The Agent Mackenzie Chronicles (as I'm currently calling them) are just a collection of short vignettes gathered to help supplement the in-game Roleplay. Currently all collected vignettes are authored by me, however when I add those which had help or were co-written by other players, I will tag them with the proper credit. On with the stories!
It was Monday morning. To many souls in the world, it was also "Oh God, Oh God, Just Let Me Sleep In For Five More Minutes" morning, but Mackenzie Hill never was one for over-sleeping. When the phone rang at 7:05a.m. on the dot, she was leaping across the back of her modest grey loveseat, toothbrush in hand, to answer it.
It was a good thing that she lived alone, as well - to Mackenzie Hill, pyjamas were optional.
"Hello! You've reached Mackenzie Hill and this is NOT her answering machine, how can I help you?"
"What the devil are you doing up at this hour, girl?"
Aah, Sebastian Stewart: sterling, dependable, brave, tough and true. He also had a tendency to be a bit gruff.
"I was brushing my teeth. Did you know that when you don't rinse your toothpaste out immediately it starts to tingl-"
"Thank you, Miss Hill. I have work for you. I'll drop by later with the details."
The faint click and ensuing silence made her grin. She settled the wireless phone back into its cradle and resumed her morning routine.
Sebastian had never much cared to waste his words (unless it was in the pursuit of a particularly snarky or insulting comment). Back at the academy he had been her supervisor. Now, he was her only connection to that chapter of her life.
When he showed up at her studio two hours later, it made her feel as though she was back at GRACED's training hall.
He was a grown man of indistinguishable age. Though his face had some rugged lines, and his jet hair was peppered near the temples, his eyes were still sharp and his mind sharper. It was obvious to the keen onlooker that beneath the casual jacket, the turtleneck, and the cleanly pressed trousers, he was quite physically fit and probably quite strong as well. He looked exactly as he had two years ago, before..
His black shoes pattered out a rhythm on the wooden floor of her dance studio as he approached.
"I don't believe I've ever seen a more disheveled young woman in all my days."
Mackenzie gave him a wicked grin from her stretching position on the floor. She was dressed in her dance clothes, which - at any given time - could consist of a professional leotard or an old t-shirt and boxer-shorts.
Today it just happened to be the latter.
"You can't call someone a young woman once they're old enough to drink in the states, Bast-"
"And I would gladly volunteer that you are NOT old enough - law be damned. You're no more mature than a banana in lime's cloth-"
"You had work for me?"
Sebastian eyed her, then strolled away toward the back office. Mackenzie hopped to her feet and followed him.
"You know, usually it's polite to wait to be invited into someone's office."
"Usually it's polite to not wear male underthings in public, either."
Mackenzie sat in silence, legs curled up in the chair alongside her. She eyed the papers scattered across the small desk, looking uncharacteristically solemn.
"There is no room to play, Mackenzie. I know you became used to a certain level of lenience-"
"I can handle it."
She raised her gaze to Sebastian, who regarded her in turn.
"Can you? I am aware of your abilities, Mackenzie, but I think you are quite unused to being expected to-"
"I can be serious, Bas-"
"Expected to govern yourself."
There was a moment of silence.
It was true that she had always had her orders handed to her. Someone was always supervising, someone else was doing the paperwork. She did her job. She had never had an unsuccessful mission, but she had also never had to be responsible for what jobs she did or didn't take. It had never been a question.
The orders came, and you followed them.
"You can turn down the transfer request, you know. There are other organizations out there." Sebastian settled back into his chair, elbows resting on the arm rests, fingers woven together across his lap. He cocked his head, glancing aside. "I wouldn't think that declining would leave a black mark of any kind."
She couldn't help but smile at that. Very occasionally, Sebastian sounded more like an uncle than a boss. She enjoyed those moments.
".. I can handle it."
The gentleman sighed, rising to his feet. He began to gather the papers, leaving only one on the desk in front of his charge.
"Read that carefully, and then dispose of it properly. And I mean burning, Mackenzie, not recycling." With that, he let himself out.
The letter sat in front of her. She stared at it for a few long moments, the text too distant, too oddly angled at the moment to read. Only one word near the bottom of the paper was legible.
The dim apartment flooded with light and then just as suddenly dimmed again. The light was too much right now, and Mackenzie was more than able to maneuver around the familiar room in the darkness.
Her head felt like someone had taken a jackhammer to it, and in a truly cruel twist of fate the waves of pain came and receded in throbbing bursts, usually giving her just enough relief to make the hurt fresh when it started up again.
It wasn't that she'd never gotten tipsy before; she was used to the lighter side of alcohol - Mike's and Smirnoff and the frozen drinks that often looked more like ice cream than booze. The harder stuff, though, she'd avoided, and she'd even mentioned before they started that she wasn't interested in the drinking.
Ah, what the hell. Peer pressure sucks, she thought to herself, sighing.
The redhead moved through the dark room, dropping her comm unit and a half-crushed chocolate bar off on the coffee table on her way to the bathroom. She was mature enough to understand that she'd been acting like a bit of a baby, but god damn it, her head hurt and she couldn't remember half of what went on last night. It was unsettling at best.
As she leaned over the sink, turning the water on, the words went through her head again.
"I ain't your friend, Kenzie, I'm your boss."
Mackenzie splashed her face, heedless of her hair or clothing for the moment, and rubbed at her eyes.
She had really hoped that it wouldn't end up that way. Maybe if she'd been cheerier, or wittier, or handled the drinks better -
Burying her face in a towel, she stumbled to her bed and fell backwards onto it.
Quit being a baby.
"I'm trying," she mumbled aloud.
She knew it wasn't anything personal. She knew that, and she went over it in her head for a few silent minutes, staring at the dark ceiling.
"..I'm not cut out for this."
The streets of Steel Canyon were dark as Mackenzie made her way home. It was chilly, and she could feel the goosebumps forming on the exposed skin of her legs and arms. She silently cursed her propensity toward the short-shorts she wore - sure they were cute, but were they worth the chill and the flack she often got from other people for wearing them?
The agent frowned a bit, a frown that looked more like a pout than anything else. Who cares what they thought, anyway? Half of them actually thought it was inappropriate.. the other half was probably just jealous.
Still, it was cold. She wrapped her arms across her belly as she walked, heels clicking on the sidewalk. The Canyon wasn't the safest place to walk alone at night, at least for normal people. She was normal in her own right, sure - but civilians couldn't exactly do what she did.
So when the mugger attempted to drag her into the alleyway, he was more than a little surprised to get a face-full of boot and a free trip to the hospital.
Fifteen minutes later, she unlocked the door to her apartment and stepped inside.
The comfort of the place immediately washed over her, and the stress in her shoulders and back seemed to melt away; stress placed there by trying to keep up, trying to keep a tough face, a playful attitude - trying to keep her facade.
"You look a mess."
Kenzie immediately spun, kicking high with her left foot. Her ankle was caught by a strong, clean, well-manicured hand - definitely a male's hand. Her eyes followed her kick, gaze finally settling on Bastian's familiar face. She relaxed, pulling her leg free.
"You're crazy. You shouldn't sneak in here like that - if I used a gun-"
"You would not be the same girl I mentored for three years. I taught you better than to rely on weapons."
The redhead gave him a small smile. "That doesn't explain the swor-"
Bastian cut her off abruptly, walking past her to seat himself on her couch. "You did well on your last assignment. The intel you sent me brought us a great deal closer to uncovering who was behind the attack." Kenzie followed him as he spoke, unzipping her suede boots and setting them aside. She also unfastened the small sheath wrapped around her calf, placing it and the three-inch blade contained within on the coffee table. Sitting down on a nearby chair, Kenzie curled her legs beneath her. "As disturbing as the results are, it is nice to finally have some idea.." the elder gentleman trailed off, propping one leg atop the other. Then he set his keen eyes on Kenzie's. "I trust your agency wasn't informed?"
Kenzie shrugged, tugging a blanket off the back of her chair and draping it about herself. "I suspect Jack knows more than he's letting on, but that's usually the case. I doubt the other Agents figured it out; as far as they're concerned, I was either on-leave or on special assignment." She gave another weak smile. "They're not really the type to care anyway."
Bastian simply nodded, satisfied at least with that answer. "And you, young lady? I hope you haven't suffered too much for your work?" A stranger may have missed the twinkle in Bastian's eye as he spoke. His student smirked.
"Oh, I'm all strung out," she started, a serious expression on her face. "I'm highly unstable and a total liability. I've been trying to fraternize with my fellow Agents, and their suspicions that I'm a wanton woman and a drunk are totally correct. You should retire me right away."
The gentleman sighed. "As I feared. I always knew you were a loose cannon."
Kenzie fished a small throw-pillow out from behind her back and chucked it at him. He laughed, ducking out of its path, and then pushed himself to his feet. "Keep your pager on. I may need to contact you again."
"Just don't sneak into my apartment. Next time I really will kick you."
"You couldn't if you tried." With that, Bastian tipped his head to her, and made as graceful an exit as any would expect from a gentleman spy.
The door closed, the lock latched, and Kenzie was alone again.
A Flock of One
(Written with help from @Blue-Blazes.)
Song Lyrics © Iron and Wine.
"You did WHAT?"
The fact that she wasn't looking at him face to face did nothing to dampen the tone he took with her. In fact, the way the phone digitalized his voice only seemed to make it sharper.
"I took the job," she answered casually.
"Have you gone absolutely - do you even - how do you justify - Mackenzie, I SWEAR-"
Despite the trouble she was in, Mackenzie couldn't help but smile. It was rare to provoke Sebastian to the point of speechlessness, let alone the stuttering lecture he was attempting to inflict on her now.
There was a long pause from his end of the line, which ended with a clipped, "I'm coming over."
"Aren't you in New York?"
"You're going to fly from New York to Paragon just to chew me out in perso-"
He said her name like a father might have, and it had a similar effect. She rolled her eyes.
He hung up first.
Sebastian Stewart had always considered himself a reasonable man. He kept to his schedule, was never late, and kept a level head on his shoulders. He was raised by good, Catholic folk, and though he never quite took to the same beliefs, upheld the ideals of the righteous over the immoral.
It was that good, Catholic upbringing that weighed heavily on his shoulders as he stared down into the tumbler full of scotch - rather, the tumbler that had been full - now it was only half-so. In fact, it had been emptied once before.
He hadn't intended to swoop down on his protégé drunk; sighing, he capped the drained bottle on the small tray in front of him and held it up as the stewardess passed by.
"Can I get you something else, Sir?" she asked, taking the bottle and offering him a trained smile.
"No, Mary. Thank you." She nodded, curtsied, and returned to her small cabin at the rear of his private jet.
The private jet. Something else to feel guilty over.
He took a sip, leaning back against the plush leather headrest. It was true, he was wasting precious fuel to fly just two-hundred miles so that he could look her in the eye and tell her how positively stupid she was being.
Public Rel- that GIRL..
Feeling his shoulders tense up, he sighed, training his keen eyes out the window, attempting to lose himself in the afternoon sky as the jet brought him closer to his only remaining student.
The Shepherd's last lamb.
Who's seen Jezebel?
She was born to be the woman I would know
half as tight as both our eyes closed.
and hold like the breeze,
She leapt, twisting in midair like a piece of ribbon caught up in the wind. There was no sound when she landed.
Who's seen Jezebel?
She went walking where the cedars line the road,
Up again, toes pointed, fingers soft as she spun. The icy air of the studio nearly made them tremble.
her blouse on the ground
where the dogs were hungry, roaming..
saying, "Wait - we swear
we'll love you more, and wholly.
Jezebel, it's we, we that you are for -
The music was enough. This music was enough - to wash everything away, to start over again with each step, each rhythm, each cadence. Her strawberry hair fell in wisps from the pins that were meant to hold it back.
She didn't notice.
Who's seen Jezebel?
She was born to be the woman we could blame.
I'd be the same.
Make me a beast half as brave,
Jeté, grand - then spin. Then fall to the knees.
Who's seen Jezebel?
She was gone before I ever got to say,
you're the only shape I'll pray to, Jezebel."
"Lay here, my love,
Arch back, swept arms. She could pour everything into the pose and then release it just as easily.
Who's seen Jezebel?
Will the mountain last -
Sebastian's voice broke into the smooth ballad, and the music came to an abrupt halt. Kenzie silently cursed the voice-activated stereo she had invested in - rather, she regretted telling Bastian how to use it.
"Finally made it, safe and sound?" she asked, languidly pushing herself to her feet and stretching as he made his way over to her. "It's rude to interrupt a d-"
"Do you have any idea what sort of trouble you're getting yourself into?" This was his response as he leaned in, causing her to reel back slightly. "What do you think is going to happen if they find out who you are? Where you are?"
Mackenzie stepped out from beneath his shadow, frown creasing her features as she walked away, picking up a towel off the bench.
"I wasn't exactly hiding before, Basti-"
"You weren't at risk of being on national television before, either! THINK, Mackenzie!"
"I'm NOT going on national TV, dude, chill out."
The gentleman threw his hands up, gesturing at the sky.
"I will not 'chill out'; you don't even understand where you are! Taking on a position like this puts you right at the forefront of this organization - you have no idea who you'll be dealing with, be it reporters, representatives from other agencies - agencies who could, by the way, be connected to whomever it was that massacred your-"
"Come off it!" she snapped, louder than intended. Her voice echoed in the empty room, and silence hung after it for a few moments. "You think I don't know that they're dead? Why do you bring it up every time?"
Sebastian sighed, walking over to the bench to sit down on it. Mackenzie tentatively sat next to him, uncomfortable with the thought of standing over him while he spoke.
"I just don't want the same thing to happen to you," he said, finally. "I don't want you to be a target-"
"So you sent me to an organization that throws me into fights constantly? I get shot at, Bast-"
"I know you can handle yourself in a fight-" he cut her off, voice spiking in volume again. Once he had control of it, he continued, "- when you know what you're fighting. Whomever it was that.. they won't come at you, guns in hand, marking themselves as the enemy. They'll walk right up to you, smile, and shake your hand - especially in a position like - like 'Public Relations'." Scoffing a moment, he paused. Then Sebastian put his hand over hers, his age showing through his weariness. "They nearly - I don't want to think I might find you bleeding again."
He wasn't looking at her, so Mackenzie leaned forward to catch his gaze, a small, soft smile on her lips that seemed somehow more sincere than any he had seen in the three short years he had known her.
"I won't let that happen. Please don't underestimate me."
Sebastian gave her a long, sad look, and then nodded.
"Show me the rest," he said, gesturing toward the studio floor.
Mackenzie smiled, stood, and walked toward the center of the room.
as long as I can wait?
Wait like the dawn,
how it aches to meet the day.
She danced for him.
Who's seen Jezebel?
She was certainly the spark for all I've done.
The window was wide;
She could see the dogs come running -
saying "Wait - we swear
we'll love you more and wholly.
Jezebel, it's we, we that you are for -