"Rigor Mortis"-The life after death RP(Started/PM for participation)-Arc 4: Closing Loose Ends

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"I've looked worse." Marcus remarked darkly. He was still processing what Brendan, or rather Ben, had told him about his name. In another situation he may have been furious at what he would have seen as blatant betrayal of trust. However, today he could barely be bothered. It wasn't like he had ever trusted Ben to begin with, so at least now he knew with some clarity that that wasn't going to change any time soon. Beyond that, so long as Ben could have the decency to avoid becoming a liability then Marcus had no problem. Besides, he had more important things on his mind than the little games of a wannabe psychotic. He turned to Mira.

"Your welcome." he said to her. He dispensed with the faux motivational tone he had used yesterday. In hindsight it seemed so desperately patronizing. This time, Marcus was deadly serious. "I think we're going to need more practice with these powers, fixing you nearly killed me!"

The corners of Marcus' mouth turned upwards into the most honest smile he could manage, hoping she wouldn't misinterpret what he was saying and take offense.

"I don't remember getting back here." he said offhandedly to Ben while making himself some toast. "Last thing I remember before last night was blacking out on the asphalt outside the Mall."

Adrian continued to lay back on the cot and stare towards the ceiling as the apartment around him came alive. The living room where he had slept had become a den of activity as the others had begun stirring and were beginning their morning rituals. Adrian didn't really feel the need to join them yet. He could afford to spend a few more minutes in bed after the time he spent in one of the nearby bars the night before.

He didn't want to engage anyone quite yet, especially after his recent explosion. The rant had been a fairly cathartic release for the man. The irritation and anger that had bubbled over the events of yesterday had been given a chance to vent before they would be forced to confront another day of probable madness.

His arms were crossed behind his head as he listened in to the various conversations going on in the apartment around him. Another job. Some awkward small talk. The smell of burnt toast and horrible coffee. Standard stuff.

And then there was the revelation that Brendan was really Benjamin. This information surprised Adrian, although in retrospect he realized that it probably shouldn't have. Brendan...Ben...had already shown most of the classic signs of a pathological liar. Now that fact had just been confirmed for all to see. As he continued to lay there and ponder the development Adrian realized that the name struck him as familiar. He just couldn't exactly put his finger on why.

Ugh...no point in just laying here any longer.

Adrian slowly shifted and sat upright on the edge of the cot while gently brushing the crust out of his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Morning everyone. What brilliant disaster awaits us today?"

Before really waiting for an answer, Adrian made his way off towards the bathroom. All he wanted right now was a warm shower and some aspirin.

"Heh, your right..." Mira sheepishly scratched an itch on the back of her head. An itch that would always seem to appear every time she felt a little guilty for something she did. "I'm sorry, it just happened in a flash and like you... I didn't know that I had that power."

Mira thought back to only yesterday and her horrible transformation. It was painful but she thought that it was worth it to save those two people. She tried to think back to what happened to them after Marcus had healed them. Would they ever remember her?

"You get used to it... hopefully." Marcus replied, his temperament warming just a little to see Mira looking relatively well again. But he needed to stay focused, and so he turned back to Frank, putting his original mask back on. This time around he wasn't going to tolerate being left in the dark by Frank, he hadn't appreciated the surprises of the last two days.

"We need details. Who is the target? How do we get to him? what exactly do we need from him?"

Frank put on his fedora hat and stood up. "A man stole digital information we need. You need to find him and stop him. Use this when you got him tied up-", Frank threw a small white bag in the size of a teabag filled with thin powder. "Goodbye", Frank said and left the apartment.

"Alright, we'll let you guys plan out your mission. We'll head out to do ours. Come on Spencer, Evey, let's go take an inventory. We'll take my car."

Ben threw on his jacket and headed out of the apartment. When he reached the car, he unlocked it and started it up. He waited for Spencer and Evey to get in, Evey taking the back seat. He drove the car onto the street. They were as ready as they were going to get.

"Spencer, get out the map in the glove box and direct me to the warehouse. I don't want to reference a map while I'm driving. It being illegal and all. Distracted driving and all that."

Spencer took out the map and, after searching for a bit, managed to find the warehouse in a small industrial district on the east side of town. They drove for roughly thirty minutes before finally reaching their destination.

The cold breeze hit him as soon he stepped out of the car. He was a little disappointed by the warehouse's dull appearance, although he didn't really know why he was expecting anything else. Even if it was more than just a regular warehouse, it would probably be carefully disguised.

He gestured Ben and Evey to follow him as he started to walk towards the lifeless structure.

Ben walked up to the side door and pressed the doorbell. While they were waiting outside, he turned to Spencer and Evey.

"What do you think we're taking an inventory of? The dossier wasn't exactly too specific to what it was." Ben leaned against the side of the warehouse. Ben shivered slightly, the chill wind cut through his jacket, he calmed his heart rate, and the shivering stopped. Total control.

"When we do this, do you want to split up, or would you rather that we stay in a group as we do the check?"

"I think we should stick together until we know exactly what we're dealing with. We can split up when we're clear about that."

Spencer looked around, fidgeting. Someone was taking their sweet time getting to the door. He just hoped it wouldn't be another "gifted" individual like Frank and Alice.

After Frank and the other group had left them alone Marcus studied the contents of the envelope. Just as it had last time, it contained the name, address, and photograph of their target. This time, a young man who looked to be in his late teens or early twenties stared back at him, looking scrawny almost to the point of emaciated. The documents bared the name 'Rafik Farili', and gave the location of an apartment in one of the rougher areas of town. Marcus was vaguely familiar with it, but had made a point not to become too familiar.

I'm sorry. he thought, looking at the boy in the photograph, You probably don't deserve what's coming.

He laid the envelope down and turned to Mira, finding it difficult to look her in the eye. Marcus knew that if he wanted her and Adrian's trust, he was going to have to break down some walls that he's always kept up to everyone but the very closest of his friends. The thought of it was not a comfortable one. Would they understand? Could they ever see the world the way he had learned to see it? Would they reject him? These had been his biggest fears whenever he had encountered someone new throughout his whole life, and now he was going against everything life had taught him. However, it was better to do it now. Marcus knew that if he waited until he felt like he knew them, it would only make it harder for him to be honest with them.

"I'm going to go get set up." he said, picking up the bag of white powder "When Adrian gets out of the shower, there are some things I want to clear up before we go. I just feel we need some, clarity, and consensus between the three of us before we find out what's waiting for us this time."

He went back into the bedroom without a second glance. There, he got changed into a clean set of clothes before pocketing the bag. He noticed a phone had been laid out on his bedside table for him, so he took that as well. Finally, reluctantly, he picked up the knife he had taken from Mira's kitchen, and sheathed it in the inside pocket of his jacket.

Mira nodded and went to the kitchen counter to see if she could scrounge up anything with "potential". She went through the cupboards but to no avail. Then she remembered something that stuck to her pocket when she was covered in blood the day before. She let that fact dwell in her for a second.

It had only been a few days and everything she knew about death, and circumstance, even destiny was changed. Only a few days ago was she living her normal until the plausible happened. She was snatched from her world and forcibly placed in this one. As much as she found it uncomfortable she had to carry on. If not for her but for the others around her.

Mira went back to the room once Marcus was done and scrapped up a scissor. It was sharp enough to penetrate flesh but dull enough so she would not cut herself by accident on the sides. The point glinted in the dim light and she saw her reflection. Mira quickly put the scissor in her pocket and met Marcus back at the living room.

"I'm ready..." Mira said with more confidence than before she started out this adventure knowing that it had only begun.

Adrian stepped out of the shower, his head still pulsing in time with the beat of his heart. He was distinctly regretting his time coating his memories with the sauce last night. Still, the hot water and the light painkillers had helped make everything seem more bearable. The man dressed pulled on pair of jeans and a tight tee shirt which he covered with a zipper hoodie. He cleaned off the lenses of his dark-rimmed glasses and adjusted them after wiping off the steamy mirror.

He took a long moment to simply stare at his reflection. Adrian was surprised by who he saw staring back. The man before him looked stretched and tired. This was no longer the family man who had stood in his place only a couple of days ago. Now he had dark circles growing under his tired eyes and his default expression had seemed to be distaste.

As far as Adrian saw it, he was only going to look worse from here out. There was no end in immediate sight. They had him trapped in this horrible cycle and he had no way to break from it. He had demonstrated some impressive powers yesterday but he knew better than to believe that he would even stand a chance against any of them in combat. No...he had to continue to follow.

A grunt of disgust escaped from his throat as he tore himself away from the mirror and emerged to join the others. It seemed as though only Marcus and Mira remained in the apartment. Both were moving around, seeming to prepare themselves for the day. Adrian moved to the sink and filled a glass with water before leaning against the counter. He took a sip and cringed. The taste was bitter and metallic.

"Need a filter for this crap," he muttered.

He looked out and tried to smile for the other two.

"So what's on the agenda?"

"So what's on the agenda?"

"We have a new target." Marcus replied, tilting his head towards the envelope. "His name's Rafik Farili. I gather he's some kind of computer hacker who stole information from Alice & Co. It's our job to get it back."

Marcus forced himself to look up at both of them. They were tired, drawn, and looked a long way from the hardened killers Marcus feared they would all have to become. He knew he must look quite similar. However, Marcus had faith in them. What choice did he have?

He paused and took a deep breath.

"Listen," he started "I know you probably don't need me to tell you this. No-one here is stupid, and we've all been in the same boat since we got here; but chances are this thing is only going to get uglier, and we're going to have no choice but to rise to the occasion. That's why, before we do anything else, I wanted to be more transparent with you. We're a team, and I want you to know that whatever else I am, whatever else I may become, that I trust you, and that I want to be honest with you."

Marcus now looked directly at Adrian. "When we first got here you asked me if I would be prepared to do anything to preserve myself, and now I think my answer was a little misleading. Yes, I will do anything that has to be done, maybe even that and more, but that doesn't mean I take any pleasure in that. It's just that I was brought up tough. People with no parents have to learn how to take care of themselves; that's just the way it is. However, I'm not cold. I just keep whatever doubts I have buried, because if you let people see them you've already lost before you've even begun."

"Before, well, before all this happened, I wanted to be an actor." He continued, his eyes now fixed on the floor. "I went and studied at acting school, and one of the things they teach you there is how to separate different parts of yourself when necessary. They call it 'method acting'. When you're playing a character, you don't just walk out on stage and recite their lines. You have to study them, analyse them in more detail than anyone else will until they become real to you. That way, when you get your queue, you leave whoever it is you normally are back in the dressing room. When you're out there you are your character, and any doubts or fears that you had don't belong to you any more, so they can't get to you."

"I'm telling you this because, well, I think that's what I need to do here. Once I leave this room I leave Marcus behind. Out there I'm just a guy doing a job. That way, I can keep the better parts of myself, the parts that would hesitate, safe. I'll be able to do whatever has to be done without destroying everything that's good about me in the process."

Marcus looked up at them again. He needed them to understand. "When we're out there, I might have to become something ugly; and when that happens, I probably won't seem to show any remorse, or any outward feelings at all. I just don't want you to see that part of me and think all that I am is a monster. I'm just a guy doing what he has to do to survive. At least, that's what I'm going to have to keep telling myself."

Like a condemned man resting his head on the chopping block, he waited for their responses. In the presence of these two naturally honest people, Marcus felt like a charlatan by nature. He had never felt so naked.

Adrian watched intently as Marcus poured his heart out in front of everyone in the apartment. A look of quiet sympathy took residence on his face while Marcus explained the full extent of his acting. Adrian understood far too well that there were many people who became something other than themselves throughout the day. There had been many afternoons that he had spent being buttered up by undergraduates who tried to schmooze the professor into upping their grade on their midterm. This territory was not unfamiliar.

But the way Marcus spoke...it was almost like he was ashamed by the fact that he was able to slip into other roles. Adrian could tell that Marcus was struggling with coming clean about this to himself and Mira. The professor took a moment to study Marcus after he had finished speaking before offering any words of his own.

"So as an actor, I can assume at least a passing familiarity with Shakespeare, yes?"

He took another sip of the iron-flavored water and pushed himself off from the counter. As he continued, he paced listlessly across the tile floor of the kitchen.

"'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players,' I believe was how it went. As it was explained to me as a senior in high school, this was to mean that we fulfill many roles as we live out our lives. However, that was never how I read it. I had always thought that every one of us is quite literally an actor who only plays a character. Some people project a personality that is far removed their actual core.

"The most we can ever know about another person is what they choose to project to others. Some people do this far more expertly than most. I've seen both some of the best storytellers and the worst liars come through my office over the years. Many put up a face when they have to come and argue why they deserve to pass my course for the semester."

He coughed and took another sip of water.

"In the face of an insurmountable trial, we build up defenses and just try to move through it. It's like what my students would do for me, but our situation is far and beyond more perilous. We're not dealing in terms of GPA...we are talking about life and death. If what you have to do to get through it is separate yourself from the job by becoming someone else, then I can't fault you for it."

Adrian's voice cracked. His words were getting stuck in his throat. Still, he felt that he needed to continue, both for Marcus' sake and his own.

"Actually, I sort of envy you for it. I have had a really hard time separating who I was before and who I need to be now. I see these horrible crimes going on right under my nose and there is literally nothing I can do now to stop it. It's been...difficult to reconcile."

He shook his head before looking Marcus in the eye and smiling. Marcus was a good kid at heart. He had demonstrated an unusual level of bravery and self-awareness that Adrian admired. The professor was glad to have someone like him to contrast with the cold calculation of someone like Ben.

"Just do what you need to do and don't look back. We both know who you are."

"Thank you." Marcus replied, but beyond that there was really nothing left to say. He was glad Adrian hadn't focused his attention on Marcus' parentage, as Marcus had made that aside rather reluctantly in the hope it would slip past unnoticed. Family was still one thing he wasn't willing to talk about yet.

"We should probably get going." he concluded.

Mira watched, both fascinated and inspired by the words that Marcus and Adrian had laid forth before them. She didn't see the actor thing and Adrian's deep analysis for anything and everything. The line that he said: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players..." made her think deeply.

Mira stepped forward with her own words in mind and of course what she had to say even if it isn't that much.

"Wait, I want to say something too." Mira looked at the both of them before she continued. She twisted her hands against each other. "When I was a paramedic, I've...I've seen horrible things. Things that people claim to be accidents, to have not seen ahead of time. I try not to dwell on those things because paramedics are supposed to be calm. We're supposed to see horrible things because it's expected. We can't even treat them properly until we get them to hospital but I'm not supposed to look like I know that. It's even more horrible when that sense of detachment carries on to our own lives."

"When my brother died...I...sorry. It hit me like a speeding truck. My heart was broken but I couldn't cry. I couldn't cry until a few days after his funeral. My own sense of detachment prevented me from expressing death the only way I know how." She wiped a pool of tears gathering in her eyes. "I guess what I want to say is that I'll support you Marcus, and you too Adrian. And I understand what you're trying to say. I just hope that once we're done with all of this, we'll remember what it was like to have a normal life."

Marcus had nothing to respond to this outpouring of openness he had inspired. He stepped forward and put his hand reassuringly on Mira's shoulder. He couldn't share her optimism that they were ever going to be done with all of this, but now really wasn't the time to say so.

The fact that both Adrian and Mira had been able to relate to him on some level put Marcus more at ease. For the first time since this ordeal had started, maybe even since long before then, he didn't feel alone in his struggle. Marcus had to conceded that they were both better people than he. They were more honest, more compassionate, and yet they still possessed the same inner strength that Marcus had always prided in himself. The three of them would make a great team, and with some luck, they may even make great friends.

"Let's just take this thing one day at a time." Marcus finally found the words. "We get this job done, and get back here safe. That's all we can ask of ourselves right now. Let's go."

Adrian nodded. It was refreshing to remember that there were others in the group who were also struggling with their own issues. He had been afraid that everyone was just sinking into their roles like Brend...like Ben had. Just knowing that they were all going these other two were going fighting through some of the same problems that Adrian had been forced to confront in his own mind was slightly empowering.

Marcus gestured to the door. It was time to move forward and take on the day.

A trace of a smile could be seen over Adrian's face. For the first time since he had arrived in the apartment he was free of that crushing sense of dread.

"You're right, it's time. Let's go find Rafik."

The small hatch at the top of the grey metal door opened, revealing a set of red eyes. It looked at the three for a moment, and closed the hatch quickly. "Kto te?", he asked loudly from behind the door, "Who you are?", the voice spoke in a Russian accent, struggling to form a proper question. Some rumbling could be heard inside, and a loud sound of metals colliding was followed by the door opening and revealing a tall and large Russian man standing in the entrance to the warehouse unit number eleven. The man was bald and wore an A-shirt a shorts, revealing the handle of a handgun held up by his belt.

"Why you here?", the Russian man asked the three. He looked back for a moment and shouted something in Russian. Thick smoke began to leave through the entrance, coupled with a strange smell of chemicals.

Ben looked at the Russian man, hands visible. He smelled the chemicals in the air, crinkling his nose at the stench. Whatever they were doing in there, it was definitely chemistry-oriented. From the smoke billowing out of the door, it definitely wasn't ventilated properly. Ben stood up and squared his shoulders off, assuming a more business-like posture.

"We were sent to check on the inventory by Frank. Nothing more, nothing less."

Ben waited, ready to spring into action. The last time he said something along those lines, he ended up dead. Considering the man had a gun, and was already openly hostile to them, Ben thought it would be best to be extremely cautious.

As they made their way towards Rafik's location something clicked in Marcus' head. He chastised himself inwardly for not thinking of this detail before. He supposed that his mind had been on other things.

"Adrian," he glanced through the rear view mirror at him, "I forgot to say thanks for getting us both back to the apartment last night. How did you do it, we must have both been dead weight?"

Adrian was coolly looking out the window in the backseat and zoning out when Marcus asked his question. A slight twinge of guilt came over the man for forgetting to mention such a large development from the day before. He sat forward in his seat and folded his hands together, resting his wrists on his knees.

"Right, I guess I haven't told anyone about this yet. It's kind of a long and tedious story; the short version is that I had my gift surface yesterday."

He paused, trying to figure out how best to put what he had experienced into words. It felt like trying to explain what the color blue was to a blind man. Everything about the experience had seemed so base, so primal, that Adrian had no idea how to describe it.

"I don't know how I did it but I was able to...to make you move like a puppet dangling from a string. But it wasn't...really a string so much as it was the very life in your body...Oh, dammit."

Adrian had become quite flustered. For a brief window of time yesterday, he had seen the weave in the fabric of the living world and been able to tug at the threads. Now, after trying to put this idea into words, Adrian only wanted to do it again.

"I will show you when the time is right."

The Russian man turned around and loudly said another phrase in Russian, and this time someone answered. "Come in", the man said, letting the trio enter the warehouse. The room was small and empty, its walls covered in benches. On the far left sat two gentlemen in their underwear, smoking together a shared pipe containing crack.

The Russian man closed the door from behind the three and signaled them to follow him as he went through another door. In the next room was a packaging plant, where young women and a few large and burly Russian men would repackaged incoming shipments of cocaine for distribution. The three were startled as three other Russians came and surrounded them.

"We no work for Frank-", the man from earlier said, "The Englishmen ran. This belongs to Nikolai now", another man said. The three were held by the men and dragged to a nearby room that seemed to have been used by the workers as a break room.

The man from earlier asked another man to find him some rope as the three were thrown to the side of the wall. "There is no more inventory", another man said, this time with a much more pleasant tone and control of the English language, "But we can't let you go. Give us Frank's number and we will inform him he just lost three soldiers". The man turned his haze to Evey and smiled at her. Whispering about her age continued to be heard around the three in Russian.

"Spin the roulette", the man instructed two others behind him, "Pick a number. Twelve Black"

Ben's mind raced through scenarios as they were, none of them seemed even slightly feasible. They were three against many, in a corner no less. Ben put on his coldest face. If he faced death again, he would face it without fear this time. He saw it coming this time, he would be ready for it.

Ben fixed his cold emotionless eyes on the better-spoken man. If Ben made it out of this alive, he would make sure that the man suffered painfully for a prolonged period of time before he handed him over to Frank.

"So, you mean to say... that you can control people, without touching them?"

Marcus drank in Adrian's words attentively. He remembered How Ben had described him and Mira last night, like they were zombies. Adrian had just walked them home, as if he had them both on a lead. Suddenly Marcus was feeling a lot more optimistic about their mission.

"Adrian, this could be perfect! Whatever it was Rafik stole, he's going to be terrified about having people sent after him, like the ones from the other day were. I was thinking we were going to have to hurt him to stop him running, or fighting back. But this time with you around, we could immobilize him without having to risk anyone getting hurt. That way it will be better for everyone!"

Marcus paused, reigning in his enthusiastic tone a little,

"That is, if you want to, of course..."

Never a dull moment.

Spencer was far from surprised. Compared to all that they've seen in the last couple of days, a warehouse used for drug trafficking was a pretty ordinary sight. He wondered how long Frank's people have been gone from the warehouse, and whether he purposely sent them there as a test or some sort of sick game. With all the inventory gone, the main objective now was to get the hell out, preferably alive. However, they were vastly outnumbered, about to be tied up and there was no way out anywhere in sight. If any of them had a dormant ability, now would be the time for it to manifest.

Some of the men in the room seemed to be gambling for something, exchanging comments in Russian and glancing at Evey every now and then. Finally getting an idea of what was going on, Spencer hoped he was wrong. He tried to think of something to buy them some time.

"You said this place belonged to Nikolai now, right? We'd like to speak to him."

He had no idea what he would say if the men actually decided to let them talk to this Nikolai, but what he did know from his own experience was that Ben was pretty good at talking his way out of arguments. At any rate, it was worth a shot.

The man who seemed to be in charge turned to two of his subordinates and called them by name, "Vova, Pyoter!". He then ordered them to do something and immediately afterwards they left the room. The man reached for his pocket and opened his cell phone. He dialed a number and waited for an answer. "Dwatzat Tva Chorne!", a man shouted in the background. They began clapping and congratulating someone for winning the raffle.

The man began to speak to someone on the phone. He said a sentence and then turned off the cell phone. "I am Alexei. We need to contact this... Frank. Give us information. Who you work for. Where he is. What does he do. What is his number. All of it". Vova and Pytor entered the room with two long lengths of rope. "I suggest you don't resist", Alexai said as two of his subordinates began to tie Ben and Spencer's hands and wrap the rope around their torso and the chair they were sitting on. A man came from the other room, holding both of his hands in the air. Alexai reached for his other pocket and gave him a small piece of plastic and padded his back. He reached out his hand to Evey and gestured her to follow him. All of the work in the plant had been halted as all of the workers stare at the unexpected newcomers.

The two men in the first room stood up and threw their pipes to the ground. They both looked at each other and tried to asses one another. "I look good", they both said at the same time. "Wait", one of them said, "I need to stop-", the other one continued, "-talking like this", the first one finished the sentence.

Ben strained against his bonds, it was futile, the knots were tied too tight. He was helpless. He looked at the Alexei as he prepared his answer.

"We're nobody. Mercenaries, he contacted us to perform a series of jobs. We don't ask questions, we just do it. He gives us our orders, and our paycheck, at a predesignated dead drop, and we act them out, and somehow he knows that it happens. I think he has a spy network with at least one spy at the locations that we're given orders to. Considering that he left out some important details, I'd consider our contract over. If you want, bring Nikolai, and maybe we can cut a deal. But let the girl go, I'd rather her not be damaged."

Hopefully the spy comment would make them paranoid of each other, and maybe the half-truths and lies would be enough to cut it. They'd still probably get beaten, but they might not get killed. It was a gamble, and although as much as Ben hated it, sometimes you just had to roll the dice.

Alexei looked at the tied man pleading for his life. He stared at him for a few moments, slowly moving his hand in the direction of the lucky man, gesturing him to leave. He grabs Evey by her left arm and begins pulling her away. Although she begs for help from the two other men and asks the Russians to not hurt her, the man beats her into submission. She follows him through a door. The door closes and so does the bolt, and the only thing coming outside are the muffled screams of Evey.

Alexei smiled at the two tied up men. "Bullshit. You're going to tell me the truth. But you like telling stories, right?", Alexei continued. He walked to the right and stood on Ben's left. He punched his cheek hard and caught the chair before it toppled over onto Spencer. He said a few sentences in Russian and ordered some of the others to take Spencer away. They dragged Spencer to a separate office room that seemed to belong to Alexei. One of the men started beating him while the other asked him the same questions Alexei did.

"Don't worry", Alexei told Ben with a smile, "He has a condom".

Ben moved his tongue around in his mouth, he had knocked a tooth loose with that punch. He felt blood and saliva mixing around in his mouth. He was out of ideas, he couldn't really move, and Alexei had called his bluff. He was out of options. He couldn't save himself, let alone the others.

"Come here and I'll tell you," Ben whispered, he waited for Alexei to lean in.

"Dead men tell no tales."

Ben spat the mixture of blood and saliva in the man's eyes.

Adrian smiled as Marcus spoke excitedly. He was glad that the others seemed to be taking to the idea of his ability. Still, there was a concern...

"Oh, don't worry. If I need to try and stop him, I won't hesitate. But...well, the thing is that I've only tried using it on you two while you were out. It was easy, but I could feel the natural weight of your body tugging against my commands. It wasn't a mind thing I was controlling, it was a physical one."

Ardian's voice began to trial as he rambled. As he continued to puzzle about the nature of the power he possessed, he realized that there were so many unknown entities about how it worked. This made the natural scientist within him both slightly uncomfortable and infinitely curious.

"What I mean is that I don't even know if I'll be able to control someone who is consciously struggling against my influence. I mean, Alice was able to immobilize me yesterday by using something similar, but her power was quite obviously attacking my mind."

He shook his head, still shaken up about the events of the day before. His memories had not repaired themselves in the intermediate hours. The image that Alice had branded upon his mind remained.

No time to think about it now...

"Anyway, I will try and stop him. But you both need to be ready if I'm unable to hold him down yet."

As they entered the part of the city where Rafik lived the transition was jarring. The streets were nearly empty, and the pedestrians Marcus did notice moved with so little sense of life or purpose they became just as much part of the background scenery as the buildings that crammed together on either side of the streets. They past several boarded up shop fronts, and the place was teeming with thin alleyways that weaved in and out of the main arteries of the district. Marcus thought that this would be the perfect place for a thief to hide. Why on earth would anyone look for you here? Even then, if they found you, there were a hundred different avenues of escape. It was not often that Marcus felt vulnerable, but here he became increasingly edgy. This was a rat's den, and any number of unpleasant surprises could befall them at any moment.

Marcus pulled over at the front of the address to be met with the facade of a butchers shop. Considering how devoid the area was of potential customers this surprised Marcus. He stepped out onto the sidewalk, making sure to look calm and authoritative. He wasn't going to let this place intimidate him. Looking up he saw that the building had floors above the shop front. Presumably Rafik lived in an apartment up there. Curtains were drawn on all the windows facing the street. Good, he didn't know they were coming. Marcus glanced to either side of him to Mira and Adrian, who both seemed suitably cold. Before pushing open the door.

The bell that sounded as the door opened was cheap and tinny, almost pathetic. Firstly, Marcus spotted a passage leading to a set of stairs at the back of the shop, presumably leading to the living ares above. Dead flies littered the windowsill, presumably in summer the shop would be plagued by the things, and these ones had fallen victim to the electrical trap that buzzed menacingly above them, their bodies still on display. Apathy perhaps, or to send a message?

Marcus had not noted that the butcher was there at first, as he had not made any move to acknowledge their entrance. He was standing behind a glass counter that displayed some fairly sorry cuts of meat, staring into the middle distance as if he had been frozen there. A door behind him led to the Freezer room, where Marcus could feel a bitter cold stemming from. He strode with purpose up to the butcher, leaning across the counter and looking at him square in the eye. The man was old and tired looking, at least three inches shorter than Marcus. Marcus reckoned that if he acted tough enough he might pass for a thug, and the butcher would make no trouble. He noted that he still had the knife if necessary, but hoped that front alone would let him get away with this.

"We're here to see Rafik." Marcus said, leaning in even closer "He's got something of ours that we want back."

"Up", the man said as he turned to see Marcus, "Knock on the brown door". He grabbed the butchers knife from the counter and turned to the rest of the group, "You want to buy some steaks?", he said as he moved the knife over the various pieces of meat on display.

"No thanks." Marcus replied curtly, before turning to Mira and Adrian and gesturing them to follow him up the stairs. They creaked with almost every step, and Marcus privately thought that knocking wouldn't be necessary. If he was Rafik, he'd probably have heard them coming and be half way though making his escape by now. There was something about this that was just all too easy for Marcus' liking. He was expecting things to go sour at any moment, like it had with Mr. Mark, and so he moved his hand inside his jacket pocket, keeping a grip on the concealed knife, just in case.

The brown door was the first on the right at the top of the stairs. As they approached it, Marcus turned to Adrian.

"If we can, let's do this quick." he whispered, "We don't want to give him a chance to surprise us."

Marcus steeled himself, and standing just a little to the side of the doorway, he knocked three times.

"We don't want to give him a chance to surprise us."

Adrian nodded in agreement. This entire area had been very off putting to the man and his senses had been working in overdrive as they walked. The building seemed like a prime place for an ambush of some sort if they were being expected.

And why wouldn't they be expected? Every other thing they had attempted to do in the past couple of days had ended in what could only be described as an unmitigated disaster. If trying to go shopping had almost ended so badly, how could a situation that was this foreboding possibly play out?

The professor had no plans on being caught off guard. If Rafik tried anything stupid, Adrian was prepared to cut him off before could come of it. He steeled his nerves as Marcus rapped on the door.

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