V S M The Boys are Back in Town

Victor Wolfe

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The Emperor looked out from the stairs of his palace, his small empire prospering before his very eyes. Whilst there were some issues still to be addressed and clear flaws that would need to be smoothed out over time Victor was but one man, a rather remarkable one, but just one man. However, for the first time in a while, he did not have to argue with stuff elven bureaucrats with ideas well above their stations or direct his surprisingly effective but still rather simple general on how best to kill the bad things.

Being the tactician that he was Victor had realised that Neo New Babylons military might have one clear flaw, the power of its general was so overwhelming that it inhibited behaviours that many would argue are actually crucial to the survival of a capable soldier. Rather than an army, the backbone of Nippurian forces could more accurately be described as a swarm or horde. Rushing forward blindly ignoring all their natural instincts to avoid potential death. Not that the assassin could blame them after all whilst their general was around they clearly did not need this survival instinct to be an extremely dangerous fighting force.

This was the clear issue though, as Victor had heard through some little birdies in the armed forces even a force as animalistic as the xenomorphs had started to realise that by separating the troops from Ahana or choking her out they could turn the entire military into a joke. Ahana would never put in the effort to seriously drill her troops on how to survive in a battle should she be removed from the equation, her second in command was a filthy knife-ear who would best serve being used as a training dummy for mortar teams. And of the two humans that Victor would have trusted to actually train the military, one lay dead and the other was likely to be no more useful after seeing his cousin die. No, instead Victor had come up with an even better idea, the horde tactic could stay but in cases where quantity would not do the job, the assassin would have his own little elite squadron to mop up any messes left by his compatriots.

Victor had, of course, had to pass the idea by his elven assistant but due to proposing it as an increase to military funding the dwarf of an elf seemed totally willing to pass it, in fact, he had only brought up one concern with the plan in that it may be seen as upsetting the balance of power between the three power players in Neo New Babylon.

"Oh, do not worry my little councilmen, for you see whilst it is true that the average general may have a problem with their lord all of a sudden matching their own military provisions with an even more elite fighting force, I doubt that Ahana would. Besides after scouring the net I did manage to find what I think might just be the very best option for us, almost one that reminds me of home actually." The assassin smirked as he revealed an auction page for one hundred slaves, all being proclaimed as both trained fighters and competent administrators. Likely not to the same level of training that Victor had received as a youth but this did create some new opportunities.

"We are in vital need of administrators be they clerks, judges or civil servants. And I think I have just the plan to get us everything we need to patch up some of the issues that are apparent when looking at our society." Glee filled the voice of the assassin as he ordered the men that he would need, the deposit was high, and that was merely for a viewing of these supposed elite soldiers, it was a gamble but one that Victor hoped would pay off big time.

Making his way to the surface meeting point Victor found the large spacecraft already present, reminding him of a steel ship with its back looking like it could be lowered as a ramp to allow for a large amount of cargo to be delivered, a small cockpit at the front implying a small crew operation for the delivery side of the operation. As the assassin arrived he replied to the message he had received, notifying whoever was on board the ship to his presence, after waiting a minute or two in the icy wind of the surface side the Victor felt the snow beneath his feet shake and rumble, as the cargo ramp lowered, a rather fierce looking bald mercenary descended to meet the lord, carrying what Victor assumed was a plasma rifle swung over his shoulder, and enough piercings to allow Victor to forge another dagger should he be so inclined.

Following the mercs lead where what looked to be the one hundred individuals that the assassin had ordered, their arms tied to their collars and what looked to be small explosives planted at the base of their necks, a remote looming ominously at the mercenaries side. A hand hovering over a steadily flashing red button as each of the slaves seemed rather nervous. One of the leaders of the lined up group having a face that the assassin swore he could recognise from somewhere, perhaps possessing a passing resemblance to a former acquaintance?

The slaver stepped forward and shook the emperor's hand, a strong grip as he confidently announced. "Names Marcus, finest shipper of product across the Galaxy."

"Victor Wolfe, charmed. You know the way you advertised your product did imply that this was a mercenary band, rather than well, I do hate to label things and misjudge peoples character, but this to me seems more like a slave trade. And I am not sure where the legality on that stands for our nation." Victors tone remained dry, almost to the point of sarcasm as his eyes continued to scan the slaves, noticing scars and burn marks across many of their arms and legs.

"Oh but it is sir, totally legal mercenary company, slavery implies that you own the people and as it is illegal in some places I being the businessman I am I came up with a little workaround, I capture these good for nothing savages, and educate them, this puts them into my debt and to pay it back they have to work contracts that I rent them out to, after about twenty years they are free to go usually. So not slaves, just long term mercenaries." Smugly replied the slaver as started to roll out some contracts.

"So, how much to buy out all of their contracts? I might want to just keep them all for myself if they do a good enough job, they all do seem to be as promised, physically fit and not mentally deficient." The slaver simply laughed as he patted his pockets and rolled his eyes.

"Well, I don't think you could afford that Mr Wolfe after all this is such a long term investment for me and many of these are only in their mid-twenties, at their peak and still have so many years to work. But to give a price for the entire lot, Two million credits enough to get me out of this business whilst clearing my stock in one day!" Victor's eyes seemed to glow more intensely than usual, a small smile cracking on his face as he stepped towards the bald man.

"Well, I guess that for you that would certainly seem like a fair deal. You get to get rid of all your stock and easily make enough money to retire in one day. So how about I do some haggling because I think we have another option for a deal that would most certainly get everyone here what they most want." The greedy slavers eyes light up as the assassin put his arm over his shoulder, blinded by the prospect of one big deal to end all deals.

A slice and then grunt where heard over the winds of the tundra as the slaves turned to see their master, now with a dagger in his stomach, the hand of the assassin firmly on the hilt as he snatched the remote away from his side.

"You see, with this deal, I keep the slaves, at a much-reduced price, and you get out of this business, and if this wretched snowstorm covers you quickly enough and none of the native wildlife digs you up, there is a good chance you get to stay looking young and preserved forever! Now isn't that quite the deal!" Victor chuckled as he twisted the blade, causing the merc to drop to the snow, dying it a gorgeous shade of diluted red slowing as the blood pouring from his stomach started to freeze and crystallize.

Turning back to the slaves a look of panic filled their eyes, wondering if they would be next, some of them seemed to be eyeing the prospects of running into the snowy wastes for even the chance of an escape, to Victor this was utterly adorable.

"Now, my new friends, when I said that there was a deal to be made, it was not with this foul vulture praying on people worse off than himself. I want to make a deal with you, but to truly make such a deal possible we must be able to talk as true... equals." With that Victor pressed a green button on the remote, causing the restraints that had secured the slaves so thoroughly to drop off into the tundra.

"Now, my fellow humans, I offer you all the chance to serve your liberator, I need good people, people like you with skills in a wide area that can serve a growing empire well, of course, there will be many rewards, status, pay, even land as we take it over and expand as is our god given right to do as humans. Or you can step onboard that ship, and find a way to get whoever wants to leave back to wherever they want to go. You are free men and women now. You control your destiny!" One of the individuals stepped forward, the one that Victor felt he had recognised before. Starting a clap that eventually spread through the entire group Victor realised two things, one that as predicted he had the full support of this group of mercenaries, and two, that he did recognise the individual from before.

"Dave?!?" Victor stuttered, flabbergasted by the reunion with the former guard of Nippur.

"The very same, after you rescued my daughter Lord Victor I visited her in the hospital, and as I stepped out, it seemed I was transported to this wild jungle planet, eventually the slaver made me a deal that I could work for him if I took his starter course, turns out it was a tad expensive so here we are!"
 
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Cho

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The pastel hues of sunset encroached on the Earthbender’s room, painting creeping shadows across the floor, drawing ever closer to the man’s bed. He sighed, heavily, and rolled onto his back, his arms crossed under his head. The humdrum of Republic City droned on just outside of his window. The city was generally busy, well into the night, given the millions of inhabitants. Cho’s residence was little more than a rundown bedsit, everything he could ever need in a house crammed into a single room — the income of a low level enforcer for one of the more prominent crime triads present in the city didn’t go very far. With a loud groan, Cho rolled over again, this time to sit on the edge of the bed, his face buried in his hands for a brief moment. He pushed himself off of the bed, the wooden frame creaking underneath his weight, and made his way, groggily, over to the kitchen, if you could really call it that. The Earthbender retrieved a glass from the cupboard above the sink. He went to fill it up with water from the tap but mutter irritably as the pipes below groaned and whirred, struggling to produce the liquid. Finally, with a cough and splutter, water filled the glass.

Cho turned back towards his bed, taking a long draw from the glass, eliciting a satisfied sigh as he placed the glass down on the nightstand beside his bed. He turned and practically threw himself back onto the bed, which shifted and sighed beneath his weight, the mattress thudding down against the frame. He shifted again, crossing his arms behind his head. Another sigh and the Earthbender closed his eyes again, only to jerk awake — the sensation of free falling emanating from his gut. He huffed and laid back down, only to find the warm comfort of his bed replaced with the biting cold of the white expanse of snow that slowly crawled into focus around him.

Without so much as a word, the Earthbender pushed himself to his feet, the snow crunching underfoot like tiny shard of glass. Quickly, the cold embrace of the environment around him began to take hold, he shivered uncontrollably, his breath juddered and condensed into thick clouds of mist. Cho pulled the bandana, around his neck, up to cover his nose and mouth and drew his arms across his chest in a vain attempt to keep warm. Cho turned on heel, taking in his surroundings, squinting against the bright white snow. Confusion began to take over, there wasn’t much in the way of an explanation of just how he’d ended up in this snowy expanse, let alone where he was.

The deep roar of a spacecraft passed overhead, tearing him away from his thoughts. The massive vessel passed directly overhead, directly toward a nearby mountain which dominated the landscape around it. Chances are, it’s headed toward a settlement.. the Earthbender mused and turned to follow the vessel, practically sprinting behind it.

As he approached, the slaver and his “mercenaries” filed out of the spacecraft. The slaver approached the blonde who appeared from within the mountain. At this distance, the Earthbender couldn’t make out what was being said, he had little choice but to sit tight and listen, for the time being. All seemed to be going smoothly between the pair until the slaver found himself with the blonde’s dagger firmly embedded in his stomach. The slaver doubled over and fell into the snow, face down as the Blonde approached the so called mercenaries, apparently giving them some kind of pep talk. Either way, they were eating up whatever he had said, a round of applause spread through them like wildfire.

The Earthbender approached the group, as the ruckus died down a little, one arm outstretched in a vague wave, his other brought up to scratch the back of his head.

“Hey, uh, where’s the nearest.. Village?” He asked, hesitantly, his gaze shifting between the corpse in the snow and the blonde and his newly acquired allies.
 

Victor Wolfe

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The blinking glow of red eyes stared at the figure who so casually approached the scene of execution, and depending on views of slavery, massive theft of property. Victors blank expression remained as he tried to figure out if this individual was blind, dumb, brave or a mix of the three. The strangers' eyes drifted to the body before focusing back to the assassin and his entourage so clearly, he was not blind.

Victors teeth revealed themselves as his lips pulled back into a friendly smile, he had come here to gain one hundred new allies, and other than upsetting those with OCD gaining one more could only be a bonus, Victor confidently swaggered forward, Dave the former guardsmen in hot pursuit whilst the rest of the freed slaves watched on. Victor held out his hand towards the stranger, who looked at it cautiously, before reaching out and shaking it. A good sign as it showed that he was smart enough to understand that the assassin could be a threat, but still well mannered enough to not spit in the face of someone who just turned a person into a human blood popsicle.

"Well, there are a few mining settlements nearby, but they tend to be on the surface of the volcano, and with the wind chill, and that outfit I would not recommend trying to spend the night there, at least not if you want to remain in one piece, my friend. Hard to believe but it gets much colder than this at night, and with the mining settlements coming under new management recently we have not really had the time to get them up to a standard I would like." Dave seemed puzzled at the new management comment as he chimed in.

"New management? Are the empire here too? Is there nowhere that will be safe from their scum and villainy?" Victor rolled his eyes as Dave had clearly missed the last part of his little speech about how the mining camps were not up to HIS standards. Either that or he was assuming that as soon as old Goldie was gone Victor would immediately defect to the empire an idea that if true would be worthy of a court-martialling.

"No, well...yes, there is an empire here, just not one you are totally familiar with my guardsmen friend, for you see my friend, be it by fate or coincidence you are now standing on the territory of the Neo New Babylonian Empire!" Victor proclaimed proudly as he put an arm over Daves' shoulder and waved the free hand towards the Volcano, small mining settlements dotted across its surface.

"Uh, its a lot smaller than I remember our population being. OH, does that mean that Lord Gilgamesh is here? Would make sense with you being the lacke... Assistant going to deal with the diplomatic side of the Kingdom, also wasn't New Babylon a Kingdom before we got taken here? Why the change?" Victors nostrils seemed to flare, a murderous look in his eyes before calming himself in front of their new guest as he coughed before responding.

"Well, Dave! Unfortunately for us, our great King does not appear to have made the trip to this frozen hellhole of a world, but thankfully for the many people of this area who had given up hope and had accepted that they would mine until they where evacuated, or killed by cave-ins, each other, or the very wonderful and deadly fauna of this moon. There was someone here who actually listened to our former King and took his message, his vision and his ambitions to heart, to create an ideal state that would spread across this world and bring civilisation to the masses. Where every human could reach their full potential. Of course, that person had their own ideas about how a state should be run, mostly I was thinking, bigger! Whilst a Kingdom was fitting for what we had in the last world I do not intend to stay small forever, no, New Babylons problem is that we got overconfident that the world would simply allow us to gather our strength. We need to be more cutthroat this time, those that wish to befriend us can come in peace, those that oppose us will be won over with diplomacy, or crushed under the boots of New Babylonian progress." Victors eyes seemed to glow with the fires that would forge his empire as Dave gulped, he knew when Victor got big ideas things tended to end up pretty bad for him.

"And who is this, individual that will lead this Empire into the future Lord Victor?" Dave questioned, the worried look on his face hinting that he knew the answer, but was not too sure if it was what he really wanted to hear.

"Oh Dave, much like your former name, that title is dead to me. Lord Victor is no more. In his place, Emperor Victor Wolfe the first, ruler of Neo Nippur, Neo New Babylon, and all of its territories present and future has taken his place. Now you stranger!" Victor turned to his guest a smile on his face.

"You have a few choices that you could make. You could get on that ship and forget what you saw here today if anyone questions where you obtained it say you found it abandoned with the owners missing. Consider it a gift for not running and screaming, chasing people through deep snow is ever so tiresome." Victor pointed to the large spacecraft that the slaver had so carelessly left open.

"You could even try your luck trying to find a neutral mining village on one of the other mountains, but given how dangerous the fauna is here, and that if all goes according to plan one day those to will be part of our glorious empire I feel the third option may appeal to you more. Come with me, I am headed to our capital city, we could always use more people and I am sure that if your clothing is to be judged on you are not of this world either. That makes you interesting, If you come with us I am sure we can find you something to do, the perks of the job tend to be pretty good so what do you say stranger?" Victors crimson glowing eyes seemed to stare into Chos soul as his pale hand once again offered itself in a handshake.
 

Cho

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“If you come with us I am sure we can find you something to do, the perks of the job tend to be pretty good so what do you say stranger?" The blonde extended his hand once again. Cho hesitated, stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either, follow the murderous Emperor or face the elements of the unforgiving world. He relented with a sigh and a very obviously forced smile. Cho shook Victor’s hand, to which the Emperor replied with a booming “Wonderful! Come, then! Let’s get out of this snow. You must be freezing.” Victor turned to his newly acquired subjects, gesturing to them with a wide, sweeping motion.

“So, stranger, what shall we call you?” Victor questioned the Earthbender, wrapping his an arm around his shoulders and practically dragging him in the direction of the Volcano, towards what appeared to be a gaping hole gouged out of the side of the mountain.

“Cho.”

“Cho?”

“Mhmm.. just Cho.” the Earthbender cleared his throat with a weak grin.

“Well, Cho, you’ve piqued my interest. Where have you come from?” Victor asked, a predatory grin spreading across his features.

“Uh- Republic City.”

“And what did you do in Republic City, Cho?”

“What did I do?” the Earthbender quirked a brow, buying himself a little time to come up with an answer other than ‘I was part of a crime triad.’

“Everyone has a profession, do they not?” the Emperor began, “What was yours?”

“I’m an Earthbender.”

“An Earthbender?”

“Yeah.. I can bend the element of Earth.. To my will, I guess.”

The Emperor appeared perplexed for a brief moment, the cogs in his mind working to process what the teen had just stated so matter-of-factly, “Is that.. A common profession in Republic City?”

“I mean, I guess so?” Cho spoke, joining the Emperor in vague confusion, “I’m not the only Earthbender, if that’s what you mean. And there are others.. People who can bend Fire, Water and Air as well. But uh, only the Avatar can bend all four.”

“You had my interest.. Now you have my attention..” Wolfe rumbled lowly, patting the Earthbender on the shoulder a few times, “Are there limits to what you can manipulate?”
Cho shrugged, he’d never really considered the limitations of his bending, “I guess.. Given enough time and a couple of other Earthbenders, we could topple this mountain. On my own? There’s not a lot I couldn’t do, just depends on the scale, I suppose.”

The pair, along with the gaggle of subjects reached the gaping hole in the mountain, “Can you show me?” Victor enquired, ushering Cho forward with a slight nudge.
The Earthbender exhaled heavily and took a strong stance, his feet spread wide apart, shoulders squared. He reached out in front of him, with both arms and clenched his fists as if he were grabbing onto the edges of the hole in the mountain. Cho strained against the mental weight of the rocks, pushing the boundaries of the whole into a more uniform, straight edge that resembled something more akin to a doorway. The grinding of the rocks ceased for a moment before Cho turned his attention to the crop of boulders that littered the newly formed door. He slammed a foot onto the ground and the rocks shot up into the air, floating weightlessly a few feet from the ground. Cho turned and as he did, so too did the boulders. He thrust a fist forwards into the air, the rocks shattered into innumerable pieces, little more than gravel as he released his grip on them and rained to the ground, peppering the snow below. Cho exhaled again and stood tall once more.

“Excellent!” the Emperor exclaimed, accompanied by a single clap, his hands remaining clasped at his chest for the time being, “and can you do that with more.. Definition? Can you control the details?”

“I don’t see why not.” Cho stated, simply.

“Let’s try this, then?” Victor began, stepping up to the pulley system rigged to take them into the depths of the mountain, a dagger in hand. He cut the rope and the makeshift lift fell into the apparent abyss, their clattering echoing throughout the myriad tunnels and halls, “Let’s get rid of this god awful lift and get some stairs in place, hmm?”

Cho snorted wryly, “As you say..” He adopted the same stance as before, this time, his hands outstretched above his head. He strained against the rocks once more, eliciting a near deafening groan from the rocks as the Earthbender drew his arms downwards. From the ceiling of the cavern, a pillar of rock began to form, spiralling downwards into the depths as Cho rotated his hands around themselves. A vague thunk in the depths below signalled the pillar had reached its mark. The Earthbender dug his heel into the snow and slid his foot forwards. A small wave of rock formed and travelled the distance of the newly formed stairwell, leaving neatly formed steps in its wake.
“Good enough for ya?” the Earthbender chortled, catching his breath slowly.
 

Victor Wolfe

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The stairwell was a perfect spiral leading down into the depths of their kingdom, not only functional but stylish. Other entrances could be used for the moving of large amounts of goods or people if evacuations or events on the outside needed a large response, but for guests arriving at their fair capital, this staircase would certainly add a small bit of class to the otherwise disgusting Elven designs. A content smile spread across the face of the assassin as he continued to examine the work, confidently taking a step forward as the stone steps took his weight. Not only aesthetically pleasing but totally stable from what Victor could tell, it would seem that not only had he recruited a great group of guards but he may have found another diamond in the rough of Inverxe. A little rough around the edges for sure but with some work and training Victor was sure that Cho could go on to become another invaluable asset in his little collection of extraordinary people.

"No, this is not good enough" Victor tutted, a look of shock crossing his guests face before the Assassin grinned in response.

"It is excellent, I have seen many a miraculous power in my day, from causing disease on thy enemies, healing almost any wound, or summoning a stupid lightning bolt attack for some reason. But being able to control the ground beneath our feet I must say is a new one on me. Why with a little creativity that power could be used for so many different things, crushing an enemy, holding them in place, or even using it to propel yourself forward like an arrow. You have certainly earned my attention comrade. In return why don't I show you another one of my own little tricks? Other than being really good at stabbing people, better to save this one for in the palace though. Show you around before I blow your mind." Victor proceeded to waltz down the staircase Cho in pursuit as he was lead down the tunnels that lead to the capital of the fledgeling empire.

The gates of the formerly elven city beckoned, the outside of the large cavern lit by the glow from pits of lava, and the reflections of this light on the celestial gold and stygian silver veins that lined its walls, creating a warm metallic glow to all around. The large stone structures of the Pyramid temple with its golden statue atop its structure, and a steady procession of people entering and leaving. Whilst the Palace stood out at the centre, a large white building thanks to the rebuilding, with its white pillars surrounding the entrance, and large palm trees made from gemstones "planted" at symmetrical points around the grounds, both a show of wealth, and a reminder of home for the formerly desert based assassin.

Cho seemed to take in the cavern of wonder, the gold and gemstones on display drawing his attention almost immediately, his reaction almost making the assassin chuckle as he simply answered the look on his face.

"When I said I was building an empire I was not kidding, we may not have the largest territory yet, but its only a matter of time, with the wealth from these caverns, my mind, and the abilities of those I have gathered to support me, there isn't much that will stand in our way for any length of time. Not that this is much of a problem for you, why compared to some of the other people I have met on this planet I think you may qualify as a genius friend. No instantly treating us with hostility, and accepting hospitality." Cho chuckled a little.

"Are they really that bad?" Victor grinned as they reached the gate.

"Well let us just test it out shall we" Victor waited as guards Elf peaked over the wall and shouted down in a bored deadpan voice.

"Who is it?" He stared Victor straight in the face as the emperor let out a small sigh before his hand raised and pointed to the large silver crown with purple velvet at its centre that sat upon his blond head. The guard continued to stare for a moment before the wheels in his head started turning as he panicked and pressed the stone slab that caused the gate mechanism to open.

As they walked through the streets people turned, some simply waving to the emperor others rushing forward to shake his hand or attempt to have a moment of his valuable time. Victor attempted too great as many of his people as he could, but before long the pair where soon swarmed by people curious about the regime change and any ideas that their new leader had for the future, with so many people all pushing forward Victor soon found himself being crushed next to Cho in what could only be described as a moshpit of political concerns and greetings. As elbows and stray hands started to pummel the air out of the assassin he almost considered reaching for his daggers. That would certainly disperse a crowd, but would also damage his image. Luckily for him, there was no need for such drastic actions.

Cho grounded his feet and summoned up pillars of rock, pushing back the crowd, the rock disappearing and creating enough space for some of the mercenaries who had decided to use one of the lifts into the volcano to move their numbers easier, to filter in and create an escorting party. Once he had taken a moment to catch his breath Victor announced.

"Now now my glorious Nippurians, I do love all of you as an emperor should, but I feel if every time I come out to the streets I am going to be swarmed then I may not wish to spend time amongst those I love so much. Do not worry so much about the political plans I have laid out for I certainly have all of your best interests at heart, instead, I ask that you all focus on living your best and happiest lives, leave the burden of dealing with political affairs to me. You are all like a family to me, so treat me like a member of your family please and give me the space that I need to feel comfortable with my friends!" Victor said with a laugh as the rest of the crowd joined in and cheered, before dispersing. Clear that the danger had passed the mercenaries spread out, allowing everyone to go back to their business as Victor pulled Cho close.

"So here is how things work around here, this empire is comprised of three distinct, powerful and important groups. You have already met the leader of the first of these groups, whilst we do not have a clear collective name just consider us the political branch of Nippurian life. Judges, Bureaucrats, the budget of the other two and all laws of the land. These are all the things under my domain. The second Branch is the church, we are a society that worships the God of Madness Gal'skalp, do not worry about actually buying into the teachings too much, all I ask is that in public if asked you say you follow the teachings. Or that you are willing to learn. Just to keep my friend High Priest Sigmund Vrell happy. And the last branch is our military, lead by Ahana Varma, she is a competent fighter and has an aura that can heal just about any wound that doesn't instantly kill you. Pretty handy to have around. "

Cho just seemed perplexed by the flood of information, taking it in but not sure how much of it was fact, and how much was an exaggeration from the silver-tongued emperor. Victor simply patted the earthbender on the back as they climbed the flawless white marble staircase towards the palace. Scantly clad servant girls awaited their masters return bowing and fluttering their eyes towards Victor and his guest, Victor responding with winks enjoying the attention before Dave the guardsmen, who had beaten the pair to the palace approached his former employers' top man.

Before he could start a tirade of questions Victor raised a Finger as he walked towards five long tables, each more than able to fit fifty people. Rushing along at speed the assassin waved his hands over the surface and as if from thin air drink and food objects seemed to spring into existence. Large plates of Pork, Beef, and meats that many of the guests didn't even recognise as well as shiny goblets filled with wine and bottles of whatever drink you could think of appeared, luscious greens and fruits, a feast fit for a King, letting out a small pant the assassin smiled.

"I said I would show you one of my powers" He then handed a shot of what looked like Vodka to his earth bender guest and the guardsmen next to him.

"Now I know that many of you have questions, but for now we feast, and drink to new and old allies and friendships!" The Emperor proclaimed as he downed his shot.
 

Cho

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"Now I know that many of you have questions, but for now we feast, and drink to new and old allies and friendships!" The words of the Emperor rang like music to the Earthbender’s ears. He practically snatched the shot from Wolfe’s fingers and downed it without so much as a second thought. His mind still ran amok, myriad questions roiling around in his skull. He hoped, at least, that the alcohol might dull it for a while. Although it hadn’t been long since he had awoken in the snow, he felt as though he hadn’t eaten in forever. His stomach growled as he eyeballed the food that sprung into existence along the tables before him. Greed took over quickly as the teen scooped up a vast array of food from the plates that popped into existence. The mercenaries followed suit and crowded around the long tables, piling food onto their own plates.

Cho stuffed a hunk of meat into his mouth, chewing loudly. He knocked shoulders with the mercs either side of him as he reached for more meat and another shot of Vodka, followed by a glass of deep red wine. The contents of the glasses or what he piled onto his plate mattered little. Cho struggled to hear whatever the Emperor was saying to him over the din of the crowd which had descended into little more than a welter of discordant sounds. Victor leaned in, a hand clasped around the Earthbender’s shoulder and pulled him a little closer, “I hope you can get used to this, Cho. While we may not have the grandest of Empires, we’ve barely begun our expansion.” He pulled away, a coy, toothy grin plastered across his face. Cho chuckled and raised his glass. He opened his mouth the speak but was interrupted as the Emperor raised a finger, his grin still present as he placed another drink in Cho’s hand.

“Questions can come tomorrow.” Victor began, “For now, we drink and feast to new found friends and allies!” The mercenaries around them erupted into cheers, glasses thrust into the air, revelling in their newly acquired freedom. The Earthbender couldn’t help but admire the Emperor. Considering all but a few hours had passed since Wolfe had buried his blade in the slave traders stomach and here he was, eliciting raucous cheers and uninhibited festivities from a bunch of strangers.

“Now, Cho,” Victor clapped a hand onto the boy’s shoulder once again, “if you’d like, you can have a room in the Palace. There are houses empty throughout the city, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting you up in one of those. Some of them are pretty run down.” The Emperor offered an apologetic smile.

“I can take a room here,” Cho glanced about, a little awe creeping through in his expression, followed quickly by vague uncertainty. He wasn’t used to a lavish lifestyle. He’d barely scraped by on a criminal enforcers “wage”, “I don’t want to be a burden, though. If there’s anything you need, let me know?” He winced as he spoke, as if an Emperor needed anything..
 

Victor Wolfe

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Victor grinned, the alcohol causing a light blush across his face as the earthbender started to get into the atmosphere of the occasion. His eyes scanned the room, the former slaves all starting to make conversation with each other as they praised their fortunes, some exchanging horror stories from their times as captives, others just drinking away the pain of their pitiful former existence. Once Victor was sure that no one was listening too closely to what was being exchanged between the Emperor and his new comrade he said with a sly smile.

"Anything? Why Cho my friend, you must choose your words more carefully, not all around this empire are as benign as I, Sigmund given that sort of offer may have asked for you to take part in his experiments. And Ahana may have asked you to cut your own head off for her amusement."

A chuckle came from the emperors guest slowly turning into a nervous giggle as the look on the emperors face showed that his statement may have only been a slight exaggeration. Giving him a light pat on the back Victor set up two more shots, Cho nervously grabbing at the glass as the liquid fire quickly found its way down their throats.

" Whilst it is true that I have many a possession, a lovely palace, powerful allies, people to work for me, and these fan girls. What? Did you think I hired servants?" The emperor questioned an ever so cocky shit eating grin crossing his face as Cho's eyes darted back to the scantily clad women wandering around the palace. A look of amazement followed by a hint of jealousy following the realisation that Victor may be literally a man who has everything.

"There are some things that I don't have, yet. A planet for one, one that I and the people under me rule with that ever so glorious despotism that is a monarchy with undefined powers and rights. We are working on that as we speak and I doubt your earth-bending powers, impressive as they are would be capable of crafting a livable useful planet for us." Cho nodded in tipsy agreement as he chuckled at the idea of someone being good enough at his art to be able to craft a planet.

"I also have yet to meet a woman that I could truly consider my equal." This statement seemed to draw a few stares from people who had happened to overhear the emperors apparent sudden switch from a fairly liberal leader to a true hard-line traditionalist. Some of the fangirls openly glaring.

"Oh, not in the, I do not think that women are worse than men, I have only ever met maybe three or four men that I could truly consider my equal. I have met plenty of amazingly strong women in my time, brilliant thinkers, assassins, and before the sexism headlines start to spread through the media the leader of our military, who I personally appointed is a woman. And the local leader of one of our core territories is also a woman that I backed all the way to leadership. But I guess what I mean is? I feel I need a partner? Someone who not only is entertaining but their presence and skills bring out the best of and enhance my own to the heights that I alone cannot reach." Victor blushed a little as he took another shot.

"Only ever met a few people who can give me the drive to go out and get what I want. And there is no Goldie, nor Gabby here, unfortunately. uhhh I miss my Gs" Victor sighed as once again with a wave of his hand the two shot glasses found themselves filled with the crystal clear vodka a sideways glance to the redfaced Cho signalling to the now very tipsy guest that he would be best to continue to force the drink down his neck.

As both men finished their drinks each of them shuddered as the alcohol burned their throats and continued the fire down into the forge that was their stomachs. "But, whilst I am sure that you may look decent in a dress if it is going to be a man, then I am going to make passes at good old Siggy until I feel that ship has totally sailed." A laugh filled the room as the mercenaries and servers who had managed to listen in, Cho and the emperor himself all burst into drunken hearty laughter at the change back to a light tone.

"However there is one thing, that I have a feeling a fellow such as yourself could help me get, not that I do not have it already but given the pool of candidates I have seen around me there is no promise that should an unfortunate accident or problem occur that costs me some of them, that I would be able to find suitable replacements from within the groups that make up our society. I am sure that I as always would make do with the people at my disposal and just have to start doing any task that requires more than two brain cells myself, but that is such a bother." Victor put an arm around Cho's shoulder and pulled him close.

"Well if its something that I can do then just let me know," he said cautiously as he waited with bated breath to hear what it was that the emperor needed from him.

"What I need most in this world, more than the planet itself, more than good food and wine, or romantic partners, more than hordes of soldiers and all the metals and finary you could ever wish for. More important than all of that are keys." Cho looked puzzled, beginning to wonder if the emperor had locked himself out of a room and needed some metal bending in his drunken state to get back in.

"Just a little political philosophy comrade. You see our empire is in its fledgeling state, what it means to be New Babylonian is still up in the air for these people as competing ideas and social structures battle it out to be the way of our future. I try to manage and shape this to my will but I am still a human, and even with every trick up my sleeve and the finesse, I try to use in all situations sometimes things escape my control. The more stuff I personally have to deal with the more likely this is, and the longer it takes for me to respond and be able to change the course on a change that I have spotted. So if I slip up to many times or social changes in a way I cannot allow, and in the ensuing attempts to get it back on track people start to lose faith in me, my position starts to become shakier. Thus, these areas I control are the keys to my power." Cho nodded along, Victor hoped that at least some of this would stick in his head through the hangover that was likely to follow, although if it didn't it wasn't the biggest of issues. Victor was just glad to have someone to talk to about something other than stabbing things or the old gods.

"Now a despotic monarchy holds fewer keys than a democracy, where every voter is a key, that can kinda be grouped into larger keys based on age and key issue voters. But unfortunately I cannot be the only key to my own power, that would mean controlling every single aspect of life, and I don't have that kind of time. So I have to make more keys, Sigmund controlling Religion and Ahana controlling the military are two of the bigger ones. But on a mutual level where I also hold keys to their positions of power too." Victor gave a sly wink as he downed one more shot before continuing on his speech, now carving out the key ideas using his blade onto the wood of the table.

"But there are still many things that I could delegate to make my focus on the actual issues concerning our society even easier. But to do that, I need people. Good, competent people. People who can listen, learn and if thrown into a situation that they had not prepared for, act with the tact and skill necessary to be able to make the best of it. Essentially I need people to work under me and learn how to manage stuff so that every single little issue or dispute does not end up being argued out in the throne room because does someone moving a fence into their neighbours garden really need to be an issue I deal with? Thus all I ask is that you let me take you under my wing. Learn what it means to be part of our society, and figure out just what sort of key you can be my comrade. I think that eventually, you could prove to be one of the best at my disposal." As the emperor ended his speech Cho looked in thought for a moment, before drunkenly putting an arm around Victor.

"Aw, I like you to Vicky!" The pair laughed as they went back to their drinks. Going their separate ways as the party ended with each going to sleep off what was sure to be quite the hangover.
 
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