15 day ago.
Taylor stood in front of one of his weapon caches, staring at the display of sharp, bladed instruments, calculating the ability of each to be thrown, or rather, to be thrown and to successfully hit a soft target.
There was a soft intake of air behind him, but he ignored her. She was getting better, managing to fade in right behind him without stumbling. She was improving but she wasn’t good enough yet. He lifted a small hatchet and placed it on the trolley beside him, that made six weapons, good enough for now.
‘Sir,’ the girl said.
He turned wordlessly, pushing the trolley toward the centre of the room, and like he’d trained her, she followed silently. He grabbed her by the arm and moved her into position, right underneath the spot where his punching bag usually hung, the centre of the room was the best place for training like this.
A blindfold appeared in his hands and he tied it tight around her head. Not tight enough to cut off circulation – likely not tight enough to cut off circulation, and experimentally waved a hand in front of her face. He lowered his face to hers, watching all of the little muscle twitches as she adjusted to the cloth. ‘Can you see, Magnolia?’
She turned her face upward, looking at the brightest light source in his gym for a long moment. ‘No sir.’
He spun her several times – a useless gesture, as her bird ancestry made it nearly impossible for her to become disorientated by something so simple, but it was a part of the test, and it was always best for things to happen within parameters. Outside parameters was where things got complicated. Outside parameters was where things went wrong. He stared at his recruit for a moment, then looked away.
Outside parameters was where other people belonged.
He pulled the trolley back a few metres, purposely letting it rattle so she had a point of reference of where the first attack would logically come from. Not the first attack ever came from the logical place, except when he wanted to trick her.
He reached for the first weapon, but a larger hand grabbed him by the wrist. He looked up to the intruder and smiled.
[May I?] the intruder asked as he grabbed the knife.
[Of course.]
He shifted himself back to the small set of bleachers, rested his back against the row above him and watched as the other man lifted the knife, easily spun it, testing its weight, then grip it by the blade.
[You’re going to throw it from there, Grigori?] he asked.
[This is me,] the other agent replied, [I like to start simple.]
Grigori looked back, grinned, then turned back and threw the knife at Magnolia. The girl dodged the knife, but just barely, the blade skimming past her ear, nearly taking out a lock of her white hair.
[She’s good,] the Russian complimented, [you didn’t tell me she was this good.] He lifted the hatchet from the trolley and shifted halfway across the room.
[She’s adequate,] he replied, [still needs a lot of training.]
The hatchet was thrown and again, missed his recruit by inches. Her reaction time had been better though, so he made a note of it.
Grigori turned to look at him and shook his head. [This is more than adequate, and you know that.] He shifted back to the trolley and picked up both of the throwing stars. [Come on,] he urged, [say it.]
[Throw the stars,] he replied.
Grigori took a few running steps, then leaped above Magnolia, smacked the chain the punching bag usually hung from, then shifted back to the trolley and threw both of the stars.
He watched on in interest, then nodded as he watched his recruit drop flat to the floor. After both of the stars passed harmlessly over her head, she was on her feet, and even more alert than before. Grigori shifted behind her, nothing in his hands.
[There’s still two more-] he began to argue.
[Ah but,] Grigori asked as he looked across with a grin, [how many were you going to actually throw at her?]
He looked away for a moment. [Eight.]
This made the other agent’s grin wider. [I knew it. Think of it this way, four is as much of a test as eight. Besides, I want to meet her.]
[She’s just a recruit,] he argued again as he watched Grigori throw an easily-dodged punch.
[She’s also hot. You didn’t mention that she was hot.]
[Her temperature is fine.]
Grigori wrapped Magnolia up in a headlock, then looked across at him. [Taylor, did you just try a joke?]
[Of course not.]
Grigori laughed, and Magnolia panicked, trying to get out of the headlock, then after a moment, she faded out of the tall agent’s arms, and reappeared a few metres away. She tore away the blindfold, and had a gun aimed at Grigori as soon as she raised her arm. Upon seeing his uniform, however, the weapon faded from her hand. ‘Sorry.’
She looked over to him. ‘Sorry sir, I thought something had gone awry.’
‘Grigori tends to do that,’ he replied, only to the have other agent make a vaguely rude hand gesture in his diction.
He watched the Russian shift across to his recruit, look her up and down and grin. ‘Dinner. Dancing. Friday. I’ll pick you up.’
[You’ve been here less than five minutes,] he chided.
‘Correction,’ Grigori said as he spun back around. ‘I’ve been here twenty minutes and already rejected once.’ He turned back to Magnolia. ‘Yes?’
‘S-sir?’ Magnolia asked, a very un-Magnolia look of confusion on her face.
He stared at the grinning face of Grigori for a moment, then down to his recruit. ‘What you do on your downtime is your decision, Recruit.’
She swallowed. ‘I’ll, I’’ll think about it,’ she stammered. ‘Agent Grigori.’
‘No need to be so formal,’ he said, ‘just call me how the other girls do.’
‘Which is?’
‘On a nightly basis.’
‘You’re dismissed, Recruit,’ he called.
She nodded at him, and quickly faded from the room, leaving them alone.
Grigori shifted next to him, and tossed aside his heavy jacket before sitting beside him.
‘It’s been a long time,’ he said.
‘Well,’ Grigori said with a smirk, ‘not like you ever come and visit.’
‘I’ve been busy here,’ he said.
‘With her?’ Grigori asked, jerking a thumb at where Magnolia had been standing. ‘I’ll back off if you want me to.’
‘She’s just a recruit.’
‘Just a recruit,’ Grigori repeated, ‘and you let her dress like that?’
‘It’s how she’s comfortable,’ he answered.
Grigori pulled a hip flask, took a drink and seemed to mull this over. ‘Well if you’re sure.’ He passed across the flask.
He took a drink, and made a face at the taste of alcohol. ‘This is contraband,’ he said after he swallowed, the warm feeling of the illegal fae drink spreading through his system.
‘And so damn good,’ Grigori said.
He took another drink, then passed back the flask. ‘You should get cited for that.’
‘Not that you know how to fill out the form.’
‘That’s why I have Magnolia,’ he said, another slight smile moving out-of-practice combinations of muscles.
‘I never ever,’ Grigori said as he took another drink before disappearing the flash back into a pocket, ‘thought you would take on an aide.’
‘She makes things easier,’ he admitted. He stared at his friend for a moment. ‘Why are you here, Grigori?’
‘Do I need a reason to visit?’
‘You haven’t been here in three years, two days after-’
‘It’s Ana’s birthday,’ Grigori said, cutting him off, ‘she wanted to go on a holiday. I told her it had to be a working holiday, so she’s going to spend time observing this experiment, Jonesy will at least let her look at the code, and it’ll be interesting for her.’
‘…he tricked me.’
‘I know.’
‘They’re making another Whitman.’
‘You know what you’re up against this time. Besides, you get to do the limit testing, don’t you?’
‘Yes.’
‘Want some help with that?’
‘Wouldn’t say no.’
Grigori slapped him on the shoulder. ‘Then say yes!’
‘Yes.’
‘Another drink?’
‘Yes.’