For @theladyisugly’s commissioned prompt: “VanderLinden & Aelfgar’s child has some mission in Paris” from the January Giraffe Call.
Belfreja is an Addergoole Year Nine student; this is set sometime around the end of year 15 – before the apocalypse but after she has been out of school for a bit.
Addergoole has a landing page here
Belfreja studied the dossier one last time, made sure she had memorized all pertinent details, ran her fingers over the silk of the underwear, and then dropped it all in the garbage bin and muttered a quick Abatu Unutu under her breath, destroying everything in the bin.
She remembered Yuriko from their time together at school. The girl had been a Cohort behind her, and spent most of her time with different people, but eventually everyone talked to Belfreja. She’d spent four years making certain that was true, and then three more years after graduation reinforcing it.
They called her, those that called her by such Names, The Connection, and for three years, she had been making connections, drawing people in, working with people for her own purposes, and for those of the Organization. A storm was coming, they all knew, and they needed to be prepared. Belfreja prepared by meeting people, and by convincing them.
She left the airport, shedding her coat in one garbage can and, a mile later, letting the red in her hair slowly change to its natural golden. Even Regine couldn’t watch entire cities, after all, and she wanted Yuriko to recognize her. With her horns Masked, the hair would have to do it. The hair and… she unbuttoned one button and took a deep breath, shifting that part of her Mask as well, to show her other assets. Yuriko might be straight. Addergoole did, on occasion, graduate one or two. But she’d remember Belfreja for her assets. Everyone always did.
There were others that could find people better than Bel could. There were others that could hide from surveillance better than she could. But when you got down to the nit and grit of it, no-one could connect people like she could.
She called on an old friend at a cafe, chatted about the weather and the incoming storm, mentioned a friend out in the mountains of Spain who was making a “retreat” deep into the side of the mountains, well away from prying eyes. In the conversation, she dropped Yuriko’s description – her Masked description – and was rewarded with a suggestion she talk to someone at a cafe down the road.
At the cafe down the road, she ate croissants and sipped tea with a man she’d first met her first year out of Addergoole. They talked about politics, French, American, British, worldwide, and, in twists and turns around that conversation, about the politics of the Ellehemaei. They murmured suggestions for hiding-holes, and whispered even more quietly of the problems with the Council, and the problems with those who would defy the Council.
They didn’t speak of rebellion. They both enjoyed living.
In the twists of that conversation, she told him she was looking for Yuriko, and he told her he thought the girl had been working at the cafe across the street. She kissed him for old time’s sake, and moved on.
The cafe across the street had no friends of hers, so she had to make a new one. The waitress behind the counter had the right look to her, so Belfreja spent an entertaining hour chatting her up, and was sure to tip generously and ostentatiously. When the waitress was thanking her, she mentioned the pretty Asian friend from school she was looking for…
…oh, so sad, Yuriko had quit. She’d gotten a better job at a cafe across town.
Sh stopped on the way to chat up a street vendor, bought a pair of sunglasses from him and flirted for a little while, talking about the way life was these days, talking about the craziness of the world.
She leaned forward as she talked, letting him ogle the way her assets fell just a bit out of her blouse, how the white lace of her bra showed under her silk blouse. She liked to flirt, of course; she was, in some ways, always going to be her mother’s daughter.
(And, unlike her half-siblings, also one of her mother’s greatest nightmares – but that was a tale to which this was only the prelude).
And people, many people, liked to flirt back with her. The sunglass-vendor told her three personal secrets and seventeen pieces of gossip by the time she had to make up an appointment to move on, and had given her the name of an awesome cheese-monger and a phenomenal hairdresser.
As she left, he had, as happened to her more often than was believable, slipped her a piece of paper telling of a meeting happening in a secret location, and the person she could go to to find that meeting. Belfreja attracted revolutionaries the way her siblings attracted lovers.
She pocketed the paper; if her business with Yuriko went quickly, she’d check it out. Not only did she attract certain people, she really enjoyed cultivating them. She enjoyed, in a manner, cultivating everyone. It was part of her charm.
But she had to reach Yuriko before the girl knew she was coming, which meant getting across town sometime before the world ended, a shorter time limit now that it might have once been. So she cut her chit-chat with the next vendor to a mere half an hour, and hurried to the cafe where, she was pretty sure, her quarry would be.
She was rewarded for her diligence at Le Chat D’Argent et Noir, where, at a back table, a pretty girl with Japanese features and mocha skin was flirting with a customer. Belfreja picked a seat with care. She wanted it to take a while for Yuriko – she was pretty sure it was her, at this point; the green eyes were a dead giveaway – to notice her, but she wanted to be able to see if the girl left the restaurant, too.
Once seated, she sipped on her third coffee of the day, chatted up the handsome waiter, and, in between sips, muttered a Working to tell her more about her target.
It was Yuriko, that was certain; most people wore their self-identity like a name tag on their psyche, and she was no different. Blue-green with purple notes, a dream of the sky and feet barely planted on the earth, a flighty thing, a pretty thing, with a smile that could brighten the world.
That family line got the prettiest Changes, but it was Yuriko’s weather ability, and her skill at manipulating chaos, that had sent Bel to recruit her. That, and the fact that she was easily bullied, but only if you knew the right words.
Bel liked people whose keys she could twist, but only if nobody else could.
Once she’d gauged Yurkio’s identity and her mood, she shifted so that the girl could see her, making sure her Mask looked identical to her last year at Addergoole, making sure she looked like she wasn’t looking at her quarry, posed herself, and waited.
She was rewarded in short time by a quiet gasp and the sound of footsteps – towards her, good. They hadn’t been friends, but they hadn’t been enemies, either.
“Bel,” Yurkio said, from behind her, maybe hoping to surprise her. Bel jumped a little, just for fun, and turned, smiling.
“Oh, Yuri! I was hoping to find you here!”
“You were?” Yurkio sat down, looking unhappy. “I’ve got years till Tethys and Sören have to go to school.”
“You do,” she agreed. “I’m not here from Addergoole. I don’t work for them.”
“You don’t? I thought… your parents…”
Bel smiled ruefully. “Lots of people think that, sadly, but no. I’m not all that much like my parents. Either of them.”
“Blonde and beautiful.”
“But not, however, superficial. Unlike my maternal parent.” And unlike, she didn’t say, that judgement of me.
She didn’t need to say it; she was good like that. Yuriko nodded reluctantly. “Sorry. So, you were looking for me?”
“I was,” she agreed. “You have some very nice skills that are wasted working here, Yuri.”
“But I like wasting them working here,” the other girl pointed out sharply. “It’s pretty, it’s peaceful, and nobody bothers my kids.”
“It is all that,” she agreed. “But it’s not going to last.”
“You can’t know that!” The places where hooks would go were beginning to get formed. Bel started sharpening those hooks.
“I don’t,” she agreed, “but people I know do. It’s not a hard prognostication, and it’s being seen pretty regularly now.”
There, there was the first barb. Yuriko knew about seers. She’d been cy’Peletier, after all.
“I,” she frowned. “Not just in the States?”
“Not even first in the States. But we’re bunkering down, anyway, up north where things seem to be likely to stay stable.”
Stable was a good one; she could see it hit home. “And my kids?”
“Good teachers, other kids to play with – normal kids.” Normal was code for human, and human could be a very good thing… yes. Yes, she was almost hooked.
“And you could really use my skills? I could consider it…” she dithered.
Bel slipped in the final hook. “Jasper’s already there.”
Yuriko’s eyes widened. She’d always been fond of her second child’s father. Was she fond enough? “I’m in.”
Bel smiled. “Wonderful.” She loved her job.
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