Raven wandered from one shop to the next, stopping to look at various displays. It was late morning, and the shopping arcade was sparsely populated. Although this was the lowest level of the arcology, and unlike the more exclusive shopping areas upstairs it was open to the public, there were few who would, or could, pry themselves away from their jobs to go shopping during business hours on some random Wednesday.
Raven, on the other hand... It was the nature of her work to respond to crisises. Therefore her days were mostly free, with the occasional intake of high-octane action, just in case she was starting to get bored. But there hadn't been anything momentous in a while, or maybe it was she had become jaded.
Or maybe she was being saved for something big. There were quite a number of indications...
Her musings were rudely interrupted by the altogether unpleasant - although annoyingly familiar - feeling of a hand on her backside. It gave a quick squeeze then was suddenly gone. At the same time, a loud voice from right behind her piped up.
"Hey, bay-bee!" Raven recognised the voice immediately. She couldn't forget Reno, the obnoxious man who had helped to ruin her night at the Edge of Night with Shion. "How'd joo like to-" Raven spun on the spot to face him. She almost tripped in the process—she was much better, but not quite past her awkwardness—but she managed not to fall flat on her face in front of him.
Reno's reaction was instant. Gone was his self-assured smug expression and annoying dialect, replaced with the gibbering of abject terror. He held both hands in front of his face, trying to ward her off. Raven couldn't help but notice the plaster over one finger.
"Was it Reno?" she asked him in a pleasant tone. Reno turned and bolted away from her. "Hey, don't be leaving so soon!" Raven giggled and lifted a hand, picking Reno off the ground just a few inches. Just enough to leave him running comically in mid-air. Giggling harder, Raven approached him. "I need to ask you about that girl."
"Oh, please, god, don't hurt me!" Reno hollered, loud enough to scare the whole shopping mall. "I swear, I didn't know what she was up to! I only wanted to talk to you because you're a hot babe! I didn't mean a thing!"
Raven laughed. "Ooooh, on the contrary—I'm sure you meant quite a few things. Should I take that as a compliment?"
"Heh..." Reno calmed down slightly, and stopped flailing his legs in mid-air. "Jor not go-en to hurt me?" he nervoudly asked.
Raven cocked her head to the side. "Maybe. Maybe not. Haven't decided yet."
"Juell, all I knowz iz dat she waz after some of ma team." Reno glanced down. "Can joo put me down now?"
"She told me about someone named Rachel. Know anything about that?"
Reno swallowed hard. He slowly nodded, his mouth stretched into a grimace. "Jueall, jeah..." he said slowly, "Just it ain't a nice story, see?"
"Well, get talking."
"Er..." Reno glanced around at the gathering onlookers, ranging from perplexed to amused. "Here?" he asked.
"Good point." She walked to Reno, let him down, and took his arm. "Let's find some place."
Reno immediately tried to bolt, but found Raven's grip too strong fro him. He looked sheepish and muttered "'kay," then meekly followed her.
Raven dragged Reno to a nearby cafe and threw him in a seat in a corner table. He twiddled his thumbs nervously. "Can I..."
"Buy me a drink? Sure!" Raven said, giggling.
"D'oh!" Reno yelled. He signalled a waiter, and nodded to Raven. "Joo know, we might az well make some-ten of dis," he said with an eager grin.
"Oh,. we will—you're going to tell me about 'Rachel' and I'm not going to torment you any further," Raven replied with a predatory smile.
"Okie!" Reno squeaked. He took a second to regain his composure, then began. "Joo zee, Rache wuz de boss of our opz team, but dere wus diss leetle ting wid her sister, joo zee?"
"Joo do?" Reno looked amazed. "Well dat's okey den," he said, and leaned back casually.
"Oh, well..." He pulled at his collar, clearly stalling.
Raven tilted her head and simply looked at him with a predatory half-smirk. "I meant now, Reno."
Reno swallowed hard. "'kay. Zee, her sis Nicole waz on dis team too, right? She'z de twic, only methinks she wanted a bit more. We waz on dis op, where Rache rushed in wid half da team, y'see? Only things went bad an' all."
His face fell as he recounted the events. "Nicole had a remote detonator for dis bomb da team had - we waz meant to make it look like terrorists, see - and she set it off, rather dan bail dem out. I fig dat Rache died in da blast."
"That's not a nice thing to do to one's sister," Raven said. "To say the least."
Reno shook his head slowly. "She'z now got da job, see? So methinkz dat'z what she wanted."
"And where does Gem come in?"
Reno shrugged. "Dat's what I'm try-en to figure. Joo zee, she said dat she wuz Rache's friend an' all, and she knowz a lot aboot da team, only I've never heard of her before. And I knew Rache well."
"Juell..." Reno pondered for a second. "Nah," he suddenly said.
Reno leaned forwards, and spoke in a hushed tone. "I waz think-en mebbe I could get joo to meet wid Nicole."
"Why would I want to do that?"
Reno shrugged. "Juell, she'd know more aboot it den me."
"Perhaps I could ask Gem first."
Reno shook her head. "Prob is dat she makes da meet-enz, an' I don't know how to contact her."
"So what's the problem?" Raven said with a feral grin.
It was a quiet night at The Edge of Night. The patrons were heading home, and the bar staff were winding up early. Reno sat nervously at the bar, glancing around. He had been nursing a single drink all night, anxiously watching the crowds for signs of the boyish bodyguard.
Almost as soon as he turned back to the bar, he felt movement beside him. Gem had taken a seat next to him quietly, and was looking impassively at the drinks on display. "Jo," he said, only to be ignored. Gem placed her open hand on the bar, palm upwards.
"Oh, right," Reno muttered and placed a disk in her hand. She closed it again, and drew it into her jacket. She pulled out a wad of bills, and silently handed them to him.
Reno nodded, and placed his hand on hers. Instead of taking the money, he grasped her hand loosely. She suddenly turned to face him, her eyes narrowing. "What do you want?" she asked in a fierce tone.
Reno swallowed hard. "Raven Clark wanted to meet wid joo," he muttered. She was taken aback, and looked blankly at him for a few seconds. "What should I tell her?"
Gem breathed deeply for a second, and blinked a few times. The last thing she expected was to hear from the ESPer she tried to kill. What possible reason could Raven have to meet with her?
"Tell her I'll meet her at the Pit, two nights from now." With that, Gem stood and left.
"Wait! Wait!" Reno called after her, but was ignored. He downed his drink and wiped his brow, trying to decide which of the two was scarier.
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