The woman sat silently watching the bustle of the city around her ignoring the man that was blatantly staring at her. She was used to the staring while she was in the city. Her elven features, long forest green hair, deeply tanned skin and black eyes stood out amongst the city dwelling humans. Their features were bland, hair business short, skin white and colored eyes were a sharp contrast to her.
Still most of the humans gave her long measured glances, and had the decency to look away shamed for looking when she looked at them. This one, however, stared relentlessly, and didn't look away when she glanced at him.
Finished with her vitamin drink she stood. She passed a few credits for a tip to the man that had served her. Turning to the door she saw the man outside watching her. She sighed, and gracefully moved through the tables and chairs to the door.
"Why are you here?"
The question was flung at her as soon as the putrid city air washed over her. She stepped to the side so she wasn't blocking the door, and set her gaze on the man.
"I am a free person, and have papers to go wherever I want," she curtly retorted.
Turning away from the man she wasn't surprised that he took up stride beside her.
"Elves don't come to the city… unless you just got revamped."
The woman halted in her tracks, and spun to the man, "I am a born elf, and it's none business of yours why I chose to be in the city on this day."
The man was unfazed as his gaze trailed over her features. He glanced up as a police craft passed overhead slowly. The woman took the chance, and moved away from him quickly. She had something that she needed to attend to.
The elf sat in the tiny office and drummed her short hard nails on the metal chair watching the ire it caused the office assistant. The boy glanced at her with a heated glare, but said nothing. He knew better than to speak out against this elven woman.
The large doors opened to the interior of the vast warehouse, and revealed a tall succubus demon. She smiled to the woman exposing her sharp pointed teeth.
"Drake will see you now Tahlae," the succubus spoke in her husky voice before turning and sauntering back the way she came.
Tahlae rose, and followed her hearing the office assistant's sigh of relief before the door closed behind her.
The elven woman followed the demon through the warehouse not bothering to glance at the souls working. They climbed the stairs to the cat walk, the succubus waggling her ass and tail seductively in Tahlae's view. Across the catwalk they went to the office perched on the other side. It looked as though it would fall and crush those working below it at any moment, but the elf knew it would hold firm.
The succubus stepped to the side, and purred in Tahlae's pointed ear as she passed the demon into the office.
It was lushly decorated in extravagant taste. The furniture was all lovely Victorian antiques made from woods that didn't grow anymore. The carpet was real angora along with the pillows. Every piece in the office was refurbished and polished to look as it would have three hundred years prior when it was new.
Tahlae sat in one of the fine chairs, and waited for the human looking man to give her his attention. It wasn't long before the man turned to Tahlae, and smiled widely.
"It's always lovely to see the beauty of an elf," he commented as he sat at his desk across from her.
Tahlae nodded at the compliment, "Going to be in the public eye today?"
Drake nodded, "Yes, I have to do a speech at a grand opening. As soon as it's over I can shed this skin."
Tahlae nodded again; she knew Drake in his true form as most didn't. He was demon, but so few of the revamped were allowed to operate businesses in the human cities. Drake's small stature allowed him to don a fake human skin to look human so none were the wiser, but the government and police. He lead a double life at their wishes, and was allowed leniency in return.
The elf waited silently as Drake sorted through so papers on his desk before addressing her. She was used to him and his ways, and knew how quick to anger he was. One of the primary reasons he often worked with her, calling her out of the deep Wood, was because as an elf she was extremely patient as life has taught her to be. She was capable to wait for Drake for hours without complaint. It had afforded her with her unique relationship with him, and the perks that went along with it.
Drake looked up to her having organized his desk and uncovering the paper he was searching for. "This is different from my normal jobs for you, but I hope you'll excel well at it."
Tahlae was instantly on guard as she nodded slowly. Drake usually had her running errands that he didn't trust others with, or a simple locate job. Occasionally he had had her track a person, or retrieve an item. Little things that were still difficult and sensitive enough for him to call on her.
"This is a matter of utmost sensitivity, and something that requires your delicate had."
"What is it you wish of me this time friend?" The elf asked in return tactfully reminding him that their relationship was also something he needed to worry about.
"Protection to be exact," Drake replied with a sigh.
"I will gladly take an item into the Wood with me," Tahlae was still on guard feeling there was more than just that. "You and I both know that only the elves and sprite people dare venture into our lands."
Drake pursed his lips, "Well that won't be possible. You see you will be protecting a human, and he has lived his whole life in the city."
Tahlae measured her words carefully before speaking, "A human? Is there something important about a human that requires me?" The man from the café flashed into her mind, but she quickly pushed the image away.
Drake nodded slowly. He pushed a near invisible button; their conversation was no longer being recorded for his protection, and it set Tahlae on edge. "You see the human is my child in a way."
"In a way?"
"Cloning is strictly forbidden, as you know, this human is a person that is more me than his mother, but still a child of mine force grown. He was instilled with many of my memories through the process, but lacks the refinement I gained after revamping myself."
"Imprinting is forbidden too," Tahlae responded.
Drake nodded, "His imprinting was limited as the law requires, so he could grow into his own self, but the remainder of my memories are stored in chip in his brain that will activate only at my command."
"You made yourself a backup," the elf whispered astonished at what the demon was willing to do to live for eternity.
"Just a precaution I assure you, we both know that demons live nearly as long as the elves do!" Drake smiled, but Tahlae could see it didn't reach his eyes. He was hiding something from her.
"Fair enough, but as such the human, by law, is his own self, and in no need of protection."
Drake sighed, and rose from his seat. He looked out over the city from the window and leaned heavily on his desk. "There have been whisperings that some of the other human business men are wondering about my humanity. There have been several attempts on my life already, and I am having to wear this skin nearly always." Drake turned back to face her, "If necessary I can trigger the man's memories, and use him as the human proof, or have a replacement if the attempts work.
"Either way the truth about him cannot be revealed."
Tahlae nodded slowly in understanding. She already that that itch that this job would be a lot harder than it should be. "So you are requesting that I stay in the city with this human?"
The demon in human skin nodded as he toggled the recorders again. "He is special to me, and so I simply ask that you not ask questions of why I want him protected," the demon stated clearly so the conversation seemed to have never diverted from the recording.
"I have already procured a flat in a nice part of the city," he shuffled some papers to find one and hand it to her. "That is the address; while it's not the best of the best, it's enough that an elf won't be too noticeable, and both of you will be comfortable enough. I have already granted you access to my personal accounts to make purchases for food or anything else you may require."
Before Drake could push on Tahlae sat forward, "Do you think it's wise for me to use your accounts? If this human needs protection, then wouldn't it be better to have an account to use not affiliated with you?"
Drake studied her for a moment, and the elf wondered if he was angry from her interruption by the bland look on his face. Then the human clad demon smile, "Of course, that my dear," he waggled a finger at her and winked, "is why I need you for this job!"
The demon paused to look at his papers again, and then nodded, "It will be set up by the time you get to the location, and I will email you the account information, encrypted of course.
"I also set you up with a secure and untraceable line to me personally should you need to contact me off the grid."
Tahlae sat back and thought it over. This was too much even if it was for an illegal person that might be used to replace the current Drake if he were killed. Something was still very off about this, but Tahlae kept it to herself. It was something in her gut that she couldn't put her finger on. Drake would dismiss this as nothing, but any of the elves in the Wood would instantly understand that it was nothing to be ignored. As a born elf the others gave her a great deal of respect, and had learned to not ignore her gut feelings. Drake was not an elf, and this was not the Wood.
"Will I be meeting this human there at the location?"
Drake smiled and stood. He pushed another button, "Rama, come in here please."
Tahlae stood from the chair as a door behind her opened. She turned, and kept her reactions to herself as her eyes swept over the man from the café earlier.
"The elf," Rama stated.
Drake sighed, "I take that to mean you two have met?"
"Rama was at the café where I stopped for a drink before coming to see you," Tahlae answered before the man could.
"Then you understand what I mean when I say he lacks my refinement," Drake stated.
Tahlae turned her black eyes to Drake. "I take it that the protection is to start now."
Drake nodded, "You are to take him to the location I have gotten, and stay safe until I contact you…"
He trailed off, and the elf understood that he also meant that if the demon turned up dead then she was to take Rama to someone that could awaken his memories.
Tahlae turned to Rama, and studied his closely cropped black hair, bright brown eyes, and white complexion. He would easily blend into the city while she would stand out.
She glanced to Drake to be sure he was done with her, and then strode past the man out the door. Rama was only a few steps behind her as she left the building. Once on the street he followed her closely from behind.
"How is it that my father has the strings to make an elf come into the city?" he asked in her ear once they had left the busy industrial section of the city, and began traveling through the residential areas.
Tahlae didn't glance at Rama as she continued walking, "Why do you think it is true that every elf hates the city?"
Rama considered the question for a moment, "Everyone says it's true, and you are the first elf I have ever seen. Besides the elves all left the city to go into the refuges. They haven't come out since, so why wouldn't it be true?"
Tahlae shook her head. "So then every demon is evil and likes killing, every human is bland and unimaginative, every dwarf likes the dark and hard labor and every animal crossbreed is into bestiality?"
"Well no, I didn't say that-"
"You said that because you know the stereotypes of elves, and have never met one you assumed they're all true. The same could be said of every person on this planet then." Tahlae skirted around a large horse drawn carriage, and ran a soothing hand down the horse as they passed each other. The animal helped her to redirect her ire to someone worth it- the person in the carriage.
"But I know dwarves and demons and several animal crossbreeds; each one is different. The stereotypes aren't always right," Rama defended his friends.
"Then why apply them to me?" the elf instantly asked.
"Well I'd never met an elf, and the stereotypes seemed to be true."
Tahlae halted in her tracks forcing Rama to do the same, "Now you have met an elf," she told him, "and you can stop believing the stereotypes about my people because they obviously don't apply to everyone do they?"
"I guess not?" Rama answered uncertainly.
The woman began walking again at a quicker pace with a frown. While she had been talking with the human she wasn't really paying that much attention to him. They were being followed already, and had been since they left the warehouse.
Tahlae closed the distance between her and the human that now walked at her side. She began heading for the wrong direction, and leading Rama deeper into towering buildings that sought to scrape the sky with their roofs. Shadows descended over the streets with the imposing building blocking out most sunlight.
Rama didn't seem to notice that Tahlae was heading in the wrong direction now. He was too busy looking up at the window that seemed to stretch upward forever.
"I often wonder what it would be like to be a bird and fly around the people that try to reach the heights they can."
Tahlae didn't answer, and instead covered Rama's mouth as she pulled him into a trash storage access for one of the buildings. The woman waited for the person following then to pass and then released Rama.
"You don't have a personal communications link."
Rama frowned, "I-"
"Troublesome," the woman glanced out of their hiding spot, "come on he's gone; let's go quickly."
Rama thankfully heard the urgency in Tahlae's voice, and complied without complain. Once they were well away from the area, and the elf had slowed her pace to a more reasonable one the man asked, "What was that about?"
"We were being followed; the last thing I need is to lead someone to where we will be," the woman replied curtly.
Rama glanced behind them looking for anybody suspicious. "I didn't even notice.."
Tahlae shrugged off the man's reaction to her statement, "Why don't you have a PCL?"
Rama looked back to the woman again, "I do, but it's inactive."
"Father says it make it easier for you to be tracked, and for the government to access your personal data chip."
"Do you believe everything your father tells you?" Tahlae asked as she entered a building, and headed for the stairs.
"Yes, why would he lie to me- there are elevators!" he grabbed the woman by the arm as she passed them.
Tahlae looked at his hand on her arm, and then to Rama's face. "Are you too lazy to take the stairs?"
Rama released the woman given her glare, "The elevators are easier."
"If everything in life were a matter of what's easier and what's harder where would the challenge in living be?" the elf didn't wait for an answer, and opened the door to the stairs. It wasn't long before the door flew open again.
"Are all elves so philosophical?" Rama asked has he caught up to Tahlae.
"Are all city dwellers so nosy?"
Rama fell silent again until they reached the floor their flat was on. Stepping into the hallway he beamed at the elf, "That was invigorating!"
"Life's best joys come from the simplest things, and the ones that you work for the most," the elf muttered as she stopped in front of the door of their place.
She pressed her thumb to the scanner, keyed the code, and waited for the scan. Once it was all done she entered the flat, and turned on the alarm system Drake had installed.
"Get comfortable, we're going to be here for a while," Tahlae instructed as she headed to the kitchen to see what Drake had already provided as provisions.
It was going to be a long job.