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Previous: Chapter 2

MASTER OF PUPPETSEdit

  • Fort Hensha, Orta Prefecture
  • Orta Central Courthouse
  • 14:30 Sunday, July 3rd 400BF

The stage has been set, and the dance is complete. Twelve jurors walk into the courtroom, to judge the performance and settle Doctor Marcus Verne’s fate once and for all. Isabelle stands next to her client, poised in her mystical perfection.

“Has the jury reached a verdict?” the judge asks.

The foreman nods. “We have, your honor. In the matter of first degree murder, we find the defendant not guilty.”

The courtroom is struck with a mix of emotions. The family of the deceased is crushed and infuriated. Her client, as well as friends and family of Doctor Verne are relieved and excited. The media dogs are foaming at the mouth. However, Isabelle remains stone cold.

This outcome was completely pre-conceived. Discounting prosecution evidence, motive, planting the seeds of police bias in the jurors’ minds, and even using her exotic French accent to mesmerize her audience are all part of her art, and over the past couple days, she had run a master class. The courtroom might be split on the verdict, but there would be no doubt that Isabelle was the star of the show.

“Mr. Verne, you are free to go, with the court’s regards,” says the judge.

Doctor Verne embraces Isabelle, owing her most certainly his life, at the very least.

“Thank you…thank you! I…I need to go to my family, but -” Isabelle smiles and bows to him gracefully.

“Of course. Please, go to them.”

Adagio.

---

Isabelle steps out of the courthouse, some private reporters already hot on her heels. She’s used to it by now. Northern Haven’s exceptional freedom of speech and citizen’s rights are part of why she chose to settle there, so she would have to take the good with the bad. Lucky for her, she’s an expert at handling the media.

“How do you feel about the police’s handling of the case?”

“Law enforcement needs to be impartial. Doctor Verne was made the focus of a blood-thirsty investigation with a foregone conclusion.”

“Does your firm have any words for the families of the victims?”

“My thoughts go out to everyone affected by this heinous murder, and I do hope they find justice soon.”

“Any comment on your former client, Deputy Minister Willow's apparent suicide?”

Isabelle pauses briefly. She expected this line of questioning from the moment the news was released. “I can only comment that it's a tragedy of unbelievable proportions. I'm sure we will learn more as the police release information.”

She finally reaches the bottom of the steps and her loyal servant awaits her at the bottom of the steps, her car door ajar and waiting. As the parasites swarm her, she cleanses herself of them by sliding into her back seat, Alex climbs into the passenger’s seat, signaling the driver to move. He has opened a bottle of Yorkshire’s Best, a lovely champagne and a respite from the grog commoners are so often forced to glug down in their gulags. The door shuts and they are off to handle real business.

“Another job, well done, my lady. I am certain you had them mesmerized. And now, the good doctor is safe to continue his…practice once more,” Alex praises, as he pours her a glass, handing it off to her.

Isabelle smiles as she takes a swig from her glass. “Oh, I advised him to be more careful with his affairs – never go for the young ones…they tend to want more from their partners. Now…” Though Isabelle’s appearance doesn’t change, her internal temperament indeed has. It’s part of what makes her terrifying to have as a foe. Her game face is unstoppable. “What is the news out of Greymoor?”

“Ah, yes.” Alex reaches into his jacket and pulls out several photographs and hands them to her. She carefully scans the gruesome scene of the crime. Isabelle’s eyebrows wrinkle and furrow. She takes in the carnage, and Alex can see a fire behind her eyes, just as his fangs were bore behind his empty expression when he saw the photographs himself.

Alex clears his throat. “If I am not mistaken, we have seen his work before. This is the Assassin. The one we hired to remove Lind from the equation.” Isabelle leans back in her seat as she ponders the situation and what to do next.

“…I see. This does not make sense.…we cannot discount that someone hired him for an independent job.”

“Indeed. None of the bosses have claim responsibility for this one. Willow's new assistant doesn't know anything about his hand in the business, from what he's told our man. Unfortunately, he's under constant watch from Greymoor's people, so we cannot be sure for the time being. As for the bosses, I suppose you will wish to find out for yourself soon enough. The meeting is in the usual place. I've procured your usual decoy, in care the NSF has already started branching out on this.” Alex says.

As Alex speaks, the car takes a turn into the upper east side of town. Isabelle must pause to take in the beautiful sights. They often drive through here, and every time, she must pause and enjoy the architecture. Old world values are often a sign of status, and it shows in the Victorian houses, well-paved roads and public works.

Anyhow, back to business. Though the situation is a lot on her shoulders, Isabelle is equipped to handle this sort of issue. The mob pays her well to do so. A rogue assassin will not stand in her way. In fact, the boy's Gift might even prove useful to her, should they be able to get their hands on him.

“Yes, I will be heading there immediately.”

“Do you have any need for a driver?”

“No, I would rather handle this alone.”

Alex nods. “As you wish. What would you have me do in the mean time?” he asks. The driver turns into an underground garage.

“Have Investigator Wyatt followed. The man inside is to find out what leads he has. We can take no risks that the assistant knows something. The moment the opportunity presents itself, he must be taken out.”

“It will be done.”

Alex produces a bag underneath his seat and hands it to Isabelle. She pulls out a long black-haired wig and cap and quickly dons them both. Alex steps out of the car and opens the door for Isabelle. She steps out, looking remarkably different. It's amazing how much one's hair has a role in appearance. Where before, she was a fiery redhead, she now takes on the appearance of a mysterious vixen.

Another car door opens, and out of the car steps a woman with a remarkably similar look to Isabelle. Even from ten feet, it would be hard to differentiate the two (if Isabelle's wig were off.) The two promptly switch places and Isabelle takes the car. Alex looks on as she steps into the car. He would tell her to be careful, but she's more than enough to handle herself. He's honored enough to be at her side.

  • Grimmely, Orta Prefecture
  • Abandoned Factory
  • 16:15 Sunday, July 3rd 400BF

In a warehouse hidden away and forgotten from the world, underworld’s worst stands in wait around in a dark room. One of the gangsters throws his cigarette to the ground, clearly tense.

“Jesus, she calls the meet and she’s fucking late? Unbelievable, this woman is.” John Armand, ring leader in the North, stamps out his cigarette. It’s clear he’s taking out his anger on the cigarette, since Isabelle is not an option.

Suddenly, there’s a banging sound in the back of the room. All men turn, pensive. The small woman with black hair that appeared in the elevator emerges from a hidden stairway. You would never guess it from her appearance, but in a room full of crooks, swindlers and cold-blooded killers, she was the most powerful one.

“The only thing unbelievable that you can be so blockheaded,” Isabelle shouts. “Time is a small price to pay for being careful and not ending up under the NSF’s eye. You should be able to appreciate that - you’ve lost two operations in the past three months because your men were careless. Had I not been there to clean up your mess, everything could have been over.”

Armand wrinkles his brow. Before he can retort, Isabelle lowers her chin and closes her eyes. A strange aura appears around her. It's not visible, but all men in the room stand at attention, well aware of the new force in the room. Her irises suddenly pulsate between the normal brown and a vibrant pink until they remain at the spectral highpoint.

"All of you...answer my question with 'yes' or 'no'. did you have anything to do with murder?” Isabelle takes the center of the stage, all of them at attention. It's a very humorous sight – reminds me of a military attention. None of them is ready to challenge Isabelle, considering her capabilities. It’s quite a sight to see. She slowly paces around the circle, like she's prepping for a game of duck-duck-goose.

The power of a face-to-face is something diminishing in the world of instant connection. Not only was a meeting in a place like this away from the NSF and local militia’s eyes, but it had an added bonus. Some people believe there’s no such thing as a soul, and Isabelle is one of those. This makes her Gift that much more unusual: the ability to infer the truth from any target, or with enough focus, temporarily create a new one. The power over mind or the power over soul? Whatever the case, it’s nearly impossible to hide the truth from her.

Isabelle walks across all the men, gazing into each of their eyes intensely and briefly.

Each man answers, "no." After a few moments, she moves onto the next man until she's finally circled the room.

The strange aura in the room dissipates, and her eyes return to their deep, dark brown. All the men, though attempting to appear un-phased, breathe a sigh of relief internally.

“Now then, let us get down to business. You all know exactly what happened to Willow. His entire squad was torn into pieces and Willow himself was destroyed.”

“Rest in pieces,” one of the men jokes. Isabelle shoots him a glare that shuts him up.

“Well, he handled aqueduct funds and services. The NSF is going to be coming down on us hard finding answers, even though we do not have them. They will believe we are responsible for this until we take control of the situation.”

“How do you propose we do that?” asks Kai Ingleson, one of the bosses in Western Haven. “We don't know anything about this thing.”

“One of yours might, and I'll need you to grill your men. It could be a power play among your lieutenants and what have you. We do know this: the assassin is the man we used to take out those rogue men a year ago.”

“Your man was sayin’ it’s that…lightning guy. The one that can find and get to anyone? Christ, should’ve known not to outsource. Can’t trust anyone these days, eh?” John jokes, pulling out another cigarette and lighting it up, pulling a drag into his mouth.

“Except you gentlemen, it seems.” Isabelle saunters across the room. John sneaks a look at her butt as she passes by her, appreciating her slender figure in conjunction with her convex rear. Isabelle stops in her place and looks to her employers, though the way she acts you’d think they worked for her.

“Here is what we need to do. Find out if there is anyone within your organizations who would know anything about him or may have hired him for a personal hit. We need to find this man and keep him from spilling any of our secrets. My people will continue to feed you information on the NSF and Greymoor investigation as we get it. It goes without saying…if you find the man, he is incredibly powerful and dangerous. Subdue him and bring him to me. The man has shut off all lanes of communication, so reaching him and luring him out will be impossible. No one has seen his face. But we have the advantage of knowing more than the police do, so we will use this to catch him and deliver his corpse to the NSF.”

Whatever the risk their men would go through trying to catch this man, they were all in agreement that it was worth it. None of them needed the scrutiny of the NSF upon them constantly.

  • Fort Hensha, Orta Prefecture
  • Killian Luxury Condominium
  • 17:06 Sunday, July 3rd 400BF

Isabelle steps out of the elevator, her wig and cap in her purse. She steps down the beautiful corridor, pulls out her key and opens the door. The room is in pristine condition, just as she left it. She walk up to her record player and crouches down and shuffles through her collection until she finds a suitable track.

Full volume of Gymnopédie

Isabelle places the record on the rack, drops the needle, and presses play. Alex will be on the balcony, taking in the view. She opens the glass door and steps out into the sun. Alex stands, hands behind his back, looking out off the balcony into the blue overlook of the region. Isabelle steps onto the other side, looking out as well.

Isabelle and Alex both greatly enjoy the view. Not only could you see the vibrant, beautiful uptown, but the town feeds both of their appetites.

For Isabelle, all of it is essentially Isabelle's stage, and the balcony overlook was like being the director.

Alex bears a smile as he fixes his glasses onto his wide-framed nose. “It doesn't appear that anyone is following us, so I sent Maria home for the evening.”

“Good. And what of the assistant?”

Alex sighs. “It seems they're watching over his estate, 24/7. We'll need to be very careful in order to take care of him. I will attempt to get our man on him, as soon as an opening appears. We've been using all our channels to attempt to make contact.”

“Very good. There is no other recourse.” Isabelle slightly smiles to herself, regarding the situation. “That assassin man…he's quite a person. He manages to kill an entire NSF squadron and end Willow.”

“Under the right tutelage…maybe he could have been an asset to you.” The entirely self-aware statement was a sign of Alex's loyalty and her role in domesticating the once wild beast Alex. “So which is your plan? Will you tame him…or devour him?”

Isabelle smirks, placing her hand on the railing. Though the prospect of training another protege had crossed her mind, but in the end, some appetites need to be fed. The aura returns. Unlike the others, Alex enjoys the feeling.

“He will be my entré.”

Next: Chapter 4

TriviaEdit

  • First appearance of Isabelle.
  • First appearance of Alex.
  • First appearance if Isabelle's alter ego.
  • First appearance of John Armand.

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