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#1 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Black silk sheets covered the bare bodies and tangled limbs of Ellie Knightfall and her current paramour, Samantha St. Clair. Soft summer rain pitter-pattered against the roof of the penthouse apartment, adding an ambiance to the evening. The Blackberry on her nightstand blinked and began playing the chorus to 'Sugar, We're Goin' Down'. Turning over in bed, the sheet slipping down to her waist, Ellie grabbed the phone and held it up to her ear. "'Hello?" The natural French accent was apparent in her sleep-filled voice.

"Long time no hear, kiddo." It was the raspy voice of Brady Calhoun, an acquaintance from earlier in her life, a former mercenary employed by her family who had broken very far away from the Knightfalls.

"Calhoun...it's 2 AM in the morning." Sliding out of bed, she pulled the silk robe off of the back of her vanity and loosely belted it around her waist. Walking over to the floor to ceiling windows that looked out on the city she rolled her eyes, knowing that he would have no idea as to what she was doing. "People better be dying."

"Close, lass. People will be. I need somebody to infiltrate a private island retreat and obtain a device for me."

Eyeing the bed, she assured that Sam was still asleep. Lowering her voice, Ellie moved into her private office. "That's much more your shtick than mine, pretty boy."

"Aye, it would be, but it requires somebody with tech savvy in the field."

Slipping into an old leather armchair, she slung her legs over the arm and rolled her eyes. "Send me everything you've got on it, I'll give it my best shot."

20 Minutes Later

The file had been read over by her super-processing mind. A small private island where a quiet millionaire was hosting a 'fund raiser'. The object of attention was a small device that could reportedly cripple an entire country's tech capabilities - including defense systems. It was hidden under the guise of a couple's retreat.

That was the part that irritated her. Calhoun popped up every now and then and whenever he did, trouble and irritation tended to follow. In this case, the fact that she would need a partner for this mission. There was one man she trusted enough to put forth the charade of being even remotely involved with and it maligned her to no end to have to reach out in this fashion.

After vaguely explaining the situation to Sam, she left her alone in her bed and was off on a short drive to San Francisco. It was an additional hour before she landed on the island after contact with Wilhelm. Ellie had absolutely no idea how an AI system managed to convey a smarmy, self-satisfied tone.

Morning rain drizzled as she pulled up the hood of her Burberry raincoat, protecting her from the warm summer rain as hints of sunlight began to color the horizon. Stepping off the barge and onto the private island. Pulling the Blackberry out of her pocket, she directed a simple text to the AI system 'here'.

#2 Edited by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

One Hour Ago – Odessa, Ukraine

Armistice - “What is the estimated response time for military involvement”

Wilhelm - “Based on all current data you have 12 minutes before the attack helicopters scrambled from the nearest airfield will reach firing range, ground support will take another 21 minutes.”

Armistice - “So all the time in the world”

The Aksamit Brotherhood were a Ukrainian mafia family that had made quite a name for itself among the more discreet criminal circles. Unlike many of their competitors they made their fortune solely on their exceptional talents in obtaining Russian military armaments and technology to be sold on the black market. Normally this discovery would not require his attention, much less involvement, but he was privy to an important detail that they were not, Black Cell was their biggest client.

Under full stealth he could have easily been in and out without a trace, but to do so would be like leaving a fingerprint as to whom had made the strike, and he liked nothing better than to keep those bastards in the dark. In order to make this possible he routinely made use of an array of metahuman identities he maintained for when action was required and discretion was preferred. In this case the persona of choice was that of Killwire, a metahuman mercenary for hire that had used many times in the past. His priorly established reputation would cast the blame towards one of the Brotherhood's many competitors and enemies, and not an indirect strike against Black Cell and their rearmament efforts.

The timed charges went off in a symphony of destruction as the caches of arms exploded all around him. He could hear the cries of panic as most of the guards made a run for the nearest exit, but one was not going to get to leave until he could make use of him. Controlling the material of the nanosuit he created the whip-like tendril and yanked one of the sprinting Brotherhood just before reaching the exit. Slowly the terrified soldier was dragged back, as the second tendril disarmed him, crushing the AK-47 before dropping the broken pieces, until he was held inches of the ground and at eye level.

Killwire - “Tell your master that if he sets up shop again, I will come back and snap his neck like I did your rifle, yes?” (translated from Ukrainian)

It took the terrified soldier a few moments to realize that the mercenary was not here to rob him of his life, but to use him as a messenger, he nodded his head quickly to show that his role was understood. Reaching back the tendril snapped with enough force to throw the soldier like a rag doll, sliding along the concrete floor until coming to a stop near the doorway as flames surrounded the figure of Killwire like an avatar of death itself. Scrambling to his feet the soldier ran off as best he could, praying to God that he would be a better man for his mercy and leaving Ian alone in a quickly escalating series of explosions.

Wilhelm - “Ian, your pet project Ellie Knightfall is requesting access to the island, no reason has been given and we both know it's not a booty call, her ETA would be within the hour.”

Armistice - “Access granted, that still gives me plenty of time to get back home and catch a shower.”

Engaging his full stealth again he became a spectral wraith among the flames, stopping under a hole opened by the collapsing ceiling. Looking up he took flight ceiling and setting a course for home under near maximum velocity, if he hurried he would even have time to take a bath.

Now – The Home of Dr. Ian Pierce – Barrett Island, California

Ian could see Ellie as she made her way off the high speed automated barge he used to ferry guests and vehicles from the mainland to the island. It was little more than a 5 minute ride when going on an empty load as it was now. Walking out of the shadow of the treeline he made his way towards her, dressed now only in a pair of white linen pants and slippers, cup of organically grown coffee in hand.

Ian - “Never let it be said that Ian Pierce ever turned away a lady caller in the middle of the night”

The smile crept up along his face, the same way it always did every time she visited. He had no idea why she was here at this hour, but if knowing Ellie was anything, it was eventful.

#4 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Of course, Ian, of course." It was somehow infuriating how he managed to look comfortable and nonplussed in those damnable pants. "I'll take that." Readjusting the strap of the attache case she was carrying over her shoulder, Ellie walked forward, the flats she had worn squishing from the dampness of the rain. Reaching out as she walked past, she nipped the coffee from his hand and took a hearty sip. Dear god, have you not heard of cream and sugar?" Her nose scrunched as she looked at him over her shoulder, the hood falling down around her face as a damp strand of hair fell forward and obscured one of her eyes.

The contemporary lines of the ridiculously large house caught her eyes as they entered the abode. Removing her jacket, the sweater that hung stylishly off one shoulder was deposited on a coat rack. Turning in the doorway, she took another sip of the coffee and again readjusted the strap of the case. "Wish this was simply a social call; it's not." Intuitively following the layout of the house - no, mansion - she'd only been in several times before, Ellie walked into the kitchen, slipping her flats off as she went along.

Hoisting herself up on the sleek granite of the counter top, she grabbed the attache case and flipped it open and pulled out two identical files - the ones she had been sent by Brady Calhoun. "I need a favor." Holding out one of the files for Ian she continued to languidly sip the coffee as the sun began to pain the sky astonishing shades of crimson through the windows behind her, illuminating her red hair in a glowing circle.

#5 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian kept his grin as Ellie drew closer, watching as she took the hot cup of coffee from his hands without breaking step, his face turned a curious look as she passed him by. Whatever the reason for her visit she was not in the greatest of moods and her usual pleasantries were skipped entirely, unsure if the reason for the sour demeanor was in some part related to himself he decided to follow her back into his home and allow her to lead the conversation. Hands clasped behind his back he walked beside her looking down, concern creeping into his thoughts, deciding to inject a little humor to lighten the mood.

Ian - " I cannot in good conscience prepare you a cup with the shovelfuls of sugar and cream you seem to require. To take party towards the ruin of your girlish figure would be a sin."

Entering the house again Ian kicked off his slippers now wet from the seemingly endless slow rain. He was not at all surprised when she told him that the nature of her visit was not a social one, the lateness of the hour, reservation of meaning, and her general attitude made that quite apparent before she had even reached his doorway. After pouring himself a cup of coffee of his own Ian joined her at the granite counter, taking a seat beside her, his eyes followed her hand as it slid a nondescript file neatly in place.

Ian - " Knowing how much you despise the idea of asking for help in any regard, this must be important. Fear not for Sir Ian is always at the ready to defend the honor of his Lady Leeloo, you seem to be rushed so I'll let you get to the fine print.

#6 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Pinching the skin on her hip, with a notable lack of fat, she looked dispassionately down at her midriff and then at Ian. Arching an eyebrow as she continued to sip the coffee, Ellie grinned. "Pretty sure I could afford an extra pound or two, no?" Crossing her legs and sitting Indian-style, it was simple to slide into easy camaraderie with him.

Gently nudging his shoulder, she bit back her words, not entirely sure how to broach the subject. Asking for help was not something that came easy to Ellie. Asking for help from somebody who had already given her so much was more of a trial than that. "I have a...colleague who called me earlier. He needed somebody with tech-savvy to take up a mission for him. I agreed to do so to the best of my ability. There are stipulations, though."

"Cover identity requires a date. There's a couples ball gala that's being used as the entry point. It's a facade for a buyer's meeting." Reaching behind her head, she scratched the back of her neck, avoiding his gaze.

#7 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian leaned on one elbow and began to flip casually through the contents of the file left before him, listening to Ellie as she chastised him for calling her fitness into question. Over the past year she had become used to his flirtish nature and banter, and well knew that he meant no disrespect, it was just an integral part of his somewhat eccentric nature. Only when she leaned against him did he look up, tactile contact was something she unconsciously reached out for only when she was troubled by something or felt a loss of control, this began to worry him as she began her story. Reaching over he began to pat her hand in a comforting manner as he listened, the struggle she was going through by asking such a thing from him all too evident on her face.

Ian - "Well if your going to be pretending to be my better half, you might as well start by opening my closet and picking out what I should wear. The name is Pierce.....Ian Pierce."

Giving her hand a soft squeeze he gave her a wink before getting up out of the chair and waiting for her to follow.

#8 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Shall I fetch you a drink? Shaken not stirred, correct?" She switched flawlessly from the hint of French that was her natural accent to an upper-crust British tone. Giving his hand a squeeze back, she slid down from her perch and began walking towards the staircase that lead to the second floor.

Pushing her hair over her shoulder to one side, she shoved down a yawn, refusing to let the sleep that was encroaching on her win the battle. Bare feet padded up the stairs as she followed him upstairs to his bedroom. The door soundlessly slid open and Ellie stifled a chuckle. There was so much about a bedroom, the most personal room, that told about the person who dwelt within.

Contemporary in taste and sparse in decoration. No mementos, no tell-tale signs like a framed photo or a matchbook from a restaurant or anything of the sort. "Classic, Dr. Pierce." Running a finger across the bedside table to jokingly test for dust, she of course found none. "Does Wilhelm clean the place for you, as well?"

Running fingers through her hair, Ellie walked over to the enormous walk-in closet. Flipping on the light as she entered what was essentially another room, she got her first good look at the personal style of Ian, all up close and personal at once. Understated and elegant, it was a personification of Ian, perhaps without the flirtatious charm. Clean cuts, neutral colors, fashion flair. "Color me suitably impressed. We'll want comfort for travel, you're going to need some of everything once we get there."

#9 Edited by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ellie could notice just the smallest hint of a frown as she jokingly offered to fetch him a martini, so subtle it disappeared almost as soon as it appeared. There was no way he could blame her for such an innocent joke, as he had yet to make many aspects of his life before their first meeting known. Ian could be terribly difficult to get to know, offering up personal details about himself unless asked directly was almost foreign to him. As much as it pained him to be reminded of things best left to the past, the last thing he could do was hold it against someone he had kept in the dark.

Ian - "I'm afraid the Ian Pierce version does not imbibe, I haven't had a drink in six years, losing your entire family to a drunk driver on a bender tends to make one lose their taste for the stuff."

Not wanting her to feel deeply guilty for something she had no way to ever know he felt it necessary to show a gesture that he did not take the joke personally in any way. Standing over her he leaned in, placing his arms along the edge of her shoulders gently and placed a single peck on her forehead and leaned to her ear, speaking in just above a whisper

Ian - "No way you could have known, don't make a thing of it Leeloo"

Almost the moment it was said he pulled away and his entire demeanor was as if the sentence had never been uttered. Whatever pain she had brought to the surface had been forced back down to whatever part of his psyche had contained it until that very moment.

Ian - "Actually Wilhelm is in charge of all housekeeping functions, I dislike the idea of other people waiting on me hand and foot like I'm some kind of feudal lord. There is an army of automated drones that handle all the domestic tasks, plus they don't try to steal my silverware. As for my travel wardrobe I place my fashionable good name in your tasteful hands."

Leaning back at the edge of the custom oversized bed he put his hands behind his head and watched as Ellie began to select the clothes suitable for his yet to be fully explained role. Knowing that keeping her and his other secret life safe at the same time was going to be far from simple, yet no matter the risk to him, she was more than worth it

#10 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

There was a twinge in her chest as she went through the racks of finely tailored clothes. He was quite close-mouthed about his personal life and what had come before, in the same way that she was. As a Knightfall, there was a certain amount of her life that was open to public scrutiny and oftentimes misconstrued. Ellie was fine with that, it gave her the upper hand to have others believe untruths of her.

But Ian...out of respect she had never dug for information. Nothing further than a customary Google search before she had broken into his office about a year ago. The fact that he had just disclosed such an integral part of himself to her meant more than any gesture could really convey.

"Has anybody told you that human companionship could probably do you some good?" Picking out several pieces and an array of casual and formal wear, enough to last him for approximately a week, she went about packing it in one of the luxury suitcases that was tucked away in the back of the closet.

"Flight's gonna take a while, we'll be traveling privately." Through her own earned wealth, Ellie had accrued quite a substantial savings account. Putting it to use, they'd be traveling via a small stealth jet, piloted by one of her long-time friends.

Striding out of the closet, suitcase in hand, she set it down on the floor next to the bed and languidly stretched. "As much as it chafes me to need the favor, this favor of all sorts, we'll be masquerading as a couple. Fully established cover identities and papers have been drawn up. We're wheels up as soon as you're ready to go." Just like that she switched from jovial and playful to borderline solemn and down to business.

#11 Edited by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian - "You know I get out a lot more than you give me credit for, besides where am I going to find a girl that does not pale next to my Leeloo?"

It's the truth, I get out all the time, I travel the world, see the sights, and secretly sabotage and subvert a covert paramilitary organization out to crush the metahuman community under it's heel.

Getting up out of the bed Ian leaned over Ellie's shoulder as she continued to pack for him, he found the almost OCD level of organization in her efforts amusing. Never in his life had he been capable of fitting so much into a single piece of luggage, it was quite a feat. Still feeling the atmosphere needed some lightening up he leaned inches from her ear, expecting to get at least a few shades of blush out what was to be said next.

Ian - "I never would have taken you for being so well domesticated, maybe on the way back we should stop in Vegas and get hitched for real. An open marriage of course, certain needs would still have to be addressed."

He could see that Ellie still found her unexpected presence and request to be a burden, her lack of comfort hidden behind her rapidly changing demeanor as she began to put her business face on. Changing the subject to the work itself was a defense mechanism that had likely been ingrained in her from birth, one he hoped in time she would learn was never to be necessary with him. Taking the luggage in hand his readiness to leave at a moments notice was apparent.

Ian - "You asked, I accepted, lets save the needless apologies and get on our way. The flight will give you plenty of time to tell me what this is all really about anyways.

#12 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

The unabated chuckle had a child-like sound to it as a fit of quiet giggles overtook her. Turning around to face Ian, Ellie held her hand over her mouth to quell the noise. The apples of her cheeks were red with amusement as she fought to straighten the line of her mouth. "Why, Dr. Pierce, I do believe I have to decline." Kissing him on the cheek she moved around him and stood by the door. "That was the poorest proposal I've ever heard."

There was a happiness within her eyes is that moment. Not because of what he had jokingly offered, but because he could, because he would. She was always either the Ice Queen, the Party Girl, the Sister or the Legacy. Never just...Ellie. Never anything aside from her own family identity. Ian infuriatingly managed to cut through her defenses and see her weaknesses, see her for Ellie. It still threw her off-balance every time that he did it.

-----

The sleek interior of the small stealthy jet left nothing to be desired. Large leather seats, all the amenities and a small bedroom in the back meant that everything had been constructed to Ellie's exactly specifications. And, heaven forbid, should she ever need to take to the air for an indefinite amount of time, she would be able to do so. There was a bank account floating around containing her considerable trust fund and the wealth that had been earned from smartly investing it, nearly doubling its worth. Not to mention her own earned wealth through a myriad of jobs. This wealth allowed her freedom.

Shifting her legs beneath her, Ellie braced an elbow on the wide arm and cupped her chin in her hand. Looking out the window as the clouds drifted by, the sea green waters of the ocean clistened in the sunlight. Usually perfectly coiffed, her hair was slightly haphazard, natural curls a bit more prominent than usual and ringing her face in a manner reminiscent to a halo. In truth, she was anything but an angel.

There was a light blanket wrapped around her, more for comfort due to exhaustion than actually being cold. Fringed lashes touched her cheekbones as she closed her eyes, nearly drifting off into sleep. The voice of the pilot over the speaks broke her out of the reverie, announcing that they would be descending upon the private island in approximately twenty minutes.

#13 Edited by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian kept his royal blue eyes locked onto her sparkling emerald pair as she tried her very best to maintain a straight face, his own sly grin growing in sync with her total failure to reign in the uncharacteristically girlish outburst. If only for a small moment in time, he was given the privilege of being let in and seeing the Ellie that hid behind all the walls that came with her upbringing and lifestyle. The returned affection of a simple kiss on the cheek would seem trivial to a passerby but he understood the significance, she was selective with signs of affection to be kind and the bounce in her step away from him sealed that she truly enjoyed the joke.

Ian - "You were my first, how about showing a little mercy or you might leave me gun shy, destined to the life of a bachelor."

Holding out his elbow, as he was known to offer every time they would walk together, Ian kept close watch at Ellie tried her best to angle her face to hide the blush from her recent laughing fit. He could see the exhaustion begin to set back upon her face as the sudden rush of energy fled, silently still concerned with the lack of detail as to the mission in question.

- - - - - -

He had to admit, the private jet was an impressive feat of custom work. If curiosity got the best of him it would be nothing to engage the scanning capabilities of the nanosuit hidden within his body, but he was well assured there was likely not a single nut or bolt that was stock outside of the chassis itself. Normally with the two of them together, conversation ruled the day, but Ellie obviously was far more in need of quality sleep than intellectual stimulation. Turning to his side Ian reached over and pulled the thin blanket up to her neck without disturbing her, as much as he had pertinent questions that needed to be answered, he just did not have the heart to wake her.

It's not that I don't trust you Ellie, but what could be so important you would take someone you still think all but defenseless into an unknown scenario?

#14 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"By the way...if anybody's responsible for you being a bachelor, it's you. Or maybe Wilhelm...so you." The blanket was draped around her shoulders as she settled into the seat next to him. Reaching beneath the seat, she pulled out a case. Tapping her fingers nervously against it, she pursed her lips, twitching them to one side and then the other, composing what she wanted to say in her head.

"You know a lot of things about me. You know...well maybe everything, I'm never entirely sure. But there are things I do - things that my family does - in the name of the greater good that aren't strictly legal...in plain terms. Some of those things include covert missions in other countries....as well as running around masked." The second half of the sentence was barely audible. It was kind of unspoken between the two what the Knightfalls did. Don't ask, don't tell, but they both knew the other knew. That she was verbalizing it meant something.

"This is one of those things. Somebody has developed a device that is capable of shutting down entire networks and by entire networks, I mean the defense systems of first world nations, networks. The capabilities and applications are limitless. There's been a couple's ball gala event that's set up as the buy point. They wanted something...inconspicuous, I suppose? Billionaire megalomaniacs never really made sense to me, personally. Not going to try and get into that frame of thought."

Biting her lip, she opened the case. "I asked you to do this because I trust you unconditionally and because you're even better with technology than I am. You'll have my back and your assistance would be more than valued." Inside the case were two rings. Not marriage bands, but somewhat inconspicuous platinum bands, hers with a small sapphire on it. "GPS devices that key into bio rhythms If your heartbeat elevates past a certain BPM, the matching set buzzes gently against the skin, alerting the other. They pair with these." She pointed to two miniscule earpieces. "Directions piped right into your ear leading to the other, as well as a hands-free comm device if needed."

Letting out a sigh, she leaned back against the seat as the ten minute warning sounded. "I've got more goodies for when we settle in. Private airport and the mysterious seller has ensured us that customs isn't an issue. Are you ready to go?" Looking at him out of the corner of her eye, a sh!t-eating grin encompassed her face.

#15 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian - "That's right, blame the artificial intelligence, you two need to learn to get along one of these days."

Shaking his head in mock disappointment Ian watched as Ellie pulled out the case in preparation to begin the long overdue mission briefing. The unspoken sign that business was now the order of the day was taken without verbal response, even so he could not shake the feeling that Ellie's lack of visible comfort and confidence had at least something to do with his presence. If only she knew he was a walking one man army those concerns would dissipate, yet as much as they had grown closer over the past year, both still kept secrets.

I wish I could tell you Ellie, I really do, but to let you in on that part of my life would put you at a level of risk I am not willing to accept. Your personal demons are more than enough already, my burdens are mine to shoulder alone.

Ian - "The Knightfall's extra-curricular activities are well understood Ellie, and as a part of that legacy I have already assumed that you had some unspoken role in them. I cannot admit to finding it the preferred use of your talents, or risk to your safety, but your a big girl and I will simply have to cope."

Taking silent Ian allowed her to begin the briefing, mentally cataloging both the mission parameters as well as the equipment that had been created specifically for this operation. Using the nanosuit's scanning array Ian examined but did not record the engineering view of the devices, a sense of pride to see the components devoid of any markings or branding. Ellie had taken to her lessons well and had already taken the effort to lay the foundation towards building her signature technology. As the initial briefing trailed off he could see the grin as her inner adrenaline junkie came to the surface.

Ian - "I would never ask you to name your source, that is your business and not mine to pry into, but I have to admit to being skeptical about the Intel you have been given. Even if such a hypothetical device did exist, the whole setup seems...wrong. I'm no expert but anyone smart and capable enough to produce such a feat would never sell it in such a place, too many variables they cannot account for. Every single aspect screams this is a honeypot designed to bring anyone with a use for such technology into one place."

#16 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"We'll get along when he gets a sense of humor." Ellie stuck out her tongue making a face at him before transitioning. She kept careful stock of his reactions as she laid out the mission, not laying out her own misgivings about it to prevent them from coloring his opinion.

The reaction to her revelation was mostly what she had expected - it was just acknowledgment of what he already knew - but that last sentence put a genuine smile on her face. The Knightfall heir was excellent at portraying herself with a sense of confidence that she rightfully had, but there were some significant chinks in that armor. Chinks that Ian was, as always, able to pick out and somehow shore up.

Buckling her seat belt for the landing that would be conducted within five minutes, Ellie sat back in her chair, head tilted in Ian's direction. "I don't think you're wrong. If this was my gig and I had something that important and top secret to sell, never would I gather everybody in one place like this. Which leaves the question...what's the motive, what's actually going on? And makes our mission two-fold. First, if it's legit, find it and stop it. Second, if it's not, figure out what the hell is going on." Pinching the bridge of her nose to relieve tension, the plane began its descent. "So you can see why I need the help aside from the obvious reasons.

----

A chauffeured limo had picked them up from the private landing strip, the driver loading their suitcases into the trunk without speaking a word to either of them other than a cursory greeting. The hot humidity of the tropical climate caused her hair to curl around her face, small ringlets framing it.

They wound up at a palace-like structure on the edge of the island, settled atop cliffs and overlooking the pure sea-green of the ocean. Stepping out of the vehicle, Ellie quickly documented every feature of the landscape to her perfect memory. "Now's the time to bow out, Ian." The words were whispered to him as she secured her laptop case over her shoulder.

There was a feeling of guilt eating at the lining of her stomach. She shouldn't have done this, she shouldn't have brought him here. If anything happened to him she would never forgive herself. "Follow." There was a man who looked like an impeccably well-dressed butler who had walked down the front steps. It was short work to settle Ian and Ellie in the suite that they had been allocated. "Dinner is in two hours. Do not be late. Enjoy your stay." The door of the palatial suite clicked shut behind him and they were left once again to their own devices.

#17 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian playfully tried to snatch her tongue as she stuck it out at him as a proxy for Wilhelm while giving an obviously fake scowl. As much as he enjoyed the banter in good humor he could not help as if there were ulterior motives at play, after making his own misgivings known Ellie had followed in suit, yet she still wanted to enter the lions den. Either she had a extraordinary amount of trust in the source of this information, or some outside factor had backed her into a corner and she felt forced to act. Neither made him feel any better about the red flags that kept popping up, but if she was going to go in, there was no chance he would let her do so alone. Fully expecting that this entire situation was an elaborate trap for a yet unknown quantity would not persuade him otherwise.

Ian - "I'm willing to bet your net worth that this magical hacking device is nothing but vaporware, but one so tantalizing it is almost impossible to not even explore. Without knowing the sources you have and the raw data I can't do more than guess, but in the end it has all the hallmarks of an elaborate sting operation. If correct that still leaves the question is who is setting the sting, who are they trying to catch, and what do they want with them. I've dealt with enough industrial espionage cases to know this is out of the governments budget, whoever is throwing this party is private sector."

_ _ _ _ _ _

From the moment the plane landed and the doors opened, Ian made sure to put in the mindset that they were a well established couple, and the small details were what would sell that perception to others. His hand either around her back at the waist or intertwined in hers in the most casual of manner, as if it was a commonplace sign of their false relationship. Taking in the sights along with Ellie he made sure to say close to allow her to communicate at will, as well as try to figure out the perfume she was wearing.

The resort was impressive, but being used to this kind of splendor it simply washed off him, his mind more occupied with playing his part and looking out for danger. Wilhelm was set to be his eyes in the back of his head and alert him to things out of sight silently, an advantage he was sure to need when as he assumed things were to get out of hand. Exiting the car with Ellie he could make out her final offering to back out of the operation, even at such a low volume the real concern was evident. Ian decided that he needed to comfort her fears as well as sell their cover, knowing full well the eyes in the sky were watching before they took another step. Turning her to face him he leaned in and gave her a single kiss behind her ear and replied in a whisper.

Ian - "First you refuse my proposal, now your trying to ditch me outright, what is it going to take to convince you that I will never abandon you?"

Not even waiting for a response he took her by the hand again and allowed themselves to be led to their suite, acting oblivious to everything and everyone around him.

#18 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

I will never abandon you. The words echoed in her head and it wasn't until he had said it that she realized it had even been a thought. Her mind was racing as her fingers interlocked with his for the walk up to their suite. Nobody had ever been that steadfast in their solidarity, their support, their care. Her parents were a mess, her siblings all had their own thing - they pulled through in times of need, she had a link to Quintus - but it wasn't the same. It wasn't until he said the words that she realized she was waiting for it to happen.

The air conditioning in the suite removed the sticky humidity of the tropical climate. Everything was decadently decorated in an innovative mix of contemporary and classic styles. There was the main bedroom, a bathroom that was the size of a small apartment, a full closet, a private lounging room and a small kitchenette. All tastefully decorated and smoothly laid out.

Floor to ceiling windows led out to a balcony that overlooked the sea and the smell of salt air drifted in through the open windows. Turning to Ian as the door shut behind them, she signaled not to speak. Pulling out a device from one of the cases of luggage that had been delivered to their room, she scanned for bugs, finding only one, hidden in the rim of a lampshade. It was quick work to re-route it and fuzzle out the signal.

There was an engraved invitation laid out on a glass side table next to a vase of fresh flowers. The inlaid gold leaf shimmered in the sunlight. Picking it up, Ellie ran a finger across the cursive script. "Dress code for dinner is formal, but not gala standards." The gala event that would allow 'buyers' a chance to mingle together and recon the competition was tomorrow evening.

A small chill crept up her spine, a sign of foreboding she had learned never to ignore. Gently placing the invite back down on the table, she spun around, smiling at Ian. Flouncing down on the bed, she sank into the thick duvet. Nudging off her shoes, she spread her arms out over the sumptuous pillows covering the bed. "You know, I wouldn't mind having an island of my own." Letting out an exaggerated sigh, she sat up, crossing her legs beneath her.

The banter was a somewhat integral part of the friendship at this piont. They both fell into easy teasing, but Ellie also used it as a mask. There was a mild roiling in her stomach, she knew that something was very off about this and had no ideas yet as to what. Playing things by ear was not quite her strongest tactic. Ellie liked control and although she had a natural talent for improvisation and on the cusp thinking, it was not necessarily conducive to controlling a situation.

#19 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Why does every damn hotel crank up the air conditioning? I'm not a slab of beef to preserve.

Ian kept one eye on Ellie as she made her rounds, checking out the layout and looking for any hidden signs of surveillance. Wilhelm had made him aware of the single device, but thought it best to stay passive as she was supposed to be the expert here. He could not help but to grin as she quickly found their listening device and disabled it in a manner that would make them think it still active.

That's my Leeloo, room swept and bug rendered useless in less than a minute.

Always one for natural air, Ian turned off the air and instead turned on every ceiling fan in the suite. Now satisfied he removed his black suit jacket and laid it over the back of a chair before taking his place on the sofa facing the bed. Leaning back with his arms dangling off the armrests he listened to Ellie inform him of the expected attire for the evenings events.

Ian - "Since I am playing one half of a rich and powerful hacking syndicate, I will dress however I want, us megalomaniac billionaires set our own standards."

Slowly he began to chuckle to himself as Ellie did a little spin for him before falling into the sumptuous bed. Her absent-minded version of a snow angel on the bed reminded him of a child on vacation with their family and he wondered if she would start to jump up and down on the mattress at any moment. Taking her cue he used his feet to slide off each shoe one by one, using his toe to toss them to the side as he continued to listen to her random comments.

Ian - "Easy enough, just change your sexual orientation and use this mission as an opportunity to seduce me with your feminine wiles. Soon enough an island as well as the world will be yours."

Innocent flirting had always been one of his favorite pastimes, even Ellie had come to accept and even learn to enjoy partaking in it, yet it was not having the desired effect this time. Not only was she giving off the very subtle signs of discomfort and doubt only someone who knew her well could pick up, it was radiating from her face for all to see. It angered him to see her worry so over him like a helpless lamb, knowing full well he could easily dispel her fears all at once, but only at the cost of putting her in far greater danger for the rest of her life. Silently he chose the lesser of two evils.

#20 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Sweetie, if I ever wanted to seduce you, you wouldn't stand a chance." She batted her eyelashes while swinging her black business-shorts clad legs over the side of the bed. Striding over to the couch with a swing to her hips, she knelt on the couch next to him and leaned into his ear. "Be glad you're not my type." Pushing away, she straightened his tie before standing up and blowing him a kiss.

"I'm going to go get ready for dinner." There was an intentional purr to her voice, her natural French accent applied thickly in contrast to the American accent she had adopted for this mission. Grabbing her bag of makeup as she headed to the bathroom, Ellie shut the door firmly behind her and got to work.

Nearly two hours later, she emerged a new woman. A snug Herve Leger two-tone dress hit her several inches above the knee. Her favorite Christian Louboutin pumps boosted her height to 5'8" and the titanium and sapphire necklace around her neck highlighted how oddly teal her eyes were. Deep crimson hair was curled and pinned to the side, cascading over one shoulder and smoky eye makeup completed the look.

In that amount of time, she had gone from rag-tag travelling Ellie to the dressed to the nines Knightfall Heiress. An entirely different demeanor had been adopted. The clothes and makeup were her war paint. Smoothing her hands over the lines of the dress she made sure to straighten the straps. Checking the delicate diamond watch latched around her right wrist, with hidden treats inside, Ellie called out for Ian, wanting to head down to the extravagant dining room where dinner was to be served early enough to casually case the joint out.

#21 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

He had to admit, she was getting really good at the flirting game for someone with no interest in men. Every move she made was intended to be as seductive as possible, and if he did not know better would have taken in the completely wrong manner. Looking in her eyes as she slowly gyrated close by, he reached in his pocket and waved a hundred dollar while he grinned at the subtle jab at her movements. As she got closer and teased him as to her supposed skills in seduction he laughed a little, watching her as she got up to ready herself for the nights activities, waiting until she reached the bathroom door.

Ian - "Ellie, if you ever tried to seduce me, you would end up not only my type, but straight."

Knowing he would have a significant amount of free time Ian sat on the balcony and began to consult with Wilhelm, taking in the complete architectural schematics of the building and committing it to memory. Remote access was established giving him control of the computer, alarm, and telephone networks. The same was done to every utility company that was tied into the resort in any manner, which would allow him to turn the tables should things get out of hand and Miss Knightfall truly did bite off more than they could chew.

As Ellie opened the door and came out of the bathroom, Ian was already dressed and turned to face her. Wearing a midnight blue Brioni suit, crisp white dress shirt, and a matching bow tie. Slowly sliding a pair of non-prescription eye glasses with thick black frames, his disguise was complete. The entire look was to give off the appearance of a hipster hacker forced to dress up for business.

Ian - "I was about to complain about being made to wait two hours, but after a single look I can see it was worth every moment. Your lucky you are not my type, or we would skip the mission and spend the weekend here."

#22 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"It's cute you think you could keep me entertained for an entire weekend." Giving him a brief slap on the butt as she walked past, Ellie adjusted the hem of her dress before they exited the room. With a small Chanel clutch in hand, she looked every inch the elegant heiress, which was exactly what she had aspired to.

One of the first lessons that she had learned in life was that people would judge you first and foremost by your looks and the way that you presented yourself. It was an unfortunate truth and one that she had utilized to her own advantage at every turn.

The two descended the swirling grand staircase side by side, Ellie's arm tucked tightly against his. The subtle fragrance that she was wearing wafted across the air. Below them was an extravagant dining area. Six tables for two intimately set with another long table towards the front of the room, padded armed dining chairs carved of exquisite mahogany, a crystal chandelier refracting delicate light across the room and three other couples already seated.

A server directed them towards their seats, one of the tables on the outer fringe. This pleased Ellie as it gave them more cover and a better ability to observe. The tables were placed close enough that you could partake in conversation with those close to you, but far away enough that you could hold a private conversation among yourselves.

Ellie settled in her seat, tucking the clutch against her leg as the candlelight flickered across her skin. Her eyes scanned the room as Ian took his seat. Four other 'couples' already seated. She was still unable to figure that aspect of it. Why couples covers, why a ball the next evening. This wasn't a society weekend it was a black market auction, supposedly. Nothing made sense.

A nondescript man in a perfectly tailored black Armani suit with diamond cufflinks that glittered whenever the light hit them took a seat at the wide table at the front of the room. Four others filed in after him, two females and another two males. All dressed to the nines, but in an understated way. "Bon Appetit." A quiet server appeared at their table, proffering a bottle of wine before walking away as they waited for the remainder of the guests.

#23 Edited by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian - "For someone devoted to the female race, you sure seem to have a problem keeping your hands off me. If your harboring some kind of secret crush we can discuss it like adults you know."

Holding out his arm with a smile he escorted Ellie out of the room and down the staircase, making sure to let his eyes wander over her body as a significant other would be expected to. The moment the door to their room shut they were now out in the open and Ian switched his focus from flirty banter to the business at hand. To an onlooker he looked like just another overdressed patron, but while they were preoccupied with the decor and what was on the menu, all he saw were threats and escape routes. This was far from his first undercover assignment, but he had to act as if every move was accidental or Ellie would quickly surmise there was far more to his story than he had given up till now.

Ian - "Just remember that your the pro and I'm the arm candy, your going to have to spell it out for me. I'm pretty good at thinking on my feet but I could use some pointers if I get out of line."

Making sure to pull out the seat for Ellie, as well as to not seat himself until she was properly settled, gave him a chance to take a panoramic view of the room. Wilhelm would warn him if any electronic messages spelled trouble for the faux lovebirds, but that was no excuse to get lazy and rely solely on his technology. Slowly reaching over he took her hand and rubbed along her fingers while giving a wink. As long as he was forced to pretend to be the amateur in the room, he was at least going to have a little fun with it.

Ian - "You know we never did discuss what you owe me if you end up getting me shot, but I'm thinking under those circumstances a threesome isn't too out of line."

His personal feelings matched Ellie's own, nothing about this entire setup made any sense other than as a trap of some kind. Were it up to him there was no way in hell he would ever have walked into it, but Ellie seemed adamant that it was worth the risk. All that mattered to him was her personal safety, but he would play along and let her run the show.

#24 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"I'll walk you through in baby steps." She forgot that this was his first time out on a mission and the guild and worry ate at her for a moment. They joked, but there was a seriousness belied in her tone. Ellie had never been one to rush into things without a plan and due to a debt to Brady Calhoun that would never truly be repaid, she had taken this without doing the research necessary and pulled in the one person she implicitly trusted.

Scanning around the room, all points of entrance and exit were quickly discerned as she deceptively devised the identity of several of the couples. The owner of a startup that was already making waves with innovative technology. The owner of a Forbes-rated business. The assistant who had been widely rumored to be the actual innovator of a new piece of technology. It was a veritable who's who of the tech world. Which begged the question of how Brady had gotten his hands on an elusive invitation.

Running her finger around the rim of the wine glass. Looking up at him from beneath heavily fringed eyelashes she pursed her lips seductively, as if she were considering the notion. "Don't ask for things you couldn't handle." Taking a slow, languid sip of the red wine she gently ran a fingertip across the back of his hand.

Her attention was torn from him as a bowl of Caesar salad was placed by her elbow by a non-infringing server. It was at that point that the man seated in the center of the five seated figures stood, gently clinking the side of his wine flute with a tea spoon. All attention was immediately placed on him as the myriad couples dimmed their conversations.

"As you all know, you've been gathered here this weekend for the purpose of bidding on a delectable new piece of technology. You have this night to yourselves, as you will tomorrow prior to the gala. At the close of the gala, this item will be tested to the full breadth of its capacity in a display that will be made available to each and every one of you. After that display, bidding will begin." He had an almost untraceable accent, a bit of Middle East mixed with perhaps some upper crust English. All Ellie knew was that nothing about this sat right in her stomach. "Please enjoy your meal and make full use of the facilities." Taking his seat, the five heads talked among themselves as the couples returned to doing the same.

Ellie just arched an eyebrow in Ian's direction while elegantly sliding a bite of salad into her mouth. "Any brilliant theories, Dr. Pierce?"

#25 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian nodded attentively as Ellie reassured him that she would look out for the supposed harmless businessman. The pinch in her nose as she responded in a hushed tone a sign of her continuing discomfort for involving him, yet he thought she must get some amusement at the prospect of being the mentor and not the student for once.

All the things I have taken and given little in return, she deserves so much more but....

Wilhelm had been filling him in on the personal bios of all the other guests and there was no single defining thread connecting them all. What they did have in common was that they were all experts in a variety of IT and related fields, and that each had either suspicion or a proven history of at least skirting the law when it came to the ethics in their field. None of them stood out as innovators on a scale that would truly concern him, but there was not a government agency or criminal empire that would not kill for their talents.

Pushing away the wine glass and making a face as if the vintage did not suit him, Ian settled for the mineral water, only bringing his complete focus back to Ellie as she chided him on being able to handle her in bed much less with a friend..

Ian - "Your just worried I'm telling the truth about being able to turn your world upside down. Just because I'm a gentleman in your presence does not mean I have and always was one. Memory serves you had a distinctive picture you stole from a patron's smartphone at one time.."

Cutting himself off as their host made their grandiose introduction he took in the speech, the contents of which only furthered to confirm his suspicions. Covert auctions are always prepared to be exchanges as quick as possible, no one wants to be left in the open with an item of such supposed value for fear of the deal being compromised and risk an attempted hi-jacking. Ellie could not help but notice a steel gaze she had not seen since their first introduction, focused on their host and his entourage.

Ian - "I have many but first a question I have been waiting for you to answer since this has began, You have yet to provide me with any falsified documents or even what name I am supposed to be responding to, in your rush you didn't book me under my real name, did you?"

#26 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Oh, oh, male equivalent of lady on the street but a freak in the sheets, are we?" She could barely keep a straight face as the corners of her mouth turned upwards in a smirk, the chuckle fighting to get out being suppressed Her eyes tracked his as he eschewed the alcoholic beverage. As he did so, something inside of her twinged. Ellie knew the reason he had, it was one of the first personal details he'd revealed about himself. Everything after that had been like pulling teeth. Due to respect and common sense, in her presence and now in her own personal life, she abstained from alcohol a vast majority of the time.

Tonight was not one of those times, but three slow sips and she was done. When the seemingly omnipresent server appeared at her elbow with the bottle, she kindly waved her off. Eyes narrowed as she shot Ian a 'what do you think I'm doing' look. "You're Dr. Matthew Lawrence. Several esteemed degrees, specialty in hacking. I'm your fiance, Ana Williamson. Specialty in on-scene upper echelon corporate espionage. We met when I tried to steal from you." There was a beautiful symmetry to their actual first meeting. "I'll leave the rest up to your discretion."

The proceeding three courses of dinner went off without a hitch. Quiet...normal, or as normal as you could be in the midst of what was a very elaborate set up. As soon as dinner was over, several other couples sauntered out. Some out onto the back deck overlooking the ocean for a nightcap, others off to presumably do reconnaissance of some sort. Ellie grabbed the linen napkin from her lap and delicately brushed any remaining crumbs off her lips before placing it on the table. "Shall we retire?"

#27 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

Ian - "My dear Ana, I have no equivalent in any respect."

He kept the loving smile along his face as if their flirty banter was the only thing on his mind, pretending to be someone else and put forth a false front was something all but second nature to him, a skill that had come in very helpful in both his work and personal life. Reaching over Ian slid a single bunch of red curls to the side as it had fell out of place, to any onlooker they were a couple in love and oblivious to whatever potential threat awaited them. In reality Wilhelm had been recording the conversations of every person in the room, filtering through the noise for any evidence of what this entire setup was really about.

Ian - "How appropriate, yet I'm sure in this adaptation you succeeded on some level, no way you would pass up a chance to rewrite history even in a fictional sense. And, fine, you can give me a terrible alias and downgrade my accomplishments for this one time."

As the first course was served Ian made sure to rotate in off-topic discussions whenever either the suspiciously overattentive server, or any of the other guests closed within earshot. Only returning to a sensitive topic once he was sure they were alone again, which seemed to be very little with all the hustle going on around them.

Wilhelm - "Ian, I have been able to confirm that the hosts have searched the rooms of every couple here during the dinner proceedings. Their men did not discover that the bug in your room had been disabled, but they will begin to get suspicious unless they get some kind of dialogue once the meal has ended. I took the liberty of their expecting some kind of action tonight. I have digitally modified both yours and Ellie's voice and will transmit a two hour epic sexual escapade for them to listen to along with random conversations. Don't worry, you will sound like a stud even if you look ridiculous in those glasses."

Seeing the other couples in attendance begin to break off on their own Ian nodded in response to Ellie's suggestion of retiring back to their room to plan their next step. His grin only growing slightly wider as he considered what her response to Wilhelm's deception would be were she aware.

#28 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Ellie made sure to wobbly slightly on her heel as she stood up, telegraphing that she was not entirely sober in the event that there was anybody casing her behavior. Bracing an arm against Ian's shoulder, she nestled into the crook of his elbow as he draped an arm across the small of her back in an effort to aid her as she walked.

Resting her head against his shoulder, they made their way back up to their suite. The moment the door latched behind them, her entire demeanor changed. Her eyes opened full as opposed to the fake half-drunken stoop, she stood up straight and took a quick scan of the room. Finding a second bug placed in the bathroom, she re-wired it just as she had the previous one.

"That's gross." Wrinkling her nose, Ellie swiftly pulled the bobby pins form her hair, releasing the stylishly curled waves down her back. "Just to be clear, if I had done all the research necessary, I totally would have made it into the data room." No, she wouldn't have, but it was ever so fun to bait him. In reality, she always suspected she'd made it as far as she did as a test of her capabilities. Looking back with hindsight, the only thing that seemed to have been done entirely under her own power was the taking down of the initial guards.

Sliding out of the black Christian Louboutin pumps, she pushed them up against the wall with her foot and stretched her arms overhead. Looking over her shoulder at Ian she grinned. "Popcorn and rental movie?" There was a ridiculously large television mounted on the wall opposite the bed. Logic would dictate strategy and brainstorming in addition to a good night's sleep, but she wanted the levity.

Turning around, she flipped her hair over her shoulder, exposing the top of the zipper of her dress. "Care to lend a hand?" The sound of waves crashing against the shoreline trickled in through the windows and the smell of sea salt in the air wafted through. Under any other circumstances she would be enjoying herself, but as it was, a giant pit of doubt sat in her stomach.

#29 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

Sliding an arm casually along Ellie's waist he played along with her drunk act, letting his hands wander to the very edges of decency to further sell their story. Feeling her head against his shoulder as she stumbled along in her heels Ian decided to hurry their way back to the room and lifted her up over one shoulder and carting her down the rest of the hallway until reaching their room. patting her behind with one hand while using the other to unlock and enter the room.

Setting her down he saw her get right to business and give the room another search for new listening devices, only taking enough time to correct him as to her reasons for failing in their initial meeting.

Ian - "Tell yourself whatever lets you sleep at night Leeloo, but I can have Wilhelm replay the video if you need a reminder."

Taking off the clear lensed glasses and setting them on the table he rubbed the bridge of his nose, not used to wearing the frames and the unnatural weight. Sliding off his suit jacket and hanging it over a chair he looked over as Ellie began to slide off the pumps and suggest popcorn and a movie.

Ian - "Newly engaged and all I get is movie night? That's it, we are breaking up, a sexless engagement only means a sexless marriage. next time I'm negotiating rights for my cover assignment"

Sliding off his shoes and kicking them under the bed he made his way over to Ellie in response for her request for help with her dress. standing behind her he looked down at her over her shoulder as his hand slowly began to unzip the dress as requested.

Ian - "So how much longer do you think they are going to continue the ruse before letting the other shoe drop? There is no better time for them to make a move than when they expect all their guest to be asleep or otherwise occupied."

#30 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Waiting for the other shoe to drop at any moment. If we make it through the night with no incident, my first guess would be during the gala tomorrow, but at the same time that seems a mite obvious." The zipper rasped as she smiled cheekily at him, that mischievous glint in sea green eyes shining bright.

As the fabric of the dress parted, she pulled the tight-fitting garment down her slender body, revealing bare back and panties that rode low on her hips. The somewhat new tattoo on the side of her ribs was revealed, three tiger lilies grouped together and colored with bright ink. Unseen by all but her and the artist, it was one of the small personal touches that Ellie carried with her that was of her own choosing, in direct opposition to the myriad scars that littered her body.

She leaned back against him, the material of his shirt rubbing against her bare back, the ideal of shame completely non-existent. Wrapping a hand around his neck, she pulled his head down to her and whispered in his ear. "You keep threatening me with a good time, I may eventually have to take you up on it as a learning experience, dear fiance.." As she released him, her teeth scraped gently against his jawline.

Flouncing away she let loose a sultry chuckle. Teasing was just too fun and every now and then she gave him a taste of his own medicine. Opening up the mahogany wood of the armoire, she removed an old shirt of his that she'd stolen the first night she'd spent at his island and slipped it on. The soft grey t-shirt with the faded band logo hit her at the top of her thigh and it felt like heaven. It was either that or a soft silk negligee and there was only so much punishment she'd put him through in one night.

Walking towards the bathroom, she traced her fingers across his chest and patted his shoulder, leaving him to his own devices for several minutes. When she reappeared, it was minus the tastefully applied makeup that had been applied and with her hair softly curled after having been finger-combed. Leaning against the doorframe that led from the ridiculously large bathroom to the even more ridiculously large bedroom, Ellie simply grinned. "Choose a movie?"

#31 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

While Ian had never had any personal shame about his own body, or that of any of the varied women he had shared himself with intimately in the past, Ellie was something completely different. It would be a complete and utter lie to say that he did not find her attractive in every manner, but their relationship to this point had leaned towards teacher and student, complicating the situation. From the moment her dress began to fall from her shoulders his eyes never left hers, purposely ignoring her teasing display as she toyed with him. The idea of letting his eyes wander seemed...wrong.

Even as she leaned her small, lean, and now nearly bare form against him, lithe hand wrapping around his neck, his eyes never left her face. While his body did not betray him by showing signs of unease, his face could not follow suit. While Ellie felt no need for modesty, he could not help but feel the protective need to do it for her at the moment.

Ian - "There is flirting...and then there is this Leeloo. Is this how you repay someone for risking their life for some secretive gambit of yours, leave them blue balled and in suspense?"

Keeping his eyes to her back as she walked away he watched as she slid on a vintage grey Zeppelin t-shirt, slowly realizing that it had once been his based on how the length fit upon Ellie's body. The little bounce to her step as she secretly reveled in playing her little game, leaving him alone as she entered the bathroom to remove her makeup. On then did Ian allow himself to look around the room freely, shaking his head at this self created predicament.

Sometimes chivalry has it's severe disadvantages

By the time Ellie came back out, still pleased with her little display, Ian had already taken the time to hang his clothes an now laid in the bed, dressed only in his grey boxer-briefs. Looking to the side as she offered to let him choose a movie to pass the time.

Ian - "Under the circumstances, a romantic comedy seems pretty appropriate."

#32 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Settling herself into the soft Egyptian cotton sheets of the bed, Ellie just grinned at him, tilting her head to the side slightly as she did so. It was as if she were piecing together a puzzle and had almost gotten there, only to find out there were several integral pieces missing. That's how it almost always felt around Ian. One door opened and she entered a room with four more closed doors. He was an enigma, moreso than she prided herself on being. It was in turns comforting and madly frustrating.

He was the best man that she'd ever met. A better man than anybody, including herself, knew. She'd only scraped the surface of everything he had within him, all the burdens and still it saddened her. Because he may be her rock, he may be strength and he may be her best friend, but there were pieces of him that would never be happy, that would never allow himself to be happy for fear of the other foot falling.

Popcorn in hand, she leaned back against the pillows propped behind her, making a luxurious backrest of sorts. Red curls splayed across the white fabric of the pillows as the precocious prodigy tossed a piece of popcorn in her mouth and grabbed the remote to begin cruising through the available movies. "You know you're the only person I'd eat in bed with?" The highest of praise coming from Ellie, who considered her bed one of the most important places in her home - and abhorred crumbs in the sheets.

Bringing her knees up to her chest beneath the covers, the balanced the bowl of popcorn on her thighs. In the drawer next to the bed was one of her guns with miscellaneous other weapons stashed in easy to access places throughout the suite. Failing to prepare was preparing to fail and she had no intent of being caught unawares in such a hostile environment.

"Crazy, Stupid, Love, Friends With Benefits or Sweet Home Alabama. Your choice."

#33 Posted by Reignfire (1461 posts) - - Show Bio

These were actually the moments with Ellie that he enjoyed the most, the ones where she would let her hair down and be herself, not the facade she had to put on as part of her heritage and their works. Deep down underneath all the training and hidden insecurities was just a girl barely out of her teens and wanting some sense of normal, even if it was temporary. Ian had pretty much given up on that for himself some time ago, but being able to provide it for another was a partial form of solace.

Ian - "You just want an excuse to get in my bed Leeloo, I know that whole into girls thing is just a long term hard to get ploy."

Snatching a single piece of popcorn just before it reached her mouth, Ian ate it himself while giving her a wink. Sliding off the side of the bed, he took a slow, leisurely stroll out to the balcony, showing far less concern at being seen under dressed than he was seeing Ellie in such a state only minutes before. As much as he tried to hide it, not being in control of this op and therefore unable to use all of his considerable resources was wearing on him.

Wilhelm - "Ian, there are six armed men making their way down the hallway. I have just intercepted a cellular call guiding them to this room. For reasons unknown they have been ordered to kill you but capture Ellie unarmed"

Ian - "Ellie, get your gun and behind cover, NOW!"

Almost as soon as he finished his sentence the door was broken down and the first two men entered quickly, dressed in black suits and each holding a .50 Desert Eagle sidearm in hand. The other four men following behind, ready to spread out and cover the room. Without a single word of warning the echo of their hand cannons went off as each shooter fired three shots apiece, every one hitting their mark, Ian. Ellie could see each shot strike him in his chest and abdomen as he stood on the balcony, that is until the force of the impacts threw his body fell off the edge to fall the 3 stories to the ground.

#34 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

She heard his voice and from that moment forward, everything changed. Acting completely on instinct, Ellie rolled off the side of the bed and grabbed the duffel bag hidden beneath it. Quickly pulling out a gun and a blade, it took mere seconds for her to hide behind the side of the heavy armoire, armed and out of sight.

There was no questioning of the order, no time to think of how he had known what was about to happen, who was coming, she simply obeyed. Multiple gunshots rang out and for once in her life, Ellie froze in the face of fear as she poked her head around the side of the armoire, the men too busy with their work to notice her at this point.

Her worst nightmare came true before her eyes - Ian, gone, dead...he had to be, there was no way to survive that, no way at all. This was her fault, she thought, as guilt and adrenaline began to blend, boiling in her blood. She had brought him on this mission, no official training and she knew...she knew that it was a trap that they were walking into. What the hell kind of idiot did something like that?

"IAN!!!" With no thought to modesty or her own safety, Ellie called upon every modicum of her training, putting it to use all in one fell sweep. Taking the element of surprise, she got off three shots before anybody knew what was happening, all perfectly aimed to the center of the forehead. Three bodies slumped to the ground with small pools of blood forming from fatal headshots.

Dressed in nothing but a pair of hipster panties and a large grey t-shirt, Ellie looked every inch the college-age woman she was. But beneath that exterior, as they had just learned, was the steady shot of a skilled killer. She was a Knightfall, after all. Trained well in the arts of death. Truth be told, if she had more time and less numbers, she would have been more than happy to draw their deaths out in the most brutal ways imaginable. It would have been a pleasure.

"Send your bosses my regards." There wasn't a weapon aimed at her, but she went into feral action without taking in that factor. With a quick aim of the knife in her left hand she threw the custom dagger, slicing open the carotid of one man while shooting the other. Ending the tandem motions in crouch on her knees, she grinned at the last man. Another careful aim and two squeezes and both kneecaps were gone.

Blood spray had splattered across her at some point and added to the striking dichotomy of the small graceful killer redhead. He crawled back against the railing of the balcony, screaming in agony. "You BITCH!"

Crouching down in front of him, her gun dangled casually between her legs, Ellie just grinned, a macabre expression putting fear into his eyes. "You don't know half the meaning of the word." Wresting his gun from his grip, she tossed it across the balcony. Grabbing his chin between her fingers, she brought her face in close to his. "If you survive, remember this night, remember it as the night that you lost everything you ever had, everything you ever hoped to have. I'll be coming for you and if you're lucky, I'll give you a quick death." Standing up, she squeezed the trigger one last time, letting loose a bullet into the joint of his shoulder. "But I wouldn't count on it." Every face she had ever seen was perfectly committed to memory and this was no exception. He would be hunted and vengeance would be taken.

Slamming the butt of her gun against his head, she knocked him out cold. Bracing her hands on the balcony, she looked over the edge, prepared for the worst. To her complete and utter dismay, there was nothing in sight but the softly swaying tops of palm trees planted along the beachline. A small wail trickled past her lips as she slammed her fists against the stone of the balcony railing.

Without further ado, she slipped back inside and quickly changed into something more functional. Never one to do anything half-assed or be left unprepared, Ellie slid into a specially designed tactical suit. Skintight, she was covered neck to toe between gloves, streamlined boots and the sleek black long-sleeved suit. With an earwig tucked into her ear, she programmed into coordinates, sending them back to Wilhelm in an emergency signal of sort.

Weapons were strapped to various limbs and a pouched belt was secured tightly around her waist. She was ready to go hunting. For what, exactly, was unknown.

#35 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Even Ian himself was surprised when the force of the bullets carried him over the ledge of the balcony. Normally such an attack would be all but ineffective, nowhere enough to make him flinch, much less tumble. Only to moments later realize Wilhelm had allowed it to happen, following protocol to maintain his secret identity when situations like this happened. The normal fear that comes from falling in an uncontrollable manner had left him years ago, from the knowledge that once under the cover of the tree tops his stabilization systems would right him under cover of darkness.

As the feel of leaves and branches swept along his bare skin, he could feel the invisible strings as his body was pulled from a free fall to a stable and upright landing. Touching down silently and hidden by the shadows of the tree line he reached up and caught the still warm bullets that had been held by his dampening field, mere nanometers from his skin. Tossing them away into the bushes, it was time to plan his response to such a rude interruption. His only comfort was the knowledge that their host wanted Ellie alive, making her safe for the moment, that and no one was expecting a dead man to storm the castle.

Wilhelm - "Ellie is trying to establish contact with me Ian, and based upon her biosigns, and the manner in which she dispatched your attackers, she is well on her way to a rampage, a nervous breakdown, or both. How would you like me to respond?"

Ian knew that there was no way he could maintain his cover from her, and ensure her safety through a rapidly changing event, one would have to be sacrificed for the other. Taking a second to consider his options he made the only choice his conscience could ever live with.

Ian - "Disable automated overrides for all identity protocols, as for Ellie, I'll tell her myself in just a minute."

Allowing the Armistice nanosuit to expand from its default mode hidden beneath his skin, he could feel the material pool along his skin before within a second completing the persona of Reignfire. the feelings of anger at letting his needs put her in even the potential for danger had him on edge, and he was about to show them to never bring a gun to a meta fight.

With a slight crouch his body jetted back up to the balcony and entered the room just as a second wave made a rush towards Ellie as she was still preparing herself. None of the men even had a chance to make a move as his left hand glowed from the engagement of his magnetic generators, their weapons ripped forcefully from their hands only to be crushed in front of their now horrified eyes. The mangled ball of metal simply dropped with a thud at their feet, four sets of eyes watching it until looking back up, knowing the next target was themselves.

Now unarmed they stood helpless as his right hand glowed and unleashed a wide-area blast of concussive energy. The entire walkway into the room engulfed with a yellow flash as their bodies were ripped right off their feet and back out the door, the sickening thud of their bodies slamming into the drywall of the hallway and one another. Only to fall in a pile of broken men who would reevaluate their lives once they woke up and viewed the cost of their line of work.

Reignfire - "Lock and load Ellie, looks like someone wants to eliminate the competition. I'll take point"

#36 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Complete and utter shock flooded her system as the sudden appearance of Ian...Ian in what appeared to be a nanobot suit...Ian alive...Ian singlehandedly taking down a group of men before they could even blink. When reality caught up with her, her gun was pointed at Ian. Ellie quickly holstered it as her heartbeat thrummed in her ears.

"You'll take...point?" She shook her head, still partially unable to reconcile the fact that not only was he not dead, he was completely without injury, in some sort of tech suit and now taking point with complete and utter authority. This was not his first rodeo, no matter how he had tried to play it. "Do you think maybe there's something you want to tell me?"

Crouching by the bed, she grabbed the rest of her gadgets; two comms, and a sonic-powered gun that could be set to different intensities. Standing up, she shot a withering glare in his direction, a smear of blood still across the somewhat pale skin of her face, remnants of the dispatching of the men who had 'killed' him.

"YEARS, IAN, YEARS!" Ellie never screamed, but she was screaming now. The French accent that either manifested in a small lilt or was suppressed entirely was out in full force. "YEARS!!! YOU SAW EVERYTHING, YOU KNEW EVERYTHING AND YOU KEPT THIS..." She waved a hand in his direction, sputtering as she gave the rest of her weapons a cursory look. Descending into a spiral of French swears, she went off on a short tangent. "I thought you were dead!!! They killed you right in front of me! I thought you were a goddamn utterly brilliant egocentric businessman with an unassailable savior complex. My best friend who told me everything. I never kept my life hidden from you and you..." An honest to goodness growl trickled through her lips. "Son of a b!tch, Pierce."

There were two occasions when she referred to him by last name only. When she was too angry to look at him and when she was trying to emotionally distance herself through joking. Now as clearly the former. Quelling the shaking rage and ire that had risen through her, Ellie got herself back into mission headspace, pushing everything down to allow for calm.

There was a place in her head, a small little area where she went when she killed. It was a static, a place kept tucked away that allowed her to channel anger, pain and everything else into the singular drive to do what needed to be done. It was where she was about to go if Ian didn't talk quickly. She was in mission mode now...there would be ample time later to uncover everything else and shame him.

#37 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ellie Knightfall was a woman possessed of a temper when the situation warranted it, one Ian had been on the receiving end of before, but never at the magnitude that she was laying into him now. He did not blame her in the slightest, she had watched him die and rise from the grave within less than a minute, and in the process revealed a secret she had no choice but to take personally. The blood soaked features on her delicate face only made the hateful stare even more intense as he put his hands on her shoulders, his force field already extended around them both as her blind anger made her vulnerable.

Reignfire - "Ellie you can as furious and abusive to me as you want, but it's going to have to wait. Someone put a kill order on me and wants you alive, either our cover is blown or there is a lot more to this auction than you were told.”

She could feel his finger as he wiped the blood from just below her eye, the emotion obvious even if it was a face she did not know. Ian knew he had hurt her, but that wound was going to have to stay open for now, someone had to answer for coming after his favorite girl.

Reignfire - “I'll clear the hallway, you contact our source and see if you can get us some answers. Afraid I get to blow off some steam first.”

Making his way into the hallway he was met with a hail of gunfire from both sides, the bullets raining over his field and dropping like pebbles against a mountain. His sensors had made him aware of their presence, his walking into the onslaught a planned occurrence, this would allow him to make a point. Reaching out both arms he initiated a magnetic pulse, the barrage of bullets held at bay for a fraction of a second before being redirected right back at his attackers.

Return to sender

#38 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

It was a trip, this man in front of her who looked nothing like her friend, her teacher, her hero, standing in front of her and speaking to her as if he had known her for ages. It was probably for the best, because if she was looking at the face of Ian Pierce, she would have lost any composure she had recently gained.

The cool island night breeze had dried the blood o her face and she flinched lightly as he reached out to touch her, not expecting the sweet gesture while she had just gotten her fuming fury under control. "You can bet that ass of yours that you're gonna get what's coming." She spoke entirely in French, knowing that he understood every word. There was a death glare shot at him before they both went off to do their jobs.

Slipping in the comm device, Ellie contacted the one and only illustrious Brady Calhoun, known by many names in many circles. Standing on the blood-soaked back balcony, she continuously scanned the sky, watching for any impending attack. The loud ruckus from the hallway alerted her to Ian's capabilities and she growled underneath her breath while Brady picked up.

"Calhoun here."

"It's your super-secret private line, dumbass, I would hope it's Calhoun."

"Always lovely to hear from you, Ellie. Aren't you supposed to be mid-op and radio silent right now?"

"Yeah...the thing about that..." Her voice was cool, if slightly amused. Trust was not something easily earned from Ellie, but it was something that Brady had proven worthy of on multiple occasions. Not for a second did she think this was a setup - at least not on his end. "Things have gone FUBAR. My partner and I are under heavy fire, he's under a kill order and they want me alive and uninjured. Was there maybe something in the briefing that you left out?"

"Ms. Knightfall, I'd be insulted at the insinuation that I couldn't do my job if you weren't under such dire circumstances. There has been new intelligence that has come in throughout the past few hours. Mobilization of small covert units onto and around the island. Nobody's talking about what the game-plan is, but they're going to be throwing down something big."

"You cannot even begin to fathom how big you owe me for this one, Brady."

"Oh trust me, I have an idea, Little Grace." The teasing nickname that he used for her every now and then, an allusion to her natural grace as well as her middle name. It would have plastered a smile on her face under just about any other circumstances.

"I'm cutting out now. Send in the heavy artillery if I give the signal." Tapping the earwig, she once again double-checked her weapons and slid back into the suite that was more and more destroyed every time that she set eyes on it.

"I'm impressed." Arching an eyebrow as she walked in on the bloody mayhem, Ellie couldn't help but feel awe course through her. Every time she thought she had him figured out, he was something more. The flight home would be a long one, no question there. "Calhoun just gave me the update. There are teams mobilizing on the island and in the waters around it. No idea about anything else. He's a reliable source with a wide net, so we're playing things by ear from this point forward."

#39 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

The tension in the air between the mentor and protege felt thickly tangible, as if there was a literal wall between them at this very point. Standing guard at the door to the room, Ian was only ten feet away, acting as a sentinel while Ellie reestablished communications with her unknown contact, yet it felt like so very much more. For the moment there was a pause in the action, at least for them locally, the recent attackers having pulled back their wounded after seeing their own weapons turned back on them so effortlessly. His armor allowed him vision in every angle and direction, eyes on Ellie to make sure no one made a move from the balcony he had taken himself only a short time ago.

As she finished Ian took in her updated report, taking it in along with the rapidly changing readings his sensors began to display. All the pieces were falling into place, the violence only intensified the amount of chatter coming over cellular, landline, and private communication devices. All involved thought that they were discussing in secrecy, while in fact every facet of data had been fed to him through Wilhelm the entire time.

Reignfire - "Not teams, team, the island is currently being surrounded by the forces of Randwell. They are a South African private military contractor who have a reputation as working as much as bounty hunters as they are mercenaries. I have already hacked their entire communications network and they are here to capture every notorious hacker present who have a bounty on their heads from a foreign government. Apparently all the guests in total are worth tens of millions to the right people, making this raid more than worth the risk of operating here, the host is apparently working with them for a cut."

Silencing himself as the flow of new data forced him to wait until other pertinent facts were verified, the tension was accentuated with an uncomfortable silence among the bodies and wreckage. the sounds of further conflict rang out in different directions as the battles continued throughout the resort.

Reignfire - "As for the magical hacking device, it's real, but it is not a machine, but a person. The bait for all of this is being held under guard in the basement, a Dutch hacking prodigy who has made a name for himself over the past couple of years with his exploits. Andreas Bram has successfully penetrated the networks of dozens of companies and governments, he would be serving time right now if he was not still only fourteen years old. These bastards kidnapped a kid to sell as some kind of indentured servant, and now they are willing to risk him getting killed in the crossfire."

Ellie could notice the change in tone as his voice finally switched along with his appearance to that of the Reignfire persona, she knew which buttons never to push with him and harming a child was at the top of said list. She could hear the sound as his fists tightened in anger, the immense strength of the nanosuit at the ready to be unleashed.

Reignfire - "Go rescue the kid, I just sent you a map as to the most direct course to where he is being held downstairs. As for the surrounding army, leave them to me."

#40 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Everything but the two of them and the transfer of information was blocked out of Ellie's mind. She couldn't afford at this point in time to think about how others may be suffering, about who else may be suffering. For the foreseeable future, her mission was to rescue the boy who was at the center of all of this. Because if there was anything Ellie understood, it was a kid who felt like they didn't have any other choice - or even worse - who physically didn't have any other choice. It sickened her.

There was no questioning as to how Ian knew all of this, at least not right now. For the same reasons that she couldn't afford to think of anything other than that kid, Ellie refused to think of just exactly which emotions were roiling under the surface, wont to break through. Opening her eyes wide, Ellie slipped a pair of specialized contacts from one of the pouches on her waist and slid them in. They'd allow her infrared and thermal imaging capabilities, allowing her to move effortlessly through the dark. She was nothing if not prepared.

"I'm on it." The comm device in her ear would relate directions to her as she moved throughout the compound. Eyes narrowed as he confidently said that he'd handle the army himself, yet no doubt slid through her. He could do it, he would do it, the effortless display of what was just a fraction of his power from moments before indelibly stamped in her mind.

"Je t'aime." She whispered the words while standing on the edge of the balcony. The specialized material of her suit reflected light, allowing her a nearly unprecedented degree of nigh-invisibility. Trained since birth in the ways of combat and espionage, Ellie had determined to put them to good use in her life. Bad things for good people, was the shortest version of her mantra.

Taking a running leap off of the balcony, the shock-resistant suit provided protection as she grabbed onto a ledge, quickly using that foothold to propel her down and diagonal to the next one. In an impressive display of parkour, she navigated her way down to ground level and took off.

It took twelve minutes and twenty-eight seconds for her to come across her first obstruction. A group of four guards, all standing vigil in front of an ornate double-wide wooden door that led downstairs. It had been a manner of covert sneaking and avoidance up until this point and she'd have to handle this quickly and quietly in order to avoid detection and drawing a larger amount of forces down on her.

Coming up flush against the side of the wall around the corner from them, she saw an opportunistically placed lightswitch and hit it. The specialized lenses kicked in and her work was made that much easier. Snapping the neck of one, she dropped him softly to the ground. Reaching out with extended fingers, a nerve strike in the vulnerable part of the neck left unprotected by armor temporarily paralyzed another. Just as the third drew his gun, Ellie leg swept him and cold-cocked him with the butt of his own weapon.

It was the fourth, who by this time, had begun to surmise what was happening around him, who would be her challenge; or at least more of a challenge than the others. He didn't go for the gun, but for the metal telescoping stick that all the guards had on them, presumably for the event they were disarmed or just wanted to beat the hell out of somebody.

Ellie didn't worry a moment about it, she just acted on instinct. The weapon made contact with the side of her ribs and the suit absorbed most of the impact, although there would be a bruise there come morning. This allowed her the opportunity to grasp his extended arm and snap the elbow out of joint. Grabbing the stick from his limp arm, she gripped it firmly and hit him over the head with it.

Securing one of their radios to her belt in order to keep apprised of the developing situation, Ellie made short work of the lock that was barring the door. There was a cool, dank feel to the wide, steep stone stairs that descended straight down into what appeared to be a basement lair of some sort that was very high-tech equipped.

"You know you tripped about five alarms just by setting foot in here unauthorized." The voice came from a young boy sitting in front of a console display that would have graced Ellie's dreams. He was tall and somewhat gangly for his age, but you could tell it was a body that he would grow into in time.

His back was to Ellie as she approached, hand on her holster in case there was anything off. As far as she could surmise, he was staring at the console as numbers and code whirred past too fast for her to read, but her mind committed it to memory nonetheless. Ian had called him a hacking prodigy. Ellie didn't think that really began to cover just what she was witnessing in front of her eyes.

"I'm aware of the security measures. What's your name?"

"Abraham. Not that it is important."

He spoke fluent, perfect English with no hint of an accent. It was a trick she herself had perfected by the age of nine. "Everything's important, Abraham. Especially you." Walking up next to the seat that he was in, she quickly began calculating how much time she had to get him out of there. "My name's Ellie and I'm here to help you."

The light of the console cast a luminous glow against his arm and it was then that she noticed the track marks in the elbow. Drugs. Could be any kind for a myriad of reasons, the most logical conclusion was that it was to keep him amiable.

It took five minutes of finagling, five minutes that they did not have to spare. But through some miraculous occurrence, Ellie was able to convince Abraham to come with her. Whether he was friend or foe would be determined later. Right now, he was a kid who needed saving and that's all that mattered to her.

Through the cover of darkness and with the help of the layout that Ian had provided her with, they managed to circumvent the guards by cutting through passages that had been installed in the island manor. Passages that were lacking in security coverage, something that immediately put Ellie's senses on high alert.

Pushing out the grate at the lower base of the tunnel that they had been crawling through, Ellie and Abraham exited and found themselves at the line of trees right by the beach. There was tension and mayhem in the air, but she had faith that Ian had everything under control on his part. Tapping Abraham's shoulder, she silently pointed to the spot on the ground next to her, indicating for him to stay by her side. Leaning in, she whispered. "My partner's out there. We stay down and hidden until he gives me the signal and then we figure out how to get the hell out of here." It was on Ian at this point, she was pinned down and there was no way to take the team that was storming the island by herself, even less so having to worry about a kid getting harmed in the mayhem.

#41 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

As soon as Ellie had finished her hurried preparations, he retracted his shields from the dome protecting them both back to the near skin mode. As much as she tried to pretend she was completely in a combat mindset, the features of her young face showed differently. Barely out of her teens and with far more training than actual field work at this point, she carried her emotions on her sleeve, the conflicted feelings towards him at the moment still raw. The last thing he wanted to do was to leave her unprotected, but his presence topside would draw attention away from the interior, as well as focus the hardware his way and now hers.

Seeing her turn the corner and out of sight, Ian decided to get airborne and take the high ground on them. Being that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, he took flight and headed straight through the floors and ceilings between him and the evening sky. Within a few seconds he had punched through the building, leaving a tunnel of wreckage in his wake as the sparks of torn wiring and the spray of water from decapitated piping was left in his stead. Stopping to hover at the dead center of the resort he stopped to analyze the opposition before engaging.

Ian - "Status of opposing force and threat assessment"

Wilhelm - "Processing"

(12) Colombo Class Ultra Fast Attack Craft – 20mm cannons, automated grenade launchers, 7.62mm machine guns.

(8) Eurocopter Tiger – 20mm auto-cannon, 70mm Hydra rockets, Mistral air-to-air missles

(96) Soldiers – Vektor R4 5.56 mm assault rifle, Milkor MGL-MK1 40mm grenade launcher, RPG-7 anti-tank rocket.

Threat Assessment – Nothing can even scratch the paint, but more than enough ordinance to destroy the resort ten times over. Prolonged combat is not advised to ensure safety of Ellie and the subject.

Normally this fight no matter how prolonged or dragged out would only have one of two results, their total destruction, or a well advised retreat. This time however time was not on his side, every errant shot directed towards him would only strike the building and risk collapsing the structure around Ellie, that is something he simply would not allow.

Ian - “Wilhelm, realign power from all offensive systems and direct them to the shield emitters and magnetic generators, prep for a maximum range ESMP. Give Ellie a ten second countdown to shut off her electronics and reboot them at the count of five. Tell her to keep underground until after the pulse no matter what.”

Knowing he had to disable as much of their firepower as possible in the shortest amount of time, Ian decided to use a rarely used application from his technological bag of tricks. An Electro Static Magnetic Pulse was a variation of the tried and true EMP, but it's effects worked on the personnel as much as their hardware. The pulse was modified to also carry an electrical charge that would paralyze the body and shock the neural pathways of anyone not full insulated.

Still holding in a single spot in space he began to take on fire as the attack helicopters began to rain down upon him with auto-cannon fire from all sides. Ignoring the ineffectual ordinance he allowed the generators to build the pulse until the optical HUD displayed full readiness. Moments later the pulse was released in a silent assault that carried itself across the entire island and then some, a near invisible pulse that proceeded to lay waste to the entire fleet around him in one fatal stroke.

All their pretty lights began to go out around them, all their instruments of death failing them at once. Helicopters fell out of the sky like birds with broken wings, attack boats died in the water now useless as driftwood, and soldiers convulsed on the ground like marionettes all with their strings cut at once.

Ian - “The exterior is pacified, I'll meet you topside within 5 seconds of you poking your head out.”

#42 Edited by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

The warning came through her ear set as she and Abraham were hunkered in the treeline. Hitting the killswitch on her belt, all electronic devices were immediately shut down. It took her a second or two to re-acclimate to the lack of electronic hum against her body. "We need to get back into that tunnel, ASAP!" She was grabbing his arm and dragging him along behind her as she booked it into the tunnel that they had come out of just minutes before.

Diving in, they quickly descended to a point they had already passed, about twenty feet in, a point that was decidedly underground. Huddled together against the dirt wall, Ellie leaned her head back, closed her eyes and counted quietly under her breath, focusing her attention on something other than the fact that they were in a relatively small space underground and not just simply passing through it.

"You're not counting in second-long increments." There was no question in his voice as he spoke, just his observations.

With eyes closed and head still back, Ellie broke her count. "I'm just counting, not counting time. It's something that I do sometimes." Something that she did when she needed to focus her attention elsewhere.

Silence from there. Abraham had a natural curiosity, but he wasn't going to push right now just to further his knowledge on something that wasn't crucial to what they were doing in the immediate future.

If she had been the praying sort, this would have been the point where she uttered prayers for Ian's safety. As it was, she just relied on his complete and utter ability to always do what needed to be done and his compulsive need to have every possible avenue of deviation from projected movements covered.

After the instructed interval, she had rebooted her electronic equipment with one finger imprint onto a special device on her belt. The voice that came over her tech elicited a sigh of relief. "Time to go, kiddo." Combat boots and Converse sneakers hit the compacted dirt of the tunnel as the two slowly jogged out, having full trust that their way was cleared by Ian.

#43 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Within seconds the pulse had made it's way across the island, the effectiveness dissipating along it's journey until finally ceasing it's invisible assault. The carnage surrounded him in all directions, machines of war in flames and their operators lying helpless beside them. For the moment the entire opposition had been stopped completely in their tracks, but only temporarily, as the effect on the personnel would last for 5-10 minutes at best. Noting the heat signature of Ellie and the target Ian made his way to the exit line the two were currently on an intercept course for.

Landing at the exit point of the underground tunnel, he could finally visually confirm the two were unharmed, as much faith as he placed in his instruments seeing was believing. While they were both somewhat dirtier from their slog through the poorly maintained access tunnel, they were otherwise no worse for wear. Wanting to leave nothing to chance Ian extended his shields around them both as soon as they came within range, slowly pulling back the spread until they were face to face.

Reignfire - "Their vehicles are fried, nothing more than over-sized paperweights now. That said we have about 4-9 minutes before the foot soldiers regain bodily control and could prove an annoyance, best to stop and answer questions from a safer vantage point."

Without asking or waiting for a response, he wrapped an arm around each of them and took to the skies, the sound of a sonic boom left in their wake as he reached supersonic even before either of them could adjust visually. Firing like a rocket straight up then east, far from the remaining forces effective reach before coming to a complete stop. Tilting his head towards the young hacking prodigy, it was time to leave him in safe hands, too bad the same could not be said for Ian himself once Ellie had him alone.

Reignfire - "What embassy do you want to be dropped off in?"

#44 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

Before Ellie knew what was happening, she and Abraham were scooped up safe and sound in Ian's arms and shuttled off. The rapid acceleration left her stomach several steps behind the rest of her body and its contents lurched as she gained her equilibrium. Remarkably, Abraham was faring much better by all appearances.

Expelling the breath of air that she hadn't realized she'd been holding, Ellie tilted her head back and forth and cracked her neck, one of her nervous tics. "Warning next time, dear...warning." She knew that there hadn't been time for any, but there was so much indescribable emotion swirling underneath the surface of what appeared to be a calm exterior, that venting some out right now was a necessary measure.

Abraham looked up at Ian, scratching the back of his neck and mussing up his unkempt ash blonde hair in the process, or at least more so than it already had been. "I do not know if I can go home after this." His voice was very matter of fact, at odds with his own physical reaction. His brain processed date like a computer, more effectively than even Ellie's, whose (unbeknownst to her) was bogged down with psionic energy.

"Abraham, you and your family will be provided with protection for the rest of your life, if needed." Ellie wasn't in the business of false promises, she meant every word that she said.

"But there is so much that still needs to be done."

Ellie gave him a stern glare. The best duplication of the looks she'd received from Mortimer throughout childhood and still to this very day. Abraham blinked at her a couple of times and shrugged. "I will go home. Would it be possible to leave me at the Embassy in Rome?" He had always wanted to visit the city and never been allowed the chance. The island that they had just been on had been in the center of the Caribbean Sea and none other than Ian himself had any idea where they currently were.

#45 Posted by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Reignfire - "Rome it is"

Without another word he engaged full spectrum stealth and mentally calculated the most direct and efficient course towards Rome. The glimmer of moonlight off of the rapidly passing water below was the only indication of just how fast the intrepid group was traveling, the retinal display showing Mach 6 was surpassed in a matter of seconds and continued climbing. The feelings of excessive speed were lost as the shields and inertial compensators negated all of the disconcerting effects one would normally expect from traveling at thousands of miles per hour unprotected. To any ship they happened to pass they were no more than an invisible bullet.

Reignfire - "I have to admit that Italy is an excellent choice, it is one of the few European countries that does not have an outstanding warrant or ongoing investigation into your digital pursuits. As young as you are, I'm sure your beginning to understand just how valuable your abilities are to the right and wrong people, and the wrong ones do not care how young you are. Unless you want to live on the run or in some manner of hiding your going to have to make some connections within whatever country you choose to reside in or your only going to get kidnapped again."

After finishing his short perspective on the young man's potential future, he allowed for silence as to let him take the time to truly realize the gravity of recent events, and how they would shape every decision from this moment on. Normally the trip from the carribean to Rome would take far less time, but with passengers he was unable to engage his gravity drive and was limited to a peak of Mach 10. That would allow for almost a half an hour of time of uncomfortable silence under the circumstances.

Reignfire - “ETA to Rome is going to be about 28 minutes so if anyone has a topic for discussion to pass the time, feel free to pipe in.”

There was still much left unsaid between Ellie and himself, but that was not a discussion that was going to take place with an ever curious third party. She would stay on task until the job was complete and the boy was safe in whatever manner he chose, at that point he was fair game.

Wilhelm - "I'm sorry is just not going to cut it no matter how many times you say it Ian, and by the way, I told you so."

Ian - "......"

#46 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

The 28 minutes passed painstakingly slow as Ellie and Abraham mostly discussed what his life had been like and what his future plans would be. She could tell from the intonation and sincerity that he had taken with 'Reignfire' had told him to heart. Regardless, both of them would now be keeping tabs on him. Ellie could foresee him being a useful asset if for some reason they had use of a third with high tech capabilities.

Abraham was safely dropped off at the embassy, with an awkward embrace between himself and Ellie exchanged. Her entire body ached, every muscle sore, every bone battered. And many, many questions soaring through her head. Dr. Ian Pierce...cocky businessman with a savior complex. A complex she had thought he exhibited by taking in wayward causes such as herself, by donating more money than most would see in a lifetime to charities. Never. never in a million years would it have crossed her mind that he had an alter-ego...one that appeared to be in the same business that she was. Years, years and he hadn't mentioned this when he had every bit of her.

The Trevi Fountain loomed behind them. If she was going to be in Rome, she was very well going to grasp some pleasure from it. The cool mist from the splashes drifted across the warm air and onto Ellie's face. She looked slightly more presentable than she had at the beginning of their little 'trip', but the annoyance was clear simply in the set of her shoulders. "Talk."

#47 Edited by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Even the simple demand to talk by Ellie gave him a small taste of the venom she had in store for him, the long term deception and the emotions of seeing him apparently die in front of her eyes only hours ago not something to be casually tossed aside. Ian held up a single finger in a sign for her to wait as he walked away slowly into a dark shadow between buildings, only to emerge under his own face, and with the nanosuit material configured into a set of casual clothes. Every gesture of his abilities thrown in her face at this point must have felt like slap after slap, but this was not going to be a short or quiet discussion, they needed some privacy to sort out these issues.

Ian - "Not here, not now. Let's find a hotel to get settled into and then I promise to let you have your Twenty Questions and then some. We both know this discussion is going to become heated sooner rather than later and it is not something for curious bystanders."

Using his internal systems he found a suitable hotel only a little under two miles from their present location. Wilhelm instantly made the reservations and scheduled for fresh clothing to their exact specifications to be delivered tomorrow along with a late breakfast. Normally this would be the point he would offer his arm to Ellie as they walked, but under the circumstances she was far more likely to try to break it off at the elbow and beat him with it.

Ian - "I have a place set up, about a mile and a half from here, we have had more than enough uncomfortable silences already, so as long as you have any questions that are non-specific I can can answer them on the way there. If your waiting for an apology I knew we are way past that at this point so I'm just going to let you take the lead with the questions and I'll answer as best I can. All I can say is that everything I have ever kept from you came with a very good reason, at least in my eyes."

There was no question that their relationship was going to change drastically at this point, he was about to let her in on something not a single other living person to was privy to at this point. If there was one thing that Ellie took badly it was misplacing trust in others, too many in her life had taken advantage of it in the past. Ian well knew that his answers in the upcoming hours were just as likely to bring them closer together as they were to drive a wedge between them that may never be removed.

#48 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

"Great." She said not another word as they walked in silence. Begrudgingly enjoying the view as they did so, Ellie knew that it was the only thing tempering her right now. There was an undeniable appeal about Rome, an ambiance that infected you. You couldn't help but step a little lighter because of it. It wouldn't be enough to save Ian.

Turning down the street that the hotel was on, Ellie spoke again. "How long?" How long had he had this...this alter ego. How long had he kept it from her. It was the most important question at the moment.

The hotel was, of course, state of the art and nearly overwhelming with its luxurious nature. The staff was discreet as Ellie and Ian were ushered in, both clearly worse for the wear. He looked maddeningly normal, while Ellie was a bit battered and bruised and more shaken than she'd ever let on. All of that combined with her tumultuous state of anger had her on edge.

The double-door to the suite was opened, allowing the two entrance. There was a duffel on the ridiculously large bed. An engraved card with her name was on top of it and she unzipped it, quite pleased to find toiletries inside. "Give me a few minutes." Her tone was painfully monotonous with the shock and suppressed rage that were still flowing through her.

Five minutes later she appeared, her face freshly washed and stark in contrast. The light freckles on her cheeks were more apparent than ever. The bags beneath her eyes apparent as was the listlessness. Her hair was scraped off her face and positioned in a bun on the crown of her head as the fringe of her bangs brushed her eyelashes.

She perched against the dresser, crossing her legs at the ankles and her arms over her chest. Eyeing Ian out of the side of her vision, she barely looked at him head on. "Go ahead." She would give him no openings, no avenues, this was all on him.

#49 Edited by Armistice (4020 posts) - - Show Bio

Ellie Knightfall was a sweet girl, but a vindictive one when crossed in a personal manner, and his secrecy on his second life was something she took in that way more than most. Ian took the reprieve to collect his thoughts as she cleaned herself up from the hostilities of their recon mission turned armed escape. There was simply far too many details to fit into even an all nighter, he would have to stick to the broad strokes and fill in the finer details if pressed. She knew he hated to talk about himself, far more comfortable in answering direct questions, she knew this and did it anyways in a form of unspoken revenge.

Ian - "I built the first prototype when I was 17, while that model was still a nanotech based system it was very limited, more of a design exercise of what it could be. It was a year and three revisions before I moved to the Mark Two, the first field capable model, and the first that I began to use outside of the lab. Stealth capabilities have always been an integral part of the design from the onset, which is why no one has ever seen or heard of me. The current model, the one I'm wearing now is the Mark Three, Revision Four, 30 pounds of nanomaterial that can be shaped and configured into pretty much any form I can think of and program them to maintain."

Reaching up his hand she could see the material swirl around his forearm, sinking into and rising out from underneath his skin, changing shapes and colors effortlessly. Just as quickly it was retracted and his normal form was all that was left behind, the sheer power at his disposal completely invisible until needed. Knowing she would want more than a glimpse he stood up and walked directly in front of her, the material began to cover his entire body, as the saying goes a picture can speak a thousand words.

Ian - "I've led my double life for the past five years, long before you ever made you way into my office and into my life. I know you have been far more forthcoming about your family and the legacy your forced to maintain, but my secrets were to protect you. There are things I have become involved in that I do not want you to become intertwined with, and knowing you as I do just the knowledge of it would be too much to keep you away. I play this game at the highest levels they come, and always as a shadow behind the scenes, nothing to ever tie to me to any other metahuman or faction. I did not just know who you were that day Ellie, I knew who your whole family was, I know who everyone is."

#50 Posted by Ellie_Knightfall (4818 posts) - - Show Bio

She lifted her head, in complete and utter astonishment at what was before her eyes. Seventeen...he had been seventeen. At that age, she was still doing body shots off of random girls in bars and causing as much trouble for her father as possible. He could do anything, literally anything, that he put his mind to and it was in that moment that things began to make sense to her. His obsessive self-control, the basis of his undeniable savior complex...with all this power and innovation at his hands, he felt he owed it to the world to put it to good use.

Ellie was about to say something when he spoke next. His words fell on deaf ears at first and she just sat there, staring at him as her perfect memory replayed them in her head. They had been to unbelievable to process the first go-round but the second time...the second they incited an unavoidable rage in her.

This was no new development. No small thing he had been hiding from her for months. That...that would have been forgivable if not understandable. He had a driving fear of seeing anybody in his life hurt. But the fact that he had known of her, had known who she was had, by all accounts, orchestrated what had happened in that meeting...that meeting that burned in her memory as if it had just happened.

"You're right. You play this, like a game. You play people, like a game. You sit, behind your technology and you pass judgment. She can know this. He should do that. They don't deserve to have that. You take your information and you act accordingly, maneuvering people like chess pieces." Her hands were clutching the edge of the long and low dresser that she was pressed against. Indents were left in the soft wood by her nails, which were currently squeezing against that as opposed to Ian's throat.

In a surge of angered motion, she pushed away from the dresser and stalked over to the windows. Arms crossed over her chest in a subconsciously defensive gesture, she began pacing back and forth. It was a struggle not to begin replaying every conversation that she and Ian had had and questioning the content of each one.

"You cast stones and aspersions at Quintus. You don't do it in front of me, not often, but you've never approved of his methods or the way that he plays people like his own personal chess board. And this whole time, since the moment that we met, that is, in fact, what you have been doing to me. I don't think you know me much at all." She stopped mid-pace and turned to look at him, her artifice-free face stark and bare in every sense of the word, her eyes sad and full of confusion.