Take My Hand And I Will Lead You

            Setsuko sighed as the man standing across the room shifted uncomfortably. How had he introduced himself again? Tarquin of the Carthulien Fields? If nothing else, adding his hometown to his name showed a decent upbringing. Those of the North shunned family names as they believed all Winterborn to be of the same spiritual family and so simply referred to a child as ‘child of’ followed by the parents name until the child reached maturity and chose a name they felt comfortable with. Those taught in polite society tended to add the hometown to the end of their name in order to help differentiate between themselves and any others who happened to have chosen the same name.
What happened if two people in the same settlement  chose the same name was a bit of a mystery though. Settlement s in the North were a lot smaller than those in the mainland so the likelihood of two people choosing the same name were fairly low. As it stood, there hadn’t been any reported cases of this happening. Or at the very least, no reports of it causing enough trouble to be newsworthy.
“I have orders to…”, Tarquin began.
“Yes, yes, yes”, Setsuko interrupted. “You have orders to question me on my Empathic techniques and any alternate applications I may have for them, correct?”
Tarquin nodded.
“My dear boy, do you know how many IBG representatives have come here asking me that very same question?”
“Well, I mean, they said they’d tried before but they didn’t really give me any details or anything. “ Tarquin dropped his gaze to his feet. “They thought I may have a bit more luck. You know, ‘cause we’re both Northlanders and all. Plus I’m not really IBG, just a kinda hired hand.”
Setsuko allowed himself a weary smile. “So you said.”
In truth, it didn’t really matter which part of The Winterlands a person was from or whether they were official IBG affiliates or not. What bothered Setsuko was the questioning itself, especially when it was for no reason other than to try to find a way to use him. At this point, it was all getting a bit tiresome. Nope, there was nothing else for it. “Very well Tarquin of the Carthulien Fields, I shall tell you the same thing I tell every person the IBG sends here.”
“Channelling, as we tell the young ones, is the art of drawing out and harnessing innate energies.” As he began, Setsuko started tapping on his chair with his right hand. It was slow and deliberate, serving no other purpose than to draw his guest’s attention. “Most Channellers practice the sub-class of Extrarius. In turn, the majority of these use hand drawn symbols on paper. I’m sure you’ve seen it done many a time, perhaps to create an entertaining illusion or trap a stray Carru. I, however, prefer to work with something a little less obvious.”
Setsuko slowly rose from his chair and began to cross the room as he spoke. “Have you noticed that since you began watching my right hand, I have made several changes to the pattern of its movement? Right now, I am channelling language. Each movement pushes your emotions in a certain direction and my Empathic abilities allow me to confirm that they are indeed heading the way I want them to.”
A familiar serenity had befallen Tarquin’s face. The only real difference between this and one of Setsuko’s regular performances was that he was working entirely with subtle body language. When in front of an audience, he preferred to use a combination of larger movements and rudimentary sounds.
“I am the one who calms rage, builds upon adoration and lifts the low to state of ecstasy. I am The Great Setsuko of d’Mascos, builder of people and that, my dear Tarquin, is the one and only use I have for my abilities. And as I allow my stance to flow thusly, I trust that you are now entirely satisfied with what I have told you.”
For some reason, Tarquin couldn’t stop smiling. “Yes. Yes, thank you Setsuko. That was a…an intriguing…display.”
“That’s quite alright,” he replied, guiding Tarquin out the door. “Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Setsuko slumped back into his chair and brushed the silver hair from his face. Perhaps he’d been a little more flamboyant than necessary, but  we all take our pleasures somewhere. But oh, how he hated liars.
Tarquin couldn’t recall the last time he felt this content. He did think it was a shame he’d had to leave d’Mascos to make his report though. Unfortunately, that was just one of those things when it came to Dark Zones: electronics just wouldn’t work there.
Still, there was a telephone installed just outside the city, so it wasn’t like he had to go far. Maybe once he was done, he’d go back in and grab a bite to eat before heading back to HQ. In fact, there was a nice little place just off the city centre that had tempted him on his through.
Tarquin smiled to himself as he lifted the receiver.
Click. 7246269-3274. Ring-ring. Ring-ring. Click.
“IBG Report Services.”
“Hey, it’s Tarquin. ID code T27 dash 43C.”
“Thank you, please hold…Hello Mr Tarquin. Please speak the following phrase out loud. Go forth with eyes unclouded.”
“Sure thing. Go forth with eyes unclouded.”
Tarquin felt a sudden sharp pain in his left leg. It took a moment for him to remember what he had strapped under his trousers.
 “Mr Tarquin, has the stabiliser activated.”
“Er, yeah. Yeah, it just erm…”
“Cleared your head?”
“Sort of, I guess.”
“Good. The device only works once, please remove it and hand it to gate security at your earliest convenience. Do you still wish to make a report?”
Tarquin scratched himself. “Wait, once? I thought I was getting a multi-shot?”
“Yes Mr Tarquin, your case file says a multi-shot stabiliser was ordered for you but all available units were in use so a single shot model was provided instead. Do you still wish to make a report?”
“No. No, it’s fine. I’m gonna need a service request though. Can you send two Security Squad members, preferably rookies. They can’t have visited d’Mascos or had any prior known contact with Setsuko. Tell them to come plain clothes too.”
“Please hold…”
Tarquin thought back to his visit with Setsuko. It was no wonder the higher ups were interested in him. If he turned out to be the sort of person that Tarquin thought he was, he may actually be quite useful.
“…Mr Tarquin, your request has been authorised. ETA for arrival is 35 minutes. Will there be anything else?”
“Nah, that’s it for now, thanks.”
“That’s no problem Mr Tarquin. You have a nice day.”
“Yeah, and you.”
Setsuko was less than impressed. He wouldn’t ordinarily object to the advances of two strapping, young men, but threats of violence just weren’t his idea of a fun filled evening. A quick reading had revealed a certain lack of real malice in them too. In fact, they were actually quite nervous. Not only that, but that Tarquin fellow was apparently lurking somewhere nearby.
That meant that there were two possibilities. The most likely was that Setsuko had been correct earlier and Tarquin had been lying about not being IBG. That would mean that these two were also IBG and this whole performance was designed to see if he would reveal something new about his abilities. The second possibility was that these two really were trying to mug him for one reason or another. In which case, there was a fair chance that Tarquin had been telling the truth and was sticking around now because he’d realised what had happened earlier and was a little pissed off.
At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. Setsuko already knew that he’d need to cover both possibilities, just to be on the safe side. To that end, he had already started repositioning himself. The key was to ensure that one potential mugger blocked the view of the other, thusly buying himself some time to action his plan.
The moment the pieces fell into place, Setsuko flew forward and fired off a quick right hook at the closest of his two opponents. His left hand then immediately came up and began to sway in front of him. He was, by his own admission, not a fighter. The intent of the punch had not been to cause damage, but to create a spark of anger in his would-be adversary. His left hand had immediately caught the anger and begun escalating it.
Concentration etched upon his face, Setsuko’s voice took on a rasping tone.
“Hass…frss-kah. Ma-huk’hut. Nn.” His words acted a shield, redirecting the quickly rising anger onto a new target. The second mugger was unconscious before he had any chance to register that it was his own partner that had hit him.
                Tarquin smiled as he watched Setsuko reposition himself so that the remaining Security member had a clear view of him. This was exactly what he hoped for: Setsuko had revealed that he had a far greater grasp on manipulating people’s emotions than he let on. Even now, he was working on his one remaining foe, flowing from stance to stance as his arms weaved complicated patterns around him.
                There was no doubt about it. Setsuko should be upgraded to Class A.
It was strange though. The more Tarquin thought about it, the less he saw a point in doing it. Upgrading Setsuko would put him in the same class as that Empathic Animae called Sparx, which would in turn mean increased observation and what would that achieve? He’d likely continue to refuse to talk to the IBG and once he caught on that he was being watched, he’d certainly be more careful about what he did in public.
No. All that would do is antagonise him. Not to mention the cost in resources for the IBG. And all for what would likely be very little gain.
“Screw it.” Tarquin seemed unaware that he’d spoken out loud. He’d made his mind up though. He was going to report that he didn’t find anything. As for the Security Squad members, he was sure they’d back him up, even if he had to pay them off first.
Tarquin pulled himself up to his feet and stretched. He was beginning to wonder if that nice little place just off the city centre was still open.