The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 1 - On The Border[Toggle Names]
Description: In a desolate diner in the American Southwest, the Illuminati's Kolin meets with one the shadowy organization's contractors. Aims and goals and the movement of pieces on the great game board are discussed as the plans for the Illuminati to take advantage of the growing climate of chaos coalesce.
The Southwest United States, somewhere South of Joshua Tree, somewhere North of the border. A small and dismal restaurant clings to life as a throwback to a time when more cars and less airplanes carried people cross country. Few cars park outside, not many more people inside. A ribbon of sun-bleached road stretches out in either direction and from standing in the caked sand parking lot either way leads to nothing but a rippling horizon.
The heat bears down outside, and the silence is palpable but for a struggling air conditioner fighting to protect the few diners from the desert sun. Inside, ages out of date honky-tonk plinks on the low grade sound system for people that more or less can stand to continue to listen to it anyways by the expressions on their faces.
The few passing through don't seem to want to talk, and the staff reciprocate in kind. That may be why Whitney Saulder made it readily apparent to those within the grasps of the Illuminati that the no-name recluse of a diner makes for a decent spot to discuss.
Truth-be-told, the food is also stellar, but it might be simply because there's so little elsewise in the area to compare.
Whitney Saulder himself sits by the bay window of a wall. He can see the road from his booth. A cup of coffee in front of him, a cigarette pinched in his fingers. He smokes and waits and calculates things inside of his mind that bore him. Things have been quiet since Illyria, but the droning roar in his head about potential and necessity have unabated.
Even a killer needs people to talk to sometimes.
When Kolin shows up, it's in a black limousine--one which doesn't stick around. As soon as she's cleared the door and shut it, the limo speeds off. The Illuminati's 'secretary'--some whisper that she's really there to keep a grip on Urien for Lord Gill--is dressed for the weather.
... well, sort of. She isn't wearing her ushanka-and-winter coat outfit, at least, decked out in a black suit jacket, white button-down, black miniskirt, black gloves, and black heels, but all that black is just...
Still, she looks... cool. Not just cool and intimidating, with the full ice-queen aura in effect, but as if the oppressive heat doesn't matter to her. She carries a slim attache case--also black--and pretty much everyone there just gets the idea that she is assessing them with those ice-blue eyes and finding them wanting.
Quickly, precisely, she walks across the restaurant towards Whitney, slipping into the booth, attache case set precisely up against the wall. "Mr. Saulder."
Whitney Saulder, dressed in his worn, beaten, slept-in and unkempt cheap rack suit stands out in a way altogether different from the woman that takes the old, cracked pleather booth. Whatever the greater the reason for Kolin's purpose is something that doesn't concern Saulder. At least, not in the most obvious of ways.
He holds his cigarette in an overhand pinch, drags from it, and exhales toward the window as Kolin slips herself in. "Obscene disregard for the expected style of the area. Limousine and all. Diogenic in its shamelessness."
He turns to face Kolin and sets his cigarette into the ashtray. "Your honesty is more refreshing than your other talents," he states, fingers playing at the cuff of his sleeve. Distracting. A test. Looking to see if and how she prefers to keep attention. Little plays to understand, to pick and poke and see things in people. A matter of experiment over empathy.
"The European vacation proved interesting," he says. "I look forward to seeing more of the world on your dollar so I may do the Good Lord's work."
Kolin glances about, smiling ever so faintly. Sure, the limo was showy, her appearance probably moreso, but... whatever. People will remember that but those details will probably blot out anything else. A tall, fit blonde woman in a short-skirted suit? It's like something out of Hollywood. Her blue eyes take him in--take in -everything-. After he finishes speaking, Kolin merely reaches for her attache case.
She opens the top flap and withdraws a picture--a Middle Eastern man, young, bearded. A good color photo, a candid. She sets it on the table, turns it towards Whitney, and slides it halfway across to him. "His name is Rashid." A pause, and a slight wryness in his voice, "He sometimes prefers to call himself 'Rashid of the Turbulent Wind'. I recently encountered him. He now... owes us a favor. However, I would like a better read on his abilities." Despite best efforts, the Illuminati doesn't know everything _yet_.
"I want you to... test him." Those blue eyes bore into Whitney's for a moment. "Do _not_ kill him."
Of course she knows he's an assassin, that's why she has to say these things. "Things are happening. Here and abroad. We must be ready to... take advantage of intersections. We have reports that the underworld of Southtown is soon to be embroiled in a civil war of sorts."
She thinks on that for a moment. "A power vacuum could be very useful to us. We may have to... Create chaos."
She pays attention. A good trait, exploitable for later, Whitney thinks. Not that he has plans for Kolin. No, inasmuch as Whitney Saulder is capable of liking people, he likes Kolin. She reminds Whitney of Gill. Of someone with purpose, purpose and an honesty to that purpose.
He takes the picture and runs his thumb over the material, studying the features of the target. His lips flat, his face expressionless, his eyes dart up to stare back at Kolin for her demand.
"Tell me," Whitney's sonorous voice is kept level, "Why does he owe?"
The photograph is put down, but Whitney's finger never leaves the print. "He has an honest face. Talent bought with money needn't be honest, talent bought with emotional capital needs more security." He doesn't doubt Kolin, he just needs to know his approach.
"I suspect I know one of the billigerents in Southtown. She will prove interesting. But that chaos will come without our influence."
A faint smile. "Why? Because he was desperate. Desperation is a useful thing to utilize. He will initially feel... relief. That he was able to obtain some information he was after." Information that the Illuminati still possesses, of course.
"He does not know who we are. What the goals are. And, thus... he doesn't know what he has accepted. Very likely, he will not agree with our goals -or- our methods." She holds up a gloved hand, palm up.
"But that matters not. In the end he is, and will be, nothing but a tool to be applied when best needed. But like any tool, we need to know what his uses will be... what he will be useful for."
She thinks for a moment, then nods to herself. Yes. "Mr. Saulder, when you perform your test... it would be most helpful if you could arrange it so that he believes that Shadaloo is behind the attack. That organization... will eventually be a thorn in our side. Their leader is unhinged but powerful. Ideally... we can weaken him and his organization without getting directly involved."
Whitney Saulder looks dead eyed and flat lipped as he listens. He flicks cigarette ash into the tray. He looks out the window. His free hand thumbs at his lip. Rage boils under a cold surface. "To use great feelings and passions of the human family for base designs, for cunning ends," he speaks steadily, exhales, and once more takes a tired drag from his cigarette.
Collecting, he doesn't turn back toward Kolin. Instead he flicks the ash into the tray and continues watching the empty desert road. "Remind me again of what the goals are?" he asks, eyes and only his eyes turning to meet Kolin.
"Amassing wealth? Obtaining footholds in petty organized crime? Pitiable clawing at the heels of gangsters?" Whitney asks, eyes back out toward the road. "I am not a kind man, but I want to respect you, though you're making it exceedingly difficult."
Now he turns back toward Kolin, and he smiles with a beatific calmness. He pinches the cigarette and deposits it behind his ear before holding his hands out in front of him, palms up. "What is it that brought you to the work? Are you here for the clothing, the cars, the style? Or is there a spur of idealistic endeavor that worries at you?"
Interesting. She hadn't expected to be... questioned. She sits back--at ease, if not exactly _relaxed_, as Whitney fires off his questions. "Wealth is not the goal. Nor is organized crime." She regards him with those ice-cold eyes, entirely unruffled by his admission that she is at all being petty or has petty aims.
"We are paving the way for Lord Gill, to shape the world so that he, with his pure will, can achieve the ideal world." It sounds... fanatical, and yet her delivery is cool, not impassioned. The look in her eyes changes--she truly believes--but she is not mindlessly zealous. The difference between being a true believer and being enthralled.
"To that end... sometimes order requires chaos to be a breeding ground. The world is, of course, already in a state of chaos..." She folds her hands together, squeezing briefly, then separates her hands, and makes a bit of a 'what can you do?' gesture.
"But there are forces out there that purely wish the world ill, and they cannot be allowed to stand in Utopia. Thus, part of our work is to... ensure that they are, themselves, constantly scrabbling for power."
Whitney Saulder watches Kolin. He regards her not with cold and calculating efficiency, but in the way someone might a sitcom they've seen one too many times. His hands remain open and out. He nods once just to show that he is in fact listening. That is the way people tend to expect non verbal communication.
"The question was only to remind you of your purpose," Whitney admits, curling his hands back up and resting them at the level of his chin. He watches Kolin, his fingers opening up to adjust the button of his sleeve. "Lord Gill's idealism interests me. Mankind lies about what it wants, what it is. I don't understand people, but that part I know. What I cannot fathom is why so many of them believe their lies."
He looks out to the parking lot. "But your plans, as they are, are fool's errands. I'll take your money, do what you want, but I want you to know you're wasting your time and accomplishing nothing that time won't do for you."
His hand disappears into the rumpled brown blazer. He pulls out a torn page of newsprint. The headline announces the joint actions of Interpol and the Special Forces. "Shadaloo, organized crime, they come and they go and they kill and they struggle and the world spins onward. Society rises to quell the fires and everyone moves on. Why cause strife among those born into it?" he asks.
"They supply the world's chaos for us. Our position as movers of pieces is best spent positioning the order correctly," Whitney says, pointing to the paper, and then to the photo of Rashid of the Turbulent Wind. "That's why I want to know WHY he owes us. Information on what? Lottery numbers? a love? A family member? A tool is a tool, but I must know if the man is a hammer or a torque wrench."
He turns toward Kolin, now steady, his eyes betray seriousness for the first time in the conversation. Deep, blue, predatory as a shark. Not cold, simply accepting of death and causation. "I have nearly pushed the Librarium to war with dry cleaning. I can do a world more with Interpol given real leverage."
Kolin's expression grows even colder, if that were at all possible. Positively glacial. Were she any less in control of herself that might be felt in other ways, too, but for her it's only in the eyes. "Shadaloo's brand of chaos is only useful for a time. There will come a day when they will be crushed--must be crushed--underneath our heel." As will "R", and Southtown Syndicate, and many others. The work will not be easy.
"He is searching for a friend. He believes that the information I gave him will lead to that friend." A brief, bare shrug. "In truth, I do not particularly know if it will. If it does, then that is of little consequence, except to favor him towards us."
She nods in acknowledgement of his skills. There is a reason he remains on the payrolls, after all. "That leverage is not for me to give." A hard fact; Kolin is powerful within the Illuminati but she must always be mindful of not only Lord Gill... but his sullen ox of a brother, Urien. That man is completely predictable and unpredictable. To face off against him in battle is something that will have to happen. But not right now.
There is so much to learn of Kolin in these moments, and Whitney Saulder files it all away into his mind. He sees where there is little approach. But he sees where he has a great deal of potential. He ultimately doesn't care what Gill must do, so long as the events that burn the world are ones that prove enough to stir a drip of fulfilling emotion in Whitney Saulder's body.
He nods, listening to the explanation of this Rashid. As he does, he takes the picture to him. A long look before the picture and the paper clipping are put back inside of Saulder's rough and rumpled blazer. "You've given me enough already," he tells Kolin, eyes flicking back to her as he pats the front of his blazer.
"Now that business is settled; I suggest the apple pie with cheese. You might find the unintuitive more satisfying than not," he tells Kolin, waving a hand toward the main dining counter of the old restaurant.
Kolin accepts that not all who work for the Illuminati will share her passion for Gill's goals. After all, they don't have the history that she has, which made her particularly interested in what he had to offer. She understands that so many people are driven by baser, lesser desires and needs--money, violence, companionship, honor. All those things. So she doesn't really particularly care _why_ Saulder is going to do his job--just that he does it.
Still, she nods, collecting her attache case, and moving to slide out of the booth. "I'm afraid I must be off," she says, and outside the window that limousine is pulling up again, "but I will take that under consideration. Thank you for your time, Mr. Saulder. I look forward to reading your report. It will be very illuminating, I'm sure."
Turning, she walks out of the ramshackle diner; almost imperceptibly, as she passes the cashier's, a card and a folded up wad of money are left. A little incentive for the staff to stay quiet, just in case. And, of course, to pay for whatever Saulder had--or has had. In moments, she's climbing into the limousine, the blacked-out windows revealing nothing as the car begins to pull away.
And just as swiftly as Kolin arrives, she leaves. The diner is quiet again. The few passing through and the few that work there remain in their invisible lives neither knowing of truly caring about the things that this pair of outsiders discussed. The surface aspects of a beautiful woman in a limousine and a man in a badly kept suit. Almost like something out of a movie. Surface details and curiosity notes that never need go deeper.
But Whitney Saulder remains in his booth, he remains watching Kolin leave and lie. So many lies in the idealistic mind. Striving for Utopia but clinging to the idea of some sort of order in the system. There was so much he wanted to tell her, but he can tell there's no reaching someone so ensconsed in the lie. Gill's will shall be done, and it will make for something new, but it won't be by simply clamboring atop existing power structures.
But Whitney has a job in the immediate, and a line to the money to do so. He leans back in his booth, his fingers tent in front of him and he stares up into the middle distance. Yes, he admits to himself, Shadaloo is a problem, their aims are different than the gang war in Japan. And as Whitney considers this, his mind turns toward his target. It was time to make a hero.
Log created on 11:01:19 07/11/2018 by Whitney, and last modified on 12:02:50 07/12/2018.