Casting Call

[Same exact thing as this but I wanted a copy for the profile.]

She waited, the very portrait of poise, for their judgement. Back straight, soles pressed flat on the floor, hands clasped in her lap. Her eyes passed between the two men facing her. Both older men. Each holding a manila folder with a copy of some carefully fielded "information" about her. One, large and bald, features soft but cold nonetheless. More director than actor, Valentina presumed; although he'd been acquitted of at least one murder under murky circumstances. A past in statistics and risk assessment. Close to, but narrowly avoided engagement with, some of the most significant conflicts in modern history, formerly holding a position at Kamelot. Now a debt buyer, his life was an open book, or so it seemed on the surface. Time had been kind to him. The other, not quite grey but not much younger than his comrade, a full head of dark brown hair and a chevron moustache. Hardened features. Calloused hands, knuckles crud-black against his light skin. He'd grown up in the life. Born in a slum, most likely. Had to break a few bones, rob a few banks, lose a few comrades, dump a few bodies here and there. Ex-KGB, if Franklin was to be believed (and he was). But his public record was squeaky clean.

They sat less than a meter from her and often locked eyes with her own, but discussed her as though she were not a living being in the same room. Like a piece of art. Or cattle.

"She is young."

"Yes, and look at her face. A little pale, unnaturally so."

They turned to her. "Are you sick?" Moustache asked.

She shook her head. "No sir."

The invisible door closed on her face again. "All in all, appearances are fair. She's pretty. A fine body. Nice curves, and fit, so it would seem."

"Yes, I could see use for that"

"—but pretty faces and nice bodies are a dime a dozen," they finished in unison. Baldy continued, "What sets her apart from anyonefrom everyoneelse?" His words seemed to subtly address her directly. Valentina opened her mouth to resp—

"One thing I'm curious about," Moustache cut her off. The invisible door opened. "If I do say so myself, we have one of the best information networks in the entire world...Yet we could not find a single iota of data on you, Ms...Crimson. Not the codename, no real names, assumed identities, none of our facial recognition databases...Not. One. Thing. How did you managed to pull that off?"

And suddenly the tide shifted. They were both vexed by this, clearly, but for Moustache there was something more. Was that a hint of admiration in his voice? Bingo. Baldy ceased to exist. Only Rosso the Crimson and the man with the moustache. She fixed her emerald eyes on him, smiled, and said:

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

Taken aback, Moustache pursed his lips, leaned back and smiled. Baldy looked like he'd just been popped in the mouth. "Yes, we would," they said again in unison (though registering completely different levels of affect).

"But," said the former agent, "I find this admirable. Handy. And I like you. So we'll give you a shot." He raised his hand to stifle the response. "You are not one of us yet. I will...put out feelers with my guys, see if there is anyone willing to take you on. Should any one accept, you will shadow them, and they will shadow you. Like a probationary 'training' period. You will be tested. Repeatedly. If you succeed, congratulations!

"But be aware. He who joins this game leaves either master, or a dead man." he added grimly, with a half-shrug.

Valentina understood the implication. By then it was too late to back out anyway. She'd shown that she knew the men, their business, and in that she had them at a disadvantage. The gambit worked. Foot in the door. But in the absence of other advantage, all those who live yet have something to lose.

"Thank you sir." With a slight bow of her head, the Scarlet Shadowrunner stood and took her leave.