Shift: Location of Aide O’Connor.
Again, the bright, white lighting of the boy’s bathroom assaulted Stef’s eyes.
‘Ah, crap.’
There was a sigh from one of the stalls. ‘You really need to stop doing that, newbie.’
‘It’s easier than walking around the whole Agency calling out your name. You know what this place is like, I could get lost, or locked in Lost and Found.’
‘Applebaum would let you out. Eventually.’ Curt said. There was the sound of a flush, and he walked out of the stall. ‘I assume it’s time to go, and that you aren’t just trying to memorise the look of this place?’
She tapped her head. ‘Agent, so…photographic memory by default, not to mention I can pull up the schematics, the surveillance equipment in the walls, the-’
‘Shall we?’
She grabbed hold of his sleeve and shifted them to Grigori’s office. She stared at the Russian, and took two steps back, just in case.
Grigori simply smiled. ‘Dmitri’s doing well, we should be able to wake him up in a couple of weeks.’
‘That’s nice,’ she said flatly.
‘Stef-’
‘Agent Mimosa.’
She went to close her mouth, but realised she hadn’t spoken, she looked up to Curt, who gave her a small smile.
‘Agent Mimosa,’ Grigori parroted obediently. ‘Ok, fine, if you aren’t in the mood for pleasantries, I’ll just take you to the warehouse.’
She took one step forward. ‘I think I’ll be able to forgive you, just…not yet. Really not yet.’
‘That’s…fair,’ the Russian said, then shifted them from his office.
The warehouse was huge, beyond even what she’d imagined, seeming to stretch on for hundreds of meters.
‘When you’re as old as I am,’ he said, ‘you tend to accumulate a few things.’
‘Yeah,’ she said, ‘cause this is a “few”.’
There were two trolleys waiting for them, one contained one bag, the other, two. ‘Your gold,’ he said. ‘As promised. Take whatever else you feel you deserve, and I presume you can shift yourself home? I have places to be, and people to be doing.’
She blushed, but nodded. ‘Yeah, I can handle the shift.’
Grigori nodded, then disappeared.
She grabbed her trolley, then looked up at the tall shelves. ‘This is going to take hours.’
He opened his bag, slipped a few coins into his pockets, then shrugged. ‘This is like a hundred thousand dollars, you’ve got two, you could call it evens.’
She shook her head. ‘No, he was offering me everything before he stabbed me, so I’m gonna take him for all this trolley fits.’
Curt shrugged, and began to push his trolley. ‘Newbie, you don’t even know what most of this stuff is.’
‘Well, that’s why I’ve got you, Aide O’Connor.’
He flashed a grin. ‘Gods, that feels good.’
‘You glad I didn’t kill you now?’
‘Yeah. I’m really, really, really surprised that Ryan didn’t though. I thought he was going to snap my neck halfway through my recount, then just look at you to get the rest of the story.’
‘You’re not dead, get over it. How much extra work is your new job anyway?’
He stopped to look at what appeared to be a glass bottle filled with small jellyfish. He placed it in his trolley. ‘Mealfish,’ he explained, ‘taste like your favourite meal, and so long as you’re careful, you can keep a sustained population with this many.’
‘Isn’t that what requiring is for?’
‘Think of them as emergency rations, or a really, really easy picnic.’
She shrugged, took a couple of running steps, and jumped up, letting the trolley carry her further down the aisle.
‘Newbie,’ Curt called, ‘get back here.’
She let her feet drag, and spun to look at him. ‘What?’
‘Booze!’
She pushed her trolley back to him. ‘I don’t drink.’
He placed two bottles in her trolley. ‘You said Ryan adopted you, right? Take these, give them to him for father’s day, he’ll love you forever.’
‘What is it?’
‘Unicorn wine.’
‘Ok, Grigori was practically foodgasming when he was talking about it, what the hell makes it so special?’
‘It’s quite possibly the best wine ever created. It’s mixed with unicorn blood-’
‘Oh, that’s gross.’
‘So it’s more than slightly magical, and well…tastes so good that a couple of Solstice guys I knew risked execution to share a bottle. It’s also a limited quantity, seeing as you can’t make it anymore.’
‘Too expensive?’
‘No more unicorns. They got hunted to extinction for wine, for steaks, for their horns, whatnot. Saddest part of all, they were a sentient race.’
‘That is…holy shit? Suddenly the joke about Tauren steaks isn’t so funny anymore.’
‘Huh?’
‘WoW thing, there’s um, cow people.’
Curt simply shook his head, and put a few varied bottles of alcohol into his trolley. ‘Just tell me that I don’t have to play to understand you? It was bad enough having to sit through the Harry Potter movies with Lisa, and at least I got to make out with her during the credits, you, no such bonus, and a lot more hard work.’
‘Jonesy can set you with an account…’
‘Trek is as geek as I get,’ he said, pushing his trolley down the aisle.
‘But WoW is fuuuuun…’
‘Just remember to translate for me, and we’ll be cool, ok?’ They reached a T-junction. ‘Left or right?’ he asked.
‘Left is always right,’ she said as she pushed her trolley along. ‘Like the new job?’
‘I’ve only been at it for a few hours,’ he said, ‘barely had time to do next week’s duty roster. I’m almost, almost mind you, tempted to go ask Mags for help. She can do a month’s worth in like two hours, she’s crazy like that. Of course, she’s also had a lot more practice, so maybe I’ll get better at it.’
‘I could order her to help you.’
‘And I’m pretty sure she’d slit your throat. Ma’am.’
‘Is being a raging asshole a requirement of working in the combat division?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘but it seems to help.’
‘So are you going to start going around in the cute little dresses too?’
‘Not even if you ordered me, ma’am.’
‘Oooh, hey look, you were tempting fate,’ she said as she pushed her trolley to a rack of clothes. ‘Sure we could find one to fit you.’
He shook his head, and looked at the other side of the aisle, at clothes far more appropriate for him, she grinned, and shrugged, turning back to the girly clothes. All so unsuitable for her but-
[Hey Jonesy?]
[Are you getting back in time for the raid?] Jones asked as he appeared in her HUD. [Or should I give your seat to-]
[I’ll be there,] she said, [I’ll be there. Just shopping at Grigori-Mart right now.]
[Finding anything you like?]
[Nothing for me yet. Question. Andrea, size twelve?]
[No, fourteen,] he said. [Why?]
She streamed what she was seeing. ‘Because I think some of these tops are really pretty, I mean, I know nothing about clothes, so they could look like crap, but I think they’re nice. Anything take your fancy?] She ran her hand along the rack, pulling out some of the prettier-looking tops. [Ooh, this material feels weird. Nice. Tingly. Or is my hand broken?]
[It’s probably…Tabitha silk,] Jones said. [Grigori does have a habit of spoiling his dates.]
[You want?]
[…yes please.]
She pulled four of the tops off the rack and placed them in the trolley. [Okies, I’ll call you if I see any other cool stuff.]
[…and I might give you a few preferential loot rolls tonight,] he said.
[No, bad GM, just make sure we’ve got plenty of cookies.]
Jones smiled. [Deal.]
‘Oi, newbie?’
She turned, and saw Curt in a long leather duster, a hat, wielding a long stick. ‘What do you think?’
‘You look like a bit of a twit,’ she said. ‘None of that looks good on you.’
‘I’m keeping the hat.’
‘May birds nest in it,’ she said as he tossed it in his trolley.
‘Let’s see if we can find the weapons,’ he said.
‘Lead on Indiana.’
‘This is so not an Indiana Jones hat,’ he said. ‘This is a cool hat.’
‘When did hats become cool again?’
He shrugged. ‘What do you want newbie? I’m really only following you around, you want a magic sword? Some armour? Neverending basketball tickets?’
‘Spear?’ she said. ‘Magic helmet?’ She slumped over her trolley. ‘I don’t really know, I don’t really care. I just wanted…to take back a bit of control, if you know what I mean. Ever since Dorian showed up at my door, I haven’t really had much control. I mean, ok, I had a choice whether or not to be a recruit, but it wasn’t really a choice. I mean, leave, be safe and go back to hacking into Facebook accounts, or stay, find out about magic, and spend time with the man who constitutes my earliest memory? Not really a choice. The mirror thing, I thought I was doing the right thing, so not a decision I can change. After that…the choice to live or die, again, not a choice. I’ve been bobbing along, I’ve been reacting, I finally start to get the hang of all this, and that arsehole stabs me in the fucking chest! So yeah, I’m being a petty bitch, but I need this.’
He smiled. ‘I think the spear and magic helmet section might be down this way.’