Marcus shoved off his shoulder from the grasp of the heavily tattooed goon, eyeing him with but a taste of the disgust he felt. It was bad enough how often he had to come down to this hellhole; he drew a limit at allowing himself to be manhandled by criminals.
It was bad enough that he had to make deals with criminals.
It was bad enough that he worked for a criminal.
"Ah, Marcus, good of you to join us in such short notice," Silco stood up from the chair at his desk, taking a sip at his drink as he did so. "I'm afraid we will have to wait a few more minutes, but it shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience."
His loose cannon of a minx (Daughter? Protegé? Some twisted side piece thing? The mere thought turned his stomach) was there today, everything about her loud and disturbing as per usual. She was sitting - or laying - upside down on the sofa Silco often liked to sit at whenever he summoned Marcus in, her skinny pale legs waving up in the air and down over the back of the sofa with a rythmic clatter of the plates on her boots, while she waved her hands this and that way like jamming to a music tune only she heard. She rolled her head towards Marcus at the entrance, cracking him a petulant grin. Marcus had followed her growth from a scrawny slum kid to this dangly unstable teenager she was becoming, and the familiar disdain for Zaunites in general was actually overlapped by a cold sense of dread in the pit of his stomach whenever he saw her. Her braided hair spilled from the cushions all over the floor, next to every bit of dust and trash and filth caked the soles of their shoes.
A picture of decadence in itself. Everywhere he looked, from decor to the thugs to Silco and Jinx, it was as if that office had a sample of everything that was wrong in this undercity cesspoll, everything and everyone Marcus always wanted to erradicate, and in doing so help build a worthy, safe and good society for everyone else. Instead, it festered, thanks to people like Silco and his antics, thanks to his very existence; decadence, filth, ruin, crime, violence. The very air in this place reeked of them and infected people like the disease they were.
"What the hell do you want?" he spat out, marching towards the centre of the room.
"Now, Marcus. I would think we were above such pettiness by now."
"Answer me. I don't have your free time."
Silco actually dared to breathe out a scoff, low and barely intelligible, but Marcus heard it.
"Sit down, Marcus."
Marcus felt a pang of anger in his chest. "I said-"
Marcus closed his mouth. Jinx's twitching legs up and down were distracting him in the corner of his eye and he turned to her in irritation, only to see her make a theatrical spin of her hands and then point them, in fingerguns and with a childish mouth sound, towards the assigned stool that had been placed in its usual place before his arrival. Marcus tightened his jaw as he looked at Silco again, seeing the man's expression darkening and feeling a chill claw unwanted down his spine thanks to that sickening eye boring into him.
The world was wrong if it let men like Silco, who were supposed to accept their insignificance and accept their just deserts for indulging in crime, rise to any semblance of power amongst the filth. Someone as scrawny, as damaged as him (Marcus had seen his face under the make-up, after all. He knew the scars the monster wore) should not be allowed to appear - to be - so effortlessly threatening.
Yet here they were. Law bending to Crime.
He had always wanted to make it right, but the world was wrong. It forced him to become a cog spinning it further in its malfunction.
Marcus heard the thugs behind him move and spared them the trouble. He sat down, trying to salvage his dignity.
"That's better," Silco said. Bastard.
"What do you want?" he demanded again. The thugs now shadowed him behind the stool, as was their job whenever Marcus was there. He fought his annoyance over them by reminding himself he was a threat, hence why Silco needed to be accompained by a handful of goons to even attend a meeting. "I'm not a dog you can call to your lap whenever you feel like it."
"That's exactly what you are, Marcus." Silco sat down next to Jinx, opening a cigar case that stood between them. All his movements were calm as he prepared the cigar and lit it, asserting that effortless dominance. "I don't think you've quite understood what I meant last time we saw each other."
"What?" Marcus said. He tried to think back to what demands and veiled threats Silco had said the previous meeting while he felt the man's gaze over him through a cloud of cigar smoke. Silco had talked about the bribes necessary for the business deals he was aiming for, about some licenses he required for the chem-barons for one reason or another, and about increasing policing of certain areas. Marcus had made arrengements for everything to be done, but things took time. "I've done what you told me. What are you-"
Beside him, Jinx pulled out the gun from the holster hanging against her thigh. Marcus flinched back instinctively, but Silco pretended as though nothing had happened. She just started playing with it like a toy.
Decadent, ruined, diseased.
"One of the Shimmer factories has been attacked," Silco said, forcing his attention back while he just had to pretend a teenager terrorist-in-the-making wasn't yielding a deadly weapon within range. "We suffered heavy production losses, and it should be needless to say how that converts to loss of income."
"Do you expect me to know when some backalley thug is going to decide to try their own luck at blowing shit up?" Marcus asked, eyeing Jinx again. She holstered the gun back and started to hum a melody to herself.
"I expect you to do your job, which I thought we were clear on. But like I said, it appears we are not."
The door of the office opened and Silco's second-in-command entered, dragging a battered bleeding man with her. Jinx spinned up straight on the sofa, her eyes glued on them.
"Right on time," Silco said with a pleased tone as Sevika threw the man roughly to the floor between them. "I wanted you to be present so I could properly explain the situation to you, Marcus. This here is one of my men tasked with guarding the Shimmer factory in question. Clearly, he and his buddies didn't really do their job right."
The man squirmed as he tried pulling himself up to his elbows, his face bloodied and bruised. Marcus barely spared him a look.
"It would have been bad enough as it was, but it turns out, the only reason why we were attacked to begin with was because he leaked information to this group called the Firelights," Silco explained.
"Boss, I-" the goon tried before he was silenced with a kick to the gut delivered by Sevika. Marcus moved his foot away from the blood spat at the floor, disgusted.
"I'm supposed to take care of your men now?" Marcus asked with disdain in his voice.
There was a quick sound as Jinx pulled out her gun again. Marcus barely had time to register it before his eardrums went deaf with the gunshot blast, and he stared wide eyed at the man as he fell into the floor, a pool of blood pouring in gushes from his skull.
Just like that. Just like-
"Finally! It was taking ages!" Jinx complained, spinning her gun with a grin on her face.
"I take care of my men," Silco replied calmly. "Insurrectors and armed fools like these Firelights are not my responsablity, however. That's where you come in, Sheriff. Or, actually, where you didn't. Hence why we are here."
"I already told you-" he tried. His ears ringed and he was barely aware of how dry his throat suddenly was.
"You don't tell me anything, Marcus, unless it is to say the Enforcers will act accordingly to threats of violence against public safety," Silco cut him short, making Marcus swallow his impertinence - no, not impertinence, he was an Enforcer, he was the right one here - with that fear Silco feeded on, that he depended on for his empire. "That is what you will say, and do as told."
"'Threats against public safety'?" he repeated, despite the fact he could see it play out immediately in his head, how the twisted tale worked just like Silco wanted it to. "I'm supposed to have my men chase down your opposition?
"You're neutralizing criminals, Sheriff. That's what these people are at the end of the day and by your own criteria."
Even if they were opposing Silco, an evil in and on himself, that opposition came from the same mold, indeed. If he bothered to think about it, he'd see people were stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to Silco, but that cared little to Marcus; either way, for him, the whole lot of these undercity vermin were well represented with Silco in charge of it.
"I expect you to be more thorough in your searches from now on," Silco completed. "Let's not have this episode repeat itself."
"You should do the same with the trash working under you", Marcus said despite himself, nodding towards the body growing cold on the floor before standing up and marking his leave. "That's the whole reason why this happened to begin with."
Silco smiled, or it seemed like he did; it was hard to tell with that extensive scarring on his face.
Marcus halted before he could reach the door.
"You might consider changing your uniform before going home," Silco said smoothly. Marcus turned to look at him over his shoulder. "There's blood on you. We wouldn't want your daughter to see such a ghastly sight, now would we?"
Marcus felt it as a punch to the gut.
"Don't you dare-!"
"Now, what did I say?" Silco cut him off while his men stepped up at Marcus' abrupt turn. "Pettiness and all that."
"I don't think he gets it," Jinx said, widening her grin as she laid her head against Silco's shoulder. "Maybe next time I'll miss my shot a bit and open a little bullet hole in that uniform to go along with the blood."
"That will only be necessary if Marcus misbehaves again, Jinx," Silco replied, his cold tone somehow warmer in a way that didn't make sense in context, as if they suddenly were having a private moment. Because it was hard to understand the deal between them, that physical closeness and tone could be a horribly twisted father-daughter moment or a lascivious exchange, and the fact Marcus thought in both things at once made him feel sick.
"Oh, please do it fast, Marcus. Pretty please!" Jinx pleaded, spinning the gun in her hand and aiming it at Marcus. "I'll be watching!"
Marcus felt his heartbeat shoot up. It was hard to keep it together, even being an Enforcer.
"Go right on, Sheriff," Silco said with the same calm as he continued to smoke his cigar, his lunatic girl resting over him and framing them in a cascade of blue. "Don't want to waste your precious time."
Marcus swallowed down any offended smarks, feeling a drop of sweat form in his hairline against all his control. His eyes darted around the office, searching and finding the only thing that could reassure him somewhat.
These weren't people.
They were monsters.