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 Inception - DeCosta Job

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:01 pm

Hunter tried to avoid rolling his eyes at Sofie and John's none-too-subtle Cold War and turned his attention back to Tess.

"Yes, the Mark might try to change the password instead," he admitted. "But, theoretically, she should still have to store that information somewhere safe. As long as we have a safe or some other place set up to receive that information, we should be able to get it."

"It's the best idea we have," Sofie said with a delicate shrug, the closest thing to a vote of confidence Hunter was likely to get.

"I think," Hunter continued, avoiding looking at Tess, "that it would work best if we put the Mark in an emotionally vulnerable environment. The Mark will naturally look to hide things away."

It was just weird to be talking about Tess like this in front of her, no matter how much he tried to divorce the idea of the Mark from her.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Wed Dec 28, 2016 12:54 pm

"What exactly do you have in mind?" Tess asked with a slight smirk. "Are we looking for fear, confusion, despair?"

"Anger." John cut in, finally shifting his gaze towards Tess. "Given the Mark's level of mental stability, I think the best choice is anger. It will force her to make the most mistakes."

He paused for a moment, as if contemplating something. "However, it will also make the projections more aggressive. By agitating the environment, we cut down on our uptime."

"That's an acceptable tradeoff, provided the Architect is aware of the situation." Tess responded. "Any other suggestions?" She glanced around the room.
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Wed Dec 28, 2016 2:38 pm

"Anger should work, and I agree that the risks are within reason," Sofie said. "We just need to find what triggers anger in the Mark, then tailor the environments to facilitate that."

Hunter sighed to himself, knowing who owned that responsibility. He definitely wanted to go back to being an Architect. That somehow seemed much simpler.

"That will be for the Pointman to find out," he said, deliberately glancing at John to throw Tess off. Sofie didn't bother to acknowledge that.

"I guess that's it then," Sofie said, standing up. "We should probably finally start the real job then."

Hunter nodded. It was going to be complicated, trying to plan things while keeping Tess out of the loop, but he planned to leave the technicalities to John and focus on his own work.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Fri Dec 30, 2016 1:39 pm

"Let's get to it then." Tess said, rising from her seat with an exaggerated gesture. "I am curious though, how are you planning to make me angry, John?"

"That shouldn't be too complicated." John responded as he crossed the room to refill his coffee. "Anger is an indirect emotional response, often triggered by an imbalance of other emotions. The path that leads to it differs, depending on the person, but the result is the same."

"You wear a nice mask of serenity, but I doubt your emotions are any more in check than the rest of ours beneath it. That does, of course, make it more difficult to predict the presence of specific emotions, but at the end of the day, you do still feel them. It's just a matter of finding which triggering emotion leads to anger."

"For most people, it's fear." He glanced in Sofie's direction for a moment. "Or dissatisfaction..."

"I think you'll be different though." John continued, taking a sip of his freshly filled coffee. "My bet is on despair."

Tess raised an eyebrow at that, fighting off the urge to shiver. "Has anyone ever told you that your mind is a scary place, John?"

He glanced in Sofie's direction again before taking another sip of coffee. "You have no idea."
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Fri Dec 30, 2016 3:36 pm

Sofie pretend as though she didn't notice John's sidelong glances or snide insinuations. The man thought he knew everything - including her.

He did make a good point about triggering angering though. If it was despair that would get to Tess, she had a pretty good idea of how. John was the Forger this time, though, not her. If he couldn't figure it out for himself, then he wasn't up to the task.

She should just get up and leave the others, but she was becoming increasingly frustrated that her attempts to distance herself from the others was seeming to bother her more than it was them. So she sat, looking bored, and she waited for them all to get on with things.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Dec 31, 2016 1:23 pm

"Let's talk about the dream space then." Tess said, turning her attention to Hunter and trying her best to ignore the waves of tension pulsing between the other two people in the room. "Considering what John said about the aggression level of the projections, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the matter."

"Got any cool tricks to keep them busy?" She asked with a smile. "I'm a big fan of theatrics myself, but I don't know how useful that would be here."

Hopefully, she could get John and Sofie back on track with this discussion. The two of them seemed to be living in their own little version of armageddon.
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Dec 31, 2016 4:24 pm

Hunter was glad for the diversion from the other two and smiled at Tess as he thought about her question.

"Well, we know the Mark's subconscious isn't militarized," he said. "So the aggression level of the projections would probably be comparable to something like an angry mob. So our best means of protection would be some methods of crowd control. Diverting paths would be a good choice. If we can set up the maze almost like rail-road tracks to shunt people down one path or another, we can stay ahead of the projections with relative ease."

Sofie hummed thoughtfully and thread a hand through her hair.

"Ideally," she said, "we should choose more private locations that would require as few projections as possible."

Hunter nodded. Ultimately, though, the location would come down to what triggered the Mark best. If they could use her house or something, that would mitigate potential projection threats.

"I had some pretty good ideas for dealing with large crowds on a couple previous jobs," he said, looking at Tess. "I can show you a few designs."

He got out his computer and began to point out some of his level designs, traps, and loopholes from the last couple jobs. It made him a bit nostalgic to think of working with Trevor and John for the first time in the Ace Job, diverting projections in his maze-like frat house. Or holding off waves of cartel for Karina.

"I think some of these traps will probably serve us best," he said, pointing out the diverting wall trick in the frat house layout.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Jan 01, 2017 2:24 am

"On the contrary." John cut into Hunter's speech. "I know for a fact that the Mark's subconscious does have some level of militarization. It's just not an entirely stable system."

"In a sense, it's actually more dangerous, because it understands threats to some extent, but it hasn't created a standard way of dealing with them yet. That makes it's response to us unpredictable."

"So, some of your designs may work, but it's best to prepare a backup plan."

"I don't believe in having anything less than three backup plans." Tess responded, giving John a sly grin. "But I do think this sliding door design has promise. It can be used for a variety of different things."

"What would you say is probably our best setup?" She asked, directing the question at John.

He frowned at that, leaning against the back of the couch where Hunter was sitting. "How safe to you want to play this?"

Tess smirked, leaning back in her seat. "If we're already planning to envelope the Mark's subconscious in emotional chaos, why not just go whole hog?" She twisted her fingers, and a playing card materialized between them. Spinning it once, she tossed it onto the keyboard of Hunter's laptop, where it came to rest, face up. The Joker. "What do you have in mind?"

"Well, by that standard, we want to put the Mark into an environment she's unfamiliar with, something to further throw her off of her game. We want to completely take away her control, or at least her sense of it." He took a step back and began to pace behind the couch.

"In the first layer, we'll need to unsettle her. That's where we want to create the anger. From there, it'll cascade to the next layer and multiply in intensity. I'm thinking we go with a grade school setting for the first layer. It should be easy enough for Hunter to control the projections in there, especially since most of them will be children."

"The second layer should be something more intimate, where there will be less projections. Maybe an apartment or a restaurant?"
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Tue Jan 03, 2017 12:40 pm

Hunter nodded along to John's words, following along until he reached the point about the grade school. He opened his mouth to say something, but Sofie spoke first.

"Fewer projections," she corrected, rolling her eyes. Hunter cleared his throat.

"Why a grade school? To use the Mark's son?" he asked. "In that case, an apartment would make more sense for the second layer, unless the Mark and her son go out to eat a lot."

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Jan 07, 2017 3:37 pm

“Exactly.” John responded to Hunter, ignoring Sofie’s correction in the process. “But we only need the Mark’s son for leverage against her emotional state in the first layer. Once we’ve entered the second layer, that emotional distress should carry over on its own.”

“So,” Tess cut in at this point, “all we need in the second layer is someone to distract the already emotionally unstable Mark while we steal the information.”

“Precisely.” John nodded, and Tess leaned back in her seat, looking somewhat shell-shocked.

“Well, that’s definitely something…” She said thoughtfully. “Can we pull it off?”
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:40 pm

Hunter nodded, looking impressed. Sofie was too, though she didn't display it so openly.

"Of course we can," Sofie answered Tess. "We're some of the best in the business."

She indicated her, John, and Hunter with her finger. She might not like John, but she gave credit where it was due. And Hunter was harmless enough.

"Thanks, Sofie," Hunter said, looking pleased. Sofie didn't bother to return his smile. It's not like she was doing him a favor. Just stating her opinion.

"Are we going to forge the son on the first layer?" she asked, moving the conversation along. "It might be easier to control the situation than if he were just a projection."

That was for the real Forger - John - to worry about, but Tess didn't know that. So she had to be the one to voice it.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:24 am

Tess considered Sofie's question for a moment, but before she could chase that train of thought too far, John responded.

"No." He shook his head with a wry grin. "In fact, we don't want her son to appear at all. We're going to convince her that he's gone missing during recess." He turned his gaze in Tess' direction. "Do you think that will be enough despair?"

"You know, maybe I shouldn't have put you in your place when we first met, John. I think it's made you bitter towards me."

"I'll take that as a 'yes'." John responded. "So, rather than a kid, we can have Sofie impersonate a police officer who's looking into the missing child. That gives us the most control over the situation, and it allows us to plant some ideas dark in the Mark's subconscious."

Tess nodded her agreement before leaning back into her seat. "Okay. So, once the pressure is on, we need to amplify it in the next layer. If the Mark is already angry, how do we use that?"

"Simple." John chuckled. "If there's one thing I've learned about women, it's the little things that annoy them the most. While one of us is searching for the code, the rest of the crew is going to make sure the Mark experiences a series of unfortunate events."
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Apr 21, 2018 2:02 am

Sofie nodded, relieved to find that the job was actually starting to draw her in, despite her ambiguous standing wih John.

"I think that'll work nicely," she admitted. "Better yet, we can slip in hints that the Mark's son has been abducted as leverage for blackmailing her - his safe return for that password, for instance. That'll sow the seeds of paranoia about her information being in danger early-"

"Which will make it more likely for her subconscious to prepare hiding places on the lower layers," Hunter interrupted, smiling.

Sofie pursed her lips, but nodded. Getting interrupted annoyed her, but she was willing to let it slide, if only to keep up the team's momentum here.

John suggested up the Mark's aggression through a serious of "unfortunate events." Sofie wanted to ask for clarity, but it was probably best not to have that spelled out with Tess right there. It was still a little off-putting, trying to plan a job with the Mark sitting right in their midst. Besides, she was going to be the Extractor in this job, so finding the codes fell to her - and the distractions were for the others to worry about.

"Sounds like a promising start," Hunter said, stroking his chin. "Say, uh, maybe we should try splitting up for a bit? Sofie and John can go under and start practicing the forging and distractions. And... I can take Tess under with another PASIV and show her some architectural tricks firsthand."

That... sounded terrible. It also sounded reasonable, so Sofie had no real basis to refuse it, other than "that would be awkward." So she put on her game face and glanced at John to see his reaction.

"I don't have any objections," she said, shrugging.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sat Apr 21, 2018 1:18 pm

"Well, it's definitely not subtle." Tess responded with a grin. No sense in letting them know she wasn't looking forward to this. "But it should be dramatic. So, I'm game."

Hunter's suggestion brought one of her eyebrows up though. "Some architectural tricks?" She asked with a coy smile. "Are those anything like etchings?"

John coughed to hide a chuckle, and glanced in Sofie's direction. "I don't think we'll need to go under for the discussion of the first layer, but we'll probably need a dreamspace for the second one so that we can test out some ideas."

Tess pushed herself to her feet and motioned for Hunter to follow her. "Let's go, big guy. I can tell when something nefarious is being plotted, and I don't want to be around for that just yet. Show me some architectural tricks."

She waited until they were almost out of earshot to continue. "Do I get to see you in a tool belt for that?"

----------------------------------------------------

John shook his head as the others exited the room. "She's going to be a problem." He sat up, leaning forward. "Even if we manage to surprise her, the projections will have enough inside information to make this difficult."

"Still..." He gave Sofie the best attempt at a grin he could produce. "It'll make for a hell of a good story when we get out with the codes."
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Apr 22, 2018 1:14 am

Hunter followed after Tess, smiling to himself. It looked like his plan- err, his suggestion was working. When they were out of the room an by themselves, Tess turned to him.

"Do I get to see you in a tool belt for that?"

Hunter fought down a blush and grinned. Was she into the handyman look?

"Not unless you want to," he replied.

----------------------------------------------------

John shook his head as the others exited the room. "She's going to be a problem."

"For us or for Hunter?" Sofie mused. Getting emotionally involved with a fellow dream-sharer, especially their current Mark, was never a good idea.

To reinforce that point, she forced herself to meet John's eyes. There was none of the usual animosity there though. That was some improvement, at least. He even managed a grin at her.

A tiny smile tugged at the corners of her lips. Why was she smiling? She shouldn't be smiling, damn it.

"Ever the thrill seeker," she sighed, shaking her head. That was meant to sound disapproving, but it just came across as... fond. No, not fond. Indulgent, like the way you treat a child or a dog that doesn't know any better. Yes, indulgent.

"Well, I have to admit, this is a unique challenge," Sofie said. "I'll be interested to see how it works out."

Her eyes drifted over to the PASIV nearby. Come to think of it, this would be the first time they'd shared a dream together, just the two of them, since that incident. Sofie masked her unease and smiled breezily.

"So, let's test out those ideas then," she said.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Apr 22, 2018 12:59 pm

"Oh? A man who seeks to please?" Tess grinned and did her best to stifle a giggle. "I like it."

In her mind, she mentally flipped a coin to decide whether or not to tell Hunter she'd been working as an Architect for the last few months. Too bad it was a two-faced coin. Seeing his reaction later would be too much fun to ruin the surprise now.

As they entered a section of the warehouse where a few lawn chairs surrounded a PASIV machine, Tess pulled out her phone and shot a text informing her mother that she would be unavailable for the next hour. Not that she expected any kind of emergency, but this was the worst part about her chosen profession.

"So, jokes aside, let's see what you can do." Tess smiled as she sank into a lawn chair and reached for the line secured to one of the legs.

----------------------------------------------------------

"Hunter can handle himself." John responded. "He's naive, but his mind is like a steel trap. One time is all it takes for him to learn a lesson."

"Wish I could say the same about either of us." He chuckled, rising to his feet.

"Coffee?" John asked over his shoulder as he poured himself another cup.

"No sense in rushing anything." He responded without looking in her direction. "Those two will be out for at least thirty minutes, and you're looking at the PASIV like it's a snake ready to bite you."

"So, why don't we talk about that first?"
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Apr 22, 2018 4:24 pm

Hunter scratched the tip of his nose and grinned. "Well, I try."

They entered the warehouse together and took seats on the lawn chairs. As they hooked up to the passive, Hunter looked over at Tess and smiled before his eyelids fell shut.

The next moment, the two of them were weaving through a house party. Oh, this brought back memories.

...like kissing John while he was forging. So, not all of them good.

"This is where I did my first job with John," he told Tess, motioning above them. "Upstairs is where the good stuff is."

Hunter lead her up the stairs to the second floor, explaining as they went. "I designed a closed-loop system to lead the projections around in circles while we worked. You can shift the walls in the hallway and the different rooms to reroute the projections however you want."

They entered the bedroom in the far corner of the upstairs, and Hunter threw open the closet to reveal the command center for all the traps.

"He's were the magic happens," he said, smiling. "A small demonstration."

He pointed to the monitor and began to manipulate and turn the walls to create a labyrinth of passages that would herd anyone in them around in a convoluted circle, never once coming into contact with the room they were in.

"Doesn't work forever," he admitted. "But it buys a lot of time."

----------------------------------------------------------

It seemed John thought more highly of Hunter than he let on. Sofie shrugged, not especially concerned either way.

"Wish I could say the same about either of us."

Sofie blinked and watched John as he walked over to the coffee machine. What was she supposed to make of a comment like that?

"Yes, thank you," she replied to his question about coffee.

Sofie watched John's back as he worked, only half-listening as he talked about not rushing. Then he talked about how she was looking at the PASIV, and her eyes widened. It was lucky he still had his back to her, as it took a moment for her to mask her surprise.

"So, why don't we talk about that first?" he asked.

"Are you sure you want to go there?" she asked, her tone neutral. Just when it seemed like things were getting civil...

You're supposed to suck out the poison when bitten by a snake. Some people say you should treat personal conflicts the same way.

Sofie wasn't sure she agreed with that. Sometimes, it was better to keep burying things deeper and deeper till they could never be reached. But if Jon wanted to rip the scab off, he was welcome to try.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Apr 22, 2018 7:13 pm

"Ah, with John. That makes more sense." Tess stifled a laugh as they made their way towards the stairs. "It's difficult to imagine a place like this being your usual scene. Not alot of call for jazz music at frat parties."

She nodded at Hunter's words, running her fingers along the walls of the hallway as they walked. "And since most of the projections are intoxicated, it takes even more time to realize that they've been duped. Clever."

As they entered the bedroom, Tess stopped short at Hunter's words. Thankfully, he wasn't actually looking in her direction at the time, since he was opening up the closet doors. Seeing the controls inside, she was able to more easily interpret what he'd actually meant. Didn't mean she couldn't pass on the level of awkwardness she'd just experienced.

"Oh, I know full well what the bedroom is for, but you're being very forward, for someone I've just met. So, I'll pass on the demonstration for now." She gave him a pat on the butt as she slipped past him into the closet. "I have no doubt you could pull of 'magical' though."

Tess didn't bother hiding her grin as she planted herself in front of the monitors, observing the projections.

---------------------------------------------------

"I don't want to talk about it, really." John responded as he poured a second cup of coffee. "But, I think after what you've seen, you'd realize I don't believe in hiding from things."

"I can understand if that makes you uncomfortable, given your predisposition towards the opposite." He continued as he turned and made his way back to her, sitting the second cup on the coffee table between them.

"So, you tell me." John sat, taking a sip from his own cup. "Can you bury this as well as you do everything else, or do we need to discuss it like adults? Because I'm damn sure not planning to go through this job with the two of us arguing like children."
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:13 am

"Huh?" Hunter blinked in surprise, trying to process what Tess had just said. Right as things fell into place, he felt Tess pat his butt as she slipped past him.

At that moment, Hunter's face felt like it had been doused in napalm and lit on fire. He gaped like a fish out of water, wondering how he hadn't realized the suggestive nature of taking her into the bedroom like this.

"Get a grip, Hunter," he told himself. "You're not a thirteen-year-old virgin."

With that Cheshire-cat grin she was sporting, she had to just be teasing anyway. Probably.

"The-" Crap, he sounded like he was being strangled and had to clear his throat. "The key is to make sure to always keep a route open for the projections. If you accidentally lead them into a dead end, and they realize the trick, they'll just start breaking through the walls."

---------------------------------------------------

Sofie frowned. No, John was obviously more open about how mental and emotional scars than she- than most people were.

Almost as if reading her mind, John commented on her predisposition toward burying issues. Sofie watched him set her cup of coffee on the table, but she made no move to reach for it.

"You know me so well, don't you?" she murmured, the words slipping out like the ghost of a whisper. At least, he thought he did.

Sofie picked up her coffee and took a sip, the taste and aroma rich. She licked her bottom lip, her tongue tracing along the edge for a moment.

"I don't know what there is to discuss," she said calmly, meeting his eyes. "We both know what happened. I apologized, and you refused it. And here we are."

She set her cup down and folded her arms. "I have every intention of treating this job as professionally as I treat any other. If I haven't given that impression... then I apologize."

She bit back the sarcastic retort that was right on the heels of her apology - "Or will refuse that one too?"

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:22 pm

"It's a fairly complex closed-loop system." Tess didn't miss a beat in the conversation as the walls shifted on screen, redirecting the projections back to where they'd come from, none the wiser.

"Could you do the same on a larger scale? The interstate for example? If the mind responds with some kind of police force, you could infinitely loop them through the freeway without letting them exit." She paused, contemplating that further. "Managing the shifting of the concrete barricades alone would be a nightmare though."

"What other architectual tricks were you planning to show me?"

--------------------------------------------------------

"I didn't refuse your apology." John responded, his eyes trying to catch Sofie's. He doubted it would be that easy though. "I just said that alone wasn't enough."

"Actions and words and all that." He waved his hand in a circular motion, indicating that it wasn't worth repeating the time-worn speech, since she undoubtedly already knew it.

"I also think you're glossing over the subject to avoid us having an actual argument. Which at the end of the day, won't get us any closer to friendly terms than we already are. However, if you'd truly prefer to avoid confrontation, I'll accept that apology and offer one of my own in return."

"After all, it does take two to tango. Whether intentionally or not, I have been pushing your buttons since this job started." John took another sip of his coffee, but didn't let his gaze drift. Picking a fight might not seem like the best idea, but from what he'd seen of Sofie's self-defense playbook, she was a runner, not a fighter. Not that he could say anything to that point out loud. They did still have to find a way to work together for the rest of this job.
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:50 pm

Hunter smiled at Tess' approval of his system. Her question, however, made him furrow his brows.

"It should be possible on a larger scale," he admitted. "Though the larger the scale, the more difficult t will be to manipulate the loops. It would probably take longer for the projections to realize if the loop is long enough."

He scratched his chin thoughtfully, imaging the kind of setup Tess was talking about.

"The freeway example would definitely work. You could just loop the exit around back onto the highway. But that kind of manipulation would be pretty blatant."

"Could you do the same on a larger scale? The interstate for example? If the mind responds with some kind of police force, you could infinitely loop them through the freeway without letting them exit." She paused, contemplating that further. "Managing the shifting of the concrete barricades alone would be a nightmare though."

Tess stepped out of the closet, and Hunter followed. She turned to him, standing in front of the bed, and asked him, "What other architectual tricks were you planning to show me?"

He could feel heat creeping into his face, but he forced it back down.

"Well, this layer is a bit limited for playing around with architecture," he admitted. "The loop system was the primary trick I used for this job. We could go down another level, try that freeway idea?"

--------------------------------------------------------

Sofie frowned and narrowed her eyes. The idea that she was on probation or something until she'd "earned" John's approval rubbed her the wrong way.

John offered his own apology - of sorts - which should have been enough to sweep things under the rug. And that should have been enough.

Should have been, but wasn't.

"Do you want to have an argument, John?" she asked, raising an eyebrow. "Cause I'm starting to get that impression."

Normally, Sofie avoided pointless arguments and confrontation when possible. It was usually wasted effort that could be better directed in other ways. But at this point, she was starting to wonder if it wouldn't be at least a little cathartic to tear John a new one.

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Sun Apr 29, 2018 1:16 pm

Tess glanced over her shoulder with a wry smile. "Down another layer, huh? That's a very smooth way of getting me in a bed with you."

She put a little extra sashay in her step as she made her way to the bed and sat down. Bending her leg beneath the edge of the mattress, she hooked the briefcase she knew would be there with the toe of her shoe and dragged it into view.

"You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you planned this." Tess stifled a giggle as she tossed the case onto the bed and popped it open. "So, how about a slight change of plans? This time, I'll house the dream."

Without waiting for a response, she laid back and put in the needle. After a moment, when Hunter didn't follow suit, she cracked one eye open and patted the other side of the bed.

"Come on, big guy, you may not get another chance."

---------------------------------

"I don't particularly want to have an argument." John sighed, sitting aside his now empty coffee cup. "But, if the alternative is pretending that nothing happened, I think it might be the lesser evil."

"How about you, Sofie? Would you rather we air this out now, or should we let it fester for another month or two first?" He asked as he sat up a little straighter.
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:02 pm

"Down another layer, huh? That's a very smooth way of getting me in a bed with you."

Hunter reddened and cleared his throat, thinking it best not to speak right away. He watched as Tess sashayed over to the bed, dragged out a PASIV with tantalizing skill, and then sank onto the bed.

Planned this? No, he certainly hadn’t planned anything quite like this.

He almost missed Tess’ comment about her housing the dream and only just managed to rouse himself when she goaded him on about not getting another chance.

“Right.”

Hunter was pleased to hear than his voice remained steady as he crossed over to the bed and sat down. After a moment’s hesitation, he swung his legs onto the bed and laid down beside her. Carefully handling the needle so as not to fumble it with his shaking fingers, he slipped it in and rested his arm.

“All right then,” he murmured, turning his head to look at her. “The floor is yours.”

He pushed the PASIV button, and everything went black, just as his hand fell and brushed against hers.

---------------------------------

Sofie smiled and rested her head against her hand. “You’re saying that because you haven’t experienced the alternative yet. Pretending can often be the lesser evil.”

She stood up, curving her back as she stretched and headed to pour herself another cup of coffee.

“It’s why you’ll never be an expert Forger. Good, but never great,” Sofie went on, taking a sip of her coffee before turning back. “Pretending isn’t in your nature, is it? You can act, yes, but acting isn’t forging. To be a forger, you have to be able to empty yourself completely and fill it with someone else. But you can't do that, John, because you love yourself too much. And two people can't fit perfectly into one body. There will always be inconsistencies, imperfections.”

Pretending was something Sofie was very good at, however. She’d had a lifetime of practice.

Sofie drifted back to her seat, her hand brushing against John’s seat as she passed. When she’d settled back into her chair, she took another sip of coffee before setting it aside.

“Letting things fester isn’t always bad, is it? Some things are better aged, you know. Like a fine wine. But since we’ve already come to this point, I don’t see much point in putting the lid back on Pandora’s Box.”

Sofie leaned forward in her chair, resting her chin against her hands. She almost looked playful, but there was a razor edge to her smile. “So let’s air it all out, John. Go on. You first.”

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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Wed May 02, 2018 11:58 pm

"Welcome to my factory floor." Tess said over the edge of her tea cup.

Around the two of them, white walls stretched down a long hallway, lined with royal blue doors. Hunter sat across a glass table from her in a white chair, which would probably be lost in the wash of white around it if not for the doors in the distance.

She took a slow sip of tea, regarding Hunter's reaction to their location before she sat the cup down and rose to her feet.

With a teasing smile, she moved to the nearest door and opened it, stepping through. On the other side, she stepped out of what appeared to be a closet door and into a moderately sized bathroom, where she took a moment to refresh her lipstick while waiting for Hunter to appear.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Life is imperfection." John responded to Sofie's comments about forging with a sad smile. "So, while I don't disagree with your methodology, it does say certain things about your personality." Things that made him want to hug her, which was a highly inappropriate reaction in their current situation. Actually, it was an inappropriate reaction in general, considering this was Sofie he was talking about.

"You are right in the assumption that I don't work that way." John continued. "I never have, and I never will. Of all the things that I've lost over the years, myself isn't one of them." He didn't outright state the implication that followed, but it wouldn't be difficult to draw the conclusion.

John grimaced at Sofie's comment about letting things fester, but he didn't immediately respond, instead taking a deep breath and running a hand through his hair. "I told you the first time we worked together that I don't like wasting time being anything but honest. That hasn't changed."

"So, in the interest of honesty, you're one of the best Forgers I've ever worked with. This is partially due to your strong sense of curiosity, which you can utilize to your advantage in your work. However, in our case, you allowed that curiosity to go a little too far."

"If you'd just left the dream when you realized that you shouldn't be there, I could have forgiven that, but you stayed. You kept pushing forward, digging deeper."

"Why?"

"That's what I've not figured out yet. What was going on in your head that made you willing to jeopardize our working relationship by continuing to poke around in there?"
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PostSubject: Re: Inception - DeCosta Job   Thu May 03, 2018 11:58 pm

Factory floor? Hunter stared at Tess, then at their surroundings.

Tess wasn't just providing the dream. She'd actually brought them into her subconscious.

The whole hallway was washed in white, save for the royal blue doors lining its length. Everything felt incredibly pristine, almost hauntingly so. It reminded him of that one room in his parents' house where his mom never let anyone sit down on any of the furniture. It almost felt wrong to even speak here.

Hunter returned his focus to Tess, who offered him one of those teasing smiles she did so well before sauntering over to the nearest door. Hunter stood up and followed with tentative steps. He wasn't sure what she was planning, but it also didn't seem like a good idea to hang back there without her.

Hunter stepped through the door into what looked like a bathroom. Tess leaned over the sink, applying more of her bold red lipstick.

"Your subconscious is... interesting," Hunter said, keeping his voice low as he looked around.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Life is imperfection."

Well, whatever else he may be, John did have a certain way with words.

"That it is," Sofie murmured, her smile plastic. The look on John's face was impossible to miss. It wasn't a surprise that John was able to read into her words, which made a part of her wonder why she'd said them. Maybe she was just feeling reckless.

Pity was something she didn't care for or need, but John feeling any pity for her was surprising. Well, that wasn't quite true. Underneath all his swagger and bravado, it was obvious that John still had a warm passion for people.

The opposite of her, really. The fire to her ice.

"You are right in the assumption that I don't work that way." John said. "I never have, and I never will. Of all the things that I've lost over the years, myself isn't one of them."

Sofie didn't respond to that. She was obviously wasn't meant to, despite the obvious implication. She merely sipped her coffee and held his gaze as he spoke about holding to his police of complete honesty. Part of that honesty was to admit she was one of the best Forgers he'd ever worked with, and she couldn't help but allow a tinge of satisfaction to color her smile.

Her curiosity, however, didn't receive such high praise. Not that she really blamed him.

"If you'd just left the dream when you realized that you shouldn't be there, I could have forgiven that, but you stayed. You kept pushing forward, digging deeper. Why?"

Why? She raised her eyebrows. That was it, the question that was gnawing at him?

"That's what I've not figured out yet. What was going on in your head that made you willing to jeopardize our working relationship by continuing to poke around in there?"

Sofie looked down at her coffee, her smile widening as she shook her head.

"That's it?" she asked. "That's the big mystery? Is it really that hard to believe?"

She set her cup aside and looked up at John, studying his face. "You've intrigued me since our first meeting, John. We're so alike, and yet we couldn't be more different. I've worked with a lot of dream sharers, but you were the one I couldn't quite crack. So when the chance opened up for me to see what made you tick, to see every one of your defenses peeled back and your innermost self laid bare, are you really surprised that I took it?"

Their eyes remained locked as Sofie slid up the sleeve of sweater and extended her arm. Her face remained cool as porcelain, even as her insides burned in a crazed storm of fear, recklessness, and a mess of other emotions she couldn't begin to catalog.

"I have no apology left to offer. Just this. Will it be enough to satisfy you then?" she murmured. "An 'arm for an arm,' as they say?"

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