Schwarz, before they were Schwarz and some extra Red Shirts

Someday they'd be the most fearsome and deadly team ever, Crawford said. Nagi wasn't feeling very hopeful at the moment. He sat apart from them, not only because they didn't appear respectable at all (not that anybody of any importance would come here, but still, better be careful than sorry), but also because they were polluting his air. The smoke was truly making him nauseous. He waved his hand again to get some of it away from him. He could get rid of it with the help of his gift, but that would mean he couldn't appropriately express his displeasure. Not that anyone was likely to notice. This group of people was slowly killing the last shreds of Nagi's hope in human decency on daily basis, so he wasn't holding his breath. He coughed. Maybe he should've been holding his breath after all.

"And then," Crawford continued: "We'll rule the world and made it into everything we want it to be!"

Same old, same old, but it still had some of the effect on the loyal little minions around him. Fortune-tellers knew how to pull off Drama. Nagi checked the audience. Just as he thought. He didn't know if it was Crawford 'prophetic' words or the very illegal substances they were inhaling, but it worked even now after hearing it in one or another form for probably a thousand's time. Ingo was looking at Crawford like he was just promised the World (which he was), Kruger seemed to be already planning for the future of even more mayhem and if Nagi knew anything (which he so did and had the saved data and certificates to prove it), Christian was just deciding whether to eventually pronounce himself a King or perhaps an Emperor. Nagi would suggest he chose 'The Queen' but Crawford might object, since he would surely claim the 'King of the World' title and he really did deserve better. Nagi, himself, would of course become the Great Grey Eminence, the formidable power behind the throne. As always. It would still include baby-sitting illustrious leaders, but at least he would get paid for it.

"Hey, Shrimp, go get us another round!"

And he wouldn't have to fetch drinks. Nagi glared at Christian and since this was his usual expression it went unnoticed. Chris was easily the one of the three idiots he despised the most. Sometimes he wanted to push his long pointy nose right into his ever-mocking face, but Crawford told him not to. Repeatedly.

"Beer for me and Craw, Schnapps for Kruger and that fairy water for the Blondie."

Nagi prepared himself for Ingo's standard screaming fit (he could yell even louder than Christian, even if the latter was helped by his 'special' abilities), but it looked like he was too gone to notice anything but the joint he was sharing with Crawford. He could just push a little… Nah, it wasn't worth the punishment. For some insane reason Christian was the Leader's favourite, so his face had to stay exactly as it was even if intervention would be an improvement (according to Nagi, and he was naturally always right).

He filtered his annoyance into slight push of the air that knocked away anyone standing between him and the bar. The crowd was too drunk to mind. Christian Leugner would get what he deserved when the proper time came, anyway. Sooner rather than later. Crawford told him so himself in one of their private conversation, when there were just two ofthem, the adults, and for once, he believed him. Maybe because it was what he wanted to hear. Right, so Crawford didn't exactly specify the name of the one who would die that horrible and messy death. But Christian was by far the most obvious choice.

Nagi knew he himself would be one of the new four-man team, after Crawford, of course, so counting the leader that only left one space to fill. Crawford said one of the remaining two would leave to serve in another cell and the last one wouldn't survive the month. And Nagi knew Crawford could change the future if it didn't please him, so he would have changed it if it was Kruger or Ingo dying, wouldn't he? Since Crawford sort-of like them, Nagi doubted they were the intended casualty. The resident pre-cognitive had found Nagi and the other two himself: Nagi in the alley in Tokio (robbing a businessman), Ingo on the runway of Milan (or more likely under a bar table in Milan) and Kruger playing cards in a pro poker tournament in Vegas. So Christian, chosen by their leader Mehrwert without Crawford's intervention, was obviously the odd-man out and fit to go under.

Right, something German for Crawford, something American for Christian (ha, that'll show him), the hard stuff for Kruger and Evian for Ingo (it looked like The Curse of The Scale struck again). He also stole some orange juice for himself. No way was he touching any alcohol, not after witnessing what it did to perfectly reasonable sociopaths. Reasonable sociopaths being Crawford and Kruger in this case; Christian wasn't ever reasonable and Ingo, bless his deficient blond little model mind, actually improved under influence, but he was odd like that.

Ha hated being made to watch over the imbeciles while they were getting sloshed and he hated the looks he was getting from the other patrons. What, never seen a ten year old before?! But most of all he hated that tey picked such a loud pub this time.

Yeah, yeah, he knew, the more noise, the better, but it wasn't as if Herr Mehrwert was likely to listen in. Sure, the directives allowed him to spy on his subordinates (demanded it of him, as a matter of fact). It was the only reason Rosenkreuz would let a stupid telephonic of all things lead a team in this day and age. But it was also true that his rather useless special power made sure that any amount of noise caused him terrible headaches, so on a Saturday night he was usually a half way to coma (with generous help of overweigth whale-strength sleeping pills).

But with luck being what it was (Christian's mother), he'd be awake just this time and diligently listening in on their plans. The very dangerous plans to cut Rosenkreuz promotions-related red tape in a rather revolutionary way. Heh. So to speak. That'd be bad for all the significant people involved, namely Nagi. And Crawford, since he was Nagi's 'Older Brother'.

When he returned to the table he could see Crawford in the middle of another one of his endless lectures. The man could talk and talk and talk forever. Nagi wasn't sure if he though his plans were really that important or if he was just that fond of his own voice. At least there was one good consequence – Christian didn't dare to interrupt him and it was so clear it frustrated him to no end. He had to be the centre of the attention or he faded and shrunk. Nagi would've preferred if they had just let him at home, but Crawford always said, 'Keep your enemies close…'. Nagi snorted. Crawford must've reeeealy hated Ingo right now, since he was gaily snoring on his shoulder, blond hair spilling all over Crawford's arm. Crawford followed Nagi's look and pried the still burning butt out of Ingo's clenched fingers. The latter mumbled in his sleep and slowly slid down the booth seat, as perfect image of a drooling angel as ever.

Moments like these were the only time were the only time when Nagi believed people used to pay real money to take pictures of their Ingo. The rest of the time he looked like he was born and bred for mindless violence and harmful international intrigues of the underground. Then again, considering his mother, he most likely was. Nagi had heard about her from the others and the woman was supposed to scare even the Rosenkreuz superiors (before they had her die of a hear attack, courtesy of bio-kinetics of the recruiting department). Well, she was a cruel woman; Nagi had seen the tapes of that diaper commercial and now completely understood Ingo's pink-elephant-phobia. It was no wonder Ingo had grown up into somehow unbalanced man. He seemed to be glad to be rid of her, anyway.

Nagi looked away from the blond mess beside him and over to the guy across. He was much more like someone you would expect on TV or in a magazine. Well, if they shot in black and white, anyway. Colours on him could get a little painful at times (but he still preferred that to all the tacky red shirts Leugner wore). He used his looks to his advantage, but never had to depend on them like Ingo. The beautiful outside was coupled with a dark interior and a wicked mind that fed on destruction. Kruger's acquisition was also much less violent, which was funny considering the guy's temper.

Crawford had won him at cards. Kruger liked to brag some times that he played with the devil and lost his soul in the process. He didn't seem to be at all bothered by it, even after he discovered that Crawford had, of course, cheated. He was addicted to the trouble they made, the more bloody the better. As long as there was pain and suffering (for others), he was happy and almost pleasant. Nagi quite liked him. As much as it was possible to like a human being that wasn't himself. Or maybe Crawford. Not that he'd let the pompous bastard know that, his ego was bigger than a planet already.

So he feared a bit for Kruger. Sure, he was a sneaky killing machine, but so far, after all the expensive tests (Crawford told him the amount in dollars and yen to emphasize the importance of the sum), he was still classified as entirely regular human. No special abilities at all (if you didn't count the extremely high tolerance for alcohol). Not that they were expecting him to be someone of Crawford's rank, or Nagi's own, even. And sometimes a plain old psycho-path just didn't count and upcoming interview (read: inquisition and some recreational torture) in front of the Rosenkreuz review and promotions board was one of those occasions.

Even wastes of space like Ingo and Christian had some minor talents. Nagi wasn't entirely sure that they were strong enough to rate a field team, but he wasn't about to complain about Ingo. He couldn't aim a gun to save his life, or kill anyone with any method that wasn't poisoning, but he was mildly entertaining, looked good on promotional material for the Assassin's Monthly and made decent coffee. Christian drastically lacked all of those qualities. He was annoying, hogged the spotlight (but didn't have enough patience to stand still and pose with a gun in a hundred and one different ways) and drank all that excellent coffee.

He really had no idea how Christian got there, and not only because it was before his time. Of course, Christian liked to tell stories (never the same way twice), but Nagi would never be naïve enough to trust anything that that man said. So he turned to better resources. If you asked Kruger, he was a lower demon that got exiled from hell for being too annoying and if you asked Ingo he would claim Christian was an ex-junkie whore with collection of sexually transmitted diseases to impress any zoologist. But then, they weren't fond of him, so Nagi supposed these words could also be meant as mare insults. If you could guess from his wardrobe or vocabulary, he was a person of suspicious past indeed, but Nagi cared only for his future, specifically for the lack of his future.

"Another beer, kiddo!"

As big of a lack of the future as he could get, NOW, please and thank you. Sadly, it didn't look like anything similar to it would happen that evening, since he knew Crawford would be sober for an occasion of such importance. And at the moment, he wasn't. He didn't look awake, either. Even Kruger would never dare to pelt him with peanuts if he was. These were supposed to be his role models. Adults he could learn from. Right. He snatched the peanut bowl away and poured the remains of Ingo's Evian on the sorry bunch. That seemed to wake them and he was glad for his quick reflexes and his superb shielding capabilities. Ups, maybe not such a minor talents after all. They'd better leave before someone demanded an explanation for a burned chair…

xxxxx

Thirteen days later

"So, you're saying Leugner accidentally fell under a train?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Two times?"

Nobody's perfect, not even Nagi. Crawford didn't even bat an eye.

"He was very clumsy."

"Right. And Mehrwert…"

"…Tragic. I regret having to take over his duties, but I'll do my best."

"I'm sure you will," replied the older chairwoman dryly. "But we still have to clear the matter of his unfortunate suicide first. You know he left a letter?"

"Yes, Mam."

"It said he couldn't live without Leugner. Actually, it said exactly that."

The tone of the senior chairman said it all, but just to make his point clearer he floated the paper in question towards Crawford. He took it, read the message and gathered all his patience, past and present, not to hit the stupid lazy bastard Ingwer on the head. It said: 'I can't live without Leugner. If you want more, ask Crawford." That's what you got when you counted on others to do a job…

"Do you have anything to add, Crawford? No? Kruger? Schumann? Very well. Accidents do happen and we must learn to live with them. You may leave."

It's not that the Board wasn't suspicious. Or knew exactly how the tragic accidents in question happened. However, the two in question were dead anyway and they weren't much of a talent in the first place. Come on, who needed a telephonic these days? Besides, getting them removed showed a nice incentive and good planning skills. All valuable traits. But it also meant they had to watch them carefully. It wouldn't do for them to become too powerful. Better to separate the two culprits and put Kruger into another team… For a while they debated relocating Schumann, too, but nobody actually believed he had anything to do with the conspiracy. Come on, it was Ingwer. He couldn't possibly be guilty.

Fade to Black