June 5, 2017 at 8:13 pm #332
March 20, 2077; The Gothicum (Southwark Cathedral), The Squeeze, London
Alyce comes to and sits up, wincing to a sharp pain in her side, to find that she is on one of the beds just off the emergency surgery area. She runs a finger along her side where she can feel the patches for several bullet holes. The bed is one of about forty and all are in use, with some people standing or sitting on what they can in preparation to being moved to the hospital. The sharp pain has ebbed to more of a constant ache and she gingerly steps off the bed and is glad that she is holding onto it as the weakness in her leg would have sent her to the rocky ground otherwise. Gasping in pain, she carefully stands up and tries walking, finding that she can manage as long as she has some support for her left side. A nurse sees her and comes over, opening her mouth to doubtless tell her to get back in the bed. Alyce raises a hand to forestall any such comments and tells the nurse to get her a crutch. By the time Alyce makes it to the end of the tent and ducks under the awning, the nurse has a crutch…..and a doctor.
Stan Richards looks about as worn and bloody as Alyce does but he still tries to convince her to remain in the bed. Alyce takes the crutch and shakes her head. “Are they sending out another physician to replace me?”
A shake of the man’s head tells her all she needs to know. “Then you will have to put up with me for a bit longer.” She turns to the nurse. “Sybil, please give that bed to one of these patients.” Alyce turns back to the other doctor as the nurse nods and moves away. She motions with the crutch and the two walk back to the area where the emergency surgeries are set up. “I recognize your work, Stan. Thanks for patching me up. You heard about Kyle, I presume.”
A nod of a head. “Damn bloody shame. Nice enough bloke, too. Married, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. Small kid and another on the way, too.” She shakes her head. “He didn’t sign on for this sort of thing. But there will be lots of time to mourn the dead, so tell me about the living and the almost dead.”
The two walk into Mobile Surgery 1 and Alyce sees the young girl, Sarah, on the operating table and being prepped by the OR nurse. Stan looks over at Alyce. “Want this one, Alyce? I am not sure I am qualified enough. Too much damage. I can try if you………………”
Alyce chuckles as she moves off to the clean up sinks. “Go suck eggs, Stan. I got this.” An attendant comes over to assist Alyce clean up and slips gloves and a face mask on her before she turns to the table and the nurse, cutting into the feed from the monitors. “A bit tricky, this one. Hmmm. OK, she has not got much time if we don’t do this so let’s get started.”
Two hours later, Alyce steps out of the surgery tent and retches on the ground. No child, frag, no person, should have to have their active life end in such a fashion. The damage had been too severe and the clock of her life ticking away too quickly for Alyce to have done much more than she had. The girl will live, but would she or her parents ever thank Alyce? Alyce is not sure if she would thank the surgeon that has just amputated their daughter’s legs and right arm. Sarah is stable for now and is waiting for transport to the hospital where other doctors will doubtless look at the girl and second guess Alyce on what she should have done. In the end, Alyce knows that no one could have done more, but she will always feel that she should have done more. As she stands up, she feels a soft hand on her back and hears Gloria Keenor, the OR nurse, tell her that the next patient is ready. Alyce nods and limps over to the clean up sink to go at it again.
By midday, the steady crush of patients to the area has slowed to a trickle. Alyce has seen several of the Mechanica that she knows come through her operating tent and another few that were already dead and are now in the temporary morgue. During a break, she walks over to the morgue and walks among the bodies, reaching out with a hand to touch each one and silently pray for them. Sobbing from ahead of her alerts her that she is not alone and she turns to leave when a voice calls out to her. It is the leader of the Mechanica, a normally gruff man now brought to tears. He is standing with two other men, one of whom is crying and holding onto the small hand of a shape huddled under one of the sheets. “Why, Alyce, why? Lily was only six. This is not a great life, but it was her life. Why was it taken so early and in such a manner? One minute she was playing with her friends near the cathedral and the next she was dead, crushed by rocks. Two of her friends, both of them six, too, died with her. Who would bring guns and bombs to a church? Who could do such a thing to children and mothers and fathers?”
Alyce’s eyes are already tearing up and she comes forward to hold onto the man and his companions. “I do not know why. I do not know why God lets such evil things happen. There are some very evil and wicked people in this world and…..and frag if I know why they are allowed to live. I knew Lily and she was a darling girl, full of fun and life and excitement at the world. Anyone who can be excited at the world while living in a place like this is special. Lily was special. I did not see her……….uh”
Alyce slumps a bit as some of the pain of her own wounds gets through the pain blockers she has taken. The man looks at her with concern and notices the bandages. “Alyce, you are injured. You should be under care. Why are you here.”
She waves her free hand out at the bodies covered in sheets. “Because I wanted to say I was sorry that I could not have saved them all. And I wanted to say goodbye to the ones I knew and then the ones I did not know. Sometimes it is hard to be a doctor. All of this death and violence.”
After a few minutes more of talking to the group of people, Alyce finishes her walk and heads back to the surgery tent, where she finds a seat on a bench and relaxes as best she can while waiting for the next patient. Just after noon, the hospital sends out a fresh team of personnel to man the site and recalls the original crew. Alyce climbs into the transport, still mourning all of the ones she could not save, but the trip gives her time to send off some personal messages. She communicates with her children, then with Grace and Stephanie, letting them know that she was injured in the fighting, but is alright and they should not worry. Then she sends another one, to Al. >>Hey you. I miss you very much. I do not know if you have seen any of the trid news about the Gothicum in London, but I was there. I do not know many of the details yet, so you might already know more. I was sent out to help set up an emergency hospital at the scene. At some point a few men started a firefight right where I was and I was shot. I understand that I was hit with five bullets and that I am a very lucky girl to still be alive. I am checking in to let you know that I did survive and will be OK. So, saying that, I was wondering if you might be free for dinner tonight to sort of celebrate that I survived, wherever you are. A bit of moonlight and candles on a nice table for two at a quiet street cafe somewhere. Paris maybe, or New Orleans, but anywhere you want is fine with me. Find a place near you ans set up a tablet and I can join you there. OK, OK, yeah, I understand that you are probably really busy and will need to give me a rain check on dinner but a girl can hope, right? Anyway, if you cannot make it, I will be dining all alone someplace romantic and wishing that you were there. I might have to limp along on a crutch for a few days, but no fair calling me Gimpy, alright? I love you, Al. Never forget that, please. And know that if I ever do die without seeing you again, that I will love you forever. Ciao for now. Your Friend, Alyce Krait.<<June 6, 2017 at 4:07 am #333
Very early morning, March 20th 2077 – Essen, S-K Prime
The insistent beeping of two separate alarms woke me. For a moment I wasn’t sure where I was and who I was supposed to be – a particularly vivid dream from what I assume was my time in the mid 17th century had me grasping for my zweihander for a few seconds before I started to remember that nowadays I preferred automatic rifles.
I hit the alarmclock nearest to me to stop its beeping and rolled out of the small bed to get my trode net on so I could shut off the second one through AR.
This age was simply barbaric.
The room was a lot smaller and less luxurious than the suite – but on the plus side the windowless space was a lot less likely to host a drone sniper contest with me as the target. Even more important, no-one except Puck and the boss were supposed to know where I was.
And I actually didn’t mind – in all my time luxury had meant having clean sheets, a dry and warm place and something edible when you woke up – preferably late in the morning.
Just one step took me into the little wet cell for all the necessities of a continued, healthy life, followed by an automatically brewed soy gruel with sugary chocolate flavoring. A little sip of witchesbrew helped it down and adjusted my mood to something that wouldn’t get me in trouble I couldn’t get out of again.
My peaceful munching was disturbed by an AR window, displaying Puck’s tired and disgruntled face:
<<Are you still in your room? Hurry up, damn you. There’s much to do and little time.>>
<<I’m almost ready, just finishing my breakfast. Good morning by the way – you look like shit.>>
<<The fuck you are and the fuck I do. Get your ass moving. Top floor with the elevator, your prints a cleared for access. NOW!>>
Before I could reply he had terminated the connection.
I hated wasting food – always had – and by now it was so ingrained that I didn’t even think about leaving my cereal bowl behind.
So it came that I stood munching on sugary little pieces of soy in milk, enjoying the majestic sun rise through the glass elevator, realizing that I probably should have taken the time to don my suit, instead of only wearing shorts and boxers.
I gave a friendly wave to the two girls in power suites that had meant to enter my elevator car – must have had pretty high level access to be able to do so – but for some reason they recoiled and let the doors close again without entering. Probably couldn’t stand sunrises, I assumed.
The doors opened to the penthouse and I stepped off. My bare feet patted across the cold steel floor. What at first sight looked like a purposefully for more grip, roughed up surface, revealed itself to be just scratched over and over by massive claws.
Behind a large desk – which nonetheless appeared pretty small in the vast empty space – a lone figure sat: A tall elf with white hair and funny looking eyes looked up at my entrance.
The “Herr Brackhaus” appearance gave me hope that the boss was in something approximating a good mood.
“V’n Adariel – you are late and look ridiculous. Take a seat so we can begin.”
“Morning boss. Came here as fast as I could, So, what’s up?”June 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm #339
March 20, 2077; London General Hospital, London
Alyce closed her eyes for the remainder of the trip back to the hospital, dozing for most of it. Getting out of the van was a bit rough because some parts of her had tightened up on the ride in so she was a bit stiff and her wounds were bothering her. Reporting to the administrator’s office, she was told she looked like hell. Alyce does not have to be able to see her latest set of scrubs to agree that she does, indeed, look like hell. Blotches of blood and other stuff coat her clothes and she can feel more blood matting parts of her hair and certainly her face. She is told to go up to one of the in-house suites the hospital keeps for doctors and visiting VIP guests to shower and change. And maybe take a nap.
Alyce gets some stares as she limps through the hospital corridors, but most of the people just acknowledge her and move on to their own tasks of trying to save as many people as possible. Once in the suite, Alyce strips out of her clothes in one of the bedrooms and steps into the shower. While luxuriating under the hot water, she goes over her notes and hooks into the hospital systems. She notes that she has several messages waiting for her attention and spools them up in the order they were received. After a few that qualify as junk mail, she sees one from Silk. The woman has not contacted her since they left the aquacology and the message is cryptic, if anything. Still Alyce rolls her memory back and finds the link to the Shadowland site and sends a response. >>Silk [Alyce]: I received your message and am sorry that I did not answer it sooner. There was some sort of terrorist attack at the Gothicum yesterday and my hands have been pretty full helping out there. I just got a few minutes to relax and check my messages and saw yours from yesterday. I am not sure what you mean in your note, but please contact me if you need help. I will do what I can.<<
After showering for several minutes, she finally feels like she has most of the blood off and dresses in some fresh scrubs that someone has brought up for her. She is putting up her hair when the door to the main area opens and she hears the voices of two men. Her drone feed lets her know that two doctors in dirty scrubs have entered the room and she calls out to let them know she is there. One of the men is Stan and he looks and sounds beat. There is some talk about the status of the patients from the Gothicum and she finds out that some are still being brought in. The latest is that a number of the attackers have been cornered and have taken hostages, several of them women and children. Oscar Cantwell, the other doctor, looks and sounds no better off that either Stan or Alyce and tells of a grueling night and morning in the OR dealing with those people that the emergency treatment center had sent in for care.
Alyce checks the duty log and notes that she is scheduled for surgery in forty minutes. Knowing that there is no rest for the wicked in this life, she she smiles at the two men who are here for their own showers and leaves the suite to them, heading off to the OR she has been assigned to. Walking in, she is welcomed by the OR nurses and gets back to work saving lives……………………..
Three hours, two delicate operations, and two lives saved later, Alyce is removing her gown and mask when she receives an intra-hospital announcement that the men holding hostages at the Gothicum have contacted the authorities. Among other things, they are demanding money, safe transport to Heathrow and a jet fueled and ready to take them to an undisclosed location, and a doctor to treat wounds to the attackers and the hostages. The hospital administrator is asking for a volunteer among the doctors present and Alyce toggles the matrix button next to her name, putting herself on the list. Shortly after, the lights next to two more doctors blink green as those men volunteer. She finishes cleaning up and goes out to the exit for a much needed cigarette break. Seconds after she lights up the first Lucky Strike in several hours, she receives a note to report to the Administrator’s office, where she finds the other two doctors along with three ranking Metropolitan Police officials, all of whom she knows, and another man she does not know, already there and waiting for her.
Doctor Mason Goodfellow, the administrator, tells her that there have been complications. “Superintendent Waters will brief you. thank you, Doctors Wallace and Michaels. You may go, and thank you for volunteering.” The two doctors leave the room, one of them stopping to put a hand on Alyce’s arm before continuing out the door.
Alyce notes the departure of the other volunteers and turns to the uniformed superintendent. “Yes, Mike, what is it?
The man hems a bit then nods. “Alyce, before I get into the briefing, I want to give you a personal thanks for the job you did on one of my men. He would have died if you had not been there.”
“No need, Mike, but thanks. If it had not been me, it would have been another doctor.”
The man nods again and gives a harrumph. “Yes, well, maybe and maybe not. Now about this hostage situation. I won’t beat about the bush on this one, then. Things are not looking good out there. There is no way the government is going to let these terrorists get away, but they need to play them for time until we can get enough resources into the place to make sure we get them all. Those streets are just so damned…..pardon my language, but we are having trouble getting enough men and equipment to the area. I have been ordered to resolve the situation and my hands are getting closer and closer to being tied on how. The bloody army has been called in to render assistance, which we all know is just code for going in to kill them all.” At this point, he turns to look at the unknown man, who now steps up and offers his hand to shake.
Alyce hesitates and the Superintendent barks out, “The woman is blind, you fragging military twit. I would have thought that your intel was better than that.”
The man nods and places his hand on Alyce’s and gives hers a good squeeze. “Perhaps our knowledge of Doctor Krait is better than you think, Superintendent Waters. Hello, Doctor, I do not believe I have ever had the privilege before, but it is an honor to meet you. Colonel Jefferson at your service.”
Alyce shakes the man’s hand. “Colonel. Nice to meet you. Now, are you willing to kill everyone there just to get the miscreants?”
The military man bows his head but nods as he looks back up. “That is a rather simplistic wording, but it is essentially correct, but I want to clarify that men with guns who have killed and are willing to do so again are not really just miscreants, Miss Krait. In any case, it has been determined that we cannot let these terrorists get away.”
“So you are prepared to sacrifice the hostages?”
The man shakes his head. “Come on, Doctor, you are making this sound worse than it is. We will move only if we have to, after all attempts at negotiating a surrender have failed, and we will take every precaution to keep the hostage casualties to a minimum.”
Alyce nods. “I see why my good friend the Superintendent does not like you guys very much.” She turns to face her boss. “Am I the selected volunteer, then, Mason?”
The administrator nods. “It was a tough call, Alyce, but the other two………………….”
Alyce nods. “Yes, both of them are married with young children, while I am not married and my daughter is already up at uni. I get it. you made the right choice.”
The superintendent harrumphs again. “Well, that is all well and good. But we want to provide a policewoman to accompany you as your nurse assistant. She is a former combat medic and knows the ropes and the terminology.”
Alyce smiles. “And appearing a bit nervous would cover any lapses, right? As long as she is along to save lives, not take them.”
The man nods. “She will be fully briefed.”
The colonel steps forward again. “Please remember that we are trying to work this out with as little loss of life as possible.”
“Sure, Colonel, sure. I think we all get the idea.” Alyce turns to the police official. “When do I go, Mike? I am ready at any time, but let me get some supplies to take with me.”
All the men look a bit uncomfortable and the Superintendent harrumphs yet again. “Well, yes, well we need you quite quickly, Alyce. Supplies are being put together now as I understand.”
Alyce shakes her head. “I see. Very well. I will want something, though, so you will have to send someone around to my shop and I will have it ready. I advise you to take a van.”
On the way out of the office, Alyce sends a couple of messages. The first is to Stephanie, who is spending a couple of weeks at Alyce’s London residence. >>Stephanie, dear, please have Alfie ready. Some nice policemen will be by to pick him up. Do you think it would not be too much trouble if you came with to make sure he does not eat them? Oh, and send the harness, please.<< Then one to Al. >>Hey you. I guess it may be me that has to bow out of the dinner tonight. I am heading back out to the Gothicum to be a hostage. Well, actually to take care of the other hostages the terrorists have taken, but it sort of amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? Anyway, I will still try to be there by matrix if you are interested. Just have a tablet open and on and I will show up. Of course, it is rather presumptuous of me to assume, and I know that it is very last second, so please do not feel badly at all if you are otherwise engaged tonight. And do not worry, I am told that the authorities have things well in hand here. I love you. Ciao. Your Friend, Alyce Krait.<<June 7, 2017 at 11:42 am #349
Still, very early morning, March 20th 2077 – Essen, S-K Prime
I took a seat while his cold, mercyless stare took in every detail of my appearance – and my aura as well. While waiting for his answer I took another spoonfull of breakfast gruel.
“You are in reasonable health for another mission, despite the little excursion two days ago. I wouldn’t send you so soon, but all my other, more reliable and capable agents are occupied otherwise.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get the point – I’m a disappointing experiment. I worked my daddy issues out a long time ago. I don’t want to wait another day for the details. Get to the point.”
I think for almost any other non-dragon on this planet this behavior would have caused Lofwyr to turn them into a greasy, smoking spot, but a) despite his words to the contrary I knew the old snake cared about me and my value to him and b) I really didn’t care all that much about myself. I’d known the Great for a very long time and even more important he knew me. I was a convenient tool and my apparent disrespect was no challenge to his authority. Ergo, no big deal.
“As you wish: An anomaly has occurred in Morocco. A pair of S-K attack helicopters were used without authorization to attack a ritual of a certain group of travelling folk. You are going there to find out who, how and why this has happened and possibly also find out what became of the helicopters. You report your findings back to Puck . Your transport as well as your gear are waiting above. Now drink up your disgusting melange and be gone.”
I shrugged and chugged back the rest of my breakfast. I managed to avoid a loud burp while getting up and moving towards the elevator. There was no sense in asking anything further. If old Goldy would have wanted me know he would have said…June 7, 2017 at 2:59 pm #350
The ring tone coming in on the ‘link is unmistakable and is one of the few Sian has that are on the Must Answer list. She groans a bit as she rolls over and slides out from under one of Mike’s arms. She reaches over to the bedside table and grabs the annoying device, hitting the accept button even as she checks the time. 1654. Damn.
>>There has been a development in Morocco and I want you there to look into it.<<
The tone leaves no room for argument or dissent. >>Of course, Master. I can be ready to leave immediately. May I ask the nature of the development?<<
>>A group of S-K attack helicopters attacked a small circus near Marrakech yesterday. I want to know who was attacked and why. I am asking questions of others and will give you more information as I get it. I am sending Annabelle to pick you up. She should be on the wharf helipad in forty-two minutes. Contact me when you are in the air.<<
Schwartzkopf broke the connection without saying anything else, a sure sign that he is bothered. Sian rolls over and pushes Mike’s arm off her and stands. The man opens his eyes and looks at her. “Got to go, eh?”
“Yes, Mike. I am very sorry. There is only one person in the world that I would need to answer to this way and that was him. I need to leave right away.” She crawls onto the bed and leans over to kiss him. “But I do have time for a kiss or two. Still love me?”
After the kisses, Mike sighs. “More than ever, Tatjana, more than ever. Call me when you can?”
Sian walks quickly to the bathroom, calling out over her shoulder. “You know I will.” She turns the shower water on and sends a mental call while waiting for the water to heat up. >>Shoko, My Master is sending me to Morocco. The two of you will be responsible for taking deliver of the cargo from Laos and getting it home. I need one of you to bring my bags to the waterfront heliport as soon as possible. I will contact you when I can. Give the kids hugs from me.<< Finished, she steps into the shower and cleans up, returning to the main room to find Mark up and gathering her clothes from where they had been dispersed as they were taken off. He helps her dress without playing around and she turns to embrace him.
“I will call you as soon as I can. We have a date, remember?”
He nuzzles her neck and lets her go then reaches to the small bureau and hands her a small box. “For you to remember me.”
Sian almost mists over. “Mike, you shouldn’t have. I do not…………..”
He puts a finger at her lips. “Shhh. It is just something to open up when you have time. I will be waiting for a call.”
Sian nods and kisses him once more then leaves the cabin and the ship, walking the short distance to the waterfront helipad for the local air taxi service. She enters the building and checks in, not surprised in the least to find that all the arrangements have been made for the arrival of her ride. The pleasant man behind the counter tells her that refueling will be completed as quickly as possible and she should be in the air within minutes of the helicopter’s arrival. She takes a seat in the lobby and compiles a long text to Mark that she sends off just as Shoko arrives by taxi. Sian goes outside to get her two bags and gives her Valoi warrior some instructions about the cargo coming in on the following day.
As Shoko returns to the taxi, Sian hears the sound of an approaching rotor aircraft and turns to watch as Annabelle Carson expertly lands the large private helicopter. Two men rush out with fuelling hoses as the pilot walks the short distance to the building to sign for the fuel and log in her flight times. Sian waves to her from the other side of the counter and Annabelle smiles back as she files her flight plans and signs her arrival chit. Once done with the necessary requirements of the air taxi firm, Annabelle comes through the counter and embraces Sian before going to the cafpot and getting a cup. She frowns at the taste but continues to drink it.
Annabelle looks over at Sian and nods at the bags at her feet. “Ready, I see?”
Sian smiles and nods. “When he says jump…………….”
Annabelle finishes the sentence. “……ask how high on the way up. Uh huh. So, Morocco.”
It had been a statement, not a question and Sian nods. “Looks like it. It has been a while since I was there, maybe six years if I remember correctly.”
Annabelle nods and the two reminisce about the last time Sian had flown with her. Before long, the attendant comes out to let them know that everything is set and the two women walk out to the luxury helicopter and climb aboard. Sian slides into the co-pilot seat and dons the head set as Annabelle goes through the ops checklist before starting up the rotors. Anyone else might have been excused from going through the lists, especially since she had been in the air less than twenty minutes earlier, but Annabelle is a stickler for that sort of thing. Still, within a few minutes, the large helicopter is airborne and winging out across the Mediterranean towards Morocco. Sian asks Annabelle to do a fly over of the deck of a particular ship at anchor in the harbor and is rewarded when a man waves at the helicopter as it passes overhead. Annabelle gives Sian a curious look. “Someone special?”
Sian nods and chuckles. “I certainly hope so. It has been a long time for me.”
Annabelle laughs. “Tell me about it. I consider it a long time if I go two days without.”
The two laugh a bit then Sian pulls out her ‘link and begins working.
>>Schwartzkopf [Sian]: Master, I am airborne and headed to Morocco.<<
The answer comes back almost immediately. >>Sian [Schwartzkopf]: Good. I have little that is new for you at this moment, except that S-K is denying any involvement in the incident. It would appear that the attack helicopters were operating outside of any authorization. Or so they claim. I will contact you when I have more. This is a bit outside your normal mission parameters, so be careful.<<
The call is cut and Sian shakes her head. This is indeed very far from her normal mission parameters and she will indeed be very careful. She consults her list of contacts in the area and smiles at the memories that are dredged up even as she is sending new messages.
>>Hassim Khalid [Tatjana Romanov]: Salaam, Hassim, it has been what, almost six years since we have seen each other? I need some help and am looking only to you to provide me with what I need. The requirements are few and should be easy for one of your skills and contacts. I will be in Marrakech in three hours, give or take, coming in by helicopter to the airport there. I will need a vehicle and driver, plus a guard. As I do not know where I will be going, please see that I have several cans of water and fuel and rations for the driver, guard and me for two weeks. Please include appropriate clothing for me as I am arriving directly from another part of the world and have nothing suitable for your climate. The driver should be able to act as my translator if I need one.<<
>>Guri al-Morsani [Tatjana Romanov]: Salaam, Guri, I am traveling to Morocco to visit some sites for a potential dig expedition. Can you get me the permits and licenses. I will be arriving in Marrakech within three hours. I will not be staying more than a couple of weeks this trip as it is all very exploratory right now. Appropriate charges for your efforts to speed this up will be expected. Thank you.<<
The response from Hassim came in four minutes after she had sent her note to him. >>Tatjana Romanov [Hassim Khalid]: Tatjana, my old friend. It has been five years, ten months, three weeks, and four days since we shook hands and pledged lifelong friendship. I give praise to Allah that I will be able to thank you in person for the gift you sent me when my second wife gave birth last year to my new son. You are fondly remembered by all in my family. Now, this that you have asked of me is so minor that it is almost beneath my abilities, but for you I will see to everything personally. My sister has been after me to find a position for her son, Achmed, and this will give him some exposure. At twenty-three, he is a bit young, but he has the energy of his youth and he knows how to drive the vehicle I will provide you. More importantly, he also knows how to fix the vehicle. He is also a very smart man and comes of good desert stock, so knows the ways and byways of the land and can speak to its peoples for you, if needed. I remember that your Arabic is quite good, but some of the tribal dialects can be hard to make out. I will have him and a guard waiting for you when you land. There will be suitable equipment and attire for the three of you to live in the desert for two weeks. Oh, and as I remember, you are what, about 136 kilos in weight, or did you gain some additional weight and so are even more beautiful? I want to bring to your attention that there have been some problems at Marrakech yesterday and there are lots of official people and some foreigners roaming around. Some have tried to blend in but most Europeans are so self-important that it is easy to pick them out. I would recommend landing your helicopter at the Walif oasis. It is just five miles out of Marrakech and there should be fewer people with questions there. I am sending the GPS coordinates to you now. I long to see you again, my friend. I gather from your requirements that you will not be accompanied by the delectable Brigitte?<<
Sian laughs and calls up an AR map of Morocco and points out the oasis to Annabelle, who nods and enters the new GPS data into her main console. Sian then sends a response. >>Hassim Khalid [Tatjana Romanov]: And here I thought you had forgotten me. Thank you, Hassim, for the warning. I will take your advice and land at the oasis. Please make sure that the guard is not on a pension or near retirement. Things could get interesting. And, sadly, Brigitte is organizing something else for me and cannot be in Morocco, too. Oh, and if you provide me clothes that would fit a camel, I will make you eat them. You know my size.<<
>>Tatjana Romanov [Hassim Khalid]: When you say interesting, I see a need for a good man. Do you remember the young Lieutenant Hamad? he was promoted over his efforts the last time you were here but should be available to take some leave. Six years of seasoning has done him much good. Aha. You have remembered that poor camel, then? That was a lot of fun but the camel owner was shocked beyond belief. It is good that you paid him off. Very well, yes, I know your size and will have everything as it should be. Leave it all to me and I will take care of all of the arrangements. Salaam, Tatjana.<<
Sian nods, remembering the young army Lieutenant. He had been assigned to lead the guard detail at the dig she had led here six years ago. There had been some difficulties with a local bandit chief who sought to disrupt the excavation and Hamad had handled himself with distinction. Sian smiles and privately agrees that the young man will do.
Her messages sent, Sian sits back and opens the box Mike had given her. Inside is a necklace of silver with a heart-shaped locket of the same metal that opens to show two small pictures. The one on the right is of the pair of them on the bridge of the Cyprios. It had been taken by one of the sailors on board the Cyprios during a tour of the freighter that Mike had given her. The other has captured an image of a young man flailing his arms as he falls off a dock. Sian closes the locket and holds it close for a few moments before reaching up and fastening it around her neck. She sits back in the padded seat and closes her eyes as the water glides by below the helicopter on its way to Marrakech.June 8, 2017 at 5:12 am #355
Mid morning, March 20th 2077 – Transit towards Morrocco
One of the perks of being a dragon created experiment is that I actually don’t need all that much sleep – it’s just that once I am sleeping it is almost impossible for me to wake up from my compressed sleep cycle. So in order to accommodate the early meeting I had been forced to sleep like a regular person – which hadn’t done any favors for my morning mood. Now I had the chance to compensate by going into the hibernation like sleep during the transit, so I’d be able to function without need for extended rest for the next 48 hours.
The sleek form of the S-K Sleipnir T-Bird traveled a leisurely 1000 km/h across Europe and the short gap of the Mediterranean Sea at Gibraltar towards my destination. I hadn’t bothered to check my gear: There was my suit and coat, my two briefcases and my bike – although not my usual Mirage but instead the more sturdy, for desert use fitted BMW Desert-Hawk, S-K’s answer to the EVO Falcon-Ex.
I hadn’t really spoken to the pilot since immediately after entering the T-Bird it’s vector thrust engines fired and started to roar so loud that even inside the insulated craft you couldn’t understand yourself thinking anymore. I had barely closed the seatbelt before I was pressed into the formfitting liquid-filled seats by the enormous acceleration. I admit this kind of travelling is faster and almost as fun as riding bareback on a horse.
Now that I was awake again and the AR-display informed me that we were only 10 minutes away from my destination, I began to dress. Walking around in a suit in the dessert might not seem the best option, but the Argentum Coat was made to be heat and fire resistant and provided the same benefit that the long, white tunics of desert nomads gave. Besides – blending in with a crowd would likely be impossible anyway.
<<Five minutes. Get on your bike. I can’t stay longer than a few seconds stationary or I risk being spotted.>> the surprisingly sexy, feminine voice of my pilot came from the rigger cocoon.
<<Charming.>> I answered. <<I wondered why no-one wanted to see my passport and you didn’t even offer me duty free stuff.>>
<<What? What are you talking about?>>
<<Never mind, before your time. What about pick up?>>
<<No idea. I’m going straight back again to refuel. It’s only three hours – two if I go full speed – to come back again.>>
<<I had worse pick up times. Are you doing anything special after your shift?>>
<<Yes, going home to my husband.>>
<<Ah – no wonder you are sending me straight into the dessert.>>
All I received after that was a delightful little laughter, before the vessel severely reversed it’s acceleration and the bay door opened. I gave the electric motor a bit of juice and was rewarded by a smooth exit from the craft. The tracks hadn’t fully settled on the ground yet when the ramp went up again and the Sleipnir took to the air again.
Around me a surprisingly sandy dessert welcomed me with blinding glare and dusty air. Both factors were well compensated by my glasses and mask. A friendly AR beacon told me the direction I had to go to. 25 km over open terrain in a country I hadn’t been before – I actually felt a certain measure of excitement – a rare treat in 8000 years of life on earth.
Riding the bike was a bit more like riding a horse and I enjoyed the sensation of the rushing wind around my head. Getting closer to my destination I already could make out the black plumes of smoke, indicating the recent attack.
I prepared myself for a certain amount of hostility and carnage at the devastated settlement.
Probably best not to mention who my employer was…June 8, 2017 at 6:49 am #356
@mercy / Alyce
[Early, Saturday March 20, 2077; Near the Gothicum, The Squeeze, London]
As Alyce returned to the Squeeze it was already clear that the police presence had thinned and only the proximity of the river was keeping the forces that were present in place. It was also a testament to the severity of the situation that the barrens got any kind of response at all…
Approaching the cordon around where the terrorists were holed up she was just in time to witness the changing scenario. A shout went up and then a bemused crowd of civilians, many of them spattered in gore, began to emerge from the building under the watchful gaze of police snipers. As she pushed forwards to help she realised that nobody actually seemed to be badly hurt. A strong whiff of apple blossom came to her over the perpetual London chemical tang and a voice pitched for her ears alone said
“We are sorry that it came to this, they came here for us. We have done what we can for now. I can’t say more, the Old One awaits you Below…”
The hostages are providing the officers with wild tales of trees attacking the terrorists, Petal has been busy…
#06June 8, 2017 at 7:00 am #357
@jack_spade / Vindariel
[Mid-Morning, Saturday March 20, 2077; Cirque de l’Ombre, Outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco]
As Vindariel approached the encircled wagons of the circus he could see that despite the attack the evening before they seem to be preparing for a show! Black and silver clad performers were warming up, their graceful steps kicking up small puffs of the sandy earth. The metallic stink of blood was still faintly present but swathes of incense smoke was doing its best to mask it.
A dwarf seemed to be directing the activity, slightly comical in top hat and chequered tail coat, his beard woven with grey and silver beads. A surged cat woman was the first to notice his approach and she broke off from her exercises to lope towards the inbound bike…
#07June 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm #370
[Mid-Morning, Saturday March 20, 2077; Cirque de l’Ombre, Outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco]
I slowed down and lifted the ballistic mask from my face as the cat woman closed in on my position. I certainly hadn’t expected them to embrace the old “the show must go on” adage quite so literally. Maybe the helicopter attack wasn’t actually that bad – or those freaks were on a mission.
Smiling, despite the blowing sand, I gave a vague greeting and called out when she had come close enough:
“Holla signorina, the name is Shrike Redback, I’ve come for the show, would you mind escorting me to your boss?”
#09June 8, 2017 at 4:55 pm #371
Saturday, March 20, 2077, 1900 Over the Mediterranean Approaching Moroccan Airspace
Annabelle nudges Sian awake and motions to the front. Sian sits up and focuses on the AR displays and notes that the helicopter is rapidly approaching the coastline, coming in just over the tips of the waves below her. The map indicates that they are coming up on the Moroccan coast. “Hey, Tatjana, you asked to be up when we hit the one hour mark. We are coming in low and fast and I am going to jump into my baby here so you will have to use the matrix if you want to talk to me after this. You OK?”
Sian looks at the pilot and nods, giving her a thumbs up, then watches as the other woman smiles before slumping into her seat, now as much part of the helicopter as she is flesh and blood, perhaps more so. Sian shakes her head; she has witnessed this many times since the matrix was reborn and she still cannot really understand it. Brigitte is one of her closest friends and she cannot really explain it in any detail. Settling into her seat, Sian begins casting feelers out into the matrix for any news or other public information on what happened in Marrakech and gets zippo for her efforts. There is a slight nibble from one of the e-news agencies, but no details. So far, there is every appearance of an effective clamp down on any news going out, which would make sense if S-K was involved in any way. She leaves her ‘link on search mode but does not have much hope of getting anything until she has feet on the ground and eyes on the kill zone.
The large luxury helicopter is surprisingly agile and fast, and even more so when its rigger pilot is jumped into it. Sian watches the ground zip by mere meters below the craft as it hurtles towards its destination, slipping just over and past the various obstructions in its path. Sian is unconcerned about the speed or the danger; she has ridden with Annabelle on several occasions and there is a reason she is Schwartzkopf’s personal pilot. After nearly an hour, the craft slows down and Annabelle returns to her body and looks over at Sian. “What a blast. You really should try that some time, Tatjana, there really is nothing like it in the world.”
Sian puts a hand up and shakes her head. “I will take your word for it.” After all, to her, that something that is indescribably like nothing else in the world is the feeling she gets when she is draining blood and essence from someone she is feeding on. She looks out the front and can see some lights in the vicinity of the oasis almost dead ahead. “Looks like we are nearly there.”
“Yup. I will have you on the ground in about five. You can go get ready, if you like. Watch your head and thank you for flying with us today.”
Sian laughs as she unbuckles from the seat and walks back into the spacious compartment to retrieve her two duffle bags from the storage compartment and places them near the exit door. She moves to peer through one of the side window ports and watches as their passage over the terrain below slows dramatically. As the helicopter turns to make its final approach, Sian can see two vehicles using their headlights to outline the landing space that Annabelle is aiming for and smiles. The intercom buzzes and Annabelle comes on. >>Hold onto something as we come in to land and please wait for the door to open fully before departing the aircraft. It was nice seeing you again, Tatjana, and good luck out there.<<
Despite the pilot’s warning, the large machine sets down remarkably gently and the door makes a whirring noise as it begins to open. Sian is buffeted by an almost physical force as the air conditioned cabin interior is exposed to the heat of the Moroccan desert. Sian knows that the temperature will drop precipitously soon, but it is still much warmer and dryer outside than it is inside. She grabs her bags and waits until the door is open all the way before stepping out of the helicopter to the sand outside. The rotor wash is kicking up a bit of a sandstorm of its own, attempting to blind her as she walks to where she had seen the vehicles. The pitch of the noise changes as the helicopter jumps back into the air and speeds away from the area.
Sian walks out of the cloud of dirt and sand to see four men waiting near the two vehicles. She instantly recognizes Hassim and walks towards him, smiling. He is standing with his arms spread wide and holding what appears to be a garment bag in one hand. The tall man near Hassim is Lieutenant, now Captain, Hamad and Sian notes that the man has indeed filled out and matured in the six years since she had last seen him. The young man standing to Hassim’s other side is either excited or nervous, or perhaps both. He is rocking from one foot to the other and back as he waits. The fourth man is standing closer to the smaller of the two vehicles and Sian judges him to be Hassim’s driver and bodyguard.
She walks to where Hassim is standing and places her bags on the ground before bowing to the man. “Salaam, Hassim. How are you doing?”
The man bows back. “Salaam, Tatjana, salaam. Well enough, thank you, aside from standing out in the middle of nowhere, getting sand blown up my clothes and in my hair. Speaking of which……” He hands Sian the garment bag.
The woman nods and walks with the bag to the far side of the large vehicle where she is out of sight of the men. She strips out of the clothes she is wearing and dresses in the abaya she removes from the bag. The gown is fairly non-descript and looks very much like one worn by almost any of the Muslim women in the area. Sian reaches into the bag to pull out the hijab and expertly slips it onto her head and wraps it about her neck before picking everything up and walking back around the vehicle, stopping at the end to run a hand along the large tailgate. She is smiling as she comes back into the view of the four men. “Hassim, is this Betty? Did you actually keep this old thing?”
Hassim laughs. “I will assume that you are talking about the truck and not my second wife, for which it is named. Yes, and it is better than ever. I thought of it immediately after you called. My genius nephew has fixed it up to do much more than it could six years ago but I made him leave most of the bullet marks on it as a badge of honor.” He turns and motions to the other men. “I am sure that you recognize Captain Hamad. We are lucky to have him from the Army. They did not wish to let him go. You will be paying for a very large bribe to his commanding officer.”
The tall man bows. “Salaam, Tatjana. I remember you well enough. I pushed to get the leave approved when I heard you were returning to the country. It has been a long time. And since this is unofficial, Hamad will do.”
Sian bows as well, “Salaam, Hamad. It is good to see you. You seem very different. More confident, I think.”
The man smiles as Hassim motions to the other man near him. “And this is Achmed, my nephew. He is a genius with this matrix thing and with trucks and drones. I have nearly bankrupted myself giving him toys to play with. He has been working on this truck for three years and every month or so he comes to ask for more money.”
Sian bows to the young man. “Salaam, Achmed. It is good to have an expert for those things. I confess to being more like your uncle. Please call me Tatjana. I am sure that you will be able to show me what you have done to my truck.”
Hassim splutters. “Your truck? You left it behind.”
“I did, yes. But I still remember winning it fair in a card game.”
“I still…………….well drawing to that inside straight should not have been possible. But yes. And now I have made much improvement to it.”
Sian smiles at the man. “Very well, if it survives I will make it yours without any claim to it.” She looks around before adding. “And what have you heard of the incident with the circus?”
Hassim shakes his head. “I knew that this was not a dig. Too coincidental that you would show up just after that attack. Very well, but do not get my nephew killed. As it is, I know almost nothing. It is like the event did not happen. I heard that some men were out there earlier but left by morning. They are even going to put on a show tonight. Crazy, but it has an S-K stamp on it, I will wager.”
Sian nods. “It could very well be that. I would still like to take a look at it, though.”
Hassim puts his hands to his ears. “I am hearing nothing. I am getting in my comfortable car and driving in comfort back to my comfortable house, comfortable bed, and one of my comfortable wives.” He gets serious and embraces Sian. “Good luck, my friend. Keep all of you alive, eh?”
Sian nods and watches her friend walk to his car and get in. As he drives off, she turns to the two men. “Any issues with this?”
When both shake their heads, she smiles and stoops to grab her bags and tosses them into the rear of the truck as Hamad jumps up there to stow them away. All three walk to the front of the truck and climb in for the eight kilometer drive to where the circus is set up.June 8, 2017 at 6:22 pm #373
The sun was up but it was still too-early-thirty in Al’s book when the sweet chirping of “Me So Horny” – Silk’s ringtone, of course – pierced the little man’s desperately hungover consciousness. Twisting on the luxury suite’s silk sheets, he clawed at the bedside table with eyes still closed, yellow fingernails very much in need of a trim scrabbling about on the hardwood surface. All he managed to do was knock the small device to the plush carpet below, and he was forced to actually move his body a couple of feet to retrieve it.
>>The spider’s web is broken. Please contact me on Shadowland if you able
The spider’s web??? He must have left his Red Ryder Decoder Ring back in London. Whatever. Contact on Shadowland. Right. He’d been shown how to access that ridiculous matrix hangout for shadowrunner wannabes at some point in the past couple of years, but found that the connection info had a tendency to auto-erase from wherever he tried to store it. Which meant he would have to remember it. Shit. Into the shower. Out of the shower. Made the connection, knowing he had no time for whatever she wanted because he was on his way to Tinseltown today.
Twenty-two minutes later the Snakehandler was aloft and headed west to top up the tanks in Taipei. He was on his ‘link arranging the quickest possible refueling when he got an automated message from Alyce. When it rains it pours, apparently. Or, as his hosts of the past week or so would say, the bee stings the crying child.
Or maybe it wasn’t any coincidence at all. He was the center of the universe….
Well, the center of the universe was currently heading west anyway, so he could check out the urgency (not that Alyce had any tendency at all to be overdramatic) as he flew. He called Grant Deans at the National Police and with the inspector’s access it took only seconds to confirm she’d been shot but was being treated safely in a some sort of emergency clinic. So nothing he could do even if he wasn’t half the world away. Still, as he started his descent toward the coastline of Taiwan, he had his ‘link look at available suborbitals and calculate whether it would be more efficient to hop on one or keep flying himself.June 8, 2017 at 8:31 pm #380
A dozen vid-screens matrix rendered in a semi-circle ripple and flux with motion and data as I watch them explore and dissect their sector of Hong Kong. Each a feed to a drone searching for people with information. Every once in a while I I push forward into a specific one jumping into the anthropomorphic drones conducting the search to speak directly and make inquiries. The target of my most recent obsession: Mo Tze’s Key. The rumors about this artifact have convinced me that this is in fact a bound consciousness, the study of which may hold the key to permanent mental translocation via magic or a key to possibly finding a way to download consciousness.
I stretch a bit, forgetting that it wouldn’t help in the Matrix prompting a glance at the time. “0500 hours?” I think to myself. “I’ve been at this for over 12 hours. I should take a break for a bit.”
I ease out of hot sim and into the cold slow AR and then stretch for real this time. The sun hasn’t come up yet but you can just start seeing the light. The lights from the yacht reflect lazily on the water around us. A nap and a bite to eat should do the trick. If I don’t find it in the next few days perhaps I’ll head to Seattle or maybe visit Schwarzkopf and see if he has any leads on new, or old, artifacts that might interest us.June 9, 2017 at 9:59 am #390
@adamu / Al
[Early Evening, Saturday March 20, 2077; En-route to London]
Silk had been unusually close mouthed, and given that she’d requested a VR meeting Al was probably just as glad she hadn’t chosen to go on for long…he’d even retained his last meal and only felt a little green. It might be that she’d finally accepted that he didn’t like VR but sadly it was more likely that she was under stress and felt she couldn’t talk openly in what amounted to a public forum (albeit for shadowy types).
So the upshot was something had gone down in Seattle, and perhaps London, that last part was a little vaguer even, and she wanted to meet up with him there. The fact that it tallied with a desire to check on Alyce was a bonus but neither had mentioned her in the conversation…
The advantage of a good fake SIN and no real reliance on highly illegal kit meant that he’d picked up a commercial flight and would be landing at London City airport in short order, with only a few subtle but questioning glances from the flight cabin staff
#08June 9, 2017 at 11:14 am #392
@jack_spade / Vindariel
[Mid-Morning, Saturday March 20, 2077; Cirque de l’Ombre, Outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco]
The cat woman was tall and elegant, and must have been bloody roasting in that fur and the open black long coat she wore over the top. But she gave no indication of distress other than a slightly distracted extension of her claws and faint twitch of her tail, although that could equally have been a subtle threat…
“Oblique? He’s busy and not expecting anyone. You’ll have to wait for him…but you can come to my trailer if you like…” the last said with a purr that suggested perhaps more was on offer than was said…
#09June 9, 2017 at 11:15 am #393
@mercy / Sian
[Early Evening, Saturday March 20, 2077; Cirque de l’Ombre, Outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco]
It would seem the show really must go on! There is no apparent sign of any attack now so the media blanket might be understandable…and yet the air feels charged, and a view of the manasphere reveals a swathe of illusion spells that could be hiding all manner of things from the mundane eye…and once penetrated the impact of the actions last night are all too visible.
A large black tent decorated with silver constellations crests the hill and a steady stream of locals have made the trek out to here so the advertising must be good! AROs and physical signs extol the delights to be witnessed within and in the various smaller enclosures scattered around between the ring of wagons…
#10June 9, 2017 at 11:15 am #394
A child persona with impossibly long flowing hair appeared in their private links…something that shouldn’t have been possible without access being granted in advance…
>>Old friends, I have need of you now and don’t need to remind you of the debt to be paid. I would meet with you again after all these ages in London Below. The Earl will grant you freedom of passage as a small boon and if you choose not to help then I will consider our debt settled for I know that I ask much by diverting you from your path
#11June 9, 2017 at 11:40 am #397
Early Saturday, March 20, 2077
Alyce stands out of the way as the hostages begin filing past to be checked out by the medical staff on duty at the triage center. The smell of apple blossoms and the voice unnerve her a bit and she wonders what the Old One has to do with what happened up here. Still, it is not her place to question him or anything that he does. She shakes her head, knowing that she will go Below to see the man she calls a friend, but first she needs to wait for the policemen to arrive with Stephanie and Alfie. She consults the tag she has on the Hell Hound and sees that they are still a few minutes out and she takes that time to send a quick note to Al.
>>Hey you. Just me. It looks like the situation here has sort of resolved itself, although I am sure that people will be looking for answers for a long time. I have no idea why a bunch of terrorists would target the Gothicum. Anyway, the good news is that I will not have to become a hostage. I have been told that the Old One is asking for me and I will be going Below as soon as I can arrange things with the hospital. I am walking a bit slower just now due to the bullet wounds, but I am told that I should heal completely. I hope that your life is a bit less exciting than mine has been since yesterday evening. Thinking of you. Your friend, Alyce.<<
Alyce contacts the hospital and lets them know what the situation is and is immediately put on a rotation in the OR, where she is apparently very much needed to help with the influx of patients. She sends a message to the Earl’s House, asking that they contact the Old One and let him know that she will be Below as soon as she can, but that it may be a few hours yet. She collects Alfie when he and Stephanie show up in the police van and takes him to the hospital with her. While the huge hound is no stranger to the hospital corridors, there are some people there that do not like to see him. They cannot force the issue because of his service dog status and license, but the presence of the Hell Hound can be a distraction for some and Alyce leaves him in the office she holds at the hospital while she is at work.
Several hours and several successful operations later, Alyce tosses her last set of scrubs in the clothes bin and bids her staff of nurses farewell. She is feeling a bit exhausted and used up and the experience has reminded her of her first years as a Resident Surgeon and the number of twenty-hour days she had pulled back then. She stops at her office to get Alfie and leaves the hospital, taking a cab to the LCZ. Once there, she walks to the cathedral to check on the Mechanica and do some medical work there before descending to Below and her appointment with the Old One.June 9, 2017 at 12:04 pm #398
Al had hated to leave his plane behind, but she wasn’t built for speed, and the BA sub-orbital had cut more than 80% off his travel time, even with waiting for the flight.
The comm facilities in First Class were first class. It was worth all the funny looks he got from the cabin crew and other posh passengers – they probably didn’t understand themselves why they were so fascinated by him, but he figured it was because the closer he came to fulfilling his destiny as an international Hollywood star, the more the aura of fame and success enveloped him. Naturally people couldn’t help but stare, and Al roundly congratulated himself on the quiet humility with which he tolerated their adulation.
He had a few messages from Alyce, the last assuring he would not be going to meet her upon his arrival in London – at least not immediately. Not while she was cavorting with the degenerates. Her reports matched the flow of information he was getting from Grant – her shifts at the hospital were public enough that the National Police inspector could confirm her basic movements and well being without intruding on her privacy with the considerable surveillance assets at his agency’s disposal.
So with not much else to do, not knowing where or when he would meet up with Silky, or what tools he might need, he called the Porsche to come pick him up about halfway between Heathrow and his squat, hitchhiked out to meet it, and before long was drinking peacefully at home waiting to hear from Silk.June 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm #400
Sian has Achmed pull the large truck up to an area below the hill that has apparently been converted into a car park of sorts. The young man had sent drones ahead of them to scout the circus area but the feed from them had been a bit confusing. Sian’s own look into the astral has shown that some serious magic is being used to create an illusion of normalcy……………..and is perhaps concealing something else. She turns to the others and nods. “OK, truth time, or at least a partial truth. Hamad already knows that I am a witch and I thank you very much for keeping that quiet until now, but it might become important in the near future if you, Achmed, should find out and react poorly when exposed to that reality. Can you accept that I can work magic and still remain with me?”
The young man gulps and is certainly a bit shaken, but he nods his head. “I can, yes. I think.”
Hamad leans forward a bit. “Do not worry. I have seen her act before and she is benevolent to her companions and harsh only to her enemies. But then she can be very harsh.” His eyes look over Achmed’s head and catch Sian’s. He nods that her greater secret is safe with him until she needs to let the other man know.
Achmed lets out a slow sigh. “Alright. I will stay. I suppose it is much like my matrix magic, right? Just different.”
Sian smiles. “Yes, Achmed, just different. So I would like to set a link between our minds so that I can communicate with you both without the need to rely on our ‘links. This is not invasive and I cannot read your mind, but it does allow for a better means of communicating. I know that Hamad has done this with me, so would you permit it, Achmed?”
After a few moments where it is obvious that the man is arguing with himself, he nods and Sian establishes the link between the three of them. She quickens the spell so that she can mask it with the others that she sustains as quickened. “Now, I will going up to the circus and the two of you will remain here to guard the truck. I will try to keep in touch by spell or ‘link. Let me know if something looks to be happening that I might not be aware of, such as more S-K attack helicopters approaching to finish the job.”
Even though Morocco is one of the most progressive of the Islamic nations and there is usually no requirement for a woman to completely cover her face here, it is common for women to do just that to keep sand from getting into their mouths. Sian wraps her hijab about her lower face and walks from the car park up the hill to the circus, pausing as she crests the hill. Even if she did not already know that something was wrong, the smell of the spilled blood in the area would tell her that. It is clearly evident to one who lives on blood that a good bit of it was shed here not more than a day ago and is still fresh to her keen senses. There is little that magic could do to cover that up to one such as her.
There is a second reason why she pauses at the crest of the hill. Her other sense, the one she has never really understood, pings enough to tell her that there is another fourth-ager in the area. She sniffs again. At least one. She has little to no control over this ability of hers and no real idea how it works, but she is immediately on her guard and touches the sacred blade hidden on her body. Nodding, she joins the small crowd of people going to the circus, trying to get a sense of this fourth-ager and moving closer to his or her location. Her familiarity with the culture here, as well as her knowledge of Islam and its traditions, allow her to slip into the crowd as if she belongs there.
15June 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm #402
[Noon, Saturday March 20, 2077; Cirque de l’Ombre, Outskirts of Marrakech, Morocco]
“Kitty, maybe you first tell me your name, before this progresses any further.”
I had gotten up from my bike and stepped towards her hand extended. I noticed how she suddenly became a bit unbalanced – just for a quarter second or so – before she caught herself again. I’ve seen this reaction a thousand times: The void in me reacted to her innate magic. I assumed she was a physical adept… and my close proximity had just taken a bite out of her carefully honed abilities, making her just a bit slower to react and a tad clumsier than she normally was.
My smile must have turned a bit predatory, because she recoiled as if I’d slapped her across the face. It reminded me off quite a few magical temptresses that unwittingly had come close to me.
“The name is Midnight. And just who the hell are you?”
“My real name died with the language of my ancestors. For the moment Mr. Redback will suffice.”
“And what – Mr. Redback – do you want?”
“As I said, I’m here for the show and to talk to your boss, Oblique. As long as he isn’t available, you can give me a little tour around the site if you have the time. Otherwise I’ll just take a little walk around on my own.”
“This is not a good idea. There might be… accidents.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. Luckily those usually happen to other people than me… So, you are accompanying me, excellent.”
I presented her my arm but she declined and kept her distance. The Void just isn’t to everyone’s taste, I guess.
Where I went illusions began to waver and I was able to get glimpses of the carnage that had happened here earlier. I contented myself to a bit of small talk, and only an hour later or so, Midnight had overcome her revulsion far enough to walk a bit closer to me – mainly to prevent me from walking into places where the circus folk didn’t want anyone looking.
I took the run around in stride and allowed her to steer me towards a large tent where water bottles were dispensed freely. I also helped myself to a bit of flat bread to keep up my strength. The witches brew I keep on me ensured that my spirits were kept high as well.
The shadows had lengthened considerably when I said:
“Not that I don’t enjoy getting a private fur tour, but my patience starts to wear really thin. I’ve been very accommodating and polite so far. Bring me to your boss. Now.”
“I will. The other should arrive shortly. Oblique hates to explain things more than once…”
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.