This is the main room, where you will gather for announcements or events. Today, we are welcoming our newest recruits. There will be a speech, given by Henry, followed by a few shorter speeches by Alex, Cassandra, Nina, and Allen. All in all, it's a fairly formal matter, but after the speeches the crowd will disperse, and mingling will commence. There is food and drink (no alcohol). Or perhaps you wanna take the chance to head to the gym area to get out some frustrations. Either way, you are not allowed back to your rooms until close to bedtime. Today is considered a "free day". No assignments, no [formal] training. Also, no using your power to hurt another S.I.N. member.
The room was getting filled with more and more people and the gradual loss of personal space was becoming obvious. Every now and then, one had to almost crawl their way through the body of people chatting, laughing, enjoying each other’s company as if this was just another regular formal event. Well, it definitely resembled one. The room was richly decorated, shiny and polished, people wore expensive outfits and grandma’s jewelry to show off for some stupid reason and everyone just seemed so sickly sweet and cheerful it might have made a more cynical person throw up.
That was exactly how Ruby Spark felt when entering the room. Her fingers were dug deep into her clutch, holding onto it for dear life. Cascades of fiery locks fell on her back and shoulders, pinned up on the left side over her ear. Her pale skin was in an obvious contrast with the burning color of her bold dress and the application on her gown reminded of the flames usually bursting from the fingertips of the redhead. Clicks of her heels dissolved in the buzz of the crowd and the girl felt like smoking. Or having a drink. Ideally right now.
The bar was set up nearby and small sparks ignited in her green eyes when Ruby noticed it. Hurrying over there, she could already taste the bourbon on her tongue but imagine her surprise upon finding out there was no alcohol served that night. “Oh…great…” she mumbled to herself and ordered a club soda. The desire to light up a cigarette grew even more but that was not an option. At least not yet. The official part of the evening was about to start and Ruby needed to listen to seemingly trillion speeches welcoming the new recruits.
The redhead still remembered her own initiation a year ago. It was equally formal and equally boring. These people pretended to be the high society but Ruby felt she could see them for exactly who they were. A bunch of hypocrites training the kids to be their murder puppets. Even after one whole year spent in the organization, Ruby couldn’t bring herself to trust SIN. How could she anyway? They were the ones to grab her from the streets in the middle of the night. In the middle of her investigation. She felt she was so close to finding out the truth and next thing she knew, she woke up in a too bright room with some guy offering the red and the blue pill. Stay or die. Wow! What a choice. But while Ruby already hated the idea of being restrained for life, it was better than to die. To die for real as she was dead to the rest of the world. Not that she was surrounded by a large circle of friends to begin with. But her little community built around her bakery was greatly missed.
Grabbing her soda, Ruby heaved a sigh, nodding to the bartender as her thanks and turned to the rest of the room. Her gaze scanned the place in search of a friendly face. Hopefully Lyla. Or Ghost. As in real life outside of these walls, Ruby didn’t have a lot of friends here. Mostly because she barely trusted anyone. After all, this was a network of assassins, could she afford to lose her focus? No way.
None of her friends seemed to be around just yet and Ruby didn’t feel like joining the crowd. Large groups with a little personal space usually made her anxiety peak and so she decided to hang out by the bar, sipping her club soda, trying to at least pretend it was the bourbon. The first of many people took the stage and the speech started but Ruby filtered the words. Whatever, she heard it all last year and didn’t imagine Henry had anything new to say. Hopefully, someone was going to appear soon to keep Ruby company during this charade.
Was there even any silver lining about being dead to the rest of the world? One might say not really but Riley Gallagher was usually different than anyone else. Where people usually only found misery and sadness, Ry always found something to be happy about. He was that kind of ray of sunshine personality and didn’t believe in frowns or grumpy comments. Maybe his earlier version would disagree but ever since Riley realized there was truly only one life, why on earth would he waste it by taking things seriously? Admittedly, his approach of life being one big party was not the greatest but at least it put a smile on his face and maybe even faces of people around him. And if he ever stopped smiling, it was in the privacy of his small room, in the moments when he thought of mom and Linda. The only two people he actually really missed.
There were not many times Riley actually thought about the day his life as he knew it ended but while putting on the tux and tying the bowtie, his thoughts ran in different directions. Maybe because he was utterly unable to tame his bowtie and every time he tied it, it looked ridiculous and absolutely not right. Not that he was big on suits and all but every time he needed to look presentable, he would ask mom to do it and she would do a flawless job. Now he had to do it alone and it was moments like this, small, seemingly unimportant, when he realized that agreeing to stay with SIN cost him more than he cared to admit. Yes, he got to stay alive but at what cost?
Exhaling sharply, he attempted to fix the bowtie one last time and failed but didn’t bother to try again. Instead, he just grabbed his jacket and ran out of his room with something that only resembled the neck piece. Whatever, it wasn’t like he was the important person tonight anyway. His initiation happened four years ago and even then no one cared how he looked like. At least not the details. He wore a tux, right? That counted. For now, he put his signature grin on and entered the main room, fully intending on enjoying the night.
In Riley’s book, fun looked a bit differently. It was not a bar which only served non-alcoholic beverages or stuffy company but with the right people, he could turn it into an enjoyable event. Making his way across the room, his eyes kept looking for his twin in crime. And he was also looking out for Cade as somehow it seemed that even Riley’s mere existence was rubbing the large guy the wrong way. Any other time, Riley would be happy to rile Cade up but tonight, he didn’t want to risk it. And also, his powers were still not one hundred percent under control, no matter how much had improved ever since joining SIN, and this was not the time to hit Cade in the forehead with a piece of silverware. Or something much worse. Just sayin’.
Seeing that none of his usual companions was around for now, Riley pursed his lips and wondered what was taking so long. Henry already took the microphone to commence his speech and the boy looked at him, examining every inch of Henry’s being for a moment. There was no way others were late, they had to be in the room. But where? He could definitely use a drink now but never even bothered to approach the bar. What for anyway? He could drink water whenever he wanted. There was no need to put it into a fancy glass with a lime wedge. Maybe he should have figured out the way how to sneak some joints in, that would be fun. Oh well, the something called party, which definitely was no party, began and there was no way for the metal bender to sneak out now. He needed to find his fun in some other way. Less enjoyable than drinking or doing party drugs.
"Please, no. It hurts." Her cries were lost on the man in a long, white lab coat that stood next to her, a clipboard in one hand and pen in the other. He was waiting for something, any change or reaction that he could deem worthy of putting into writing. The room surrounding them was average, white brick walls matching white tile floors, and the only color of accent was the silver cabinets and lab benches strategically placed throughout. The air smelt sharply of disinfectant, bleach or ammonia, or some other strong-smelling chemical he had gotten used to over the years. It was devoid of windows, the lack of natural light given the room a rather haunting ambiance of uneven, yellow-tinged shadows. But to her, it was her home.
The man stared expectantly down at a teenage girl, a stoic expression on his face. Unphased by her pleas for help or mercy, he was void of any true emotions, an unbiased scientist waiting to make an observation. His unwavering gaze met that of the girl's, her bloodshot green eyes willing him to say something, anything so she wouldn't have to suffer any longer. A single tear fell on already tear-stained cheeks as she looked at the tray of syringes near her arm, her entire body strapped down to the uncomfortable lab bench. Each was filled with a murky, russet-colored viscous liquid. The needles were large, intended to burr directly through bone into the soft marrow that lay beneath. Blood dripped down her arm from two holes that had already been made that day.
Her body trembled in pain from the previous transformations, a red fox and an arctic wolf. She had no idea how her metamorphosis happened, but her father didn't seem to care. "It has to be done." His tone was even, matter-of-fact, and uncaring. With that, he picked up the third syringe, stabbing the needle through her skin and into the bone marrow of her upper arm. The girl let out a blood-curdling scream, an unbelievable amount of pain overtaking her body. Her bones began to break and shift, transforming her body into something else. She was at the end of what she could take, and she could only hope that death would come quickly. But it never did. Instead, a large tiger broke free from the lab bench. In mere moments, its fur and claws were stained in blood that certainly wasn't its own.
Samara Seabrook sat up in bed abruptly, sucking in a sharp breath. Her emerald green eyes were wide with panic, and her heart was racing rather uncomfortably in her chest. Her hands had begun to tremble, all of those things symptoms of an incoming panic attack. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the feelings as far back into the recesses of her mind as she could. Her heart slowed, her hands stilled, her face turned controlled. It was as if she had just turned off any aspect of unsavory emotions she seemed to have. After all, it was just a nightmare, a memory from her childhood that had a hand in shaping her into the woman she had become. A diligent student, a strategic fighter, an obedient soldier.
The flashing red numbers of her clock caught her eyes, and Sam quickly realized she was running late for the mandatory assembly welcoming recruits. As much as she hated to admit it, S.I.N. found her at a moment in her life where she was lost and had no place to belong. In the first few years, she believed she owed it to them to follow all their rules. But now, she wasn't so sure. Nevertheless, the shapeshifter climbed out of bed and proceeded to get ready. Initiations were always formal events, with a dress code that rivaled balls and galas. Despite her tardiness, Samara knew that if she showed up underdressed, she would be reprimanded far beyond the punishment for being late. And so, she took the time to curl her hair, letting it fall in soft waves around her shoulders. Her make-up was natural with hints of shimmer and an apricot lip. The strapless corset-bust gown hugged her curves, its high slit a little too revealing for Sam's taste. She finished the look with a pair of strappy golden heels before making her way across the compound to the assembly room.
Henry had already begun speaking by the time Samara clicked her way into the hall. Normal, she moved quietly. But the stilettos she wore were less than silent. A S.I.N. instructor gave her a glare, to which the aqua-haired woman simply rolled her eyes. She wasn't about to let them chastise her for being late when she was usually several minutes early. She deserved a break. Wanting to avoid that conversation entirely, her emerald green eyes scanned the room for a distraction or some sort of way out. They landed on the appetizers table, which was certainly better than the alcoholless bar across the room. And so, Sam made her way towards the trays of food, hoping to find a familiar face along the way.
The soothing tones of classical music filled his ears as Finnegan Payne placed another book on the growing stack. He had been in the library since he had woke up that morning, only leaving to gets some food or go to the restroom. While most would turn their noses up at the large stacks of technical manuals he had surrounded himself with, Finn rather enjoyed them. In fact, his father was much more invested in his son's ability to tap into computer systems. But, the dark-haired man enjoyed his meta-learning abilities much more. He could learn whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. If one morning he woke up and decided that he wanted to play the oboe, all he had to do was read a book and he could. Just the day before, Finn had delved into the world of laser cutters and had spent the better part of the morning building one from scratch. He was nothing if not resourceful.
Just as Finnegan began to pick up his eighth book of the day, a siren-like noise filled his ears. He immediately yanked them out, the loud, aggressive sound practically piercing his eardrums. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Finn waved his hand over his phone, effectively turning off the alarm with just his thoughts. He had completely lost track of time and forgotten about the recruitment gala, though it wasn't really Finn's choice of place to be to begin with. Mingling with strangers and engaging in so-called pleasant conservation was not really his cup of tea. He would much rather be tucked away in some naturally lit corner with a stack of books and maybe a calculator he could take apart and put back together. Nevertheless, his father practically insisted that he go to the party. After all, it was important for them to keep up appearances, especially as the son of S.I.N.'s leader and a level one.
"Well, time to get going," Finnegan murmured to himself, putting the books on a nearby return cart and stuffing his headphones into his pocket. Just as he was about to place the final book, entitled "The Art of Boat Building," on the stack, the brunette man thought better and tucked it away into his backpack for later. He waved to the librarian on his way out the door before traversing the halls to return to his room in the compound. While he had been awarded an outside apartment for his promotion to level one, Finn spent the majority of his time within those four walls. He knew the ins and outs of the compound, all of the shortcuts and secret passageways, even a few forbidden areas. It was one of the perks of being the leader's son, he supposed. The downside, however, was the constant pressure for perfection and a positive reputation. It had instilled a constant bit of anxiety in Finn's personality, making him just a bit nervous and timid, much to his friend's annoyance.
Finnegan only dropped into his room long enough to put his things away and change for the assembly. Its venue, the main meeting room of the compound, was most certainly capable of holding such a large, powerful group, especially with the other staff and soldiers there to guard it. Many of the staff members had been around him his entire life, some even having a hand in raising him. It was expected of him to eventually take over the family business, despite his anxious personality and inability to speak in public efficiently. Maybe that's why his father saw him as a disappointment, aside from his abilities. A few moments later, Finn stood in front of the full-length mirror in his room, assessing himself. He was a meticulous man with an eye for fine details and an expectation that they were perfectly in place. He adjusted the lapels of his grey suit jacket that was perfectly tailored to fit and match his trousers. His russet leather shoes were the same as his belt, all accented in red by his tie, pocket square, and lapel pins. While he would much rather be in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, the dress code was mandatory.
Entering the main assembly room, Finnegan immediately felt out of place. He was surrounded by powerful people, some his elder and therefore authority, and others lower level. While he was pretty much born into S.I.N., he still remembered his own initiation and the overwhelming pressure associated with quickly ascending to a level one. In the beginning, no one believed that the brunette man would grow to have any sort of power. His mother, Marianne, believed in him. But she disappeared before she even got to see how right she was. The new faces in the room seemed just as nervous as him, most refusing to even meet the eyes of the others in the room. He distinctly remembered being in their shoes, and even still was now and again. Adjusting his cuff links, Finn decided he needed a drink to quench the dryness in his mouth. And so, he headed toward the bar as the speeches began, quietly ordering, "One water, please."
The echoes of the nightmare remained in Lyla's mind even though she'd awoken some time ago. The simple fact of the matter was that Lyla had this nightmare all the time, even though she had no idea how accurate it was. Hell, the voice she heard in her nightmares probably didn't even belong to her mother, but it was the same voice every time. On top of that, Lyla awoke at the same part of the nightmare every time: the flames were building their fiery inferno, the smoke making it harder and harder to breathe. She could hear her mother's voice, or the voice she thought might belong to her, then she saw her father reaching for her. Then they were gone, the roar of the fire replaced by a sudden silence, penetrated only by Lyla's screaming as she jerked awake.
SIN gave out medications for the nightmares, but Lyla stopped taking them long ago. They made her a zombie, and she hated them. Not that SIN actually cared about her and her nightmares; they just wanted to make sure their assassins were in tip-top shape. Scoffing, Lyla pulled her legs up onto the bed, crossing them underneath her as she glared at the admittedly beautiful gown hanging on the rack across from her. "I'm not going." She told it firmly, closing her eyes as she turned her head away from it. "And you can't make me." She'd get in tons of trouble for not going to the event, but she didn't care. She needed this time to herself, to recover from the nightmare she'd woken up from some time ago. She couldn't face people right now.
"You are going, and your dress might not be able to make you go, but I can." A voice from her doorway startled her, and she nearly fell off the bed as she twisted to see Cade leaning against her open door.
"Cade!" She gasped, righting herself and then realizing what he'd said. "No. I'm not going. I don't care what they do to me-"
His face suddenly grew hard and he pushed off of the doorframe, stepping into her room. "Don't say that, Ly."
"Cade, you can't come in here! You'll get in trouble!" She hopped off the bed, moving to his side and trying to shove him backwards. The doors were kept open during the day, but it meant big trouble if you got caught with someone in your room who wasn't supposed to be there.
"Then you'd better get dressed." He crossed his arms, not budging from the spot he was standing in.
"Fine!" Lyla threw her hands up in exasperation, turning to look at the dress again. "Go stand outside, let me fix my face." She muttered, not moving until he finally decided to do as she asked. Grumbling still, she sighed as she sat down in front of her vanity, seeing the mascara and eyeliner tracks down her face. She scrubbed at them, leaving her face pink from the exertion. After applying a fresh layer of makeup, she fluffed her waves afterwards, and finally stood to face the dress. She slipped out of her lounge clothes, pulling the dress on and zipping it up. Short as she was, the dress fell to the floor but whoever had gotten it for her knew her size and height perfectly and hemmed it so it wouldn't trip her. Once she slipped into her shoes, she was done, and she exited her room, finding Cade standing on the other side of the hall. "Figures you'd be here." She sighed, ignoring his smirk as they headed for the event room. They were clearly late, but not terribly so. Henry was talking, so Lyla just looked around to find another familiar face.
Cade didn't know how he knew, but he just always seemed to know. Despite not being an open person, and despite not having a close relationship with many, there was one person who he knew better than he knew himself. That person was Lyla, and somehow, he just knew she was having a hard time. Of course Cade knew the rules, he knew he wasn't supposed to enter her room and that they could get in trouble if they were caught, even if they weren't touching, and that's why he remained at her door while she talked to her dress. She hadn't even noticed him, that much was obvious by how he startled her when he spoke.
"You are going, and your dress might not be able to make you go, but I can." A smirk appeared on his lips as he watched her reaction, seeing how she almost fell off of the bed. He thought about teasing her to pay more attention, but he could see the tiredness in her eyes and he knew she'd had her nightmare again. Although Cade had tried to convince her to take the meds SIN offered, she refused.
"Cade! No. I'm not going. I don't care what they do to me-"
His facial expression hardened and he pushed off of the doorframe, entering the room. "Don't say that, Ly."
"Cade, you can't come in here! You'll get in trouble!" She jumped from the bed, trying to push him out of the room but he wasn't moving. Not until she was getting ready or at least agreed to, so that way he could know she wouldn't get in trouble.
"Then you'd better get dressed." And finally, she agreed, and he turned to walk out of the room. He heard her moving around inside and knew she was getting ready, so he stayed by the door until she walked out a few minutes later. It bothered him immensely that they were going to be late, but he'd been watching out for Lyla since her arrival a few years ago, and that wasn't going to stop now. She exited the room a few minutes later, and he smirked again as he followed her towards the event room. "Of course I would be. Where else would I be?" He hummed from behind her, but she didn't answer. They reached the room and stepped inside. Henry was already speaking, and the introductions of the newcomers would happen afterwards, then they would be free to mingle.
He saw Lyla looking around to see familiar faces, but she didn't approach anybody. With a soft sigh, Cade gently nudged her forward. "Go on. Find someone you can talk to." He told her softly, placing his hand on the small of her back as he pushed her some. She glanced at him, nodding before she slipped through the crowd. A moment later, he saw her approaching Ruby, and he grimaced. Not what I had in mind. Or who. He thought to himself, inwardly groaning before he turned his attention back to Henry. There were people in the room he didn't recognize, and Cade knew immediately they were the new people. What were their powers, he wondered, and would they survive their first night? Because some didn't. His eyes darted around and he spotted Finn. As slick as a snake, he slipped through the crowd until he stood behind Finn at the bar. "Make that two." He told the bartender, moving to stand beside his charge.
A woman in white stared back at Ghost as she stood in front of the mirror, feeling oddly disconnected from her body. Oddly not because this was an unfamiliar feeling, but because she imagined most people didn’t feel like a stranger in their own skin. She ran her fingers along the smooth fabric of her dress, wondering if she’d been the kind of girl to wear such nice things in the past, or if she would have thought herself frivolous for such finery. Everyone dressed up for these ceremonies to welcome in the next class of assassins, but Ghost found it odd that they were pretending to be classy, sophisticated people when they were being actively taught to kill people. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Assassins in evening gowns and tuxedos.
Ghost made her way to the ceremony room at the appropriate time, and just floated around the room with no true aim while Henry spoke. She offered practiced smiles to those she knew well enough that a greeting or acknowledgement was required, but kept to herself for the most part. While Ghost was loyal to the organization that offered her a home, family of sorts and purpose, she was not entirely sold on the idea of celebrating the recruitment of future assassins. Blue eyes studied S.I.N.’s newest class and wondered what kind of lives they were leaving behind, and what kind of powers they had. The icy blonde half hoped one of the newbies would have the ability to bring back lost memories, but she knew that only was wishful thinking.
Liquor was absent at this gala, but Ghost procured herself a sparkling lemonade from the bar and sipped it slowly for something to do to stave off complete boredom. Only when she saw Samara in the crowd by the appetizer table did her eyes light up for the first time that night, and she silently made her way over.
For a moment the blonde watched Sam, wanting to make sure that she wouldn’t be interrupting anything. The aqua haired woman looked gorgeous in her green gown and for a moment nerves almost prevented Ghost from saying anything. A calming breath helped though, and Ghost stepped beside Sam. “Anything good?” She inquired, glancing down at the available food before up at Samara, offering a smile more genuine than her polite ones from earlier. “How many cream puffs is too many cream puffs to eat before the night is over?” Ghost half joked, picking up one of the said desserts and taking a careful bite. “Something good has to come from this night, right?” She added, her gaze drifting back to the new recruits for a moment. Her own recruitment ceremony was one of her first memories, so she revisited the moment often. Having only a few years worth of memories now, what Ghost did recall was vivid.
Jack Griffin hated these kind of events. He hated dressing in a suit, he hated standing around and listening to the same speech from Henry every time there was a new class of assassins, and he hated most of all that it was a dry event. At least if they offered alcohol the ceremony would almost be bearable. Or at least approach bearable.
Griffin had tried to hold out in his room for as long as possible, but eventually an instructor did a room check on him and he was forced to take a rain check on his nap, finish dressing in his suit and join the festivities. All of which he did with obvious annoyance. Next time he’d find a better place to hide out, as he swore to himself that this would be the last one of these events he attended. Sure Griffin secretly enjoyed the structure that the classes gave him, but these extra mandatory events were excessive.
Leaning against the back wall of the room, Griffin did his best to avoid mingling as he enjoyed the company of his flask which contained the amber liquid with which he shared a name. While Jack could, and would, drink just about anything, he was partial to whiskey. After making sure no one with enough balls to confiscate his flask was watching, Griffin took a nice long swig. Sometimes he wished he could feel the burning sensation he’d heard that alcohol could produce, but luckily his lack of feeling pain didn’t inhibit his ability to get drunk.
By the end of the speeches, Griffin’s flask was half gone and he was feeling a little more sociable. With a smug smirk on his face, the human voodoo doll made his way through the crowd, looking for a familiar face that he didn’t hate entirely. The metal bender was the first person that fit that description, on most days at least, and Griffin directed his steps towards him. Riley’s view on life being a party could be a lot to put up so tunes, but tonight he was the perfect remedy to a dull night. Plus, Griffin knew that he likely wouldn’t be against breaking the rules, and he had enough whiskey left to share. What could he say, the first few swigs had put him in a generous mood.
“I see even you couldn’t liven this event from hell up,” Jack smirked as he approached Riley. “I doubt even the recruits are enjoying this. You think Henry does this as some sort of conditionIng against torture?” The brunette glanced around before taking a last swig from his flask before offering it discreetly over to Riley. “Party favor?”
This whole gathering felt just way too artificial. Ruby was wondering if the other recruits fell the same way every year. Because last year, it was her who was introduced to the organization, she was the one paraded like prized cattle and she remembered very well. Even the speech was the same and hearing it again made her scoff which she tried to mask with taking a sip from her glass. A small imprint of her red lipstick appeared on the brim of the glass, leaving her DNA on it until the moment it was cleaned again. Her thoughts were running in a million directions at once. Maybe if she imagined enough, the club soda might start to taste like vodka. Not ideal but at least it would be alcohol.
Ruby Spark spent enough time at S.I.N. to know that there was no point in running. And not for the lack of trying. The redheaded firecracker hated that she was unable to come and go whenever she wanted. This was just another level of prison and for someone as free-spirited as Ruby, this was no place to be. Biting the inside of her cheek, Ruby just stood there, tightening her grip on the glass and her clutch and for a moment, she looked stiff like a Maypole. It was only the sight of pink mane approaching her that brought her out of her reverie.
Lyla was literally the best person at this god-forsaken place. The girls were such unlikely friends it was almost unbelievable how they managed to get along but there was something in the pinkette that calmed Ruby down. Lyla was the only person around here who could fully tame Ruby’s fire, whether it was literal or metaphorical. Granted, there was only one person who could make Ruby see red in three seconds and it was that irony of life that it was Lyla’s almost brother. Thankfully, Cade was nowhere to be seen and Ruby decided to keep her decorum tonight. Ruby’s eyes locked on Lyla and she spread her lips in a wide smile.
“I was starting to think you got lost on your way here.” Ruby half whispered, chuckling softly. “Or that you were about to leave me here all alone.” Ruby needed her rock to get through the night and she could rely on Lyla to be there for her and stop her from anything really stupid such as attempting to leave the place among the crowd of guests. “Let’s bet. How old do you think is that speech?” she grinned, motioning her head towards Henry. “I’d say at least as old as the Russian revolution. Jesus, seriously. Why does no one tell him?” she giggled, watching the director of S.I.N. speak in a rather serious tone, welcoming the newest recruits. “Did I look so terrified as well? Some of them look like there’s a broom stick up their ass, I swear.”
Riley was desperate. This was supposed to be a party, right? So why did it feel like some medieval gathering of boring important assholes who came together only to show off their trophy wives and brag about their new cars, businesses, private islands and all that shit? No, wait. This was even worse. Because despite everything, at those events, there was at least stream of alcohol. Here? Not even a drop. What kind of party didn’t serve drinks? And Riley hated himself for being a dumbass and forgetting every single time. He should have been ready for this. His suit jacket should have been packed with flasks and small shots. And yet, the party king failed to deliver.
Looking around, the boy was trying to locate a friendly face in the crowd, someone to keep him company during this miserable evening. Henry was already up on the stage and his speech was hanging in the air, dry and boring, just as every year. Damn you, Henry, can’t you at least change that shit? We’re falling from boredom here! Riley couldn’t believe no one had ever told Henry not to be an old fart and update those words.
Overall, Riley couldn’t complain about his life at S.I.N. He was there for a few years now and while there was that downside of everyone, even his closest family, thought he was dead, his life was rather comfortable. He had his own room, meals three times a day, roof over his head and basically, all his needs were fulfilled. There was not a lot to want here. But there was still one tiny thought nagging at the back of his head. Was this all really worth it? He was literally training to be a murderer. Yes, it was that. The pretty label saying ‘assassin’ was a nice decoy but essentially, they all were just that. Murderers.
Only a famous voice tore him out of his thoughts and Riley looked over his shoulder to recognize a grinning face of Jack Griffin. “Dude, I have no idea how. I could try though but then Henry would want my head on a silver platter.” Riley laughed quietly, not to disturb the crowd where half of the attendees only came for the free buffet. “There is no way ANYONE is enjoying this. Maybe Henry. But considering that he has the same speech forever and still goes on, he might as well revel in this whole bullshit. Riley shrugged, turning to fully face Griffin. “I wish I knew why Henry is going this. Most of all, why we even have to be here.” The annoyance in his voice was more than evident but his eyes lit up when Jack offered a flask. “Don’t mind if I do…” he grinned and his fingers gripped the small metal object bringing it to his lips. Riley took a long pull from it and the small sting of alcohol immediately greeted his throat. “Damn…much better.” Returning the flask to its rightful owner, Riley rubbed his hands together, apparently quite refreshed. “Now…wanna see what the latest recruits look like?” That signature grin was only growing wider and no, Riley was not exactly interested in his competition. He would much rather check out the feminine cast. “Maybe some of them would like an orientation. You in or you too scared to move during speeches?”
Samara had been with S.I.N. for quite some time, several years at least. When they found her, she was a lost teenager on the streets of New York City, surviving by stealing from others who may or may not be less fortunate than she was. She did whatever she had to do to survive, and that included fairly traumatic things. But somehow, S.I.N. found her. She never quite understood how considering the worst of her crimes took place across the big pond in England. But they did, and they knew about her special abilities as well. The young teenager was so tired of fighting to survive and take care of herself, and the thought of someone else doing it for her was a relief. And so she took them up on their offer. It was hard work, more so than she could have ever imagined going into it. But in the end, Sam learned how to control not only her powers but also how to protect herself from the terrors and nightmares in the world around her. And for that, she was grateful.
She remembered her initiation ceremony like it was yesterday. The organization was a bit smaller all those years ago, and she was a lot younger, but the tradition remained the same. She remembered standing in that line of recruits listening to Henry talk, shaking with fear. At the time, Samara had no idea what she had gotten herself into, thinking that she might have just signed her life away. She was one of the younger recruits at the time but knew that most of them held stories and pasts like hers. That was S.I.N.'s mode of operation after all: collect the gifted that the world had forgotten, promise them a chance at a better life, and turn them into soldiers like the rest of the planet had never seen. Maybe it was controversial. But like it or not, the program truly did save lives, hers included. She didn't know it at the time, but it was on the day of her initiation that she had caught the eye of Remmy, who would turn out to be her mentor. For some reason, he had chosen her to train, one that she didn't understand. And at this rate, with his disappearance, she never would.
Sam shook her hair to clear her thoughts, realizing she had been staring at the plates of appetizers for quite some time now. She glanced around, catching the eye of a nearby instructor who was giving her a strange look. Sam averted her gaze, not wanting to answer any questions. She had been specifically instructed to forget about Remmy, to remove him from her mind. Grabbing one of the faux-crystal appetizer plates on the edge of the buffet, Samara began to gracefully move down the row, picking and choosing small bites as she went. Her heels clicked against the ballroom floor with intent. She paused to taste one of the appetizers, some sort of fig and goat cheese wrapped in puff pastry. It was absolutely delicious, and she reminded herself to grab more of those before the night was over. Sam felt a familiar presence step up alongside her, and she turned to find Ghost there. A small smile turned up the corners of her lips. "A few good things. But I haven't quite gotten to the desserts yet, so we'll see," she answered, gaze falling on the cream puffs Ghost alluded to. "Yeah, something. I'm just hoping it's over sooner rather than later. There's only so much bureaucratic grandstanding I can take before I have to get out of here. Maybe we should find some friends and sneak out."
Being a Level One within S.I.N.'s strange hierarchical system certainly came with some perks. He wasn't confined to the outline of S.I.N.'s campus, and actually had an apartment of his own that the company paid for in the city. Though he spent most of his time within those buildings, it was nice to have somewhere he could get away to, somewhere he didn't have to hide, and somewhere he could just be the true Finnegan Payne without the pressures or fears, or expectancies that came with that surname. He could come and go as he wished, and didn't have to be escorted around like some sort of dog on a leash. All in all, the corporation trusted him to act on his own accord with their best interests in mind at all times. While that may seem irresponsible or insane, in his case, it was rather intelligent. If there was one person on this Earth that Finn was scared of, it was his father. And Henry just so happened to be in charge of the whole enterprise. So, if he acted out against S.I.N., he acted out against his father. And that was not something the brunette would risk.
Henry Payne was a far more dangerous man than most realized. As the leader of S.I.N. and a gifted himself, he not only led one of the most powerful organizations in the world, but he had one of the world's most deadly armies at his fingertips whenever he wanted. Sure, there was a board and a group of people that he needed approval from in order to make decisions, like within any business and organization. But it was of no surprise to anyone that if Henry wanted something, he would spare no expense in making sure he achieved it. Even at the cost of those below him, or his own family. Finnegan's mother could attest to that. Well, if she was still alive, at least. Needless to say, growing up in the academy with very little interaction with the outside world, Finnegan never really figured out how to talk to people outside of his inner circle. Public speaking was an absolute atrocity for him, not even able to get through a short presentation without stumbling over his words or making an embarrassing slip. General day-to-day conversation wasn't too different either. And his father expected him to someday take over the entire organization. Was it possible? Not in his eyes.
Finnegan could hear his father's voice reverberating around the room through the microphone and speakers, his deep tone promising the recruits that this was their chance at a new life, full of purpose and dignity. And while he knew that S.I.N. did give that to its recruits, he couldn't help but be conflicted. Was there some sort of ulterior motive there, something that his father wasn't telling them? What was the point of gathering the gifted and training them to be soldiers, going on missions that they weren't given the entirety of information behind if not for personal gain? Finn shook his head. Maybe he was overthinking it. Maybe he had read too many Ian Fleming novels and all of that two-faced spy stuff was going to his head. There was no clear evidence that his father was leading up to something like that, and Finn needed to stick to the evidence. Pulled from his thoughts by a familiar voice alongside him, the brunette man turned to find Cade there, ordering a water of his own. The bartender placed two glasses of the clear liquid in front of them, Finn immediately grabbing one for a drink. "You know, I don't need a bodyguard all the time, Cade. It's just an initiation ceremony."