Love as a Shield

The phone call was a simple enough one. If you could please join Johny at the warehouse; the general term used for the massive storage unit that he uses to store Watchers Gear. Janie may not have ever been here, so Marcus would be offered to drive her.

Janie appreciates the offer and accepts the ride. She hasn't been to the place before although she knew about it, and she's almost as curious about the place as she is about Johny's reasons for calling her.

Marcus will pause outside the storage area, probably one of the largest possible here (The kind rented out by general contractors and are in effect small warehouses)… "He's… a little different. Try not to stare, okay? The fact that he wants to see you right now is somewhat surprising to me… so.. don't stare."

Janie raises an eyebrow, but nods. "Understood," she replies, even more curious - and slightly concerned - now.

With that, Marcus would let Janie in. He would remain outside, smoking a cigarette. The warehouse itself is dimly lit, only enough for those with good, low light vision to see. A blue glow comes from the rear of the large chamber (several vehicles, and massive rows of storage cabinets and such dominate the room).

Janie has pretty good eyesight, but only in the regular human spectrum. She blinks a few times and lets her eyes adjust before making her way toward the light source.

The tank as it turns out, is a nanotech augmented healing tank attached to a small bank of computers. The light comes from the neon lighting that runs at the top and bottom of the tank. Within the solution, suspended, is a humanoid form. The forms right arm, to the shoulder, is cybernetic, a beautifully done sumulacrum, but obvious chrome all the same. The left arm is stripped of skin, also to the shoulder, revealing muscle and tendon. Where lips should be, only teeth; where eyelids, only cybernetic eyes that cannot close. Where he should have a face, he has only angry layers of muscle and fatty tissues, his face carved entirely away.

"I apologize for my current status. I hope it does not discomfort overmuch." Sam's voice, digitized and transduced over a pair of speakers, break the silence.

«Auto-Judge[]» Janie (#4136) rolls Willpower vs TN 8 for "HOLY GEEZUS WHAT THE FUCK?":
1 2 3 4 4 4 5 13 = 1 Success

Janie actually manages not to stare, although she does wince and pale slightly. She tries to remind herself she's seen worse things, but the only thing that springs to mind is her glimpse of the astral around the altar in the orphanage Weeko escaped from.

Still, she's an Initiate - and a Warrior, to boot. The latter understands, if only intellectually, about the horrors of battle injuries while the former does not achieve their state by being weak of stomach or will. She breathes slowly and forces herself to calm and try to treat Johny's condition with the same detached courtesy that he's showing. Or at least pretending to show.

"I'd say I've seen worse, but I'd have t'lie," she replies. "I heard somethin' about ye an'Ally an'Kass comin' back from somethin' in poor shape, but this tops my assumptions by a few million percent…"

"It is less than pleasant from this side." Say the speakers now. "I have some questions for you." They crackle and hiss, echoing in the large room. "To preface, I must admit and apologize; I've been hard on you. Unfair to you, and I am sorry. I do not say that often, so savor it while you may."

Janie nods and sits down, her usual witty repartee not immediately materializing.

"Moving in to this endeavor, I came with a set of expectations. Expectations of operational security and my required role within this organization. My career to this point has been one of short term, that is, 1 to 3 years long, operations against set, defined foes with clear, known weaknesses. During that time, it is possible to maintain operational security only through strict adherence to protocol and form; And in that short term, it works."

The speakers are silent a moment.

"But this is not a short term situation; nor is this an intelligence operation. It is something… different. To apply the same rules to this endevour as I would to a 3 month operation is unrealistic and unfair."

Janie nods again, in agreement as much as to show she's listening and digesting the information.

"I am not perfect; I do not have all the answers. The answers I do have are constantly evolving as situations change, and I try to ensure I have access to the best information on which to make decisions. For example, my current status is the result of decisions made without all the information available."

"Do you love May? Before you answer this question; I want you to give it due thought. This is not a question of preference, such as loving fizzyglug as opposed to WhamWOW or SLURM. This is not a question of erotic affection such as a crush or simple lust. This is not a question of philos, as a brother to a sister. This is a question of something deeper, something baser. COnsider, then answer."

Janie takes Sam's advice and considers her answer - and her feelings - carefully before responding. "I do. It's not just eros or philios; there's agape too. Ye know I'm helpin' her, keepin' her balanced an' at least close enough to th'straight an'narrow that she's got a point o'reference, but in some aspects that goes both ways."

She shrugs, then draws her guns and contemplates them; the orichalcum finish of the etched words catches the dim light, seemingly glowing with their inherent power. "I'm a warrior at heart; I've a talent an' aptitude f'r fightin' an'killin' — an' I can't honestly say that it doesn't feel like a rush when I go all out. Th'surge o'adrenalin, th'way th'very air smells sweeter when ye realize that despite someone else's best efforts ye're still alive an' he isn't, th'way everythin' snaps into perfect detail… It's easy t'get a taste f'r it. T'become addicted to th'violence like a junkie livin' f'r his next fix…"

She trails off, her eyes closing for a moment. Bad analogy. Bad memories of watching her mother's body waste away with a mindless smile and vacant eyes, lost in a BTL dream…

It takes a few moments before she manages to continue. "I say I don't like havin' t'resort t'violence, much less havin' t'use lethal force in a fight, an'that's both th'truth an' a lie…

"Speakin' intellectually, it's th'truth. More often than not, violence is a suboptimal solution, riskin' wasted resources an'causin' more problems later down th'line, an'once ye start primarily relyin' on violence it's hard t'stop because people will assume ye'll keep doin' it an' pre-act accordingly. Emotionally, though, it's a lie; there's a part o'me that doesn't feel alive unless my heart rate's at a hundred an'there's cordite in th'air, an' it resents th'leash I keep on it…"

"That's where May comes in. She thinks highly o'me, o'all th'things I managed t'explain to her about th'warrior's code an'what it means, an' th'thought o'disappointin' her, o'lettin' her down like that is more'n enough t'keep that leash tight an'strong."

"I don't think I'm th'kind o'person who literally couldn't bear t'keep on livin' if I were t'lose her… But I'll challenge heaven an'hell with nought but my own flesh on her behalf if that's what it takes." There is steel in those last words; more than just a promise, a statement of fact from someone who already has done something close to that.

"That is an exceedingly interesting answer." Says the man in the tank through the cold, toneless speakers. "I am not a man who loves often, nor freely. Most think I am quite incapable of such things. I fear many things, and this fear prevents me from acting freely. I fear failing my friends because I am too attached to the here and now to do the right thing for the future; to pull the metaphorical and literal trigger."

"I am a man apart, and to tell you honestly, it hurts like hell. It's unsustainable and I will pay the price again and again; but it is my role in this pageant. It cannot be yours, nor should you ever seek it to be; likewise nor should I encourage it."

"Love.. Janie, will be, if you continue this path, all that sustains you. Impress upon May the need for secrecy. Impress upon her the truth of the situation; and based upon her appreciation of those variables… tell her what is required to keep you and she strong."

Janie nods again. "I will."

"That is all I wanted, Ms. Blair. Some things, should not be discussed over the phone. And I did not feel that waiting another week was the best thing. Thank you for coming."

Janie nods and rises, holstering her weapons again - she'd almost forgotten she'd drawn them in the first place. "Thank ye f'r talkin'," she replies. "An' if there's anythin' I c'n do t'help th'recovery…" she offers, trailing off.

"There's nothing you can do. Magic, cannot even help me at the moment. The person who did the work was so very kind as to periodically heal the damage… Mana can only channel once."

Janie's face draws into a snarl of anger. There's something particularly obscene in twisting magic meant to heal and mend to that kind of monstrous purpose. A violation of what should be, foulness to even consider the notion. Cruel sadism at its worst. "… Is it too late t'offer t'kill th'bastard that did this?" she asks.

"He has been discorporated. I expect you will have a chance in the next Lunar cycle." The speakers echo as his voice trails off. "Please remember; love is your shield; passion your armor. Do not forget that… and do not lose that." He is silent then for a moment. "I am very tired, Ms. Blair. Please, see yourself out. I cannot make the trip."

Janie nods. "I'll remember. Take care." With that, she turns and leaves the warehouse.

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