Marcus’ boot exited the cab and sunk into a puddle slick with oil. Its slippery ripples were the most colour he’d see on the block he got off at. His driver looked at him worryingly, and then leaned over the passenger seat.
“Sure this is where you want to be, Mr. Vallaine?”
Marcus drew his shoulders back and looked up from the cracks between his polished shoes toward the building in front of him. Onlookers, perched on stairs, leaning against the wall, and walking out of said building, stared. He drew his cream coloured coat closer to his neck, then let it fall, shaking his head once.
“Oh, Jim, you’re not paid nearly enough to look so concerned,” Marcus replied a beat later, tutting. “I’ll be fine. I’ll call you when I’m done here.” He tipped his chin up with a curl of his lips and started walking, taking his time to not look as exhilarated as he felt while knowing he was moments away from seeing Aidan Fallows before him again.
A man, who he could not stop thinking about since that wonderful night a few days ago. He felt the folded napkin in his right pocket with his writing on it – and rubbed it, as if for good luck.
Not that he needed it.
His slow stride inside was intentionally confident but effortlessly glamorous; much like his curls, which were perfected with purpose by three different products, yet looked, in a word, naturally gorgeous.
Golden, smoky eyelids lowered with a smile when a small group of men stopped talking upon his entry. Marcus kept walking three more steps before stopping, finding himself at the very centre of a very large room, surrounded by people. The pallor of his cashmere coat made him stand out like a song bird amongst crows – or vultures. He was gaining attention, fast.
Marcus turned to the person closest to him, who happened to be sneering down at the small bag he carried. Or the manicured, soft hand that lay upon it.
“Excuse me. Where can I find Aidan Fallows?”
The man’s brows shot up, and he laughed out loud. Marcus waited for the man to answer, or to be explained what exactly was so hilarious, but the man’s laughter just went on up until he took another look at Marcus, shook his head, and kept walking.
White roses littered the main pathway back to the Veiled Palace, their petals only beginning to blush at the edges. They would flare into a fanciful array of bright rouges and violets just in time for the official feast of The Lady. But now, even in half-bloom, they made for a pretty welcoming.
Cato Vallaine bowed his head in boisterous laugh after his one cup of wine and declared the dinner to be over, for their long awaited guest needed to rest. The sun was becoming flush against the horizon, colouring their small clearing in warm amber; a golden hue to match the glowing company. Cato rose from his chair and excused himself and the heavily pregnant queen, Elena Vallaine, who stood slowly with the king’s aid. She smiled a sweet farewell.
Marcus lifted his second cup to her, standing off to the side.
As far from Aidan Fallows, King of the Styx, as the small table allowed.
His eyes went to him for a beat, which was more than what he’d let himself do throughout three courses. In the falling light, Aidan’s presence seemed all the darker, all the more out of place. Marcus marvelled in how he somehow matched the stories surrounding him in all ways but one – Marcus looked away, as servants started milling between them to clear the table.
He decided to go back to the palace through a different path, when he caught his king brother glancing back at him. Marcus fixed his pale blue and gold shirt with an arched brow and a sip of his wine. Cato seemed to falter, seeing something Marcus did not, then continued away.
Villain Academy at Circuit of the Americas | F-TYPE COUPE | Jaguar USA
Sebastian Stan experienced the thrill of pushing the F-TYPE Coupe on the track at Circuit of the Americas while attending the Jaguar Villain Academy - a special version of the Jaguar Performance Driving Academy.
Three knocks on the door rang through the mansion’s front hall, beckoning Marcus from the highest steps. “That’s probably them!” he said, bypassing two men on his way down but stopped just before another could open the door for him. Marcus clasped his hands together and welcomed his last guard member, Don Johnson, and his son six year old son, Thomas.
“Welcome,” he greeted, “and hey there, Tommy. I see you’ve got your transformer there.”
Tommy shyly angled into his father’s leg, wide brown eyes staring at all the people.
“Thank you, Mr. Vallaine – I really had no where else to leave him,” Don began to say, when Marcus cut him off.
“Nonsense,” Marcus said, bending over to shake Tommy’s hand. “I brought in some Mario Kart for you. Would you like that?” Tommy nodded. Marcus grinned and then glanced up at all over the guards. “Alright, alright, ease up – you’re scaring him.” He looked at one in particular, Aidan Fallows, who towered over the poor boy the most. “Let’s go get you into that room, okay? Don, I want you watching over him.” The man looked even more grateful, before gently ushering his boy further into the house.
There was too much to worry about. Charley and Jack were constantly engrossed in conversation and wandering hands, which was quite the undesirable delay, and the others had been wounded just enough to make them weak. They traveled less than ten miles a day, working slowly over rough terrain and dangerous territory. Their only blessing was that they didn’t run into any trouble along the way, and by the end of their second day walking, they had reached one of the outposts. Aidan left them there, making sure they were well taken care of as he dodged attention. He was gone the next morning, slipping away before the camp realized he had truly been there.
The next two days were spent traveling to the main camp, and when he arrived he was a sweating mess. His muscles ached and quivered, and thank god Michael came out to meet him before anyone else intercepted him. He was able to take his first bath in weeks, and by the time Aidan was emerging from his tent (left vacant but well-tended since his departure), he started feeling alive again.
The beginning of the fifth day was alright, too. Aidan didn’t think of Marcus as anything more than an old captive, full of potential but unworthy of the risk associated with transporting him. Unfortunately, many people disagreed with him, and Aidan was forced to dwell on the redhead for longer than he liked.
It was when he was in his tent alone, pouring over maps and updates, that Aidan realized how it felt as if something were missing. The feeling stuck with him as he went about his business, drenched in decisions and reports, practically downing in expectations. No one said a harsh word to him. No one really challenged him, though several continuously suggested that it would be a good idea to keep Vallaine, that a unit could be sent out to retrieve him. Aidan shot them down each time they proposed such a thing.
Then there was Riley, who in all his attention and smiles certainly wasn’t Marcus. Riley was a large man, strong and brutish save for the quick spark in his eye that saved him from being classified in the all-brawn department. He was a brilliant strategist, capable of accomplishing with three men a task that usually required ten. And – most importantly – he honestly cared about Aidan. Such was something that had originally pulled Aidan towards Riley, and they were in the midst of establishing something when Aidan set off on another self-assigned mission. Now that he was back, Riley seemed to be eager to pick up right where they left off. Aidan tried to fill in the gap, but Riley lacked Marcus’ heat, the ability to start a fire and fan it until it was consuming Aidan whole. Riley was a comfort, but he wasn’t capable of making Aidan feel real. Not like Marcus had been.
Which meant that Aidan just tried harder to make the relationship (if it could even be called such) work. Each night, Riley came around, and Aidan spent the evening with him – though so far, Aidan had fallen asleep as soon as he had climbed into bed, too exhausted from past trips and safety. Aidan slept well (no screams, no nightmares), but he woke up wanting, and was always out of the tent before Riley began to stir.
So it only took a week for Aidan to decide that perhaps Marcus was a worthy ransom. It took another day for Aidan to decide that he couldn’t go back out, not when he remembered how infuriating Marcus was. He’d burn the bridges before Marcus ever returned. So, finally, Aidan decided to sent Michael out.
“Thank God,” Michael had sighed. “I was getting cabin fever, and I was tempted to blow my own head off if you said one more thing about Marcus Vallaine.”
Finally, eleven days after Aidan left Marcus, Michael was entering the compound with the moon shining bright overhead and the music blaring loudly. Michael remembered what Vallaine looked like from The Veil, and he set off to find his target.
Marcus bolted out of Charms the second Professor Ratswick let them go, flying past the flurry of students still waiting to get back their tests. The paper fluttered in the wind of his run, but his fingers held it tight, so tight the marked page, bright red, crinkled under their grip. But never smudged. The mark was written and underlined, and just underneath it like a ribbon, a curling and swirling marvellous scrawled just underneath it.
He ran through the halls despite a yell after him no running Mr. Vallaine! He didn’t stop – could not stop, not until he was at Aidan’s haunting, where he knew he would find him. In the library.
He burst through its doors like a stray bludger, and instantly zoned in on the wizard he was searching for.
“Aidan!” he let out, only to instantly lower his voice to a drastic whisper, not much quieter. “Sorry –” he apologized to a grouchy Ravenclaw girl sitting by a miniature stack. “Aidan!”
“Look!” Marcus arrived at Aidan’s desk, and all but went on top of it in his effort to stick the perfect test right under his nose. “Look.”
Aidan worked all night, filtering though endless databases for any mention of the Qu’ar, but he found very little. There were discussions of them having a home planet somewhere that had been undisturbed for eons. They were a private people, never sending ships outside of their society despite being technologically advanced. They permitted no other species to land on their soil even in times of need – a law that stirred up exponential trouble with the Confederation when one of their pilots issues a request for an emergency landing and was rejected.
Most of the sources Aidan uncovered discussed this case (The Qu’ar v. The Confederation) while discussing little of the Qu’ar leaders that came to Justinia, the planet used for all intergalactic hearings. Aidan watched the video clips over and over again, searching for answers but only finding images of people that looked similar to Radak. By the time morning rolled around there were dark circles under Aidan’s eyes and his hands had tugged his hair into a disheveled mess. He was about to take a break, retreat to the shower and mull over the information he did have there, when the alarms sounded.
Vallaine. Aidan shook his head in disgust as he scrambled up the ladder and sprinted into the main living area. His heels dug into the floor as he skidded to a stop, surprised to see Marcus still asleep on the bed. A glance at the monitors showed that it wasn’t an internal threat to be worried about but an external one – several external ones.
Three Confederation ships were flanking The Tenebrae with guns armed and shooting. Aidan jolted to the cockpit, hurtling himself inside just in time to engage shields and cancel autopilot. He threw the ship into her highest gear, ignoring the way his head snapped back against the seat as speed lurched them forward.
The Confederation ships were close behind, guns still blaring with a shot hitting its target occasionally. Even with the shields, it jostled the ship, and Aidan began a series of quick maneuvers meant to throw off their pursuers.
“Maps,” he ordered, eyes darting to the screen as it showed a layout of the nearby planets. There was one, largely uninhabited and full of tree coverage, that seemed particularly promising. He began to veer his route there, still trying to shake the Confederation ships.
“Princess,” he barked, unsure of whether or not Marcus was awake. “Pack a bag. Clothes, blankets, food.”
When Marcus did fall asleep, he did so restlessly. He woke twice in the night, and for the third time, in the early morning, before drifting off again. It was the cold that kept him from a good rest, or maybe the dreams – he didn’t usually get dreams, but now he got one, or twenty, in the same night. He couldn’t make any sense of the images he kept seeing, of people he’d never seen before and then of his family, his old classmates, and loose friends. He was running, at one time, away from something or someone, but not fast enough.
He was left tossing and turning a couple times, the last leaving him facing Aidan, one arm falling over him. His breaths came shallowly, eyelids twitching with every movement behind them. He was still running, but this time he recognized the area: a large park, the back of the Academy. It was his first year and he saw some of his friends, many he still saw today. Then they were gone and he was alone, crying out for them to wait, something is going to get me, but they were laughing and playing with their powers, not hearing him. Then they were gone. Powers.
Dream Marcus kept running, but slowed further, opting for trying to feel the biotics running through him, running with him. The scenery had warped, day turning into something like night, but something more like space at its natural setting: dark, with only a few specks of light here and there. He was still being pursued, could feel it in the way his heart beat against his chest, and they were getting closer. The need to scream rose in him as lights started going out, as he realized he was standing in a large room with a larger table, taking up most of the space. His fingers curled but nothing was coming, there was no power for him to take. There was a knock on the door, a shadow at its feet. His powers weren’t working. There was banging on the door. He noticed the glass on it, for the first time, the silhouette behind it, shaping into someone familiar.
Panic choked him, and his hands lifted but nothing came out, the darkness only expanding and the table only stretching longer and farther away from him. At its end, another figure, his father.
Well? Alexander Vallaine sat expectantly, hands folded. Are you going to do something about it?
The door cracked, and then opened as though with no force at all. Aidan watched from the doorframe, and when Marcus looked back to his father for help, he was gone.
Marcus twitched in his sleep, fingers curling and crackling with energy, face pained, pale, damp.
It had started out sounding so goddamned simple: “Chief, there’s a rogue group looking for a place to stay. They say that they’re willing to barter their resources for ours.” Aidan had heard such requests a thousand times before, and more and more frequently. He always granted the request, and for a few days, they’d have a couple extra people around camp.
But this wasn’t just a few extra people. Some weren’t even people, period.
“Are you the leader of this camp?” a man commanded from the top of a horse. He spoke too loudly, and his jowls moved as he barked. “I only speak with leaders.”
Aidan tried to keep his face neutral as he looked up, focusing on a single person rather than the thirty horses and dozens of men buzzing about the field. He could already see the clumps of dirt flying up, could visualize just how much food would be going to waste.
“And I only speak with men who have enough respect to get down from their high horse,” Aidan snapped back. He saw the offense cross the man’s face, but a moment later he was on the ground, arms crossed in front of himself.
“We’ve come for a place to stay and recuperate before continuing south.”
“We’re capable of accommodating you, but I can make no promises for the horses.” Unless you make a good offer. Aidan kept his eyes level with this stranger’s, this commander’s, and he seemed to understand.
“Give me a moment to consult with my officers.”
Aidan nodded and held a hand out, a clear gesture of go ahead. As the commander turned away, Aidan turned to the small group that had tagged along with him – surprisingly enough, it included Vallaine. “The horses may be a dealbreaker, unless they offer us a few.”
Marcus had lied. Admittedly, Aidan should have never asked. But he’d run into Jackie while skipping fourth period, and he couldn’t bring himself to keep quiet. He wanted to know if it was true, and he wanted to know what she thought of Marcus’ abilities. She laughed in his face when he asked her how things went. He never even grabbed my tits, she’d said. He’s getting a second chance tonight, but only because he’s so pretty – unless you were swinging by to make plans, hot shot.
So Marcus had lied. He didn’t sleep with Jackie, and why the hell couldn’t he have just said so? Marcus knew that Aidan had close ties to all the Riveters. He had to have known that the truth would come out sooner or later. Besides, what did he gain by lying? (And what did it mean that he turned Jackie down?)
With a dozen new questions, Aidan had made his way back to school. He didn’t bother showing up for gym, but he waited in his car until he saw Marcus walk out of the building. Aidan checked his own appearance in the mirror (making sure his hair was just right and that the v-line of his shirt was deep enough) before sliding out and waiting for Marcus to pass by.
When the redhead was close enough, Aidan broke the ice. “Hey, Vallaine! C’mere.”
Aidan’s good mood of the morning wasn’t destined to last. As the day dragged on and he found only rotting berries and stolen nuts to eat, his penchant for banter began to sour into a certain grumpiness. His lighthearted feelings towards Marcus began to solidify into embarrassment at being weak around Vallaine.
So when he began to hear the noise, he really wasn’t in the mood. He knew the sound, knew that it wasn’t a threat – at least not physically. It was a retreat, one of the few centers left out in The Wilds that provided a sanctuary for people to relax. It was a place much like The Veil, but bound to be much less cultured, more lenient with transgressions, and full of far less hygienic people.
Still, Marcus would love it, and for that reason, Aidan was determined to avoid it. “Keep quiet,” he said, “and follow me.” He tried to veer wide around it before Marcus could realize what they were intruding on, but then they reached a clearing where three couples were quite vigorously involved with each other, grasping and moaning and enjoying a companionship not often found. Aidan ducked away from it immediately and grabbed a hold of Marcus, making sure the redhead wouldn’t linger – or worse, try to join in.
And that’s when Aidan, quite literally, ran right into someone.
The word was only vaguely familiar to him at first; he was too used to Marcus’ taunts now. But then it registered, and Aidan focused on the blonde woman in front of him.
“Charley? What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing. Wait, is this–?”
“Marcus Vallaine, yes.”
“Tell me you’re here on business.”
Charley rolled her eyes, popped her hip. “Of course I am. You don’t think I’m all play, do you? Come on, Aidan. You used to trust me. Say, our prisoner is kind of cute.”
“Don’t inflate his ego; it’s bad enough. Who sent you here?”
“Michael. He’s a couple days ahead of you. Safe and sound, don’t worry about your other half. He’s awfully worried about you, though. Didn’t think you made it out of Alterie.”
“Is he still at the base?”
“Said he was leaving for headquarters. I’m not sure when, though. Just told me to come out here and find out what I could about those three that went missing. One of them was Jack.” Her voice lost a bit of good humor, replaced instead by worry. He bit her bottom lip.
Aidan frowned as well. He knew Jack, and he knew that he meant the world to Charley. They had been together since before the world started crumbling. “We’ll find them.”
“I’ll be doing the finding. You have a bigger problem on your hands, it seems.” She straightened her shoulders and winked at Marcus, ignoring Aidan’s glare. “Are you coming to the party? I thought you weren’t the sort.”
“I’m not.” Aidan shook his head, but he knew it was too late to pretend that he could get away with avoiding things entirely. Marcus would demand to go, surely, so he had to make it look like it was his idea. “We have supplies to replenish. I decided to opportunistic. I’m guessing you won’t complain?” He glanced over at Marcus for the first time, finally allowing the redhead a chance to process and interact.
Aidan woke up and felt like hell, but it didn’t stop him from barreling out of the house as soon as he was dressed. He asked for directions back to his ship and had to wait hours until they received clearance to let him go. So they were still prisoners – but they had some freedom. A limited amount.
He found his ship in largely working condition, though she wouldn’t be as quick as she once was. The interior had been ransacked and many of his weapons had been removed, but he had enough to work with – and a source of communication.
First, he called Felix and set up an order to be dropped to his current coordinates (which Felix only agreed to do after Aidan offered an outrageous sum). Then he contacted headquarters.
It’s a shame when your job is more difficult than acquiring highly illegal drugs, yet here he sat, arguing that he needed to drop Marcus’ mission and being told that if he even tried he would be demoted back to a trainee. This is a high profile case, Thanatos. You can’t simply drop it because you don’t feel like putting up with the Vallaine heir any longer.
“Then at least give me something else I can work on while I’m stranded on this goddamned planet,” Aidan requested, trying not to sound as desperate as he felt. It took another hour of bartering before The President (no other name, simply The President – for security reasons) gave in and offered him a few Novice-Level Kills. “To pass the time,” she had told him.
Aidan didn’t care. It was something to do.
So the past week had been an alteration of killing, drinking, arguing with Marcus whenever they had the misfortune of crossing paths, and restoring what little had been damaged on his ship. Aidan was never gone longer than a day (or a night, but that was only after he’d seen the marks on Marcus’ neck and had to leave before his anger manifested as obvious jealousy). Overall, he had three kills under his belt (each of which helped clear his head a bit more), a bottle of pills in his system (spread out over the week, of course), and at least half a dozen fights with Marcus.
One had just happened the night before, when Aidan woke at the same time as Marcus and they’d been forced to grapple for the bathroom, Aidan standing in the hall with only a towel around his waist and Marcus standing with his hair perfectly mussed and sleep still clouding blue eyes. Aidan had almost been disarmed then – and perhaps he would have been – but the marks on Marcus’ neck ruined any tactile mood Aidan may have accepted.
Marcus ended up winning the shower.
Aidan ended up pissed. Worse, he was pissed that he hadn’t been pissed. That waking in the morning and seeing Marcus felt akin to waking and feeling the sun hit your face. Bright, a little stunning, but warm. Comfortable.
It was disgusting. So Aidan had retreated to his room and to his books. He read for two hours, until he was sure Marcus was done and out of the house. Only then did Aidan shower. The water was remarkably hot this time, enough that once he was done his skin was colored pink and steam was still racing towards the ceiling.
He dressed up that day, planning on making his way into town and charming a few people while being terrible to others. He’d taken to socializing on the grounds of keeping his persona sharp for missions. His very first kill of the week had been sloppy – sloppy enough that he didn’t even leave behind his brand. And it was because he had lost some of his ability to charm, to pretend hat he was someone else living a wonderful life full of finery and family that cared. Everything felt more personal lately, and Aidan had gotten trapped inside his head.
He tried to change that by trying out a different trait on each person he encountered. Some shopkeepers adored him, offered him discounts and free items and glorious smiles. Others hated the very sight of him, and would do whatever they could to get him out of their store. The more Aidan diffused his personality, the more normal he felt. And he needed that now, when everything felt wrong, like each facet of his life was a piece of living room furniture that had been moved three inches to the left. Familiar, but wrong.
So Aidan was dressed well. Not to the nines, but in dark pants, his new leather boots that cut up to his knee, and a white shirt that was nearly sheer. He topped it with his gray coat and then made his way downstairs to start his day of method acting.
He didn’t make it very far. Just as he was reaching for the door handle, it turned. On the other side was a pair of very concerned Rishi, both frowning.
“Mr. Fallows, we’re here on behalf of your companion.”
Huh, Aidan thought. A messenger? Marcus is putting far too much effort into his insults. “Yes?”
“He fainted just recently. He’s in the medical ward, but we thought you should know. He wasn’t looking well, when we left.”
“Marcus is hurt? What happened?” Wry amusement was replaced by concern, and Aidan found himself stepping closer to the pair. He was interrogating, more or less.
“Practicing at the temple. They think that he pushed himself too far.”
“Right,” Aidan sighed, running a hand through his hair. It had been perfect moments before. “Take me to him, then.”
Worry knotted in Aidan’s stomach as he crossed the threshold, and concern sent his heart pounding. It all fueled the small ball of rage constantly burning in his chest. Who was Marcus to make him feel like this? Who was Marcus to make him feel at all, but especially make him feel worried, terrified. Like he needed to be there to protect Marcus from any and everything, including himself.
Sleeping had not been an easy affair. The quarters were too close, and Aidan, unwilling to sacrifice his pride, had refused to move. Fears of nightmares coupled with the fear of Vallaine discovering that he had them kept him from falling into an restful sleep, and when Aidan rolled off the cough with the rising of the sun, he looked terrible. Bags drooped under his eyes, and they were shaded the color of the bruise on his cheek. His hair was a ruffled mess and his shirt had stretched out to an unflattering bagginess. He yawned, stretched, and longed for the days when it was still possible to use coffee as a life force.
For the moment, he let Vallaine continue to sleep. Aidan had packing and exploring to do, and he started with the more appealing of the two options: discovery. He walked upstairs and began peeking through individual rooms, digging around and retrieving what he could (a few band aids, some pain killers, an unopened toothbrush, a fresh pair of clothes that he promptly changed into.
On a whim, he paused by the window and glanced out into the yard. It looked like it had once been a peaceful home, surrounded by gardens and flags. It had been–
Aidan sprinted downstairs and ran to Vallaine, shaking him roughly to wake him. “Keep calm and go lock yourself upstairs in the bathroom. Open the window, and do not open the door for any reason until I come to get you. Understood?” Aidan didn’t wait for the answer but made for his bag, grabbing his gun and the machete that he often kept at his belt.
Stepping into The Veil was not nearly as enjoyable as it had been the night before. Now, the lights just seemed gaudy, the music was senseless, and the patrons were even more insufferable. Yet somehow, despite Aidan’s foul mood and general contempt for the location, he had to smile and be as charming as the evening before.
It would require a lot of effort.
He didn’t look for Vallaine when he entered, instead making his way to the bar. A drink (or two, or three) would help down the bitter taste of disillusionment, surely. It would perhaps make Vallaine charming again, should Vallaine even seek him out after the night before. If he didn’t, Aidan had a long evening ahead of him, full of courtship and snark and flattery just to get a bit of information – information that might not even really help them.
He finished off his first drink, raised his hand for another. Here’s to all the wasted time.
Tonight was the night. The Veil would burn, the cure would be in their hands (limitations be damned), and for the first time in three months, the Revolutionists would actually have functioning guns and plentiful ammunition to fight their enemies – to stay alive.
Initially, Aidan actually felt a tad bad about the whole thing. Yes, Vallaine was an entitled idiot that didn’t know how to keep important secrets under wraps, but that didn’t mean he deserved to have his entire life destroyed. Then, Aidan recalled how little Vallaine seemed to care about other lives. Perhaps this would offer him a healthy dose of reality in the end.
“I’ll go on ahead. He knows me, and I may be able to win him over again,” Aidan whispered to Michael, who nodded. They were in an alley a few blocks away from the club, crouching with a handful of other Revolutionists. “I’ll find a sidedoor to let you all in through. It’ll be on the western side of the building. Wait there, and I’ll come for you.”
“Just try not to get sidetracked this time, eh, boss?” Michael grinned, and Aidan would have hit him if his weren’t so essential to the upcoming plans.
“As long as you actually try to be on time,” Aidan bargained. He elbowed Michael gently and then stepped out into the street, behaving as casually a week ago when he walked up to the club for the first time.
As he drew nearer to the club, he began to hear shouts. He passed it off as excitement at first, but then he heard the anger in the tone, the way they muddled together into a voice of a mob. Worried, Aidan hurried forward, He was jogging by the time he rounded the corner and saw The Veil, currently in flames with people chanting outside of it, some bullshit about prosperity and justice.
There go the supplies. There goes the cure. There goes Marcus. That’s what any sane person would have thought, and yet Aidan was desperate for opportunity. Used to immunity against the violence of life, Aidan began sprinting towards the back of the building, fully prepared to step inside the flames and recovery something, anything.
Instead, he ran straight into the very person Aidan hadn’t wanted to deal with again. Aidan nearly ignored him in favor of the club, but he hesitated, realizing that if everything else was destined to burn that maybe Vallaine would still be worth something – if he could get him out of here alive.
“With me,” Aidan ordered, gripping Vallaine’s shoulder and pulling him forcibly away from the building. They had to get out of sight, fast.
It all began with the same ritual: a shot of whisky, two pills, and a click of the holster. No matter the mark, the place, or the client, Aidan behaved in the exact same manner. He would lose a bit of himself, he would lose a bit of reality, and he would prepare to rob someone of their life. He could feel excitement begin to feather in his fingertips, spreading like a heat through his body until he felt prepared to step away from his tea and into the shoes of an assassin – of the assassin, if the rumor mill had the final say.
He’d seen his name – or rather, Thanatos’ name – plastered across many headlines over the past ten years. Photographs of the body always seemed to find their way into the hands of the general public, and people would always wonder at the sigil – Thanatos’ sigil, not his – left burned into the skin of the corpse’s right hand. As the poets at Intergalactic Press had said, he was leaving his claim on their soul.
Tonight, that sigil would find its way on the hand of Marcus Alterio Vallaine and in the morning, Aidan would find three million credits deposited into his bank account. It was one of the highest payouts he’d been offered thus far in his career, and such a high profile kill was sure to do wonders for his reputation.
Before stepping off his ship, Aidan paused to evaluate his appearance, checking the press of his suit and the fall of his hair. Content enough, Aidan ensured that he had his invitation in pocket and then made for the central loading station.
A hefty screening process and a ten minutes pod ride later, Aidan saw the palace lights begin to shine. Even from this distance he made out the movements of the ants below, insects posing as humans and humanoid races for the popularity of politics. He wondered what they were discussing, doubted that it was of any consequence.
As he departed the pod there were a dozen more security bots waiting to scan the passengers. One detected the phaser Aidan had skillfully hidden from the human guard on the other end of the journey, and he saw several people – men, luckily – begin to rush towards him. Aidan put his hands in the air, unwilling to start a fight here when he had a dozen other assets on his side. He batted his eyes and parted his lips to use one now.
Five minutes later, he was walking free, permitted to keep his gun and left with the sole instruction to enjoy the gala. Ever since he was young, Aidan had been told that he had a penchant for getting what he wanted. It’s those eyes, Hilda had always said with a fond shake of her head. You got those from your daddy, and he was just as bad as you. Green and dark, like emeralds that had never seen the light of day, Aidan had lived with years of people remarking on how he seemed otherworldly, even by the standards of other races. He’d always let it slide, blaming genetics and some weird inheritance from his mother. Whatever the cause, he used his powers – as Hilda called them – whenever he needed to, which was quite often in his line of work.
With safe admittance to the gala guaranteed, Aidan slipped his mask over his face and stepped inside, keeping an eye out for his target.