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Messages - Francis Church

1
Lost in his own thoughts, Moira's bedside manner pulled him out of it. "Yeah." Francis said, a tentative hint of embarrassment to his answer. "Sorry." It was days like this that he really disliked working for Sebastian. But what else was he going to do? Anything, was the answer, but Francis didn't know how. He'd gone from the orphanage to the Marines to Sebastian and had never been on his own before. He didn't even know what that would look like. He looked up at Moira, her face half a foot in front of him, and, had he been capable of it, might have seen her as being in a similar situation. Might have read her eyes, her face, her situation for being just as trapped as he was.

But instead, he just did what was expected of him. What he'd been told from a young age was what people did when someone else did something for you. Worried about the person in front of him hating him and said, "Thanks." It didn't matter that she was a doctor and he was a patient. This was her job. And he had been doing his when he'd been injured. He still felt the fool. Kim shouldn't have gotten the drop on him. Francis had been distracted, and that wasn't good. Distractions got you killed. It wouldn't happen again.

His eyes met Moira's and he felt distracted.

Nope. No reason to go there. And it wasn't like Moira wasn't attractive. And Francis, while neurotic and probably suffering some sort of borderline personality disorder, not to mention a lukewarm-blooded killer, had had relationships in the past. They never lasted long. But he knew better than to try and mix business with pleasure. Sebastian would probably elbow him too hard in the side and tell him to go for it. That just wasn't Francis' style. Instead he went cold, like he did when he was on the job. "You almost done? I gotta be somewhere." He didn't.
2
Odette IC / Re: S1: Ep1 - Birds of a Feather
July 21, 2020, 07:44:54 am

Now, Francis was a lot of things. Neurotic. Socially inept. Slightly naive about how the 'Verse might work outside of his bubble. But in the wheelings and dealings he'd been a part of at Lil Sebastian's side he was more than adept. He was also keen to sense danger and figure a way out of it. And he was sensing something alright. They were going the wrong direction, or so he kinda-sorta thought. He couldn't be sure with his limited knowledge. And meeting them at the docks against their instructions was odd, as well. That was two too many weird things for him. He was glad that at least Coop seemed to be picking up on it as well. He watched Charity and King whispering with Pele. They seemed in the know, as well. At least well enough to react should things go sideways. The outlying factor was the old man, Jed. Francis was no dummy. He knew a martial artist when he saw one, but the guy was still like 100 years old.

Cooper made his move and Francis was relieved to see him pick the part of the bad cop. Francis could certainly put the hurt on someone, but intimidation was harder, especially without injury or the threat thereof. He was never very good at that. Lil Sebastian had told him once that the less you said in a situation like that, the scarier you were. And that's where the problem was. Not talking.

Francis tapped his nose at Coop and moved in for the kill. He attempted to flank the man, but Francis couldn't get in through the crowd and the marchers so settled for continuing on the inside of the circle. "Hi!" He said with a cheerful grin. "I'm Francis. What's your name?" The guard said nothing. "Cool. Have you been working for Lady Sun a long time?" The only response was the sound of marching feet. "Great. Listen, where are we going? You can talk to me, man. We're friends, right?" Francis reached out with a tentative hand and awkwardly patted the guy on the shoulder. Finally a reaction, though not a positive one. The guard shot him a glare, the implication being that if Francis touched him again he would regret it.

Maybe the guard would regret it, Francis thought with a sneer and stepped away, going to Coop. "Ok, your turn."
3
Odette IC / Re: S1: Ep1 - Birds of a Feather
July 07, 2020, 08:49:28 am
Francis's eyebrows popped up in surprised delight as Bao Lin greeted them at the docks. "Great!" He was truly wowed at the service. In a hundred years he would never have expected an envoy from Lil Sebastian to be treated with such reverence and respect by an outside party. In fact, that was mostly the reason Sebastian had sought out someone like Charity Vornbach to do these sorts of meetings for him. So as to not arouse suspicion. Plus it was hard for him to actually get off station. So many things to do.

"This is real nice." He said as they formed up and made ready to march through the crowd. "Ooh! They should have gotten us one of those things, whataya call'em, where the muscley guys carry you in a thing. I guess it could be muscley women, too. Muscley people. Palanquins! That's what they're called." He rambled when he was nervous. Which was always. "I suppose that would defeat the purpose, though. Draw a lot of attention, you know. We wouldn't want that. Not that we have anything to hide, just you know, a lot of dangerous folks out there. Not that we're in danger. Not with these guys." Odd though, that Lady Sun would send so many guards. In fact, if Francis remembered correctly, there had been no mention of an escort. They had been given the address and were told to meet there. Odd. But hey, he had said it himself. There were a lot of not very nice men in the 'Verse. Women, too. Dangerous people. These guards were there for their own protection.

Probably.
4
Francis paused. How much did Moira know about what went on here on Iscariot? She wasn't dumb. And she was fixing his injury. She worked for Sebastian. "Um. Yeah. The other guy." He pictured the last time he had seen Kim, the trash compactor slowly closing down on his lifeless form. The memory of the sound of his bones crushing mixed simultaneously with his softer bits squishing and popping... He snapped back to the present. "Crushed him." Francis softly clapped a fist into his other open hand, a gesture that might have looked tough. But it was probably just kind of sad. He knew better than to say too much.

"Yeah drugs and Sebastian do not mix. I mean, other people's drugs. Not that he does drugs. Well sometimes but it's not like he has a habit, or anything. This one time he was rolling pretty hard and..." Breathe. "Sebastian doesn't do drugs." Mostly true. Francis squirmed in his chair. "He doesn't sell them either." That was a lie. Why did it feel like Moira was torturing him? Was it the bright light? She was hovering awfully close with sharp instruments. "There are absolutely no drugs on Iscariot station." Well that's just absurd. There was no way he could know that. "Oh boy. Listen." He gently pushed her away. "I think whatever you gave me has got me nervous, or whatever, but it would be a huge favor to me if you didn't mention any of the things I just said to Sebastian. Or anyone."
5
Odette Asides / Re: Hot Gos' - Pele and Francis
July 02, 2020, 02:02:45 pm
"Of course you can stay." He said, like it was a foregone conclusion. There might have been some sympathy there, though Francis wasn't entirely sure he was capable of that. He probably was. Most people were. "You're one of us." He added and felt immediately like one of the young priests who would visit the orphanage when he was a kid and tell them that loving Jesus was fun and cool. One terrifying flashback to an acoustic guitar later...

"And sweatpants sounds a-mazing. Sebastian always makes me wear these suits." He said, pulling at the cheap black uniform draped on him with discomfort. "I hate them, but he says they make me look like a-" Francis dropped into an overblown accent reminiscent of Lil Sebastian. "-Smarty pants. Gotta look professional, kid!" He rolled his eyes and stopped before he got too deep about never being able to be himself. Pele didn't want to hear about that. Hell, he didn't either. "Sooo..." The conversation drifted into the part where Francis should probably excuse himself and give Pele her space, but instead he kept standing there. He offered a tight smile. "You going to come with us? When we land, I mean."
6
Odette Asides / Re: Hot Gos' - Pele and Francis
June 23, 2020, 08:46:14 am
Eyes wide, Francis entered Pele's room as quickly as he could and stood as near to the door as he could, so as not to give the idea that he was too comfortable in there. Because he was decidedly not. So much so he didn't even notice her calling him Frank. "I think I know what this is about." And he did, sorta. "Your friend back on Iscariot?" In between scraping Johnny off of the floor and taking Charity and her crew down to the ship, Francis had briefly sat in on his questioning. "The guy didn't say anything. Just things like 'Do you know who I am?' and 'Do you know who I work for?'" Francis laughed. "No! We don't, man. That's what we keep asking you! Ah, you won't say! It was kind of frustrating, honestly." Francis reminisced on it. Of course, he'd had other things to do, so he wasn't one-hundred percent positive that Sebastian didn't have the information. But Francis, were he in that same position, wouldn't give up info on Sebastian. That was the code.

"But I could tell he worked for someone bad. Takes one to know one." He shrugged. A quick mental tally of Pele's recently rumored love interests. Now, Francis knew that not everything the tabloids published was true. But there was usually a hint of authenticity to the gossip. But she hadn't been featured in a while as he recalled. It was only strange now that he thought of it, there was so much information flying about every day it was hard to keep track of everyone. "I can absolutely keep a secret." He was known for it, actually.

He didn't wait long for Pele to tell him. "Wait. Can I guess?" This was beginning to be fun. "No. You'll just tell me. Don't tell me." He bit his lip trying to stay quiet. "Was it Atticus Sexton?" A famous fashion photographer. "No. Isn't he gay? And he takes such nice photos, I'd had to think he could have something to do with all this nastiness." A small gasp. "Was it Crispin? Nooo!" Hands went in front of his mouth to keep himself quiet. If it was Crispin, a recording artist who had just crossed over into acting, Francis wasn't sure he could take it.
7
Odette Asides / Re: Hot Gos' - Pele and Francis
June 15, 2020, 08:25:04 am
"What? No! I would never- I mean, not that you're not- but I have no- well I mean it's not like I haven't thought- but not like that-" Francis went silent, his brain frantically trying to extricate himself from a situation that had escalated far out of his control completely by his own doing. "I'm a fan!" He said at last, more of a spewing forth of words than the declaration of an admirer. "I mean, not in a creepy way-" Too late for that. "-I just..." He trailed off again. At this point, what did he have to lose?

A deep, cleansing breath. In and out. "Listen. I'm a simple guy. I don't need much in life. Place to sleep. Something to eat. I spend most of my life doing what I'm told and doing it happily, and that includes being here on this ship doing this cargo drop with you folks. And I enjoy tabloid journalism. I don't really appreciate some of their business practices and the whole cortex hacking scandal a few years ago was absolutely unacceptable, I mean I like seeing celebrities eating brunch in sweat pants as much as the next guy, but at the cost of their freedom of information? I don't think so. Where does it stop? Won't be too long until they're surveilling everyone. In fact, I read an article recently- well I saw the headline- that said something like in the next ten years or so the Alliance was going to be plugged into every-" Francis was rambling again. He stopped.

"I'm going to start again. Again." He held up the picture he had found of her. "My name is Francis and I'm sorry I didn't recognize you before. In fairness you've been out of the spotlight for a little while now. If I were to guess that would be part of why you are here and not at Osiris Fashion Week. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know."
8
Odette IC / Re: S1: Ep1 - Birds of a Feather
June 12, 2020, 11:52:35 am
Following the events of...

Filled with new purpose and a handy helping of new secrets, Francis was happy to head to the cargo bay to oversee Coop and King and their cargo. He felt like maybe this assignment away from the Iscariot (and Sebastian) would be good for him. So renewed was Francis, that he didn't mind Charity ordering him around - over the ship-wide comm no less, for everyone to hear. No. This was going to be juuuuust fine. His cheeks even cracked into a grin.

In the cargo bay sat the crates, loaded expertly by Lil Sebastian's underlings, and filled by his contacts. Who those contacts were even Francis wasn't entirely sure. He liked to think he and Sebastian were tight but there were some things the boss kept from even him. All Francis knew was that he had been charged with getting them to Persephone and dammit he was going to get that done. Once folks began gathering he clapped his hands and coached King and Coop into position. "Alright boys, we're going to... uh... get these er boxes off the ship in quick order. And... uh... we'll make it snappy. And efficient." Hands on his hips in an authoritative stance, his face betrayed any common his stance might have had, which was not much. He checked his watch. They still had at least a half hour before they landed. "So we'll wait till we hit dirt..." Cool line, Francis. "And then, you know, get to work."

When Charity arrived, with "Miss Reyes" in tow, Francis breathed a bit easier. She was much better at talking. "Captain!" He shouted across the room, as opposed to waiting for her to come closer to him. "You and I should synergize about the, um, deliverables before we arrive. I have an agenda, sorta- did you, I can't- I'll come to you." He crossed the room, stopped himself from giving "Miss Reyes" a big old wink, realized he could probably give Charity one as well, nearly crossed his eyes, and instead gave his patented big awkward smile with too much teeth. "Hi. I have an address for Lady Sun. We're supposed to bring the goods there."
9
Odette Asides / Hot Gos' - Pele and Francis
June 12, 2020, 11:15:56 am
Francis sat in his bunk. The Number Four was printed elegantly on the door. He hadn't really wanted that one. It was right next to the engine access, but Coop had told him it would keep him warm when it was cold. As sweat lingered in the places it usually did on a person, Francis had no doubt that that was the case. Usually not one to care much about where he slept, the one proviso that he always had, but very rarely demanded, was that it was cool. Despite his lithe frame, he ran hot like a man twice his weight. So Francis sat in his bunk, annoyed, and browsed the cortex for his one true vice.

Hot. Juicy. Celebrity. Gossip.

There was just something about seeing into the lives of the 'Verse's elite. Their palatial estates and endless vacations. Partying all night and brunching all day. And oh, the drama. Francis appreciated that they were just like regular people despite all the opulence around them. He had no such aspirations for himself - he could never be like them...the mere thought of it - but he just loved all of it. This current story he was reading was about Osiris Fashion Week, one of Francis' favorite annual events, and all notable faux pas, fashion or otherwise. Midnight Aurelle wore what dress? Not with those shoulders. George St. George said what to whom? Unbelievable! And Pele didn't even show up? In five years she had never missed a Fashion Week! What was the 'Verse coming to?

Francis stopped. He went back to the part about Pele, with a picture of her dress from last year. Still stunning. But that wasn't what caught Francis' eye. It was her face. A face that he knew.



Knockknock Knock on Miss Reyes' door. When she answered, Francis held up the picture from last year's Fashion Week. "Soooo..?"
10
Odette IC / Re: S1: Ep1 - Birds of a Feather
May 18, 2020, 09:01:37 am
Satisfied with how his meeting went with the newly minted Captain "Charity" - Francis mentally resolved to one day find out her true identity - it was now time to brief the crew on the plan. Or at least, the plan as he knew it. Maybe he and the Captain should have talked about that as well? Ah well. No time like the present. With everyone gathered, Francis clapped his hands once to show comradery and get everyone's attention. He thought he'd seen a sports coach do that once in a cortex drama. "Alright, folks. For those that don't know me, I'm Francis and I'm kind of in charge here. Of course, we got your Captain here calling the shots-" He tossed Charity a knowing wink. "-But with Lil Sebastian financing this operation, I'm his direct representative. So. Yeah. Captain Vornbach is the Captain. Sebastian is at the top. And I'm after Sebastian. But before her. But she's in charge. Except when I am. Or Sebastian." Clear as mud.

"So we're delivering some food - protein bars - to Persephone. Sort of a charitable deal, we're helping make sure these supplies get to people who really need it." Francis laid a hand over his heart. "Doing our part, you know?" Awkward silence. Chances were that the people gathered here knew who Lil Sebastian was and what sort of business he was usually in. And they might have even known of Francis' reputation as Sebastian's number one enforcer. So believing that they were doing charitable works might be a bit of a stretch. Time to sell it. "Hey. Forget what you've heard about Sebastian. He's really a pretty nice guy if you get to know him." Nailed it.

"Cool. Well. That's it, I guess. We'll get to Persephone in like- " He looked at Evie as if asking her a question. "Two or three days? Yeah. Couple of days. Um." Save me Captain Vornbach, you're my only hope. This is precisely why they needed someone like Charity as a face of their organization. Because Sebastian was a cunning, vicious, blood-thirsty businessman and Francis was a loyal lap dog with a particular set of skills. Talking was not either of their bags.
11
Odette IC / Re: S1: Ep1 - Birds of a Feather
May 07, 2020, 10:12:59 am
Location: Odette Cockpit

Francis stewed in his seat as the Odette sailed further and further from the Iscariot and the place he'd called home for... how long was it now? Fifteen years? Yikes. He'd been working for Lil' Sebastian for almost half of his entire life. Doing everything the crime boss said without question. This realization temporarily shook his original malcontentment with... whatever it was and forced him to reflect on his life and what had gotten him there. It wasn't like this was his first time ever wondering what he was doing with his life and why he let himself get bossed around by the half-pint Lil Sebastian; and yet, even thinking ill of his benefactor made his stomach turn. Was he wasting his life away? Did he have more potential that he wasn't realizing?

Nope. Not going to go there. That was too much. His anxiety was getting away from him. Francis took a deep, cleansing breath and resumed his displeasure with how things were progressing on this new venture he was put in charge of. "Miss- Captain. A word?" He said, which Charity ignored. "Um. Hey. We need to talk." He tried again, to the same response. It was then that Francis realized he had been whispering. Alright, Frankie- Francis! Dammit. Time to be in charge. He stood, and obnoxiously cleared his throat, stopping everyone from emptying out of the cockpit. "Captain! Before the, um, meeting, I think you and I should have a, um,  meeting, don't you? Just a chit-chat." He did his best to look authoritative, hands on his hips, stern face, toe tapping.

Charity, slightly bemused, waved everyone from the room, and soon, Francis found himself alone with the Captain.
12
"Francis Church." He said in simple answer. Francis didn't like to get cute with his name. You start off with a joke or a jab and someone will run with it and next thing you know, bam, you go through most of primary school being called Sissy. His forehead began to tingle, after a small pinch from the needle, but it soon ceased feeling anything at all. "Hey, that's good stuff." He moved his eyebrows up and down. Or at least, he tried to. Their responsiveness slowed as the feeling in the top of his head did. "Really good." He blinked oddly. "Am I blinking?"

Blink blink.

Blink blink.

"I can't tell." He turned his mouth into an impressed frown. "Not bad, not bad. I'll have to remember this the next time someone might hit me with a chair. Have you shoot me up beforehand, save myself the headache."
13
Odette IC / Re: Odette Episode 0 : Eggs
April 15, 2020, 11:45:33 am
Location: Hub/Medical Corridor/Various

Francis watched Walkpepper and Gwendemis go. "Man." He said. "They sure were in a hurry to get away from me." He shrugged, didn't take it personally, and inadvertently followed them to the med bay corridor. Not one to miss out on a hint, Francis kept his distance but didn't exactly hide that he was going in the same direction as they were. Sure seemed strange that the lady was so insistent upon no one seeing her things and then brought the hacker Jesse Walker with her. But Francis got the feeling he didn't really give the lady a choice. Not too forceful, mind you. But likewise insistent. Seemed to be a lot of that going around with the folks.

Spotting one of Lil Sebastian's men, Wilson Wu, across the way, Francis waved him over and handed over Pelamarine's storage card with instructions to bring her bags back here.

The strange thing, though, was that once in the medical corridor, they went right past the med bay- where he figured injured members of the crew might have been keeping their things after landing on Iscariot in a mess- and headed for the medical crew quarters. "Huh. Weird." Francis clocked that information for later and went to collect Miss Vornbach's things. While in the Med Bay, he asked about any other of the Wushu Crew -Crewshu, he made himself giggle- and found there were no other effects remaining. "Odd." He said with a shrug. Didn't make any difference to him. Less to carry, he figured.

Francis, surprised the Lady Vornbach only had the two bags, - he had imagined no less than seventeen - got them loaded up onto the hand operated cargo hauler supplied by Wilson. "Thanks, bud. I'll be back in a few days. Sebastian knows. Water my plants, would you? Not too much. They're delicate."

Wilson smirked. "LS wants to know why you're still here." And departed.

Francis sighed. This was unfortunate. Lil Sebastian hadn't been explicit about how soon he wanted them to leave. Turned out, it was sooner rather than later. Darn. "He's not going to water the plants, is he?" With a sigh, Francis left the cart with Pele and Charity's things on it and went the direction Emit and Gwen had disappeared to.

Without eavesdropping, it was quickly clear that Francis was interrupting something and so waited half a second before reaching up to knock, only to find Emit exiting in just that moment. "Hey. We gotta go. I've got a little cart thing we can use to carry the bags just over there." Francis gave a tight, awkward smile that he had been told had an "unsettling effect on people." He tried adding teeth to it once but it just came off as ghoulish. As he waited for them to exit the room, a thought occured to him. "Who's Gwendola?"
14
Odette IC / Re: Odette Episode 0 : Eggs
March 18, 2020, 08:12:05 am
Location: Lil Sebastian's Private elevator

"Um, yeah, no that's fine. It's fine. You go ahead. Just, you know, come back." Francis said to the woman whose name was Gwen but he thought was Artemis, though his voice was low and she was walking away already so he doubted that she heard him. But Cincinnati and Aromatic - that can't be right - agreed to have their bags brought down and Francis figured that was good enough. Coop likely didn't have much to take with and the man Francis thought was Mr. Walker but was actually Mr. Culpepper was following Gwendemis so he'd get his own things, too. "Good. Yeah. This is good. Good good. Verrrry good." Everything was falling into place and Francis was glad to see it. Sebastian would be pleased. At least he hoped so.

The elevator doors opened. It suddenly occurred to Francis that maybe he should join them, so as to not have to wait for the next lift. "Oh. Crap. Hold the elevator!" He rushed over and juuuuust it. Jeez, didn't they hear him asking them to stop? He thought he had seen the lady hitting the button to keep the doors open. "Hrmph." He hit the button and the doors whooshed open just as Gwendemis and Walkpepper seemed deep in conversation. "Oh, sorry. Am I interrupting?" Painful discomfort crossed his face at that thought. "Um, well you need one of these to get it to go." He held up his key card that had a terrible holopic of his face on it. 

Even though the elevator could easily fit ten people, it still felt as though Francis had to squeeze himself inside. He waved the key card over the sensor, the doors closed, and the elevator began moving in silence. "So what's your guys' deal, eh?" It was going to be a long ride up.
15
Odette IC / Re: Odette Episode 0 : Eggs
March 16, 2020, 07:20:11 am
"What?" He said, as the mechanic who didn't look like a mechanic asked him to take her back to her quarters. The elevator was right there? Did she not know how to use an elevator? How could she be a mechanic then? And she looked awfully familiar, as if he had seen her around the station. Lil Sebastian had said that Charity Vornbach and her friends had arrived only a short time ago. And this one lived here? That didn't make sense. "Hey... don't you-"

Before he could finish that though, Francis was cut off by another one Charity's crew. Ack- something. Academia? Well that's just stupid. Her name can't be Academia. Whatever her name was, she was also asking for her bags, but in a tone that suggested he was meant to do the carrying. "What?" He reconsidered. That might be easier, actually. If he just had their belongings retrieved for them, they could leave sooner. Less wandering. The organizational, problem solving side of his brain liked that. Hadn't that Italian fellow called her something else? Paleo?

Francis really had to get better with names.

He looked over at Chantilly Vornbach; Lil Sebastian's fa├žade du jour. Francis had seen folks like her chewed up and spit back out by Lil Sebastian and his schemes. He didn't know this woman or her crew (clearly) nor did he much care for their actual well-being (at least he told himself that). But now he was wrapped up in this and Francis couldn't help but feel like Lil Sebastian was testing him. Or punishing him. He rubbed at the sore spot on his forehead, the bandage holding tight for now, but wondering if his headache was a result of his injury or the situation he found himself in.

He made a decision. "Okay." Francis said for all to hear. Whether they listened to him or not was something else entirely as he spoke with roughly the same level of authority as a goldfish. "I'm Francis and Sebastian put me in charge. Sort of. Technically she's Captain-" He pointed to Chickoree. "-but I'm Sebastian's right hand man-" he held up his hand to illustrate, then realized he was waving his left hand and switched them up. "-in day to day operations so yeah. I really think it's best that we don't leave the area, so I'll send for all of your things and we'll get going shortly, how's that?" He remembered that someone had once told him that people responded to a smiling face, so quickly forced an awkward, toothy grin on his gob.
16
Odette IC / Re: Odette Episode 0 : Eggs
March 09, 2020, 06:50:19 am
Francis tried. He would have begged, but he wasn't given the time. Lil Sebastian had made up his mind and there was nothing Francis could do about it. He shouldn't have been surprised, really. There had to be someone there to represent Lil Sebastian's interests. It made sense that it would be Francis. But that didn't mean that that was what Francis wanted. Francis watched the elevator close and took a moment to collect his thoughts before turning to face his new crew. Was he in charge of them? They hadn't really gone into the chain of command. The lady was the public face of the ship, that much was clear. And the guy was her second. I should really learn these people's names. Francis said to himself.

He looked at all of them and felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and unease. His stomach turned and his heart rate increased and sweat formed on his palms. I'm going to have to make small talk with them. This was no time to get panicky. It would be fine. He would be fine. They were fine. They were all fine. Francis didn't feel any better. "Sh*t." He said aloud, intending it to be just a thought, or perhaps under his breath, but it was very much neither. "Sh*t." He said again.
17
In an attempt to play off Moira's hypothesis as ridiculous, Francis scoffed, rolled his eyes, shook his head, and laughed all at once. He doth protest too much. The doctor was clearly not going to buy it so, with a sigh, Francis fessed up. "Yeah. That's exactly what happened. Good guess." He reconsidered. "Great guess, actually. You see many chair related head injuries in your time as a cosmetologist?" Little did Moira know that Francis was very much aware of her situation and was, in fact, just making excellent conversation. Or at least he assumed that he knew, as most people who were at Iscariot Station had something to hide. "First time for me." He added when it looked like silence might have descended. "More of a table guy."

His thoughts drifted back to his "happy memory" from his Marine days. His Sergeant, Silverschmidt (they all called him Shmitty) was not someone who handed out compliments freely. A large, imposing man with a big walrus of a mustache, nobody in the unit particularly liked their sergeant. And so when Shmitty had called Francis' target grouping "more than adequate" on that day well, Francis had been chasing that feeling for a while, needless to say.

That made Francis idly wonder about this doctor lady's best day. Surely she had to have some good ones. Bad ones, too, to wind up working in a backroom on hired muscle with a head wound. Better not ask about that, Francis warned himself. Too late. "So, you must have screwed up big time to be here, huh?"
18
The back door! That would have made sense. "Didn't even think of that." He said, a sheepish grin belying the gaping head wound on his forehead. "To be honest I didn't think you would be so busy." That sounded rude. "I mean, not that you wouldn't be busy. Your haircuts are great. I'm sure. When I get one." Francis wasn't nervous. He was just acutely aware of how socially awkward he could be and how that awkwardness sort of made people want to hit him.

"Thanks for squeezing me in." He settled on that for small talk. That was a thing people said during haircuts. But this wasn't a haircut, was it? "This isn't the first time I've gotten stitches. I was in the Marines. Discharged in '01, got hit by a mortar blast." He resisted the urge to show off that particular scar. It was primarily located in his... "In the ass. I won't go into details, but there were a lot of stitches." Was that better?
19
"No no no no no." Francis looked at the other waiting patron, as if saying LS's name would somehow make this situation worse. "I'm just here for a haircut." He said still trying, and failing, to stem the bleeding from the wound on his head. He looked apologetically at the other patron. "It's fine. I'm fine. Really. I wouldn't want to, you know, cut."

"Are you sure?" The other patron said.

"Of course. Please." Francis motioned to the chair. "I insist." He said, casually crossing his leg, trying to appear as relaxed as possible. The other patron looked at Moira, shrugged, and got up for their turn in the chair. Meanwhile, Francis, still acting nonchalant about the whole thing, tried to make himself comfortable while still holding the ever dampening cloth to the gash. He offered the other patron a tight smile that said everything was a-okay.

The other patron stopped and reconsidered. "I don't know. I feel bad. Maybe you should go first." They seemed confused how a barber might help a man with a head trauma but politeness was taking over for everyone involved.

Francis scoffed. "No way. I can totally wait. See? It's barely bleeding anymore." To prove his point, Francis removed the makeshift bandage which immediately started spraying blood. He quickly capped it back off like nothing had happened. "If you really don't mind..."
20
Francis Church let his mind drift - just for a second. It drifted to another time. Not a happier time. He didn't have any of those. Not that he'd lived a life of abject misery. But there just weren't many happy memories. One time in particular came to mind as Francis's thoughts meandered. It was during his time with the Marines, while he was still in training. His Drill Sargent had commended him on his shooting during that day's drills. Francis almost smiled at the thought of it.

"Frank, c'mon, man."

"Francis." Francis tried not to sound too annoyed, but it was one of his biggest pet peeves. His parents hadn't given him much. But they had given him his name and he'd be damned if anyone took it away. "It's Francis. Not Frank. Not Frankie. Not Sissy." He said too much.

"Sissy? People call you Sissy?"

"No. They don't call me that. No."

"Then why did you say it?"

"I didn't say it. I mean, I said it, so you wouldn't say it. No one likes to be called a Sissy."

"Just seemed kind of specific."

"It wasn't, okay? My name is Francis. Just call me Francis."

"Alright. Jeez. Francis. Please don't kill me." The man, tied to a chair with duct tape with several wounds on his face and body that implied he'd gone through a round or two of torture, seemed matter-of-fact about begging for his life. It clearly was not his first time.

"It's not up to me, Kim." Francis, sitting in a chair across from Kim, wearing all black (gloves, pants, boots, tactical long sleeve shirt), and looking annoyed. His leg jiggled nervously, the gun resting on his knee bouncing with it. The exasperation in his voice was finally let loose and Kim saw his opportunity.

"Listen, I know you're just following orders. Take me to LS. I'll explain everything."

Francis looked at Kim. He didn't want to kill the man. They'd known each other a long time. They weren't friends, per se, more like colleagues. Kim ran a racing book for Lil Sebastian (as well as a modestly successful noodle shop). "Sebastian won't like it."

"You let me deal with Sebastian."

It was funny. Normally, such tactics wouldn't have worked on Francis. In fact, he was known and beloved by Lil Sebastian for precisely that. No nonsense. Just following orders. But, today Francis, for some reason he couldn't put his finger on, didn't want to kill Kim. It nagged at him. He sighed and stood, "Fine." He said, tucking his pistol into the back of his pants. A folding knife appeared from his pocket, which was then unfolded and carried across the distance between them, and cut the bonds that tied Kim to the chair. Before Francis could say something like "Don't make me regret this." Kim made him immediately regret this.

The man no sooner stood up from the chair than he grabbed the thing and swung mightily for Francis' face. He connected, the chair splintered, and Francis fell to the ground. "Sorry, Frank. Nothing personal." It was this moment's hesitation that was his ultimate failing. Not the withholding of money from LS's collections. Not the bad bets he'd made on Leon Lefevre. No, it was waiting long enough for Francis to grab his gun and shoot him twice in the head from his place on the ground.

Kim fell without another word, and Francis let himself relax for a moment while his head swam. "Francis." He muttered.



Thirty minutes later...

Holding a bloodied rag up to his face, Francis walked through the corridors of the Iscariot station with a purpose. That purpose was stopping his face from bleeding and, according to Lil Sebastian, he was supposed to go to Prime Cuts, the Barber Shop, which was under new ownership. LS did not explain to Francis why this was the new place to go, as opposed to the med wing, but after the debacle with Kim, Francis was feeling a bit more like just following orders for a bit.

Blood trickled down his cheek from the wound above his eye. Francis hurried.



Five minutes later...

The door dinged as Francis entered the shop and he was somewhat dismayed to see that the barber was currently with a customer, and another waited their turn, casually browsing a cortex reader. After a moment of standing awkwardly, Francis found a seat and waited his turn. Luckily nothing vital was bleeding. He could wait.
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