Cullen gritted his teeth and held Pip tightly in his left hand. The alley had finally grown dark in the clouded cover of night, and the time to execute had finally come. Any other job would have been a cakewalk, an easy in and out. But this was not his usual job. This was not his idea. The plan was one he had to learn, not lay out himself, and it made him uneasy. While he trusted Devon, he did not trust his logic this time. The VOC were not someone to be reasoned with, and infiltration was not something that had ever occured to him. The idea of taking down the ones pulling the strings was tempting, certainly, but the execution was not in his usual playbook.
A series of sparks lit momentarily in the alley across the street before extinguishing. It was time. Cullen closed his eyes and let out a sigh, and climbed atop the crates stacked next to him. He’d get one shot. His sixty seconds started now.
Cullen jumped and aimed a decisive blow towards the second story of the building opposite him. Pip connected with the stone and let out a concussive bellow that resonated through the district. A moment later, he was standing in a dark office, surrounded by files stacked high around the walls. Fifty five seconds.
He made his way across the room to the stack closest to the door, and began digging through the stack, frantically looking for the building plans he was told would be there. And as he was instructed, the plans for the newest Bordeaux Orichalcum Refinery sat about halfway down the stack. He grabbed them and exited the office, and carefully closed the door behind him. He was in a long hallway. Forty Seconds.
He turned right, and made for the stairs at the end of the hall, but took the ones going up to the top floor, against his better judgement, and headed towards the roof. With twenty seconds left, he reached the roof. The door was not locked. So far, so good. He turned and locked the door with the key he had been given. To anyone trying to evaluate the scene, it would appear he had no possible way to escape the building but the way he came in. Now for the difficult part.
He turned to the roof neighboring and braced himself to jump. Below he could hear a commotion coming from the base of the building he was jumping to. Devon must be doing his job well, Cullen thought to himself. He tried to push his friend from his mind, and took a deep breath. He jolted to attention, and felt every muscle in his legs respond as he surged from his braced stance, and sprinted towards the ledge. As he approached the side he lept, and looked down. The height only briefly registered in his mind as he fixated on a spot in the wall in the building below him. He wound up, and threw Pip with all his might. Pip connected directly with the wall, letting out another thunderous bellow. But a mere second later, a massive bolt of lightning erupted through the hole and into the first hole he had struck. Out of the corner of his eye, right before landing, he saw a familiar form jump between the two holes in the opposite direction, heading for the office he had just vacated. Devon was right on time. Perfect.
Cullen stumbled on his landing, a mixed feeling of accomplishment and anxiety. On the one hand, the plan was going perfectly. Anyone pursuing Devon would have assumed that the bolt he let off fired through both walls, and that there was never any target in the office, just the jewels he was currently making off with. He and Devon both knew that Devon’s lightning could never break through a wall without an outside power amplification, but the beauty of strangers was the misunderstanding of the outside world. On the other hand, Pip lay below in the ally, knocked free of the debris by the lightning. They would be reunited soon, but first he had to finish the job. And that part depended on no complications. He bit his lip, and made for the access into the building.
Once in the building, he waited carefully a few seconds, listening for sounds of any further guards pursuing his companion. Once he was sure that the building was empty of all unwelcome, he made his way to the instructed door, and opened it. It was only once he entered that he realized something was wrong.
Sitting in a desk opposite him was a man he knew only as Guisarme, whom was not entirely unexpected. He wore an eye patch over his small, piercing eyes, and had a long, pointed face topped with greasy, long black hair. The unwelcomed guests, however, flanked him on each side. One was a large, beefy man covered from head to toe in burns, completely bald, and gripping two stones in his left hand, which he turned over and over methodically. The other was a slight woman, dressed in robes of deep black, and hooded so as to shroud her face. All that was visible were her thin, pale lips.
“Greetings, Cullen O’Dunnel.” Guisarme mused lazily.
“Ye never said ye were bringin’ guests.” Cullen said stiffly, edging back towards the door.
“Didn’t I? It must have slipped my mind.” Cullen took another step back. “Now now, there’s no reason to leave when we’re so close to completion.”
The hooded woman waived her hand, ever so slightly, and the door shut behind Cullen. Great, Cullen groaned internally, more Strangers.
“Now, it would seem you retrieved the documents, would you be ever so kind as to hand them over?”
Cullen didn’t move.
“Come now, time is of the essence, we need that file replaced in a timely manner. We wouldn’t want anyone to miss them, or this whole facade has been for naught.”
Slowly, Cullen stepped forward and dropped the file on the desk. Promptly, Guisarme took the file and opened it.
“There’s a good lad” Guisarme smirked, reaching up to his eye patch. He lifted it and revealed an orb of sky blue, which began to glow eerily in the gloom. He quickly flipped through the pages, and within moments shut the file and replaced his eyepatch. “Excellent, I should be able to replicate those perfectly for our benefactor now.” He handed them to the woman on his right and said, “now, would you be a dear, and replace those for me?”
Cullen interjected. “I believe that was my job.”
“Ah yes, well plans have changed slightly.” Guisarme continued lazily. At that, the bulky man on his left separated the two rocks into separate hands. In the light streaming in behind the window, they flashed and revealed themselves as flint and steel.
A scream of a man resonated from somewhere outside. Cullen turned around abruptly. It sounded like Devon.
“Our benefactors in the VOC have determined that loose ends should most likely be tied up. They feel terribly about the jewels lost in the process of obtaining these documents, and cleaning the smut willing to steal off of the street would make them feel quite right in the addition of a VOC representative apprehending the thieves responsible. All about image you see. And so, I will bid you adeiu, and leave you to my colleague here.”
“Ye’ll have a good time of it. You should know I don’t go down easy in a fight. Even with brutes ugly as this sport.” Cullen spat venomously, rage beginning to boil.
“Ah, yes, I did some research about you, mister ‘Grey Gale’, was it? From your record, it sounds like you are nigh unstoppable. Fortunately, we have, what you might call a speciallist on the matter. You see, stones may not break you, my good lad.” At this, he stood and put a hand on the woman’s shoulder. In a blink, they were gone. But as the enormous man grinned and struck his two stones together, Guisarme left two words ringing in his ears.