Author's Note/: Boy, am I the bravest person in the world. Either that, or I'm the craziest.
But come on! Someone was going to do a modern setting AU of Dishonored... someday or other on this site. I'm just shocked that it ended up being me. Please excuse me for turning the world of Dishonored on its head and dropping it on its behind (if that's how you end up viewing it, though I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing). The story just came up in my head-well, the idea was in the back of mind before Dishonored even existed-and I just had to try it out.
We'll all just have to see how it goes.
And for chance readers of Cyber Black: don't worry. I'm still working it.
This is the only beginning, Mr. Attano.
On a cloudy, foggy evening in the city of Dunwall, a ship came to port. Some of the passengers were returning back from a warm vacation in Serkonos, while others were Serkonians arriving for business or pleasure. The crowd that waited for the boat watched in a mellow hum of excitement, and the passengers waited in a tense silence. A few of the passengers, most of them very young, stood on deck and watched the horizon grow larger and larger by the second.
Among the adventurous youths, Corvo leaned against the rail, hood flapping in the wind, and glanced at his watch. It was almost seven. He stared at the buildings with a very curious interest; he had only been to Dunwall once in his lifetime.
The only downside, he thought quietly… it'll be hard to see the stars at my new home.
Corvo sighed wearily, and not because the trip had been tiresome. This new landscape before his eyes told him that there was no turning back to where he had come from. There was officially no backing out.
"No," he said quietly. "I'm far past that now."
His cell phone vibrated, and suddenly, Corvo went stiff all over. He dreaded pulling it out of his coat pocket, but he didn't want to risk a possibly important phone call. So, he pulled it out and read the screen.
"DAUD," it said.
This was the three hundred and fiftieth call. During a two week period.
Something inside Corvo Attano snapped. He glared at first, grimaced secondly, and sneered lastly.
"Having fun going broke, you schmuck," he muttered spitefully.
Corvo tossed his phone over his shoulder with graceful finesse. The phone continued to ring, spinning in a circle like a speeding bullet, and crashed into the water below with a tiny splash.
And so, the boat pulled into dock, and the passengers disembarked quickly yet efficiently. Corvo pulled up his hood and swung a large bag over his arm. Tugging a large suitcase behind him, with a smaller suitcase strapped to its back, he stepped onto land for the first time in days. He joined the throng of people in the crowd, noticed by no one.
In time, he boarded a bus that would take him straight to the other side of the city. A kindly passenger helped him lift his suitcases onto a rack. The bus was packed like a can of sardines, but he didn't mind; they could've squashed him for all he cared. For the first time in years, since the earliest of his teens, Corvo felt the light, subtle, gently crushing sensation of freedom.
His heart couldn't help but race.
The Pandyssia was busy once again. Jessamine Kaldwin didn't have to be on the same block to tell.
Her chauffer drove in silence. As the great scion checked her messages on her phone, her right hand, Hiram Burrows took a last minute call. By the creases in his brow and his frustrated yet quiet tone, she understood that the person on the other end was being difficult. She sighed quietly and put her phone away, and then, she smoothed some loose hairs from her forehead. She briefly glanced at her nails; they needed some work. She would have a salon girl come up to her suite… tomorrow.
Jessamine was a lady through and through. Her legs were crossed at the ankles, shifted at a slight angle, and her hands were on her lap. She dressed exactly as her role in life dictated, with a flair of originality. Her pants suit was pitch black with ornate buttons at the jacket, but her blouse was a satiny, plain creamy white rather than absolutely bleached. Her hair was fixed into a severe, twist bun, yet it was decorated with a golden pin. She was neat and tidy, but her clothes were somewhat wrinkled from a day's worth of traveling.
As the limousine slowed down, making its way towards the front of the hotel, she leaned only somewhat, looking out the window. Through the tinted window, she saw all of the passersby go their way; some, she clearly recognized as residents of the premises. However, to her curiosity, she noticed a peculiar individual, weighed down by heavy bags as he trudged along the block.
Why is he walking with such a load? she asked herself. Why not take a taxi?
Jessamine tucked her cell phone into a leather case, and Burrows ended his call and huffed.
"The Outsider," she said.
"That man is perniciously impossible," Burrows replied with a low harshness. "And to think that after all this time, he was secretly our most 'generous' sponsor!"
"That's life, I suppose."
"And what kind of gall would make him that think he had the right to unleash a spy on us?
"The term I believe he used was 'representative'. And he does have a right to decide whether or not he should continue his sponsorship. After all, he is only familiar in dealing with my father. Not me."
Jessamine sighed, a sad mien on her beautiful face. The late Mr. Kaldwin had been dead for only five months, God rest his soul.
"And it would be best to change your attitude," she said with authority. "You know as well as I do, that this man… who calls himself "The Outsider" has his tentacles in every industry you could possibly imagine… legal… financial… technology… the arts… the media… he even plays in the political arena. After all, my father always did say, 'he that has the gold makes all the rules'."
Burrows' face tightened, but the annoyed flicker in his eyes vanished. He was carefully considering her words.
"So, we will just go on as we usually do. With excellence. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Ms. Kaldwin."
Still, Jessamine knew exactly what would transpire. As soon as they separated inside the Pandyssia, Burrows would go straight to management and drill them on the virtues of order and courtesy. The workload would be doubled, and the restraints would be pulled taut. She sincerely wept for the staff.
The limousine finally came to a stop, right in front of the entrance. The hotel security was already lined up and waiting for her, making a path to the front doors. A man walked between the two lines and towards the car door. She put her cell phone in an organized place in her handbag and prepared to get out.
"We'll talk more on this later," Jessamine told her assistant, and the man opened the door for her. She slid out her feet, one leg after the other, and rose out of the car with her head held high.
"Good evening, Ms. Kaldwin," he greeted.
"Good evening, Mr. Martin," she replied.
Burrows followed her out of the limousine and joined her side. As they sauntered towards the main doors, Martin stepped closely at their heels. Jessamine didn't realize how cold it really was until she had finally entered the safety of the hotel.
As her heels clicked on the marble floors of the lobby, most of the hotel guests paid her with either little heed or a quiet fascination. Some recognized her already, and her entrance did not amaze others who did not. After all, the Pandyssia was a first-class establishment; there was nothing strange about her arriving in such an official manner.
And none of them cared when a little girl in a fancy, silken night gown came running up to her, arms outstretched and demanding to be embraced. She smiled wide and opened her arms, receiving her daughter with joy.
"Mommy!" she squeaked into Jessamine's stomach.
"Emily, it's past your bedtime," Jessamine replied in gentle chiding. "Did you sneak past Callista again?"
Emily looked up at her mother's face and nodded, grinning without remorse. Jessamine chuckled, leaned over her, and kissed her on top of her head.
Moments later, Corvo entered the hotel through a side door to check in. He tried to be inconspicuous. He failed miserably.
Before he even reached the receptionist's desk, he quickly realized that he had gained the attention, and perhaps, the possible displeasure from the surrounding guests. It wasn't hard for him to figure out why, for the patrons of Pandyssia were dressed in fine garments. Some of the women wore coats with fur lining, and he recognized a lady wearing a Vera Moray trench coat (he was well-acquainted with the quality). The men all wore business suits and were either well shaven or had perfectly crafted moustaches and beards.
As for Corvo himself, he appeared as an absolute ragamuffin. His coat, which he wore over a hooded sweatshirt, was well worn, and he was wearing a pair of jeans. He hadn't shaved in two weeks. And to top that all off, he was carrying his bags along with him instead of having a porter take it for him.
He was a sudden dark smudge on their brightly lit world…man who seemed to be a member of the great unwashed, who had the audacity to pollute their air with his presence.
He hadn't meant to look so shabby. Before he had come, he had had several suits, but he had been specifically instructed not to take any of them with him. He had balked at traveling so rustically in his best coats. So much had been on his mind that he had neglected shaving altogether. And through no real fault of his own, due to his appearance, the bellboys had ignored him.
Well, this is just wonderful, he thought sarcastically.
Nevertheless, Corvo braved the rest of the way and boldly stood before a receptionist. Like it or not, he was a guest… no, a new resident. And after he cleaned himself up and stepped out of his new home in better wear (if the cleaner's service was as quick as he'd been told), he would blend in and no one would have the right to question it. If they had the right in the first place.
Meanwhile, among the bewildered guests, Jessamine's sense of reality was shattered. Hadn't she just seen this exact, same man walking along the block with his luggage? That meant that he hadn't arrived to the Pandyssia by car, the way that every other patron always arrived. But why?
Jessamine hated things that she couldn't understand.
"I like his coat!" Emily chirped.
Jessamine grabbed her daughter's hand, and security led her away.
The receptionist he was greeted by had an accent. His accent. Corvo glanced at her nametag and saw a Serkonian name. He smiled and comfortable spoke back to her in their native tongue. She grinned back in a mild camaraderie.
"Are you here on business, sir?" the receptionist asked with a friendly lilt. "Vacation? Or are you a new resident?"
"I'm afraid I'm a new resident," Corvo replied amusedly.
"What name are you booked under?" she requested.
"Attano," he answered. "Corvo Attano."
The receptionist flinched in surprise and examined his face. She sucked in her breath. She went about her work with utmost care, locating his suite on the computer. After she was finished, she announced his suite number and gave him a gold-plated key. In the background, a porter finally approached to carry his bags.
As he reached for his key, she leaned closed and spoke in a whispered tone.
"I went to your last concert," she said. "About a month ago. I was visiting family. And you played alongside the Boyle sisters. I've always admired your work."
"Thank you," Corvo replied. "It's good to meet a fellow Serkonian who appreciates good music."
"I heard from my brother that you left Karnaca… without telling anyone where you went. He told me everything about it… if all of it was fact. And to think you'd show up here of all places! What exactly are you up to…? If that isn't too impertinent to ask…"
"Not at all. I just needed to leave an old, personal life behind. Permanently."
The receptionist nodded with humble sympathy. "Life is a very hard journey."
The bellboy silently lifted his bags onto the luggage cart. They barely noticed.
"Say, can I have your autograph?" she begged.
"You can come and get it yourself after your shift is over," Corvo suggested.
The receptionist agreed eagerly, and the bellboy took the key from the desk.
"Right this way, sir," he said.
Corvo grunted in reply and followed. His day wasn't going to end for a while after all.
Several minutes later, after he had properly tipped the bellboy and was bid a good night, Corvo took a good look at his new abode. To be more accurate, instead of a suite, he couldn't call it anything less than an apartment.
He stood still for a moment, taking a deep breath to steady himself.
This is only the beginning, Mr. Attano, he declared to himself.
From the front door, there was a spacious foyer and a small coat closet behind a door. Corvo opened it to hang up his coat, and to his initial shock, there were two, newly pressed coats hanging inside. He slowly put away his coat and closed the door.
Venturing further in, he walked into the living room. The room was fully furnished with light shades of beige, green, and gold and dark shades of violet and brown, and there was a large picture window with an exceptional view. At one corner of the room, there was a white table, decorated with a vase of Tvyian lilies. But Corvo hardly noticed; he was too distracted by the grand pianoforte in another corner of the room.
It'd had better be well tuned, he hoped.
He lifted the cover from over the keys, perked up his sensitive ears, and tested them out with an impromptu melody. It was good enough.
An envelope was sitting on top of the piano. He picked it up.
On the far end corner of the room, there was another door that led to a small kitchen. It was fully equipped with a stove, oven, utensils, and all. There were complimentary snacks arranged on a countertop. He opened the refrigerator, expecting at least something inside, and he wasn't disappointed… milk, juices, fruits, cheeses, breads… along with sausages and beers of the Serkonian variety.
"I'd love to get drunk right about now," he admitted.
Unfortunately, Corvo was phenomenally good at holding his liquor.
He retracted his steps, across the living room, and found the bedroom at last. He was tempted to dive into his very large bed from exhaustion, but he knew what was coming. He had been to this type of hotel before. Any minute, more than likely the very next minute, an attendant would come to cater to his special needs or requests.
Corvo already knew what he wanted: to have the clothes in his luggage pressed, to have a pot of chamomile tea with white honey… and to have a copy of the Karnaca Times. He wanted to read the business section and survey the damage his departure had inevitably caused. He smiled with unconcealed delight; he knew he would find what he wanted to see.
He entered the closet and glanced at a mirror to look at his scruffy appearance. "I look like a barbarian."
Inside, he knew he would find some clothes… but he had never expected the extent of what he found. Thirteen crisp, new suits lined up on the rack, all dark shades but all very different from each other. Twenty shirts: eight whites, six baby blues, four rose pinks, and two yellow. Four jackets: two of them leather. He didn't bother rummaging through the drawers; there would be underwear and cufflinks.
"This man…" he realized, "knows how to take care of everything."
Finally, he sat down at the foot of his bed, opened the envelope, and took out a letter. He knew very well whom it was from. He didn't have to remember the beautiful, calligraphic handwriting.
My dear Corvo,
Glad to see you made it to Dunwall in one piece.
We've caused quite a stir, you and I, and it still won't let up. Your beloved, ridiculous half-brother is sitting on needles and pins, watching as I rip his promised inheritance right from his fingers. And your wife—oh, pardon me—your former wife, has isolated herself in disgrace. Good job, my fellow partner in crime. They had it coming.
I'm glad you've taken an interest in this game I've arranged for you. And don't worry; I promise to be gentle. After all, you are a fascinating gentleman with such paradoxical characteristics. I can't afford to estrange you.
I know. You probably have a few questions for me, and I assure you, they will be answered in due time. But for now, why not rest and relax for the rest of the week? We can discuss the nature of your 'employment' later… and in great detail.
I highly recommend tea at The Golden Cat. The sandwiches are quite lovely.
Corvo wrinkled his nose, folded the letter, and tossed it to the side.
"That is, by far, the creepiest letter I've ever received."
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