Information Is Power

Marcus will let Slinger in, taking his coat. "Mr. Wulfson is in the first room down the hall to the left. That room is a non-smoking room, so please do not light up while your in there. Can I get you something to drink?" He's not really -native american- so much as a guy who comes from the Sioux nation; Probably 1/10th to maybe 1/4th native, if any at all.

"Non-smoking? That's a new first," the kid says with a chuckle, but doesn't appear to be objecting. He gives Marcus a friendly smile, and then yawns, still tired from the previous day's exertions. "I'd take some coffee if you have it. Cream and sugar. Lots of cream and sugar," the youth adds, sheepishly. He surrenders his coat, at least, then wanders toward the back room, a bit curious why the room is non-smoking.

Marcus places the coat in a coat-closet, then leads Slinger to the hobby room, where Johny can be found with a paintbrush in one hand, painting what looks… like a small model of the house you were at last night. "Good morning, Kaivan." Says he, not looking to the boy yet. Focusing on the task at hand.

Slinger steps into the room. Your use of his real name is a signal that we can talk freely, and he casually leans against the doorway for a moment. The fumes from the paint make it clear why there's no smoking, at least. "You know, building little scale models of the city is the first sign of megalomania in movies," he says, with a teasing note in his voice. "Is the kid okay? Back with his family?"

Johny grins, looking over to Slinger. "Well, I have to have a -touch- of meglomania to think I can mastermind the saving of humanity from whats coming down the astral turnpike, so I guess thats a blessing." He sets the house down now, carefully. It looks like he got the floorplan from the matrix maybe and there's a satellite image printed out and tacked to the wall for coloring and terrain information.

He steps away, one hand rubbing over his features then, sort of tired, but also one of those cleansing-the-mind things. "Yeah, The pepper families back together, and they are being relocated right now, but I'm not handling that aspect. Alexander is." Alexander, Slinger may remember is Minos, the big black Minotaur who is one of Sam's best friends.

Slinger can hear that note in your voice. "You and I really, desperately need to talk, I think. You're better informed than I am. And apparently.. there's something big coming. But there are so many other questions I have… starting with Starks. And what you had to do with that. 'Cause I know it's something. I know you too well to think that you aren't involved somehow." He glances around for somewhere to sit while we talk. "I assume this room is secure."

Slinger's tone is friendly, that ever-present grin still there to show he's joking. But there's a hint of seriousness as well.

Johny nods as he glances to Marcus, entering with coffee. "Thank you marcus."

"You're welcome, Sam." Says Marcus before withdrawing…

"What I had to do with Starks." Says Johny, repeating the young mans question. "I killed him. It was a fiasco, Slinger. Starks has been, in the last few years, getting out of hand. Just… loosing his sense of perspective, that he's a twlighter. It's.. It's like this." he says, sitting down on a chair nearby, gesturing for the kid to take the stool. "The mafia is two worlds at once. It exists in the light world, as respectable businesses who do irrespectively things. Mostly its tax evasion, shifting profits, unfair contracts and otherwise taking in as much profit as possible and not -giving it back out-. Thats the Mafia, in a nutshell."

He Exhales then… "Once, Joey Lucciano was a bright boy, who understand that delicate dance. Balancing the need to be legal, and operate in plane sight, with the need to bring in the cash. He lost that perspective in the last few years though." He almost repeats himself now. "I fielded a lot of complaints from the Shadow Community about him leaning on them, hard. Extorting money, demanding profits, all the usual stuff. The thing is, this wasn't Joe and Mable Paulson, hardware store owners, if you scan me. This was fixers and players in the shadows."

Slinger gratefully accepts the coffee, giving Marcus a smile of thanks. "He calls you Sam, at least. I better avoid it. I have to fight the urge to call you that every time we meet." And then he falls silent, listening. Considering that, quietly. He's never dealt much with that world — mostly stayed off the radar of organized crime except for the occasional job. "Leaning on Runners tends to be bad for your health. Trying to use the organization as a weapon, rather than his own skills. And that tends to get you removed."

Johny nods to the man. "In private, it helps me… keep a handle on who I am sometimes. It's easy to get lost in the faces." he admits, taking the coffee now. His is black. Bitter. Strong. Like his ex wife. "Anyway. Yes. Exactly so. And someone hit back, hard. They bombed Frankies in downtown, they blew up his warehouse in the warrens. Now, the smart man says hey, uh, people are lobbing explosives at me. Maybe I should look to that and secure my shit."

He shrugs then, reaching over to put the cap on a bottle of paint. "But he didn't. He… did what he's learned works; He went on the offensive. On Shadowland there were a couple voices that clearly spoke for him, and they started making threats. One of them was on Kassandra." He says simply. The way he says Kassandra holds that there's something deeper to his association with her than simply friends and coworkers, but it would take someone who had known him forever, to pick that distinction out of his usual verbal monotone.

"He put a price on her head when she objected to some of his threats. The details are unimportant, but I stepped in and negotiated a peace. A return to status quo. He didn't honor it and then put another price on both our heads. 500,000." He turns his head this way and that… "I think I'm prettier than that little." He says, a tone of amusement.

"But… I couldn't stand for that. I spoke to the Don. I told him what went down. What I was going to do. And I was sorry. THe don understood."

"And then I did what I do best."

The kid chuckles. "Not like there's any reason to prefer one name. I figure 'Sam' is no more your real name than Johny is. Or any of the others." He tilts his head. "So Frankie's wasn't you? I figured it was the same people who toasted him." He starts to reach for his smokes, but manages to catch himself. He's an addict — and it's a habit whenever he's having a serious conversation.
When you mention Kassandra, Slinger probably does catch that note in your voice. Few people have known Sam as long as this particular keebler kid. The price causes a chuckle. "Half a million wouldn't even cover the cost of the ammo it would take," he comments with amusement. "You protect yourself well." He nods slowly. "It sounds like he had it coming. But… what happened to the Don? I heard he was dead. And the Yakuza claimed responsibility — and even /I/ know enough to know that's bulldrek."

"Yeah, actually, there is." Says he, sipping his coffee. "At the core, I am a manufactured man, Kaivan. The product of one to many mnemonic overlays and memory alterations. I don't know for certain what I was born as, what I was raised as. But all indications point to Samuel Thayer, his family and his life being my primary core identity, likely the one I joined the Company with." You can hear the Big C in that. "And reminding myself who I am in private, helps me cope with being someone else in public. It's all psycho babble." He says, waving that off.

"No. I didn't bomb his warehouse or his restaurant. Explosives… are not what I do best. I deal in permits and taxes and tearing apart your finances, in manufacturing evidence, in harrassment and using the system against you. WHy would I do something so stupid as bomb a AA rated area across from Lone Star HQ, when I could just forge papers on the trix that his health and Safety licences had been revoked?"

Slinger chuckles, though it's with a certain melancholy sadness. "Then I'm honored to know that man first and foremost. Because that's still who I think of you as. And I'll guard that identity of yours even more carefully… Sam." He says it warmly — as somebody who genuinely cares about you. Because you are one of the few true friends that Slinger has. "I didn't figure it was you — but you also have a tendency to know just about everyone. You, or somebody you work with, was what I figured." He pauses. "So /is/ the Don dead? And if so, /was/ it the Yaks? Or is this just some cover story? I'm just thinkin' — if Innocenti is gone, then I would think we'd be seeing a massive power struggle. And I heard Starks… didn't die. Maybe he decided to get some revenge on the Don for authorizing the hit?"

"Starks didn't die." Admits Sam then, looking -rather- annoyed at that. "Starks is a paranoid. But for once, he did the smart thing and had a body double. Gave him all his gear. So over the course of three days I tracked him down, stole his car, robbed him blind. I put every civil and criminal agency on his ass. Didn't take much, I just decked his financial information, his companies, and used forensic accounting to follow the money. The money never lies, Kavian. I then forwarded the info appropriately"

He sighs then. "So when we took down the body double, I called the Don. THe Don called me off. Now, as much as I wanted to really kill Starks, he's not worth alienating the Don of Denver, and more, a friend. So I backed off. But with the don supposed to be dead, and I'm not hearing -any news- on this, at all… Theres a total blackout… I don't know whats going to happen."

Slinger nods thoughtfully, considering that for a moment. "That's far more than I already knew. All right. I… been thinking about things. Trying to shore up my defenses. Right now, I'm pretty good on the offensive, but there's stuff that can take me down. Need to learn some martial arts, figure out how to fight with a sword since I usually have it out. And… upgrade myself. I need to be able to shoot a gun, too, for those things that magic can't take. And I figured… I'd ask you about that. Maybe you could ask Draco on my behalf, get me some stuff instead of payment. Seems a good trade."

Johny nods to Slinger, sipping his coffee. "Absolutely. I can make that happen for you, arrange a clinic up to beta grade… maybe delta, if I pull a lot of strings. And, I can do your implantaiton. The plantimes a bitch, but for you, I'd do it."

The youth nods, grinning. "I dunno about Delta… I mean… hopefully, this won't hit my magic too hard. Been checking… and I think I can handle the hit. Plus, I can just initiate… I think I got a handle on it. And I also sometime need to get my gun upgraded. So I do need some paying work, sometime," he says with a smile. "Need to get myself a good gun… maybe even one of those smartlink-thingies. And whatever else you'd suggest."

Johny thinks that over. "Smart link in the primary hand. We can go with a full package, but thats beefy in terms of aural shift. If you wanted to lose the eyes and go full chrome there, we can put an image link in the eyes, some flare comp, a little vision mag, and still come in underneath the aural cost of all those units together. The Processor and the induction pad would be installed separately for a very good return rate on the aural damage."

Slinger shakes his head. "No replacement on the eyes," Slinger says firmly. "I like my eyes. And… I've read that for elves, the low-light stuff doesn't work as well, no matter what they do. I like my natural dark-vision." He grins at that, then shrugs. "Let's just install the mods right into my eyes. That works, right?" He nods thoughtfully, considering all of that. "Anything else we can put in? 'Cause I know it works in steps, somehow. It's weird."

Johny nods slowly… thinking it over. "That is a truth, but we can offset that with an eyelight system. Have you considered a superflash system in the eyes? I have one, and, frankly, its one of the best investments I have ever made. It's the ultimate in self defense or unexpected offense."

Slinger shakes his head. "Fundamentally, man, I work by stealth. I hate being spotted, at least in the physical. Eyelights — those are just gonna make me glow — completely make me visible. I don't want that. And what the hell is superflash?" he asks, tilting his head. He's completely out of his element here, and visibly a little uncomfortable with the conversation. "Not the first time I've gone under the knife, but…"

Johny taps his face. "Okay. You know flashpacks, right? Grenades that produce a bright light that blinds the enemy?" He grins then. "I got those in my -eyes-. Catch eyecontact with someone, and everyone in front of you is blinded. Even glare comp doesn't do -much- to help. They have a drawback, but its really rare for them to overload.."

Slinger nods thoughtfully, grinning a little bit. "Trouble is… doesn't that mean I gotta get cybereyes? And like I said… cybereyes just ain't as good as my real ones. They're fine for humans, but they never got elf-vision right. And once my eyes are gone, I can never get 'em back." He considers for a moment. "I dunno anything about this … anything else you'd recommend?"

Johny thinks it over. "Well, as a mage, you could always use senseware. Have you considered a dampner/ampliphier and select sound-filter perhaps?"

Slinger nods thoughtfully, then shrugs his shoulders. "Sure. Hearing better would be a good thing," he agrees. "Though it doesn't help me with magic. I guess I just dunno what's available," he admits with a small sheepish smile. "If those'd help, that's good. The big thing is making it so I don't get blinded by anything bright all the time." He considers. "Thermo never seemed all that useful to me," he admits. "Am I wrong?"

Johny thinks that over, stroking a hand down his chin. "Thermographic is very useful in rural settings. In the city, theres to much ambient heat, be it from vehicles or from heating systems, ect… but its useful enough as you get out of the core or in to less dense areas. It's useful outside."

Slinger considers thoughtfully. "Might be worth considering, too. I dunno where my limits are, is the thing, so everything sounds good. Except replacing my eyes," he adds with a grin. He looks at the table thoughtfully, just considering things. And seems somewhat distracted… partially uncomfortable with the conversation, and the nature of it. As if it were somehow shameful.

Something in the boys demenour catches him. Something personal. "Kaivan." He says quietly. "Let me share something with you." He says now, settling back in the chair. "I have… Plastic bones, Nanomesh skin, electronic eyes, ears and a computer in my brain that augments everything I do. I have a constant visual HUD that overlays everything with information tags. Like, for example, right now, your cigarette pocket is overlaid with 'AMerican Spirits'. While I am an extreme example, Kaivan… the sights I see with my eyes somehow pale to the memory of how I saw before I had them. I always wonder if the electronic eye, despite its -technical- advances over the M1-EB (Mark one eyeball) is missing something… soulful."

Slinger chuckles thoughtfully. "I guess… there's a part of me, that comes from the magic side, that almost regards 'ware as 'cheating' somehow. As if I'm s'posed to do all this with just me, not with augments. You know? I guess… even though I shouldn't, part of me feels… ashamed even discussing this. That make sense?" He lets out a breath. "I got used to having the damper, though, so I can get used to this. It's just… you know, feels weird."

Johny laughs then, a deep, loud laugh. "Let me tell you something." Says the man then, leaning forward, a grin on his lips. "Sam Thayer was born in Portland Oregon. 2013. I was 5 years old, by a few days, when the Ghost Dance cooked off the mountains. I don't know if you can appreciate what its like to be five years old, and told the -entire world- is ending as we know it… and then the very earth itself shakes itself to peices and a volcano 20 miles away burries your city in 3 feet of volcanic ash, with burning chunks of rock setting the far half of the city on fire." He shrugs then. "My family relocated to Chicago after the Treaty of Denver, but forever after, we'd play games, like with army men, right? Those little 3 and a half inchers that come with guns and vehicles. And me and my pals as a kid, would stage mock battles as we killed injuns by the thousands… And there'd always bee some fat fuck kid who'd throw dogshit at us and say it was 'magic'. The other side of the idle is always cheating, Kaivan. Thats just the way of the world."

Slinger glances out toward the hallway, and grins. "I'm starting to jones for a cancer stick. Think we can wander out there?" he wonders. But in response to your words, he nods slowly, letting out a slow breath. "I… I dunno — I mean, for me, I was born into this world. I'm not that old, really… so for me, this is all 'the way it's supposed to be'. Even though I know better, know this is a pretty fucked up world… I don't want to go back to what was. Magic is too much a part of me."

Johny nods to slinger as he moves to stand up. "No. Theres no stopping whats happening to the world. And, if I really want a world with no magic, I just have to wait 5000 more years." He says, moving in to the hallway. "Comeon. We'll go out to the kitchen and get some grub."

Slinger rises to his feet, follows along after his friend, finishing his coffee. And he reaches for a smoke as soon as the room door is safely closed. "So what did you mean when you said 'what's coming down the road'? You seemed to imply some major change in the astral… but this is the first I heard of it. You know a lot about the sixth world… stuff I don't even know — and supposedly this is my area of knowledge, y'know?"

Johny chuckles quietly as he leads the man in to the main room. "The 6th world. It's a name that comes from the Mayan Calender. They plotted the cycle of magic. Now, some people see magic like this." And the lights turn off, then back on. "Like a yes/no equation. But thats not the case. Magic is a tide and it ebbs and flows. Magic came up some… and spike babies were born. Magic came up more and Dragons woke up and elves and dwarves became normal birthing events, if odd. Magic rose more still, people Goblinized…"

The young elf lights up a cancer stick and inhales a huge, deep drag, polluting his lungs and the air. "Mmm. Wonderful smokydeath," he says with a playful grin. But he listens to it — nothing he hasn't heard before, but it makes sense. "So what you're saying is… the tide may not have come all the way in yet. And pretty soon it's going to be even more intense. Good news for guys like me… but… the world is gonna get weirder. More critters, more stuff like that."

Johny glances at Slinger then, offering a grin. "Marcus, bring up the chart." Says he. Marcus appears from the kitchen, tapping on one of the smart-pads embedded in the wall. The trid comes on, a three demensional display. A very simple graphic comes in to focus, a sine wave. As it focuses, notations appear on it.

Cycleofmagiccopy.jpg

You say "No. High tide, Kaivan… is 2000 years from now.""

Slinger blinks, trying to imagine that time scale. "I'm gonna be long dead before that happens," he comments. "Prolly less if I keep smokin'. But I'm much more likely to die in combat than of lung cancer, anyway…" But when he continues, the youth falls silent. There's more here, and he is listening raptly.

Johny explains… "The Ghost Dance… was power beyond what should have been available. It was required more mana than was flowing through the world than was available. NO ones sure where HOwling Coyote learned the rite in the first place, and its a subject of much intense investigation, but no ones seen Coyote in decades." he admits. "See, the Ghost Dance was -blood magic-. More than 90 percent of the dancers died in it."

Slinger had never heard that. Had never realized that — or made the connection. "Blood magic," he whispers, his voice darker as he says it, contempt dripping from it. "But it is a fuel for magic," he admits. "And the population of the world is a /lot/ higher now than it ever has been. And if more people die… especially violently… that might be fueling magic, accelerating the rise… is that what you're thinking?" The Ghost Dance… an event so old it is shrouded in mystery, almost a legend rather than truly /history/.

Johny nods. "It created a spike." Says Sam then, stepping over to the trid. He dips a finger in to the holographic spectrum, around the year 2017ish… and drags upwards. It creates a blurring of the line, spiking upwards above where the line should be. "A spike is a dangerous thing. Because, the meta planes connect to us at different threshholds on this curve. So, things that should arrive here.. " He points to the manalevel at 2500 AD… "Is actually achieved -here-, at 2050." he says quietly. "Now, most spikes are localized. Small time. Very small things that don't change things appreciably. But the Ghost Dance, it was major. It created a spike in the mana-flow that allowed certain creatures to find us far too quickly for our liking. For example?"

He looks back to Slinger. "The Invae.":

Slinger is following the discussion, at least that far. But then there is this new word. "The Invae?" he repeats, leaning forward, fascinated by all of this and visibly more than a bit disturbed. "None of this stuff gets reported. Do the corps know and are just hiding it? Or is this something you stumbled across?"

Slinger is following the discussion, at least that far. But then there is this new word. "The Invae?" he repeats, leaning forward, fascinated by all of this and visibly more than a bit disturbed. "None of this stuff gets reported. Do the corps know and are just hiding it? Or is this something you stumbled across?"

Johny shakes his head. "None of the above. The corps arn't involved, actually. This is… higher level than the corps. Dunklezahn knew." he says quietly. "This spike here, the Ghost Dance one?" He smoshes it back down. "It's gone. And so is Dunklezahn. See, the power to cap a spike that powerful is also beyond the scope of current magical levels. So he performed blood magic." He glances back to the man. "An act of love."

The youth thinks about that for a moment. "I don't know much of anything about him. Other than what's in the history books, and that's confused. How do you know him? You… seem like you actually know him. I was born after he died. And yet… I would do just about anything for what he created. He was… what someday I hope to be able to approach."

Johny shakes his head. "I never met him in person. Alexander did, briefly, just before the late President died. But, I've met an -incarnation- of him. I've seen his legacy. And he wrote me a letter. So, he knew me, I suppose. I hope he knew me."

«OOC» Johny says, "You can't have been born after he died."
«OOC» Johny says, "He died 12 years ago, ICly"
«OOC» Johny says, "55, Bug city, 57, new elections, he died on anaugeration day, august 57."
«OOC» Slinger says, "Oh! Didn't know that. Nix that part and replace with Slinger just being young at the time."
«OOC» Johny nods.
«OOC» Johny says, "I know all kinds of obtuse and obscure shit."
«OOC» Johny says, "I hated, but loved, doing applications because I actually read shit and rejected stuff (but worked with the players to fix) bad theme in backgrounds."
«OOC» Johny says, "Moving forward thogh"
«OOC» Johny says, "My pose stands ;)"

Slinger considers that for a moment. "Wrote you a letter. How did that happen?" He's trying to piece all of this together. He takes a hard drag of tobacco smoke, exhales it toward the ceiling, and smiles. "I wonder if he'd approve of me," he adds, his voice a little wistful. "Just… wish there were more I could do. I tend to work as just me — but I can't do it all. I'm not as good at the moving-and-shaking side."

Johny looks at Slinger. "Well. Thats an interesting question. Approve. How does a dragon thats 20,000 plus approve of us? Me, as a human, my normal lifespan is… a blink of an eye. You, slightly less so with 500 years as a lifespan. I think he would approve of your ideals, but as a dragon, the highest predator on the planet, I don't know if he'd approve of your pacifism."

Slinger smirks. "I'm not a pacifist," he points out. "You show me a blood mage and I'll do my damnedest to toast them. And if those guys yesterday hadn't been worth more alive than dead, I might well have toasted one of them. Wouldn't have cried if the mage had died. You hurt or threaten innocents, then I'll take you down. But I'm not going to kill innocents if I don't have to. And I'm not gonna geek some poor security guard who did nothing more to deserve it than take a job to feed his family."

Johny nods, thinking that over as he opens the patio door. "I see what you mean." Says the older man. "I have a point of view similar to yours, I think my threshold for threat is just lower than yours. Call it being jaded from a lifetime in the shadows. I think Dunk would approve of you, in the end, yes. He was facinated by us, you know. Humanity. The way we had grown in such an unexpected fashion since the last age of magic. How we had recovered from the loss of magic and the fall of Thera… how we had developed technology entirely independant of magic."

"Probably that I'm just younger and more idealistic. I prefer not to kill when I don't have to. But you know I can do it if I have to. You saw that. And these days… I'll do it. But I'm not going to kill for money or expediency. I'm going to kill because I have to, or because somebody has it coming. I'm not a psychopath who kills because he gets paid to." His eyes rest on Samuel's face and for a moment, you can see the intensity of his passion, before that lopsided grin is back.

Johny nods slowly, looking to the younger man. "And thats why I like you, Kaivan. You remind me that problem solving is not always a binary equation. It keeps me human. And in the next few centuries, I'm going to need that." He says simply, looking back to the Trid. "See this red line here, marked Scourge?"

Slinger nods, frowning a little bit as he draws on his cigarette. "Yeah, I see it. It sounds bad. And what are those… what'd you call them, Imnae or something like that?" he wonders.

Johny glances to Slinger. "No. The Invae are the bugspirits that took over Chicago and engaged in, literally, a massive conspiricy to take over major governments. You remember General Yates, who ran against Dunk for president of the UCAS?" A pause. "He was a flesh-form Bug Spirit. He was assassinated because we found out." He shrugs then, looking back to the map. "The Invae, bug spirits, are supposed to be precursors, by a few hundred years, of the Scourge. They shouldn't have been here for another 1800 years. That spike, Slinger, was -very- bad."

Slinger's mouth forms into an 'O'. "Didn't know that name for them. So… did Dunk's death put us back on track? Or is it getting closer, faster?" he asks carefully. "I mean… what are we dealing with in real terms… and what can we do? And will making the world better put it off?"

Johny grunts thoughtfully. "I don't know. No one does. The spike was a localized gateway that allowed the deeper metaplanes to access the terrestrial sphere a lot sooner than they should have. See, the spike never goes away, as ambient mana levels rise, so does the spike, always piercing deeper in to the mataplanes. It floats on the tide. So for 40 years, Slinger, there was an open conduit in to metaplanes we have yet to dream about. It's sealed now, but whats here is here. Anyway." he shakes that off, looking to slinger.

"When mana reaches its peak and the deepest metaplanes touch our world, the Enemy comes. Thats what Dunk called them. And when the enemy comes, the world -ends-. Let me be very clear. The world -ends-. Imagine a plague of locusts descending on a fresh crop of corn. Nothing you do will get rid of them; Nothing you do will stop them eating every thing in that field. Now, Kaivan… imagine those are spirits, astral beings of such power that Great Dragons dig under ground and hide until mana levels drop enough after the peak, that the Enemy has to retreat."

"The world… ends. So how do humans survive it?" he wants to know. "Obviously, we /did/ survive. Right? Because…" He glances at the graph. "HUmans didn't evolve in the last 8000 years, unless you believe the Christians, and then we didn't evolve. So obviously the world didn't end last time. So why would it /end/ this time?"

He nods. "End is relative." He states, looking back to the simple graph. "Humanity developed methods of hiding, probably given or stolen from the Dragons. No love lost between Atlantis and the Dragonkind. Goes back to your rebellion, I think. Anyway. Caers, is what they are called. Underground… falloutshelters designed to shelter a small fraction of mankind for hundreds of years. Estimates put the Caers as able to hold ten percent of the worlds population. The Caers had a failure rate of nearly 6 in 10. Thats not counting natural disasters such as plagues, poor planning, ect. So roughly 97 percent of the worlds population died, Slinger. In the most gruesome, horrible ways you can imagine."

"The horrors feed on… rock. On grass. On flesh. On fear. On terror… and they are not mindless. They will… farm us before a last glut and feast before they retreat."

Slinger shudders, a small ragged breath flowing into him, filled with toxic smoke before he uses the ashtray. And then he lets it out — the images that go through his mind are vivid, and yet nothing like the reality. "So what can we do? Seriously — what is it that we can do? Because if that is our fate, then we sort of wonder what any of it matters? We die today… or die then. Or maybe, just maybe, we can find some way around it."

Johny grins. "Now you're thinking like Dunk." He says with a nod. "See, we have something no one ever had before. We have 5000 years of continuous, steady technological progress fed and fueled by an insatiable desire to know. The matrix, you know, there are some theorums we've created our own astral plane? We are something -new-… and we have BIG BIG guns. Dragons are not invunerable. Nor are spirits. So, in essence Slinger, thats what I do. I work for the Foundation, looking for threats to humanity and stomping on them as quickly and ably as possible. All the while, with our eyes on the prize, the survival of humanity as a whole and the breaking of the cycle. Because if we don't, we go right back in to slavery. We loose everything we've fought 7000 years to build. Be it Draconic enslavement, or Elven enslavement, or the remnants of Aztechnology… it's all about who has power in the post-scourge world."

"That's one of the decisions I made when I was away, you know. I was gonna ask Draco for work. I like being independent, outside the corporate structure, but I believe in what they're doing. And I'm ready to do what I can to help. It'd be nice if I could get paid, but only reason for that is to buy stuff to let me keep doing what I'm doing. I'm ready, Sam. I'm ready to do what it takes. I don't wanna toast innocents, don't want to turn into somebody who breaks eggs just to make his favorite omelette, but I'll do what it takes if I have to."

Sam nods. "I don't have that luxury, but thats why I need people like you in my life." he says honestly. "I can, and will, kill a thousand people to eradicate a cult dedicated to the Enemy. Because if they succeed in pulling one across… millions may die. Just look at Chicago."

The boy sighs. "Sam… I killed millions of people in Japan. You /know/ I'll pull the trigger if there's no other way. I /will/ do it. I'll hate myself for it. But next time I won't be so weak that I run off to do astral quests and feel sorry for myself like I did," he promises. "I'll search like hell for any, any other option. But when push comes to shove, you know I'll do it, when I know what's at stake." He lights up another cigarette — he still doesn't like that memory.

Johny chuckles at that, offering a nod. "It's a hard thing you had to do. And I respect the hell out of you for doing it. It's a fucked up thing when a dragon reaches beyond the grave to tap you on the shoulder and thrust on you a responsibility and ability you never wanted." He shrugs then, reaching for a cigarette of his own. "But you know? Never vote for a politician who wants the office."

Slinger nods quietly. "I wish he was around now. The Foundation is there, but it's still mortal. And still consists of people. People can be corrupted — and that's what I most worry about. On the other hand, elevating a dragon as a God… that isn't a good idea, either." He lets out a breath. "So I want in. How do I get in… and what can I do for the Foundation? Without having to don a suit."

Johny smirks quietly. "Right now, I think you're far better off walking your own path than signing on to the Foundation." He pauses a moment. "I mean to say, Kaivan, you have a lot of soul searching to do, and every chance I get, I'm going to farm work to you. But I think you need some time to find your feet and your self, before you subsume them to a greater goal. Let me tell you… this Mission is a weight, a stone around my neck. Benedicte left me because of it… and I can't say we had been in love in several years, but it changes people. The sense of responsibility is enormous."

Slinger looks a little disappointed. "Yeah. Need a little time to get better, so I can meet the requirements," he agrees, accepting that. Even if he thinks it's because he doesn't quite measure up to what the Foundation wants. "I'm still there, still want to be part of it, no matter what. So anything I can do to help, let me know — even if I don't have the skills yet."

Johny shakes his head. "No. You meet the requirements, man." He says, reaching out to touch the mans shoulder… "I just want to be sure, Kaivan, that you are ready for it, personally. I can't say theres no going back, because we havn't really examined that. It's more that.. Kaivan. You're just back from your… journies. I think you need to take some time in the real world, walk it a bit. Get your dick sucked some, go to some parties. Love life a little, before you take up a sword that tires the arm."

Slinger lets out a sigh, lights up another smoke. "I'm still ready to do what I can. I don't have to obsess about it, to start doing the right thing. Send me work when you can, though — I understand if you aren't certain, or somebody else in the org isn't certain. But I'll do what it takes to prove myself, Sam, and start doing some good."

Johny smiles slightly. "How about this. I'll arrange a few jobs in the near future to give you a chance to interact with the other members. We don't do anything by fiat because we are forming… something more than just a black-ops team. More like a family. And I'm learning to respect their opinions, even if their opinions, I know are going to mirror mine."

Slinger smiles. "That'd be good. One of the thing I hate most is running with psychos who will shoot me because they don't agree with how the mission is going." He rolls his eyes. "Gotta love those kinds." He then sighs. "I oughtta get home — but it's good to talk to you again. And keep me posted. And figure out… well, how to get this 'ware into me, huh?" he asks with a grin.

Johny nods. "We can do that. I'll put in a requisition to the foundation for some of the ware we talked about."

Slinger stands up, and grins. "If you got an idea for somebody who might give me some of that 'fun' you talked about, lemme know," he comments. He finishes his cigarette, then rises to his feet. "Thanks, Sam. I appreciate it — and I know a little more of what I need to do." And he reaches out for a handshake.

Johny takes the hand, but pulls the kid in to a Man-hug. "You walk straight, find some laughs. I'll be here." He pulls back then. "Go shake the pillars of heaven."

Slinger laughs, hugging his mentor and friend. "Take care, Sam. And have some fun for yourself.

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