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Stormy Waters subcampaign: Al and Achilles

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2063, Old Gilan Province, Rasht, Iraq

Achilles didn't much care for boats, but the Caspian was one of the most reliable and discreet routes to Iraq from Russia. Flights were scarce and roads were tolled, bandit-ed and paracritter-ed. But the Caspian was, for the larger part, simply boring. The southern part saw its share of illegitimate "inspections" and "tariffs", but in actuality the presence of armed watercraft helped keep the paracritter population in check and make boating easier. At least, as long as you knew how to hide anything valuable.

But of course Achilles had just shoved everything into a kit bag and consequently had his AK-87 "assessed" right out of his possession. A credstick from his boot got him a bouncy truck bed ride into Rasht, but the mix of decayed 20th century ruins and sprawling new construction made navigation in the city confusing. Worse yet, armored corp sedans drove among sheep herders while government authorities, private security details, and cartel forces managed a tense peace while patrolling the streets with small arms. Far too many cultural considerations for Achilles to handle, so he just kept his head down and stuck to alleyways until he could reach the central bazaar.

Two unconscious thugs and four miles on foot later, Achilles let his new-to-him Uzi III hang by the sling as he approached what appeared to be some kind of eating establishment attached to a motor vehicle garage. Or, rather, a drinking establishment as it happened to be once he'd entered. He put in the earbud paired to his commlink and pulled up the translator 'soft as he approached the bar. His thick Russian came out in a jarring mechanical Kurdish after he finished speaking into the 'link's microphone.

"I need an escort into Teherán." he said, the words turning alien and barking out from the 'link speaker.

The man replied, then a robotic Russian voice played through the earbud. "Which part?" The man had stopped cleaning glasses and was looking at Achilles with something between suspicion and amusement.

"The bad part." Achilles said plainly. As the new words played from his commlink, those drinking around him grew silent and turned to stare. Eyebrows went up and necks craned from further away to see what this foreigner in military fatigues was all about.

"Suicide." came the reply in the earbud. The bartender set down a glass and put both hands on the bar, his gaze leveling with Achilles'.

"My choice." Achilles answered, tossing a credstick on the bar.

The bartender swiped it over the hard terminal to check the balance, then pocketed it and shrugged. "Go with HedAyat. He will take you to the outskirts." He said, pointing to a Persian man at a corner table, smoking something in an atomizer and flanked by a woman on either side. They seemed like standard mistresses, but for the printing of a handgun around the thigh area that Achilles noticed on one of them.

Achilles considered the suggestion for a moment, but wasn't sure he had a lot of other options. He decided to think about it over an ork vodka, but the place apparently didn't carry such Russian standards. The bartender gave him something called "arak" instead, and as he prepared to drink it, he accidentally made eye contact with a brawny, weathered-looking westerner seated nearby.

2063, Old Gilan Province, Rasht, Iran

Al raised his glass to the ork and stood up. He was a very short man with a huge wolfish grin on his face, teeth clamped tight around a cigarette dead center in his mouth. Somehow he still managed to speak. His voice was tight but ebullient, gregarious.

"Come over here an' hug me, amigo. Like we's old friends," but his voice sounded like he was saying something along the lines of my old friend, so happy to see you here, of all places.

"These assholes don't speakee a blessed word of English, but ol' HedAyat there don't take too kindly ta folks poachin' his biz. So if'n ya want a real guide inta Tay-ran an' not some infidel-hater gon' put a knife in her back once ye's outta town, ya jist make like we's old friends, gimme a big ol' tusker hug, an' sit down a spell."

2063, Old Gilan Province, Rasht, Iran

Achilles gave an honest effort to translate the version of what he was almost certain was meant to be English that the apparent American was speaking. Luckily, with his commlink in hand and earpiece still in, the robot voice did a better job. A look of realization came across his face and he strode forward and clapped the stranger on the back, careful not to mash anything on his commlink in that hand or spill his drink in the other. Hugging strangers wasn't something Achilles really did very much, or even hugging family or friends for that matter, but just getting to Rasht made him trust Americans more than the people here. But that didn't say much about Americans.

Achilles took a glance over the American's shoulder at the Ayet fellow, who seemed to be studying them with distaste. But he didn't make any move to get up or go for a weapon, just stared. And hell, people stared at Achilles everywhere he went. Orks with chrome are a sight apparently, even in the '60s. So he let it slide and broke contact with the American, clipping his commlink to his belt where it could still translate for him but didn't take up a hand that might have to be used for self-defense. He spoke in his best conversational English.

"Ah, 'old friend', comrade, it is pleasure to see you here, in..." he paused, looking around. "drek hole?" Achilles half-smiled, anticipating a confirmation of understanding, then threw back the short glass of arak, subsequently looking at the empty glass with surprise, then back at the bartender. "Either he tried to poison me, or I will have to get a case of this 'arak' before I return home."

2063, Old Gilan Province, Rasht, Iran

Al motioned to a chair and sat back down himself, never looking at HedAyat. He set his smoke in an ashtray and patted the ork's hand amiably with his own, which looked like it was melting, so horribly was it burn-scarred. His voice remained full of excited surprise. "Okay, the bar guy will have already let 'im know yer here fer a guide, so we's gon' shoot the shit fer jist a bit, then yer gon' go ask 'im fer rates, make a good show of it. By the time yer done I'll be down the street - there's a shisha bar with a big red banner an' gold birds on it, I can't read the name, it bein' in Persian an' all. I'll be in there sittin' way inna back if'n ya want a real guide."

He waved for two more drinks. "Long as we's play actin' at bein' old friends, might as well introduce myself. Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, esquire, at yer service."

2063, Old Gilan Province, Rasht, Iran

Achilles laughed as he spoke to the American, in keeping with the tone. He kept an eye on HedAyat as he listened to the American's instructions and  introduction. He winced a bit as he saw the scars on the man's hands, but didn't break cover. "Esquire Guthrie, it is my pleasure. I am comrade Nicolas Kostiy. I must ask you, why should I trust you more than our friend in the corner?" Achilles responded with a smile and jovial gestures. However, he accidentally made eye contact with HedAyat and saw the man whisper something to the woman on his right, who then looked over towards them. They didn't make any moves, but Achilles had a gut feeling he'd be dealing with that man in one capacity or another eventually.


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