted to, this cab isn't meant for ramming away other vehicles.

"Mister Wizard!" Twisted Fate yells into his earpiece, as a thunk can be heard just behind; Rumble has fired his tow harpoon at their cab, but narrowly missing by an inch. ("Drats!" the petite mechanic goes, reeling the harpoon back.) "We're being chased by Rumble's mecha! Got any aces I can borrow?"

Heimerdinger is packing his equipment, as Lulu and Swain are heading out the room, out the building. "Swain says to rendez-vous with us at the Trudeau airport!" he goes. "We'll be getting the hell out of this city!"

"Any advice here, we'd greatly appreciate!" LeBlanc goes, as the road she's taking merges into a highway. "I can't shake this guy any longer like this!" She is shifting the taxi's gears to its highest, at about 115 km/h.

Renton's mouth is agape; the mecha is right behind them, and it's lifting its arms, about to lunge for the cab..

LeBlanc sees this, and she cuts the wheel, swerving the taxicab right and left across the lanes, narrowly avoiding the mecha's grasp.

Twisted Fate blows apart the rear window with a card, and he's tossing his cards at the mecha; the cards which manage to remotely whizz by the mecha's presence, they get deflected off from its energy shield.

"Drats!" he fumes.

Renton has his eyes shut; this is too much for him to bear. It is very likely everyone here could suffer a bad, torturous fate at the behest of ROCHAT's whims – because of him. Maybe it would have been better if he'd just stayed at home..

How he wishes it's all just a dream, a super-vivid dream that would wind up with a sudden interruption of his mum, standing in his room, scolding him for sleeping in very late at just 10 AM in the morning.

But no matter how much he tries shutting away his senses, he can still feel the taxi's sudden swerves, making him want to hurl.

He opens his eyes, and looks behind, and sees the mecha – noticing for the first time the two petite people behind its cockpit, one of them grinning with beady eyes (Rumble), the other one waving his arms around (Veigar) as if cheering their eventual demise.

The mecha has its arm cocked up, and the next second, it will swing down and catch the back of the taxi, putting an end to their escaping.

"No.." Renton's lips are pursed on saying.

Luckily, Twisted Fate thinks fast on his feet, and he tosses numerous cards out – not at the mecha anymore, but at the very road instead, and the bursts of opaque smoke.. the briefest bout of invisibility allows LeBlanc the opportunity to suddenly swerve lanes onto the incoming exit ramp.

Rumble feels his Tristy's arm impact something in the smoke- he hopes it is the cab itself, but then he notices a sudden jolt in his mecha, as if it got caught on something, and the body of his mecha swerves forward out of inertia, pivoting by the arm which has lodged deeply into the road.

The sheer inertial force dislodges the mecha from its stuck arm, and Rumble and Veigar are sent tumbling all over as the mecha's body eventually lands on its sides, in utter shambles.

"Poo-doo!" Rumble yells, slamming both his fists on the defunct cockpit, and Veigar slaps Rumble for being such a clumsy chaser.

/

"He's not back there, there's nobody chasing us.." Renton goes – the relief sending blushes through his whole body. The experience was much more intense than riding a roller-coaster, and his arms are wet with his sweat as he still clings onto his seat.

This is what Swain meant when he said that Death can come for them at any day.

He glances at Twisted Fate, who is pulling out a victory cigar from his pocket, and LeBlanc, whose eyes focus only on the road ahead, without much sign of nervousness.

They're driving down what looks to be the city's outskirts, the countryside where tall trees surround both ends of the unkempt road, the wind fluttering through the back window.

Twisted Fate gets his phone out to check their location – if they continue down this road to the crossroads, they can head south-east down the Autoroute Chomedey, where they can turn down to the Montreal-Trudeau airport.

"How.. how do you guys live like this?" Renton asks, a quiver in his words. "Is it always like this, everyday?"

"Most everyday," Twisted Fate goes, flicking some spent ash from his cigar. "We have fun."

"But aren't you afraid of dying? Or getting caught or something? We could have.. they could have just as well caught us, and we'd be in ROCHAT headquarters.."

It's that look on Renton's face which gets LeBlanc.

"Hey.." she goes. "Renton. Don't be so downcast by what's happened. It is just your first day with us, and.. most people like you aren't used to dealing with new dangerous situations so often. If there is one thing I'd admit, it's that you must have had such a nice time, growing up and living peacefully at home."

He frowns – how could she say that, when she hasn't even seen first-hand what it's actually like to live in boredom and sheer constraint from a repressed mother?

"I wish one day.. I could take a break from this sort of living myself," LeBlanc continues. "To experience a day as any ordinary person would. No risk, no danger of losing anything.. just the moments when you're able to breathe the air and walk freely down your neighbourhood. To greet your friends and acquaintences hello, and talk about anything jovially.

"But this is the life I've chosen. For over 20 years, I've endured countless situations just like this – and I would not trade away that experience for anything else. It's taught me one very important thing.. to cherish and savour the experience of being alive, making my decisions every day which passes.

"And do you wonder how I manage to strive on?" she tells Renton. "How I manage to 'shrug off' those traumatising events where a second's mistake can cost me everything? It is simple; it's like how people could visit the canyon cliffs, and there's no fence that prevents them from simply falling off, yet all of them manage to make it back home safely anyways. You don't regret on the bad and worse that could have happened. You don't pain yourself over the mistakes. It will only needlessly drag you down. You simply accept that you are alive and here somehow, after all those events, and your only true responsibility is in facing the present moment. The challenges that have arrived your way."

Renton nods, getting a whiff of sweetness from Twisted Fate, blowing second-hand smoke out of his nose.

After a brief moment, he asks her, "Why did you choose to be in the Black Rose?"

And she pauses, her eyes showing a tinge of sadness in the rear-view mirror. "Because.. I lost nearly everything at a young age, and I would have died a meaningless existance. If it were not for finding Lulu.. who introduced me to the Black Rose."

Maybe we're kind of the same, Renton thinks. Now I'm living on the Black Rose train, and you too – we've left our past lives behind when we boarded on.. and it's a one-way ticket.

"I'm feeling a bit peckish," LeBlanc goes, turning the taxicab down the crossroads. "I hope Lulu has spaghetti meatballs in mind for lunch."

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-06-08 10:30 pm
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 5 - flight

5 – flight

The trip to the Charlton Best Western Hotel, it only takes around 40 minutes to reach. The entirety of the Black Rose have managed to leave before the police have arrived (thanks to a clause in their performing contract, which guarantees absences from these sorts of situations, where normally they're expected to stay for questioning).

They have their own rental limousine – the chaffeur was happily watching 'Robert Langdon Mysteries' on the petite screen, a syndicated episode playing late-night, when Swain radioed in for him to start the limo.

Inside, Renton gets what looked like apprehension from Swain and Twisted Fate; the interior of the limo is surprisingly spacious, where the seats are arranged such that everyone has leg room – it was more like a casual couch meeting than just some night ride in a car. And there's free cola from the dispensers, with ice! Mira, he's so parched after performing, he helps himself to a full glass which he gulps down in just two whole chugs. Then he burps plenty.

"Who're you?" Swain goes. "And why will you be tagging along with us?"

"I told you, that's Renton--" Heimerdinger begins.

"I know, I want to hear it from the boy himself."

Renton exchanges glances with the more friendlier members, like Lulu and LeBlanc, before he clears his throat. "I'm Renton Thurston," he says, like he's being judgmentally interviewed. "I watched your whole show – and I'm no fanboy or anything."

"Mhm," Swain goes, leaning in, his hands clasped.

"I.. I--" It almost seems like Swain is glancing through Renton's eyes, into his own skull – quite intimidating. "I don't have anywhere else to go. I have a home, with a mother, but it is complicated.." And Renton managed to get his story out in spurts, hoping that Swain wouldn't go into disbelief.

"Renton.." Swain says, after listening. "I want you to understand something. We are a dangeous group."

"I heard all the stories of the magicians-- they do crime and stuff--"

"Yes. What we do beyond the boundaries of stage performances, not all of it is savoury. And when I say 'dangerous,' I mean that we place our own lives at risk. Because of what we do. You were only a few steps away from the attempt on my life, you saw." Swain scratches at his shoulder.

All the sights of Vancouver's streets pass by out the windows, the white lamplights illuminating and casting shadows which waver in cyclic, repetitive motion in the cabin. Seldom does Renton ever get to see this part of the city in the night, the business districts – on earlier occasions perhaps, when his father took him out along to the restaurants to discuss some business with collegues. It brings back a few memories, Renton just savouring the smell of fresh seafood with cigarette smoke, brewed tea, and the slightly chilled air.

He's not going to be in Kansas anymore.

"We are in constant struggle against other magician groups," Swain continues. "And the reality which you are about toindulge in with all of us is without any guarantee of hope, promise, or even happiness. There are no promises that tomorrow will be a relaxing day, or that you'll even live to see tomorrow, for Death and Loss can wait around at any corner, at any wrong turn you make. I've seen first-hand members of the Black Rose die, or they lose emotional grip, or carelessly get caught out by the authorities or other groups.. that in which case, I have little choice but to retire their membership.

"I tell you this now, because you are still such a young boy Renton.. you are 17 years of age, and you still have the chance to lead a peaceful life, without any repercussion from your involvement. A life of mundane, yet bountiful moments.. maybe you'll meet a nice girl in college, and you can marry, have children, graduate with a degree and greet every morning day without terrible strain.

"Because if you do decide to stay with us, there will be no turning back." Swain nods,notioning at LeBlanc. "She was the one who lured you into our business."

And LeBlanc simply glances at Renton, in contemplation.

Under this sort of light, she looks a little weary and tired, in contrast with the dazzling stage persona Renton witnessed earlier.

"It's not like I have much left for me at home anyways.." Renton goes, catching her perfume once more. He really wants to see what she's like, behind that mask, up-closer.

"Don't you be so hasty to say that," Swain goes. "Because you've never really known a dangerous life.. it is like with all those young people throughout history, and they want to go to war, away from home, wanting the glory and excitement of violence.. and before they know it, it is too late – the old have sent their young into misery.."

"Swain—" LeBlanc intervenes. "I too had nothing left to turn to.." (Maybe for some people, life doesn't have much meaning without a real risk of death.)

"But you were truly desperate then, LeBlanc," Swain goes. "What Renton has can just as easily be fixed; we can clear his house arrest record and explain that he's been helping us out at the circus – there, all done!"

But Renton is shaking his head. "No.. I don't want to go back. I.. my life is so dull, it's like passively riding along the currents, and I'm not even allowed to do much about it. If you send me back home.. you might as well be leaving me for dead."

"I reckon," Twisted Fate goes, flicking his Joker card in his fingers. "You've got the spirit kid. You're a hustler. The cards life had dealt you with, they're okay, but neither is it goin' to take you high places. And you don't have to like it."

He tosses the Joker card to Renton, who barely catches it – the card is sturdy, feeling just like the usual playing card. It has a dark, gemstone back, with the Joker looking like he's having a wild time juggling balls.

"The card you've got now kid," Twisted Fate goes, "in some games, it's the most worthless of the deck. But in other games, it's the winning ticket. And in some cases, when you aren't allowed to change your hand, just change the game you're playing. In our game, it's all or nothing, everyday. In our game – you just might be someone."

Renton glances at the Joker, whose grinning gaiety seems to tug somewhere inside him. He hands it back--

"No no, you keep that one; I've got plenty of spares," Twisted Fate goes.

Then Renton tucks it in his pockets.

"So, you're deciding to linger with us?" Swain asks – while Lulu is giving his spindly fingers a manicure.

"Yeah."

"I'll have to arrange for one more plane ticket then, and on such short notice! We're taking off for Montreal. I think it's time we paid our rivals a visit.. maybe a chat about those arrows meant for me."

"Who..?" Renton goes.

"Team ROCHAT," Heimerdinger says.

"Sorries.. I haven't been keeping up with the whole magician gig – I've only decided to see your show a few months ago.."

"It's alright. Anyways – Team ROCHAT, they're our official rivalry. We've been knee-deep in business with them ever since the first year they formed, back in 1996. They wanted to be the forefront of French wizardry, and they've taken potshots against us along the years."

LeBlanc is sitting with her arms crossed, her eyes somewhat disinterested in hearing about them.

"So those arrows.. came from that team?" Renton goes.

"Most likely," Swain goes. "Maybe not. Tonight, we took an artefact from the art museum, just before the show you've watched. It's quite valuable for us, and luckily I've had the foresight to secure a showing the day they put the Xephon egg on public display – before anyone else did. Before Team ROCHAT.. they also wanted the egg too, quite badly in fact, and if it weren't for swift arrangements with the circus, it would have been them you'd be watching tonight."

Renton scratches his head. "I'm a little.. lost. You guys are actually here for the egg?"

"Oui," Swain says. "That, and the benefit of visiting a city that's never seen any magicians in more than 20 years. This is your first time that you've ever seen a live performance.."

"I've only thought magicians were just a sham," Renton goes, finishing up his bottle of pop. "People who just put up special effects so they can take everyone's attention. And also jerks too in that they steal, conspire and even kill.."

"Special effects?" LeBlanc goes. "Well, there are still some people who'd like to think so – the thought of all that magic, actually existing, it overwhelms their petite sensibilities. The skeptics who'd also enjoy debunking UFOs and Fortune Tellers. The UFOs, I'm not so sure of that myself. But magic.."

She nods at Lulu, who pulls out a blank white bunny from her pouch.

"Hiya there!" Lulu goes. She waves her hand, and gives the bunny a tap on its head – poofing it into a chipmunk. "Now you'd better call him 'Alvin!'"

"Whooaw.." Renton's mouth is gaping open. This isn't on the stage.. it's inside a limo.

"For someone like me," LeBlanc says, "my own abilities are.. I cannot demonstrate it right now, without great inconveinence. But trust me when I say that I can take you virtually anywhere you can see – the shorter the distance, the less taxing it will be on me. As well as extinguish your life in one small instant." She snaps her fingers. "Just like that. It's not a nice thing to do, you can imagine."

And Renton thinks he can see a ghostly copy of LeBlanc, floating mere inches from her, overlapping her actual form, before he just sees her, nonchalantly sitting beside Swain.

"Heimerdinger – check the news," Swain goes. "See if ROCHAT's hired a new member or not; someone who looks good with ranged weaponry. As far as I know, their current batch of bums aren't the sort for stealthy finesse.. they usually like to make a grand entrance, almost every single time.."

/

When they arrive at the hotel, Swain tells the limo driver to remain idling by the entrance doors – much of their gear and equipment have already been loaded in the trunk, and they're just grabbing what is left from their rooms.

"I want to call my mom back at home," Renton tells, notioning at one of the public phones. "Damn, I should have gotten my cell phone from that usher.. he took it in the show." His mum doesn't have an e-mail address he can think of, so, and it doesn't feel right for him to suddenly abandon his mother like that, without any word. She's probably still sleeping from the pills.

"Make it quick – we don't have a lot of time," LeBlanc goes, giving Renton a reassuring nudge on his shoulder, before she heads down the halls with the others.

So Renton proceeds to dial his home phone--

"Excuse me, sir?" the receptionist goes. "Have you booked a room here yet?"

"Oh, no – I'm just here to call someone--"

"The phone's only for staying customers; besides, a young man like you ought to have a cell phone handy.."

How it makes Renton sigh. The ability to communicate over long distances, it's almost become a human right in itself, and now he isn't allowed to use the phone here – even if it's only for one last call.

If not the hotel's phone, then, maybe LeBlanc or the others with her would have a cell phone.

"Aahh, forget it," he tells the receptionist, before LeBlanc appears with a suitcase and purse in tow; Heimerdinger has several duffel bags, and Lulu is hauling a sleek box – it's ornamented with white jewels across the top, with a fleur-du-lis embedded on the top's centre.

"Hey LeBlanc--" Renton comes walking along with her. "You got a cell phone?"

"What for?"

"I need to call my mum at home – I can't leave her without any explanation, she'll freak!"

So Heimerdinger pulls out a spare phone from one of his pockets. A Nokia, without any pass screen, just for the occasion if someone needs another phone.

"Oh, thanks--" Renton dials his home, and it rings for a couple of times. Then it's the answering machine. "Hello." (It's his mum's voice.) "You've reached the Thurston household, but we're not available right now. Please leave a message and we'll get back to you shortly! *beep*"

"Hey mama.." he begins.

Now they're walking out to the limo, and already LeBlanc and the others are packing their stuff into the trunk. Renton feels somewhat bare, carrying nothing except the clothes on him already. Maybe they could be nice enough to have him get more clothes and belongings of his own.

"I'm going away on a trip with the Black Rose societie," he says, getting back into the limo. "By the time you hear this message, I'll be long gone across the world. It's something I could have never dreamed of in a hundred years. They'll help take care of me – it's not kidnapping if you're asking; I simply don't want to face another dull, boring school year while being stifled at home. I'll promise to call home whenever I can.. and you have my e-mail address, I think.."

Then the phone line clicks – someone has picked up the receiver. "Mister Thurston," a strange voice goes. "Stay on the line please. This is Officer Jennings, and we're at your household right now. You said you're with the Black Rose societie? Where are you currently at? Can you tell me?"

Renton freezes. It's the damned police! What are they doing at his home? He shudders, trying to think of an answer. M. Fourier must have ratted on him back at the circus..

"Hello? Renton?" the officer goes. "You're supposed to be under house arrest, didn't you know? What did you do with your ankle bracelet?"

LeBlanc notices his hand quivering on her phone, before he decides to quickly hang up and hand it back to her like it's a hot potato.

"What's the matter?" she asks him, wiping it free of his fingerprints.

".. the police are at my house," he goes.

"You didn't tell them where we're going next.." LeBlanc is musing, then asks Swain, "We'll be out of Canada after Montreal?"

"Las Vegas," Swain goes. "Ours should be a low-profile stay in Montreal – they're not expecting our visit there, so next time people hear of us, you should be out of Canadian jurisdiction Renton.. at least over something as miniscule as punching your teacher."

"Yeah.." Renton feels a little better now, but the thought comes to him he's still in trouble while in this city. I'll never be able to go home again.. and my mum's going to think I'm a scoundrel.

"Are you worrying that the police will be after you?" Swain goes. "Unless it is a serious crime, like murder or grand robbery, they'll forget you over the months. They have limited time and resources on their hands, and the police tend to be more eager with solving major crimes, rather than petty grievances."

"Yippy!" Lulu squeaks, petting Renton's hair. "Renny! I will call you that! You could make a nice boy toy! The meanie police won't chase you – I'll zap away whoever comes. Here's my dearest Pixy.. my faerie butterfly, I'll show him to you.."

And soon, the limo is at the airport. It drives past the usual drop-off zone, right into the airfield where all the jets are parking and taking off.

Renton's been here only a few times, while his father was still alive. He'd wave goodbye as his dad Adroc hauled his black luggage into the terminals, going off on another business trip somewhere. He's never had the opportunity to travel himself though, so he's feeling very eager inside, like he's going to lurch off the top of a roller-coaster ride, down into a rush.

They're at a private hangar; it's meant for the aircraft not covered under the official flight manifests. Like the Black Rose's concorde.

When Renton gets out, he hears the low hum of the engines, the plane idly waiting. The steps leading into the cabin, where everyone hauls their luggage inside as carry-on.

He waits until everyone else boards, before he takes his last steps from Vancouver soil.

And inside, the cabin is very pleasing to the eye. The art nouveau design on the seats, the tables – the lamplights and the carpet that leads over to the drinking bar; the mood of it all is very.. absorbingly contemplative. It's a nice place to be in whilst the plane is alone in the air.

Sitting at the bar, Twisted Fate pulls out a victory cigar and lights it, puffing, and he breathes out and fills the air around him with the burning incense of appleweed.

Renton finds a seat by LeBlanc, where she's by a window in the middle of the cabin, and straps himself in with the belts. He notices her, staring out at the brightly hangar – her eyes withdrawn.

"Please prepare yourselves, as we are about to begin taking off."

A chime.

It's the humdrum of everyone else being preoccupied in the background, while Renton is alone with this one interesting girl-- no, woman.

Now he's justified it to himself in all sorts of ways. Maybe this isn't such a big deal, just a mild betrayal of the whole stable, cyclic lifestyle of school and studies and leisure time. It's him outgrowing being just a child, you know, that sort of thing. But let's face it, he's running away, abandoning everyone he once knew.

His mum – he hopes she can cope being just by herself, lonesome in the house, toiling away with the usual chores.

(The plane starts to plow forward, leaving the hangar.)

The people at school, well.. some of them would just as well be taking this very chance he's having.

And Fabrizio? Well, okay, he's going to miss him dearly. He's quite a nice pal, Fabrizio. It would have been so dreadfully dull if it weren't for him.

(The night sheens through the window, the runway strip lights, all aligning down a path. Renton thinks he can make out the dawn, just very faint over the sky.)

So why did Renton do it? He can offer a million answers, all false.

(And the tinge of melancholy, reflected in LeBlanc's face from the window. Renton behind her.)

The truth is that he's a flower, starved of real sunlight. But that's about to change. He's going to change. The rest of life is ahead of him now, and it's the last of him being a hapless child, sticking with routine. Now he's going straight and moving on.

And a beat, as he hears-- no, feels the impending roar of the engines, the plane on the starting line, taking its poise, before at last it accelerates, forward and forward, and the lurch almost feels too much to bear as Renton finds himself holding onto LeBlanc's hand, clutching it dearly, some of the appliances rattling with the motions as Twisted Fate tosses his used cigar into the wastebasket, a perfect hit--

He's looking forward to it all already.

The skies, the adventures, the risks of life and death, the real choices he'll have to face – the lavish stays as each day of his life holds surprises and suspense, the joys of being a real man as he explores new locales, attending the stages and performances and ravishing in the magic of people's disbelief, ready to explore a whole new world and culture hitherto unknown to his apprehension. The lush hotels, the queen beds, the exquisite cuisine of exotic foods, the new places.. new people, new moments..

It could be just like in the anime shows..

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-05-08 02:52 pm
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 4 - wound

4 – wound

Swain's wound is a geyser, seeping through the white towel Lulu tries holding down on him. His blood trickles down, frighteningly without any sign of stopping.

On the bare, backstage floor, their maester is lain down. Most of the stage staff have left, while a few stay by to deliver more towels for Swain's bleeding.

"This is veddy strange.." Heimerdinger goes, seeing the expanding pool of blood. "Now normally, the bleeding should be recessing by this point, but he is bleeding just like when he was first hit. Get the towels out of the way, I want to see."

Lulu brushes the stained towels away.

It's a very mean wound. In that dark red hole, a canyon of severed skin, muscle and fractured bone. Even looking at it makes LeBlanc wince inside – she imagines the kind of pain Swain bears, and the fact that he isn't moaning, or showing any sign of his hurting on his face. Just his eyes staring out at everyone, while his mouth is too weak to talk.

"That silver arrow.." Heimerdinger muses. "It's an anti-coagulant – it prevents the normal blood-clotting process with open wounds. We've got to stop his bleeding, and fast! Lookit, he's going pale!"

From aside, Renton watches the scene unfold – the members of the Black Rose flitting about, trying to find a suitable option to save their Swain. Why don't they just get him to the hospital?

LeBlanc sips from her bottle of chrysanthemum tea; she's parched, and delivering all those lines theatrically, it just takes something out of you after the excitement of it wears off. She paces about on the floor, half-glancing at Swain and Heimerdinger, half-focused on her own thoughts about tonight, and the immense pressure she's felt, up to now.

Then she notices, on the sidelines, that boy, standing hesitantly – he was with her from that skit; what's he doing here?

"Urhm.." he goes, scratching his neck. "I.. I'm sorry if I'm intruding where I don't belong. But.. I.." How would he explain this? She's glancing at him, like he's stolen one of her possessions.

"What is it do you want?" she goes.

"I.. don't have any place to go." He lets his glance fall upon Lulu, who's returning from the hallways, a potion in her hand. Then he looks back at LeBlanc, her face apparently impartial, but her eyes studying him. "I mean, I.. I can't go back home. If I do-- I'll be arrested and put into jail, for five years."

"Whoever's heard of someone getting arrested for returning home?" She's heard news stories of police acting in very silly manner, like when they fined that third-grader kid for 'unauthorised wiretapping' when he was just wanting to record his bullies, taunting cruel words. Though LeBlanc senses that this boy here, before her, he is quivering – he was in the midst of it all, seeing the blood spurt out of Swain like that. It is not something you'd imagine a young boy like him to just shrug off – she's seen much worse herself.

Renton just wants to tell her, 'It's a long story,' what with the house arrest, his teacher.. but he gets the sense it would be on the trite side. So he tells her instead, "I don't want to go back there. I know it is crazy.. and I'm not an obsessed fanboy or anything, but I want to come with you, LeBlanc.. please. I laid my eyes on you, and I know, you are one of the most prettiest women I've seen. I've got no place else to turn to, and I don't know what else to do."

Lulu applies her anti-coagulant concoction onto Swain's wound, and he breaks his stoic silence in an utterance of pain – the blood that comes out noticably congeals, and Lulu gives him a thumbs-up. "You'll be just fine!" she daintily says.

"Do you mean.." LeBlanc goes, raising an eyebrow, "you have no friends where you could stay at? You can't rent a room in a loft for a few days?"

Lulu and Heimerdinger turn to Renton now, interested in the conversation.

"I.. friends?" Renton gulps. He feels like he's pulling his words out of a rabbit's hat. "I do have some friends.. I was recording your show, so a friend of mine could watch along too.. but it's not that.. I can't stay here. See, it's that.. I'm supposed to be at home, because I'm under house arrest--"

"Oh.." Lulu mutters, whispering to Heimerdinger. "He's going to get into trouble with the police!"

"—and.. I punched my French teacher, last month, so that's why I'm in house arrest," Renton rambles. "And my teacher's here, right now, waiting for me outside.."

LeBlanc nods. "He knows you're here? He's going to bring you to the police.."

"No.. no, he'll threaten to bring me to the police if I don't come with him, to my house – explain to my mother what I'm doing over here. She'll freak out.."

She glances upward, in thought.

"That sounds like quite a predicament, boy!" Heimerdinger goes. "You've punched him, and he's got every reason on his side to--"

"He's a bum," Renton goes. "Man, you should have seen him when he nabbed me outside the washrooms – he's like, 'I got your ass, Renton! You're playing by my rules tonight!' And I punched him because he pushed me so hard that day, insulting my father like that when I just wasn't even prepared for the finals.."

"Your ankle bracelet," LeBlanc goes. "How did you.."

A beat. "My friend showed me how to disable the modem," Renton says, pulling up his pant leg, showing the bracelet light, still green.

"Right – listen.. Ren-- what's your name? Renton?"

"Mhm."

"Renton--" LeBlanc says his name again, getting used to the taste of it-- "I think I can try having a reasonable chat with your French teacher, see if we can't work something nice out. I hope you haven't gotten a false impression of the French from him, he sounds like quite a jerk to me – not to sound judgemental of him, but French.. it's quite nice. And not all French people are like him, or like me or dear Lulu here even--"

Lulu tips her nightcap at Renton. "Pleased to meet you."

"But so you know," LeBlanc continues, her eyes reflecting over, "it is not a matter of a person's heritage that they come to be nice people, or not-so-nice. I bet.. just like you find good people at school to be friends with, and some mean bullies too – if you travel the world, you'll find that it's the same in places all over. Kind people, snobby people, the people who like to bring a smile to your face with their silly jokes.. it's just in different ways, different languages and customs. Like.. if you change the region of your Blu-ray player, and you play movies.."

"Yeah, I got it." Renton nods.

/

Whilst Heimerdinger and Lulu keep Swain company, LeBlanc and Renton head out into the foyer. By the snake fountain, M. Fourier is haggling over the phone – he's talking it over with the police, Renton's house arrest.

"Yeah," M. Fourier goes. "That kid is here – I even took pictures of him on the goddamn stage! .. I'm making such a big deal out of this? How-- do you know how humiliated I felt, in that classroom when he punched me? I lose the respect of my students, and my teaching life is going to be hell! They'll be jeering behind my back – it will happen, if I don't make it clear to everyone that I am not to be lightly trifled with! So do something! While you're busy investigating that freak incident on the stage, yes I know, get one of your guys to look for Renton."

"Excuse-moi?" LeBlanc gives him a tap on the shoulder.

"What do you want, can't you see I'm busy here-- oh."

M. Fourier is face-to-face with them. LeBlanc, and that boy Renton. For a moment, he doesn't believe what he's seeing.

The police operator on the other side of the call, you can just hear her saying, "Hello? Hello..?"

Then M. Fourier tells the operator, "I found him, Renton. I'll hold him here for you folks, nice and safe," and he hangs up. "Well, well – Renton! What a pleasant surprise, you have friends in high places looking after you, eh? I'm sure all those other people would be glad to know, they never stood a chance when that raven was fluttering all over the gym.."

"No, that was just purely by chance," LeBlanc goes. "And I am lucky to have met him, instead of someone whose conceited ass needs a nice spanking."

"Are you saying I'm a conceited ass?" M. Fourier crosses his arms. "That's rather presumptuous of you to say, Mme LeBlanc. For all I know, that boy.. he's been feeding you the wildest lies about me! I'm just his French teacher, M. Fourier.. and I taught him this Spring semester. He's been zoning out in my classroom, every day, and I try to get him to wake the hell up, pay even the smallest ounce of attention to learning French – he had the audacity to try and bullshit his way out in my oral finals..!"

LeBlanc raises her hand up, silencing him in his tracks. "You are.. where did you learn French, if I might ask?"

"I learned it in class too! And the teacher who taught me, he was my inspiration – if you knew how it felt, that connection with a long line of historical lineage.. of what it means to be a true Frenchman." You can see his face beaming with a sort of pride.

"Oh. In class?" LeBlanc asks. "I would have guessed otherwise.. I never learned French in that sort of institution, M. Fourier – I learned it everywhere else, on the streets, the movies.. the people around me. I would have been bored silly if I had to learn the language.. sitting by one of those desks, watching the teacher pace back and forth over the blackboard, as if he were a pendulum lulling his students' eyes to sleep."

Renton is beaming. What she says is actually true, and she put it best.

M. Fourier barely manages to conceal his frothing anger. "Ohh.. I just hate it! I wish I were in Quebec or France, so I could teach in that wonderous language without a hitch! But nooo.. there's no nice teaching jobs over there, and I just have my tenure at this school, and nobody gives a damn about the beauty of French! Nobody appreciates it, what I try and do for all my students.."

"Then I would suggest, show them the interesting French movies in-class--" LeBlanc suddenly hears Twisted Fate mumbling into her earpiece, and she puts a hand over her ear to listen.

"I lost the fella," Twisted Fate goes. "Disappeared without a trace. All I know is that he knocked out an usher on his way, and the usher ain't seen nothing. Just some well-dressed albino with a suitcase. I think I'll scope things out some more – how's Swain doing?"

"He's fine, Heimerdinger's looking after--"

"Oh, he'll pull through," Heimerdinger interrupts. "It's just what he's been hit with, it's an anti-coagulant – it stopped us from stopping the bleeding properly; whoever's after us must be quite determined.."

"We better keep ourselves on our toes," Twisted Fate goes. "It's sure betting that fella will be trying for Swain again soon, if not for us all the next day."

LeBlanc turns her atttention back to M. Fourier.

"What is.. who was that?" he asks.

"That was Twisted Fate – we're investigating the occurance." LeBlanc takes off her earphone. "But right now, if I could say anything about getting your students really interested with French.. you show them a taste of exquisite French beauty. The beautiful movies made in French, all the beautiful poetry in French.. the kind of French feelings you don't usually find anywhere else.

"If you know – in China, they attempted to replicate Paris, so nobody is tempted to leave the country. I don't quite remember the city's name, but.. even though they have the streets, the building architectures.. a replica of the Eiffel Tower too, it just isn't French. Because it lacks the proper French spirit needed to enliven it; it's like if you listen to someone singing the words to your favourite song, but they don't really know the music."

M. Fourier is thinking. "But.. aren't I already showing everyone how being French is? I mean, I tell them about the grand histories behind the culture, and the French heritage--"

"Screw that," LeBlanc says. "Nobody really likes those long, drolling history lessons, and I'm bored of them myself – just show everyone first-hand what being French has to offer, right here, right now." (Like a French kiss, hehe.)

He sighs. "I guess.. I guess you're right – I mean, who wouldn't feel excited about going to the movies?"

"M. Fourier?" Renton steps forward. "I'm sorry I punched you in the face.."

"Yeah.. that was a bit harsh of me, mentioning your father like that. But you'll still have to answer to the police too, because I'm not the one administering your house arrest terms."

LeBlanc glances at Renton – what is she going to do with the boy now, let him go to the doges? Maybe if.. she can take accomodations for him--

"No, he'll answer to me," LeBlanc goes, taking Renton by the shoulder. "I'll be looking after him, not you or the police – until I get him back home with his mere."

"Huh? What?" M. Fourier frowns. "No, you can't do that-- I'll hold onto the boy! Who knows what you could do to him.. even though he's in trouble, I'm responsible for his well-being and safety." He tugs back at Renton.

"Waaagh~!" So Renton is in a tug of war (of sorts) between the two. "Let me go!"

"LeBlanc," M. Fourier goes, "you better do what he says, let go of him right this instant—!"

Renton can smell both their perfumes; the sweet hues of LeBlanc, and the professional shades of M. Fourier.

"Both of you let go of me!" Renton shouts, panting – he shrugs off their hands, and puts a few steps distance from them. It's a little funny, how even the grown-ups can get downright petty.

"Renton, it's either me or her, or you face the police alone!" M. Fourier goes. "Now you better choose!"

LeBlanc sighs. "I won't goad you, Renton. At your age, you can make your own choices – and that you decided to come here to our one and only showing tonight.. instead of lingering at home, I think that is a very adult decision."

Inside, it makes Renton smile, what she's said. It is like a feeling being lifted off his shoulders, that he'd get into trouble in the end. Sometimes, you just have to trust your own gut instinct, what you really want, even if it means breaking free from what others expect of you.

So he steps by her side.

".. you'll regret this, Renton!" M. Fourier jeers. "You think you can just run away from your own responsibilities? Run away, into some damn faerytale existence? Ohh.. it'll all catch up to you, boy! If not now, then soon! Your world will come crashing down, tumbling into splinters!"

But Renton couldn't give much more of a damn, what his French teacher has to say, as he walks away with LeBlanc back over to the backstage.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-04-28 11:36 pm
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 3 - performance

3 – performance

First, there is the spotlight, hung over Swain. He gives a polite bow to the audience, his pet raven (Beatrice) squawking to everyone's delight, before he bursts into a flock of ravens that scatter over the entirety of the auditorium, the spotlight following their general path, where it finally lingers over the entrance doors where Swain rematerialises, and promptly exits.

But just as Swain leaves, Twisted Fate waltzes through the doors, and the audience cheers as he tap-dances down the carpet, before pulling out his dark of cards, tossing the Aces and Jacks into the air that make dazzling flashes of coloured poofs – people get distracted by the flashes, and Twisted Fate pops up onto the stage before they know it.

Then – Lulu comes in and turns Twisted Fate into a squirrel! She nabs the little critter by its tail, and pets it in front of the cooing audience.

"Let's go for a twirl!" she goes. She spins round and around, holding petite squirelly Twisted Fate by his paws. "Whoa, whoa- whoaaa!" Poor squirrel, he is flung out onto the audience, and they give a loud, audiable gasp before-

LeBlanc poofs along his trajectory and grabs him safe and sound as she backflips onto the aisle, and lets a cool smile out her lips, no sweat.

"Are you seeing this, meng!" Fabrizio goes over the phone. "Are you seeing it? That's so fricking awesome!"

"Waw..!" Renton says.

An usher comes by, notices Renton. "Excuse me, monsieur..?"

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry, but we don't allow phones on during the performance."

Renton can only frown. "Oh, right.. I'll just put it away.."

"Actually, I will need to take that – you can come and get it after the show, front desk." The usher has his hand out.

"Nonn..!" Fabrizio is slapping his TV screen, shocked of the scene unfolding before him. "Renton, whatever you do, do not let him take your phone away-"

But Renton has turned off his phone already, and hands it over to the usher. Little does he know that it would be the last he'd see of Fabrizio, for a while. Or his mama and home.

The crowd is in a roar over the introductory theatrics, and LeBlanc takes a swift bow by the bare stage, before the curtains close.

Behind the scenes, Lulu poofs Twisted Fate back into normal, so he can perform for his portion that is starting right next. The stagehands are hurriedly preparing the Wild West background, with a saloon, a horse stable, and the evening canyons.

"Going live in 5, 4, 3.." Heimerdinger counts, mouthing the last two numbers. (He has the double task of overseeing the technicalities of the performance.)

Everyone flocks out from the stage, while Twisted Fate poses himself, riding on a cow.

Then the curtains pull back.

"Mooo!" the cow goes! Twisted Fate trots his cow over to the stables, where he unmounts, parks the cow's reins over the hooks, and there is someone waiting by the Saloon steps. For him. It's Sheriff Lulu!

"Reach for the sky, Twisted Fate!" Lulu goes, her wood staff aimed at him. "Your outlawin' days are over! Why don't you throw down your cards and come in with me peacefully – I'll buy you a drink!"

"Says who?"

"Says this wanted poster right here!" Lulu points to the poster that's just appeared on the wall. Twisted Fate, wanted dead or alive, reward: $9,001.

"Oh yeah?" Twisted Fate puts his hands in his pockets.

"Hands out of your pockets!" Lulu pips, shaking her staff. "Or I'll blast you back to kingdom come!"

".. only two jokers in the deck, and I get dealt you. Let's play 'em hot." Then he throws a card in Lulu's direction, which pops and sizzles by her feet, and rolls out of the way just as Lulu blasts where he was with glittering light.

As Twisted Fate strafes, he tosses more cards at Lulu, smoke and flares erupting around her. Because it's a show, the effects he puts into these specific cards are more designed for flamboyant eye-candy than lethality. Lulu just hops and skips as her Pixy erects a shield bubble around her, protecting her from the dust and flying splinters while she fires more bolts at him – the audience dazzled by the lightwork.

Soon, they vary up the routine, where Lulu is pulling bunnies out of her pouches, and they skitter towards Twisted Fate, leaping onto him with great ferocity, and he is struggling to rid himself of bunny fever.

"Harrggh!" he goes, staggering, as he manages to fling a brown bunny through the windows of the Saloon, and an explosion of white smoke there.

"See," Lulu tells the audience, "I can apprehend outlaws just fine!"

Twisted Fate throws a bunny into Lulu's face.

"Owiee!"

The bunny explodes and Lulu is covered with grey soot. "Meanie! I'll show you true justice! To arms, my dearies!"

Suddenly, the cute critters come pouring out of the saloon. Squirrels, puppies, hamsters, and kitties! They threaten to swarm and pile dive Twisted Fate – luckily, he's able to whirl out his entire deck of cards; the cards flutter over him, and he is gone.

The critters are at a loss as to where Twisted Fate is.

"Oh my!" Lulu goes. "Where did he go?"

Renton looks up and about – the audience is having a gathering commotion. His first thought is that Twisted Fate went down a trap door.

Then, the spotlight hinges by the entrance doors, and there is Twisted Fate, waving his hat, a snicker escaping his lips. "Always on the run," he says.

And everyone bursts into massive applause. Renton is awe-struck – how did he do that!? That's like less than a few seconds.

"I found him!" Lulu pips. "You're not getting away from the law!" She mounts her wooden staff like a broomstick, and she glides off of the stage, "Vroom vroom!" – hovering over the audience, chasing after the card outlaw who is jigging a wild dance to taunt.

They continue their chase out of the auditorium, leaving the whole audience in an uproar.

Renton can't help clapping along too; this is so good.

Then Heimerdinger pops into the stage. "Hmm.. what an untidy mess! This looks like a job for my new Clean-a-Tron 3000!" He shooes the critters away, and then claps his hands, summoning his entourage Bertha to help dust away the debris with a broom.

"While we are getting ready for the next act.." Heimerdinger goes, the curtains falling behind him, "let me tell you a story about Science. You see, Science is a field that helps make objective understanding of phenomena possible, and it is through Science that you have your cars, your computers, your tablets and virtual eyewear that you all take for granted today! A hundred years ago, all of that would have been thought impossible, just only fiction that could be dreamt of by idle daydreamers and Jules Verne.

"But now that all of this is here – can you even imagine how your world will be like in the next 10 years? 50 years? A 100 years? The realm of future possibilities is a tantalising.. and should I dare say, even a frightening thing! Who knows what people will come up with next?

"Will it be jetpacks? Bubblegum stress balls? Specialised knowledge that you can eat in pill form, and you'll instantly grasp it like in 'The Matrix?'

"In my travels across the world, I have seen many wonderous and weird things, you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched.. C-beams, glitter in the darkness near the Tannhauser gate. But the most wonderous and weirdest thing of all, I have managed to bring to this stage, before your very eyes!"

The red curtains rise, and there is a lush aspen forest – a clear pathway, golden leaves scattered, that meanders through the white tree trunks. You can hear the birds chirping, and the breeze of a crisp wind sharing the sweet scent of the forest through the auditorium.

"Over a thousand years ago," Heimerdinger goes, "in the heavens, there lived a giant inside his gorgeous castle. The giant was a selfish man, who hoarded all the riches he could find in his travels. All the would-be thieves who desired the treasure were quickly discovered, and eaten by the giant – cooked in a meaty stew along with cabbage and onions.

"For hundreds of years, the giant stayed awake, day and night. He never slumbered.

"Then one day, sometime during the 1700s, the giant grew tired and sleepy. For you see, while a giant can stay awake for such a long time, he must eventually slumber for approximately 300 years to recover his wakeful gait.

"And to protect his home, he had placed upon his castle a protective spell that would expel anyone and anything who would dare attempt to intrude.

"Madames et Monsieurs.. what you are about to witness," Heimerdinger says, fetching a seed from his pocket, "is the first ever successful attempt at taking the giant's treasure! Because the difference between me and all the others, is that I have devised a counter-spell that could break through the giant's barrier! Mwahahaha~! For great Science!"

Then Heimerdinger puts the seed down onto the pathway, and covers it with soil. The seed bursts out and grows into a towering beanstalk that seems to reach far beyond the ceiling.

"Hmm-nngh!" That is his grunts of effort as he steadily climbs the magic beanstalk, and everyone watches him climb higher than the stage – hearing everything that goes on up in the 'heavens.'

The wind gales.

You hear the zap of the barrier being broken, and the clatter of rich treasure hauled into a bag.

Heimerdinger clambers back down the beanstalk, with a bloated bag over his shoulders, and people start cheering at the sight of a scientist with lots of goodies in tow.

He's on the ground now, and has his hands ready to untie the bag-

"FI FE FUM FO-!" the giant bellows from above. "I SMELL THE STINK OF A SCIENTIST. HE HAST STOLEN MINE TROPHIES, WITH THE HELP OF THIS TASTY BEANSTALK."

The beanstalk violently rustles, as a giant shadow is cast over the stage; it is Swain, over-sized! He's wearing a beard. "I'LL GRIND THINE BONES TO MAKE MINE BREAD."

"Oh noes!" Heimerdinger seems to panic, looking at the audience as if to ask them for any suggestions. "What shall I do? He'll kill me!"

"COME HERE, LITTLE WORM," Swain booms. "YOUR DEATH WILL BE SWIFT AND PAINLESS IN MY HANDS."

Then Heimerdinger has an idea. He gets a buzzsaw and tries cutting the beanstalk down – but Swain jumps down onto the forest, landing with reverberations. Heimerdinger stands just about as tall as Swain's knee.

"I WON'T DIE LIKE MY COUSIN DID," Swain goes, glancing down at the petite scientist.

"Well.. err.." Heimerdinger twiddles his fingers.

"I'M SURE YOU'LL GO EXCELLENTLY WITH HEALTHY GREENS!"

Heimerdinger raises his wrench, ready to defend his very existence. "Back you filthy, giant ape! You won't be eating me! I am a man of Science! Great Scientists shouldn't ever die to their experiments!"

And Swain is raising his foot, about to stomp the Scientist.

"Oh, I remember now!" Heimerdinger pulls out a shrink ray from his pocket and zaps Swain down into normal size. (Lulu had cast a spell on Swain to make him big beforehand.) "Try this on for fair size!"

"Aarrghgh!" Swain seethes in frustration. "You'll still be mine! Com'mere!" He swipes his arms inward, attempting to clasp Heimerdinger's oversized head. "Stay still, why don't you!"

"Mwahahaha!"

It may not look it, but Heimerdinger has perfected the art of dodging anyone trying to take advantage of his big head. He leaps left and right, Swain just too slow.

Heimerdinger leads Swain right into a trap – a net catches Swain, suspending him high from a tree, dangling upside-down.

"Ho ho!" Heimerdinger grins, while the audience laughs too hard. "To the spoils go the triumphant!" He heads over to his bag, where there are lots of lumps inside. "Let's see what we've caught.."

Unzipping the bag, instead of the golden trophies, LeBlanc pops out – she shoots out a chain, wrapping Heimerdinger by his arms, and soon rooting him stuck to the floor.

"Too late, dearie," LeBlanc goes. "I applaud you for your efforts, but the trophies are all mine now. Hehe." She kisses him on the cheek, and smiles at the audience who is making an absolute thunder, as the red curtains drape, closing over the stage.

"Stay tuned for Act Two after our 15-minute intermission!" the announcer goes.

Renton could only swoon over what he's just seen. It's what's on his thoughts while he makes his way out into the foyer, with the rest of the audience swooning over what's to come.

Amidst everyone else, Renton feels like the odd one out. There's families, friends, even intimate couples who have each other; Renton has no one, no one to share it all with – and he has the urge to slap that damn usher's face and nab his phone back, so Fabrizio can join back in.

While he makes his way to the washrooms, he overhears the conspiracy nerds who are debating the logistics of Twisted Fate, being able to make such a 50 metres leap in a second.

He's tempted to stay and listen to the interesting possibilities – most likely, it has to be a 'double' who stands by the doors, or for the ones who believe that the magic is real, Twisted Fate actually did teleport all that way.

But there's only so much time left.

And Renton has been holding it in the whole time; that's what you get for drinking so much ginger ale. He needs to make it to the washrooms, fast!

He goes into the 'Hommes' room, where all the urinals have been taken by fat guys, so he finds one spare stall that isn't being used, and feels the immediate relief from his bladder.

Phew..

Man, it smells so nice in here. It's like cherry blossoms.

So Renton flushes the toilet, and by the sinks, he splashes his face with helping doses from the faucet. It clears his senses.

By the corner of his eye, he notices the sweet blue glow of the aquarium on his right - the fish tank, where the fish seem to jolt and dance to the kids' tapping on the glass. Renton is caught by its submarine beauty, the serene piano which plays over the speakers.

He walks up close to the tank, pulling from a nearby towel dispenser.

A moustached catfish – it swims over the corals and past a snow globe..

Then, he notices through the glass, he can see clearly into the women's washroom. The ladies who have finished using the stalls, and are helping their hands to grape soap and cleanliness.

Even the kids are now bored of making the fish dance, and they're oogling at the vibrant, sometimes outlandish dresses the ladies have on, like they've discovered a Playboy magazine littered by the playground.

Renton chuckles at the sight – probably he'd do the same too at their age.

He's about to turn around and head out, when he sees her come out of the stalls.

It's LeBlanc, in her garb and ornate cape. There's no mistaking her. She's brushing her hair aside, and heading to the sinks' mirrors, she is re-applying white powder to her face (because some of it got smudged when she was hiding in the trophy bag).

"Ooo-aaahwow!" a little boy goes, cooing.

To Renton, he is only starting to see her now, as if for a first time. Up close, there's something delicate about her, that he can't put his finger on. Like if you were to suddenly leap upon her and glomp her figure, she could just crumble under your weight, disrupting the sheer fineness and grace in even the littlest of her gestures.

And while he can't see clearly the colours on the other side, he remembers the way her dress seems to glitter by the outlines, on the stage. One of her legs is covered by stockings, the other is laid bare. He sees the contrast of her noir lipstick against her white face.

And most of all, in her eyes.

Yes, she seems content, intent on her reflection in the mirror – her eyebrows light yet defined.

But if Renton could describe it, it almost seems as if her eyes were a shimmering pool; pretty and reflective on the surface, yet concealing a kind of depth.. a feeling that's akin to if you were listening to contemplative music, and your eyes are closed, and you're sifting through the images that surface from your memories.

Like a longing.

And it hits him, that across that watery world, she must be one of the most exquisitely wonderful beings he's ever laid eyes upon. His eyes are widening in wonder. He doesn't want her to go.. just stay here so he can keep gazing upon her form.

But she leaves anyway, putting away her powder, a fresh lick of her lips.

He's left staring at the door she leaves through. The anodyne intermission music continues on from the speaker, and the kids are rushing out now.

"5 minutes until Act Two!" the announcer goes. "5 minutes."

When Renton heads back out into the foyer, M. Fourier is walking to the washrooms – he catches sight of him! Oh non!

".. Renton?" M. Fourier goes. "Well, well, what are you doing, straying out of your house arrest? I guess you couldn't resist the magic tonight, huh? Does your mum even know you're here?"

Renton tries to run away, but M. Fourier grabs him by the collar, and hauls him over – pinning him to the wall.

"I got your ass, Renton Thurston," he hisses, glancing down at Renton's ankle, noticing the bulge of the tracking bracelet. "Ahh.. you've managed to circumvent their security system, huh. No matter; from this second on, you're playing by my rules tonight! I'll watch where you're sitting, and after the show's over, you're coming straight with me – I'm driving you back to your home, so you can explain to Maman what you've been up to.

"And if you even dare try to run away from me.." The grin on M. Fourier. "I'll call the police on you so hard, it'll make your head spin!"

It's like a big gaping pit has formed in Renton's gut, and all he feels like doing is wanting to collapse onto the floor, here and now. Where M. Fourier will have to drag Renton along to get anywhere. See how the bastard will feel.

"Oh, are you not happy anymore?" M. Fourier goes, seeing Renton's face. "I'm sorry.. I've ruined your fun! Just like you've made me a total embarassment in class!" He thrusts Renton out in front of him. "Now get along, back to your seat!"

And Renton recalls that day, everyone was staring at him when he had no French words to give.

He makes his way to his seat in the auditorum.

Somewhere behind him, he imagines M. Fourier, chewing his buttery popcorn, grinning to himself in smug satisfaction. (Ugh.)

Renton just shrinks into his seat.

"Our dearest patrons of the night," the announcer goes, "the show will resume in one minute! One minute. The second act is so immersive that all the doors will be locked shut until the end!"

Everyone is in such a rush to get back to where they were sitting, that you'd imagine that even missing one second of the show would be a let-down. Someone, a tall man in a top hat almost gets knocked over.

Then the lights darken, and the entire theatre is plunged into almost an absolute darkness. Everyone's murmurs hush to diminuendo.

And graceful, melancholic music starts to play.

It seems like a minute or two passes, before you start to see a lone, blue spotlight gradually illuminating a figure – LeBlanc.

"Madames et Monsieurs.." she goes. "Tonight, out of everyone here, I will invite one of you to the pleasure of a dance in my arms." Her smile is cool and captivatingly alluring, and in her delicate hands, she has a long and silver staff that has white gems at the top.

The crowd is whispering amongst themselves, sitting by the edges of their seats. Of course, they want to be with her, each and every one of them! Renton included, especially wanting just to be up close with that beauty.

"How will I pick, you must be wondering?" LeBlanc goes. "That is simple – I will send out one of Swain's ravens, who will decide upon one of you by pure.. chance. No judge of your character, no judge of what clothes you may be wearing. Are you ready?"

And she gestures – another spotlight shows a black raven, darting out of the shut curtains, its wings beating and fluttering as the bird flies over everyone's heads.

The shadow of the bird epilipticly flickers over the audience, as their eyes try to follow the bird's path, eagerly and wildly anticipating just who the bird will land on.

To Renton, it has the same odds for him as winning the million dollar lottery – none whatsoever. You're duped into something, taken in by that intangible chance that you could be the one. He lowers his head in a quiet, sullen disappointment, where he can only glance at that random lucky winner, who'll be up on the stage by LeBlanc's side, and imagine what their tango would be like.. with that grace she so possesses.

(imagine what she smells like)

Maybe he'll leave the circus with a memory of what could have been.

Staring at the carpeted floor, with bits of popcorn on it, the cheers of the crowd starting to sound like a torture to his ears, as if mockingly saying, "We're so excited to see someone like us on the stage! But not you! Oh non, not you!"

Renton sighs.

Then he notices the flash of the spotlight, engulfing him – he half-expects it to move away somewhere, but it doesn't stray. He feels a light pinch on his shoulders; the raven has landed on him. He blinks, and the raven's still there, its head cocking around.

It's like he could float away into heaven.

"Alors.." LeBlanc goes over the clapping audience. "Young boy, I think the bird likes you! Why don't you come down here to the stage with me?"

The aisles light up, a glowing pathway down to the stage, and Renton makes his way past people to the aisles, his feet feeling like they're walking on feathers, and at the back of his mind – if only Fabrizio were here, because this is something he won't believe if he told him in words.

Renton walks down the aisle, the spotlight concentrating on him, and he finds himself climbing onto the stage floor, where LeBlanc stands only a few steps away.

"Tell me, boy," LeBlanc says, holding her staff to his face like it's a microphone. "What is your name?"

"Uhm, Renton." He tugs at his collar.

"Renton? Oh. Such a lovely name!"

Behind them, the curtains pull open. Velvet light streams through the gap, and on the blank stage, the background resembles a clock face, the red and purple roses that partially cover the numerals, the minute hand spiralling around and around, as if a merry-go-round in its throes of maddening frenzy.

The light and shadow of it all play over their bodies, over the audience in the auditorium.

"Where are we going, you might ask?" LeBlanc plays with her staff, rubbing her fingers over the smooth pole. "Into a distant future, when humanity is all but gone, and only the barest elements remain on this Earth."

She slams her staff onto the floor, and the clock freezes – it fades away back into darkness, and another light comes into play; a dusk, violet sky over a landscape where nature has been allowed to ferment over the manmade elements. The ruins of a city (you soon realise), where the trees grow from out the high rises, and the roads have cracked, the weeds and grass protruding out of them.

But the plant life looks sickly. Where the leaves are supposed to be green, they look ghastly pale.

Renton is woozy from the sight – it just feels almost too real for his liking. He can even smell the heavy ozone, from the moments before a rainstorm pours.

"What year is this..?" the first question Renton asks.

"98,765 AD," LeBlanc goes, facetious. "This is what will happen once we drain our planet of its vitalities. Not even the cockroaches would survive. The fact that you and I are able to take in this atmosphere is because I cast a protective spell, so we breathe in the toxic air as comfortably as we could the air we take for granted today."

She takes Renton's hand, and together they walk down the desolate streets.

"Where's everyone..?" Renton asks.

"Oh, they're watching us safe and sound from their seats.. mm, if you mean this future-" LeBlanc snaps her fingers – nothing seems to happen. She snaps her fingers again. "Heimerdinger..!" she whispers. "Vite, vite!"

Off-screen, Heimerdinger gives his hologram machine a kick.

Then a video is projected for everyone to see: it is of starships launching out into space, emigrating towards a destination unknown.

"They've all left," LeBlanc goes. "Their planet to colonise, they call 'Nova Prospekt' in the Alpha Centauri star-system. But they left behind something very important.. that's why we're here."

She leads Renton to a vast meadow, of wildberry thatches which waver in the breeze. There, you see a square patch of bare soil, where LeBlanc gets Renton with her to dig away the soil, their bare hands feeling like ripping away at dried, hardened dough.

There they find it – a metal box. The lock has been corroded so much that LeBlanc easily tears the hook apart, and inside the box, the vinyl records are still intact.

"In 1992," LeBlanc goes, "a woman fell in love with a man, and she wanted him to cherish her love so. Thus, she bought the music she'd listen to everyday from the record store. The snatches of melodious sound she'd hear, he will listen to too, one day.

"So they made love, and a child grew in her. A boy.

"She buried her vinyls into the meadow, letting the man know of the day her child would be born, when she'd take him to this spot, and uncover her music, and he'd finally listen to the songs with his own ears.. and cry much like she would too.

"But the man left before she managed to give birth to her boy, and having no one left, she'd decided to leave her vinyls buried until her boy grew old enough to understand love.

"Her boy was taken from her as well, and for the rest of her lifetime, she avoided coming back to this very spot – it simply brought her too much grief.

"Now.. Renton," LeBlanc says, "shall we dance to the music everyone's forgotten?"

He is almost on the verge of choking up; he nods anyway, and LeBlanc picks a vinyl out of a faded jacket. She looks around, as if expecting something to have shown up already. "Heimerdinger! Where's my record player!"

The audience breaks into a laugh, and LeBlanc has to hide her blush of shy embarassment as the record player pops into existance – a bit too late for her likings, but oh well. She pops the vinyl onto the turntable, putting the needle in its start position.

Then the music plays.

It starts off modestly quiet, piano chords, and then it bursts into an up-cheery beat; LeBlanc is bopping up and down on the floor, and Renton is sucked into dancing along to it too –

Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight

It's stopped rainin'
Everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day –

Even the scenery starts changing into something more amicable; it turns into a bright blue sky, and the meadow is rich with intoxicating yellows, greens and reds of roses. LeBlanc and Renton are now skipping across the fields, an idyllic moment, and everything is alright-

Until from out the ground, zombies rise up and groan towards the two.

"Oh non! Zombies!" LeBlanc has her hand up to her mouth in faux shock. The scenery quickly reverts back to its dilapitated state – oui, she knows it is such an overblown cliche nowadays to feature zombies. There's tons of books, movies, and memorablia on that already. But in the end, it must have struck a chord with her, because there's no other satisfaction like pitting her accumulated individuality against a horde of once-human beings who have long since surrendered their own individualities to a hive mind.

The zombies look the way they usually do in most fiction, like slow rotting corpses, with worn-out clothing and glowing eyes. (The stage actors don't get paid well enough for this – usually, they play roles like Laura and Tom in 'The Glass Menagerie.')

Renton puts his hand up to his mouth – he is giggling, like he can't believe he's in the scene straight out of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller.' He begins miming the Thriller dance, with the moonwalk and all, and the people in the crowd are hooting.

A particularly lanky zombie raises his arms, about to cudgeon Renton – LeBlanc pulls him back just as the zombie swings.

"Attention!" she shouts. "This is no time for laughs; just stay close behind me boy, and tell me if they're closing in by my back!"

Then she shoots out a chain, which connects with one of the zombies in the back, and she gives a hard yank – the hauled zombie tumbles forward, colliding with his other comrades, and they all tumble to their tummies in a chain reaction.

Renton stutters; there's a very giant zombie, and he's decided to pick up one of his friends like a rock, getting ready to toss him. "Watch out behind you-!"

LeBlanc turns her face, seeing the flicker of rapid movement of the thrown zombie, and she tugs at Renton – she blinks the both of them just out of harm's way.

"Phew, that was close.." she goes.

"Aaghh, that hurt!" the poor thrown zombie says.

LeBlanc gives the zombie a pat on his head. "There, there." And then she turns to face the hulking giant, who's actually a professional bodybuilder. She shoves Renton to the side, as she backsteps from the bodybuilder's swings, managing to dodge all but one of his jabs at her face.

She is sent spinning to the ground, and the bodybuilder makes his best evil laugh he can muster. (Damnit, you're a zombie, not a super-villain.) Her attempt to roll away from his reach fails when he catches her by her legs, and raises her high, upside-down for everyone to see.

"You are mine now!" the bodybuilder zombie says. "You belong to me! Who's your Daddy now? I am!"

Renton tosses a nearby pebble at the bodybuilder – it strikes his head, but he doesn't even flinch. Instead, he turns to Renton and smiles. Come and try me kid.

"You big bastard!" Renton shouts. "You let her go!

The bodybuilder starts walking towards the boy; LeBlanc sees an opportunity to trip him, and she fires chains from both wrists that attach onto the zombie's ankles and root him to the ground. He falls, face-first, and LeBlanc is sandwiched under him.

She has to have Renton hauling her out by her arms.

And then, to the roaring audience, she nods, and holds Renton's arm up high in a celebration of victory. But they stop cheering – there's another horde of zombies, entering the foray. Around 30 of them, surrounding the two of them on all sides.

When it seems like there's no hope, suddenly – a great burst of light, and an electric explosion! The time-travelling DeLorean car bursts onto the scene, skidding from its 88 miles per hour to a halt. The zombies turn their attention to the dainty car, where out the doors, there's Heimerdinger (as Doc Brown) and Lulu (Marty McFly).

"Great Scott!" Heimerdinger exclaims. "This is what our future looks like!? The year 98,765!?"

"Hey! Save us!" LeBlanc waves at them.

"Great Scott! We've encountered intelligent life forms! And two of them look just like us!"

The zombies turn back to LeBlanc and Renton, getting ready to devour the two of them with impunity.

"Doc!" Lulu goes. "You better do something quick! They'll be fish food any second!"

"Right-o!"

From the car, Heimerdinger pulls out one of his H-28G turrets, customly modified to shoot out custard pies for this performance. He arms the turret next to his car, and the turret immediately spits out pies, rapid fire, splatting the zombies all over.

LeBlanc and Renton quickly run to the car, and she has to blink themselves both out of the turret's targeting – everyone gets inside, and Heimerdinger sets his destination time to 20th July 2015.

The turret keeps blasting zombies until it runs out of rounds, as the DeLorean begins to rise up into the air, the wheels turned into turbojets, and swerving around to face the audience, the time machine blasts off right into the ceiling!

In a bright flash, the DeLorean disappears!

And on the brightly lit stage, there is every member of the Black Rose – Renton included with them, standing side-by-side in a bout of euphoria.

He can hardly believe the wonderful thing he's just experienced! In those moments on-stage, he felt.. he felt involved and truly alive with LeBlanc, that woman. The crowd crescendos, and Renton finds himself smiling more and more, as the people in the front rows toss out bouquets of flowers, and Swain steps forward, picking one of the bouquets up.

It's the last moments before it's entirely over..

Swain hands Renton the roses, winking at him – they're his now.

"We are L'Societe de Black Rose," Swain goes, "and we graciously thank you for your attention and hospitality. Vancouver City has been such a delight to visit tonight, and although we cannot guarantee any promises, we'll do our best to make another visit soon! Au revoir-"

Then a streak in the air.

A burst of blood from Swain's shoulder – an embedded silver arrow; Twisted Fate swiftly pushes Swain from his spot, as everyone but Renton dives away.

Another streak.

It cuts through Renton's sleeve, narrowly missing his skin, and the arrow lands next to Swain's head.

Upon the horrific sight, the crowd is screaming, abandoning their seats, so fearful for their own lives as they are clawing and scrambling their way through out of the three entrances.

"Where'd it come from?" Lulu squeaks. "Our Swain's hurt – oh non..!" Pixy emerges from her pouch, attending to Swain. The silver arrows evaporate, and just the holes they've caused remain.

Renton shakes himself out of his stupour; he quickly comes back to his senses as he looks around, seeing the blood drain out of Swain's shoulders, and the crowd who runs away.

He even sees M. Fourier at the back, glancing at Renton, pointing at him in a gesture to get out of there with him – his teacher will still be calling the police, no matter what.

Twisted Fate peers at the high balconies; he spots a flicker of movement, someone darting away with a crossbow. "I got him, he's way up there! Lulu, can you give me a hand?" So Lulu hands him her wooden staff, and taps it – "Zippy!"

Twisted Fate rides off on the petite broomstick, flying up to that balcony.

"Guys, give me a hand," LeBlanc goes, grabbing Swain by his wrists. Heimerdinger and Lulu are quite small, so they wind up carrying each of his legs, and they head out onto backstage.

And Renton?

He stares out at the nearly empty auditorium, at the doors.. there's nothing much left for him back home, except for more years of dullness at school, with his mere.. the record of his house arrest, and a disgruntled teacher. A brief bout of sadness comes over his heart; he'd be leaving everything behind.

But he glances at the trail of blood droplets, leading over..

Her beautiful, seductive musk still lingers in the air, if only faintly. It's like cinnamon apple, with cedar and traces of lemon. Earlier in that futuristic wasteland, he thought it was only his senses quacking out when he first caught whiff of it in the ozone.

The smell drives him to a rush.

So Renton too follows them backstage.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-04-10 04:42 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 2 - Renton

2 – Renton

Amidst the crowd watching, there is a boy named Renton Thurston, by one of the middle rows. He's been alive on this Earth for 17 years.

You'd call him a withdrawn boy, the one who zones out and daydreams in school, during class lectures when the teachers would pace back and forth over the whiteboards – as if their side-to-side walking would be like a pendulum that hypnotises the students to pay attention to "During October 1970, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.. Quebecois seperatists.. government had to enact martial law.."

Renton would want to stare out of the windows instead, out at the trees and the weather that ever-so-gradually changes. Or he would doodle the robots from Gundam SEED, dogfighting and taking potshots at each other in the margins of his notebook – during the pauses in which his Math teacher would digress about his cute Bengalian puppy, adopted and in loving care for about a month now. ("I taught him to shed his fur over the litter box! Isn't that cool?")

Just imagine.. if real life were more like all the anime shows he could stream online.

He could be the boy who will play a decisive role in saving the world's fate from evil magicians, surfing the LFOs (Light-Finding Operation, a kind of organic mecha) in the skies, and even.. fall in love with a nice, shy girl who he'd want to bring out of her shell.

That is, if there is someone else at school who's willing to bring him out of his. Most of the pretty girls he'd see, who he'd imagine would be the leading ladies, femme fatales in a good story – they have been taken by the jocks, and charismatic class clowns who like making the most asinine remarks about the infamous middle-finger "Trudeau salute."

The rest of the girls, while they are nice to talk with casually, they just look okay to him. The sort of girls who lack a certain 'spark' that would pique his interest, who just have bubbly faces and round or lanky figures.

A year ago, his innocence was shattered. His father, Adrock Thurston, the modest founder of Thurston Associates, the company that heralds civil engineering projects for the desperate corners of the world – Renton saw the life fade out of his father's eyes. It was a massive car accident, where they had gone on a hiking trip by the hills, and on their way back home, Adrock did not see the crashed car around a sharp corner.

It wasn't the initial collision that did him in; Adrock's Hyundai was flipped over onto its roof, and apart from a few scratches, he would have made it out alive.

If not for the red truck that also turned around the corner, slamming onto the side of Adrock's Hyundai. (The truck's driver hurriedly put up a makeshift hazard sign after the fact, making sure no other following cars would befall the same fate.)

And even though the ambulances came, Adrock was already dead by the time the medics pulled the stretches out.

It tore a numbing hole in Renton's gut.

Where there was the cheerful joviality whenever his father was at home, now there is just the silence, shared between him and his mother, and the occasional visits by his friend Fabrizio.

Oui, Fabrizio. Renton's one and true friend he's made at school. He's so amiable compared with Renton; the thing Renton likes about Fabrizio is how he is able to get along, and bring smiles and laughter to nearly everyone around him, and still stay closely connected with Renton. It's the kind of unspoken relationship Renton cherishes.

When Fabrizio heard of Renton's tragedy, he would often make visits to Renton's home and help break up the sense of monotony, of solemnness in the air that Renton's mum seems to project out in her mood.

("I wish you would actually cheer up, for once," Renton tried telling her.)

("Cheer up? But Renton, I'm already happy..")

(Non, you aren't happy. You just put up a fake smile whenever I bring it up, and I see it in your sluggish movements, the way you sigh when you pick up something of Dad's. It's like you always feel like wanting to sleep from the pain, taking a nap on the couch whenever you aren't busy with work or doing the chores, just to drown yourself out in happy dreams with Adrock. I hate it.)

And if there's any way Renton has of expressing gratitude to Fabrizio, it is allowing the liveliness to spread through his being when they skateboard by the Skate Plaza.

Renton isn't so bad himself – he's able to skimp around on the sloped ground, practising the very tight turns by leaning back on his board, pivoting it by the back wheels.

Fabrizio though, he's like a God. He can jump down the entire set of steps with one leap, slide over the thick fences, and even breakdance without the board ever leaving his feet. How long has Fabrizio been skating? (Renton picked up the sport somewhere around 4th grade.) It makes all the girls go "Ooh" and "Aah" and squeal at his unreal stunts, and even gets him admiration from the professional skateboarders who frequent the area.

The times without Fabrizio, it is an endurance test. Renton would stick to being in his room otherwise, on his computer, the internet as his other friend. He has to keep it down, unable to blare out music except through his headphones, lest he anger his mum, disrupting her lofty sense of peace.

He misses driving his RC cars around freely. Adrock got him quite familiarised with the mechanics of cars – how to tweak the car's engine, and troubleshoot whenever the car breaks down – and by extension, also showed Renton how to customise the RC's electric motors so as to blow everyon else out of the water in RC races.

Now, Renton could only just sit and stare at the petite RCs that gather dust on his shelf, and dream of the day when he could bring them up to speed again. Someday, maybe. His mum doesn't like the thought of having to buy a replacement RC if Renton ever crashes his cars into irreparable pieces.

"Why don't you give me the money if that happens?" Renton would ask. "I can buy the RC myself!"

"Non.. oh non, non. Your RC cars are toys, you should be outgrowing them! I'll save money for something more useful, later."

As if Adrock's absence needed to be more painful than it is already. When his father was still alive, his mum was so different; she was very kind and caring then, full of that joie de virve, comforting Adrock and Renton whenever they'd get upset.

And that wellspring of joviality in her seems to have all but soaked up.

If there is something that Renton could do, could say to flick that light switch in her on again.

In recent months, Renton has been overhearing the rumours and news about a group of magicians who want to visit Vancouver. The Societe de Black Rose, coming to his city. The last time any group of magicians have came here was back in 1986 – La Renaissance, a band of three pyrotechnicians who were based from Italy.

Until then, Renton wasn't really that interested with the magician phenomena. He viewed magicians much like he viewed the popular boy bands and sports teams; it's just hogwash, like glorified magic tricks that happen to have heated controversies surrounding them, spicing up the view count and ultimately their profit margins.

He only got to see magicians in action over the TV, and that was when he was young – when Adrock managed to tune the receiver to a bootleg international channel, which broadcasted live performances at astonishingly low quality transmissions.

It just looked like static to him, but he saw things like sparkling spheres being manipulated in mid-air, or large bubbles that can carry up to two people at once.

Something happened back then – Renton doesn't remember exactly what, but Adrock had gone on a brief business trip, and then returned home in a very depressed mood. And that time, Adrock told Renton that the magicians are just fake, ego-inflated jerks; they're really using wires, hidden contraptions, or computer effects (the same kind Hollywood uses on their Blockbuster movies).

Adrock didn't really want to say, but the big renovation project he'd been hoping to launch in India had been terribly thwarted, apparently by a very influential, sly sect of magicians who were performing there at that time.

So to Renton, magicians were just like prima donna politicians; besides wowing the audience with fakery on stage, they would also perform petty deeds that worked to their advantage, even if it meant murder and sabotage.

It is a little strange though that very little has happened in the city of Vancouver, relating to the magicians. He never got to see their performances live; they would travel all around the world, except for Canada in which they limited themselves to the province of Quebec, and sometimes Ontario. To him, the magicians felt as tangible as the avian flu outbreaks an ocean away.

He'd hear about their performances and occasional exploits in the news, but he'd rather watch Dragon Ball Z than listen to another word about.. how New York police have been baffled by the reservoir lake turned to ice in Central Park (during Summer), or the mysterious vanishings of artefacts from safes and museums.

So perhaps to Renton's curiosity, when he's heard that the Societe de Black Rose were coming to perform in Vancouver, he felt a pang of interest hit him. At last, he could go see what the big fuss is all about.

He looked up the Black Rose over the internet, and from what their official website says, they're based in France – a five-man group consisting of their manager Swain, their illusionist LeBlanc, their polymorphist Lulu, card maestro Twisted Fate, and technician Heimerdinger.

Renton discussed it over with Fabrizio; they'll try getting tickets for the event.

But much of the seats had been sold out already, and the price of a seat is $75 dollars.

What they did was reserve seats that were by the middle rows online, in close proximity to each other (if not right beside) – and promise to pay up the full price by the time the actual performance came about.

Thus, Renton saved up his lunch money; his mum gave him $5 every school day, but he would secretly prepare himself a sandwitch and some fruit from home instead. In 15 days, he managed to accumulate enough money for the seat, which he hid in his pillow, and bought his lunches normally afterward.

Fabrizio asked his dad for a part-time job at his company, and he landed the role of being the second-floor receptionist, which paid modestly, yet still enough to get the $75 dollars in time, and then some to spend to his likings.

On one of Renton's last days at school, he was in M. Fourier's French class, and it was time for oral exams, where everyone had to give an improv speech on whatever subject M. Fourier thought of. Be it on molasses (how M. Fourier loved the sticky syrup!), the French influences on Canada, or even Justin Bieber and his contribution to music history.

Renton didn't really like the class, and he especially didn't get along well with M. Fourier – that eccentric, bigoted fat old man. He's so patriotistic for his native Quebec, wanting the province to separate from Canada and become its own region; he brings the topic up every class or so, in the hopes of some students flocking over to his side, supporting this notion – but that is the least of it.

Whenever someone arrives late to his class (even a second late!), M. Fourier would have him stand up for the entire class as an example, not allowing him to sit down on a chair until class is over.

He also wouldn't allow anyone to leave for a washroom break, unless they swore a solemn vow, en Francais, not to smoke marijuana in the stalls. Because one time, it almost cost M. Fourier his teaching career when two boys went to the washroom at the same time, to smoke, and they were discovered to be from his class.

And he'd throw the chalkboard eraser at anyone caught sleeping, or not paying any attention in his class.

Like with Renton then, during Patrick's turn trying to explain why Dogs ought to be better than Cats.

"So, Renton," M. Fourier went, "think you can stay on Planet Earth long enough to tell everyone your plans for the two wonderous.. summer months ahead?" 

There was a lump in Renton's throat, that he couldn't swallow. "Umm.."

"Patrick, you may go-- come on up here Renton, so everyone can see you."

It felt like there were lead weights on his legs, as Renton dragged himself over to where Patrick was standing.

"Summer months, Renton--" M. Fourier was milking the sweat out of Renton for all it's worth. "Tell me about what you intend to do. Play video games in your basement? Watch the upcoming magic show?"

"Summer months.." Renton searched for French words, anything to begin with; his mind churned out blanks. "Ermm.. Pour mes vacances d'été, je veux alle--"

"Aller! Enunciate, for pete's sakes!"

".. aller le bowling?"

"Pétanque! 'Le bowling' is what they say in France, those lazy bums – not in civilised Quebec!" It just felt like M. Fourier only wanted to grind Renton's gears, with every correction.

Renton couldn't continue any longer. He was quivering, the eyes of everyone in class absorbing his growing embarrassment.

M. Fourier grinned. "Et pourquoi, Renton, voudriez-vous aller au pétanque pendant l'été? Lorsque vous pourriez faire beaucoup d'autres choses plus intéressantes à la place?"

"I.. I don't know what you just asked me.."

"Did you even study for the orals?"

".. I guess not."

"Hm." M. Fourier sighed. "You guess not..? Tsk." He approached Renton, walking around the boy, eyeballing him up and down. "Look at you, Renton. Who do you think you are? You come in here today, unprepared, unenthusiastic about knowing French.. the whole time you were in my class, I always see you waltzing off in your own spinning mind, galavanting off God-knows-where. Even after I told you a thousand times over to be here, and listen. Now tell me, give me one good reason, why I shouldn't just fail you, right now?"

Renton didn't want to look him right in his beady eyes. He looked away, but the other kids gave him no assurance.

".. what would your father think?" M. Fourier went.

And Renton just snapped – he slammed the son-of-the-bitch in the eye, and saw him tumble down hard onto someone else's desk. Some people even clapped.

It might have been the best moment in Renton's life so far.

Except that Renton had to show up in court, in an uncomfortably pressed suit, his mother beside him in shame, to face assault charges against his teacher.

"You're four months shy of 18," the judge said. "That means the assault charge you've plead guilty to carries a maximum of one year in juvie."

Renton wanted so badly to bury his face into his hands.

"But Renton.. I know losing your father isn't easy on you, and your mother. So I will.. reduce your sentence to two months of house arrest. I'm cutting you a break, son. Don't push it."

At home, his probation officer instructed him and his mere on his new electronic ankle bracelet, tracking his every movements.

"You're all set to go nowhere," his officer said. "Now if your bracelet lights up green, you're good, you're still in the safe zone about a 30 metre radius from.. this guy--" She tapped the Dualtrak modem installed on the kitchen counter. "It's like a radar, always on the alert. It gets a constant GPS signal from Mr. Bracelet, that goes through your phone line to the monitoring systems downtown. So they know where you are, where you've been, 25/7."

"What if he accidently goes beyond--" his mother asked.

"The red light flashes, and you've got 10 seconds to get your butt back to green, or else."

"The back-breaking squad shows up?" Renton went.

"They won't be using Nerf bats," his officer said. "Your bracelet is tamper-proof and water-proof, so don't try to stick your foot in a bucket of water and hop across the line. You'll just end up looking stupid. And listen up Renton-- house arrest might sound like a breeze, but I've seen many a folk get a bit loopy after too long. Some after just a day or two. So find constructive things to do to keep yourself busy."

It seemed like attending the circus was entirely out of the question.

Renton could only sigh as he spruced up his room, putting old clothes into the laundry basket, making his bedsheets, and slumped on the bed afterward, staring up at the ceiling. How he hated M. Fourier and all the legal nonsense! An entire summer vacation, ruined!

His mother grew a little stricter, making Renton do the dishes, the laundry, and house cleaning as discipline. It was very boring and monotonous to do, and the sight of all the kids playing out on the street was a very big taunt to him.

The house's air grew stifling to breathe, and when his mother would leave for work, he opened all the windows and felt the fresh breeze blow through every room.

Luckily, he still had his computer and internet, and when he wasn't busy with chores otherwise, he would go through the entirety of his backlog of anime (to watch), and to his surprise he would watch through all 26 episodes of a series in a single day or two. And the next series.

Fabrizio would come and visit too, when he wasn't working. "Hey, Renton, sorries you got busted by your French teacher. Everyone's still talking about it, and they look to you like you're some sort of hero! I guess everyone must not like him very much, right?"

"I really wanted to see the show.." Renton said. "But I suppose some dreams just aren't meant to be."

"Hey, know what I learned? That ankle bracelet you're wearing – I had a cousin who had one on like it; he got in trouble for marijuana possession, and you'll never guess what we've discovered!"

"What?"

And Fabrizio leaned in and whispered, "You can fool the modem."

Did Renton hear him right? "You mean.. you can fix it so my ankle bracelet won't go off? Damn.. you have no idea how itchy this thing is--"

"That's right. You heard it here first meng. Come on here, I show you."

Fabrizio went over to the kitchen, where the modem was. "Do you have screwdrivers or something?"

"Yeah.. hold on--"

After Renton got his set of screwdrivers over, Fabrizio unscrewed the modem's cover.

"You sure you know what you're doing?" Renton asked. "I mean, if this sucker goes off--"

"It's simple really. All you do is.." Without really explaining, Fabrizio's fingers fiddled with the wires of the modem's circuit board, quickly re-routing connections with the deft hand of a card dealer, almost like he's hotwiring a car to start. Some sparks flew, and afterwards, Fabrizio closed the modem's case.

Renton glanced down at his ankle bracelet. The light was still green.

"It didn't go off, right?" Fabrizio went. "Take me outside, to as far as you can usually go. It won't change colour, I guarantee you or your money back."

So Renton went out with his friend in the blistering sun, the sky a pure blue. The bracelet's maximum radius went all the way to the end of the driveway, on the street.

Step-by-step, Renton advanced to the curb. When he took another step forward, and saw that the bracelet light hadn't changed, his heart leapt. He was free--!

"Ohhhh, thank you thank you thank you!" So eager with delight, Renton did a rabid tap dance, and the other kids who were biking around almost fell over from laughing way too hard. "Except.. my mum still expects me to be at home.."

"Don't worry; you just go out when she isn't home!" Fabrizio went.

"I mean.. when the magic show starts."

"That's going to be very late at night.. or very early, depends on how you look at it. It's a 1 am showing. Me, I'm telling my mom I'm staying over at a friend's place that night for a sleepover. And you Renton?"

"I.." Renton glanced aside. "Actually, maybe I could sneak out, when my mom's sleeping."

"That's good! Great of you – you haven't lost it yet."

"What?"

"Your liveliness. I'd hate the thought of you going all limp and deathly, cooped up at home. You don't just live by merely breathing, you know. You need to have some fiirre!"

One Saturday, when Renton's mama was stripping bedsheets from the beds, Renton's stash of money fell out when she pulled out his pillows.

"What is this, Renton? Can you explain?" She pointed at all the bills over the carpet. "Where did you get this amount of money?"

He figured it would be good to be honest with her, lest she think he stole the money somehow and decided to be a full-time criminal. "I saved up my lunch money," Renton explained. "I made my own lunches at home while you didn't notice."

"For what? What for? You want to buy something.."

"Listen Mom, there's.. there's going to be a magic show at the circus. Next week. The money is to pay for my seat-- oof--"

He said too much.

"Your.. seat..? Renton.. don't you remember you're still tethered to this house? For the rest of July and August!? Have you gone mad!????"

Renton was at a loss for words – it was like all the steam pent-up inside his mother was bursting out the kettle, and her face was scrunching, as if trying to restrain the anger. She went and picked up all the money, not caring if the bills got crumpled in her grip.

Then she told Renton to stay in his room until dinnertime, where she turned eating a turkey salad into a lecture of massive proportions. How dare Renton lose his sense of correctness! What has gotten into the boy? When Adrock was around, Renton was everything but someone who would punch his teacher in the face, and.. and..

Maybe if his mother could emulate Adrock, with his cheery, can-do attitude, she could command the same degree of goodness from her son he once did, and everything will be alright.

But to Renton, her attempts at being Adrock was so off the mark, and so wrong – it was like seeing a caricature of his father come to life, and she'd try thrusting Renton into new interests, like cooking food and mowing the lawn.

"Gee, your mum sure is acting swell," Fabrizio commented, during a game of H-O-R-S-E on the driveway.

"I can't bear it much longer--! I know she's trying to get me to be her perfect son, like pretending to be my father would work." Renton tossed the basketball at the hoop, the ball just bouncing off the rims. "This is driving me insane. Moreso than the fact I'm supposedly under house arrest."

Fabrizio took some dribbles between his legs, and did a slam dunk manouver like Jeremy James, Chicago Bulls #47, shooting guard.

"And she took all my money away..!" Renton went, staring off at the west, where the sun must eventually dip down towards. "I can't go to the circus anymore. I'll just forfeit my seat--"

"No.. no wait!" An idea hit Fabrizio. "I'll give my seat and ticket to you, and you let go of your seat, how's that? I've already got mine paid."

"But.. I can't accept that-- you'll miss out.."

"No I won't. You've got your phone, right?" Fabrizio winked. "Just download Synchro-Cam, the app! It'll stream what your phone sees through the camera online, and I can go watch it with a few friends of mine back at home. It'll be a total piece of cake, si signor?"

The only remaining thing to do was to sneak out, the night of the showing.

Renton's mother though, she seemed to have abandoned her habit of taking naps – even sleeping altogether, and during midnight and after, Renton could hear her jumping up and down in the first floor, exercising aerobics to YouTube videos of Magic Mike's fitness classes.

Upon learning this, Fabrizio snuck Renton a free sleeping aid sample, a small packet with liquid, guaranteed to knock out a fully-grown adult for up to 10 hours.

At dinner, Renton snuck the sleeping aid onto his mum's meal, while she was distracted by a phone call from Adrock's company. He watched her eat the broccoli, sausages, and rice.. Soon afterward, she started yawning, and reluctantly got herself to the couch where she passed out into snores. Call it a well-deserved rest.

Then Renton went to his room, got his phone out of its USB charger – went downstairs to the closet, pulled out a $20 bill from his mum's purse (in case he needs to buy snacks and a drink), and last but not least, tucked his mother under a cozy blanket with a pillow.

He switched all the lights off, and took his skateboard outside. By the end of the driveway, he took a cautious step outside the boundaries to see if Fabrizio's hack still worked.

It did.

And the bracelet still lit green, even as Renton skated out of his neighbourhood, holding onto the backs of moving cars, Marty McFly style. He had Fabrizio's ticket in his pocket, originally mailed to Fabrizio's household, but given to Renton during a visit earlier.

It took Renton about two full hours to get to the Pattaya Circus, where he had to consult the GPS map on his phone whenever he got lost, ask directions from people, find cars and trucks he can latch onto without their drivers flipping out.

And at the circus, he rolled down his pants to hide the bracelet – no chance of it flashing red, even now, and people might get suspicious of it.

It would be another 3 hours before the show actually started, and that gave Renton time to setup the app on his phone, and call Fabrizio who's brought his cousins and two other friends with him, sitting by his TV, waiting for the signal to come from Renton's phone cam. The app didn't seem to work for some reason, and there was fiddling around on both Renton and Fabrizio's end, double-checking the IP address / receiver settings, trying to connect with a different Synchro-Cam server, etc.

In the end, it took an hour before they got the app to work, and even then, another half-an-hour tweaking the transmission settings so that the video feed looked clear enough without it lagging. Renton's phone was down to 74% battery charge, and perhaps it was better he saved his phone's power for the actual performance.

Renton was starting to feel quite hungry; he went to the refreshments section of the circus, where they had a whole buffet of Italian, French, and Chinese cuisine freshly made to serve. He paid the $16 price, with an additional $2 for a soda pop bottle (with free refills).

It was so filling! The way the food tasted on his plate, the Escargot and Pizza and the Sweet n' Sour Noodles, he regretted that he only had one stomach to take it in with. He was bloated now, and he had to go pee a few times from the Ginger Ale he drank. (Don't you know? Ginger Ale is especially good for the tummyaches.)

But then, the person he least expected or wanted to see – M. Fourier was also eating at the buffet! Renton's French teacher, seated at a far table down. "Tell me about what you intend to do. Play video games in your basement? Watch the upcoming magic show?"

Renton snuck out of the refreshments section as quickly as he could, and went over to the auditorium, where the crowd was gathering.

It was a vast field of seats, stretching down to the massive stage, the red velvet curtains curled over, incubating the Societe de Black Rose until their presences were ready to be revealed, to be shown in front of the eyes of many thousands.

There were numerous balcony seats too, that went all the way up to the ceiling, and Renton saw that some of the audience have brought themselves binoculars to see it all up-close.

Renton's seat was somewhere by the very middle, and he had to "Excuse me, pardon me" several times to get himself past the other families, the plump entrepreneurs, magician enthusiasts, critics and news reporters who are covering the event from all angles – the popular figures who are attending, like Sylvester Stallone and the mayor of Vancouver.

His heart is beating – it would really be the first time he'd see the tricks with his eyes, and not just through second-hand reports or a crappy TV channel. Because what is the difference between watching a movie on your petite phone, compared with the atmosphere of the movie theatre where you sit in the immersive darkness, the smell of buttered popcorn lingering in the air, the audience of other moviegoers around you who clap and cheer and cry at the moments depicted on the big screen – the sound and music pouring out the THX-verified surround sound speakers? Everything. Even if the movie is the exact same, the experience can be a grandiose one, or a small one, depending on the scenario you watch the movie in.

There is only a couple minutes to go, so Renton pulls out his phone and gives Fabrizio a call. "I saw M. Fourier, he's also here!"

Fabrizio spits out the Coca-Cola from his mouth. "What, really?"

"Yeah. I was eating at the buffet, and there he was – I don't think he saw me though."

"You better hope not," Fabrizio goes. "I hope he isn't right by my.. err, your seat. If he catches you, you'll be in deep doo-doo. And that's an understatement. You know what the penalty is for breaking house arrest? Five years in prison – and real prison at that, not juvie!"

"Yeah.."

It's Renton's first time at the circus, and he has to fear for the consequences. What if his mother miraculously wakes up back at home, and finds out he's gone? Or if the bracelet starts to beep under his pants, and people find out about it?

In a strange way though, it's actually exhilarating – it is the feeling that he's stepping out into the real world, with his own two feet. No longer is he coddled by the invisible safety nets, the rules set by his mother, or the school.

"Renton, you here?" Fabrizio goes.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I'm right here – was just thinking, it would be so much better if you're actually here too--"

"It's alright – never mind me now, I'm right beside you." Fabrizio hands his cousins the bag of BBQ-flavoured chips. "Turn the app on. I think it is about to start any second."

Renton does. "It's not the same.. I just.. I feel a little lonely here, by myself."

Then he notices the lights in the auditorium start to darken. All the seats have been filled up, and the crowd hushes down.

"Madames et Monsieurs, les hommes et les filles.." the announcer shouts over the loudspeakers. "Welcome.. to one of the greatest pleasures you will ever delight in the world!"

An expectant drum-roll plays.

"Pattaya Circus is proud to present.. le Societe de Black Rose!" 

And the red curtains spread open.

qdesjardin: (Default)
2014-04-07 02:37 am
Entry tags:

LeBlanc / 1 - egg theft

LeBlanc / l'illusionniste manipulatrice
a pulp scenario by QDesjardin

1 – egg theft

In the city of Vancouver, the Lehmann art museum holds numerous exhibits for the visitor's eye to behold. Impressionist paintings by the likes of Monet and Gauguin, elaborate clockwork models of hands and wings, and the hall of illusions where you might be awestruck by light distortions, quasi-3D images and that sign which says YES from one angle, but NO from a different angle.

Tonight, it will be robbed. Specifically, a recently imported, basketball-sized egg from Mesoamerica. The Egg of Xephon.

For the Societie de Black Rose, the egg holds an esoteric power that they can use as a gateway into heaven, to communicate with the unseen angels of another dimension. This can be done with the right incantation and use of adjacent objects – four candles, camille flowers, an altar, and the scrolls of the Dead Sea.

It will make the group a true presence to be reckoned with. With the angels by their side, they can ascend to the isle of Avalon, where the mythical figures of history and legend come to rest, and where the origins of all magick lie.

/

Now LeBlanc is striding alongside the harbour, alongside Lulu. They're both dressed in painter's garb, the white overalls, carrying empty buckets and bags. It's actually just a disguise, so they can sneak into the club building beside the Lehmann museum – the club is doing renovations on their third floor, and Jericho Swain has decided to use that as an opportunity to sneak into the museum, at an entry point that their security won't be expecting.

All the boats are alight in white lights, casting shimmers over the sea. LeBlanc imagines their owners exchanging polite words over cups of coffee, and maybe they'd sit out on the deck and gaze westward at the ocean's darkness. Perhaps even have fishing rods out to catch the seafood.

Maybe it would be nice to enjoy, but there's an egg that needs taking.

Petite Lulu skips along, humming a ditty tune to herself. She's only around half of LeBlanc's height, and looks like a child (it was a little hard to find the right-sized overall for her, actually).

"Are you sure we'll make it to our show in time?" Lulu goes. "I'm a tiddy anxious, Emmy.."

The way they have the security set-up in the museum, it is when they transition to late-night shifts (11:30 pm) that there are the fewest guards to deal with – leaving the bulk of their surveillence up to the cameras and sensors. Nobody really likes staying up that late, except for the night owls who don't have much to do during the day.

All the guards have to do is lounge around in the observation room, watching the monitors, and that can get tedious and boring by itself. (Thank God for TV and Nintendo.)

Swain has the theft plotted out such that they should accomplish the actual stealing in half-an-hour, with a window of 50 minutes to arrive at their performance in the circus. Showtime starts at 1:00 am.

"I'm not really sure," LeBlanc says. "We can only try."

Assisting in the theft is Heimerdinger, who monitors Lulu and Emilia from a disposible van, and Twisted Fate, who will be their getaway driver.

"Just turn right at the next corner and you'll see the club building," Heimerdinger tells them. "Good luck!"

"This night, Lady Luck is a smilin'," Twisted Fate quips from the driver's seat, as he deftly flits with a card in his fingers.

"Luck is nice," LeBlanc goes. "Butvolition is essential."

They approach the club building's entrance, where in the lobby, they introduce themselves as the painters to the bodyguards.

"Your licenses please," the bodyguards say.

Lulu glances to LeBlanc.

"Pocket," LeBlanc mouths.

And they pull out their papers to show the guards, who eyeball through the fields and posed photos – there is always that inkling of doubt LeBlanc has, for even though she's done this routine many times before, she always imagines that minute chance where that something, something she's forgotten about, it just gives her away.

"Okay," the guards go, nodding. "Follow us up."

They lead LeBlanc and Lulu up the elevators to the rather empty third floor, where the hallways are filled with plywood, bundles of metal rebars strewn over the linoleum. Over to a large, bare room that is intended to be a swimming pool one day.

The pool needs to be repainted from grey to white, and the job is only partly done.

"If you need assistance, you know where to look." Thus, the guards leave them alone to their duties, which they don't do.

Instead of that, they leave the paint buckets and head up the stairs to the roof, where they can see the third level of the art museum. It's just right beside, the museum's balcony, except for a gap that needs to be crossed.

A gap that will take a little more than a running long jump to do.

With a flick of her wrist, LeBlanc shoots out a chain that latches onto the balcony's balustrade, and tethers her end of the chain to the nearest lamppost.

"Okay, you first Lulu," she goes.

Lulu hops onto the chain, walking delicately on its thin substance like a tightrope, and she deftly clambers down on the other side.

LeBlanc nods to herself. "Hm." She has a hard time doing a balancing act herself as it is, carrying this bag. She gives the chains a tap, and they disappear like smoke into thin air.

Instead, what she does is imagine her new position, right beside Lulu – and in a blink, she is there already. The dust poofs up from her feet, as if she had just landed after a giant fall.

They quickly strip out of their painter's attire, stuffing them both into one of the bags.

The other bag will be for the egg.

/

In the antechamber holding the egg in a display case, Big Stan is sitting beside, supposedly guarding the new import on a petite blue chair. Except he isn't really awake; he has on those fake 'I'm Awake' glasses that make it look like his eyes are open, yet you can hear him snore.

"Hey, check out Big Stan!" Jeremy tells everyone in the observation room.

Neal is busy racing Jim on the Rainbow Route – they're head to head with each other, Bowser and Toad respectively, and it just seems like Bowser is going to ram poor Toad off the gay track into the depths.

Luckily, Toad manages to run into a powerup, and he gets the banana, which he shoots just ahead of Bowser's kart to make him swivel away, and Toad manages to win first place.

"Damn you!" Neal tosses his wiimote onto the coffee table, stretching his wrists. "Lucky bastard, if that power-up wasn't there..!"

"You gotta take what opportunities come," Jim retorts. "Sucka."

"Big Stan!" Jeremy points out on the monitor.

So Neal and Jim head over to see what the fuss is about.

"Guy's sleeping on the job.." Neal goes, suddenly getting an idea. "Hehe, watch this." He reaches for the announcement microphone, and presses the on button. "BIG STAN!"

Neal's voice booms through the entirety of the museum – corridors and halls, and as if someone has just tossed a firecracker beneath his bum, Big Stan rockets out of his chair, only for him to slip and tumble and splinter the poor chair into shards.

("Hehehe!" Everyone is giggling.)

The audio-triggered alarm screeches for a second, before it gets dismissed.

"Aaaaugh! You dumb pricks!" Big Stan gives the cameras his finger. "That ain't funny, what the hell." Big Stan grumbles as he decides to waddle over to the observation room, maybe to give them a piece of his mind better.

/

LeBlanc and Lulu cringe, hearing the second's alarm from inside. Have they triggered something by accident? Non.. it doesn't seem like it; the alarm disappears just as instantly as they hear it. If that were a real alarm, it would have continued blaring.

Pixy has just carved out a circular hole in one of the windows. (He's Lulu's faerie pet, if you're wondering. He looks like an obsidian butterfly, and he rests safe and comfy in her pockets until he's needed.) That hole should be big enough to squeeze through in.

With her little fingers, Lulu delicately lifts the selected glass from its place, placing the sheet just beside. This will be their entry point, as well as one of their possible escape routes; if they try waltzing in through the closed doors, they'll set off the alarm.

"Let's go," LeBlanc says. "You first."

Lulu pokes her head through the hole. Inside, the hallway is littered to the brim with portraits, framed sketches of artists from the 1970s. It's dark, only lit by the outside lights through the windows or the faux-candlelights hung by the alcoves.

She notices the security cameras – they are just on the ceiling, made obscured under opaque domes that you'd easily dismiss as ceiling decoration if you didn't know better.

"Pixy..!"

Her faerie companion can see the cameras' viewpoints. Right now, the camera by the left corner of the hallway is pivoting between this hallway and the next, while the other camera (at the right end) remains still, its viewpoint lingering over the hall and its portraits.

Pixy whispers all this into Lulu's ears, and Lulu tells him to freeze the still camera.

So with all his might, he fades into invisibility.

Lulu hands LeBlanc a pair of special glasses – allowing them to see the IR (infrared) beams the cameras project. The beams look like white, sparkling dots which rapidly flash in and out of sight, like floaters in your eyes.

It takes a little while before they see the beams from the still camera disappate away, leaving just the pivoting camera to face.

"Which way do we go..? Cecil?" Lulu asks in a whisper.

"Ja, you are by one of the third-floor balconies?" Heimerdinger's voice is a comfort in their ears. "Hmm.. the egg is on the fourth floor, by the occultic artefacts section. So you should be heading right, and follow the signs that point you to the elevators. But first and foremost, the security! Or else it will be a big pain to run through undetected."

Luckily, the server room that manages all the surveillence feeds is just a corridor away – also down the same way to the elevators.

"Got it," Lulu goes. She waits until the pivoting camera turns the other way, before hastily tip-toeing to the nearest alcove, where she can hide from its gaze.

LeBlanc holds her position by the hole, waiting for another fresh 2.5-second period of being unseen – she brushes by the drapes and gets together with Lulu, where they weave out and in the gloomy alcoves, until they pass underneath the frozen camera and round the corner.

Pixy emerges from the camera's dome, fluttering down to perch on Lulu's shoulders.

"Good job," Lulu says, petting him.

The next hallway doesn't have cameras for some reason, but there, the server room is just beside the handicapped washroom. Its door is locked, only openable by the petite IDentiCard scanner by the door handle.

Lulu gets Pixy to connect with the scanner.

"Okay.. I gots a reading," Heimerdinger goes. "It should take only a second.." He is running an algorithm where it attempts to brute-force through the lock, conjuring up many combinations of a 512-bit 'key' that matches up with an existing key from someone's card.

The only thing is that it is taking a bit longer than he expected. He's had to update his program to deal with the latest IDentiCard protocols, where the scanner now sends a notifying signal back to the observation room every time an access attempt is made. His program blocks those signals, but at the expense of the efficiency needed to go through each and every combination.

"Aaaggh, drats!" Heimerdinger says. "I've only gone through 6% of the keys.. 7%!"

"This is taking far too long," LeBlanc sighs. While she doesn't know much of the technical mumbo-jumbo behind the scenes, it gets really frustrating when something doesn't work, especially under time pressure, and there is little she can do about it.

Except.. hm. What if..

LeBlanc focuses her new position at a spot just behind the door, and channels her energies. Suddenly she finds herself in a realm of total darkness, except for the LED server lights, flashing red and green.

She hears something collapse in her wake. Whenever she blinks, she displaces the material that is there, and once, it led her into being trapped in layers of concrete – and it would just exhaust her, to try to summon the will to blink out of there.

Her hand searches for the light switch- there it is. She flicks it on, and sees in the sterile white room that she has split a Ronald McDonald statue into plaster chunks. His head and legs across the floor, while his torso is near-limbless.

Oh dear.

Supposedly, Ronald is there to guard the room, surprising anyone not privy to the guards' inside joke.

Luckily, LeBlanc didn't break any other equipment in the process; she opens the door for Lulu to come in.

"Thanks, Cecil," LeBlanc goes. "We're in the room now."

"Oh, it worked?" Heimerdinger is staring at his monitors, puzzled about the 'DOOR OPENED' status when his program didn't report success.

"Non – I worked, hehe."

The servers line across the walls, numerous coloured wires which protrude from the ports, connecting one server to another in parallel. (LeBlanc would call it a very 'technical' room, made with dorks like Heimerdinger in mind.)

"Now, would you kindly get Pixy to the hub?" Heimerdinger goes.

The hub is where all the servers are connected to, and where you can issue direct commands that will relay to each and every server. What does the hub look like? It's just another server tower, at the end of the room, that happens to have a monitor and keyboard at the ready, at chest height.

Lulu gets Pixy to flutter over and hook up with the hub. She herself though is a little too short to see the monitor, let alone reach the keyboard.

There happens to be a nearby chair though, which Lulu hauls over to the terminal.

Once Heimerdinger gets the connection, he quickly types in commands that prevent the alarm from sounding off over foreign Pixy. Then he sets his fingers to work, typing rapid keystrokes, his keyboard clacking noisily.

To him, it is a sweet sound of tactile feedback.

To Twisted Fate though, it is just noise that signifies progress – and he pulls out his harmonica and blows a few notes, just to pass the time.

What Heimerdinger does is disable the aural sensors (set to trigger upon sounds exceeding 40 dB, the volume of mere footsteps and slight chatter), and freeze the live feed of the security cameras. For the guards in the observation room, they might notice a subtle flick of all their screens, if they weren't busy getting ready to confront Big Stan once he comes.

"Okay, we're set!" Heimerdinger tells them. "Oh, just one more thing.." He sets free the emergency stairway, so that the doors are unlocked and won't make a peep. "Take the stairs, get some exercise!"

"I should stay here," Lulu goes. Pixy needs some looking after.

/

On the fourth floor, LeBlanc emerges from the stairway into a room of blue statues and splashed paintings. Light streams down the oculus hole on the ceiling, from the skylights on the rooftop outside. She hears the dim hum of the ventilation, keeping the air as cool as a brisk autumn.

She resists the urge to shiver.

Once she's glanced at the level's map, LeBlanc strides down the byzantine halls, passing by the stone carvings, swords and spears of a bygone era. To be honest, they're not really interesting to look at.

But at last, after wandering through the rooms, she discovers the antechamber with the egg behind a glass case. It's lit by a dim blue spotlight.

The egg is guarded by a three-stage security setup; first is the motion sensors, which will fire off if she makes even the slightest movements inside the case. Second are the lasers overlaying the egg, and third is the pressure-sensitive plate the egg rests on.

"I'm at the egg," she tells Heimerdinger. "Can you do something about its security?"

"I cannot, I'm afraid," he goes. "I can only handle what's connected to the servers, and apparently the egg is running on its own system."

LeBlanc takes a walk around the egg, amused by the sight of a splintered chair on the ground. She is examining the base of the podium. Maybe there is something inside she can tamper with.

She kneels down and knocks on the hardwood. It seems to resonantly echo, suggesting it is more than just solid wood.

From her bag, LeBlanc fumbles through her items until she finds an X-acto knife, and she extends its blade about two centimetres, and stabs the podium with it, sawing a square hole she can fit her hand though.

She pulls out the cover, and sees inside a host of wires connected on a circuit board.

If Heimerdinger were here, he could easily pick off the right wire, much like anyone can press the right buttons on a TV remote.

But to LeBlanc, it's a jumble. A circuit board is such an intricate thing, where if you touch a component, it can affect the entire system. (It's sort of like being a surgeon, and you're doing a heart surgery – perhaps someone smoked one too many cigarettes, and you have to clean out the arteries while keeping the blood pumping properly through the rest of the body.)

Okay. Where to even begin?

She'd probably make a bad surgeon. The human body is actually very complicated, to think of it, not like dissecting a frog in her biology classes. Non, concentrate!

There isn't much time left; 8 more minutes until they have to pack ship.

"Hey, Cecil?"

"Yes darling?"

"Can you tell me if yanking out all the wires on a circuit will make it stop?"

"Ehem. That depends on the kind of circuit. If it's a simple circuit, like a serial or parallel one, then of course yes-"

But before Heimerdinger has finished explaining, LeBlanc reaches her fingers in and yanks hard on the wires she finds. The wires don't quite give though – she pulls the entire circuit board along from its holster, and suddenly the alarm goes off.

A metal cage emerges around the vicinity of the podium, enclosing her inside, and misty gas billows out of the vents, rising over her feet.

Merde!

"LeBlanc! Schisse, what did you do?!" Heimerdinger is panicking, hastily typing, trying to stop the triggered alarm.

"I thought I could.." If only Swain could have given her pointers about getting it out, or if Heimerdinger were here with her.

No point in subtlety anymore. LeBlanc throws chains at the display case, yanks the glass into pieces, and she takes the egg by her side.

The gas enters her nostrils, and she starts to feel drowsy, as if the urge to sleep threatens to overwhelm her awareness.

(fight it)

Concentrating on the whining alarms, LeBlanc wills herself outside of the cage, and she poofs, hauling the bag by her shoulder and putting the egg in it.

"Emmy, what's happening?" Lulu glances at Pixy for a bit, before she skips off out of the room to find LeBlanc, leaving Pixy alone.

"I tried taking out the security circuitry," LeBlanc goes. "But I messed up real bad."

She is retracing her steps back to the third floor, sprinting through the hallways, remembering the landmark swords and stone carvings passed.

("Oh, time to make a movin'-" Twisted Fate sets his timer to 3 minutes; that's the time they have until the police arrive on scene. He starts the van's engine, and sets the frequency of the radio to the police scanners. "All units, please be advised.. a possible break-in at the Lehmann museum..")

Then LeBlanc sees ahead the flashlights, the bright beams which converge directly at her face, blinding her.

"Hey you!" one of the guards go. "Freeze! Put your hands up and get down on your knees!"

She squints, getting a better outline of their forms.

"Hands up! Down on your knees!" they go. "We will not tell you again! You will be tasered if you fail to comply!"

There are about two, maybe three of them she sees, bunched up together. Maybe more.

LeBlanc fires a chain at the guy at the back, and upon hitting his shoulder, she yanks him towards herself, bumping the two guys in the front and knocking them off balance.

("Holy hell-")

She leaps at their disorientation, her chain dusting away into ashes, and runs past them to the stairwell, where she finds Lulu clambering up for her.

"Emmy!" Lulu goes.

"I have the egg, let's go-!"

Behind LeBlanc, the fourth level door opens, and this time the guards are more wary, coming down the steps in staggered formation.

"Jeremy!" she hears. "Seal the emergency doors! We've got them!"

By the third-floor door, Lulu tries to push the handle, but it doesn't budge – the red light is on.

"Merde..! Cecil!" LeBlanc goes, seeing the guards round the bend. "Get the doors open again!"

The light turns green with an unlatching click, and Lulu gets the door open. They run, and LeBlanc shoots chains, attaching them by both sides of the stairdoor – right before the guards attempt to push though the blocked door.

The chains will only hold as long as LeBlanc is in vicinity, so it will only buy a small escaping distance.

"Is Pixy with you?" LeBlanc goes, lingering by the stairdoor.

"I left him in the server room!"

"Go get him! Vite, vite!"

The guards have given up banging the door, having noticed the chains through the window. "Jeremy!" Jimmy goes. "We're stuck! You're our only hope now, get them!"

"What the.." Jeremy says, noticing how nothing seems to be happening on the monitors. "Alright, I'll get those bastardos, don't you guys worry." He grumbles as he takes one last bite of his donut, before getting to his locker, readying his .44 carbine. He's never imagined how anyone would want to break into this unremarkable museum – except.. maybe that recent egg import has something to do with the robbers. He's heard that it cost the museum a hefty amount of its finances to obtain from excavators, and the egg is going to be such a marvelous attraction, even to the ordinary Joe.

He's not about to let the egg slip away from their hands.

At the server room, Lulu plops Pixy from the server hub and puts him safely in her pouch. When she heads back out, LeBlanc hurries after her to that hallway where they've entered.

Alors!

There is Jeremy, approaching from the other end of the hallway. He's always admired the cowboy shootouts from the oldies when he was a kid – now's his chance to use his carbine!

He aims, focusing at their legs (for a non-lethal takedown), and fires-

"Waaah!" Lulu squeaks, the bullet erupting by her feet.

LeBlanc notices the gun in the guard's hands; she hastily runs past Lulu, drags her along by her hand, looking for the entry hole.

A drift gently nudges the drapes, and LeBlanc brushes the drapes away, thrusts Lulu through the hole, and she feels another loud crack whizz by, where the bullet shatters a porcelain pot by the window.

Jeremy has only fired his carbine months ago, when he was trying it out for practise shoots at the range. He's forgotten how much he needs to hold himself steady, compensating for the massive recoil that throws off his aim.

Now LeBlanc throws her bag through the hole, then takes one last glance at the guard who is now taking another aim at her, before squeezing through.

"Lulu – hold onto me," she tells. So Lulu does. "Tighter.."

Lulu's arms are wrapping around her waist.

LeBlanc focuses at a point higher than the clubhouse's ledge, and immediately, they tumble onto the ground, while behind them, the balcony doors get opened, and Jeremy comes out.

They head back down to the swimming pool before he can squeeze another shot at them.

"Drats!" Jeremy shakes his gun in angry frustration. But there is.. one more thing he can do. He knows the bodyguards at the club, and he has their radio frequency number.

/

LeBlanc and Lulu quickly dress up into their painter's garb. Maybe the bodyguards here haven't come back up yet; painters don't usually need checking on every once in a while.

"TF, get the van by the club entrance!" LeBlanc orders.

Before they head off, Lulu gives a twirl of her hand, shouts "Transmogulate!" and the pool is now a neat, alabaster white.

They reach the elevator, head down to the first floor, and while passing through the midst of the clubgoers, they notice the bodyguards who are tuned in to their radio headsets, intently listening, talking to someone as they're walking by the reception desk.

Then, it is as if that someone has flicked a switch in the guards' brains – they sprint towards LeBlanc and Lulu with stupifying speed.

"Run Emmy!" Lulu skips to the revolving entrance, while LeBlanc narrowly avoids being tackled by a bodyguard, whirling around and shifting her body posture so to be deceptively out of reach.

She pants, managing a burst of sprinting to the revolving doors, where she waves bye-bye to the bodyguards who are one-quarter rotation late.

On the streets, they hear the screech of a van turning, as well as the distant sirens of police cruisers.

The club's bodyguards are rushing from the doors.

LeBlanc and Lulu run down the sidewalks, in the direction of their van.

The bodyguards are closing in.

Lulu pulls a white bunny from her pouches. "Flashy stun!" she tells the bunny, and she throws the petite animal behind in the general direction of the bodyguards.

LeBlanc instinctively shuts her eyes.

None of the bodyguards expect the bunny to do something more fantastical than hopping fast and looking cute, and so they feel the impact all the more when the bunny erupts in a dazzling explosion of blinding light, sparks and smoke.

It's deafeningly loud, and LeBlanc's ears ring uncomfortably after the fact.

The van approaches them, followed by the flashing blue and red sirens. Heimerdinger sweeps the side door open, and the van doesn't stop as Lulu and LeBlanc leap inside to safety.

LeBlanc sees the guards, they're sprawled over the sidewalks, before she slides the door closed.

"All units, be advised," the police radio goes. "Museum suspects seen to have entered a white, plain van. Engage suspect vehicle in pursuit."

The van rattles – Twisted Fate pushes the van to acceleration, the engine roaring. Heimerdinger is busy packing up all his equipment; his monitors, wireless modems, keyboards all into a duffel bag.

Twisted Fate swerves a corner, and through the back windows of the van, you see the two police cruisers easily come around, moving in closer.

Ahead, the downtown street is mostly clear at this time of night, save for a few cars on midnight errands. Using the other lane, Twisted Fate drives past those cars, running through a red light at the intersection.

"Okiies.." Heimerdinger just has his tablet, with a custom GPS program that provides secondly updates on their location, as well as the police vehicles who are tuned in to the scanner's frequency.

Their main objective now is to elude pursuit, find a suitable area near a train station to abandon the van, and ride the train over to the Pattaya Circus, the east side of town.

It's 12:13 am.

Only 47 minutes left.

Twisted Fate turns right at the next intersection, where he notices plenty of cars parked by the curbs. He slows the van down, driving in the middle of the road, allowing the cruisers to catch up to him – checking the mirrors to keep track of their relative positions.

When one of the cruisers try to approach by his left, gradually sliding up to being side-by-side, Twisted Fate swerves left, the van's mass bumping the cruiser off onto one of the parked cars.

This leaves the other cruiser.

The van turns left into an alleyway, where the cruiser follows.

"They're going down the alley by 29th avenue! Block off the south end!"

Upon hearing that, Twisted Fate jams hard on the accelerator – he sees two cruisers parked ahead, their lights strobing.

"Stop! This is the police!" their bullhorn goes. "STOP YOUR VEHICLE!"

"Like I care!" Twisted Fate mutters, before proceeding to smash their cars out of his way, this battering ram of a van – it jolts everyone, clattering Heimerdinger's bag on the floor. The van turns right.

"Dispatch, this is Officer Adamson, requesting immediate air support."

"Air support is en route. You are cleared to use level-2 force."

Up ahead is a bridge. The choppy reverberations of a helicopter in the distance. Twisted Fate drives the van to high speed, as the helicopter turns its spotlight on, quickly zeroing in on the van.

"Folks!" Twisted Fate says. "Get those cruisers off my back!"

"Mm hmm!" Heimerdinger toddles over to the driver's seat and puts his tablet by the dashboard, before he nods to LeBlanc and Lulu to open one of the back doors.

A burst of breeze catches LeBlanc off guard, tussling her hair.

The cruiser is swerving just behind, weaving through the traffic – about a car's length away. The elongated barrel of a shotgun protrudes from their passenger-side window. The officer's aide is in the midst of aiming it.

Lulu pulls out another bunny from her pouch, and she tosses it out at the car.

The aide blows his shotgun; the buckshot hail hitting the bunny, the van's doors and bumper, and through Lulu's hand.

"Owwiee-!" She clutches at her hand, gushing blood out through her palm. It is a very mean-looking wound, where the pellet barely juts out of her wrist.

LeBlanc hauls Lulu behind the closed door, out of their line of fire.

"It hurts.. Emmy.."

From Lulu's pouch, Pixy emerges, swiftly attending to her hand's wound.

"This is Officer Adamson, engaging armed suspects in vehicle!"

Another eruption from the shotgun, and pellets slam the closed door – the impacts denting through the sheet metal.

And another, shattering the glass.

"Get him off!" Twisted Fate shouts.

So Heimerdinger heads to the back door, where he picks a CH-2 grenade from his pockets, arms it to detonate in 1.25 seconds, and throws it out at the pursuing cruiser.

The grenade explodes in a burst of electric static, catching the police cruiser in its wake, frying whatever electronic systems in the car, the computer drive control. The cruiser uncontrollably fishtails, losing any semblance of actual driving, and crashes onto the side of the bridge, where it tumbles sideways onto its top.

"What a reaction!" Heimerdinger giggles.

Twisted Fate notices on the tablet that the red blip chasing him is gone. He also sees that a few blocks away ahead, more cruisers are approaching the other end of the bridge.

He thinks of something.

The van is descending down the bridge onto the streets, and Twisted Fate accelerates, pretending to head straight through the intersection – and then he switches off the headlights, shoves down on the brakes, veers sharply right, a U-turn onto the road beside, hugging the bridge.

The helicopter's spotlight continues chasing after nothing.

"This is Air 3! We've lost visual on suspect."

Twisted Fate drives the van to a shadowy point beneath the bridge, hiding from the helicopter that is frantically aiming its spotlight everywhere, over houses and roads.

You hear the helicopter's blades rushing past, as well as a kaleidoscope of sirens approaching.

"Base to Air 3 – all units, all units. Possible gang shooting in progress. Proceed immediately to Walbash and 12rd street."

"Roger that, I'm out.."

The sirens and helicopter disappear into the fabric of the night, and Twisted Fate checks the tablet, seeing all the police blips heading off to a different area, down west.

"I'll take that back, danke," Heimerdinger goes, nabbing his precious tablet from the dashboard. "Hmm, let's see now. Take a left, head down Irving Avenue, and-"

Twisted Fate doesn't wait for him to finish; he revs up the van and pulls out onto the roads.

"All Westbound units, please advise, suspect white van last seen near 7th street and Irving Ave."

It's a relatively calm drive; Twisted Fate drives the van normally, just without headlights on, and then he turns down an unlit alleyway as a shortcut, slowing down.

And then he sees it.

Two police cruisers, slowly passing by the other end, the flashlights out of their windows, their light beams shining over the detritus, dumpsters, fences, and..

"Dispatch, this is Glenn; possible suspect vehicle sighted in alleyway. Stand by."

"Roger."

Twisted Fate holds his position, watching the cruisers manouver themselves into the wide alleyway, side-by-side. Their sirens start to whine.

Then he jams down the accelerator pedal, switching his headlights on.

The van's wheels screech on the asphalt.

He's on a collision course with the two cars.

"Hey, TF – what are you do- TURN AROUND!" Heimerdinger yelps, instinctively clutching the seats. "We're going to crash!"

The officers start shooting at the van, putting holes on the windshield and hood.

"Turn around! ACHTUNG!"

LeBlanc holds onto Lulu, bracing for impact.

Twisted Fate continues forth, without mercy, and soon enough, the two cruisers have to swerve off aside – each of them crashing into the dumpsters and fences into people's backyards.

"Gets 'em every time," he quips, grinning.

/

The van is left outside of a multi-level parking lot, where Heimerdinger plants a timed explosive in the van while everyone else gets a safe distance away, and then the van's interior is shredded into flames.

"How's your hand, Lulu? Okay?" LeBlanc goes, seeing how Lulu's injury is now a scar, a dim memory.

"I'm keeping this-" Lulu has the deformed pellet at hand. "I'mma put this in my meanie souvenirs."

They hurry down the streets, rushing to the Avinu Station, a building where all you see is the neon sign, a map showing all the stations, and the stairs leading down to the sub-surface levels.

There's hardly anyone in the station, except for a drunk bum by the benches, sitting cross-legged on the old newspapers and plastic bags, meditating. Twisted Fate puts in spare change, buys tickets for everyone, and they head down the escalator into the bright platforms where an Eastbound train arrives, right on time.

The ride is long and solemn, and it feels like being in limbo as the environments just pass by, out the windows. The tunnels, the outside streets – the trees silhouetted by the light-polluted night. The high rises, still the lights on and people tirelessly toiling in their offices, even this late.

LeBlanc wipes the sweat off her face. She gets herself and Lulu out of their painters' clothes, and everyone is busy making themselves up, dabbing powder, lipstick, brushing the dust off their attire.

Lulu puts a neat nightcap on her head, while Heimerdinger puts on his scientific goggles, and Twisted Fate his cowboy hat.

LeBlanc gets her face white like a mime's, and puts noir lipstick on, with some light eyeliner.

They get off at Montana Station, where just in the distance is the circus, the skylights wavering its presence next to the rivers, and all the cars littering a concrete field.

It is 12:58 PM.

They have to sprint through the entrance, all the way to the performers' hallways, where Swain is tapping his foot, checking his watch.

"You guys are almost late," their maester goes. "What is the dawdle? You are here now though, that is what counts. Did you successfully retrieve the egg?"

LeBlanc hands him the bag, where Swain unzips it, cradles the egg in his hands. "Aahhh.. 'tis a beauty." He nods at the backstage entrance. "You know your routines. Impress the crowd, and wow them into our submission."

As they enter the darkness behind the curtains, they hear the crowd hush, the introductory music dim, and the announcer say, "Madames et Monsieurs, les hommes et les filles.. welcome.. to one of the greatest pleasures you will delight in the world!"

Lulu wraps her fingers around LeBlanc's.

Twisted Fate nudges his hat.

"Pattaya Circus is proud to present.. le Societe de Black Rose!"

And the curtains spread open.