Jasper was confused. Valentine Clark, an old acquaintance of his, had just looked him in the eye, but without a single hint of recognition or acknowledgement that they had met before.
"Perhaps it's the goatee..." Jasper pondered while stroking his greying facial hair. "Or this blasted outfit. Clark knows I'd never be caught dead in something like this... yet here I am."
At that moment, Jasper felt a pang of shame. "What if Clark now respects me less for giving in to the fashion trends that I rejected years ago?", he thought. Of course, this would be ridiculous, but the methods behind Mr. Silverwood's reasoning is just another mystery needing to be solved. After entertaining this thought for far too long, Jasper angrily undid his black bow tie and stuffed it into his breast pocket as he pushed through the crowd, hoping to catch up to Clark. He had no interest in conversing with anyone else at the party, or even sticking to the task he had been given by Rainn. In his mind, his reputation was at stake, and that was more important than anything else.
A minute or so passed, and Jasper's ears picked up Clark's winsome voice over the rest of the chatter. He homed in on it, and found the billionaire telling a story to a group of other businessmen while sipping a martini.
"So there I was, heading for a meeting on Wall Street, and suddenly this guy comes out of nowhere and asks me for the price of gold. So of course, I'm thinking, 'Wait, who is this guy? How does he know I know what the price of gold is? Do I look that rich?'"
Clark paused for comedic effect, even though what he was saying wasn't that funny, but his listeners laughed anyway, so he continued. "So yeah, I told him that gold was like $1300 an ounce. And before I know it, the guy's puking his -"
The billionaire was interrupted by the metal ding of Jasper's cane on the floor next to him. Clark turned to look at the new arrival, and Jasper returned a knowing smile.
"Why, hello. You're one of Mr. Sulrai's, aren't you?" Clark said.
"That's one way of looking at it. But we've met before."
Clark glanced over to his guests, who frowned and shook their heads in confusion.
"Yes, on the Shetland Islands." Jasper continued. "I recall certain blueprints changing hands. Certain blueprints that, if shared and exposed, could put the owner in a difficult position."
By this point, the party guests listening to Clark's story had moved on to find other things to do, leaving the two of them alone. Clark raised an eyebrow and stepped forward, demonstrating that he was at least five inches taller than the duke. Jasper simply smiled and prayed that Clark knew what he was talking about.
At last, realization hit. "Wait a second. Jasper? Is that you?"
"In the flesh."
"Good Lord, I never realized! After all these years!"
Clark almost moved to hug Jasper, before his subconscious mind unloaded a truckload of questions onto his conscious one. Instead, he stopped in his tracks and awkwardly put his hands in his pockets.
"What are you doing here? Are you... wait. Are you using Sulrai to-?"
"Everyone has hobbies, Val. I'm here for business. As soon as I was given this assignment, I knew I had to check up on you."
"Look around you, Jasper. Evidently, I'm not the one who needs checking up on. You are. For instance, what happened to your face? I don't remember you having heterochromia or that scar before."
Jasper touched his goatee again, but this time, he parted the hairs on his chin to reveal a deep vertical scar. "Discovery requires experimentation, and my only willing subject decided to saunter off to be a hero, leaving me with nobody else but myself."
"You tested the-"
Clark stopped and looked around to make sure anyone was listening, but Jasper was way ahead of him.
"I may be here to get you back in the fold, but I'm also here for your protection. Nobody's listening in." Jasper said with a smirk.
"That could change at any moment. Follow me."
Clark beckoned Jasper to follow him, and the two gentlemen strolled towards the closet, with the door still slightly ajar. Clark noticed this and frowned.
"Hm. That's odd."
"The closet's been opened. Only two people have the key, me and the janitor."
"You have a janitor?"
Clark scoffed. "I'm a billionaire. Although, he doesn't complain. As long as I feed him hot pockets, he's mine forever. He comes from one of those planets from the Forchen system... Tievie, I think."
"I'll take a look." Jasper replied as he opened the door and stepped into the closet.
OOS: Klak, that's your cue.