“I sincerely believe that you should consider my advice…” the meddler said evenly as he took a sip of tea. “…the experience would be beneficial.” He continued as he set the delicate cup down onto the table. The attractive young woman that shared the table glared at him from behind her reflective candy apple red sunglasses. Eowyn would be furious, but this was business and nothing more; she would understand.
“How do you figure that?” the woman replied skeptically. Tyche Serket had known the man sitting across from her (whom she referred privately to as ‘the meddler’) for some time; one day just showing up on her doorstep knowing far more than he had any right to and a business proposition. Of course she trusted him about as far as she could throw a bus, but he had also never lied to her either (even though some people may consider omission and particular word choice to be a form of lying). She was also curious and that curiosity had placed her at this upscale coffee shop in the middle of Alpha Sector.
Not that everywhere in Alpha Sector wasn’t upscale in the first place; if Angelus was the pinnacle of human development, business, innovation and forward thinking, then Alpha Sector is the upper crust where only the rich and affluent tread. Not that Tyche was particularly concerned with feeling out of place. She had called Alpha Sector home since she left her family in Iota Sector. While doing what she can for her family, their stubborn refusal to leave Iota as it continued its downward spiral into poverty at least move at least to Beta Sector has been a sticking point for years. Maybe one day they will change their mind. Doubtful, but she still held out hope. In the meantime, she ensured her relatives are able to meet their financial obligations and save a little at the same time.
“Well…” the meddler began, sparing a glance outside. Due to the massive array of hydrolizers it was almost always overcast and rainy in Angelus and today was no different. Despite this, the light caught his glasses just right to screen his eyes with reflected light. “…there are several events in motion; some have run their course and will be coming to an end soon, while others are only beginning their journeys and certain events, as they move to their inevitable conclusion, are inextricably tangled with each other.”
“Yeah… tell me something I don’t already know old man.”
The meddler’s gaze flashed to Tyche, the first real semblance of emotion from the man peeking through his façade. “…if you would allow me to finish, thief, I would be glad to enlighten you.”
Suitably chastised, Tyche sat back and held her coffee cup in both hands and sipped loudly. “In any event, there are certain resources and institutions that are still quite beneficial to me, my goals and Angelus in general, XSWAT being chief among them. Now, due to past events and the consequences of particular actions and decisions in the past, I anticipate that things will begin to grow worse as time goes on and as some of the previously mentioned events wind down or shift momentum. There will be challenges ahead and even though I am confident that things will still go as I anticipate, I would prefer to not leave such matters to chance.”
“Let me guess,” Tyche muttered. “This is where I come in.”
“Precisely.” He smiled.
Tyche rolled her eyes. She had worked with the man long enough to have seen this a mile away. Hell, knowing what she knew of the man across from her, it was likely that most of the events prior to this meeting had been orchestrated weeks, if not months ago in some fashion. “If this is so important to you, why don’t you do it yourself? Why should I get myself stuck in one of your multifaceted chess games?”
“I can’t.” he responded plainly. “It would be… difficult to explain, but essentially due to certain past events and current circumstances being what they are, I cannot take an active role in events regarding Angelus, much less XSWAT, any longer. I assure you, I would if I could, but what has been done cannot be undone.”
“Hrrm… fine. But what’s in it for me”
“As I mentioned, there are events that are in motion as well as resources and institutions tied to these events. More importantly, there are certain peop –”
“Cut the bullshit Nicodemus. That sort of mystery talk would have worked on me several years ago, but not now.”
Nicodemus frowned, sat back and steepled his gloved fingers, another glint of light bouncing off of his glasses just so. “…alright.” He paused and exhaled a short breath. “You have made a number of…beings rather angry with the way you have been using your…‘talents’ as of late, Tyche.”
Tyche shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah, and?” This was nothing new to her. She was used to having to deal with sore losers, especially those that were cheating in the first place and don’t even get started when casinos are mentioned. Some would love to have her as a poster-child to attract more fools to throw away their hard-earned credits at their tables and machines; others would love nothing more than to see her hang.
“You seem to have acquired quite a bit of a ‘karmic debt’ of sorts. To be clear, I am not one to dictate how you should or should not use your talents, and certainly most of these beings simply do not care one way or the other…but apparently you seem to have made a few rather angry at some point and have unwittingly tread upon their toes, so to speak.
“Now, some of these beings are more powerful than others and some have a much longer reach, but the one thing they seem to have in common is that they want to even the score, or at the very least knock you down a few pegs, put you back in your place, as it were.”
Tyche folded her arms across her chest. “And how would joining XSWAT have anything to do with this?”
“First, you would be giving back. It seems that the largest concern for some is not that you are doing what you have been doing per se; rather you have been doing so selfishly and at the expense of others to the extent one could consider it abuse. For those that are much more…irate, well, XSWAT would serve as a means of protecting yourself. Only the most powerful or most enraged of these beings would consider the idea of targeting a member of XSWAT to be a viable option when seeking revenge.” Nicodemus adjusted his glasses and took a sip of tea. “Besides, I think you would actually enjoy it. It would be far more active and entertaining than the work I have had for you.”
She considered his words as she finished her coffee. She set the cup down and gestured idly for a refill. “Alight, I’ll think about it. Hell, I can’t be the only one who joined that crazy group of sanity rejects just because they had nothing better to do.”
Nicodemus finished his tea and gave a slight nod as he withdrew a silver pocket watch. “No, you would not be…” He checked the time, closed the cover and smiled. “…and you certainly would not be the last.”
Tyche’s brows lifted as what began as a hung blossomed into realization. “Oh… oh fuck you! Fuck! You!”
Nicodemus lifted a brow and tucked the pocket watch away. “Is something wrong?”
“You bet there is!” Tyche’s voice raised an octave. “You set this up from the very beginning didn’t you? Didn’t you?!?”
“I do not know what you’re talking about.” Nicodemus replied with his characteristic unnerving calm and a slightly raised brow.
“Bullshit! You set me up as soon as I started working for you. All of those little jobs here and there were meant to get those… things pissed off at me.”
“And what if I did, is that a problem? Are you mad?”
She could almost see that arrogant, amused, self-righteous grin beneath Nicodemus’ completely neutral expression. The fact that he steepled his fingers in front of his face as if to hide the smile only infuriated her further. “Yes! You’ve messed with me, set me up and now you have me doing your dirty work! Mad doesn’t even begin to cover –”
Nicodemus interrupted her by lifting a single finger moments before a waiter came into view. Tyche genuinely considered ignoring the warning, but she remembered that they were still in public and there could always be unintended listeners. The waiter filled each of their cups and departed without a word.
“Look,” he began, stirring a bit of honey into his tea. “Even if I had done what you are accusing me of doing, it makes very little difference. The fact of the matter is that you were already on this path well before we met and the surrounding circumstances that I have explained to you were, unfortunately, an inevitable conclusion.” He took a sip and continued. “At the absolute worse, if I had done what you are accusing me of doing, I simply anteceded a particular, inevitable, outcome and manipulated the intervening events in a manner that would allow the greatest benefit for my interests.”
Tyche regarded Nicodemus skeptically, having taken stock of the situation and cooled a little. This wasn’t the first time he had made his meddling apparent, except that she was the target this time managed to get under her skin. For a brief moment, Tyche considered this just may be how some casino owners felt when she walked away from their tables. “So, what, are you saying that somehow my well-being is in your best interest?”
“Something like that.” Nicodemus replied, lifting the cup to his lips once more. “But only if you believe that I somehow orchestrated all of this. It could just as easily be said that I have genuine concern for someone who has done a lot of work for me and whom I have enjoyed a rather profitable business relationship with and would prefer that relationship to continue for the foreseeable future.”
“I see, so I am still just a pawn in your wide-ranging existential multifaceted chess game shenanigans then.” Tyche smirked as she sipped her coffee.
“I would not go so far as to say that exactly.” Another sip of tea. “While it is a common tactic to sacrifice pawns, or even the queen at particular times, it is uncommon to present a rook as bait, much less sacrifice it.” A momentary pause as the cup is set upon the table. “Unless, of course, circumstances are suitably dire and such a sacrifice is necessary for survival. Fortunately, for all of us, things have not reached that particular level and I would prefer that they remain that way.”
Tyche stared at the last bit of coffee, smirked and drained it. “Alright old man.” She said as she placed her cup on the table. “I’ll play your little game.” She then stood up and collected her coat. “But I’ll play it my way. Don’t expect me to go out and get myself wrapped up in anything stupid and to hell with field duty!”
“And I’m too pretty deal with slime monsters. I’ve seen enough hentai to know how that turns out.” She continued as she shoved one arm through the sleeve, and then the other.
Finished donning her coat Tyche looked to Nicodemus, who had remained seated. “Fair enough?”
Nicodemus lifted both hands innocently. “Once you join XSWAT, there is nothing I can do. What duties or assignments will be determined by on your skills, talents, abilities and, more importantly, the needs of XSWAT.”
“Fine… I guess.” Tyche muttered as she collected her purse and fished out her umbrella. “Is there anything special I should know about signing up? Do they have any restrictions or something?”
Nicodemus shrugged. “To the best of my knowledge, no. XSWAT accepts anybody who is willing to join them. However, you will need to prove that you actually belong in their ranks; they tend to send people who lack cybernetic or bionic enhancements, magic, or psionics to the normal police. This being said, I would also recommend that you rein in your talents; otherwise you run a very real risk of both not accomplishing your goal but also making matters worse.”
“I…see” Tyche frowned. Perhaps this would be harder than she thought. “Is there anything else?”
“Not really. I trust you will be able to overcome any challenges that are thrown your way.” He paused. “Oh, there is one thing. If you happen to cross paths with the Director, her husband, or a Clade that goes by the name of Chrysine, please send them my regards if you would.”
Tyche blinked. “a…alright.” As she turned to leave, it was then her turn to give pause. “Before I leave and get myself involved in this nonsense, tell me…was I right?”
“About you setting me up, planning this whole thing, even this meeting.”
Nicodemus smiled and lifted a single finger, wagging it back and forth slowly, light glittering across his glasses. “Now Tyche… that. Is a secret.”
* * * * *
Five minutes after Tyche left, Nicodemus checked his pocket watch and turned off the portable white-noise generator built into the databand he wore on his left wrist. He still found it fascinating that after all of these years it still worked like new. He keyed in a number. The other end rang twice and was answered. “Richard.”
“Things are going well enough. I can only assume the same could be said for you as well?”
“I wanted to inform you that she decided to join.”
“Not at all. I trust that you will be able to handle matters to your liking from here?”
“I anticipated as much. If you require further assistance with anything, please let me know.”
“Of course. It was a pleasure speaking with you Richard. Good bye.”
Nicodemus ended the call and sat back. After finishing his tea, he withdrew his silver pocket watch and checked the time. “Just as planned.”