Spectra (2016-06-08)

“He’s a menace,” she spits out, mouth twisted and eyes narrowed.

And Cathy would assume that was it, had her sister not continued, “But I suppose he thinks the same of me. Which is fair enough.”

“And that’s why you work well together?” Cathy asks, curiously, confused.

Her sister sighs, voice going soft in a way Cathy doesn’t and might very well never understand, “We’re perfect together.”

It’s straight out of a B-list action flick, or an airport novel, or even a bright and colorful cartoon series, but unfortunately for her it’s real life: Cathy Xanthe is from a family of secret agents.

Her parents were partners, the best of the agency in their prime, apparently, while her sister is on track to be the same with her own partner.

Cathy prefers a more… hands off approach. The world is steadily becoming more and more digital–why use guns and chit chat when a string of code can get you what you want far more efficiently? And, well, computers don’t require nearly as much emotional upkeep as a partner does.

Cathy prides herself on being a fairly neutral force in the industry. She’ll code for any party, provided her fees get paid of course, with the understanding that, well, no hard feelings if she’s paid to break it the next day. All of her jobs are one-offs, and while she might have repeat clients, they know better than to expect any loyalty from her.

Which is why everyone is surprised when she accepts Irina Aubrey’s offer. No one more than her, she’s sure.

She’s not entirely sure what made her take it–an ongoing job as a member of a team, of all things–but it’s not entirely without perks. Aubrey has a very nice set up ready for her, and has assured her that, so long is its not actively against the team’s missions, then Cathy can continue her side business.

Which is good, because even if her neutrality has been compromised, Cathy’s not going to let her presence diminish.

The whole “everyone’s allowed their secrets” is an absolute load of rot. Especially given that basically everyone on the team has decided to use their real name. Or near enough to it.

For Cathy that’s just strategic–her name is her brand and her shield–but it’s not the same for everyone else. Aubrey, she knows is from an old money old world Family–though with the obvious pseudonym, she’s not quite sure which one–the kind that would view the Kelleys and the now-extinct Falcones and crass upstarts. She’s too used to being listened to, and considering she’s paying for the entire facility out of her own pocket, maybe, she has good reason to.

Tanj–and as far as Cathy can find, that is her only name–is a fairly well known player in the industry. Not someone Cathy’s worked with previously, but she has a decent reputation. If it weren’t for their vastly differing methodologies and philosophies about crime, she probably would have proposed a permanent partnership before. There’s something appealing about the idea of having a master of disguise do all the groundwork: though perhaps, she’s leaning too far on her family’s daring tales of adventure.

Violette Jones she has worked with before, actually, in a second-hand way. Cathy remembers the old hunched over man who also went by Jones. All scars and whipcord muscles and a complete lack of technical knowledge, but the wisdom at least to make sure his protege would be functional in the future. It was an annoying three weeks of teaching the two of them the basics, which should have been one week if it weren’t for their combined sheer incompetence. Oh, good people, definitely. The kind of people she’d want on her side in a fight for sure. But by god.

It’s Yasmine that scares her the most, actually, and not for the reasons one would think. There’s not much an unofficial surgeon can do without stepping over the line, and Cathy had always maintained her neutrality. Crime is crime and profit is profit, sometimes you just have to close your eyes. But Yasmine Odell is–either knowingly or not–using the name of a dead man who saved her parents lives on multiple occasions. And Cathy believes in paying one’s debts–especially the those of the life owing variety.

As for Frances? Ah, well, that is an amusing story, isn’t it?

“Going out,” Cathy says, waving at Violette who nods back and resumes watch.

No tech genius, sure, but the Jones name has always been synonymous with security (whether giving it or breaking it) and Cathy can think of far less fortified places to work from.

Tonight, though, is a delivery for one of her outside clients. She can’t host this deal in Aubrey’s place. Considering who the client is, that would just be in bad taste.

It only takes fifteen minutes to get to the restaurant where they’ll meet up, but Cathy takes twenty. She’s not beholden to anyone but herself.

Certainly not the head of The Flock.

~

A/N: a little late, written entirely on my phone, was traveling the entire day

Spectra (2016-05-13)

She startles awake, body jerking, arms flailing wildly enough that she accidentally punches the wall next to her. She gasps, lungs desperately heaving, and doesn’t cry even though her knuckles are in absolute pain.

Nothing that requires Yasmine’s sharp eyes and even sharper bedside manner, but maybe she should lay off any fighting. Pass it on to Violette–she enjoys that sort of thing.

A knock comes from the opposite side of the wall. Cathy, no doubt, awake at this late hour and working on her latest program, curious about the noise of their shared wall.

Tanj knocks back with her other hand, a quick staccato that gives the all clear. She taps back a solid one two in acknowledgement and leaves Tanj to the silence.

Tanj almost wishes she hadn’t, but there’s a limit to how much she’s willing to reveal about herself.

Then again, joining this team has already crossed it.

The reason why Tanj goes by that is because she has no idea what her real name is. All she knows is that one day she woke up in a warehouse full of outfits and wigs and make up with the knowledge that everything was hers. According to the deed, the warehouse is a storage facility for T&J Productions which would maybe be right except for how, on further inspection, there is no such thing as T&J Productions.

But it’s a start, enough of one to name herself for it, and that’s the best she’ll let herself hope for.

Given her changeable nature and blank origin, nothing about Tanj’s life is certain. Which is why when she shrugs to a question, she’s not being cheeky or insolent or disrespectful–she’s being as honest as she possibly can. Irina is the first op leader to understand that, and so when she broaches the idea of a more permanent team, Tanj doesn’t reject the offer.

That being said, she’s surprised at private everyone is. Nothing on her, of course, because if she doesn’t know her own secrets how could anyone else? But still, it’s damn impressive.

Of the team, Irina was the only one she had ever personally worked with before. Though most everyone in the field has contracted work from Cathy, and she has run into Violette a time or two–not on the same job, but thankfully not on conflicting ones, either. She’s not entirely sure she fully trusts the other two:

Yasmine matches the description of someone who she thought was just an urban legend. The bloody kind. And, frankly, given her skills with a scalpel and a syringe, Tanj wouldn’t put it beyond her.

But Frances? She might as well not have existed before this team.

Violette shares her suspicions, though her focus is more on Yasmine’s possible hit count than absence of Frances’ background. Which is fair, Tanj can’t expect everyone to know the importance of nothing–one could say she’s a master of it.

But at least Violette is entertaining her worries, Cathy and Irina don’t seem to see the problem. The former because, if it weren’t for her membership on the team, she’d be the closest thing to a neutral entity in the industry. The latter? Well, it’s almost as if she doesn’t want to see the problem.

Her friend and boss is in love with a liability. Tanj can do nothing to stop the inevitable heartbreak.

A part of her worries that she is blowing this out of proportion. Maybe Frances really is just that secretive, and surely all of them have done terrible things in the past like Yasmine. Why would she want to break up such a good thing? For all she knows, maybe the best thing that has happened to her.

But having nothing means being suspicious of everything. Especially someone as empty as her.

~

A/N: Written and posted on my phone because I am traveling and won’t have access to my laptop until tomorrow but I didn’t want another missed post so…

Spectra (2016-05-03)

On a clear moonlit night, the kind of night in which their personalities click together rather than their usual clash, they are soft and sweet to each other in a way they seldom have been or ever will be. Irina’s bed is the bigger and better option–more accustomed to the finer things in life–the sheets nearly as smooth as kisses on skin.

“You dress like a pirate,” she says, trailing her finger down a spine decorated equally in freckles and bruises. At such a light touch, Frances’ skin turns to goosebumps, the small downy hairs prickling ineffectively.

“And you dress like a queen,” the other girl laughs, tickled by the touch and the thought.

“Is that meant to be an insult?” Irina asks, lightly scraping the backs of her fingernails in a reverse path.

“No,” Frances says, turning over, unashamed of her lack of shirt; even if she were, it would be quite belated. And it’s not like Irina is wearing a shirt, either. "Was yours?“ she continues, the slightest hint of a bite to her words, prepared but not seeking the argument which could so quickly form.

Irina pauses, allows herself to ponder. She’d prefer this moment not to sour, either, "No,” she admits, perfectly honest for once, before leaning forward and pressing their lips together. God forbid any other truths spill out of her mouth.

The problem with Frances is that she’s infuriating. Unrefined and loud and heedless of her own safety much less proper etiquette. They shouldn’t work together as well as they do, but despite all their arguing that’s just how it is.

Irina wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“Frances and Yasmine are back, Boss,” Tanj says, even though Irina has previously told her not to call her such on multiple occasions.

Yet another correction is on the tip of her tongue–they’re a team, not a mob–before the words register. “Where are they?” she asks, hoping she doesn’t sound as eager and worried as she feels. The mission she sent Frances and Yasmine on was only supposed to take three days, four at most, yet a week had passed without any word from either of them.

From the look on Tanj’s face, Irina has failed to control her tone, “The infirmary,” she says. Obviously, she doesn’t add.

Her worry condenses into dread. “Excuse me,” she barely blurts out, before stepping around Tanj and hurriedly walking towards the infirmary.

She doesn’t reprimand Tanj’s “sure thing, Boss,” that drifts after her.

When she finally gets to the infirmary and lands eyes on Frances–and Yasmine who, except her hair, looks as unruffled and composed as normal–she can feel the weight in her chest grow lighter. It is only a small injury, Yasmine dutifully stitching up a cut on Frances’ upper arm, far from the worst she’s ever seen Frances receive and laugh off.

But it is a short-lived relief because Frances does not do so this time.

She sits, quietly, tense and pale, brow furrowed and staring at nothing. She doesn’t even make a remark on Irina’s presence which is something that she always pokes fun at, sniping about the team’s high and mighty leader beginning to care for her poor, lowly servants.

“What happened?” Irina asks, aiming the question at Frances, but Yasmine is the one to respond:

“We ran into some complications,” Yasmine says mildly, winding a clean bandage round and round Frances’ arm. Who remains unnervingly silent, even now.

“Three days worth of complications?” She spits out like an accusation, scrambling to regain her calm, her objectivity.

“It’s not like we decided to play hooky,” Yasmine bites back, also reproachful, nearly offended at the implication that she might be even the slightest bit unprofessional. And it’s not like Frances would do such a thing, either. For all her jokes and recklessness, she’d never do anything that would endanger the mission.

Irina doesn’t apologize, but she consciously gentles her tone when she prompts, “Complications?”

Finally, Frances speaks but it’s with such a hollow expression on her face, her words bearing such ill news, that Irina almost wishes she hadn’t said anything at all. “We ran into some members of the Flock.”

As far as Irina and, really, any outsider knows, the group referred to as the Flock is an elite branch of the Kelley crime family that make strategic strikes against the family’s enemies whether that be through theft, blackmail, arson, kidnapping, or murder. No one actually knows how many members the Flock has because one of them is a confirmed metahuman–shapeshifter–and can look like anyone at any time.

Not in the way Tanj can, who despite her default appearance is a completely baseline human. Tanj is just a fantastic actress with an uncanny control over her body language and voice–though the makeup skills and near endless wardrobe doesn’t hurt either–capable of seeming like a completely different person between one breath and the next. No, the Flock has a shapeshifter who can actually transform themself into a specific other person.

Irina has had nightmares about such a thing, turning around and seeing one of her team’s face melting away into a stranger’s. Thankfully, those are sparing, the kind of fleeting thoughts limited to her overactive subconscious.

But Frances? She seems to be actively afraid of the Flock. And Irina doesn’t know why.

All of them have their secrets, Irina perhaps more so than the others–although not actually knowing the others’ secrets makes that a guess more than anything concrete–and she’s been firm on the matter of everyone being entitled to keep them.

She created this team not looking for friends, only wanting up and coming stars in each field that wouldn’t mind taking orders from a young woman–unsurprisingly, that turned out to be other young women, but she’s hardly put out by such a thing–and yet, now? She wouldn’t hesitate to call any of them her friends.

And, maybe, Frances as something more.

She can’t ask for Frances’ secrets without being willing to offer her own, but something in her fails to let go. It’s hypocritical, but she wants to know about Frances’ past so much that she aches with it. And not even just why the other girl is so afraid of the Flock, though that would be welcome, too.

No, Irina also wants to know the story behind every scar, wants to know what her favorite childhood memory is. Why she dresses like a pirate, and what happened to her family. If she’s ever been in love before.

If she’s in love now.

Irina never believed in love. It was an impossible idea, steeped with too much romanticism and not enough practicality. Even if such a thing did exist, surely it was for the feeble minded and naive.

Love was a curse that happened to other people.

~

A/N: … whoooaaaaaa my god… I wrote all of this on my way home from work and I’m honestly hella surprised and pleased by this 😀

And because I have no chill, I made a WITCH Guardians doll-maker version of the Spectra team. That’s not really what I imagine them looking like, per se, but what I imagine they would look like if they were in the WITCH world… Basically, the outfits have a very limited color-scheme and I was like, well, if they were magical girls (which they’re not) then this might be what they look like.

image

From left to right:

Violette Jones, Tanj, Irina Aubrey, Frances Verde, Cathy Xanthe, Yasmine Odell