It was a brilliant fall day on the island of Manhattan. A kaleidoscope of people weaved beautifully in and out of the busy and frenetic streets. From the 55th floor of the Meade Publications building, Lauren Danvers sat in her cubicle in what was known as “The War Room” of Tempo Magazine where she had been interning since graduating college. Lauren tapped her pen against her desk mindlessly as she pulled a few strands of her dark espresso brunette hair behind her eyes, before pressing the blue tooth button on her ear piece once she noticed she was receiving a call. “Lauren Danvers speaking.” Her perky yet deep soprano voice filled the air around her as the person on the other end of the call answered. Caller: “Don't give me that Lauren Danvers nonsense. It's me, Valerie!” Lauren's soft red lips parted a bit as he smiled and exhaled for a moment. She had already had one hell of a day and it was a relief to hear the voice of a familiar face. She spun around in her chair. “Oh sorry! I'm in beast mode right now.” Valerie: “Oh no...did Janet have another nip slip?” [laughing] “If only. The city is having a hissy fit because of the Illustra/King Enterprises announcement today...which means Cameron King is in town which of course means we are bound to find him canoodling with some kind of uppity socialite or at the very least get kicked out of several bars. I swear, every day I work at this place I can feel the journalist being drained out of my body...I hate celebrities. I don't know why I'm wasting my time here. I want to cover elections, not movie premieres...” Lauren grumbled while she took a sip of the now nearly cold cup of coffee that had been sitting on her desk all morning. Valerie: “I'll be sure to feel bad for the girl who gets her hours in hobnobbing with celebrities as I prepare all of these torts. Look, you knew what the work was going to be when you signed up...and while Tempo Magazine may not be your first choice, it's one hell of a stepping stone. If you can do well at a job in Meade Publications, it might give you the stepping stone you need to move on to something more serious.” Valerie Cooper was her best friend and about to finish law school. Lauren nodded in agreement as she looked at a picture framed on her desk. It was of Val and Lauren their senior year of college, right before graduation. She looked at herself, the girl with the long flowing espresso brown hair and the almost matching eyes. She was full of fire and ready to take over the world. It wasn't even that long ago. This new person who was in charge of grabbing coffees and writing small blurbs about what people like Morgan Victoria were wearing to whatever premiere she was attending just wasn't cutting it. Unfortunately for her, most people in the industry either had connections with family or money that allowed them to move themselves up in the ranks quickly. Lauren didn't have that luxury and though she applied to dozens of internships with news networks and other media outlets, the only person that said yes was Tempo Magazine. The blow had been big to her ego but it let her know that if she was going to accomplish any part of her dreams, she was going to have to start right at the bottom. Her plan was to get one good story at Tempo and parlay that into something bigger. It would have been a good plan if the people she was working for had any interest in the stories that she wanted to do. “I get it, I get it. Law school is hard...but at least there you don't have to deal with Alexis Quartermaine. When she isn't busy calling me any variation of my name except Lauren, she shoots down my ideas left and right. It's like she wants to turn Tempo into a trash rag.” Valerie: “Well didn't I hear that she stopped drinking? Maybe things will get better?” Lauren laughed in an evil tone for a moment before gaining her composure. “Things have gotten better...which isn't saying much. I don't know which Editor In Chief I prefer....the drunk and disorderly one or the sober and control freak one. Besides, she's like the same age as I am. She only got the job because she is a Quartermaine....” From the corner of her eye, she watched as the beautiful Alexis Quartermaine could be seen walking down the hall and towards the elevators. Her golden blonde hair impeccably stylish and her attire that was an odd but beautiful mix of business and sex appeal. Lauren snapped back into reality upon hearing Valerie's voice. Valerie: “Well...either way she's your boss. Just keep your head down and you'll be fine. You've got enough problems anyway...insert clever subject change here. Have you spoken to Nick since he got released?” Lauren frowned for a second upon hearing his name. She hadn't seen Nick, and she wasn't exactly sure that she wanted to. Nick was the kind of guy it was easy to get in a lot of trouble with. He was a bad body from Staten Island with dark and beautiful black hair and eyes that could lie to their own mother without flinching...and when he wasn't busy being too dangerous and too sexy, there were wild rumors that he was in fact an active member of the Klein crime family. She had met Nick her first semester at college when she had gone to visit with a friend who lived there. He appeared out of nowhere at the bar and since Lauren had all but lost her friend thanks to the music and the drinks...Lauren decided to entertain the dark and handsome man's advances. The rest is history. When she wasn't busy studying and being an active member of the student community she would visit him. He was a welcome escape from the tight laced and uppity people she interacted with on campus and he was a safe haven for her to be who she really was; a normal girl who game from shitty parents and wanted desperately to do better for herself. Nick of course would lavish her with gifts and dinners and trips, and she honestly never questioned him. He told her he worked in his family business and that was enough for Lauren at that point. Part of her knew that if she just for one second used her budding skills as a journalist that she would have known something was up with Nick. But she either loved him too much to do so or she ignored the feelings altogether. She just knew that Nick made her happy. “Val, I really don't have it in me right now to talk about Nick...and you know him. He will show up...make me feel bad about what happened to him and then he'll try and get in my pants. It's classic Nicky Romero.” Valerie laughed. Valerie: “I guess that's true. What does the rest of your day look like? You have time for a drink later on this evening?” [thinking for a second] “Well...in a few hours I am going to the big press junket for Illustra and King Enterprises. Morgan Victoria is supposed to speak which everybody is talking about. She's made very few appearances over the last few years, ever since people accused her of being a superhero in London. Everyone wants that scoop. Alexis is going to be there...but only for support...and I think she has a thing for Cameron King...” Lauren took a look at the clock. She needed to get started preparing her notes. Since Alexis was apparently now social and friendly with both Morgan and Cameron she didn't want to be the one who asked the questions today. She wanted to be in front of the camera. “Look...I got to prep for this press junket. How about I call you when I get home, we have an inordinate amount of wine and then go to Club XS. I feel like dancing.” Valerie: “Sounds good to me. Alright, I will let you get back to your world of couture crotch less panties and I will get back to Milford vs. Sanders.” “Bye babe.” As Lauren went to press the end button on her phone she noticed she had a number of missed calls and text messages. She began to swipe through a series of screens until her heart stopped to see that all of them...were from Nick. Shaking her head, she pushed Nick Romero out of her mind and began to go over the notes in preparation for the press junket. She was going to need a few more cups of coffee and one hell of an attitude adjustment for her to be ready, but she would pull it together. She always did. Part of being a journalist was reporting on things that you didn't necessarily care about. But there were people out there who did care about the personal lives of the rich and famous and as much as she wished these days would soon be behind her, she would treat her stories as if every single one was life altering. Or she would lie through her teeth, fake a smile and make the best of it. Either way, she needed to get ready. Several hours later, Lauren had finished memorizing her list of questions to ask, stopped home to change into a sensible and tailored navy blue blazer, magenta silk lace camisole and a strong dark business mini skirt. No matter what she wore there was no denying her curves and Lauren had learned long ago to embrace what she had and not give a crap if others thought she was being too revealing. If people wanted to underestimate her, she would use it to her advantage. And though she considered herself to be a feminist, there was no denying how much well executed cleavage could help in a pinch. As she made her way via taxi to The Parthenon Hotel, many of the networks and paparazzi were just beginning to set it up. Lauren had to give credit where it was due. The campaign hyping up the opening of the Parthenon Hotel had been wildly successful. There was a perfume level campaign ad in magazines (including Tempo), television and all over the internet; and the building even from the outside was gorgeous and threatening enough to make even Donald Trump nervous of its size. With no time to spare Lauren headed to the media check in, was awarded her press pass and huddled into the building to The Crystal Room, one of the hotels new event hall/entertainment venues. As she headed through the sliding circular hotel door she was in awe of her surroundings. An interesting and beautiful take on the architecture of Ancient Greece mixed with the glamour of Old Hollywood. Beautiful marble pillars and floors with tastefully chosen furniture decorated the main foyer of the hotel and carried on down the main hall towards The Crystal Room. The large and ornate double doors to The Crystal Room were wide open as various members of the press as well as people preparing for the event. Lauren was a little alarmed to see just how backed up everything seemed to be. It looked as if the press was almost getting restless from waiting. “Something must be going wrong back stage....” She heard a number of muffled whispers and loud exasperated groans as colleagues began to speculate wildly as journalists tend to do when something seems amiss. Reporter #1: “I think Victoria is too scared to go on.” Reporter #2: “Yeah or maybe King is too busy banging her in a supply closet to notice that his press junket was supposed to start five minutes ago!” Lauren stifled a laugh as she made her way to her groups selected box. She was one of the few that would be actually allowed to ask questions instead of just be out on the floor, reporting on what was happening. Lauren would be able to ask Cameron and Morgan and the others important questions about what exactly the details were of this new partnership between businesses that couldn't have been more different. Finding her spot and setting down her bag she began to survey the area. It didn't seem as if this junket was about to begin any time soon. She decided to take leave for a moment to use the restroom, freshen herself and maybe pick up a few nuggets of gossip from behind the stall. She exited the lobby and made her way down to the hall of the hotel and entered the restroom. As she made her way towards the mirror, she took a moment to take out her bag and reapply her lip gloss, pouting her lips before surveying her reflection. “Come on, Danvers...just get one good question. Just a little face time on the camera, secure a nice quote and get this thing to the presses...” Exhaling loosely she made her way to the stall and sat down. The bathroom was surprisingly empty and quiet on such a day which gave Lauren a moment to enjoy some solitude before heading back to the crazy lights and cameras...or so she thought. As she was sitting in the stall, she noticed the stalls rock back and for the, vibrating incredibly for a split second. The hairs on the back of Lauren's neck all stood on end as she began to hear the clicking of feet in the stall two doors down from her. “What the hell? I didn't hear the door. Who is that? And where the hell did they come from...?” Slowly, Lauren adjusted her garments and slowly crept down to the floor of the stall as she saw three pair of feet moving around quietly a few feet to her right. Suddenly one of the pairs of feet vanished out of thin air and only two stiletto clad feet. Lauren stood as still as she possibly could as she tried to listen as best as she could. Her senses were heightened to the point of where she could hear her heart beat in her chest. But they didn't say anything. Lauren watched in wonder as a woman with apple green eyes and red hair left the rest room as if she had been there the whole time, followed shortly by another, shorter intimidating looking red head. Once Lauren heard the swish of the restroom door, she exhaled deeply and loud. The logical part of her told her to mind her own business and proceed with her day as planned...but the journalist inside of her who dedicated her life to learning the whole story told her to follow those two women, one of whom she was certain was Blaze Fielding, the half sister of Morgan Victoria and supposedly part of the junket taking place today. She couldn't let it go. She needed to figure out what the hell had just happened. Lauren scampered to her feet, tried to adjust her skirt as fast as possible as she barreled to the door, trying to find which way the two mysterious women had went. In the last possible second, Lauren's eyes are drawn to the fiery red hair of Blaze Fielding as she rounds the corner. In a dead but even non conspicuous heat, she made her way down the hall, but was taken aback at the sight of security. “Dammit! How in the hell am I supposed to get past these guys?” They were two large and hulking men blocking the service entrance to the wing where Blaze and the unknown woman were headed. A flurry of people were walking in and out of the hall flashing their badges and making their way to help set up and ensure that the junket ran smoothly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw two female cooking staff push a long busing table covered in a thick white cotton table cover. Staff Member #1: “Come on, we've got a few minutes.” Staff Member #2: “You're still smoking? I thought you quit?” Staff Member #1: “And I thought you were going to quit stealing food from the kitchen.” Staff Member #2: “Good point...alright go. I got to use the Ladies Room. But hurry up. I'm not getting fired from this job because you can't control your nicotine intake!” Staff Member #1: “Oh please...You won't get fired because of that. You'll get fired because you suck at your job. The two women laughed as they headed down to the hall and the other headed towards the bathroom that Lauren had just exited from. Lauren eyed the food cart up and down for a second. “Am I really going to have a SITCOM moment right now?” She could see Blaze and the mystery woman quickly disappearing down the hall. “Yep. Get on the cart, Lauren.” She looked back and forth quickly. With so much activity going on and people so concerned with their own tasks and responsibility that nobody noticed Lauren slide under the cover of the table cloth and crammed herself inside. What was she doing? She really didn't know but two women had seemed to MANIFEST inside of a bathroom stall right next to her and walk out like nothing had happened. A deeply curious woman and a journalist almost by nature, she knew there might be a story there, and that story might lead her OUT of the offices of Tempo Magazine and somewhere where she could be in front of the camera with the nation watching. “Whoa!” Lauren tried to silence herself as the cart began rocking back and forth as the two staff members returned and began pushing the cart down the hall and into the Promised Land. Staff Member #2: “Did this thing get HEAVIER while we were gone?” “Oh please!” After a series of bumps and Lauren secretly calculating the doughnut she had for breakfast against the weight of the metal she was sitting on, she felt everything stop, and she heard nothing. Lauren breathed heavily in and out for a few moments before deciding it might be time for her to peek out and see where she was. “Of course...” As she peeked out of from behind the cloth to find that she was dead smack in the middle of Cameron King's dressing room! It was a beautifully decorated space with fresh flowers and various posh and plush sitting chairs and sofas. It took Lauren a second to realize that she was in a very compromising situation that she would need to get OUT of quickly. She scrambled out of the cart, knocking plate over or two as she headed the door and was greeted by two more security guards. She fluffed her hair and gave them a wink and crinkled her nose. “Pregame entertainment. Fell asleep for a second. You boys know how to get out of this place? It's a maze in here!” The guards eyed her up and down suspiciously before pointing her in the direction of the exit. Lauren nodded. What had she been thinking? If she had been caught, she could have lost her job or worse! But as she heard a voice ill her ears she walked forward several feet towards the stage and began to walk in the wings. Morgan was giving a rousing speech on the joint efforts between Illustra/King Enterprises for the opening of The Parthenon. As she walked towards the stage as she heard Cameron's voice fill the air. Cameron King: “I would now like to introduce the face of the Parthenon Campaign. You may have seen her in the commercial spots advertising the Hotel and Club area that have been airing all over TV. Thanks to her flawless looks and smart business ethics, she has generated a lot of interest and has really turned this project into something worth working for...Ladies and Gentlemen; I would like to introduce to you a good friend and close colleague, Morgan Victoria, President of Illustra Inc!" The only problem was...it wasn't Morgan Victoria who walked to the podium. As she squinted to make her eyes adjust to the stage light and prove to herself that she was seeing clearly. She was right...the woman speaking was Vivica Lennox! She recognized the Vice President only because Lauren happened to live in the same building as Vivica's aunt Gloria, a legendary performer on Broadway and the small screen. She had seen the woman a few times in foyer of the building as she came and went. Still, it was very clear that it wasn't Morgan addressing the crowd...then WHY... Vivica: Thank you for the sparkling introduction, Cameron but you've already gotten the job. No need to butter me up any further... Lauren felt completely disoriented. Nobody around her seemed to notice this or even acknowledge the absurdity of the situation. Everyone around her was treating it like they were seeing Morgan Victoria for the first time in a long time...and that just wasn't the case. She watched with her brown eyes transfixed on the scene in front of her. The entire junket continued to go off without a hitch as Cameron dazzled the crowd with his dubious and arrogant charm. She rolled her eyes for a second. Even against the insanity she had just witnessed, Cameron King's ego was through the roof. She hid herself behind the curtains as the group ushered their way into the back. Vivica...if that even WAS Vivica did not seem very pleased, throwing her hands up in the air. Vivica: “Cameron, when you get back there, tell her I am EXTREMELY disappointed in her. Unless it was a matter of life and death, she will NEVER make this up!” “So that WASN'T Morgan. It was Vivica! But...how is that even possible?!” She stormed off as Cameron seemed to make his way out of the general area as well. She had no idea what she had just seen a few moments ago, but she seemed to be the only one who had seen it! There had been rumors for quite some time now that Morgan Victoria had been some kind of Supermodel Superhero in London back in the day, and her boss Alexis Quartermaine even tried to corner the woman about such allegations a few weeks ago in an interview where footage and information had mysteriously disappeared and now it seemed she was getting in bed with a man that had a business partner who could apparently pass for Morgan even though the two couldn't look more different. It was fishy and Lauren felt a buzz of energy in her stomach. This was it. This was the big story; the thing that could possibly bust her career wide open. Elite mutant celebutantes with incredible social influence and power? There was no way this story wouldn't soar straight to the front pages of every major publication in the world. She was so caught up by her excitement that she didn't notice the two very large Security Guards breathing heavily behind her. As they called for her the hairs rose on the back of her neck and she flipped around with a frightened smile. Security Guard: “Miss...You are going to need to leave NOW! You have no clearance to be back here” Lauren thought quickly as she began to swing her purse onto her shoulder and make her way towards the exit. [calling behind her] “This isn't the bathroom!?! Oh I'm so sorry gentleman! This big building has me all turned around! I’ll see myself out!” Exhaling deeply, she ran back down the hall and towards the lobby of The Parthenon, swinging through the circular doors as she went. She let herself stand there for a moment, trying to decide how best to present this information. It was going to look crazy...but she needed more information. She decided it might be best to talk to Alexis Quartermaine about doing the story. It appeared that Alexis and Morgan hated each other so she was sure the Editor-In-Chief would have no problems with Lauren trying to figure out just who the supermodel really was. Unfortunately, life had other plans as a deep and silky voice filled her ears from behind. Man: “Lauren Danvers?” She spun on her heels to see a rather attractive and clean cut man before her. Lauren flashed a smile. “Well...if I wasn't before I certainly am now! How can I help you?” Man: “Detective Rivera, NYPD. I'd like to take you to the station for questioning.” “Um...what exactly for? I swear I don't know how I wound up backstage! I got lost!” Lauren's face became flush with embarrassment. The Parthenon seemed REALLY serious about security! Man: “Well...that we can discuss later. As for the reason I am currently bringing you down to the station is in regards to a Nicolas Romero. I'm told you are his girlfriend.” “Of Course.” Lauren furrowed her brow for a moment. Nicky had gotten out on bail and because they had nothing concrete to hold him. It could have meant one of two things. It COULD be that Nicky was innocent. That they got the wrong guy but were still suspicious. Or more realistically it meant that Nicky was a member of the Klein crime family and they were coming to her because Nicky proved to be JUST as slippery as the rest of the goons the NYPD had tried to hold on charges with crimes related to Victor Klein. They were released and if they didn't speak, they were allowed to live. If they gave any kind of information they wound up with cement blocks on their feet in the Hudson. Though Lauren had tried to remain ignorant about what Nick did for a living, it was now becoming impossible. She tried to brush the detective off. “Look. I don't know anything about Nicky like that. We aren't like that. We don't share every detail of our life. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work...” She started walking away. Rivera: “You may not know the details, Ms. Danvers. But you know him. And as you go back to your job, Victor Klein and his men ravage the city, kill innocent people and make millions. All I am asking for is thirty minutes of your time.” Lauren stopped dead in her tracks as she felt a chill go through her body. She DIDN'T know the details of his job and if she DID say anything that wound up being useful, she could wind up DEAD or worse. “Detective...you aren't just asking for thirty minutes of my time. You're asking for me to become a ratone. And we all know what happens to RATS...” She cocked her eyebrow as she spoke. “I like being ignorant...and ALIVE.” Rivera: “Look for all you know they could be watching you right now. With so much heat on Romero, you think they aren't checking in on any loose ends? And now here you are in bright day light talking to a cop. You might already be in trouble.” “Well then...THANKS for that.” Rivera: “Just come to the station. If it turns out you can't help us, then fine. I know Klein has moles in the department and I will be sure to let it be known just how unhelpful and aggressive you were in Romero's defense...” “And if I DO help?” Rivera: “Well...that we can talk about at the station. Come on, Ms. Danvers. Help me catch the bad guys. I need your help.” He was right. If Nicky turned out to be a bad guy and she did nothing about it, she would never forgive herself. She was at her core a person concerned with justice and the truth, and she tried to follow a code of ethics that now was leaving her in the middle of a terrible situation. Lauren let out an exasperated sigh. “Alright, Detective...You have thirty minutes.” Thirty minutes ended up being three and a half hours. She went back and forth with Detective Rivera once he had revealed his plan to have Lauren wear a wire and for Nick Romero to incriminate himself on tape. His arrest could lead to the take down of Victor Klein as they suspected that once Nick was in custody, he would become an informant for lesser charges. It was her biggest fear about the situation realized, and what confused her even more was that she agreed. She had called Nick on his phone and left a very convincing voice mail with how upset she was with him, how the police took her to the station and starting asking her questions. How she couldn't believe what was happening and that he better meet with her to explain himself TONIGHT. For now, she had a discreet security detail on her and was told to go about her normal day routine as if nothing had happened. As if. Lauren's world was in a tailspin as she headed back to the offices of Tempo Magazine. By now, the sun had gone down and there would most likely be nobody working, which was exactly how Lauren preferred it. If she didn't get her story about the press junket completed and submitted tonight, Alexis would have her head on a platter. Even worse, she wasn't even sure she remembered what anybody SAID at the junket as much as she remembered seeing something she couldn't believe was true; that in fact the stories about Morgan Victoria were TRUE. That she was a witch. Or a mutant. Or a monster. As the elevator dinged signaling she had arrived, the doors swung open to reveal the Tempo Magazine logo displayed on the lobby wall. The offices were dark and all seemed incredibly quiet. Exhausted by life, she made her way to her cubicle, took off her painfully tall high heels and hunched over on the top of her desk just sitting there for a moment, trying to truly take in everything that had happened to her today. From Nick Romero to Morgan Victoria, it was clear that there were MANY things going on around her that the rest of the world seemed in the dark about. How could she sit here and write about something as frivolous as a billionaire opening a hotel when there were so many more important things to bring to the light? Thankfully, she would be given a break as she heard a crash in the distance. She stood, scared to death that one of Klein's men had found her and was going to kill her. She walked around the hall as she noticed a light on in Alexis' office, which was incredibly peculiar. Alexis was not the type of woman to work extra hours in the office. Not that she wasn't good at her job; she just did most of her work from home. Lauren walked very slowly towards the beaming light coming from the door as she looked for anything around her that she might be able to use as a weapon, deciding for no reason at all on a stapler. As she crept closer and closer she began to hear what sounded like somebody crying. She gripped her hand tight on the stapler as she KICKED the rest of the door in! “STAND BACK!” Her brown eyes were met with Alexis Quartermaine’s crystal clear blue eyes that were wet and red with tears. Alexis’ face contorted with the disgust. Alexis: “Jesus Christ Lauren! You scared me half to death! What the hell were you planning to do with THAT?! [points to Stapler] Attach me to a company-wide memo?!” “I’m sorry! It’s just…late and I thought I was alone in here.” Lauren set the stapler down on the accent table next to her as she eyed her boss up and down. Something was wrong with her. “Are…are you okay? You look upset.” Alexis: “Lauren…we aren’t friends. I’m your boss. You are my employee. If I need to talk about my feelings, I’ll call my therapist, or a friend. Either way, I won’t be calling YOU…” Alexis balled her fist for a second and braced herself against her desk. Alexis: “I’m sorry…I just found out my brother died.” Lauren softened her stance for a moment as she moved closer to Alexis, attempting to comfort her in some kind of way, but Alexis put her hand up immediately. Alexis: “If you try and hug me…I swear to GOD I will fire you! [Thinking for a moment] Did you get your article in for the Parthenon announcement? I was at the event for a few moments to show my support and I didn’t see you in our press booth.” Lauren swallowed hard in her throat. It was now or never and with what she was about to do tonight; deceiving the man she loved, her days might be numbered anyway. “I was there…up close and personal actually. About that…remember a month or so back when you interviewed Morgan Victoria and we lost all that footage and questions about her being a witch? Well...I think you were RIGHT. I think there is something to that story…and I was HOPING since last time I checked you hated Morgan Victoria if you might let me do a little investigating on the matter, see what I can dig up? I’d run everything by you of course and it wouldn’t get in the way of my other assignments…but I think this could be really big for the magazine.” For a few seconds, Alexis looked almost shocked or as if she was frozen in place. There was a long and uncomfortable silence as Alexis wiped her face that was still wet with tears and began to put various things into the Chanel briefcase she was holding. Alexis: “Lauren….I like you. I really do. You are about the only person around here who doesn’t make me want to slit my own wrists. You’re smart and you’re bright. And I know you are only doing this job until something better comes along, which I’m fine with…but there is no story here. I know that people think I only got this job because of my last name and my connections…but I’m no slouch. I did my research before going into that interview. I investigated her extensively as well as her friends and family. The rumors about her are just that…rumors. So unless you have stumbled onto something that serves as incontrovertible TRUTH to those rumors, not only would running a story like that threaten to destroy the magazine, but your OWN career. Further more? It’s INSULTING that you would burst into my office with such big balls, hoping to take a story that was originally MINE and take it to the heights you very OBVIOUSLY think my original article DIDN’T get to…” “Alexis! That’s not it at all! I just th—“ The Editor-In-Chief put her hand up and interjected. Alexis: “That’s enough, Lauren. I am telling you right now. Stop this business with Morgan Victoria. She brings a lot of content to this magazine and we cannot afford to have her and her contacts refuse to work with us. Being a Quartermaine does afford many benefits; one of them being able to watch my employees like a hawk. I have connections in this city you could only dream of and if I find out that you’ve been pursuing a story of ANY KIND about celebrity mutants I will make sure that you never get in front of that camera. On the flipside, if you knock all this nonsense off, keep your head down and continue to do the work you’ve been doing, I will write you a recommendation letter that will secure you employment at any place of your choosing.” Lauren was confused. A month ago, Alexis seemed ready to nail Morgan to the cross and now she was telling her to drop everything and pretend as if there wasn’t enough for a story here. Come to think of it, in the recent days she had noticed that Alexis had been seen around town with members of Cameron and Morgan’s inner circles. The amount of press that Morgan and Cameron generated around the local press was dream material for things like Page Six and the gossip columns and her own experience working with Alexis had told her a lot of times, there were truth to the stories they heard. Could it be possible that Alexis herself was a part of this? Everything in Lauren’s body told her there was a story here and Alexis’ sudden condemnation of the idea seemed to lend to the idea that the story might be a lot bigger than she thought. Lauren also knew herself. She wouldn’t be able to just keep her head down, not after what she had seen. So she did what anybody in her position would do. She lied. “Fine.” Alexis seemed satisfied by her answer, if not more than a little wary. Alexis: “I’m glad we have an understanding. But don’t think I’m going to take your word for it. I’ll be checking up on you periodically. Don’t make me bury you.” “I won’t… [pausing] Are you sure you’re okay? Is there anything you need me to do?” Alexis thought for a moment before shoving the rest of her files in her briefcase. Alexis: “Yes, actually. Don’t tell anybody where I’ve gone. The last thing I need is media attention while dealing with the death of my brother. They will have me drunk and disorderly in no time, and while that will probably be the case, I don’t think I can handle that kind of attention right now.” Lauren nodded as Alexis made her way past her without so much of a second look. Her boss spoke to her as she faded into the dark and empty office areas. Alexis: “Get that press package together and put it on Tracy’s desk before you leave. Just because I revealed something personal to you doesn’t mean you don’t have deadlines to deal with. Bonsoir, Salope!” And just like that she was gone. Lauren’s head was filled to the brim with doubt and concern. While she had just made some major headway with her boss, she was also basically forbidden to pursue a story that now seemed to consume her every thought. She only had about two hours to finish her story and meet on The Brooklyn Bridge where she would end up risking her life and betraying Nick in order to bring try and bring justice to the victims of Victor Klein. “Well, I DID say I wanted more excitement in my life…” Almost in a daze, she sat down at her desk and churned out words. She didn’t know if they made sense and she didn’t care. Lauren was too busy counting down the minutes before she would meet with Nicky. She felt like a traitor. She wished she could somehow explain herself for what she was about to do, but she knew that she couldn’t. For however mad he was going to be, for however angry her actions would make him, she was doing the right thing. Victor Klein had been a thorn in the side of New York City for too long, and if she could help lock that sadistic bastard away for good, she most definitely would play her part. She just wished she had an easier part to play. She gathered her things once again in an almost dream like state as she headed towards the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby. As she headed through the lobby, she picked up her phone and made a phone call to Valerie. Valerie: “Lauren! What’s up? Getting excited for wine o’clock?” Lauren gave a bittersweet smile. “Change of plans, Val. I have to reschedule. I’m going to meet Nicky.” Valerie: “Well…I knew that was coming. Are you okay? You sound really weird.” “Weird doesn’t begin to cover it.” “I’m... I’m not okay, Val. Today has been fucked up. Would you mind meeting me at my apartment in a few hours? I can’t go into details, but I might need a lawyer.” [audible silence] Valerie: “…okay. But keep me posted. I’m officially worried now.” “I’ll be fine..and I will contact you as soon as I can. Thank you, Val.” Valerie: [uncertain] “You’re welcome?” Lauren hung up the phone as she pushed through the doors of Meade Publications. A single nod to the conspicuous van across the street from the building would signal to Rivera that she was ready and headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge. Her world had opened today in ways that she hadn’t been prepared for and she began to walk down the seemingly empty streets of the city, she knew that after tonight, her life and her world…would never be the same.