NEWS

Stormy Waters: Al & Alyce Side Thread

  • 451 Replies
  • 19759 Views

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« on: (08:02:50/12-29-15) »
Ling Tse Tau was so very stereotypical of what everyone thought a Suit from Wuxing Incorporated would look like that it was almost painful.  A ton of Nuyen had been spent to make him........perfect.  Perfect bio-sculpting.  Perfect dentistry.  Perfect clothes.  Perfect manners........at least for the public.  Just perfect.  Tau was the oldest son of Ling Tse Mung, the daughter and heiress presumptive of the Vice Chairman for Special Projects.  Standing 5'9" tall and weighing a perfectly proportional 165lb, Tau saw himself as the next big thing for the corporation and his mother's and grandfather's positions convinced others to see that in him as well.  The truth is that, excluding the exterior, Tau was far from perfect.  The public face was only that, anything deeper than skin level was pure sadistic bully and incompetent.  The beautiful, smiling women he wore on his arms for public events were usually of the one-time use, abuse, and leave in the gutter type.  He had crippled or killed too many models and corporate daughters and now had to be satisfied with beautiful prostitutes who had no idea they were being hired for the last act of their lives.  The arrangement did not seem to bother Tau one bit as he was more interested in extremely rough sex and sadistic torture than who his victims were, and if the bodies of whores were easier to get rid of, he was happy.  Tau favored charcoal grey suits of whatever the most current fashion was.  His entire wardrobe changed every time Vashon Island, Mortimer, or Armante changed a line.  He did not like being surprised by someone wearing something newer than what he had and several personal assistants had been savagely beaten and killed for allowing him to appear in clothes that were not the very latest thing. 


Wuxing's Special Projects Division is an umbrella entity involved in gathering information on magical artifacts and devices.  The Matrix Awareness Section (MAS) is tasked with scouring the matrix continually for any indications of new artifacts appearing.  The Print Awareness Section (PAS) is older and has the responsibility to peruse old writings in the ceaseless crusade to unearth artifacts.  The two sections are constantly in competition and each clearly hold the other in complete contempt for reliance on either "outdated" or "new and unproved" techniques.  However, this professional scorn could be considered nothing more than friendly professional competition when the Action Awareness Section (AAS) was involved.  Nominally considered no more than thugs with shovels by both research sections, the action section consists of those people who are sent to the field to reclaim any found artifacts.  As this is the favored section of the current Vice Chairman as well as his daughter, any failure in procuring the artifacts is always blamed on poor research. 


In the early Spring of 2067 an MAS technician caught a sniff on the 'trix about a tome said to hold knowledge on summoning.  The extremely limited phrase appeared only once in a three month period and although it pointed to somewhere in Southeast Asia, there was just no further mention of it on the matrix.  Frustrated, the MAS turned the clue over to the PAS, hoping that they, too, would fail.  Although it took six months of research, the PAS was able to uncover a few additional clues from old documents of the region.  The most likely location was any one of a number of lost ruins in the Phnum Kravanh District in the wilds of the Central Cardamom range of Southwest Cambodia.  Nothing the section’s researchers did could narrow the search area more.  The sketchy details were presented to the Section heads and the Vice Chairman, who decided there was enough to get the AAS involved.  Ling Tse Mung heard of the proposed expedition from her father and pressed him to allow Tau to be the team lead.  After all, he needed some seasoning in the field and was now of an age to show he could manage something like this.  The Vice Chairman grudgingly agreed, but he had a more realistic idea of the qualities of his grandson than the boy’s mother did, and did not want his excesses to bring ruin to the project.  He gave in to his daughter’s request with the stipulation that a more seasoned man be assigned as Tau’s assistant.  Looking through his contacts, he settled on Yao Lung as the perfect choice to "assist" his grandson.  Yao Lung had served the Vice Chairman faithfully for nearly three decades and was a well-known fixture in the Special Projects Section.  He had a reputation for successfully carrying out his orders with ruthless efficiency.  An ugly ape of a man, Yao Lung was immensely strong physically, often eschewing firearms in favor of his massive fists to make his orders understood and obeyed.  His bulk belied a clever mind and he was entirely loyal to the Vice Chairman.

A team was quickly put together to travel to Cambodia; Tau, Yao Lung and three well-armed guards would be joined in Phnom Penh, the capital, by a local guide and a number of bearers.  The expedition was cloaked in secrecy as a humanitarian mission whose stated goal was to attempt contact with the little-known and even less seen people of the Pear culture.  After all, no one wanted the Aztecs to get wind of what they were doing.  Three missionaries were invited to be included on the team and were restricted to one man and two women in order to help preserve the image of the expedition.  The remote wildness of the terrain would require someone with excellent communications and matrix skills.  Lung recommended a woman he had met a couple of years earlier on a mission to the Amazon.  The woman was a freelancer, but had been employed by Aztechnology as a matrix specialist and had performed well, even though she was blind.  The Wuxing team had reached the objective first, but the expedition had been grueling and the team had suffered several casualties, including their matrix communicator.  The Aztechnology team had been almost destroyed by rampaging tribes of natives upset that anyone was in their sacred area.  The survivors had formed a joint team for survival and the comms specialist had proven invaluable.  Yao Lung had kept his ears to the ground since and he recommended that someone should determine if she was available.


So it was that in the early part of 2068, a group of five Wuxing Corp operatives, three missionaries and a blind communications specialist came together in Cambodia.  The equipment and most of the supplies had arrived over the previous three weeks and all was stored in a local warehouse managed by a Wuxing affiliate.  Despite all of the careful planning, the arrival was not without incident, as it was soon discovered that the guide that had been hired had taken the up-front money and drank or whored most of it away before skipping the country.  A quick search dug up one Al Guthrie.  He certainly portrayed himself as a man that fit the bill as an expert in the wilds of Cambodia and seemed to know the language.  With the rainy season less than two months away, there was little option and he was hired on the spot.
« Last Edit: (11:42:03/12-29-15) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #1 on: (08:06:45/12-29-15) »
January 9, 2068.  Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Phnom Penh in January is well into the hot season, and this January is hotter than many can remember.  Most people could handle the heat, but the humidity is murder and even those native to this Southeast Asian country are smart enough to limit travel if they have to travel at all.  Just looking out of an air conditioned window can start one sweating.  Of course, that implies that one has a functioning air conditioner and most of the people living in the sprawl can only dream of such a luxury.  Still, life has to go on and for many that means adapting to the climate as much as possible, meaning that much of the activity of the city takes place in the morning or evening. 

The cacophony of noise from the bustling warehouses and shops in the Quenzai District, combined with the roar from the busy streets outside combined to almost force people to yell to be understood.  It may have been 2068 to the more civilized world beyond the near-anarchy that was Phnom Penh, but in this large sprawl it was almost as if time had stopped somewhere early in the past century.  Street vendors vie for what space is available on the mostly rutted narrow streets.  What had once been thoroughfares for the vehicles of the wealthy landowners, then Communist Party officials, then an almost continuous series of military vehicles was now mainly left to bicycles, pedestrians, and the occasional group of patched-together motorcycles of whatever go-gang was currently in authority.  Shanties had sprung up in many places, further narrowing the streets.  The obnoxious, nearly ceaseless chattering from an ever-present population of monkeys and birds simply added to the noise produced from metahuman throats. 

In the midst of this roar of noise, a man enters the rickety building that is Warehouse 12.  He stands somewhere about 5’3” tall and his physique could easily be termed thin and wiry.  He is wearing faded jeans and a yellowed T-shirt already sweat-stained just from walking here.  A dark leather jacket is carelessly slung across one shoulder, partially concealing one of several tattoos on his arms.  His sandy hair is unevenly cut and by the look of the growth on his chin he probably has not shaved for several days.  Standing at the entrance, he lets his bright blue eyes adjust to the difference in light from outside as he fishes a crumpled pack of filterless Lucky Strikes from a rear pocket of his jeans, shaking a cigarette free of the pack and frowning as he notices how few he has left.  He takes a second cigarette from the pack and stashes it behind an ear before putting the pack back in the pocket and lighting the cigarette in his mouth with an old hand-operated lighter.  The man turns his eyes back to looking around the noisy warehouse floor, giving every impression that he could have just wandered in, attempting to get out of the oppressive heat.  A normal person could be forgiven for assuming the careless demeanor was just that, but an observant person might notice that by the time the cigarette was half burnt down to the man’s lips he had noted the two open rear doors to the adjoining street and the open-sided stairs to an office level with windows providing observation of the crowded floor.  It would also be reasonable to believe that he has noticed that the large men at the foot and top of the stairway are not dressed like the locals and are probably armed with some sort of pistol concealed under their jackets in addition to the assault rifles slung over a shoulder.

As the newcomer begins to get a feel for the place, his attention is caught by a seeming area of calm within the near maelstrom of activity.  A woman is sitting on one of the crates that appear to be haphazardly scattered about the large open interior of the building.  Strangely, though the woman is facing nearly 180 degrees from his approach, she turns her head to look at him, giving him the somewhat eerie feeling that she has heard him enter despite the noise.  For a few moments lost in time, the woman looks at Al through oddly shaped dark glasses then looks away.  It is almost as if she has been looking for something and, not finding it, has turned back to something more interesting, yet Al has a feeling that he was seen, examined, and categorized.  He can vaguely make out that the right side of her face bears a tattoo.  The woman’s exposed ears are long and definitely pointed; a clear indication of her Keeb heritage.  This is slightly surprising given the scarcity of Elves in Cambodia.  The previous regime had practically outlawed metahumanity and had imprisoned all Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, and Orks that could be found.  And in Cambodia, “imprisoned” usually means you never come back out alive.  The regime currently in power, thanks to a recent coup, had lifted the restrictions, but few members of the non-human races had yet made an appearance, probably rightly concerned that the regime could change back at a moment’s notice.  The woman’s hands are folded atop a carved walking stick, her fingers long and tapered, without adornment.  The stick itself is not one of the flimsy ones that seem to be in the hands of every tourist in the country, but one of suitable girth and sturdiness.  The woman’s clothing, too, is surprisingly suitable for the climate, not the near-useless finery often worn by visitors to this country.  The ensemble is completed by sturdy but breathable hiking boots on her feet and a functional wide-brimmed hat that has been placed at her side on the crate she is sitting on.

The man’s trained eyes catch movement on the landing at the top of the stairway.  Two Chinese men have stepped out of what he has assumed to be the overhanging office area and are talking.  One is tallish and dressed in an impeccably tailored and completely climate inappropriate suit of charcoal grey.  The other is not quite as tall, but his build is that of a brawler, perhaps close to two hundred pounds of muscle.  He is dressed for the humidity and heat in loose shirt and trousers that have clearly seen better days and is currently pointing a hand in his direction.  After a few words are exchanged, the suit returns to the office and the brute descends the stairs and approaches the smoker, who has taken the cigarette from behind his ear, chain lighting it from the remains of the first before tossing the very small butt to the ground and grinding it out.  The Chinese man holds out a large hand and welcomes the newcomer in a voice only slightly accented by his native tongue, “Mister Al Guthrie?  Thank you for coming.  Please welcome to speak with my employer.  I am Yao Lung and will take you to meet with Ling Tse Tau, an important person.  We are searching to replace a failed guide into the interior and your name has been put forward.”

Yao Lung’s hand is somewhat larger than the newcomer’s and his grip is firm.  He does not try to engage in a testosterone-fueled match of grips, but leaves a clear impression that he would be hard to beat if it came to that.  Both men candidly look at each other, sizing the other up in a professional manner.  Yao Lung motions for Mister Guthrie to follow him and shows the way through the crowd to the stairs leading up to the partial second floor that extends a bit over the rear of the open warehouse.  The large men standing guard at the stairs nod and step aside as Yao Lung escorts Al to his meeting.

The woman sitting on the crate appears to not notice any of this as she maintains her view of the rushed activity within the warehouse.  A text has already gone out to Yao Lung and the suited man waiting upstairs to meet Al.  >>Mister Guthrie has nothing currently operating wirelessly on him, not even a ‘link.  There is no smell of solvent or gun oil about him and he does not walk as if a gun is giving him an uneven weight.  His clothes are unwashed and smell of cheap alcohol and fags, um cigarettes, but that is not unexpected.  His voice is clear and unaffected by drugs or alcohol.  Alyce out.<<





"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #2 on: (15:57:57/12-29-15) »
January 9, 2068. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Al followed the fellow calling himself Yao up toward the office. Each step creaked under the big Chinese’s weight, and Al was already figuring this guy for the real boss, whoever they were headed upstairs to see. They reached the landing and Yao motioned Al into the small room, but the smaller man just stood up there, glancing over the makeshift operation one more time, eyes pausing only once, on the only interesting thing in there - the cute dandelion-muncher with the funky shades. She was built real good for a she-Spock. But first business. He nodded a curt thank you to Yao for his courtesy and shuffled in.

The room space had been cleaned and dehumidified, which said money right there. And the suit inside had that funny look Al had only seen a couple of times down here in this backwater of a so-called city - someone using the new augmented reality. Al’s new eyes could access that crap, but he hated it. Made him want to shout at his damned shoes. So he kept the wifi off and his wits about him and figured he’d do okay.

And okay he had done. If he’d been anyone else but himself, he’d not have been able to believe his luck. This pretty boy’s suit must have set him back an easy few K, and the face even more. But if they’d cost a lousy ten nuyen, that’d be ten more nuyen than Al had to his name. Leastways until he could find an MIB branch, and they’d all closed up after the latest government rotation.

Barely a week ago Al had been rotting alone in a Phnom Penh prison cell, chained to a wall and waiting for his next session with a skinny little sadist named Chea. It meant ‘healthy,’ and he wouldn’t be for long if Al ever caught up with him. Then suddenly he was out on the street and picking pockets for the money he’d needed to bribe the guards to get back in - assholes still had his pa’s jacket. And his Zippo. Once he’d gotten those back, he’d caught a freight train up to Pursat Province, which he knew pretty well. Crashed with some old friends from the tin mines, and whiled away a few days in the dingiest dives he could find. And then some headhunter had sniffed him out, offered him fifty nuyen and a hot meal just to take an air-conditioned ride back to the capital for a powwow.

So here he was, shirt sticking painfully to the unhealed wounds on his back, faced with rich people who needed what only he could offer, and congratulating himself on the intimate relationship he had with destiny. Only thing he had to do now was figure how to fleece them for all they had.

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #3 on: (16:01:54/12-29-15) »
January 9, 2068. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The big guy was introducing him to the dandy boy, who looked high. Name of Long or Ling. Maybe Lung. Al wasn’t really listening, just smiling and nodding and wondering where he was going to drink that night. Girlie man looked half high and not very interested anyway. Yao was the one to watch. And sure enough, he was the one that got down to business.

“We need you take us into the Central Cardamom Mountains. We are looking for something, which I cannot explain about to you until we are out of the city. We research that the Pear people know where it is. Do you know where to find them?”

Al blew a smoke ring contemplatively. Milking the moment. “Yeah, I know some o’ they villages, an’ folk there can point us to the rest. Question is, you git yourself there, can ya capice they lingo?”

The man looked a bit confused, and Al tried again. “Can you talk they talk, speak they language?”

“We have Khmer chips, but we prefer a non-chipped interpreter. This is not my first cowboy horse show.”

Well, his English may be a bit lacking, but Al could appreciate a man that knew his limitations. And as someone that didn’t really have any of those, Al congratulated himself on his boundless compassion for those less fortunate than himself.

“Yeah, ol’ Al speaks Khmer okay.”

“And we are told you speak the Pearic tongues as well. Tongues for which no chip exists.”

These boys had done their homework. “Bingo, kemo sabe. Find another round-eye these parts can say that.”

“We are aware of the value to this skill. How much for a full month of your services?”

Now to move in for the kill. Say it slowly for them. “Cash…nuyen…three…digits…Minimum.”

The big guy looked at the pretty boy, who snapped out of his bored trance. They both tried to keep their poker faces on, but their shock was obvious. Clearly they were astounded by the audacity of his demand.

Yao recovered quickly. “Three digits, you say? All right, then, if it must be so, I’m a fair man, let’s put it in middle. Five hundred nuyen.”

Suckers. “Well, six’d be better.”

Yao took a deep breath, seemed to debate within himself, but realized he was beaten. With a resigned sigh, he said “Deal,” and stretched out his hand. Al grinned around his cigarette, took it out of his mouth with his left hand, and spit into his right. Then shook on the deal.

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #4 on: (18:53:24/12-29-15) »
Alyce has been listening for the distinctive footsteps of Yao Lung and Al descending the stairs and tunes her senses to filter out much of the irrelevant conversation around her that she has been listening to, switching her attention to what the two men are saying.  The spirit of the conversation is one of men pleased with themselves.  Alyce concludes that Mister Guthrie has made a bargain that is better than he had thought it would be and Yao Lung is happy because his employer, Ling Tse Tau, has hired a guide for less than he had thought to pay him.  Both parties are satisfied and that bodes well for the beginning of an expedition that had seemed to be foundering before it even started.  She stands as the two men approach and turns to face them, her eyes concealed behind her dark glasses as her head moves from one to the other.  The pair stop in front of Alyce and Yao Lung gives the slightest of bows and says, “Miss Alyce Krait, I introduce you to Mister Al Guthrie.  Mister Guthrie, Alyce Krait.  Al will be our guide and organize quickly a group of bearers to make our journey to the Pear tribes as easy as possible.  Al, Alyce is field physician and communications specialist.  Please let her have any indication from you what you need in those areas and she will pass that to me for approval.  As stated earlier, all other costs will be go directly through me for approval.”

Yao Lung turns and motions to the man at the foot of the stairs.  While waiting for him to make his way through the crowd, Al’s eyes are drawn to the woman’s face.  Her fair complexion definitely sets off the large tattoo that covers almost the entire right side of her face, beginning at the lower cheek and curling up over the right eye.  So drawn to the tattoo is he that he almost fails to notice that Alyces’ glasses are composed of several different layers of lenses nestled together, with at least three groupings of small cogs and wheels at each lens.  The dark glass seems a bit unnecessary inside the warehouse.  Her dark, almost chestnut hair is caught in a ponytail that hangs straight to just below her nicely curved butt, except for some strands that have escaped to frame her otherwise delicate face.  Her sensible blouse emphasizes hidden curves and is tucked into form fitting trousers.  The aforementioned hat is in her left hand and the walking stick in the right.  The overall effect is a rather pretty woman, if one can get past the odd facial tattoo.  But perhaps the tattoo actually looks nice on her.

Al is brought from his examination of the pretty Elven woman by Yao Lung.  “Mister Guthrie, this is Kang.  He will escort you and Miss Krait to the hotel we use until leaving.  Please settle in.  My…our…employer will not be joining you for dinner so you are on your own, but perhaps Miss Krait will keep you company.  Please use tomorrow to gather bearers for discussed trip and tell me cost.  Ling Tse Tau want good men so no further disruption of our schedule is needed.  I will approve costs unless far too much.”

Yao Lung bows to Alyce and Al then turns to speak some words to Kang in Chinese, which neither of the other two seems to understand.  During the exchange, Al notes that Alyce seems to look straight ahead as if something has her attention, but he does not see anything remotely interesting as he turns to follow her line of sight.  Kang bends over to effortlessly pick up a backpack that is leaning against the crate Alyce had been sitting on and begins to move off.  Alyce holds out an arm for Al to take.

« Last Edit: (23:43:09/12-29-15) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #5 on: (19:22:40/12-29-15) »
January 9, 2068. Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Al remembered his manners and took the lady’s arm in his own. But he didn’t say anything. She had a nice ass, and he decided to play the mysterious card. That usually worked pretty well.

Besides, he didn’t want to talk in front of Kang. Guy had a shifty look, and who knew what languages he spoke or had chipped.

So they rode to the hotel in silence, she also apparently unwilling to speak first. But once they were  in the lobby, she with all her kit, he with the clothes on his back, and Kang in the wind, he bowed elaborately. “Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, esquire, an’ at yer service, madamoiselle.” He pronounced the French better than the English.

It was an odd place for such a dashing and elegant greeting, he realized. Hardly a five-star establishment. It didn’t surprise him they’d put him up here, but he’d pegged her for a higher-maintenance member of the party, figured she’d be bunking over at the InterContinental where he was sure pretty-boy was. That or Raffles.

No, this place had mold on what was left of the threadbare carpets, the bellman was asleep, and the desk lady was more interested in the mahjong finals on the trid than their arrival. The ceiling was high, but the chandelier was dead, and he was pretty sure there was a bat or three sleeping up there. And here he was with the girl. Maybe because she was a keeb. Or a woman. Or white. Or maybe all three together was three strikes too many with a Chinese-financed op.

However you sliced it, he wasn’t above capitalizing on the situation, so he poured on the charm.

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #6 on: (21:23:50/12-29-15) »
Alyce accepts Mister Guthrie's arm and allows herself to be escorted out of the warehouse to the street.  The difference in heat is palpable.  It had been bad enough inside the building, but out in the sun it was much worse, as the humidity tried to suck the life from her.  Kang strides to the street and lifts a hand to summon one of the pedicabs and proceeds to crowd all three into one, allowing Alyce to sit in the center.  Kang's  breath smells heavily of onions and peppers and something even Alyce's enhanced olfactory sensors can not identify.  The short ride to the hotel is silent except for the noise from the street.  The hotel was certainly less than the slick brochure had advertised, but Alyce truly had expected nothing more than what they got.  Checking in was perfunctory and handled by Kang.  Alyce and Al were give a metal key (who really uses metal keys anymore?) to adjoining rooms on the second floor. 

The old woman behind the counter listlessly informs them that each room has a sink and fan, and that the communal bathroom was at the end of the hall.  She then points to a small sign that clearly stated in several languages that the time for hot water on the second floor was between 0400 and 0500 local and that towels were provided, but not robes.  Another sign notes that the only meal served in the dining room was dinner and that between 1800 and 2000 local.  After checking his charges in, Kang departs to return to the warehouse.  Mister Guthrie turns to Alyce and introduces himself with a flourish.  Alyce giggles a bit and curtsies.  "You already know my name, Mister Guthrie.  You may call me Alyce and may I call you Al?  Or is Aloucious preferable?  It appears that we are on our own for dinner.  Do you intend to dine here or do you have other plans?"  After determining that he is planning on eating in the dining room, she sets a time to meet outside the rooms at 1730.  She offers her arm for Al to escort her up the stairs to the second floor.

Alyce thanks him and moves to the door to her room, where she feels for the lock and slips the physical (again, who the frag uses physical keys any more) key into the cheap-ass lock and opens the door to an equally cheap-ass room.  She smiles as she remembers Kang’s offer to take her bag upstairs.  Even blind, it had been easy for her to tell from the changes in his breathing that the large man would like to be invited up for something more than a social visit.  She had politely refused the offer, clearly disappointing the man.  Entering the room, she places the pack on the floor at her feet and carefully “looks” about the small room.  She stands against the closed door and reaches out with her senses in an almost mystic manner to probe the room.  The bed gives off an odor of being used and the aroma of alcohol and sex strongly imply that the cheap linens are probably not very clean and that certainly the mattress is not.  A smell of camphor emanates from the small bureau and water drips from the area of the sink.  Satisfied that her normal senses have a good picture of the room, she turns her radar on to “see” where everything is.  Smiling, she walks around the small room.  A tiny bed sits under a window.  Alyce runs her hand along the glass and feels the partially missing pane that allows a modicum of a breeze into the room.  If there was a modicum of a breeze, that is.  She feels the sunlight through the window and does not need her enhanced touch to feel the thick layers of grime that dim it.  A sink stands against one wall, the faucet dripping.  She walks to it and twists the knob, already fairly certain that she will not be able to turn it off.  She is correct.  The rest of the furniture consists of a rickety rattan chair of dubious strength and a very small table near the bed, the purpose of which is a mystery since it does not appear either large or sturdy enough to hold anything.  A coffin-sized closet opens from one wall but the cross pole is missing, leaving several metal coat hangers on the floor.  Sighing, she returns to the bed.  She has lived in worse places during her years working for one AA or AAA Corporation or crime syndicate or another and will survive this.

Alyce sits on the bed, noting the thin mattress and thinner blanket and wonders at the need for a blanket at all in this oppressive humidity.  Perhaps they just do not change things out during the rainy season, when a blanket is probably needed at night.  Swinging her legs onto the bed, she reclines and considers the companions she has met so far.  Ling Tse Tau is a right bastard.  When they met, she could almost feel his eyes trying to see through her blouse and he had somehow managed to let a hand brush against her ass.  Something about him reminds her of someone else…………yes……….Gordon Pinkney.  Now, he had been a true example of evil incarnate and had well deserved his rather gruesome end.  Yao Lung easily fits the description of corporate minder for the young man and should be able to keep him in check.  She remembers the large from that trip to the Amazon a few years back.  He had impressed her then with his efficiency and drive to make even the most broken mission work.  Kang and the other two men were obvious muscle and fit the mold well.  Kang had already tried to get his hand on her but Yao Lung had set him in his place.  Al Guthrie, now, is a bit different from the normal fish she has worked with on similar jobs.  There was always a guide and they were always rough and without manners.  This man could be different.  He smells of booze and fags, but he seems nice enough and he knows how to pile on the charm.  Time will tell.

Sighing again, she chides herself for being lazy and gets to work.  She first sets Viktor, her commlink agent, to searching the internet for any public information on one Al Guthrie.  Next, she fires up her Sony CIY-720 and lets her mental fingers play across the cybered keys.  The agent on this device is Misha and, while just as effective as Viktor, he has much more firepower at his control.  Alyce sets him to tracking down all the matrix icons in the immediate area, starting with Al’s room next door.  Then, before dropping out of the meat world, she activates two miniature Fly-Spy drones, setting them on silent and instructing Ivan to keep watch over her room while sending Sasha through the crack under the door to keep watch in the hallway.  Satisfied that her boys are all doing their thing, she slips into full VR and jumps into the world of the matrix.  This is her real home and she feels powerful here.  Here she does not need artificial sensory enhancements to “see”.  Her virtual “ears” are assaulted by the noise inherent to the public grid, but she has come prepared with authorizations for her presence on the Phnom Penh local grid as well as the Cambodian national grid.  She blithely shows the virtual equivalent of a pass to a silent guardian and steps across the line to the relative quiet of the Phnom Penh grid. 

Her avatar smiles sweetly at the grid guardian and whisks away to the city center.  She is only interested in a tour of the city and its hosts on this trip.  Even in the midst of near anarchy, she finds a large number of hosts and stores advertising their wares.  An unsurprising number of them advertise sex for sale, almost one in every three hosts is a bordello of some sort, some slick and modern, but most are simply bare bones operations.  Virtual doormen wave to her, inviting her in to view women with enticing names such as “Sugar Delight” and “Hanging Fruit”.  She is actually tempted to just look in on one of the better looking brothels, but pulls herself away before entering.  She promises herself a real visit in the near future and takes several of the virtual brochures offered, filing them away in her cyber memory.

Eventually, her city tour complete, she considers hopping to the national grid for some exploration in the capital building, but decides against it, reminding herself that she is not ready to go that route just yet.  She mentally sighs and pulls herself back to her meat body, going first to AR then slipping completely back to the world of those that cannot experience the real life of the trix.  She checks her agents and smiles as she notes there is very little information on Al Guthrie, which is not surprising for someone she suspects of being SINless.  She almost misses the small note on the information and has to do a double take.  She murmurs to herself, “How interesting.  And why, Mister Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, is someone interested enough in you to implant a stealth tag?  Good work, Viktor.”  She switches to her other agent, asking Misha to relay all of the matrix icons in the near vicinity.  The space in the next room is completely barren of icons.  She turns her head in the direction of the next room and allows her radar to penetrate the thin walls, exposing the shape of a man approximately the height and size of Al in the act of what she concludes is either putting clothes on or taking them off.  Satisfied that the man is in the room, she turns the radar off and goes to her deck to scan for silent and stealthed icons, narrowing the search to the immediate vicinity. 

Her search comes back with several pings.  One on the person in the next room and one cleverly placed in the small fan ineffectually attempting to churn the dead air in her room and in each room near hers.  She carefully sleazes a mark first on the one in her room then the one in Al’s room, determining that they are cleverly disguised sensors, almost certainly containing cameras to record any activity that might be worthy of blackmail.  Although well designed and hidden, the devices are easily marked and can be destroyed………………….or perhaps even used in a more interesting role.  She will give that some thought.  But it is the other device that concerns her more.  After carefully sleazing a mark on the tag, she determines that it is apparently a simple stealth tag, but it carries a signature she is not familiar with.  This again raises the question of why someone would be interested in Mister Al Guthrie, and does it have anything to do with Ling Tse Tau or her current job?  This may take some finesse and thought.  She carefully pulls back from the tag and erases her mark, confident that she left nothing of herself on the device.  Staying on her back, she looks at the ceiling and considers her options.

« Last Edit: (23:47:27/12-29-15) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #7 on: (08:09:28/12-30-15) »
Zero-hot-thirty, January 9, 2068; Phonm Penh, Cambodia

Al closed the door chuckling. Felt like he’d just come from a cotillion or something, what with all that arm holding. That was one high maintenance piece of tail – he’d have to rethink his intentions if she was going to be that much trouble. Wanted to call him Alouicious. Holy moley. His ma had called him that, but only when he was in for a good talking-to. Folks had sometimes called him that at meeting. But that was different, of course. No, he’d set her to rights, keeping a straight face as he’d reassured her that just Al would do very nicely.

He looked around the room and congratulated himself again on how the voodoo gods were smiling on him. A cleaner place than he’d ever hoped to see again. Nice, fresh smell. Few spiderwebs, but that just cut down on the flies. He tried the trid and got three and half channels, left it on some local soap opera with the sound off. There was no toilet, but the sink would do just fine for most purposes, since he sure as hell wasn’t going to drink out of it.

The place was hot as hell with no air conditioner, but there was a fan. He plugged it in. It didn’t work. He popped the back off and quickly found the problem. Used long, tobacco-stained fingernails to fix it, shocking himself only once.

He lit a cigarette and sat down on the bed. The bed. He’d not slept in a bed for upwards of a year, and just the feel of it made him drowsy like an owl in the sunshine. He thought about what he needed to do. Thought a little more. He’d never led any sort of jungle trek before, not for pay anyway, but they didn’t need to know that. He knew what they expected of him, and he knew how he was going to do that, and no part of it would be this afternoon.

He thought of taking a shower. But he’d had one when he got to Pursat a few days ago. Sniffed himself. Good enough. Stripped off his clothes, wincing as his T-shirt ripped away a few new scabs. Rinsed his boxers out in the sink and hung them in front of the fan. They’d be dry by five-thirty, and if he needed to leave the room before then he could always go commando. Pulled out the jar of antibiotic salve he’d spent the last of his cash on before leaving the capital. Twisted his head around to see the mirror and rubbed some into anywhere on his back still oozing anything. Reaching where he needed to was no problem for him, but seeing over his shoulder was a trick. But nothing for it.

Laid down on his stomach. Paradise. And tonight would be a good night, flush with Yao’s up front money. Figuring the medic girl for the punctual type, he reminded himself to wake up at five-twenty-nine. Knew he would. And if he was late, he had no doubt she’d knock.
« Last Edit: (08:29:49/12-30-15) by adamu »

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #8 on: (10:26:05/12-30-15) »
Alyce shakes her head after coming up with nothing.  By all rights, she should report the tag to Yao Lung, but there could be a rational reason for it to be where it is, and nothing to do at all with the mission.  Besides, acting precipitously could do more harm than good.  Sighing, she gets up and leaves the room, making sure to take her backpack with her and to lock the door.  Laughing to herself, she wonders if the cheap lock would deter anyone, hence taking the bag.  She leaves Ivan and Sasha on duty and heads down the narrow hallway to the bathroom, where she stops at the door and pushes her senses to determine if it is occupied and is quite glad to find out it is vacant, but the odors coming from beyond the door are almost enough to convince her to try to hold it.  On reflection, she decides any of the bathrooms in the building are likely to have a similar problem. 

Alyce is glad that she can turn her senses mostly off and opens the door, walking into a dimly lit and filthy room.  One small bulb tries to illuminate the room and fails and she shakes her head and decides that is probably a good thing as something with four legs and a tail takes that moment to run across her foot.  Her scream is cut short by a hand over her mouth and she giggles.  **I should have caught that one.  Silly me**  Lowering her hand, she carefully stretches out her senses and the radar, determining that the one rat is all there were.  Closing the door behind her she reaches for the lock only to find there is none.  Again shaking her head, she goes to one of the three toilets and opens her bag, removing a roll of paper towels.  Almost three decades of traveling to foreign sprawls had taught her that it is always a good idea to bring your own paper towels and toilet paper. 

After cleaning off the toilet, which admittedly took a couple of sheets of paper, she drops her trousers and panties to her ankles and sits.  While on the toilet, she notes that there are two shower stalls, each with a plastic curtain, although both are barely hanging from the cross-rods and both have large gaps at the sides that look to be impossible to close off.  Alyce laughs; she will certainly avoid taking a shower unless it is really necessary.  She smiles as she considers the three packages of deodorant bars in her bag.  Finished, she quickly pulls her pants up, gathers her bag, and leaves the bathroom.  She checks her internal clock and sees that it is nearly 1800 and Al should be leaving his room soon.  She walks down to stand at her door and waits for the guide to appear.
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #9 on: (17:35:01/12-30-15) »
Al woke up precisely at five-twenty-nine.

Never failed.

But he was pretty darned comfortable. And he didn't want to seem eager to see her. And he was pretty damned comfortable.

She'd knock.

But now it was almost six. If she was being polite, then he was being rude, and that wasn't how he was brought up.

His boxers weren't actually as dry as he thought they'd be, so he left them hanging and pulled on his jeans. Then his socks and T-shirt. The evening was warm enough he didn't want to wear the jacket. But he couldn't leave it in the room. And he didn't want her to see the blood seeping through the shirt in back.

He stepped out and there she was, waiting. Damn.

He shrugged, embarrassed. "Well, like it says inna Good Book, better late than never. Ya hungry?"

Then he surprised himself and offered his arm.

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #10 on: (23:44:48/12-30-15) »
Alyce hears the movement in the room and smiles as Al exits into the hallway.  Her English is softly accented with something else....Russian perhaps, as she says, "Rather, yes, thank you.  And I doubt that we are all that late.  I would be willing to wager a fiver that they do not open on time."  She notes the movement and holds out an arm for him to take.  "Thank you, Al."

She reaches out with her senses as they walk to the stairs and then down, relying on his arm to guide her.  Going down steps can be tricky so she silently starts up the sonar implant to allow her a greater sense of depth.  As they exit the stairwell, she hears the mahJong tournament on the tri-vid.  Al follows the sign to the small dining room, while Alyce follows her nose.  As she has guessed, the place is nearly deserted and a slender rope indicates it is not open yet.  The wait is not long, however, and a young man comes to the remove the rope and tell them in poor English that they can sit anywhere.  Alyce leans over and whispers to Al that she would prefer a booth, if one is available, and he accommodates her desire.

Alyce slides into the booth to about the halfway point and places her bag on the seat to her left, leaving the right half of the curved seat for Al to decide how close to her he wants to sit.  The young man comes to the table and places two plastic menus down and tells them there is no ice.  Alyce turns to face the waiter and asks for scotch and looks to Al.  "For two?"

When the man leaves with the drink orders, Alyce places her hands on the table, but does not reach for a menu as she says, "I checked earlier and if they ever had an on-line menu, it has been taken down.  I think I smell Kuy Teav soup and I am sure they are serving Fish Amok.  Would you mind ordering both for me?  My Khmer is probably not as good as yours is."

« Last Edit: (01:11:39/12-31-15) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #11 on: (04:26:14/12-31-15) »
Al liked his space, and stayed near the end of the seat. Anyway, booths were bad places to be sitting if there was trouble, which seemed all too possible since he was now part of some secret mission to scoop up some ancient dingus from the jungle. Best to be able to get out quick if necessary.

He nodded at the suggestion of Scotch, and started paying attention to the woman. Besides having tits that made up for her ears, she was the group's sawbones, and it never hurt to have an in with the person doing the triage. She had a good nose, clearly. Some sort of foodie. But either too hoi polloi to sully her hands with the menu, or just well and truly gone over to the Dark Side of AR. He had no such compunctions, and picked up the menu. Scanned through the English side, because it was just faster, saw nothing he wanted, and motioned the waiter over.

Though obviously no native speaker, he was plainly comfortable with the language, chattering away with the young man. He bantered with the waiter as one might with a co-worker, not a customer-to-server tone. Once he'd established a bit of rapport, he nodded toward Alyce and ordered her food, then started explaining what he wanted. The waiter's expression went from confused, to surprised, to amused. And then he was gone.

Al turned to Alyce. "There, that's done. So, um, how long ya been in country? Had a chance ta see many o' the sights?"

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #12 on: (17:27:55/12-31-15) »
Alyce notes that Al likes his space by the distance he stays from her and smiles to herself as she adds that piece of information to the file that is Aloucious Harlan Guthriw.  She is glad that she has preloaded Kmer from Babel and can understand a good bit of what is said when Al begins chattering to the waiter.  Most of it is just good PR as Al tries to get in with the locals and shows an intellect and sense of purpose.  Even though she only catches a few words of each ten spoken, Alyce determines that there is little being said that should concern her, but she still slips a recording of the conversation into the file for a complete translation later.

When Al looks back to her, she gives him a pretty smile and says, "Thank you for ordering for me.  Your Kmer is indeed much better than mine.  The two of you were clipping right along and I was only able to get a few words."

She waver her hand at the window to the outside street and adds, "I have only arrived this morning, actually."  While she is talking, the waiter comes by and places the drinks on the table.  Alyce holds up a hand and moves it in a circle about the table.  "Another round, please?"  Turning back to Al, she takes a long slug of the scotch and puts it down with a satisfied look on her face before she continues.  "Mmmm.  I had not actually expected that the scotch would be as good as it is.  And where was I?  Oh yes, arriving here.  As I said, I only arrived this morning and was left sitting on that bloody crate in that bloody hot warehouse until you arrived.  So no, I have not seen any of the sights yet. "  She turns her large dark glasses directly to Al as she asks, "Are you offering your services as a guide?"
« Last Edit: (23:02:22/12-31-15) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>

adamu

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 2614
« Reply #13 on: (22:34:12/12-31-15) »
"Heh heh. Honey, my services as a guide been bought an' paid for fer the next month. An' fer a pretty penny, at that. 'Sides, ol' Al's outta here afore sun up. Yer boy wants me ta round up some bearers, he's crazy if'n he thinks anyone he can find here inna capital gon' be worth a damn in virgin forest at two-thousand meters. Ya want mountain rats, I can find some up Andoung Tuek way. I'll buy some basics from some folks I know here in town tonight. His dime, o' course. Then catch the dawn bus up National 48. He can truck the rest up ta meet me, though he's gon' need another reality check if'n he thinks he's gettin' a tenth o' what was in that warehouse up to where the Kravanh Pear villages are."

Her soup and their second round of Scotch arrived, and the waiter apologized about something, but Al waved him off with a reassuring smile and a thumb's up.

He raised his tumbler to her and said, "So here's ta workin' together. But answer me this - I know why they can't be choosy 'bout the color o' my skin. I reckon, though, that they got docs an' comm specialists 'mongst they own ranks back ta HK. Why the extra longnose? You that good at what ya do?"

Mercy Merchant

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 6427
« Reply #14 on: (23:35:18/12-31-15) »
Alyce nods as Al explains what it is he is going to do starting in the early morning.  Ignoring the jab about "yer boy", she says "So you will be waiting at Andoung Tuek?  I gather that we are still waiting for some missionaries to arrive from Hong Kong.  Yao Lung said they might not be in-country for another three days.  And I will most certainly let Ling Tse Tau figure out for himself that he has too much stuff.  I am a bit surprised that Yao Lung has not done so already."

She raises her own tumbler and sips from it, enjoying the silken gold as it coats her throat on the way down, the burning of its fire a welcome feeling.  She considers his question and responds, "Are you asking about my CV, Al?"  She shrugs her pretty shoulders and nods.  " It is a fair question and deserves a fair answer.  I really am very, very good at what I do.  And I have lots of practice doing it in just this sort of place.  I have never been to Cambodia before, but I am no stranger to the back jungles of Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar,  I have also worked expeditions in the Amazon, Central America, and Africa.  Also, I have worked before with Yao Lung.  We were on opposite teams looking for the same thing a few years back and things went south for both groups.  I won't get into the gory details, but circumstances forced the survivors of the teams to band together.  They had lost their medic and comms guys and we our team leaders.  Together, we survived and made it back out of the jungle.  We worked well together.  I respect him."  Alyce takes another sip, finishing the first glass.  She laughs as she sets it upside down on the table.  "One dead soldier.  Anyway, it could just be coincidence and I was all that was available at the time.  I did not ask."

Alyce smiles and falls silent as she digs into the soup and the entrée when it arrives.  She chuckles when a steak and something that approximates mashed potatoes arrives for Al.  "A steak and potatoes guy, eh?  Rare, well done, or in between?"
« Last Edit: (00:57:56/01-01-16) by Mercy Merchant »
"Speech"  *Thought*  <Matrix>