2019-06-03 - It's A Bonus


After Illyana's visits, Koa and Keiko discover what's been done.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Jun 3 08:17:16 2019
Location: WAND Offices

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Theme Song




It's early in the afternoon. Koa is working at his office in WAND. His desk has a large lamp mounted magnifying glass and he's looking over a twelve inch tall statuette that looks like a terra cotta warrior. He's quite engrossed in his work, as often happens.

There's an envelope at the edge of his desk which is addressed to Keiko. There's a check in it. It's WAND's way of saying 'thank you' for helping to prevent dozens of kids from being snatched from NYC and inducted into a cult. Which is kind of a big deal in these quarters.

So, all in all a normal day for Koa or at least normal ish. But one thing isn't normal. He's wearing a rather high collared shirt and that is definitely NOT his usual style.

Keiko had still be working at Doctor Thompkins clinic when the message from Koa had come it. It had cost a Uber to get from Staten Island to the Triskellian. Doctor Thompkins had of course paid.

It's a slightly sweaty Keiko that's escorted through the Tri to the WAND offices, then to Koas. At least the red of her eyes has faded with the work - now, she just looks tired and worn.

As usual her arms are bare and about her throat is a choker with a silver filigree pattern and what appears to be a small gemstone in the center.

"You wanted to see me, Agent Turner?" She's back to that again. Not Koa. Agent Turner. Her escort doesn't waste anytime in getting out of there.

"I did." Koa says not having looked up yet. He's still peering at the little terracotta warrior. "There's a present for you on the edge of the desk. I wanted to thank you in person on behalf of WAND for all of your help. And of course for the help that you've offered furth-"

The agent straightens up and looks up and the rest of his words die on his lips as he stares at the choker - the leather choker with the silver filigree - about her throat.

His eyes narrow slightly. "Where did you get that?"

Koa's strange manner of dress has Keiko frowning "You shouldn't wear your collars like that. It makes your neck look short." If only she knew. "Present?" She can see the envelope but not make her name yet - and won't as he looks at her like that.

"Get what?" She knows exactly what he's referring to but she's not giving him much to work with. It's a flat look, her jaw set, that she gives him. "Would you believe if I told you the bottom of a weeties box?"

Whilst he can't see it, the stone in the center glows ever so faintly. What he might notice is the faint magical signal it puts out. The signal that's enough to make the womans tattooes itch.

Koa stands up and comes around the desk. The way he stalks when he approaches might remind her of a certain blonde haired sorceress. Of course Koa hasn't ever put her into a magic circle on her knees. His eyes narrow further when he sees the magic 'leaking' from the gem at the center of it.

"You'd have to convince me you ATE wheaties first…" He mutters and reaches out a finger but doesn't quite touch the stone.

"Magic. There's magic on that thing. Let me guess. It doesn't come off."

Koa ALWAYS makes her itch so it might be a little bit hard to tell what the source is right now. Is it the gem? Is it him? Is it the whole damned office? There's lots of magic around right now. But Koa can see it. And what he's looking at seems familiar.

Oh Keiko knows where at least part of the magic is coming from. She knew the moment that Illyana had sealed that collar. The tattooed woman watches as Koa stalks towards her, frowning - she's only seen him like this a couple of times.

"What's happened to you." She says quietly - like one might to a predator. She doesn't step back, though the impulse is strong. She also doesn't meet the Agents eyes.

That's dangerous. A challenge she's not willing to give. Yet.

"I eat wheaties… sometimes. They're cheap." she mutters in return, swaying back so he can't touch her at all. There's something different in her demeanour, like she's trying to minimise contact.

"What do you care if it does or it doesn't? Come off that is." Contrary creature that she is. "But no, it doesn't. For what it's worth."

"If it doesn't come off that means you didn't put it on." Koa replies to her. "Which means it's not a fashion statement. Also you wouldn't be so damn stubborn about telling me."

Yes. Koa is aware that she's stubborn. It's hard to miss. But it's especially hard to miss when she's around people like Koa. Or Illyana. People who can be dangerous and slightly inhuman. Or… a lot inhuman.

His mind is racing down threads of logic. The leather. The filigree. The fact that it doesn't come off. The faint whiff of magic about it, which looks damn familiar. In fact it almost looks like…

Koa reaches up to loosen his shirts collar and reveal the second, leather, collar beneath. The one with the silver filigree and the small lock where she has a gem. A lock with no keyhole.

"Where did you get that collar?"

"Of course I didn't put it on." Keiko's voice rises in frustration as Koa gets even more … Koa like. "When have you known me to wear jewellery?" It's now she takes a step back, trying to get space between them. She's never been uncomfortable in the presence of others - not even when she's being faced down.

She stops when his arms rises, freezing almost. Eyes widening at his collar. "Same place as you did, I suppose. I had a visitor last night. Miss Rasputina has made me her dog…"

Oh, the bitterness.

"Never." Koa, at least, doesn't follow up, and continue invading her space. He's never known her to wear jewelry. He's never even really known her to wear makeup that he can tell. She doesn't seem to have any vanity, nor any desire for shiny, or even pretty things. Her clothes are all work clothes or tee shirts. She doesn't even have anything on her bike that says 'look at me.'

And given that she's been trying to hide, that makes sense.

"Illyana yes. She found me wrangling one of her demons. We wound up in a club. It sounds like your experience was somewhat less… pleasant…" His brows knit and he finally gestures to a chair, inviting her to sit.

"What do you mean 'dog'?"

At least Koa didn't try touch her. To console her. If he did, Keiko's not sure she could bear it at the moment. The experience from last night was still raw. "Right never. I don't even own clothing that I could hide this with. Not like you …"

She doesn't sit but folds her arms and stands where she is, shoulders hunched forward. "When have any of my experiences with Miss Rasputina been pleasant?" she mutters. "Let me guess she took you dancing and it just seemed the thing to do…"

There's a sullen shrug of her shoulders. "I don't know. It was something I said when she arrived in my room. I asked if she was missing a dog and she said she'd found it. Didn't give me a chance, just put that thing on me and then …"

She shakes her head. She really doesn't want to think about it. There's a reason she's as stubborn as she is.

"And then you were collared. And yes, we did wind up dancing and I didn't have a particular reason to say no to that." It was nice. Just dancing and nothing else. Company, perhaps, if moving to a beat while not especially speaking counts.

No he doesn't put his hand on her. He sits down at the other side of the desk again and moves the statuette and the lamp. When he steeples his fingers and looks at her he looks concerned.

"It's not just her putting the collar on, though, is it? There was something else."

Koa gets being perhaps upset with an abrupt new article of clothing that you can't remove, especially given Keiko's background in particular. But her reaction seems to be… more.

"Keiko… won't you sit?"

He doesn't say 'sit'. Though he thought about it before he realized… sit is what you tell a dog.

The resentment at the differences is clear as Keiko looks at Koa. "Of course you didn't." It's not that Keiko would have enjoyed that it's just the difference in approach that burns at her.

She watches as the statuette and the lamp are moved to the side. Under normal circumstances she'd want to ask about them. But not right now.

"Wasn't there for you? To get you to accept it?" It doesn't occur to her that Koa might have just done that. And when she does realise it … "She told me that I was hers and that it was better to have someone look after you, to come looking for you when you went missing…"

Koa might understand why that argument hadn't sat very well with the peruvian.

"And when I resisted she found a memory and made me remember…" She actually shudders and drops her head. Not before Koa will see the sheen in her eyes.

Illyana had said she would break Keiko and she had. Just not the way anyone would expect.

That brand on her chest pulses dully. Answering the stirring of emotions within her.

Koa opens his drawer and pulls out what looks like a feather duster. He waves it about. It's something WAND keeps about to get rid of stray magic static, but in this case he's using it to gather up the energy that her brand is emitting and hopefully keep it from influencing her too much.

"I didn't fight it." Koa murmurs. Koa actually COULDN'T have fought it. The way the magic acts upon him dazes him and makes it much easier to get away with that kind of thing before he can mount a defense. But he also hadn't expected Illyana to hurt him. Partly from the difference in setting and partly because his interactions with her have been less… forceful.

Koa leans forward now and gets down low enough to try and look at her eyes. "Hey. What did she make you remember?"

Keiko has lots of unpleasant memories he's sure. He suspects it may have been one of those.

"That will get you killed." Keiko mutters, scrubbing at her chest without realising it. It might hurt her, but she's acting like it's annoyance her pain threshold is so high. The feather duster helps a bit but that brand has hooks deep into her and each time her temper rises, the deeper the hooks bury.

"Did she call you her dog?" Keiko doesn't expect so. She knows that she challenges the Limbo Queen on a different level.

Koa can see her eyes but she doesn't look at him. There's unshed tears that she's trying to blink away. "She made me remember my Mother … kissing me."

"No, she did… well. She did say 'good boy.'" So perhaps in a way she did. The Spirit Eater tries to bring Keiko's eyes back up to his without touching her which is quite difficult when she won't meet his eyes. It means he's kind of hunched over his desk looking at her. Which is awkward but he does it anyway.

"She made you what?" Koa almost raises his voice in surprise. "Why… why would she do that? That sounds like a good thing to remember."

"She called me 'good girl' when she collared me." The small woman looks even smaller at the moment. It's perhaps the most vulnerable Koa has seen her. And she's letting him see it.

He could probably touch her.

"She found a memory of my mother and me, in the garden. My mother kissed me. She took that feeling and me remember it and then bound it to my collar." Keiko probably doesn't even realise why it's affected her so badly. Well, she does on a level but putting words to it.

Koa should be able to draw the line though. Keiko had been trained to be strong, to not show weakness. She'd been taken so young and not known the love of a parent, the memories of such a thing suppressed.

It's an easy enough train of logic to follow. Love makes her feel weak. The ache. The empty feeling that knowing you're missing something brings makes her feel weak. Hollow. Incomplete. She'd been trained to be all she ever needed. She had to be to survive. And now she's wondering if that won't be enough. Wondering what she does next.

"Hey, Keiko…" He does finally put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay."

It's okay to feel this way. It's safe, at least here. He knows what was done to her was rough. He understands, at least a bit, the gambit that Illyana is playing. These are the hard choices he signed up to make. Keiko didn't, but she's here anyway.

Keiko flinches at the contact, moving her shoulder in an instinctive motion to pull away. She stops though. "No. It's not. But it's what I have now and I have to deal with it." She has to deal with it.

"She didn't do anything like that with you, did she?" There's so much bitterness there. For the memory, for the trap she's found herself in. "I said I would help and she took me anyway."

It takes a moment before Keiko raises her head, finally meeting Koa's eyes. Her eyes are red again but she vows to herself that won't happen again. "She says I'm hers now, not Plokta's. I … don't know what that means …"

And no, Keiko didn't sign up to this. She had volunteered. Agreed to help. She hadn't agreed to be taken again.

"Were you Plokta's to begin with?" Koa asks gently, still trying to bring her eyes up to his. He looks, if it helps, less predatory now but it might not help anyway. She's reverted to her slightly deferential if still stubborn way of dealing with authority.

"We have to sell it Keiko, you know that. Sifror has to be convinced that she's a big league evil sorcerer and we're minions and tools. I'm sorry it hurt… but you know it's necessary."

Illyana… well a human wouldn't have done that. A good human wouldn't have done that. But Illyana isn't human. Is she good?

She fights on the side of angels, at least at the moment. Koa, though, in all his magical knowledge and predatory nature knows that you do not grow up in hell without having it seep into your soul. Is she good?

Is he? Is Keiko?

"You've not been Ploktas since you ran. Can you be hers for a bit?"

"You know I was. Everything we did was to venerate him. Well, so we were told. My ink … " She shakes her head, still gazing at Koa. "And I know we have to sell it but she broke me. Took the last of what I was and shattered it."

"Three years, Agent Turner. Three years I've been without the chains of the Nightfall and now …" she touches the collar at her throat as her temper starts to stir. He can see how she managed to survive - how she channeled her anger to her strength.

"I would have sold it. I offered my service and it just wasn't enough." She snorts "I'm hers. Until she decides I'm not."

Taking a deep breath, the small woman lets it out slowly. "Are are you ok?"

You don't ask questions like that. You just … don't.

It is Koa's nature to be calm when others are not. Nature and training. As a WAND agent that's part of his job. To be the calm cool head in the room when reality is coming unraveled. It doesn't make him a great counselor, but it makes him a pretty decent listener. He drops his hand and folds both of his in front of him.

"I'm okay." He says quietly. "Enough… isn't really in the vocabulary of the creatures we're dealing with. Enough is… Enough is for beings whose ambitions aren't boundless. Even though she took your service… would you offer it anyway?" He smiles a little. "After all, it can't be stolen if you're giving it. What's the saying? No mane takes my life from me but I lay it down of myself."

"I know. I know what she is. I recognise a predator, someone who is … stronger and will just take what they want and damn the rest of us. The Nightfall Magi were just like that." Truth be told, so were others. Keiko might have been one of them, just not high on pecking order.

"Is that how you're doing it? Thinking that way or is it the call of her power that entices you?"

The peruvian sighs, finally taking the seat he'd offered sometime before, watching to see the answer that he gives.

"Keiko…" Koa sighs. "Do you see this badge." He points to the one sitting on the desk next to his computer. It says WAND. A brass shield with a five pointed star, the letters embossed and framed by the SHIELD eagle clutching a wand and a book.

"It means that I promised to make sacrifices. I promised to be the one who would give of himself, who would stand in the line of fire, to make sure that children slept safe at night, that people could live free of extra dimensional tyrants and that the world keeps turning. I chose to do this very thing we're doing right years ago and everything I have seen since them tells me I made the right choice."

But that doesn't fully answer his question, does it?

"There is… something to be said that her power tempts me. All power tempts me. It feels good when I breathe it in and even when it burns within me I want more. And I understand in some measure what she is and why she is that way. I know what it is like to have something within you that would burn down everything around you just for the joy of watching the flames dance. But this?"

He leans back and taps his fingers on that badge.

"This I chose. I know you didn't. I would spare you this if I could. But this is the only chance we have of making sure they're not back any time soon, or just at work in another city, another nation, beyond our reach. Taking other children. I'm sorry you didn't get to make this choice. I wish it wasn't this way. But… this is our world."

Koa sighs and half turns, looking at an empty seat by his door. Just a chair for people to sit in but the way he looks at it, he might almost be seeing someone.

"Every sunrise is a gift from someone who paid a terrible price to ensure that the world we know would continue on…" He says finally, quietly, into the silence that fills the room.

"We all make sacrifices, Agent Turner." This time Koa will know that the use of his honorific is a protection for the woman. Not a concession to politeness or a sign of being submissive. "I know you did, but that's not what I asked, really, is it?"

She falls silent as he continues, shaking her head when he said she hadn't chosen. "I chose, Agent Turner. I chose when I decided to bring this to you. I knew that. I knew what I was risking." She's just miffed she's changed one set of shackles for another.

"You also want to feel her use that power on you." Keiko murmurs. "I saw your eyes when she worked on you. I saw the hunger. I recognised it, in a way. I can't help but wonder if … you realise that."

She looks to the chair where he's watching … the words … well, she'll ponder them for the moment.

"The temptation to take that power is…" Koa trails off. "She told me, when we were dancing, before she put the collar on that she's tempted to let my darkness free. To cycle power through me until I'm begging for anything. For everything. Until I can't hold back and just run wild. And there's a part of me that knows it would be agony. And part of me that knows it would feel… so good. It would make me feel alive like nothing else."

Koa finally looks back at Keiko. "Magic breaks people Keiko. It just… doesn't break them in the same ways. Some it breaks slower than others. And some it just erodes slowly, like a river cutting a canyon or an ocean tearing down a mountain. One grain of sand at a time…"

"We'll all pay a price for what we're going to do, make no mistake. Mine won't be any greater than yours. Just different."

"I've seen what it does, Agent Turner." Keiko tries to keep the distance between them. To not get involve. To not care. Caring is dangerous, after all. "I've seen what it did to those of us who couldn't master our Trials and I know how good it feels. I know what it was like to take your power … "

She can only imagine what it would be like to take Illyana's.

"Pain often just adds to the rush." That might be saying about her.

"Can you control it? The … hunger?"

"It's… yes. I can. It's not easy. It used to be easier but taking in Darque's power compromised me, a lot. I've never tasted power that potent or that… sweet. It was a rush of… well all of my power is stolen life but at least I'm taking it in a manner that's more or less natural. That? Was stolen life. And I can't descibe to you how good it tasted."

Koa leans forward, putting his elbows on the desk. "You can call me Koa, you know. I said you could."

"You don't think I know what it's like to taste stolen life?" Keiko murmurs, her finger tracing the outline of Glydril on her left shoulder. "When I took my spirits, mastered them, I had to absorb them in a way. And don't forget, I tasted your power, not long after you took in Darques power."

She had wanted to hold onto that as well.

"You're going to have to. Control it. Resist it. When we face Siffror, Miss Rasputina will be tested as well. Each of us will be compromised in our ways."

And each of them have flaws.

When he leans in, Keiko's eyes are drawn to his and she meets his gaze again. "I know. I know you did. It's just … it's still so … raw. It's easier to keep you …"

At arms length.

"… who were you looking at, in the chair?"

"Jason. Jason Van Leigh. He was an agent here when I first started. Talked to me a lot about magic, about the way things work. About things that no one sees unless you're fighting horrors in the forbidden corners of the earth. He retired a while back."

Koa blows out a sigh and leans into his elbows. "The things you see here stack up. A weight on the mind that never really goes away. Eventually it gets to be too much and an agent either retires or… snaps." He snaps his fingers to emphasize his point.

"I can keep it under control enough, this time. That's not what I'm worried about. It's the next time. Or the time after that. The weight it adds might be just a grain of sand. But enough grains…"

Koa doesn't finish that. She gets the idea. He brings his hands up to rub his face.

"One day I'll look in the mirror, and it won't be me behind my eyes looking back."

Keiko glances at the chair again before looking back to Koa. "If you'll let me, if we survive what we're about to do, I'd like to try help you … not snap." Its so very quiet. Wetting her lips and taking a deep breath, Keiko takes a moment.

Then she adds. "One day you'll wake up and you won't be your own man, if you're not careful." She touches the collar at her throat in emphasis.

"If I can think of a way that you can, I will." Koa says quietly. He takes a deep breath and lets it out. "I think we're going to all need help after this. You. Me. Her. I'm hoping that when we're done there's enough of us left that we can get it. Somewhere." From eachother? They don't know eachother well. But suffering like this tends to… plant seeds of understanding. If it doesn't destroy people outright.

"Perhaps. Perhaps I won't be. But if that happens… I made my decisions long ago. You run the same risk. One day you may wake up to find that you've been wound in chains again. And if you are…"

"… I hope you chose them."

Keiko snorts at Koa's answer. "You don't have to do all the thinking, Mister I can't change my own washers. I might be able to think of ways to … spread the pressure. I might have experience in that. If you think you can trust me."

Trust. That's a scarce commodity at the moment.

"I'm hoping when we're done if there's not enough left to help, that we're dead." It's a stark statement but a timely reminder there are fates worse than death.

"… So do I … Koa. So do I." There are chains that some find quite … pleasant indeed.

"Now, you said you had something for me?"

"That's probably preferable." Koa mutters. It's not a nice thought but it beats the hell out of the alternative if this doesn't work. "Assuming we can get done what we need…"

He trails off and takes in a breath. For a long moment he looks like he hasn't heard her. He has, of course, but his mind is going a dozen places at once and doesn't want to come back to the here and now. This is what happens when his concentration goes.

"Hrm? Oh. Yes." He pushes the envelope. "WAND wanted to offer you a bit of a 'bonus' for all your help. A way to say thank you. You've certainly earned it."

He might have even suggested that she get it.

"That's probably preferable." Koa mutters. It's not a nice thought but it beats the hell out of the alternative if this doesn't work. "Assuming we can get done what we need…"

He trails off and takes in a breath. For a long moment he looks like he hasn't heard her. He has, of course, but his mind is going a dozen places at once and doesn't want to come back to the here and now. This is what happens when his concentration goes.

"Hrm? Oh. Yes." He pushes the envelope. "WAND wanted to offer you a bit of a 'bonus' for all your help. A way to say thank you. You've certainly earned it."

He might have even suggested that she get it.

"You have to pick your fights Keiko. We all tie ourselves in knots eventually. Some people never really realize they do. You pick your chains and you forge them strong so that they're never broken. If you're lucky… they anchor you when the storms come."

Keiko watches Koa as his mind skips the joint for the moment, waiting in silence for him to return. Just when she thinks she's going to need to prompt, he shakes himself. "What is it?" she asks, looking at the envelope when he pushes it over.

"You already pay me well enough. I don't need anything more." Money always helps of course and lately she's been making good - and - bad contacts.

It's a long moment before she takes the envelope and starts to open it. It's probably just a financial bonus, right?

"It's what I said it is. A thank you."

Well it is a financial bonus. A bit of extra money. Not a huge amount but not a small amount either. A couple thousand dollars. And a small identifying locket that's been enchanted such that she's recognizable to WAND magi as a friendly and cooperating mage. And a hand written thank you note from Koa.

Because, you know, saving kids is a big deal.

"I know you don't NEED it. But take it anyway, Keiko. You earned it. You did a lot of good. Kids are safe right now that wouldn't be but for you."

That's almost more money than Keiko sees most months. She just stares at it all for the longest of time before stuffing it back in the envelope. "Thank you." That's so very quiet and said quite uncomfortably.

"I wasn't going to turn it down, Agent Turner." Back to that again as her eyes drop to her hands as she thinks.

"Can I … buy you something to eat?"

"Sure. Maybe a coffee or something." Koa stands. "I need to get some lunch anyway. I got lost in my artifact study. Which… happens. Ask anyone around here."

The agent tucks his collar - the one on his shirt - back up and gestures. "Shall we?"

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