The Aurora Project Chapter 4
Daema slammed her fist down on the table. "What the hell?" Her voice was red-hot with anger. "Who'd you invite to this now?"
Khan narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean by that? This ain't your project."
"Well, no, but I'm in it!" Daema's dark blue eyes flashed. "And I don't want to see it fail now cause you couldn't keep your mouth shut."
"The man said he already knew everything," Khan explained. "There weren't anything for me to do except play along."
"I'm not splittin' my share cause you invited along another pal," Daema retorted. "Especially without asking us." She nodded to the tawny-haired man in the corner. "Jak and I didn't have any input on this, and we both outnumber and outpower you."
"I told you," Khan said. "I didn't have any choice. He already knew the time of the meeting. I just told him we wouldn't shoot him first." He had noticed Daema's trigger-happy fingers grazing the top of her short pistol. She blushed and placed her hand back in the pocket of her jacket.
"Still," she said. "I don't know if..."
There was a knock on the door. Khan leapt from his seat. "That has to be him."
He opened the door to reveal a figure cloaked in a black trenchcoat. It entered the room and removed its hood to reveal a bald head and piercing black eyes in a thin face. The strange man went directly to the table and sat down across from Daema, who made a poor attempt to swallow her glare. Jak came over from the corner and sat beside Daema; Khan stood at the end of the table, resting his palms on the scarred wood.
"So," Khan said, "what do you have to tell us?"
The thin man rested thin hands with long bony fingers on the table in front of him. "My master and I want to make a deal," he said in a surprisingly deep voice.
Daema raised an eyebrow. "What kind of deal?"
He drummed his fingers on the table. "Basically, we want to hire you for the job you're already doing."
"What job?" Daema want to say, but was interrupted by a casual wave by the thin man.
"We know all about the Aurora Project," he said. "We've been looking for it for quite some time. We also know you three are after it, and we want to fund your mission." Seemingly oblivious to the blank stares he was receiving from Khan and Daema, he reached into an inner pocket of the long coat and pulled out a sack. It landed on the table with the familiar jingle of gil.
Khan's eyes landed on it. "Wha ...how do you know all this?"
Daema turned to Khan. "You sure you didn't just blab it all out?"
"Madam," said the thin man, "I assure you that no one else would know about this. You three have been impressingly secretive. However, the master and I make it our business to find everything out about that Aurora Project. Trust me - your plan is safe." Daema sat back down, a dubious expression on her face.
"Anyway," the man continued. "We want to partially fund your mission and assist in other ways that are available to us - namely, information and equipment. You are after the Aurora Project for what's in her head, correct?" Khan looked at Daema for a second, and nodded. "What my master and I want to propose is this." He shifted in his chair, then gestured to the bag of gil.
"The master will provide sufficient funding to complete what you are currently missing. In addition, I will accompany you on your journey, to assist in any way possible. Once we have the Aurora Project in our grasp, you three can pry from her head the location of the safe you're looking for. The master and I will not meddle in this, nor will we demand a share of anything found in the safe. Our only condition is this: when you have secured the location of Hojo's old trinkets ...we get to keep the Project."
Khan's eyes widened slightly. "Are you serious? That's all you want?"
Daema's eyes were wide as well, but for a different reason. "How do you know all this?" she insisted. "I think we have a security breach." The last two words were directed at Khan, her eyebrows narrowing.
The thin man gave her a small, chilling smile. "I insist there is not. We have simply ...put together the pieces we found after we discovered your interest in the Project. Three Ex-Shinra employees; all three left the company at the same time; two of three worked under Professor Hojo, the third in Weapons and Defense." Daema still looked unconvinced, so the thin man leaned forward. "Madam," he said slowly, "I ensure you that we have taken great pains to ensure no one else knows this is going on. Do you understand? We don't want anyone finding out about it either. My master and I guarantee your safety."
He then turned back to Khan. "So, what do you say?"
Khan's eyes flicked briefly to the bag of gil on the table, then to the fuming Daema. "Um ...we'll have to discuss your offer in private."
"I understand," said the thin man, standing with a swirl of his coat. "I will wait outside."
As soon as the door shut, Daema turned to Jak and Khan. "He knows too much," she hissed.
Khan shrugged. "I swear to you, Daema, I didn't say a thing. Besides," he picked up the bag, "we're almost there. This funding' he's talking about may let us move now, rather than in the month or so it would have taken. And the longer we wait, the better chance there is that the Aurora Project will deteriorate."
Daema shook her head. "I don't think I like it ...but I agree. We don't have much choice. And if they already know about it ...no point in refusing, I guess."
"The offer's almost too good to accept," Jak said slowly, the first words he'd spoken all night. "We get all of Hojo's riches and artifacts and become filthy rich ...and they're stuck with a lab specimen? There's something shady."
"Yes," Daema said, "but it's their funeral. As long as we can get the information. You're sure the Project knows where it is?"
Khan nodded. "I'm positive. She has to. Hojo's talked about it dozens of times. He used her as a veritable filing cabinet; with that Manipulate crown on her head, her memory was astounding. He always did his research with her there, remembering everything he said and spouting it back later so he could record it. I'm sure somewhere in that memory are complete directions to everywhere he hid his loot."
Daema sighed. "I guess this is it, then," she said. "We can finally start. Jak?"
The silent man nodded.
Outside the door, the ninja stood in his long overcoat, silently laughing. They had no choice but to accept his offer. His eyes closed in anticipation. The final bit of information he and the master needed ...the final step ...and three fools willing to do the dirty work, and then turn over the gem for a small safe of gilded prizes!
His secret smile was cunning. He would help them, yes. And make sure they never knew what the real prize of the Aurora Project was.
Across the street, a shadow detached itself from the tree. The ninja saw it; their eyes met for a brief second. He nodded to it, eliciting a nod in return. Then the shadow melded itself back into the night.
Yes, he would help. But two would follow: he in daylight, as a companion, and the master's right hand, Shita, would follow in shadow. There was other business to take care of.
The door behind him opened. He turned to enter the room, already knowing the answer to his proposition.
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