Magical Subcontracting

July 07, 2018:

Nico Minoru's luxury solo brunch is interrupted by Angela, who seeks to cash in a favor owed to her.

A bougie-as-hell cafe and raw bar

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Nico Minoru's extended jaunt without anyone to nursemaid or mind has been going pretty well, from her perspective. She has shopped (evidence: two modest bags, a significantly fatter day bag) and has seen Cultural Objects and has even managed to overnight somewhere that wasn't a hobo trap set by the supervillain Rudolph Giuliani in the not-so-long ago.

So.

Here she is.

BULTON'S TAVERN

A quasi-chic place set into the old brick buildings that were once a Historical Fish Market, Bulton's has the usual stuff you would love and expect at a restaurant that advertises their brunch specials but has two other key features:

1. a raw bar
2. poor foot traffic due to the Recent Problems making people less - not "not," just "less" - inclined to get out there and Brunch Hard. Hell's Kitchen isn't that far away.

Points 1. and 2. lead to point 3. which is that Nico Minoru, bearer of the Staff of One, inheritor of a dark legacy, has gotten hold of a sixteen-oyster platter at a net cost of $1.10 per oyster, which is sitting on the small table set in the streetside corner of the Patio Zone wherein she has planted herself. She also has a cup of coffee. There are two tables between her and anyone else enjoying the outdoor seating in all reasonable directions, and the wait service is probably going to be lousy, but it also means there is (some) Privacy.

Nico Minoru would totally like to be looking wistfully towards the sea but that would be a flat-out lie because she's actually on her phone and planning a haircut. That's her last to-do list item, as well as the last of the petty cash.

OR SO SHE THINKS.

"Maybe Spider-Man can sneak me onto the train roof," Nico muses to herself. (She glances sideways in case she was overheard, but slightly distorted pop music conceals all sins at this distance.)

When Nico finishes glancing sideways, returning her gaze to her phone brings a new development in the realm of her peripheral vision: at least half of a tall woman in grey slacks and a linen button-up shirt. The rest of her presumably requires looking up, on account of the tall.

"The man of spiders moves more quickly than you," says the woman, who didn't give her name the last time she and Nico met. 'Met' is a bit generous for the situation, explosions and ifriti and all that. "And more erratically. He does not wish to be followed, I think."

The redhead pulls out a chair for herself opposite of Nico, sitting down and looking evenly across the table at the other woman. Her posture is immaculate but seems to be a default for her rather than a conscious affectation. With the benefit of not having to focus on terrorism occurring, it is easier to consider the strangeness of her white-irised eyes, if one were so inclined. It's certainly not the only unusual thing here.

"I have a need," she continues.

The voice of the redheaded glamourous amazon, or amaglam, ripples through Nico. She raises her head slowly and turns her head to look at Angela. Given the slight elevation of the Patio Space(tm) she is at eye level, but she doesn't feel it.

Then she joins her. "Oh," she says. "We're friends. Um. He walked me in here. I'm going to tie dye him a new shirt. Hi," she concludes.

She breathes in deeply, lets it out, and reaches forwards to pick up an oyster without looking away from Angela's… eyes? That's strange, she thinks. Supernatural. Is she here to abduct me? How do I feel about that.

"What's up?" she says.

I should have introduced myself, she thinks as she tips back the oyster shell and swallows it. /ugh/

Angela is quiet and watchful while Nico speaks. This is just how conversations go. She is also quiet and watchful while Nico does some deep breathing, grasps for an oyster, and eats it. All the way through. A few moments after the swallowing, also.

Hopefully Nico feels very cool right now.

"You seemed as much," she says, likely in response to Nico's relationship status with Spider-Man. "As quick as he is, it is your talents that I seek."

Angela leans in, bringing one of her arms up to lean her elbow on the table between them. Her sleeves are rolled up. The butch levels are subtle but dangerous.

"My name is Angela. I am currently tasked with recovering an artifact from a man who holds it unlawfully. I require the services of a witch in order to complete the retrieval. As you currently owe me, I offer even things between us in exchange for your assistance. You will be fairly compensated for any trouble incurred beyond the reasonable applications of your debt."

She says this all very matter-of-factly; either she thinks it a very normal thing to ask or she is exceedingly good at keeping a straight face.

Nico feels like she can sense every single physical imperfection in her face, bone structure, clothes (casual af right now, including pink tank top), hair, piercings, musical preferences and life decisions. The sense does slowly sublimate away because she cannot see —

What is it I don't see there? Nico pushes the thought aside as one of her oysters is eaten.

"You sound like a cop," Nico says, before pausing, putting her oyster shell down, and tilting her gaze down for a moment. "… Sorry. Let me back up."

"It's great to meet you, Angela, and thank you so much for what you did - there." Her eyes cut towards the bourgeoise eating waffles and drinking bloodies for a moment. Then her fingers lace together on the table. "My name is Nico Minoru."

Another second or two. I guess I do owe her, Nico thinks. What was my plan for the week?

LATE FRI/EARLY SAT: GET HAIRCUT, RETURN TO TITANS TOWER
SUN: GO TO CHURCH (???)
MON-FRI: SLEEP/TIEDYE

"Alright," she says. "Can you tell me more? I have to be careful, with what I can do, so the more you can tell me the better."

Angela pauses momentarily to consider the idea of sounding like a cop. Her tell for thoughtfulness in this case is tilting her head to the side slightly. If she comes to decision on anything, she doesn't say as much before Nico keeps talking.

When Nico glances to the side briefly at the bougie display alongside them, Angela keeps her gaze centered. She seems patient enough to let Nico run the cost analysis in scheduling in her head as long as needed.

As Nico agrees, Angela sits back in her chair once more. She does not exactly seem pleased, but her expression softens infinitesimally into something more beneficent. Something about less tightness around her mouth — her lips are expressive enough that little things matter.

"I lack lawful authority, so this undertaking will be technically illegal. However, the man we seek hides cruel dealings as well. We will work outside of the law in this matter."

Angela produces a phone from her pocket, setting it on the table and tapping at its surface a few times. Afterward, she pushes it toward the center — next to the oysters — so that Nico may more easily see. The phone is a few generations behind and the case is scratched up, which a savvy delinquent may see as hints of it being a back-alley burner.

Whatever its origin, it shows a picture of some kind of hyper-modernist compound in some wooded, mountainous area. The layout of buildings suggests some rich person's retreat rather than a multi-family or similarly distributed space. The centerpiece is a large structure with a complicated silhouette that probably involved a very well-paid architect. The wall facing the camera features a decadent amount of windows that reveal a high-ceiling, open-space living room floor plan. The interior is more shadowy, with only vague shapes suggesting furniture and perhaps statues.

"My client seeks to regain a lost belonging. It has fallen into the collection of a private art collector who primarily purchases stolen pieces through grey-market channels. I turned away my initial investigation after encountering magical warding. There will likely be further defenses within the estate. Your part will be to address such problems while I handle the rest."

Nico relaxes gradually, due to the fading of surprise and the tasty flavor of the oyster. She takes up another and doesn't toss it back as swiftly as the last one. She turns her head to look down, eyes narrowing as she lets the oyster sit on her tongue for a moment before swallowing it.

"Heh," she says, about the law. It doesn't seem to be a turnoff.

Nico leans towards the phone more closely. "I had a phone like this when I was thirteen," she muses to herself. She resists the urge to turn it over and see if it has a MCR sticker on the back.

What she does end up doing is curling both her hands over it and muttering something under her breath. At this point the light in the cupped space of her hands just kind of… dies, producing a small batch of complete and absolute darkness in about a six inch radius. This doesn't include the phone, and it makes the image pop much more clearly! As the inside of her hands reflects the ghostly light, Nico says, "Nice."

The rest is explained. Her nose wrinkles.

"You said it was an 'artifact'. Can you say what, like, it is? Maybe it's making the wards itself. Though if that was the case I could just like, come in with you. What do you expect, dogs? Bodyguards?"

"Or is this more like werewolves and bound demons," Nico mutters.

Angela seems less intent on observing Nico's oyster-consuming technique this time. Her attention favors the phone instead. When it happens next, Nico's trick with the light manipulation is more interesting, though it doesn't seem to surprise Angela at all. Visibly, she takes it in stride.

"It is the pelt of a monster slain long ago," says Angela. "It would not be the source of the wards unless it has been modified in some way."

Angela looks up at the muttering. She briefly thins her lips in thought. "Would werewolves and bound demons not be dogs and bodyguards?"

Nico does not eat another oyster yet since she's cradling the phone in darqueling embrace. Stupid weak screens.

"Well," she says.

"Yeah," she says.

"But," Nico continues: "I have to explain a little on how I work here. I can't repeat my tricks. So, if it's dogs, like, normal dogs, I've already had to deal with dogs a lot. I'd be able to think ahead in case I have to stop them. So in a weird way werewolves would be /better/ because I have never actually had to worry about werewolves. Except werewolves would probably be like, huge and fast and furry, but I guess that's where you'd come in."

Nico thinks, not without pleasure, of Angela putting an ifrit in a wrist lock.

"Same with demons," she says. "Like the other week I tried to send a goat demon back to Hell, right? So if I ran into another goat demon, I couldn't send it to Hell. But I could send it to, like, Connecticut."

Angela leans in again as Nico explains. It is different from last time, not a conscious repositioning but rather a slow drifting closer as she hears the sort-of-tale. She furrows her brow.

"Hn," is her initial response.

A moment passes.

Then: "Did someone do this to you?"

Nico's eyes turn to the table, then away from Angela, as she says, "Kind of?"

"It's not like a curse," Nico explains. "It's just how the magic works," which may not have been the actual question. "I know some people can just kind of repeat the same spell til their fingers fall off, or they do everything as like a rite, or just have a sword or a disk or whatever."

The silence spreads out over the table as Nico finishes speaking. For a stretch of time, Angela does not pierce it. What she does do, after moments, is reach across the table and lay her hand on her phone to drag it back toward her. Her hand brushes Nico's, but only incidentally.

"There is no shame in what others do to you, in not being like other people," she says. Her tone is quieter and more measured. "Only in not mastering yourself."

Angela slips the phone back into her pocket. She looks up once more. Her tone is refreshed in candor.

"I will work to ensure that you will not spend much of your power. Your payment will be commensurate with your sacrifice. If you wish to only render aid in the utmost necessary circumstances, that will suffice. Are we agreed?"

The touch on the back of her hand makes Nico feel like she is contracting for a moment, shrinking like an octopus trying to cram itself into a narrow hole in a reef rock. Not entirely in a bad way. Her face reddens as she says, "Sure. I promise you I'll break that ward no matter what, though, OK? Like - don't worry about that."

I'm going to need to bring it out on purpose, Nico thinks. I'll have to get another blade or something.

"We're agreed," she says. Then, "Um."

Her hands uncup and the little pocket of darkness seems to hang there for a moment like one of those eye-swirlies that may come at times after sitting up too quickly. It disappears soon enough, but Nico offers her right hand with a tentative smile. "Shake on it?"

("When do you want to leave btw?")

If Angela notices the redness to cross Nico's face, she makes no appearance of it. Of course, she's played did-she-or-didn't-she with her expressionlessness a few times now in this conversation. A hard one to read, to be sure.

Angela glances down at Nico's offered hand before raising her own to meet it. She performs THE SHAKE, only once but firmly. She then releases Nico's hand. It is all done very consciously, with more a sense of ritual than gesture.

"We leave tomorrow," says Angela. "I will give you the number necessary to contact me. Do so in the morning, and I will have further information on where we shall gather before setting out."

That's what it is, Nico thinks. Her eyes. The color, it's like cataracts. It's uncanny.

I wonder if it's contacts.

"OK," Nico says, plucking up her own phone with one hand and an oyster with another.

"I guess that'll be that. - Are you bringing a whole team?" This IS basically a heist, Nico thinks. Am I OK with this?

I am, she decides.

"I imagine my client will wish to join us," says Angela, who is probably a bit too old to be wearing anime cosplay contacts. Maybe? It is difficult to pin her down. Her youthfulness seems born of fitness and good breeding, which means she could be mid twenties with a mature bearing or in her well-preserved thirties.

Whatever the case, Angela looks out over the street as she presumably reflects on the nature of her client. "He is a man of deeds and no small pride," she concludes.

Angela shares a number for Nico to add to her phone, repeats it as necessary, and then rises from her seat once she's finished. In the same motion as standing, she reaches into her pocket and withdraws a folded twenty dollar bill to set down on the table.

"In trade for interrupting your meal. Until tomorrow, Nico Minoru."

Angela leaves thereafter, responding to any inquiries or objections about the bill with a dismissive wave of her hand.

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