Artifex
rating: +5+x

The street was as grey as the clouds, with the only life coming from the rain that was barely visible against the buildings. Cars drove by, their yellow lights providing dull illumination, but I could barely see if anyone was driving them or not. This place could use some livening up, I thought to myself. Good thing that’s my speciality.

I had worked hard for a very specific look, one that changed with my surroundings, so I found myself in a drab grey suit with hair as colourless as the sky. Drat. I had invested quite a great deal into my clothes and hair dye, but I had found that as they reflected my environment, they seemed to absorb its effect, and the street was getting me down a tad. Best get a move on.

The pub I was supposed to meet at was no ordinary pub, not at all. There were only a few people walking up and down the street other than me, and I doubted that any of them could snap themselves out of their own personal haze of misery enough to notice my activities, but the pub insisted that precautions be taken anyway. I slipped into a small alleyway when I was sure that nobody was looking.

The alley was even grimier than the street. Its only distinguishing features were the rubbish, a large metal door on my right, and a small black cat, gnawing on a fish skeleton in front of me. It looked up at me and hissed.

“Away, you,” I sneered.

The cat did as it was told, and ran past me. I felt silly for talking to a cat, but shrugged it off. I’ve done stranger things than that. I went up to the door and knocked.

“Hello?” I said with a voice of faux politeness.

A small window in the door slid open. A bald and pimply face appeared behind it.

“What’s the password?” the man asked gruffly.

“My, my,” I shook my head, smirking. “Aren’t you the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen…”

“Oh, well screw you, then!” he scoffed back.

“Ah, my apologies, sir, my apologies,” I nodded.

“You’d better be sorry,” he snapped.

“I know, I know, and I am really!” I insisted. My face could not help but contort into a grin when I asked my question. “Are we cool yet?”

The man on the other side grinned back, and within moments the door swung open. I love doing that.

The pub was a great contrast to the street. There was still a low-key feel to it, but it had a luxury to it that stood in stark opposition to the world outside. I was bathed in a warm, dark crimson (quite literally, as my appearance changed once again) as I surveyed my surroundings. The whole place seemed to be made of velvet, with lovely piano music in the background, a bizarre yet familiar rendition of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The man who opened the door now no longer looked, as I had called him, like “the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen”, but a classy, refined valet.

“Your name, sir?” the valet asked not in a gruff tone, but in a refined, pleasant-sounding accent.

“Artifex,” I responded. “I believe you’ll see my name on a list somewhere. I was invited here after all.”

“Yes, you were, weren’t you?” the valet drew a list from his pocket. “Should be at the top of the list, A for Artifex, yes?”

“Should be,” I shrugged.

“Hmmmm,” he said sceptically. “I’m not seeing you at the top here.”

“Then try under T,” I said quickly, and with a hint of shame.

“T?” he asked curiously. “Alright, then…” he looked down his list. “Ah, yes, here you are, Artifex. Although I don’t know why your name is down here rather than-!”

“I’m sure it’s no big deal,” I said politely. “Anyways, I must be getting to my meeting.”

I walked away from the valet and over to the bar. The pub was not too crowded that evening, but there was a man in a blue-green suit and top hat sitting at the bar. This is him, alright.

“Jasper!” I announced my presence.

“Hm?” he turned around. “Ah, yes, there you are, do sit down, join me…”

I took the barstool next to his. “So why did you want to meet here of all places?”

“This is one of our older salons,” he said. His voice was very posh, almost as if he was putting it on. “I’m something of a stickler for tradition. Rather unlike you.”

“What about us suggests that we follow tradition?” I laughed.

“Ha, amusing,” Jasper said in a tone that suggested he did not find it amusing at all. “What did you want to see me about?”

“Shouldn’t you know?” I replied. “I was wondering if you had the supplies I wanted. The old Arcadia stuff. I said I’d be willing to pay handsomely…”

“Now, Thomas, we’ve been over this…” Jasper began.

“And must I tell you of that again?” I interrupted. I suppose that was rude of me, but what he said was even ruder. “I do not go by “Thomas” anymore. In case I didn’t make it clear, it’s Artifex now.”

“Artifex, of course,” Jasper smirked. “In what language does that mean “artist”, my boy? Greek? Latin?”

“It matters not,” I hissed. “Thomas is not my name anymore, it means as little to me as your old name does to you. Now, do you have what I wanted?”

“Oh, my boy,” he said in a jovial voice I was sure was false. “You must understand. The opportunities you’ve been given in the past were afforded to you because of your father-”

“What did I tell you about mentioning my father?” I interrupted again, but Jasper paid no attention.

“-and now that you’re all grown up – well, you’re still quite young of course, but you’re an adult now, and you should learn to take some artistic responsibility.”

“I have taken responsibility,” I insisted. “Just you wait and see. Our movement, our art, has become weak. Softened over time. Misused by internet pranksters, shelved away by snakes, locked up by the Foundation. I’ll bring it all back, the way that it was meant to be. Just you wait.”

“You say you’ve taken responsibility,” Jasper sneered. “But all I see is a glory-hound, with all his “talent” inherited, and whose actions would bring our enemies down on us once again. We’ve been lucky to survive in the past.”

“Who is “we”? We are not an organisation, but a movement,” I replied. This is getting nowhere, I realised. “Alright, then, Jasper, you can keep the toys. I’ve got better things to play with, anyway…”

“Like what?” Jasper laughed.

“Just you wait and see,” I repeated again, and shook my head. “Old fossil,” I whispered under my breath. Time to leave, I think.

“Hey!” he called out as I got up from my barstool. “I heard that, young man?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I apologised. “I truly am.”

Jasper rolled his eyes.

I could not help but grin again. “Are we cool yet?”

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