Serra almost walked past him, she was so distracted.
When she was on duty, she could ignore the worries of day to day life. She could section her thoughts away, focus only on the mission, whether that was containing a new SCP, where she’d be staring down the scope at a ‘bender, or acting as back up on a diplomatic case, which usually involved staring down the scope at a GOC agent. When you’re a sniper, most of your work involves staring down a scope, and hoping you don’t have to pull the trigger. Unless you’re one of those that does hope you can pull the trigger, but those types didn’t tend to last long in the Foundation.
But when she was off duty, that was a different story. Her brain constantly replayed recent events, trying to figure them out inside her own head. As things currently stood, it was such a series of ups and downs.
She wasn’t actually an orphan: Good!
Her father was a mentally incompetent man child, and her mother was officially MIA: Bad.
She had a family that wanted to be involved in her life: Good!
It was the Bright family, who had their hands in every aspect of Foundation culture and every other GOI from the looks of it: Bad.
She had received a promotion, directly from O5-6, who was apparently her uncle: Good!
The promotion was to a job that officially didn’t exist, as the Foundations’ hitman, well, hitwoman, with the unofficial title of Hand Sinister: Cool, but, you know, technically bad.
The job came with a pair of pearl handled six shooters, that had been forged from the first reality bender the Foundation had ever dealt with, and made her all but immune to other skips reality bending abilities: Awesome, but also super creepy.
An aunt she had never met had given her holsters for the guns via a video will from beyond the grave, and the holsters felt so right on her hips that she sometimes forgot to take them off to shower: Okay, at this point the scale of good to bad just reads TILT.
And it was on these matters that she was thinking when she almost walked past the blind man with the tin cup. Her mind was always working, however, and it noticed the little details. An actual tin cup was weird, usually the beggars had plastic cups, or a discarded coffee cup. The beggars clothing looks a little too kempt to be homeless. Holy fuck what the hell breed is that dog, if it can actually be called a dog?
So she stopped, rewound her recent memories, and turned to look at the dark skinned blind man. It didn’t surprise her to find that he was watching her. “We’ve met, haven’t we?” she said to him.
“We have, Agent Argent,” David said, sunglasses turned towards her face, as if watching her. “It was a family event.”
“No, I know you’re one of the… other side of the family,” she said. Her hand fluttered in front of her face, waving that away. She flushed, embarrassed at making hand signs for a blind man. “No, I was referring to before that. It took me a while to place it, but I saw you once, in my room, back when I was just a cadet in training.”
The blind man hurumphed to himself. “You saw me when I saw you. I suppose that’s to be expected, when dealing with our tribe.” He shook himself, and offered her his hand. “Care to help me up? I’d like to chat with you, if you don’t mind.”
She reached out without even thinking. “Of course. I’d love to have a chat with my cousin who is also a leading member of a rival organization.” Even as she said it, she realized the words were true. If anyone could understand what she was going though, it was the blind man. “There’s, ah, a Starbucks around the corner. Would you like some coffee?” She eyed his beastly companion. “I’m not sure they allow pets.”
“It’s okay.” David reached into a pocket, pulling out a brightly colored vest. He held it out, as the animal shrugged into it. “She’s working.”
The two walked in silence to the coffee shop, neither of them looking at the other. Once inside, they ordered, a vente pumpkin spice latte for David, and a large black coffee for Serra. They took a booth in the back, where they were unlikely to be overheard. David’s mountain of a service animal laid down in front of the booth, providing an effective barrier from anyone who might want to stumble close.
They both sat there for a moment, hands wrapped around too hot to drink beverages, and looked at each other. Well. Serra Looked at David. David faced towards Serra. It was the equivalent.
“So welcome to the family,” David said, speaking first.
“Thanks,” was all she could respond. “It’s, well, it’s a real trip.”
“I know Jack and my father have been talking to you, filling you in on all the peculiarities of their personal histories. I figured you might want to hear something from the other side.” He smiled, his hands clasped before him. “Or possibly I’m sounding you out for weaknesses, to be exploited by my associates when the time comes.”
“…” Serra’s hands crept towards her pistols, checked only when the mound of fur beside the table began to growl. She glanced at it, then at the smiling face of her cousin, and, somehow, found herself relaxing. “The thought had crossed my mind. But that’s not what this is about, is it? This is about family.”
“Anything for the family.” His face contorts, as if he had smelled something horrible. “Some of the family takes that to the extremes. And, we all have our own view of what is in the best interests of family.“ His hand crept towards his sunglasses. With obvious restraint, he placed his hand back on his coffee, and took a sip. “So. “ A lazy smile spread across his face. “I figure the best way to do this is just to let you ask questions. I’m sure you’re full of them.”
“I am, actually.” Serra said as she smiled back. It was hard to dislike this friendly face across from her. True, it could all be an act. It wasn’t. She’d know, if it was. “But, shouldn’t you already know what I want to ask?”
His face contorted in a grimace, and that was before he sipped the coffee. “Ah, the typical stereotype of the precognitive. Always ready to answer your question before you ask them.” He crossed his arms over his chest and intoned in deep, oracular tones. “The answer to your next five questions are yes, no, bees, dong, and only when covered in ketchup.” His mask of seriousness slipped into a chuckle, and Serra could not help but giggle along with him. “It doesn’t really work like that.”
“So, how does it work?” Serra asked, to break up the monotony of a too long monologue.
“Well, it’s actually quite easy to see the specifics of an upcoming event, or even just a chat. The problem is finding the RIGHT specifics. The future is constantly branching. You’d drive yourself insane, trying to pin down exactly what words a person is going to use. Sometimes, it’s easy. When you say hello to someone, they will most likely say hello back. When you ask them their favorite color, that can get a bit more complicated, a simple distraction can do wonders to change that. And, if you ask them their theories on life, well, good luck!” He threw up his hands, then stopped them on the way back down to rub his temples. “It’s enough to drive most people mad. So, I just, you know, keep a general eye on the future. Task different parts of my brain with looking for different things. Like, I’ve always got my spider sense on, looking for anything dangerous that might happen to, or near me. Like, there’s a good chance the barista is about to burn herself on that coffee.” He paused, head cocked to one side, and was rewarded with an exclamation of pain from behind him. Serra winced in sympathy. “On the other hand, there is also a very minor chance that a rogue GOC agent is going to burst through the door and hose the place down with bullets.” He sipped his coffee again as Serra gaze turned towards the door. The minutes ticked by in silence, until David said, “Well, I guess that one isn’t happening.”
”Okay, you say you deal in generalities, but Claire, uhm, Aunt Claire I guess, her will was VERY specific.” Her hands rested on her guns, not out of threat, but for comfort. Guns were safe. She had learned that from a young age as a Foundling. Guns stopped the bad things, as long as you treated them right.
“Because, one, Aunt Claire was a LOT more powerful than me,” he said as he held up a finger, then flicked up a second to join it. “And two, she was focused HARD on that moment. Like, she used up a shit ton of power to cut through the various possibilities to find the true future. It was her masterpiece, really, that one great prophecy that will outlive her.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Damned if I know why she wasted it on us.”
“All right. Okay,” Serra said, organizing her thoughts, “but, then, if you don’t do the great prophecy thing, what is it you do do.” She pulled a face at herself. “Sorry, my phrasing there was shit.”
“I like movies. Science fiction, for the most part. Explosions are easier to understand without seeing them, nuanced emotions you get in drama and comedies, less so. Books on tape are a godsend, let me tell you. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying to find a good use for curry in everything. I do a curried pot roast you would not believe. I have a couple of boyfriends, but nothing serious. Most guys seems impressed I can actually find their cock, like, Jesus dude, I’m blind, not dumb, it’s going to be in the same place on EVERY guy, unless you’re alien, and even then, I’ve blown enough of those to get the idea of where it might be.” He sipped his coffee nice and slow, as his cousin splutters through hers, trying to laugh and swallow at the same time. “But I feel like you meant what do I do for my side. The answer to that is rather simple. I’m just like Uncle Jack. I’m a recruiter.”
“Jack isn’t-“ She starts to say, but cuts herself off. She remembers when he came to her, to tell her about, well, everything. She recalls chatting with Alice, and Yoric, both of whom mentioned that Jack was the one who brought them in. “He is, isn’t he?” she said, quietly, almost to herself.
“I’m pretty sure it’s one of the reasons he keeps his spot as a personnel director, instead of taking a better, higher paying job. From there, he can direct your recruiting tactics, make sure the right agent is in the right place to pick up a useful, normal family member,” David said. He gestured at her with his cup, almost like a salute. “The ones who fit in, anyways.”
“And the ones who don’t fit in?” She said, encouraging him to continue.
“Well, that’s for me. I take care of all the lost, misplaced souls that have a drop of Bright seed in them somewhere. The half human hybrids, the ‘talented’ byblows of born on the wrong side of the sheets, the genetic experiments trying desperately to escape their creatrix, the bear.” He shrugs. “Anyone of the family who doesn’t have a place to be, I find them one.”
“With the Serpents Hand.”
“With anyone that makes them feel like a real person, and not locked away as a puzzle to be taken apart, dissected, and used!” His hand slammed against the table to punctuate the point. Serra almost drew her gun.
“All right, all right, I understand you-“ She held up a hand, eyes closed, replaying the conversation. “The bear?”
“You’d have Jack to blame for that one,” he said with a smirk. “Apparently there was some kind of testing to see if his willpower was enough to over-ride certain natural drives, and the end result was he knocked up a bear.”
“Is…” She bit her lip, worried at it. “Is it a supernatural bear?”
“Nope. And he, not it.”
“Extra smart then?”
“Nope. Just a bear. But still family.” He shrugged.
“So, you put this bear, who is a family member because there is apparently nothing our family will not stick its dick into, where exactly?” Words she never thought she’d say.
“Oh, he’s in a zoo.”
There was a moment of silence between them. David simple sipped at his coffee. Serra tapped her fingers on the table, wishing that he could see the look that she gave him.
“Not locked away, huh?” She finally said.
“He’s actually very happy there. We offered to let him out in the wild, but our animal speaker said he was much happier in a zoo, being able to watch people go by, and sleep with a bevy of sexy bear-ettes. I do drop in on him, every couple of months, with an Doolittle, to see how he’s doing,” David said.
"Common slang for anyone who talks to animals, and can understand what they say back."
“All right, fine.” She sat back. “Okay, then, tell me this. Aside from that, who’s the weirdest member of the family you know?”
“I have an uncle who’s-“
“Green, right?” She interrupted. “You know, I’ve heard that from the uncles. ‘I have a brother who’s green.’ I always thought it was some kind of obscure family in joke or something. I mean, what’s so odd about green skin?”
“If he just had green skin, it wouldn’t be such a big issue. He’s actually the color green.” He tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially. “Legend has it, old grandpa Adam was involved in some kind of space civil war, between entities that were concepts of colors, or some shit. Blue vs Yellow. Well, Adam is just as much a Bright as any of them, and so he came back from this excursion with a weird new STD, and a child that only exists as a shade of green. It works for me, mostly. It seems to be happy.” David paused. “At this point, if you don’t leave within the next ten minutes, someone will stumble upon us who we don’t want to. Now that you know me, we can always meet again, but I figure you’ll want some time to corroborate my story, make sure I’m telling you the truth, yeh? So come on, give me one more question, and then we can go our separate ways.”
She pondered a moment. She could draw this out, see who caught them. But it might not be her side. So, with only one question left, she went for one that had been bothering her. “I had an odd experience last week. Kinda like this. A guy came up to me in the middle of shopping, and started gushing about how glad he was to meet another member of the family. He was super shady, could barely get a word in edge wise, called himself Joshua-“
“Bright.” David snarled. "Really handsome guy? Talks a mile a minute, without ever saying anything? Always dropping little hints about other family members, or projects he's working on?" Serra nods silently. “Oh, I fucking hate that guy. Most of the family refers to him as Darth Maul Bright. ”
“Wait. Darth Maul?”
“Oh, because of how he looks and acts cool, but is completely useless. He’s… he’s a poser. A Bright wannabe. Somehow he stumbled onto evidence of the family, and immediately convinced himself he was one of us. He shows up at the weirdest times, throws everything into confusion, and then fucks off, scott free. He’s got the damndest luck, as evidenced by the way none of us have managed to kill him yet. If you get a chance, please shoot him.” He checked his watch. “And with that, you need to be going.”
She found herself on her feet, empty cup heading for the trash without even thinking about it. He followed her, far enough back to not be a threat. “It was nice talking to you.” She said over her shoulder.
“It was nice to be talked to, and not yelled at.” He replied.
She paused as she reached for the door handle. “Your… pet.”
He smiled, head cocked to the side. This question, he’d been expecting. “Yes?”
“Is that really a seeing-eye-"
"Chupacabra/poodle crossbreed? Yes, her name is Misters Snuggles."
"Her name is Mister-"
"Do you want to argue with her about it?"