Prologue: Drury Lane, Scene I (Michael)

"In this world, mystery is a fact of life." Penrose said simply. She made no apologies nor excuses for it. She did, however, cast Michael a winning smile. "Wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, you would be curious..." Penrose said, and she paused. It was apparent that this information held some value, if only to identify further the 'club' which Penrose belonged to. But, one had to give a little in order to gain a little. "His name is Lesley Oleander."

Roll: Wits+Composure; and Intelligence+Politics

Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 7, 10, 5, 2, 7, 3, 9, 5 (Total Successes = 2)
Dice Roll:
d10 Results: 10, 5, 6, 8, 7 (Total Successes = 2)

"If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said no," Michael answered slowly, considering carefully. "But now... well, let's just say that a lot of things are more mysterious than I ever imagined," he finished, giving a quirky, lop-sided and almost embarassed smile, as though he couldn't quite believe that he had once been so nieve.

As Sophie said the name, Michael rolled it over in his mind, to see if he could remember ever hearing it. He also wondered what this "club" was - but, with her apparent love of mystery, Sophie probably wouldn't tell him, so Michael didn't bother asking. "And may I ask how I came to the attention of Mr. Oleander? Did he see a performance or ... ?" Or was it something more sinister? Again, perhaps he was being paranoid, by Sophie Penrose knew enough about him to find him here, and possibly to know what he was - so how did she know? Had she followed him? Or worse? No matter what she offered, Michael knew he'd be consulting the Pack for advice before he agreed to anything.

"Originally? By reputation. Oleander keeps his ear to the ground." Penrose said, smiling faintly. She tapped her fingers against the metal frame of the chair as she watched Michael. "He came to see you perform, and then I did. And both he and I think you show promise."

There, there was what had been bothering Michael. If there was any doubt that there was something uncanny about Penrose, it was dispelled now. Along the metal frame of the upholstered chair, where Sophie Penrose's bare fingers had touched, there was frost spreading along the surface. It spreads lowly, in intricate designs and crystalline structures, but it was unmistakeable a thin coating of rime.

"The question on your mind, I expect, is why you should have anything to do with us." Penrose continued blithely. "And to which we answer that membership in our organization comes with a great many advantages. Connections, influence, money. Comradeship, protection, new experiences... We can do a great deal, if we are so inclined."

"Of course, the question we have is whether or not you are suitable for membership." Penrose said, looking at Michael directly now. "But first, are you interested?"

I show promise in what, Michael wondered. So many of Sophie's statements could be taken in mre than one way. He should be used to it by now - most of the acting world was like that - but it still frustrated Michael a little. When not on the stage, Michael was a very straight-forward, no-nonsense person. He disliked double meanings or vague statements. Ironic, as an actor, he supposed, but he got enough of that on stage. So he didn't answer, letting Penrose continue, in the vague hope that she would make her intentions plain.

As the frost, Michael tried not to look too interested. He wasn't sure if she couldn't control it, or if she wanted to threaten him - but he wasn't concerned. He had been taught a powerful Gift by a spirit, to control fire - there was a lighter in his pocket, so that he would always have access to flame. Penrose's frost would surely be no match fore Michael's fire.

As she asked her question, Michael considered how he felt about it all. Was he interested? Yes. He couldn't deny it. What she was suggesting sounded like it could further his career. But everything had a price, and he'd never agree without knowing exactly what the price would be. And what she had said about doing a great deal if so inclined - what would he have to do to make sure they were inclined to help? Everyone had heard stories of directors and casting agents demanding sex or money in exchange for help. Would it be the same? Michael didn't have much money to give, and as for sex... well, he just wasn't the kind of guy who'd sleep with someone to get ahead. "I am somewhat intrigued," he started off, again being careful to word things politely, "but, as we've brushed upon, there is a lot of mystery surrounding what you suggest. And I am not the kind of man who enjoys mystery. I'd need to know more about what you are prosposing - who would be involved, what would be expected of me. I hope I haven't blown my chance, but I have to be honest about how I feel, and if that costs me the opportunity then its not one I would have wanted in the first place."

"We operate on a cell-based structure, for reasons of security. You understand, I trust?" Penrose said, her tone turning brisk and business-like. She tapped her fingernails against the chilled metal. "Secrecy is one of our highest priorities, as not everyone is quite so honest and well-meaning as yourself, Mr. Oliver."

"You would be within a single circle, and would know members of your circle -- such as Oleander -- and myself. In time, you would meet others." Penrose continued. "Circle-members are expected to help one another, which is the basis of what we do. We're a mutual aid society. You help your circle-members and the higher-ups, and in return, you yourself are helped. Obviously, we don't expect you to use many connections at present, but then we consider you to be an investment, Mr. Oliver."

"On occasion, we may ask you to carry out small favors, ones suited to your skills." Penrose said, and then she smiled. "I have such a favor to ask of you tonight, as a matter of fact, if you care to help us."

At first, Penrose sounded like she was describing a terrorist operation with talk of cells and security. But Michael could see the advantages of what she was proposing. He could also see the potential pitfalls - like not knowing members of the same organisation, not knowing what he might be asked to do. "I see. This is all very intriguing, Miss Penrose. In the interest of honesty, the secrecy aspect of all this is a little unsettling to me. But I can see the positive side, too."

He paused for a moment to reflect on what he was going to say. He wouldn't agree to join tonight - if she would even offer that so soon, which he doubted - but perhaps they could come to an arrangement. "I am interested, as long as this is all above board - I wouldn't break the law, for instance, in the interest of helping," he said, thinking of what his father - DCI, member of the police since he was twenty - would do to him if he broke the law. "But I am very interested. I am relucant to say that I would definately join your group, however. With your penchant for secracy, I'm sure you understand my caution," he said, his winning smile still plastered on his face. "Perhaps this favour could serve as a demonstration - I see what you might expect of me, and in exchange I see what your group might be able to do for me." He thought it was a fair deal - they'd each get something out of it with no comitment to each other. If it didn't work out, they could all walk away. And if it did... well, so much the better.

Whatever Penrose may have thought of Michael's hedging, she gave no sign. She just smiled, that silken smile never leaving her lips. Perhaps it was as much of an act as Michael's, in which case, Penrose was an absolutely fantastic actress.

"That sounds fair." Penrose said, opening a small micro-purse of patent leather and withdrawing two envelopes. One was a simple, white envelope, unsealed. The other was heavy, and made of thick, yellowed paper, and sealed with a drop of wax. On it was written, To Sir Royston Montjoy.

"You'll find the more detailed instructions in the white envelope, along with a small fee to cover any expenses." -- Michael looked, and found nearly two hundred pounds in the envelope, alongside several type-written papers -- "But in short, your little task would be to find Montjoy, entrust him with the letter, and bring any response to a meeting at Green Park tomorrow night. A simple spot of courier duty, but Montjoy prefers the personal touch."

"He was also an actor once, perhaps you two will find something in common to talk about." Penrose smiled, and it was a beautiful smile.

This little assignment sounded deceptively simple. But Michael wasn't going to pass it up. Even if he took a taxi, there would still be money left over from the expenses. So delivering something didn't seem like such a bad gig. Meaning there had to be a catch. But whatever it was, Michael was sure he could handle it. He was also pleased that Penrose had accepted his suggestion of a trial run. It would allow him to gauge what life would be like as a member of this little club, as well as giving him time to consult the Pack. All in all, he didn't think things could have gone much better.

"Well, I hope all the favours you ask are this simple," Michael said, lips quirking as though he were about to laugh. The statement implied that he was thinking of joining the club permanently, without actually saying it outright. That would - hopefully - leave Penrose with a positive impression of their meeting. "Unless there is anything else, I'll deliver it now... ?" he said. He wasn't eager to leave, but Penrose did make him uncomfortable - she was too much the question, too much the mystery. She had the upper hand in their meeting, and the sooner he could get in touch with the Pack, the sooner he would feel like they were on a more level playing field.


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