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Change of Venue

Vittorio held his breath in the drab office, taking mental stock of his compatriots’ reaction.  This was a major step down from what they were all used to.  It couldn’t be helped, though... Vito was starting a new chapter in his life; the others had no choice but to be dragged along with him.  Ondrej, Anezka, Galen, and Donnatella had gone from a nice upscale 3-suite operation in The Gold Coast of Chicago to this... “modest” outfit in West Englewood — next to the Englewood Magic zone.   The walls that cut off a magic zone from the rest of any major metropolis had a tendency to appeal to certain... elements, and were generally little more than unglorified slums.  Chicago was certainly no exception.

Ondrej and Anezka weren’t terribly bothered by the downgrade... after all, they’d spent their formative years in Siberia.  But Donnatella was not used to this at all.  She’d been raised in the house Vito used to own, and with her mother’s family, they’d lived in the
Azabu area in Tokyo.  She was born into wealth and high society, and this was definitely nowhere near familiar territory.  She wondered what her father could be thinking, but didn’t feel right about challenging him.   A lifespan covering the better part of nearly three centuries earns one the right to a few... eccentricities.  Why, he was even older than the birth of the nation, so naturally, he deserved a modicum of respect.

Galen, on the other hand, had no compunction about questioning the motives of the vampire.

          “I know you could easily snuff me out without barley lifting a finger, and I’m aware your wisdom is far beyond my own...” he started off tentatively, then pressed on at a more rapid pace.

          “But why did you give your office and business holdings to your brothers, and why are we here in the ghetto-right-next-to-the-magic-zone?”  He did at least make a failed attempt to conceal the rising tone in his voice as his inquiry neared its finish.

Vittorio narrowed his eyes and slid into that impish smirk his associates knew all too well could just as easily mean sly satisfaction, or a sudden, gruesome fate.

                     “My dear boy,” he began, his voice low enough that anyone who cared to listen would have to lean in to hear, and then, looking up, he continued, raising his baritone to reach the rest of the room.

                     “All of you, listen up.  We are getting out of the illegal activities business we’ve been party to, and we’re branching into a new enterprise.”

Vito leaned back in his chair, his hands open, his eyes lit in a somewhat bemused twinkle at the puzzled looks on the faces surrounding him.

___

In truth, Vito was tired of being a gangster, and longed to do something else... something... bigger.  Let his more youthful brothers play at being underworld bosses.  He remembered with fondness a time when he was younger, when he had to do real work, and struggle to get what he wanted.  He somewhat missed those days, but what he really missed was having a purpose greater than himself.

When the Nations of Gallia, Ndakinna, and The United States were in their initial stages of development, Vito had been a spy for Gallia, his efforts proving to be instrumental in the formation of Ndakinna, and he’d helped the nascent United States break away from the British.  Now, he looked around at the world, and saw things preparing to come apart at the seams again.  He had served in WWI and WWII.  The last thing he wanted was to fight in WWIII, or, worse yet, stand by and watch his daughter be drawn into it.  No, it was time for a change.  It was time for Vito to once again insert himself into the outcome of world events, and become not just a living representation of history, but an influence on making it.  He had vast experience as a spy, and he intended to use it.  It was the most he could do to thwart another world wide conflagration.

Vito had hung up his spurs at the end of WWII, when he’d become disgusted with the three North American nations.  Gallia and Ndakinna had used the war as cover to sow the seeds of rebellion in the Caribbean, which lead to the rise of Atlantis, out of the revolts in the Caribbean of magic users ousting their colonial rulers and forcing the non-magic users of those nations into submission to their combined will.  He was disgusted with the United States, too, as the countrys reaction to this hostile takeover at the edge of their borders was to take preemptive measures to ensure against the same kind of domestic terrorism, by placing their magic wielding citizens into “safe zones.” (Renamed “magic zones” in the sixties, because it sounded less inhospitable, and much more fantastical than it actually was.  The worst part was, their example lead the world in the apparent appeal of establishing a fragile sense of “security for the people by fearmongering, prejudicial propaganda, and bigotry, and unfortunately, most of the European Union soon followed suit.)

These politlely-labeled-internment-zones were surrounded by high walls with military personnel stationed outside to monitor outgoing and incoming traffic... primarily to catalog who was coming out, where they were going, and, most importantly, what they were going to be doing.  The guards in the gate houses were always posted in business service uniforms instead of ACU (combat uniforms), so as to put the “citizens” of magic zones more at ease.  The special IDs the internal inhabitants were required to show at any crossing points also had chips that could stun their bearers.  Of course, most of them weren’t supposed to know that, in theory, but based on the general knowledge that there were plenty of folks who refused to carry their cards, and never left the magic zones — at least, not by the gates, anyway — obviously, it wasn’t a very well-kept secret.  There was no way to stop portals from being created to the outside, and plenty of entry portals existed outside the magic zones, for those who knew how and where to find them.

And then there were the problems of the Middle East and the cold war.  As if there weren’t already enough reasons for him to have turned his back on the civilization he’d helped to create.  By then, Vito had determined instead to resign himself to building his fortune on the various illegal activities of his siblings, and to being content with thereby committing to becoming a “legitimate part of the family,” rather than remaining under the stigma of the stubborn black sheep for trying to “do good.”  And, for a great long roaring era, business was good.  Generation following generation, the US continued its descent into madness, while the family raked in the profits.  But, if that had been enough for Vittorio, he’d have never walked away from it, and his daughter would never have known aught but all her heart could imagine to desire.

The writing had been on the wall for a while now, though, that something else had to be done.  Vito had been trying to ignore it, but could do so no longer.  The situation had become far too grave.  It was time for him to drop this façade of apathy, and once again enter the fray.  Hopefully, he’d make enough of a difference to stave off calamity.  This was the first step.  Close proximity to one of the magic zones would allow him to monitor unrest amongst its citizens.  The next step would be more difficult, but, between his familiarity with undercover service, and thanks to having been an underworld boss, the path had already been paved for him, and the way would be smoother than if he’d have had to venture into completely unchartered territory.  He had set up a pawn shop specializing in magic items.  An underground passageway led from there into an apothecary in the magic zone, which he also funded.  The proprietor of said apothecary was in actuality a spy for Gallia, whom he had helped to set up before he’d quit the game, and now
he was waiting for his partner in counter-intelligence to arrive.

___

Drustan knocked on the secret door to Vito’s office furtively, hoping Vito was not there, that perhaps the summons had been in error.  He could not possibly understand what the old vampire wanted.  Right now was the worst possible time for this to be happening, too, as an artifact of great import was missing, and could affect the future of Gallia and other magic only nations.  The door was opened by a rather large and quite muscular Neanderthal, whose presence made Drustan unable to recall his own name for a moment, and he shuddered as he shook himself to, realizing he was really going to have to deal with Vito after all.

___

           “Drustan isn’t it?” Ondrej asked the old man standing on the other side of the door.

           “Yes, that is me,” the little man managed to squeak out.  “I am sorry, but... you are... Aristarkh, correct?”  Drustan asked, raising his quivering hand in greeting to the Neanderthal.

           “Ha ha!  No,” the brutish man chuckled, the disarming smile belying his apish physique.

           “I am Ondrej.  Aristarkh is my father.  Enter.  Vito has been waiting for you,”  Ondrej demanded gruffly, ushering Drustan into the drab office beneath the pawn shop with a pat on the back that was almost as much scoop-and-toss as escort.


Vito sat behind a large expensive mahogany desk that seemed out of place for a basement office.  Though, to be fair, the two metal workstations cluttered with terminals and electronics were just as out of place, and the Human and the cyborg at each, respectively, made Drustan’s skin crawl.  He harbored a healthy disdain for all things hi-tech, and the cyborg was as high tech as you could get.  She looked human, of course, except for the gleaming chromed left arm covered with jacks and ports.  Drustan uneasily sat down in front of Vito’s desk and tried to avoid making eye contact with the vampire, for fear of being mesmerized.

            “Hello Vittorio.  Whatever can a humble apothecary do for you today?”  Drustan asked, intently studying a Tiffany table lamp, and trying as well as he was able to steady his voice as much as possible, considering the reality of addressing a vampire to whom he owed a sizeable favor.

                     “Drustan, my good man,” the ancient one clucked.  “There’s no need to be so formal.  We go way back, old fellow!  Please, call me Vito,” the vampire cooed, in an attempt to sound reassuring.

                     “I just thought I should check in on you after all this time, seeing as how we’re neighbors now...  You know, see how things have been going for you since last we met,” Vito went on, his hypnotic voice syrupy with a sing-song lilt, his heavy Italian accent slipping into his speech.

Drustan jolted suddenly, as with some force, Ondrej and Anezka abruptly placed two chairs on either side of Drustan’s, and sat down next to him, close enough for their hot breaths to raise the hairs on the back of his neck, which naturally threw Drustan off, as intended, and he made the mistake of looking directly into Vito’s eyes.  He immediately felt his mental defenses starting to slip, and found himself unable to look away from Vito’s intense stare, the vampire’s piercing violet eyes boring into Drustan’s mind.

             “Vito, Please.  There is no need for this,” Drustan begged, weakly.

                     “Aah, but we both know that is a lie, my long time friend,” Vito’s tone was still sweet, but there was no question of its purpose now, nor of his resolve.   “Now, tell me what it is you are trying to hide from me, old chap.  Tell me everything.”

Vito’s smile revealed extending fangs.  This time, Drustan didn’t hesitate.

              “The Guan Li Ren Su was stolen en route to the Gallian Museum of Magic.  It was going to be given in ceremony to the Chinese Ambassador, to help move along the talks for Gallia to use China’s Space station as a launch port for its mission to mars.  That way, they would not have to rely on the US and give up who-knows-what in return.”

                    “Interesting,” the extortionist murmured nearly inaudibly in a low, gravelly tone.

Vito leaned forward on his desk and steepled his lengthy fingers, his eyes pushing further into Drustan’s subconscious, while the smaller man squirmed uncomfortably.  Vittorio held Drustan in his gaze this way for a painfully long pause before sitting back and speaking swiftly.

                     “Tell your contacts I can help them locate this Guan Li Ren Su,” he commanded firmly to his newly reinstated minion, before swiveling his chair back toward the wall.

                     “You are dismissed, Drustan,” he added, with a wave of his jewel-encrusted hand behind him.

Vito leaned back in his chair.  The mage got up from his seat with a dreamy grin on his face and shuffled off towards the secret door back to the apothecary.  Vittorio sat for a moment lost in thought before spinning back around and standing abruptly, with a spring in his step, and a certainty he had not felt in decades.  The vampire calmly relayed his directives, the smile never leaving his face.

                     “Galen, Anezka, find out everything you can about that theft.  Ondrej, go upstairs and bring Thomas to me.  He mentioned something about a rare artifact becoming recently available.  If it turns out it is the Guan Li Ren Su, I want to ensure it does not go anywhere.  Galen, you will be in charge of profoundly dissuading any other potential buyers, and my lovely daughter,” here he turned to beam down on Donatella.  “You will keep an eye on our thieves.  Make sure they go nowhere,” he emphasized, a playful twitch in his twisted, arched eyebrow.

                     “And so it begins,” he thought to himself.


Oh, how he had missed being in thick of things.  This most assuredly beat out splitting time between the stagnant obligations of his social standing, and the suffocating sentence of an off-the-record office, doling out orders to underlings, manipulating the unsuspecting, or poring over books to discern who might be stealing, the monotony broken only occasionally by the incidental “disciplining” of some wayward soul.  He could hardly wait to maneuver himself back into the chess match of international espionage.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
frisbyterian
Nov. 26th, 2016 02:32 am (UTC)
Oh, this is such an intriguing world! I want to know more about the history of a mythos in which the United States exists, along with a handful of other countries that include magic only users---wha???!! Color me in! It seems like there's a very rich backstory here, too, and based on you having a tag relevant to this "verse," I'm thinking immabout to go stalking further into your story logs, now. (If you don't mind! ;)
mamas_minion
Nov. 27th, 2016 01:53 am (UTC)
Thank you, I will be writing more on this world this season and feel free to check out my other stories in this universe I hope you enjoy them as well.
rayaso
Nov. 26th, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Ah, magic zones, gangster vampires, and real estate -- and that's just the opening! I loved this, it was so much fun and so inventive. What a great imaginary setting! Thanks for the links; unfortunately, the Gold Coast one leads to a dreaded 404 error message.
mamas_minion
Nov. 27th, 2016 01:31 am (UTC)
I am glad you enjoyed it. Ugh I hate when links break or go down I will have to see if I can fix that. Ok I fixed the link.

Edited at 2016-11-27 01:51 am (UTC)
messygorgeous
Nov. 26th, 2016 06:28 pm (UTC)
I'm sad they had to leave the Gold Coast too - such a sweet part of town!
A unique take on the topic and great fiction. Is this a world you have visited before or will continue to develop?
mamas_minion
Nov. 27th, 2016 01:30 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading, yes this is a world I write in often and will most likely be writing in all this season.
baxaphobia
Nov. 27th, 2016 01:48 pm (UTC)
I definitely look forward to reading more! Thanks so much!
mamas_minion
Nov. 28th, 2016 01:00 am (UTC)
You're welcome, thank you for reading.
roina_arwen
Nov. 27th, 2016 10:58 pm (UTC)
Boy, there's a lot here to take in...
mamas_minion
Nov. 29th, 2016 04:57 am (UTC)
yep it is tied into some of my season 9 stories. I was unable to get the links for those stories added in.
eternal_ot
Nov. 28th, 2016 07:13 am (UTC)
"And so it begins,” Indeed :D And I am excited to take this journey with Vittorio. I would have been really sorry if I would have ended up missing this great read (I'm still reading tribe 1 and was under the impression that there's only one id that you both are competing under.)
Thanks to karmasoup for point this out :) Great start! Definitely Waiting for more. Cheers!
mamas_minion
Nov. 28th, 2016 05:57 pm (UTC)
thank you, the plan is to mostly write in this universe this time around.
eternal_ot
Nov. 29th, 2016 01:51 pm (UTC)
That's great! Looking forward.
halfshellvenus
Nov. 28th, 2016 11:45 pm (UTC)
International espionage! Who doesn't find that intriguing?

because it sounded less inhospitable, and much more fantastical than it actually was.
I loved this detail of spin control, though it appears that there is at least SOME magic in the zones, if people can create ad hoc portals to get themselves out.

The note about Vito being technically older than the nation itself made me smile, too. What it must be like, to see such a long arc of history.
mamas_minion
Nov. 29th, 2016 12:19 am (UTC)
Thank you I wasn't sure if the Idea of the magic zones would come across okay.
my_name_is_jenn
Nov. 29th, 2016 04:46 am (UTC)
A very creative take on the topic. :)
mamas_minion
Nov. 29th, 2016 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you, I hope you enjoyed it.
penpusher
Nov. 29th, 2016 10:19 pm (UTC)
An extremely well crafted and narrated piece. I look forward to much more.
mamas_minion
Nov. 30th, 2016 12:54 am (UTC)
Thank you, Fleshing out this universe is something I am looking forward to.
dmousey
Nov. 29th, 2016 10:37 pm (UTC)
My goodness this world is well fleshed out! Gangster Vamps and Magic Users- me likey! Thanks for sharing! We'll be getting more yes? Hugs and peace~~~D

Edited at 2016-11-29 10:37 pm (UTC)
mamas_minion
Nov. 29th, 2016 11:32 pm (UTC)
Yes there will be more thank you for reading
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )