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  • Hit the Ground Running

    Ismael Akopolis

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    August 1st, 2019
    Eyes slowly opened as the plane touched down on the tarmac, almost fourteen hours later. The man shifted in his seat, trying to find a comfortable position to sit in for those last few minutes before he was once again released into the world. A decade ago, the flight from Vatican City to New York would have happened in just over nine. With the way magic had been screwing around with technology since the first Nevus event, not to mention the appearance of dragons and other flying creatures, human-powered flight had both devolved, and evolved, at the same time. Magic had forced them to scale back on what little advanced technology still worked, while the beasts that now shared the skies with the planes had caused planes to become heavy with armor and defensive weaponry. All of it contributed to slower than desired flight times, which served to only increase the risk of attack while one was aloft. Thankfully, the flight he was on hadn't encountered any problems. That wasn't something that could be said a lot, these days. Air travel was extremely risky because of all of that. Unfortunately, the situation in the Tri-Americas, and in particular New York City, was growing dire enough to have the man sent by air, instead of the much slower, and safer, seas. That is not to say that the waters did not have their own troubles, because they certainly did.
    As the airplane slowed to a stop, his mouth opened wide in a yawn. It was framed with months worth of beard growth that he longed to take a pair of shears to, and cut down to a much shorter length. Unfortunately, there simply had not been any time. The moment he set foot within Vatican City, his most recent assignment completed, he was put back out again, only on a plane to this broken and divided former superpower of a country. They hadn't even let him set foot in his room to change clothing or shower, and the senior-most Arch from the Shield walked with him, in lieu of sitting down for a proper debrief. The debrief had not been overly long, and much of the journey to the small airstrip was conducted in silence. There, the Arch had handed him a badge and signet ring, and watched the man board the plane.
    Slowly, he stood up from his seat. Collecting his heavy leather overcoat from the chair beside him, he meandered his way to the front of the otherwise empty vessel, and stepped out into the darkness of a warm New York night. With practiced ease, the coat in his hand was deftly slung around and slipped over his arms and shoulders and pulled shut, concealing the man's nearly emaciated form beneath it. His months-long mission through the wilds of Russia had been fruitful, though more often than not he was without supplies and forced to scrape by on whatever rare foodstuffs he could actually find. Having grown up in the slums of Athens, hunger was simply something else to fuel his natural instincts for survival. Here in New York, however, he hoped he might actually find an opportunity to eat. To rebuild at least somewhat of the mass he had lost in the wilds. He had been told to report immediately to The Citadel, where his assignment would be handed down from from someone in their hierarchy. The man had not particularly cared about who he was to report to. It was enough that they had given him the destination; people there would do the rest.
    Fingers idle toyed with the badge and ring in his pocket as a young woman in a navy suit waved him over from off to the side of the tarmac. Eyes narrowed as he approached her, wondering what exactly she wanted, while simultaneously making a mental note that he needed to a mage capable of transmutation. The Order frowned upon his alteration of the metal badge and seal because of the minor problem of occasionally setting off alarms in secure buildings, but thus far his superiors had yet to outright forbid him from doing it. As he stepped up to the young woman, an eyebrow quirked up as he spoke. "Naí?", he asked in Greek.
    *npc*She stared at him blankly and shifted from one foot to the other, clearly not understanding what he had just said. "Mr.....Mr Ismail? I....I'm supposed to take you to the Citadel. Immediately. They want you brought up to speed as quickly as possible."
    He chuckled softly, nodding as he said in a thick European accent, "Just directions, child. Feet get me there fast enough." She tried, though in vain, to convince him to come with her, but he staunchly insisted that he was walking, regardless of the danger. The woman in the suit eventually relented, giving him the best possible directions that she could, including places that he should avoid. "Efcharistó," (thank you), he said, as he turned away from her and started walking. After the confines of the plane for the last fifteen or so hours, it was a Godsend to the man that he was once again reliant on none but himself and his feet. They had seen him through the worst of the wild lands in Russia, and he felt confident that they would be more than capable of keeping him on the path here. Especially since, unlike Russia, he actually had more than just the vaguest of directions.
    Some four and a half hours later, his well-worn boots squeaked on the highly polished tile of the Citadel's lobby. He stopped in the middle, turning in a slow circle as he examined his new surroundings. It was clear that no expense had been spared in this building, and had it not been for the countless times he found himself in a similar position when returning to Vatican City from weeks or months out in the field, he would have felt extremely out of place. As it was, he felt like a foreigner outside these walls; inside them, however far removed they were from the Order's main headquarters, it felt as close as one could get to home, without actually being there. With a nod, he strode up to the front desk, where the person on the other side gave him a look of absolute disgust.
    *npc* The older magus behind the counter gave Ismael a once-over with his eyes, nose wrinkled up in disgust both the disheveled look, and pungent aroma coming off of him. "I don't know how you got in here, -sir-, but beggars and the homeless are not permitted inside the walls of the Citadel. You will either remove yourself, or you will be removed."
    Ismael frowned, listening carefully to the magus' words. Removed? Why would he be removed, he thought. Slowly and deliberately, he pulled the shield and signet ring from his pocket and dropped them unceremoniously onto the desk, as he said, "Ismael Akopolis. Am reporting to Citadel."
    *npc* Pushing his glasses back up his nose, the man on the other side of the desk frowned down at the items placed there, and picked up his clipboard, making a clucking sound with his tongue as eyes roved over the list. His mannerisms changed as he found Ismael's name on the list, though when he next spoke, there was disapproval in his voice. "You were expected over four hours ago, sir. Did the driver we send not pick you up at the airport? There should have been one."
    The man nodded, "Nai. She was there. Told her I would walk. She gave good directions." He shrugged and gave a wide smile, as if that were the end of that portion of the conversation.
    *npc* "Well, sir, since you're so late, I'm not sure if anyone is still around to brief, or de-brief you, whichever of those it is. If you'd gone with the driver, you would have been -on time-, and could have had your meeting." The magus was annoyed about Ismael's decision to eschew the driver and the ride, and it came through as he picked up the phone and spoke to someone on the other end. "Mr. Akopolis has finally arrived. Will someone be coming down to collect him, or should I tell him to come back tomorrow?"


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    • 1 month later...

    Ismael shifted his weight from foot to foot as he impatiently waited for the man at the desk to get an answer. He didn't care to stand here any longer than he had to. There were things to do, first and foremost amongst them that did not involve reporting in to someone here, was to get into a a shower. He didn't mind it when he had to go right back out into the wilds of Russia, where smelling fresh and clean was a sure sign that you didn't entirely belong, but he hadn't been sent back into the wild. Instead, he'd been shipped off to New York, of all places. The stronghold of the traitorous members of ARMA.


    *npc* "I understand. I'll let Mr. Akopolis know. Thank you." The man hung up the phone, and with a smug look on his face, looked up at Ismael "You can wait here, sir. Someone will eventually be down to collect you for a meeting and debrief. For now, you can just..." He looked around the lobby, his nose wrinkled and turned up, "Have a seat over there," and pointed to a high table by a window, far away from the hustle and bustle of people that came through the building, lest Ismael's scent offend them.


    Eyes followed where the man pointed, and he nodded slowly. "Efcharistó," Ismael said, as straightened up a bit and slowly made his way over to the indicated table. With great deliberation, he pulled one of the stools out from beneath the table, making sure that it squeaked and squealed against the marble floor as it moved. Ismael stared directly at the magus manning the desk, and smiled broadly at him, before taking a seat on the stool.

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    • 2 months later...

    He pulled the badge and ring out of his pocket and set them on the small round table in front of him, fingers idling picking up the ring and spinning it 'round and 'round until it fell down. Once it did, he would pick it up, and start all over again. It didn't particularly bother him that he was being forced to wait until someone came down and collected him; it was more the manner he had been treated that had grated on his nerves. No matter, Ismael thought. The man would eventually get what was coming to him, one way or another.


    Leaving both items on the table, Ismael pushed his chair back a little bit, smiling as its metal base squealed on the marble floor. Once he'd created enough space between himself and the chair, he leaned back and hiked his heavily booted feet onto the table, relaxing slightly. Despite the dirt, grime, and overall uncleanliness, he had to admit that it was nice to be out of the Russian wilderness and surrounded by civilized people; asshole desk workers included. Eyes closed, his mind drifted to Nora. The last time he had seen her, they had been engaged in one of their infamous rows in the middle of the Vatican. Whatever it was they had been arguing about seemed trivial now, after the fact, like it always did. Had it been about her being re-assigned to the Americas? The length of whatever op he'd just finished, or been assigned, to the wilds? He honestly couldn't remember what that one had been about, but he definitely remembered how that one had ended. A wicked smirk played across his lips. The woman certainly was talented, there was no doubt about that. Was she here, in New York, he wondered?


    Little thought was given to the time, as Ismael dozed on and off while he sat there, leaned back. The sun slowly started to come up on the new day, though it hadn't cleared the tops of the neighboring buildings just yet. Opening his eyes, he gave a little flick of his wrist and produced a small knife. Calmly, he dug the tip of the blade beneath his fingernails, scraping away whatever material was caked beneath them. That task complete, he then proceeded to carefully scrape away at the pads of his fingers, smoothing out the ridges, loops, and whorls of his fingerprints. Not that it particularly mattered, since the Vatican would probably deny he even existed, if he were ever caught. And yet, he did it anyways. One could never be too careful, in this day and age. With the rise in mages, rogue magus, and these....hedge magicians...that were slowly starting to figure things out, he pondered shaving his entire body. All they needed was a few hairs with the follicles attached, and they could control him, right? Or was that just a myth. Ismael made a mental note to ask someone about that later, when he got the chance to.


    A new yawn was stifled, and he took in the other people in the lobby of the building. Aside from himself and the couple of people working at the front desk, nobody stayed long. They were all either coming or going, and not a single one of them seemed to pay him any mind. A mental shrug. Their business, currently, didn't affect him. Nor did his affect them, so they were all inconsequential to each other until their paths finally crossed, if they ever did.

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