Old Friends, New Enemies
Porter's on the run, looking to pick up his dead drop and catch his breath at the Rainier Resort. Zora is none too happy that a spy, even a friend, is in her world while so obviously on the job. Porter might have brought a little more trouble with him than he expected.

Location: The Rainier Resort, Monaco

Date: 01/10/13

"I think you might have spies." —Zora

The Rainier Resort is quiet save for the voices and footfalls of three children who have managed to give their nanny the slip and are now racing through the wide open foyer. Their giggles bounce off pale stone pillars and arches, their feet pound the travertine floor until they hit carpet in the lounge area. Two of them scramble onto a cream leather sofa while the third makes a beeline for a marble fountain surrounded by young orange trees.

The hotel's owner intervenes even as her staff are—discreetly—rushing to corral the trio. Zora makes a right at the bottom of the wide staircase and, instead of heading for her office, veers toward the children. She looks like part of the decor herself in a '20s style white shift and plain gold sandals. When the would-be fountain-diver catches her eye, he freezes.

"The fountain is not for swimming," she says. Her arch look makes the boy back up a few paces. Suddenly, his sisters are sitting properly on the sofa.

Security guards melt back into the shadows, the bellhop returns to his post, a maid turns back to her dusting.

"Oui, madame," the boy squeaks. The elevator opens and the nanny dashes out of the gilt and mirror interior, looking frantic, alternately scolding in French as soon as she sees her wayward charges and apologizing to Zora in English.

"Children are children," Zora says, turning away toward her office.

Agent Porter has seen better days. Though he's had a chance to wash and receive first aid, he still looks like a man who recently took a beating. His clothing is ill-fitting and definitely on the wrong side of fresh. Despite a slight limp, he carries himself with his head high and his shoulders square as he pushes through the front doors and makes his way toward the reception desk.

He catches the receptionist's attention with a subtle, two-fingered wave. "Hello," he greets her. "Package for Milo McLaren?"

Despite his appearance, he maintains a clipped, precise demeanor and keeps an engaging smile on his face. It might not be enough to make up for breaking the dress code, but a pleasant-yet-commanding presence can go a long way.

"Mister McLaren." The young woman behind the desk is very pretty, her dark skin shown off well by her crisp white dress. Her gold name tag reads 'Olympia'. Her French accent is heavy but her English is perfect. "You're expected. It's lovely to see you. Welcome to the Rainier." She takes out a manilla envelope and lays it on the counter, then places a small resort portfolio and a room key on top of it. "Do you require any assistance at the moment?" She looks around for his luggage or entourage.

"Not at the moment, thanks." Porter's smile widens, flashing his teeth in a not entirely friendly fashion. Then he scoops up his things, nods, and heads for the elevators. When he reaches them, he thumbs all the buttons, steps into the first empty one that opens, and leans on the 'CLOSE DOOR' button impatiently.

As soon as the elevator closes, Olympia picks up the phone and buzzes Zora's office. "Madame Alkaev. Mr. McLaren has checked in." Zora is always curious about these special check ins.

"Merci, Olympia." On one screen, Zora pulls up the security feed for the check in desk and runs it back two minutes. On another, she takes a look into only the main elevator on its way up from the lobby. She frowns and tilts her head, then opens a line to her head of security.

"André. I think Mr. McLaren will require some special treatment while he stays with us. Clear? …yes, I think I'll speak to him myself. In two minutes."

Before she goes anywhere, however, she keys the program that tracks her daughter's RFID chip through the hotel and brings up the nearest camera. Safely out at the private pool. That makes Zora feel a little better. While she watches, a security guard steps out of the apartment to join the two already out on the balcony. Zora's grandmother looks up from her book, then at the camera, and she frowns. *What are you up to, Zora?*

Zora turns off the feed and goes out by the staff passages to a back elevator. She'll explain later—whether she wants to or not. Her grandmother has ways of making anyone talk.

Once he's alone in the lift, Porter thumbs the button for the appropriate floor and tears the large envelope open with his teeth. There's a small stun gun inside, which he tucks into his pocket and pats appreciatively. There's also a slip of paper with a numerical code on it, which he quickly commits to memory. Then the paper is wadded up and shoved through a narrow crack in the elevator car's walls, sending it down the shaft and putting it beyond the reach of all but the most determined investigators.

When the lift stops on his floor and the door slides open, Porter glances up and down the hall before stepping out. For a man who seemed so confident in the lobby, he's very cautious now that he's in a quiet, deserted hallway. His hand never strays far from his pocket as he makes his way toward his room. The sound of an emergency vehicle going by, barely audible through the resort's many walls, elicits a minute flinch as he slides his key into place and opens the door. He doesn't even bother turning the lights on, he just makes a beeline for the safe.

The room is minimalist without being spartan, nothing interferes with Porter's charge for the safe. Punching in the code gets him nowhere, however. The lock on the safe is dark and unresponsive.

"Whatever's in there will have to wait, Porter," Zora says quietly. "Until I'm sure you understand the ground rules for my little piece of the world."

She's seated in the shadows by the balcony door. To eyes adjusted to the dark, she's barely visible, just a suggestion of a ghost.

Even aging and wounded, Porter is dangerous. Too fast to follow with the eye, he draws the stun gun as soon as he hears a voice. Once he identifies it, he relaxes, but only slightly. "I didn't come here to make trouble, Sofya. I know you're out of the life. I just needed a safe place to resupply. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to walk away from this conversation without any new scars."

A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth as he lowers his weapon. "Nice place," he admits. "Good to see that retirement's treating you well."

"I'm not interested in hurting you. Only in protecting this 'nice place'. And it's Zora now… well, forever, I expect." Zora turns on a reading lamp by her chair, casting a warm halo of light around her. Her voice is exceptionally calm over how deeply unsettling it is every time her past, especially an important piece of it, walks through the door. "No working while you're here. Porter. I mean it. In return, if you need anything… perhaps a doctor? The resort is at your disposal, as it is for all my guests."

Terms have been offered. Porter bobs his head, nodding just once, then tosses his weapon onto a nearby chair. "Zora? I like it. Eh, I'm not bad. Mostly underfed and dehydrated. And no working, you have my word. Like I said, I just came here because it seemed like a safe place for a drop." He leans against the back of a chair, but he doesn't sit. As tired as he looks, it's possible he might not get back up. "I got injected with something while I was knocked out. Don't know what it is, but it itches like hell. Once I poke at it a bit and collect my gear, I'll be out of your hair."

"Injected? Let me see." Zora gestures for him to head for the bathroom, affectionate exasperation all over her face. She gets up to follow. "I do know a fair bit of medicine, Porter. And I know what it looks like when you 'poke at' something. You'll shove a pen or something in there, possibly a knife, and then stitch it up with less skill than a child with one of those plastic lacing toys. And that's if you can't just take it out with your teeth."

"You know me too well. I'm going, I'm going." As he passes Zora, Porter reaches out to trail his fingers briefly across the small of her back. His smile turns crooked as he unbuttons his shirt on the way to the bathroom. He sheds it, exposing a torso that's mottled with bruises in an impressive array of colors. There's also a red lump about the size of a pencil eraser in the crease where the muscles of his chest and shoulder meet. There's a hole in the center of the lump, and while it appears to be several days old, it still hasn't healed up. "I figure it has to be an injection site," Porter says, jerking a thumb toward the little knot. "Not sure what else it could be."

"Cancer. Botfly." Zora runs her fingers over the area and a little smile tugs the corners of her mouth. "A bet you lost while you were drunk and don't remember. A bullet fragment finally finding its way out." She goes on—the more she tries not to laugh, the stronger her Russian accent becomes. "Zombie tequila worm. Alien egg-babies. Karma."

"There's something in there but I can't tell if it's an abcess or a foreign object. I'll call for a first aid kit—I am not using your spork or bottle opener or whatever it is you think will do the job—and some food." She steps back and rakes him over head to toe with her gaze. "And clean clothes. The safe will be functional again in a few minutes, by the way. I assume that's enough to keep you here for the moment?"

Porter can't help but laugh and shake his head ruefully. It's a grand, exaggerated show. "Consider me detained," he agrees. "Though if I'd have known you were going to be so hospitable, I'd have given you a call. Dinner. Clothes. Surgery. Now I feel bad."

He returns her gaze with one of his own, head tilted to the side as he studies her unabashedly. "It's good to see you," he finally says, settling back into a more serious tone. "You look fantastic."

"Thank you." Zora waves her hand dismissively, even if her cheeks warm slightly. Privately, it's nice to know she hasn't changed that much. "I've always been hospitable to you, I believe. Well. To *you*." She winks at Porter. "Maybe not to everyone you've been. If you'd known where to call, you should have. I'll go make those arrangement—and tell my security team to stop pacing a hole in the hall carpet outside."

"I'd appreciate that," Porter chuckles, bobbing another nod. "One of them is a mouthbreather. They've been out there long enough to make me nervous."

He turns toward the lavatory mirror and examines himself critically. After a quick poke at the offending red welt, he runs his thumb over his accumulated scrapes and bruises. He, sadly, has seen better days. Still, there's a twinkle in his eye when he turns back toward Zora. "You know, you have always been pretty good to me. I seem to recall us being in situations like this a time or two before. Usually with more sand and a lower thread count."

"I'd say I don't miss it, but I don't lie as well as I used to." Zora gives him a smile before she heads to the door. When she opens the door, she speaks to someone outside in Russian—very quietly. Just as she'd said: first aid kit, food, clothing, personal items, Mr. McLaren is to be treated like any other guest. There's a pause, someone says something Porter can't hear, and Zora replies with exasperation. "Tell her *no*. Absolutely not."

Some days, Zora's grandmother—or the woman she was raised to know as her grandmother, which is more important—drives her absolutely mad. Nosy old woman. Zora keeps that to herself because Anna is still an excellent shot, with a rifle or one of her shoes, whatever suits her purpose.

André hands Zora her tablet and her phone. "Anything else?"

"I'm fine, go on." Zora shoos him away just as an out-of-breath guard reaches over his shoulder and hands her a first aid kit. "Very prompt. Thank you. Now. Get on the rest." With that, she lets the door fall closed.

Porter raises an appreciate eyebrow at the staff's speed and efficiency. "Very snappy. I'm impressed."

With the first aid kid close at hand, there's not much left to do but put himself at his old friend's mercy. He hops up on the counter and sits with his legs dangling over the edge. "So much for walking away from this without any new scars," he chuckles. "Go ahead. Do your worst. Just don't show me if it's something gross. If I have blowflies or baby spiders in me, I'd just as soon leave it a mystery."

"Men are such babies." Zora rolls her eyes at him as she lays out the kit and pulls on a pair of gloves. "I would have worn white today," she notes with a grimace. "You're no end of trouble, Porter. Always were." She doesn't sound particularly sorry about that, and she isn't.

She swabs his skin with an alcohol wipe before selecting a thin green plastic scalpel with a little steel blade. It's been a while since she did any field surgery, anything else except bandaging a knee or finger, treating a fever or soothing sore teeth. "This won't hurt long."

"Kinda weird to be the one hearing that instead of saying it," Porter admits. There's a small, involuntary twitch as Zora makes her first incision, but other than that there's no reaction from him. Not only is it in his best interest to hold still while she works, he has little choice but to act tough after her comment.

"You've still got a light touch," he says, smiling thinly, his voice only slightly strained. He studies her face while she works, mapping and memorizing the contours that have changed over time. When he catches himself staring, he clears his throat and glances aside. "Well, don't leave me hanging. What the hell's going on in there?"

"You didn't want to know if it was something terrible like baby spiders." Zora's tone is familiar, sly laughter just under the surface. "I think it might be worse." She picks up a pair of tweezers and probes in the wound. Success. She draws something out from under his skin and it's what she feared, in spite of her light tone.

Once it's out, she holds it up for Porter to see. "I think you might have spies."

"Shit." Porter squeezes his eyes shut and presses his palms against his face. "That means they know I'm here. Sorry. Quick, let's flush it. Hopefully it'll throw them off."

The tiny tracking device is plucked from Zora's grip, dropped in the toilet, and sent spiraling down the drain. Then, without another word, the grizzled veteran heads for the safe that had been his original objective. As promised, it's operational. He punches in the code and yanks the door open. There's a small pack inside, which he opens and checks. Cash, passports, demolition caps and charges, spare ammunition, and other small essentials. Satisfied, he sets it aside and pulls out a pair of pistols, a submachine gun, and two paper sacks that bulge ominously.

Once the safe is empty, he closes the door and starts assembling his supplies on a coffee table.

"Well, right now, killing you and dumping you into the waste system does look like a viable option, if I still did that kind of thing," Zora says tautly. "I'd have prefered to put the thing back in you and kick you out—I would have if you were anyone else." She's livid and she knows it's because she's afraid. She never got angry like this, or frightened, before. She would be charged up to get into the mess. "Do you have any details? I need to take care of some things if you're expecting company."

"The guy's name is Viktor. He's an arms dealer, but I heard he set up a legit front. Some casino not too far from here. I don't know what he's planning. I just went in because I heard he was running bio-weapons and I got orders to shut him down. True, by the way," Porter confirms. As he speaks, he loads all three weapons, attaches suppressors, and snaps a holographic scope onto the submachine gun. Then he upends the paper sacks, revealing a mind-boggling array of grenades suitable for nearly any situation. These he stuffs into his pack, squashing down the existing contents to make room. "How about those fresh clothes? Then I think I'll skip dinner and get out of your way. Hopefully if I head in one direction and the tracker's going in another, his people won't come anywhere near your place. He probably already thinks of you as the competition."

"It'll all be out in the hall. I knew Viktor was a problem, but… I don't have any contacts anymore… I just. Dropped out." In the dim room, Zora is nearly as pale as her dress, she's frustrated by how vulnerable she feels. No handler. No contacts. No backup. No plan. No exit. She's furious with herself now for thinking she could have what she wanted, any part of a real life.

"Hope has never been as effective as a gun, Porter. Neither of us are here because of 'hopefully'. I suppose I should thank you for the truth about Viktor, even if I got it this way." She yanks the door open and pulls the waiting cart into the room. There's a suitcase on the lower shelf and a suit carrier draped over the top. "Here's your clothing."

There's no modesty. Not only is there no time for it, the two of them have little need for it. Porter strips down and suits up in record time, including belting on concealed holsters for his pistols and slinging his SMG under his jacket and away from casual view. His sack full of cash, tools, and explosives is cinched shut and strapped across his back. Then, as an afterthought, he pulls one of his sidearms free and replaces it with his discarded stun gun. The pistol is pressed into Zora's hand, along with a business card. "Just in case," he murmurs, meeting her eyes. "Call me if anything happens. I'll go to ground somewhere close by."

"I will. If you need anything more. Money, passports… People come and go from this place all the time. You can find a way to let me know." Zora puts her free hand over Porter's and kisses him on the cheek. On one level, she's envious. "Be careful… not your usual careful, I know how you are. The gun… take it. I don't want you to be without. I retired, but I didn't simply stop being me. I have some things left, still. One or two of them might even be yours."

"I hope you still have the things I gave you. I still have the scars you gave me. And the watch, too." Grinning, Porter tucks the gun in at the small of his back, then cups his hand affectionately against the curve of Zora's jaw. His grin fades down to a small, subtle smile as he looks her in the eye. "You be careful, too. I'll be in touch."

And then he's gone. No more words, not a backward glance. He's at the elevators in seconds and he's at the front door in minutes. As soon as he crosses the threshold, he vanishes into the crowd.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License