Corver City was covered in inches of dirt and grime, it was loud and smelly and people didn’t smile as they passed each other in the streets. But it was the first place outside of Triumphia that she had ever seen, and so she took everything in with curious eyes as her car sliced silently through the gray streets. Her brain was a flurry of activity, but her exterior betrayed none of the nervous energy that was coursing through her body. She had been trained too well for that. Outside the window, the city scape began to gradually change, looking less dark and dirty, and not too far ahead she could see what looked like shining glass shards stabbing into the sky, as if they were growing from the gray concrete and through the smog that hung low over the city.
“What is that?” She asked her driver, as she pointed at the glittering towers they were driving towards.
“You’re not from around here, huh?” The man she had hired to drive her to her hotel was short, stocky, and he had a tattered hat pulled so low over his forehead and eyes it was a wonder he could see at all.
“Is it that obvious?” She responded with a giggle. “I’m just here for work for a few days”
At the Citadel, she and the rest of the Malum had been trained to be chameleons. She was an expert on reading a person in under a minute, and she knew how to get what she wanted from them. She knew that her driver's name was Grady from his cab license, and from the well worn pictures duct taped to the dashboard next to the license, she also knew he had two teenage daughters. Her best bet was to play a young, innocent tourist in the big, dangerous city. She needed Grady’s protective instincts to kick in, she needed him to WANT to help her. Grady was looking at her in his rearview mirror, she couldn’t see his eyes because they were hiding in the shadow of his hat, but she knew that in a way, he was trying to get a read on her, as well. She cast her eyes down and looked up through her eyelashes, she curled the corner of her lips up in a shy smile, and she blushed. For most people, blushing is an involuntary reaction, but she had learned how to control the blood vessels in her body to open on command, flooding her cheeks with blood, giving her an even more innocent appearance. The downcast eyes, the little smile and the blush were a deadly combination, and she instantly saw Grady relax.
“That there is Garland Grove, and that’s where you’re headed” Grady pulled his hat up so that she could see his eyes. As she sat and continued looking out the window, Grady told her about how Garland Grove was the financial district and the cultural center of Corver City, it was where most people worked, but very few of them lived. It was certainly an impressive show of architecture and hubris, she thought to herself as they passed skyscraper after skyscraper, but one gleaming tower stood out to her as taller and sharper than the rest. She recognized it from the pictures which were snugly tucked away in her briefcase.
“Hawthorne Heights!” She breathed in excitement, the way a tourist would.
“Yep,” Grady confirmed, as they drove past the 160 story building. “Bash Industries. That guy’s brought a lot of jobs here to Corver City, at least that’s what the news keeps saying. Everyone seems to love him, but I dunno… there’s something about him that doesn’t sit well with me.”
Within twenty seconds she had noticed three important things about the tallest building in Garland Grove. There were at least five security guards posted outside the front door, which meant there were going to be ten times that inside. The windows on the top floor of the building were darker than the rest, which meant they were two way mirrors, and she knew from her file that those windows signified the penthouse that Sebastian himself called home. The final thing she picked up on were the objects flying around The Heights, which at first glance looked like large, drunk mosquitos, but she had a lot of experience with the surveillance state, so she knew better. The flying objects were drones, and for some reason they could not get close to the building, most likely due to a magnetic force field of some kind. Sebastian was hiding something, protecting something, or both.
The car came to a stop in front of her hotel and she felt a rush of anticipation. She could not wait to check in, get into her room, shower, order an entire bottle of red wine, and start planning her next twenty moves. She touched her money card to the payment portal in the backseat, and added a substantial tip for Grady.
“Thank you kindly, Miss Braya” Grady turned in his seat to grin at her and he touched two fingers to the brim of his hat. He had seen her new name on his payment screen, but it was the first time she had heard someone call her Braya, and took her by surprise for half a second.
They both got out of the car and Grady pulled her two suitcases from the trunk, placing them on the pavement next to her feet. He then paused for a moment and his forehead creased in a paternal, worried look.
“Don’t go out in the city at night alone,” he warned. “This isn’t a place for a nice young girl” And then Grady got in his car and pulled away from the curb, leaving her standing alone with two suitcases; one contained everything she would need to change her appearance as often as necessary, and the other held enough weapons and tools to take out an entire army. If only Grady knew. She may have been a young girl, but she was not a nice one.