July 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm #20811
It took roughly 3/4 of the time to get back on Seattle territory that it had taken to get to Mt. Helens.
The weather had gotten better – clearing even away the perpetual smog of the Emerald City.July 16, 2019 at 6:04 pm #20817
Al had had to be rather flagrant with about his speeding violations all the way from the Northgate Mall to the ferry terminal that service Hat Island, but he got the timing right and they made the boat, zero waiting. A half hour later they were pulling up at Winslow “Ducky” Flannery’s compound. The place was home to the Snakehandler when Al was in Seattle, and she was already out of her hangar on on the water, the fuel tanker just disengaging.
The Amerind aviation broker was there to meet them. “I did the pre-flight myself. But I won’t be offended if you want to go over her yourself.”
“Not a full one. Jist gon’ check a few points while they load up. Shoot me the diagnostics, will ya?”
And Al trotted out to the end of the jetty, look a long step onto one wingtip, and walked it to the fuselage. He read the diagnostics carefully. Everything checked out, for he knew how to read between the lines for anything that could spell trouble down the line, and that pointed him to a few places to spot-check while the others loaded everything from the Gaz and their latest deliveries into the hold.July 17, 2019 at 5:45 pm #20834
Preston was not thrilled to be going to Panama. He found Seattle to be too humid, but the tropical jungle sounded worse. Plus he was used to cities hemming him in, but being hemmed in by trees sounded a lot worse. Besides, he had no idea what you actually needed to survive there.
* Oleg: Why do people choose to live in such festering hell-holes. Anywhere without a proper winter to kill them off just builds up germs and pests.
In the end he’d just run a matrix search what he’d probably want, and had arranged for a breathable bug netting hat, lots of insect spray, water purification filters and tablets, a hydration pack, and an armored vest with thermal transport systems. And IR goggles, he’d seen an old movie when he was a kid with some sort of alien hunter in the jungle that used thermographic vision, and he had a vague feeling that thermographic was supposed to be useful in the jungle.July 17, 2019 at 6:14 pm #20836
Within thirty minutes of their arrival on Hat Island they were floats up, and ten minutes later they were at altitude with a flight plan and clearance over the Olympic Peninsula toward the Pacific Coast.
The cockpit stocked with beer, smokes, and soyritos, Al made himself at home. Hitting the intercom, he intoned, <<This is Cap’n Al speakin’ an’ we’s flyin’ at an altitude of you-don’t-wanna-fall-out. Speakin’ o’ which, they’s AR an’ hard-copy instructions fer the seats, all of which is equipped with ejection, parachutes, an’ survival bubbles, so they ain’t no excuse fer anyone dyin’ if’n they shoot us down. Now the Snakehandler here, she warn’t built fer speed, so we got a good twelve hours ta Canal-Land. So while ol’ Al’s busy flyin’, y’all got plenty o’ time ta suss out where in the haystack that is the whole o’ Panama we’s gon’ find the needle o’ Mars-Base-Two.>>
Truth be told, flying the airplane didn’t require a huge amount of attention, but Al was nonetheless happy to leave the detective work to the others. He had trid to catch up on, naps to take, and card tricks to practice.July 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm #20839
During the flight it was easy to get in contact with… well contacts. A quick matrix search showed, that Panama City was pretty busy nowadays that the Skyhook Space Elevator had taken up operations in the waters south of the canal.
Waystation 2 obviously was a secret, but someone had to know something, somewhere.
While Al went through card tricks, Becky remembered, that she actually knew someone from Central America: Lengua Argento, the vampire who’s life she had spared. Maybe he knew someone local with the necessary knowledge…July 23, 2019 at 12:29 pm #20910
[Saturday September 10, 2078; The Snake Handler, flying south, somewhere between Seattle and Panama]
Lily had little to do while Al handled his plane south. She reached out to Silk and Feather to see if either of them could offer any advice on locating the next Mars base
> We’re off to Aztlan, I think Al will be flying us under the radar as I don’t want to worry about SIN checks and I think the others don’t either. We’re chasing down our mark and Al seems to think he’s somewhere in Panama…but that’s still a big patch of jungle. Can you help narrow it down? Or point us to someone on the ground who might be able to help?
Then she settled back with Green River Burning playing on her ‘link and alternated with some of her favourite trid shows to pass the time…
#32July 23, 2019 at 2:07 pm #20915
It was in fact Dr. Featherstone who was able to help Lily out:
<<Hello my dear, nice hearing from you. I have heard rumors about the Wayfarer Society and their mars mission. Panama definitely is a good starting point to look for their camp. But where exactly I can’t tell. But I might be able to arrange something for you with a local fixer.
Alechandro Vasco, right down in Panama City. He is an expert on all kinds of financial stuff and for moving gear in and out across the globe. You’ll find his office right next to Universidad Tecnologica de Panama.>>July 25, 2019 at 7:33 pm #20982
The great thing about Panama was that nowhere was far from a coast. In fact, nowhere was far from either coast. Flannery had given Al the locations of a handful of places that wouldn’t ask too many questions, and Al had brought the Snakehandler down and moored her at the one closest to Panama City. A hired Tata Hotspur had gotten them the rest of the way to the university district. Vasco’s office had not been hard to find.
“Reckon it’s your guy’s guy, little girl. So you call the play.”July 29, 2019 at 7:33 pm #21021
As was so often the case in this line of work, attempts at consensus among a quartet of committed free-spirits rapidly devolved into an interminable discussion of the pros and cons of different approaches.
After a few minutes, Al walked away from the discussion and entered the office.July 30, 2019 at 2:52 am #21024
The office was one floor up and had a guard in front of it. An Ork, it seemed. Al couldn’t be quite sure as the man wore a full face mask.
Somehow it was a familiar form.
The Ork took a look at Al and stiffened.
“Al?! What the frag are you doing here?!”
July 30, 2019 at 12:56 pm #21033
- This reply was modified 3 weeks ago by Jack_Spade.
The mask, of course, was no help – except that he had known a guy that was fond of wearing one. And the tomahawks were a dead giveaway.
“Thorny baby,” Al said with a grin, hands up in peace signs, “World’s gittin’ smaller, kemo sabe. Or never big enough, with the eye-ties after ya. Reckon I’ll always owe ya fer yer help with that, amigo. We should start with some drinks later. But as fer why ol’ Al’s here right now, jist lookin’ fer a friendly business powwow with Senor Vasco, if’n that’s doable.”July 30, 2019 at 4:13 pm #21047
The Ork took of his mask, revealing the acid burns as well as the large hole at the side of his mouth.
“Well, in that case, come on in.
Ey, Boss, you’ve got an important client coming in.”
Thorn opened the door for Al and let his old chummer inside.
They passed through a small reception area where a beautiful dark skinned dwarven woman was currently busy filing her nails. She only lifted a perfectly painted eyebrow as Thorn led Al through and directly towards a genuinely old, wooden door, that led into an office that looked like an antique shop. Dominated by a heavy ebony desk, every bit of the wood paneled walls were covered with shelves, holding statues, models, pottery and all kinds of jewelyry.
Vasco turned out to be a Pixi, nearly vanishing in his huge, plush chair.
An annoyed look crossed over the small, black haired, white faced fixers face.
“God damnit Thorn, I pay you to keep people out who have no appointment.”
“Yeah, yeah, but Al here has an appointment – he is very, very well connected in Seattle.”
“Alright, alright, I’ll hear him out. And put your mask back on – I just ate.”
Thorn nodded, patted Al on the shoulder and went back out, muttering “We close in an hour, meet you for a drink?”
When the door had closed, Vasco indicated to one of the chairs in front of his desk and said: “Please have a seat. My bodyguard is a bit over enthusiatic at times, but I trust him and so I expect you are worth my time. What can I do for you?”July 30, 2019 at 6:05 pm #21058
“Roger roger, kemo sabe,” Al muttered back at Thorn as the bodyguard made his way out.
Al accepted the pixie’s invitation readily, plopping down into the indicated chair. “Ain’t no such thing as too much enthusiasm inna feller yer lookin’ to ta keep ya breathin’. Not if’n ya ask ol’ Al. Anyhoo, I do appreciate yer takin’ the time, there, amigo. Appreciate it indeed. An’ suffice ta say, I do not come ta the table empty-handed. Not that i’d be so impolitic as ta bring filthy lucre inta our discussion at this early stage, but I’d like ta think that fer a reasonable consideration I can consider this conversation privileged. Ya know, like lawyers an’ such.”
The pixie gave a slight nod of assent and Al continued.
“Well, ta git ta the point then, lookin’ fer some sorta mission-ta-Mars kinda hootenanny. Pretty sure it’s hid here in Panama. Belongs ta some space-hippies call theyselves Wayfarers. Got they hearts set on colonizin’ yer red planet. Maybe some connection ta Monad Exodus, but that’s tangential, I’m thinkin’, since they seem real innerested in also curin’ head cases. Not sure, but guessin’ they’s S-K-backed. Place they’ll have down here, it’ll have a lot o’ supplies an’ high-end tech movin’ in an’ out. Much of it by drone, less’n I miss my guess, but they’d still need some sorta landin’ strip fer heavier loads. Movin’ people too, that’s fer sure. Heard y’all got yer finger on the pulse o’ this here fine land’s import-export biz. Might be able ta point us inna right direction.”
A hard pack of Lucky Strikes and a big stainless steel lighter materialized in his hand, and he offered a cigarette to his host.July 31, 2019 at 2:42 am #21063
The pixie took the offered cigarette – although it looked on him like an impossible large cigar – took a pull and slowly exhaled the smoke.
“I see. So you are interested in the Mars men.” He drummed his tiny fingers.
“Well, I think we can help each other out there. I know how you can reach their camp.
A customer of mine has become aware that they are using anti-grav technology and wants a sample of that tech.
If you can bring me one back, I’ll give you the information.”July 31, 2019 at 10:52 am #21065
“Hell, sounds like a win-win ta me, kemo sabe,” answered Al. He spit on his palm and leaned over the desk, extending a hand that bore a striking resemblance to Thorn’s face.July 31, 2019 at 3:54 pm #21071
The pixi didn’t hesitate to slap Al’s hand – or rather his first three fingers.
“Alright, I hope you won’t mind if I send Thorn with you. Not that I don’t trust you, but it will be less complicated if you hand over the item before something unforseen happens – like you having to leave the country in great haste.”
A thin smile played over the man’s face.
“According to a friend of mine, there is a volcanic island about 250 nautic miles to the south. Not much vegetation, lot’s of black sand and rocks. He has seen an installation in the main crater where according to his drone, they had reduced gravitation. The island is just outside the exclusion zone of the space elevator, so they enjoy second hand protection through patrolling T-Birds.
You’ll need a good plan to get close their without being spotted.”July 31, 2019 at 4:51 pm #21074
“Yeah, sounds tricksy.”
Al thought of a scuba approach. No problem for himself or Becky or probably Thorn. Beta he could teach if necessary. But how was the buoyancy of metal girls?
“Good news is, money stopped bein’ an’ issue fer ol’ Al some while ago.” He had found over the years that letting your counterpart know that you had lots of money and didn’t mind spending it was an excellent bargaining technique. “Ya know where I can git my hands on a sumbersible? Needs ta seat six.”
Did the number give away too much? Probably. But if this guy was going to sell them out, he had more than enough to sink them already.
No pun intended.August 1, 2019 at 3:23 pm #21089
“Hm, I’m not really that kind of fixer. I’d suggest you get a fishing boat, stay out five miles out from the coast and move the rest with either a mini sub or diving suits with an underwater sled.
A sumbersible… that might be expensive, but if you are as afluent as you say Master Seargent Iogene Fernandez at the military outpost might be able to set you up. I can call him and arrange for him to give you a visitor badge.
If you want to go low tech, you only need a visit to Mike’s Diving Emporium at the harbour. ”
The pixie replied.August 1, 2019 at 6:07 pm #21090
“Yeah, a mini. Or a sled. Got some new blood on board, need ta check they specs. I’ll let Thorny know what we decide on. Anyhoo, time’s money. Yours an’ mine. Ya think of anythin’ else useful, ya let ol’ Al know. Vaya con dios, mi macho muchacho.”
On his way out, Thorn told Al where they could meet for drinks once the bodyguard had finished his shift. In the meantime, Al would talk to his co-workers about their insertion. Al liked the the underwater option – it had been the first thing to come to his mind. That was partly because he liked diving, and had a lot of experience with it. More important, it was simply the most covert way to approach an island. Sure, the bad guys would have thought of it, and there were lots of tricks they could use to thwart it. But visibility was so limited at any meaningful depth tha it was still a lot easier to approach unseen underwater than on the surface or by air.
The trick was that, for the inexperienced or untrained, the subsurface environment was about ten different things the metahuman body didn’t like. The dark. The critters. The currents. The pressure. And the air issue, that was a big one, too.
His co-workers had found a sidewalk cafe in view ot the pixie-fixer’s office. Al sat down, ordered a beer, and eyed Lily doubtfully. “Y’all know how ta swim?”August 8, 2019 at 6:44 pm #21129
Al felt great with the pitch of the fishing boat’s deck under his feet. They were still well out from the island – he only knew it was there from the charts – they had no intention of breaking the horizon until the time was right. But he was eager to be in the water.
After some discussion of issues such as buoyancy and skill, it had been decided that SCUBA plus sleds was the way to go. All legal, money had talked and they were kitted out in no time. A fisherman up for the risk was a trickier – there were plenty that would be happy to make enough money in a couple of days to pay off their boat loans, but the trick was finding one that wouldn’t take their money and then sell them out for more. Al knew these guys, but he didn’t speak Spanish. Thorn had been very helpful on that front. And now here they were, aboard a good, solid boat called La Sirena, whatever that meant, and Al was loving the sea air.
“Whaddaya say, Thorny baby? Reckon it’s gon’ be a good night fer a long, long swim? I mean, you know, one followed by some sneakin’, then a fair amount o’ frantic runnin’ an’ killin’, all some sorta anti-gravity volcano?” He held up his beer in the direction of the island with a grin and a wink.
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