Those Fingers In My Hair
Emotion Control: standard (rank 1)
Emil saw the emerald bracelet hit the snow without a sound. Thoughts burned up his mind, the tempest of conflict replaying every moral battle he'd experienced over the last forty-some odd years, all in under a second. His peripheral awareness told him without a cursory glance that she was attractive, probably a bit older than she let on. She was wealthy, Emil wasn't a jeweler but the sable- or was it ermine- of her coat pegged her as one of those secure iconoclast socialites whose timeless sensibilities openly defied the vagaries of pop fashion. She was foreign, but not too foreign, and the bracelet she had lost was a perfect match for two tasteful emerald earrings hidden behind a waterfall of natural blonde softness. As she shifted to turn her back to the wind, he got a glimpse of her pashmina beneath that fur lining. He was enthralled. She was a gift, a beautiful, delicate gift, and his mind was unwrapping her now, like a child at Christmas. The wind carried her perfume, that rapturous ecstasy that made him want to close his eyes. Emil fought the urge, he was a trained soldier, but it had been so long since he had known a soft touch, and Cuba was very far away. It hit him again, wrapped around his brain stem as only fine perfume can. One second won't hurt. He indulged himself, just for a moment, closed his eyes and lived in that torturous perfection. When he opened them, he saw she had gotten out of line. Bulli Zharikov wouldn't give him a fair price for the bracelet, but money is money, and it would be stupid to do anything but sell it. Emil knelt in the snow to tie his shoe, palming the bracelet in a deft motion. It seemed much too heavy for such a delicate wrist. As he raised it to his coat pocket, the faintest whisper of perfume lingered on the wind. Bulli was a bastard anyway.
"Excuse me, miss?"
That Sly Come-Hither Stare
Environmental Awareness: superior (rank 2)
Soft blonde curls flashed, green eyes widened, and petite calfskin boots quickened their pace. Emil chastised himself. Idiot! He knew how he looked, even with the beard his scars weren't completely hidden, and it had been stupid to startle her like that. He got out of line, following those perfect golden tresses. She cut her way through the crowd, driven by fear or, what was it? She was running from him. There was something thrilling in that, Emil was a hunter, an experienced hunter, and there was something especially alluring about the way she moved. She was excited too, he could see it in her decision making process, fear and flirtation mingling in that very feminine way, a completely natural biological compulsion gripped him. Boys chase girls. It had always been that way, hadn't it? Emil grinned in spite of himself. This was a game, and he was very good at games. A born winner. She had made it across the square now, and darted into the first shop she came to. A boutique. Emil saw her glance back at the crowd. He had known enough not to be where she was looking, but was there a hint of disappointment there? Do not fret, my lady. I will be there soon enough. Emil thought of taking her into his arms. He frowned, this was stupid. No, he'd have to introduce himself first, there would be small talk, she'd thank him for his kindness, and then… no. That wasn't right either. A hunter's job is to hunt. You can only eat what you actually catch, his father used to say. The boutique was small, only one entrance, with a spiral staircase up to a second floor. She would have to come back this way. Run all you like, rabbit. Above all, a hunter knows when to be patient.
That Strips My Conscience Bare
Emotion Control: standard (rank 1)
The world's candle dipped below it's cloudy horizon, the streetlights flickered to life, and the shop owner came to the window. The sign turned, and Emil knocked on the door. We're closed, came the reply. Come back tomorrow. Emil raised the bracelet to his lips. The faintest kiss of that sweet perfume held him still, a promise yet to be fulfilled. He hadn't missed her. This was Murmansk, Emil knew Murmansk, and this boutique had only one exit. An exit he had been watching vigilantly for several hours. Doubt crept in, had he looked away, for just a second? Had he indulged in even the briefest flight of fancy, gotten distracted, lost focus? It didn't matter. She had most certainly missed the last train, and there was only one hotel in Murmansk in which a lady of that caliber could be staying. Emil wrinkled his brow, he felt weak, the beginning of some illness waiting to capitalize on the Russian winter. It was no matter, Emil was strong, and strong men didn't allow sickness to delay their destiny. No! The bracelet had caused him enough trouble. He would take it to Bulli. No beautiful woman was worth this much trouble. Emil could buy ten women with the money from the bracelet, surely one of them would smell nice. Not like her, to be sure, but nice nonetheless. Not quite like her, though. There is no rush, he though. I will come back to the square tomorrow, perhaps she will be here. If not, I will take the bracelet to Bulli then.
Radiation: superior (rank 2)
She had not been at the square the next day, or the day after that. Emil cursed himself for being foolish. Zharikov would never let him hear the end of it, as if he didn't feel miserable enough already. Doctors were expensive, medicine even more so, and whatever money he got out of that damnable trinket was going to be half-wasted on one or both. Bulli was in a foul mood, too. Emil coughed, into his gloves, and very carefully closed his hands into fists to hide the blood. Bulli frowned at the bracelet, and looked up at Emil, puzzled. Bulli was drunk, maybe. He searched Emil's face for signs of deception, then dipped his head back down to his mirror. Fucking thieves, never trust a single one of them, Emil thought. Bulli's eyes grew wide. He grabbed the bracelet and threw it at Emil in horror. What the hell do you think you're doing, trying to sell me this? I should have known never to trust you! Emil broke down. He wasn't a man any more. "Bulli, I am sick. See this blood here, on my gloves? This is my blood. I need medicine. Please Bulli. Buy the bracelet. I'm begging. Any price. I won't say no. Please Bulli." Emil started coughing again. More blood. "Any price. Please?"
Emotion Control: standard (rank 1)
"Thank you, Gentlemen. We'll take it from here." The police left without protest, they weren't getting paid enough to deal with this kind of thing. Let the MinAtom suits handle it. Suits… and one skirt. She was strikingly beautiful, but Bulli never trusted the federal authorities, although presumably to work for the Ministry of Atomic Energy one needed more than a well-positioned brother-in-law. He certainly felt sorry for the young thing, having to deal with Emil's mess. With Chernobyl, and then Lebed's missing suitcase nukes, fissionable material was everyone's favorite boogeyman. He had always considered it to be smoke and mirrors, more propaganda. He had certainly never expected it to walk into his shop in the hands of Murmansk's most notorious bastard. There was something in her voice, as she asked questions about Emil. Bulli told her everything- how Emil had come into his shop that morning hacking blood, how Bulli had realized he was holding enriched uranium, how Emil had died on the floor of his shop clutching the thing, his last words being "Maybe tomorrow..." Bulli wanted to lie, or at least he wanted to have the option, but something about her voice didn't allow it. Cooperating with the authorities is the best choice, Bulli thought. She asked if Emil had any enemies. He pointed to his phonebook. It was not a good joke, but she laughed politely. Something in her voice, Bulli knew when he was being played; old men with so many secrets get to be old men because they train themselves to be paranoid around pretty young women. No, Bulli thought, don't get crazy. She was just doing her job, and Bulli's job was to put her- her face, her voice, her miraculous scent- out of his mind. He turned from the counter, feigning interest in whatever was within reach. One of her silent associates placed the irradiated bracelet in a lead-lined footlocker, another took readings from everywhere in the shop.
"He died chasing something." Bulli's romanticism betrayed him- idle speculation, just to hear her response, to listen to that perfect melodic voice one more time. It was a pointless gamble, business would be down for weeks now that federal authorities had been spotted in his shop. The quicker they were gone, the better. Still, the damage was done, wasn't it? A few more minutes couldn't hurt anything, right?
"Yes, I rather think he did. Good night, Mr. Zharikov. Thank you for your cooperation."
With a smile and a nod, Miss Rosalie Please and Thank You walked out on the second man in Murmansk to fall in love with her that week. Their combined affection had been exhausting, although there was something perfectly poetic in Emil's futile crusade. Still, she needed a break from work. Maybe it was time to visit her sister in England.