Conflict Resolution

Part Four: Fanning the Flames

by Scalar7th

Tags: #another_day_at_the_office #any/all #multiple_partners #romance #superhero #urban_fantasy #bondage #comic_book #D/s #enchanting_voice #exhibitionism #scifi #socialism #villainy

Sterling Grey has a slow and lazy day ahead of him, and the company of two young women to occupy him. But is something sinister brewing in the shadows?

Port City, USA

A large apartment near the docks

A significantly-sized bedroom within

Three naked people occupy the king-sized bed. In the middle, a man, half-awake, dozing with his arms around the other two and a satisfied smile on his face. On his left, a muscular, nigh-amazonian blonde lies fast asleep, curled up tightly against him. On his right, also awake, a lovely round-faced woman presses herself to his side, her hand lightly running over his erect penis.

"I never did get a ride last night," Chelsea murmurs in Sterling's ear.

He grins, not opening his eyes. "We can remedy that this morning, if you want." He speaks quietly, trying not to wake Sharon.

"I do want," she responds. "Sharon got your best last night. Not that that's her fault, or yours."

"Or yours," Sterling says. "I think we were all pretty tired."

She adjusts her touch, sliding her whole hand over his member. "You and Sharon have work today?"

He sighs at her slow, tender ministrations. "I can go in whenever I like. I'm not needed at the office today specifically, but I do have work to do. Obviously I can't speak for Sharon."

She kisses his shoulder twice. "Should we wake her up? If she has to be at work, I don't want her to be late."

"Oh, I'm sure if there's a problem, I can smooth it over." His hand slides over her bottom, and she presses into it.

Chelsea giggles, still massaging his cock. "That's your job, isn't it."

"Conflict management." He nods. "Unfortunately, I have to get up. Morning business." He gently disentagles his arms from the two women.

"Too bad," Chelsea murmurs. "But I'll still be here when you're done." She hesitates a moment, then almost reluctantly lets go of him.

He leans over and kisses her cheek, summoning up a touch of his power. "You could always give Sharon a nice wake-up, if you want."

"Mmm." Her focus shifts as Sterling sits up. "I could, you know. She was so kind to me last night..."

He chuckles to himself and slides down to the edge of the bed, stretching out sore muscles. Between the dancing and then the... dancing, he had worn himself out more than usual. It was a good ache, though. He gets to his feet as Chelsea starts to shuffle towards Sharon, and hears a light murmuring behind him as he leaves the room to take care of his insistent bladder. He considers what to do with the women in his bed, what he might say to them, what the consequences might be, as he washes his hands. It will depend on them, ultimately; if either of them are upset, then he might need to use his ability to resolve conflicts.

Sterling dries off and walks back to the bedroom to see that he had no cause for worry. Chelsea and Sharon are wrapped in each others' arms, gently holding one another and speaking in low tones. Sharon sees him and gives him a conspiratorial look

"Nice to see you awake," he says, walking to the bedside.

"Mmm, nice way to wake up," Sharon replies, giving Chelsea a little peck on the lips. "But..."

There's a small silence that hangs in the air a moment. Sterling waits expectantly. Chelsea, too, watches while Sharon thinks.

"I just want to be clear," Sharon says. "Especially since we're both in the docks."

Sterling nods, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"This is... okay, maybe not a one-time thing for me, but it's not going to be a regular thing, right?"

Chelsea gives her a squeeze. "I get it." She kisses her friend's cheek, then looks up at Sterling. "Either of you have a problem if it's a more regular thing for me?" she says with a little grin.

Sharon returns the hug. "Not with me, sweetie, but you know if Sterling hurts you, Tanya and I will take him apart piece by piece right?'

Sterling laughs. "I've already got that talk from Tanya." He lounges back on the pillows. "When do you work today, Sharon?"

"I have the late shift, today. Two 'til ten."


She shakes her head. "Day off. That's why we could party last night."

"Then," he says, and he feels his voice getting a little deeper, a little smoother, "why don't we have a proper morning wakeup, then I'll take you both for lunch. There's a new cafe opening by the docks, Sharon and I can just go from there to work."

"That sounds like a great idea," Chelsea says a bit dreamily.

"Mhmm," Sharon agrees.

"The two of you already seem to be having a good time. Why not just keep going?"

Both women look in each other's eyes for a moment, then Sharon kisses Chelsea, not the gentle, supportive peck that she had received a moment before, but deep and sensual. Chelsea responded almost immediately, pulling tighter, her hands slipping down to squeeze Sharon's ass.

Sterling watches as the two nude women make out in his bed, smiling. Either age or experience has modulated his ability. In the early days, they would have had two near-mindless puppets. He'd had to hide then, use his voice sparingly, as his victims were very obviously controlled, or at least acting strangely; now, he can whisper to the mind, instead of shouting it into submission, and no one else could tell.

Often no one else could tell, he corrects his thought. Monica noticed changes in his conquests at the club. He takes a small note of that.

The thought alone of his influence was enough to give him a thrill. Combined with the image of Sharon and Chelsea adoringly kissing and touching one another, it's very rapidly giving him more than momentary excitement.

"Chelsea didn't have a turn last night," he says. "We were all so tired..."

Shining eyes turn to meet his. "Yeah, after you ate me out," Chelsea finishes, laughing.

Sterling nodded. It had taken the smallest application of his strength, to send the two tired women to sleep; much as he wanted to continue, he knew his own exhaustion was creeping up on him and had figured that a recharging sleep would mean more fun in the morning. "It's been a while for me."

"You don't seem rusty," Sharon retorts with a grin, looking at his stiffening member.

"It's a little like riding a bicycle," he says.

Chelsea disentangles herself and sits up beside him on the edge of the bed. "You remember every bruise?" she jokes, putting an arm around his shoulders.

"Something like that," he says, turning to kiss her.

The two of them slip back onto the bed, still sitting but more securely, as they make out. Sharon moves up to the edge of the bed with them and twines her hands with Chelsea's, pressing her body against Sterling's, kissing his neck, her strong body warm and soft and inviting. Sterling leans into her some, and Sharon and Chelsea rotate around him so that Sharon holds him from behind as she'd held Chelsea the night before, and Chelsea faces him from in front.

With Sharon wrapped around him from behind and Chelsea in front of him, face-to-face, Sterling pauses a moment to wonder why he hasn't done this more often.

Chelsea plunges towards him, kissing him almost forcibly, their tongues dancing around each other. Sharon holds him and supports him as Chelsea drives him backwards into her body. He lets the two women direct him further back onto the bed, and soon he finds himself lounging back against Sharon's well-toned belly, his arms around her back and holding and squeezing her ass, looking up at her hands manipulating her breasts, as Chelsea lowered herself onto his member, mewling with pleasure as she enveloped his hardness with her warmth and wetness.

"Enjoying yourself?" Sharon asks, already breathless.

It's not clear who she's talking to, but it doesn't matter; both Sterling and Chelsea moan out an affirmative response.

Chelsea's hands are on Sterling's chest, holding his shoulders against Sharon's thighs. He feels right at home there, holding tight and just enjoying the ride and the view of the two beautiful women. There's nothing he needs to do, nothing he needs to say, everything is just laid out before him and all he has to do is lie there and experience it.

And so he does, feeling Sharon's tight buttocks under his fingertips, the support of her abs and thighs under his head and shoulders, Chelsea's cold fingers pressing down on his chest, her beautiful body towering over him, the feel of warmth and the friction of her movements, the sound of Chelsea's pleasures and Sharon's encouraging words. He shifts a little, using Sharon's body to thrust up into Chelsea's pussy, and judging by the sounds he's hearing from the two women, both of them appreciate his efforts.

Chelsea clamps down on him, grabbing hold of his sides, and he could feel and hear the orgasm rippling through her body, which in turn causes him to tense and ejaculate into her. Sharon moans behind him, and he feels her shifting around. He lies there, breathing deeply, as Chelsea leans down and kisses him again, smiling at him. He can't seem to manage to move. He's just ...


He's been so bound up in work for so long that he had forgotten how to enjoy the simple things.  Ah yes, the simple things in life, he chuckles internally, like using superpowers to mentally manipulate two young women into a threesome.

"Sounds like that went well," Sharon says, gently running her hands through Sterling's hair.

"I have to agree," he replies, as Chelsea gently disentangles herself from the assembly.

"Me too," Chelsea agrees, flopping on to her back. "Too bad this couldn't be a regular thing, Share."

Sharon laughs, still stroking Sterling's head. "I'm not really wanting to get tied down to anything right now, whether it's one or two of you." She shrugs.

"Well," Chelsea says, looking up at the ceiling, "Sterling, if you wanna do this again..."

He thinks about it for a moment. What harm could it do, to have someone to call on? It's not like he's attached to anyone.

"You could do a lot worse," Sharon says.

"Thanks for the sales pitch," Chelsea snaps back.

Sterling laughs. "I understand that you're interested in other things, Sharon, and I'm happy that you spent this time with me—with us," he clarifies. He feels his power bubbling up in him, the excitement of it churning in his gut, and he keeps a tight lid on it. "I know that nothing that's happened here will come between us in our work, or will come between you and Chelsea as friends."

"Of course," Sharon says. Her voice sounds different, distant.

"And Chelsea, the same applies to you. There's no jealousy in this room, I know."

"I know," Chelsea replies, with the same airy tone.

Sterling chuckles. "I think, Chelsea, we need to give Sharon an appropriate send-off. Then I believe I promised you both lunch."

"Mhmm." "You did."

He slowly turns himself over to kiss Sharon's belly, climbing gradually up to his knees and kissing his way up to her breasts. Chelsea gets up beside him, and while he sucks on Sharon's left nipple, Chelsea works on the right. Gently they lie her down, and pause, their hands on Sharon's thighs, and with an unspoken agreement, Chelsea and Sterling share a passionate-but-tired kiss. Sterling looks down at Sharon.

"I think I'm going to enjoy this," Sharon says.

Chelsea nods. "Me too."

The two of them look to Sterling, who gives a grin. "Who wouldn't?"

8:43 PM Thursday

Outside the newly-opened Dockworks Cafe

A small woman of Asian descent with short red hair climbs out of a cab, pays the driver in cash.

Sharon had been talking about this place, she recalls. Today is its first day in operation. But it closed in the evening, six o'clock, according to the sign on the door.

How am I supposed to meet you here if it's already closed? Tanya asks herself.

She tries the main doors. Locked, as she expected. She looks through the windows. The interior is dark, which is no real surprise. She backs down, stands around on the corner, waiting, thinking.

She wonders if she should have let Sharon and Chelsea know about the mysterious note. Or at least someone. She did leave the note with a handwritten message on the table, and took a very clear picture of it with an email to certain important people that would be sent if she didn't cancel it by midnight tomorrow. Bright Society work has its advantages.

She lit a cigarette, hoping that she doesn't look too suspicious. Whether it's theatrical costuming, or being a wingman for her friends, or Chelsea's superhero shit, she prefers being decidedly out of the spotlight, and she doesn't really like the thought of being in the field.

She should have brought Chelsea with her, for protection. Should have done something smart. Christ, she'd had all day to figure it out, and what did she do with it? Walk to the bank, take out some money from the ATM, and call a fucking cab. This was dumb. Dumb and dangerous. How did that letter get to her anyway?

How many people actually know where I—

Her line of thought was cut off by her phone in her purse, giving a ping and vibrating. It's exactly 8:47. She fishes out the device. It's a text message, not to her personal number but to her business account. She has no costuming clients at that moment, so this strikes her as odd. She quickly unlocked the phone and looked; it just says two words.

Around back

"Well, alright," she says, putting the phone back in her purse and walking around the side of the building.

The back alley is not well lit and a little creepy, but Tanya's never been afraid of the dark. The back door is ajar, just enough for her to get her fingers in and pull it open; she would never have known to look if it hadn't been for the message.

"Hello?" she calls into the dark kitchen. She gets no reply. She activates the flashlight app on her phone, keeping the light low to the ground, trying to avert any falls, and carefully makes her way to the swinging door that she believes leads to the customer area. There's an odd smell in the air, which Tanya attributes to whatever soap they use for cleaning the place after the customers all clear out.

"Hello?" she calls out again, softer this time. She's rewarded with the sound of a phone ringing, a classic bell tone. Tanya follows her ears to a secluded corner of a booth where a small package is sitting unattended on the seat. It looks to be a simple brown paper wrapping, about the size of her closed fist, and the only thing written on it is her apartment number.

She reaches down and picks up the package. It's a little greasy, almost like whoever handled it had just put on hand cream before wrapping it. It's not tightly wrapped, and it's definitely the source of the ringing noise, so she tears it open easily, and a small flip-phone falls out and clatters on to the table.

Tanya looks at it curiously, rubbing her hands together to try and get the oil off. She shrugs and picks up the phone. And of course, it's greasy, as well. She sighs, opening it up, putting it to her ear.

"Hello? You have infomation?" she asks. This spy shit is ridiculous.

There's a voice on the other end of the phone, but she can't make anything out.

"Hello? Hello?" She puts the phone closer to her head, pressing it against her ear and cheek, ignoring the somewhat gross feeling. "Is someone there?"

There's a muttering on the other end, and the word information is the only thing that Tanya can make out.

She leans on the table, blinking heavily. "Hello?" she says, or tries to say. Her voice doesn't seem to work, just like her feet don't seem to want to support her. She looks at the flip phone in her hand, and the smart phone in her other hand, and then both phones on the floor where they've fallen from her grasp. There's a moment where she realizes that something's wrong, but she can't quite understand what it is, then there's a moment where she wonders why she's lying on the floor, then there's a moment where she realizes that she's losing consciousness, and then there are no more moments for her to notice.

At 8:54 PM, Sterling Grey's cell phone rings.

Upon hearing the voice on the other end of the line, Sterling moves down the road towards the cafe at a run.

At 8:56 PM, seeing him running, a passing rideshare driver pulls over. He hops in to passenger seat, recognizing the driver. "Devon. Thank whoever. I need to get to the new cafe."

Devon Warburton nods. If someone from conflict resolution is in a hurry, there must be something wrong. "Sterling. We can be there in two minutes."

"Hell of a lot faster than me running."

Devon takes off down the road. "What's going on? I heard that something was up."

Sterling takes a moment to catch his breath. "Sounds like a burglary and fire."

"At the new cafe? Shit, that's not good." Devon shakes his head. "Any idea what's up?"

"Nope, just get me there safely and maybe we'll find out."

They pull to a stop at one minute to nine, a half-block away so as not to interfere with the work of the security team and the fire fighters. Smoke is plainly visible rising above the surrounding buildings. Sterling quickly gets out.

"Want me to hang around?" Devon asks the retreating conflict management officer.

"Only if you've got nothing better to do, Devon. Thank you." Not waiting for a reply, Sterling rushes to the scene.

The cafe itself is engulfed in flames, to the point that the fire department are simply keeping people back and making sure that the fire doesn't spread to nearby buildings. Paramedics are present, working on someone on a stretcher, putting on oxygen mask on them. One of them is arguing with two police officers.

Word has clearly got around, and people are gathering, staying out of the way but still keeping a watch. Nearby, two women sit on a street corner bench, looking stunned and distraught; Sterling recognizes them as the women who had been behind the counter earlier that afternoon, when he had bought lunch for Chelsea and Sharon. Around those two are several others, offering quiet words, hands on shoulders, other shows of support.

On another corner is another growing crowd of about the same size, standing across from the cafe, a crowd that includes at least one member of community security. Near to them, a few police officers are gathered, their vehicles parked a little further up the road, lights flashing. Given the general animosity between the Port City police department and the Dockworks Co-operative, it's not a surprise to Sterling that they're not directly interacting at the moment.

First thing to be cleared up would be the person on the stretcher, clearly in need of medical attention, clearly being delayed by the police. He jogs over to where the altercation is occurring. The injured individual is apparently unconscious, covered with a blanket and breathing through an oxygen mask, and being monitored by a paramedic.

"Hello there," Sterling says, greeting the caregiver.

The paramedic turns. "A little busy here," he replies.

"I can see that. I was hoping I could help."

It's then that the police notice him. Sterling's stomach always sinks a bit when it comes to dealing with the police; in Port City, and especially in the docks, they have a tendency to be jumpy, and violent. Dealing with police was an important part of his work, especially since a significant fraction of people working and living on the docks have criminal histories, but he still had never found it pleasant.

"Hey! You!" the larger of the two officers says, stepping away from his conversation with the emergency responder. Apart from their comparative size, the two are remarkably similar, at least in the half-darkess of the spotty street lighting and the flames from the cafe. "Step back, this is an active crime scene. We'll take your statement along with everyone else's after we're done here."

"Crime scene?" Sterling asks, raising his eyebrows. "Seems to me we've got an active fire, and an injured person."

The officer moves closer, past the stretcher. "You some kinda smart guy?"

The power wells up in him, ready to be used. He doesn't employ it just yet. "No, officer, I'm here as a representative of the Dockworks Co-operative Confederation, trying to see how I can help." And wondering why you guys are here running the show instead of our security teams. Who called you?

"You can 'help' by getting the fuck over there with the rest of the others." His hand hovered near his sidearm.

The power came, then. "I think, officer, if you consider it carefully, you'll find that my help is more useful than you might first have believed." Not planning on telling you for who, he adds to himself.

The officer looks momentarily confused. So Sterling continues. "I think it would be in everyone's best interest if you were to let me pass."

He nods and frowns. The other officer looks over. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah," barks the officer Sterling is speaking to, who Sterling designates as Officer Number One in his mind. "It's all good." He turns and walks back to his shorter and thinner partner, Officer Number Two, with Sterling following.

Sterling stops by the stretcher and addresses the medic. "What's happened?"

The medic shrugs, not turning away from his patient. "We got a call that there was a fire in the cafe and someone was trapped inside. We got in before things were too bad and found her thanks to the light on her phone, but she's already got a lot of smoke. She's breathing but she's not conscious. We wanna get her out of here, but the boys in blue won't let us leave, that's what my partner's trying to fix."

"You can't just drive off?" he asks, looking at the small figure on the stretcher. She's short, maybe a little over five feet tall; in the dark and under the oxygen mask, he can't make out any features.

The medic shakes his head. "They won't let my driver back into the ambulance, and they're blocking the main road out. So we're doing what we can on the roadside."

Sterling nods, but seethes internally. He has to be careful, though, there are a lot of witnesses. "I'll see what I can do."

"Not sure what anyone can do, but you're welcome to try. So long as you don't get in my way."

Sterling gives the medic a supportive pat on the shoulder, then moves over to where the two officers are arguing with the driver. "What seems to be the issue here?" he asks.

"Who the fuck are you?" Officer Two snaps.

"My name is Sterling Grey, and I work in conflict resolution." He smiles casually, his power bubbling to the surface. "There is a conflict here, I'd like to resolve it. The young woman on the stretcher there is in distress and needs medical care; why hasn't she been taken to a hospital?"

There's a small release in the tension in both officers' stances. "She's a burglar and arsonist. She should be in prison."

"She unconscious," Sterling pointed out. "And this man here isn't a legal expert. He's an ambulance driver. He shouldn't be talking to you."

"He... shouldn't?" the larger officer asks, looking a bit confused.

"No, gentlemen," he says. "You should be arguing with me. Discussing this with me."

Officer Two looks like he's doing integral calculus on his fingers. "With... you?"

"Yes, with me. This man should be helping to get the victim into the ambulance. Let's step aside and let the medics work." He gestures towards the burning cafe. Bemused, the two officers move to the sidewalk. The medic looks at Sterling, equally confused. Sterling gives him a smile. "I'll do what I can to clear the way. See to your work." The medic nods, and Sterling follows the police officers.

Officer One's confusion is bleeding into anger. "Now, look here, you," he says, pointing a finger.

"Yes, officer?" Sterling says, calmly. If his calculations are right, no one but these policemen should be able to hear him speak over the sound of the flames and the general commotion. "What can I do for you?"

The calmness seems to take Officer One off guard, which only makes him madder. "Who the fuck do you think you are?" he asks.

Sterling unleashes a little more of his power. "I'm a conflict resolution officer. I'm resolving a conflict. The conflict here is that the police are preventing an injured woman from receiving the medical treatment she needs, and I'm here to sort out that little mess."

"Mess?" says Officer Two. "The only mess I see is that we can't secure an arsonist."

"Then let's discuss what that means. First of all, am I speaking to an officer in charge here?"

"Yes," says Officer Two. "I'm—"

"Then you're going to listen." Sterling's voice grows deadly cold as he rounds on Officer Two, and both policemen stop in their tracks. "Because I promise you that if this woman dies here because of your incompetence, I will make this a fucking PR nightmare for the PCPD, and I will make sure your name personally is paraded through the media. You will forever more be known as a murderer. Your career will be in shambles. Your life will be miserable, my friend, and there will be nothing left for you. You will obsess over her loss, and everywhere you turn you will be reminded of her. Your name will forever be tied with hers until. The. Day. You. Die."

There's a pause. The sounds of the crowd and the fire start to come more into focus. Sterling feels the potent song of the power in his blood. He feels invincible. Excited. Young. None of this shows on his face, or in his voice, he's a better actor than that, but he feels every inch of it.

Without acknowledging Sterling, Officer Two turns to Officer One. "Let the doctors through."

Officer One nods and heads back to the cars, barking orders. Officer Two follows him, taking only the time to give Sterling a withering glare.

Sterling returns to where the medics were working, loading the unfortunate woman into the back of the ambulance. "They'll let you go," he says.

"Great," the driver says. "We should be able to get her to the ER before anything goes rough." He sounds worried.

Sterling nods. "Don't dally, I don't know how much of a window I bought you." He looks over at the police blockade, watches as they start to pull apart.

The ambulance flips on its lights and siren, slips through the barracade, and speeds off.

Sterling looks around. Nothing else needs his attention here. The police are leaving the dock workers alone, and anyway, he's not one of the security detail, not exactly. The firefighters are doing their jobs. There are no other injured. He scans the area.

Something catches his eye in the alley. Something familiar.

With something useful to do, and a probable outlet for his nervous energy, he heads in that direction.

The back alley is a good place to watch from, when you don't want to be seen.

Even though his power keeps him from being recognized, Courier still likes to stay out of crowds, and out of the light.

And he has to stay. He has to know that the girl is alright. He will feel awful if something serious happens to her.

But then, there's that face. A face in the crowd. Those eyes that look right at him. Eyes that shouldn't be able to see him.

There's a flash of fear, a nightmare half-remembered. Courier ducks around a corner, heart racing, and not just because he might have led someone to harm. An adrenaline rush floods his body, and he gulps air. There's no way he could have been seen. He's invisible. Inaudible. So long as he doesn't physically touch anyone or draw any attention to himself, his power is absolute. He doesn't even bother with a costume. If he wasn't worried about inclement wearther or appearing on security camera, he wouldn't concern himself with clothes.

But those eyes had looked right at him.

He lets out a breath, trying to get himself under control.

"You're not as invisible as you think, around me." The voice comes from around the corner.

Terror. He presses himself against the building wall, seriously considers diving into the dumpster. He'd been caught before, but he's never felt fear like this. There's some reflected trauma, some nightmarish stress trigger that holds him in place, something visceral, almost animalistic, that keeps him frozen, paralyzed.

"You remember those words, even if not consciously, don't you?" A figure came around the corner in the shadows. For some reason, Courier can't make out more than a vague outline, a blurred person-ish shape, out of place in the late evening sunlight. He wipes his eyes, trying to clear his view, trying to see what's so frightening, with no success.

"Don't bother." The voice is calm, neutral. "We've spoken before. You can't remember. You know you can't remember. What you're feeling now, the fear, was implanted in you months ago. A reaction to my presence."

You're not as invisible as you think, around me.

He shivers. "Who..." is all he can manage.

"You know who." The figure steps closer, causing Courier to inch back.

You're not as invisible... A name. A whisper emerges, almost unbidden. "Silver Tongue."

The figure nods. "You were caught up in bad business here on the docks. I was brought in to neutralize you. And I did."

"Y-you did?" They're close now, no more than an arm's length away. Courier is a good three inches taller than the blurry figure, but in his mind, Silver Tongue towers over him.

"I did. I don't like using my powers like that, or like this, but back then I needed to, and right now I want infomation quickly, before my absence is noticed."

"Hey man, whatever you want, j-just don't..." Don't hurt me, he was going to say, but couldn't get the words out, and anyway, he didn't think he was in physical danger.

"Deal honestly with me and you'll have nothing to fear. Tell me what I want to know."

"Anything. Anything!"

"Good. We'll make this as painless as we can then. I know you're not going to tell me anything about who sent you. All I want to know is what you did."

He nods. He starts talking, very, very quickly. "Yeah. Yeah, I can tell you that. It's cool. Okay. Yeah, this was a three-part job. Last night I tailed this girl to her apartment, gave her an envelope. Don't know what was in it, don't know who she is, was really fucking surprised to see her here. Second part was to drop off a package at the cafe after closing. Wasn't a bomb before you ask, couldn't be a bomb, too small, no ticking." He laughs nervously. "Anyway I snuck in as the manager was leaving, left the package in a corner away from the windows, unlocked the back door as I was told, and then watched to see what happened, then the girl from last night shows up and goes in the back. Then the third part like I was directed, I called to report a robbery from a burner phone, and then..." he shrugs his shoulders, still trembling. "Then I see fire and smoke. So I use the burner to call fire and ambulance. Because I know the girl is in there and I need her to be okay, I can't be responsible for..." He trails off.

The figure makes an affirmative noise. "You delivered a letter, then you delivered a package to the cafe, then you called the cops, then first responders. Alright, I need one more thing. Your garbage bag."

The request seems to spin in Courier's head. "Huh?"

"I know your habits, remember, we've talked before. I know you always handle packages with disposable gloves to be safe, so I want the baggy with your disposable gloves and your burner phone. You're going to give them to me instead of burning them in your back yard."

"Oh yeah! Right, I'm for sure gonna do that, one sec." Quick as he can, he puts a hand in his coat pocket and produces a paper shopping bag, holds it out, has it taken from him.

He senses Silver Tongue's smile. "You did good. You're going to collect your pay, like you always would. You're not going to mention this contact."

"No, of coures not, I always keep confidential."

The figure chuckles. "Wouldn't you just like to forget all this happened?"

Courier swallows. "What?"

"Wouldn't it be easier on you if everything had gone according to plan?"

The fear that enervates him, paralyzes him, transitions to... something else, so quickly it shocks him. He feels a chill in the pit of his stomach, an almost physical blow. Words come out of his mouth, words that felt forced from him out of that chill. "Yes, that would be a lot easier." He can't deny the reality of the statement.

"Then why not just let that be the truth?"

Those nine words rock him to his core. His knees shake with the power of them. He can't bring himself to respond.

"It's very simple. As you walk away from here, you simply let go of those memories that don't fit with that truth."

If the wall hadn't been holding him up, he might have fallen over. He was sweating. What Silver Tongue is saying seems impossible. And what Silver Tongue is saying seems inevitable.

"Also you should know. Thanks to you calling emergency, the girl is safe. She'll be fine."

The air comes out of his lungs in a long, relieved sigh. Warmth floods his demolished psyche. He does fall, this time, dropping to his knees. His hand almost automatically makes the sign of the cross across his body. "Thank God," he whispers.

He looks around the empty alley. The girl is safe. His job is done. The near-disaster was averted. He could, he would go home, collect his pay, and wait for the next call.

His power keeps him invisible, inaudible. No one will even notice that he was there. He would just walk away, his deliveries made, hop on a bus, head home. That was that.

What a long day for Silver Tongue! His power whispered to Chelsea and Sharon, spoke to the police, and shouted at another powerful figure. What will it mean for him tomorrow? And what will happen to Tanya? Who hired Courier, and for what dark purposes?

Find out more in Part Five: A Second Encounter

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