NEWS

[5E IC] The Further Adventures of James and Illeana

  • 201 Replies
  • 21372 Views

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #180 on: <01-18-17/0132:51> »
Chapter IV

12:04 PM Tuesday, October 15th, 2075 - Grand Hotel Europa, Václavské nám 25, Prague

James and Illeana are packing up, preparing to check out of the Grand Hotel Europa after a month of travel and study. Illeana has several bags filled with tomes on loan from Schwartzkopf, whose library is hardly diminished by the loss of three or four dozen texts.

Edsger knocks and enters when bidden. As always, he is in his white robes with the cowl over his head.

"I see you are preparing to, ah, leave us," he says, before looking at Illeana and adding, "... again."

"Yes, we are returning to the UCAS so that I can participate in the Embloc ritual at Salem," Illeana explains. Edsger nods understandingly.

"I have a, ah, request," he says with an apologetic tone. "... from Schwartzkopf." His body language suggests that the request may be less-than-optional. Illeana and James exchange a look, then stop their packing to sit and listen.

"We have a, ah, student missing," Edsger begins. "Or, more accurately, not yet returned for the new academic year."

James knows that Schwartzkopf began his regular teaching duties two weeks ago, with Illeana even acting as a T.A. for workshops. (The male students were particularly attentive.)

"That doesn't sound unusual," Illeana says. "Not every student returns. Life intervenes."

"You are correct, of course," Edsger admits, taking a seat in a leather armchair, "but in this case, the student is, ah, a particular favorite of Schwartzkopf."

"Why do you need us?" Illeana asks. "Certainly you have other resources at your disposal."

Edsger laughs, almost nervously, rocking gently in his seat. "Again, you are correct," he allows with a wag of his forefinger. "However, if I might offer a compliment, resources of your, ah, competence are less common. Plus, you other advantages."

"Such as?"
James asks.

"Your anonymity, for starters," Edsger answers. "There are organizations that have complete, ah, dossiers on each member of the Benandanti. You, on the other hand, are an unknown element."

"But everyone knows that we're associated with Schwartzkopf," Illeana interjects. "Ever since the dinner in the plaza during Oktoberfest."

(At the mention of Oktoberfest, James feels a strong burning in his throat. He turns to his noon beer - a strong Czech dark beer - and drinks deeply, feeling satisfied when the mug is drained.)

"Correct again!" Edsger says. "Three for three. Your association for Schwartzkopf is also important. It must be known that you come on his behalf, and represent his interests."

"What can you tell us about the student?" James asks.

Edsger looks pleased at the invitation to go into details. "Her name is Marie Senio. She is a doctoral candidate, and very accomplished in her coursework. It is unusual that she would not return after becoming so, ah, close to completion of her studies. She is very, ah, competent, perhaps not to the degree of yourselves but certainly in her own way."

He transmits a file which contains a profile of Miss Senio. She is a beautiful Czech woman who might be taken for an elf if she did not already look to be in her late 20s, an appearance many elves fail to "reach".

"So you don't think that she's come to harm?" Illeana asks.

"No, no," Edsger says, shaking his head too vigorously to be convincing, as if the thought were too unpleasant to imagine. "That would be most, ah, unthinkable." Edsger swallows hard, having been forced to consider the possibility during the course of answering the question.

He taps his cyberdeck. "My own research has followed a trail leading to Frankfurt." He looks to Illeana. "Do you remember it?"

She shakes her head. "You better remind me."

"The town is headquarters to both AG Chemie Europa and Frankfurter Bankenverein, both AA-rated. The latter is part of your, ah, retirement portfolio, hmm?"

Illeana cocks an eyebrow at him, but doesn't say anything.

"Nearly all real estate in the Frankfurt and the surrounding area belongs to either AGC, the FBV, or one of their subsidiaries. You will find the security there is very capable. Physical, Astral, and Matrix security are all comparable to what you would find at any of the megacorporations.

"Frankfurt is also home to the Doctor Faustus Society. a powerful hermetic order that receives significant support from AG Chemie. The Society is always recruiting from universities and ours is no different. However, Society is what you might refer to as an, ah, old boys' club. They only allow female members under the most, ah, exceptional circumstances."

"And you believe that might have happened here?"
Illeana asks.

Edsger nods. "It is possible, yes. For example, the Society arose at Heidelberger University, which is not far from Frankfurt. The dean of the university, Prof. Dr. Horatius von Neurath is a Faustian. Schwartzkopf would take it as a personal, ah, favor to him if you were to return Miss Senio to us." Edsger looks at you from under the cowl. His perturbed mood and unexplained mannerisms suggest that this is a matter of importance, perhaps one that he is being held accountable for.

"To that end, I have been instructed to provide you with the, uh, tools you feel you might need for the job. If you could provide me with an itemized list, I will do my best to procure what I can in the next 24 hours. Or, if you should, ah, source your own materiel, you only need to supply me the receipt for reimbursement." He smiles weakly, either because its a joke or because he knows how unlikely a receipt would be from many sources.

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #181 on: <01-18-17/1826:37> »
James pulls an AR window up in his field of vision to examine Miss Senio's file.  He could easily send mental commands to switch between tabs and scroll as he skims, but James prefers to "touch" his windows and so he runs through the documents with quick flicks of his index and middle finger.  Stellar grades, of course, a semester abroad at MIT&T as an undergraduate, most certainly under Schwartzkopf's direction, a hermetic, which matched the Dr. Faustus story, and quite a picture they put with her.  Blonde, high cheekbones, good symmetry.  This would warrant a closer inspection, and James dismisses the file as Edsger finishes with an offer for gear.

"I don't mean to be indelicate," James begins, but you're going to need to speak to me plainly, as though you were speaking to a soldier.  Which you are.  Are we to serve as representatives for Schwartzkopf and negotiate for her return, or is this an extraction?  If the latter, am I correct in assuming that Miss Senio may be an unwilling participant?  If the former, what recompense do we have for trade?"

Dealing with the Dr. Faustus society would be tricky, and if Edsger is expecting this from Illeana and himself, James reasons there is more to the work than is being said on the surface.  No surprise there, coming from a dragon.  Sending a wiccan and a mundane super soldier wold command a certain disdain coming from the great dragon, or was this James' own biases working against him.  It's not that Ares didn't have the whiff of elitism, especially at the higher levels, but the corporate line was always one of rising together, of lowly drone tech and scientist, unskilled laborer and academic working hand in hand for the glory of the corp.  The aristocratic values of Dr. Faustus fell flat on his programming, not only old-fashioned and old-world, but obsolete and unnecessarily snobbish.  Unamerican, if there is still such a thing.

"As for gear, I'll need a SIN.  Illeana will too, depending on exactly what our cover is.  I'll need a rifle, preferably an Alpha, complete with suppressor, shock pad, and personalized grip, if you can manage one on short notice.  APDS and stick-and-shock.  A Crusader II, ditto the suppressor and personalized grip.  APDS and narco-jet with DMSO.  Depending on the infil and exfil locations I may need a holdout.  Probably too much to ask for a Redline?" James says with a smile.  "I'm rather partial.  Barring that I like the Light Fire, 75,not 70.  I like the heft of the .40 cal and they did a better job with the twist rate." 

Seeing Edsger's eye begin to glaze over as he tries to keep up, James waves his hand and says, "I'll get you a list.  And I'm sure this goes without saying, but please make sure none of our gear is tagged.  If nothing else, we may need to leave something in the field, and beyond that I don't need any extra wireless signals that may compromise our position."
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #182 on: <01-18-17/2002:37> »
"We'll need licenses too," Illeana points out. "And armor. And a car. I need reagents, and some knives."

Edsger nods through the complete list until he gets to the Redline. He pauses, then says, "We'll see" with an unconvincing tone.

"On short notice, the SINs will get you through, uh, polite society, but best not to put too much weight on it, hmm?" he adds, standing to begin his preparations.

"As to your other questions:
- You are representatives of Schwartzkopf's and should demand respect as such.
- We do not know if this is a negotiation or a recovery or an extraction. You will need to evaluate the situation and determine the appropriate course of action.
- We do not expect Miss Senio to be an unwilling participant, but our expectations are obviously outdated as we expected her to return two weeks ago.
- Unless the situation is dire, we see no need to negotiate with hostile parties. Great dragons do not brook theft, nor disrespect. Any legal, uh, inconveniences you might incur will be dealt with swiftly and decisively, I assure you.

"No other great dragon has dominion in Frankfurt. Both AG Chemie and FBV are competitors of Saeder-Krupp, so there is no love for Lofwyr there. And, as you know, Nachtmeister was killed in 2062. As such, you should act with free rein."


Edsger walks to the door before turning at the last moment. "Do not take Miss Senio's appearance too, uh, literally, hmm?" He gives a meaningful glance at Illeana, then departs. The heavy hotel door shuts behind him.

"He means magic," Illeana surmises. "I don't look the same as I did, so Marie might not either. I suppose that means I'll need to see through any masking spells."

She leans over on the bed, thinking. "I wonder if Schwartzkopf has any weapon foci available. I miss my sword."

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #183 on: <01-19-17/0131:05> »
11:04 AM Wednesday, October 16th, 2075 - Grand Hotel Europa, Václavské nám 25, Prague

Edsger has returned with purchases. He ushers Illeana and James down to a quiet corner of the parking garage.

"BMW X89, black," he says, opening the trunk of the luxury sedan. "In Schwartzkopf's name, please return it."

He points to a variety of boxes and packages in the trunk.

"Ares Alpha, Crusader, and Light Fire 75, all as requested.

"A Berwick suit for the gentleman and a Berwick dress for the lady. Frankfurt is a conservative town, in that it is the financial capital of the Allied German States. These will me more appropriate than Armanté or Vashon Island."

Illeana frowns. It's clear she was hoping for something other than Mortimer of London.

"Non-conductivity treatments for each. Medkit with appropriate slap patches. 100 drams of reagents. New identities and licenses, as appropriate."

Illeana examines hers. "Lara Senio! I always wanted to be a Lara."

"I thought that you might be able to pass for her sister, should it be an advantage,"
Edsger says.

"What about knives?" Illeana asks.

Edsger smiles widely, having saved the best for last. He reaches into the trunk and removes a handsome walnut burl box almost a meter wide that looks like a giant jewelry box. He opens it slowly, savoring Illeana's reaction.

"Ah!" she exclaims, looking like a young girl who got a pony for Christmas.

James looks inside the box. In addition to a dozen throwing knives, there are three beautiful knives and daggers. From Illeana's reaction, he is guessing they are weapon foci. She reaches in and grabs a large kukri.

"The knife of a Gurka," Edsger explains. Illeana waves it around, judging the balance.

"I love the weight and the feel of it," she says. "It feels so substantial. But it must be, what, 42cm long?"

"44," Edsger gently corrects.

"Difficult to conceal," Illeana says, "especially in a dress." She puts it back reluctantly. She takes out a second knife, which appears to have been formed out of a blue crystal.

"A sapphire knife," Edsger says. "Impossible to detect but equally difficult to enchant. It is the least magical of the three, and may shatter under duress."

Illeana nods and returns it to the box before grabbing the final knife. She inhales deeply, her eyes wide.

"A parrying dagger from the early 17th century," Edsger says, smiling knowingly. "I suspected that you would be drawn to it."

"I adore it," Illeana says breathlessly, turning it over in her hand and examining the elaborate dagger guard.

"That's because you enchanted it yourself," Edsger says with a note of triumph. "As part of your thesis."

"Really?" Illeana asks, clutching it to her chest, her eyes full of wonder.

"I daresay, should you return Miss Senio to us, that Schwartzkopf will let you keep it this time."

Illeana nods diligently, sheathing the dagger in its scabbard before turning to James with a look of joy. "Let's bring her home!" she exclaims, ready to begin the 5 hour drive to Frankfurt right then and there.

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #184 on: <01-20-17/1213:43> »
"I've had less luck with your, ah, very particular preferences," Edsger says somewhat apologetically to James.  "We were able to find a very nice spelunking model ballistic mask, which has the Ultrasound and motion sensors you asked for.  Unfortunately, auditory enhancement and sound filters are not particularly prized by that demographic.  It does include low-light vision, though," Edsger adds hopefully.

James examines the matte black ballistic mask, and nods. It'll do. 

"Now, about the globetrotter jacket," Edsger continues with a frown, pulling one up from the bowels of the trunk.  "I wouldn't recommend wearing this on the streets of Frankfurt.  You never know who --"

"I'm aware,"
James replies, taking the coat and turning it over in his hands.

"Hmm, yes, well, should your travels take you into the woods on your way to grandmother's house. . . Your customizations there were also difficult to accommodate."

"I see this one has the non-con liner,"
James says.  "No auto-injector?"

"I'm afraid not."

"No matter."


James thanks Edsger for his work, and shakes the man's hand before adding, "Please tell Schwartzkopf that we'll do everything in our power to bring back Miss Senio, and this beautiful automobile back in one piece."

James pilots the X89 west, leaving the Universitas Carolina Pragensis behind them, its towers lit up in the morning sun.  In Pilsen James stops for a mid-morning liter of the town's namesake, satisfies his nanites, and continues west toward the German Allied States' border.

"It's a beautiful piece," James says.

Illeana stops rolling the parrying dagger around in her hands a little self-consciously and blushes. 

"May I?" James asks, putting the car on auto-pilot.  He checks the balance of the dagger, mimics a parry six with his left hand and nods before handing it back to her.  "Beautiful," he murmurs again and feels the pang of knowing that Illeana can sense its beauty even more acutely than himself.

"The down-turned quillons were effective at catching and deflecting an opponent's rapier, while the long, slender, and relatively inflexible blade made it superior for delivering a killing blow at grappling ranges," Illeana says, entering professorial mode.

"This is a German, or perhaps a Czech design," she adds.  "Italian and French blades were typically of the main gauche style, including a longer blade and knuckle guard.  Northern European examples, Saxon blades for instance, usually had smaller cross guards and a side ring hilt."

"I think you'd better put it away,"
James cuts in.

"Hmm?"

"We're approaching the border."
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #185 on: <01-20-17/1803:59> »
"Remember the cover story we rehearsed," James says as he slows down for the border.

Illeana tucks the dagger into the glove compartment, figuring that any investigation of the vehicle will include the trunk, which contains contraband far more concerning than a small dagger.

James rolls up to the border checkpoint, which is manned by two dour-looking men: one ork and one human. James scans them. Armor jackets, tasers, heavy pistol in the holster, SMGs - HK-227s from the looks of it - within easy reach.

"Papiere, bitte," the ork says sourly. A rotodrone of some sort circles the vehicle. James notices that the car is within the cone of fire of two turrets. LMGs, at least, he thinks. Maybe MMGs. Possible AV rounds.

"Bitte schön," Illeana responds with a winning smile. The man freezes for a moment at the sight of her.

The crossing is a non-event. Maybe Edsger is on Matrix overwatch and smoothed the way. Maybe border guards don't want to mess with people driving around in a car registered to a great dragon. Or maybe the men decided that it would be far better to allow a woman of Illeana's beauty into the country rather than keep her out. The questions are cursory; as they drive away, Illeana looks disappointed not to have used more of her German.

"I'm sure you'll have more of an opportunity now that we're in, you know, Germany," James prods her.

She mutters something in German that he doesn't understand. The drive resumes.

"Where should we begin?" Illeana ask. "Senio's profile suggests that all she needed to finish her Ph.D was to complete her dissertation. She could write that anywhere, but was expected back because she had T.A. duties. I wonder if she was who I was filling in for."

Suddenly, she grabs James' arm rather roughly.

"I just had a thought. You don't think she has nanites, do you?" she asks with a tone that could be considered insulting to someone who actually has nanites. "Oktoberfest, brewery tours? Wandering off unexpectedly? Maybe that's one of the reasons they wanted to send us, or you anyway. It takes a thief to catch a thief, and all that. What do you think?"

James wonders if she's asking him or asking his nanites. (The nanites think that brewery tours sound awesome and, if Illeana's theory holds, the best way to look for Senio would be to go on a pub crawl.)

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #186 on: <01-26-17/1243:24> »
"Ya know, you don't have to be infected with nanites to enjoy a beer," James says a little too defensively.  "Maybe you'd understand that if. . ." He trails off for a moment, before adding, "I'm sorry; I don't know where that came from.  It's a good idea.  If she does have nanites, they're going to be begging her to get out early, so a morning to noon trip through the biergartens is probably our best bet.  We can grab a hotel room now, and start crawling pubs as soon as we're settled, spread a few holos around.

"If that comes up empty, I was thinking we may be able to make inroads on the Dr. Faustus society by checking out some of the fencing salles, the old-world aristocratic ones.  If Faustus is in the corps here, and the schools, there are probably a few Corporations left that would have Faustus members.  I say we start with the beer angle, and check out the salles tomorrow afternoon if we're coming up empty-handed.  Scan?"


James drives to a mid-range hotel, one where the BMW will not look too out of place, nor one where the SIN check is likely to be particularly robust.  Illeana handles the details, while James loads their baggage onto a cart, and wheels it up to their room.  A part of him expects an Ares extraction team to burst into the lobby and start spraying stick-and-shock everywhere, but for now at least, he is left to his own devices.  He can only hope that Schwartzkopf's display holds.

After downing a quick protein bar, James say, "How about this Gerbermühle place?  It's not too far, and it's known for its 'gothic' style according to SprawlTips.  Hey, you don't look so good.  Everything ok?"

Illeana dismisses him with a wave of her hand, but James is unconvinced.

"When was the last time you ate?"

"This morning,"
she says.  "You saw me while--"

"No, I mean, really ate?"
he asks.
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #187 on: <01-27-17/0153:27> »
7:04 PM Wednesday, October 16th, 2075 - Gerbermühle, Frankfurt

Illeana demurs when James euphemistically asks her about the last time she ripped the soul out of another metahuman. "I topped up before Baltimore," she says, "but the fight getting out of Detroit took a lot out of me. Don't worry about me; I could go for the rest of the year without feeding. Right now our we're on a tight schedule so let's find Senio and we can worry about it after. I don't want to just jump someone at random."

James knows that Illeana is the helpful sort, both inherently and as demanded by Hecate. The fact that her magic depends on occasionally robbing the life force of someone who doesn't want to part with it is a cruel paradox.

It's dinnertime and James is hungry. Conveniently, there is a biergarten just outside. Before leaving, Illeana tweaks her looks so that she could pass for Marie's darker-haired sister. The couple bundles up for the crisp autumn air and heads outside, where they are seated.

"Ich suche meine Schwester. Hast du sie gesehen?" Illeana asks the waitress, using Czech-accented German. She shares an ARO of Marie but the waitress shakes her head 'no' apologetically.

"It's funny," she says under her breath when the waitress leaves after taking the order. "I wonder if this is what it was like when I was looking for you in Aspen."

"Oh?" James asks. "Are you going to fall in love with Marie too?"

Illeana flicks a coaster at him. The waitress comes back with drinks: Apfelwein for Illeana (to better blend in) and Zwickelbier for James. Illeana doesn't drink and relies on James to dutifully drain her glass at socially-acceptable intervals, which he does with pleasure.

"Marie seems to be laying low," Illeana says as they go over the dossier. "Staying in hostels instead of hotels. Paying with certified credsticks, from the looks of things."

"Less security in hostels," James points out. "Fewer cameras, electronic records."

"Or maybe it's just cheaper," Illeana says. "I don't know if she gets a stipend from Schwartzkopf but most doctoral candidates are living on ramen and yesterday's soykaf. Which is funny because she'll be pulling six figures, easy, once she hits the labor market."

"I've been thinking about the academic angle," James says. "Academic fencing is popular at universities and seems like the sort of thing that the old boys of the Doctor Faustus Society would appreciate. There are multiple fencing salles this weekend, both in Frankfurt and in Heidelberg."

"Sounds promising," Illeana agrees. "Do you need my parrying dagger?" She smiles mischeiviously and uses the dagger to expertly carve the Brathendl that comes to the table for James' dinner, golden and aromatic.


Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #188 on: <01-27-17/1556:23> »
James finishes his chicken and both drinks, then he and Illeana discretely circulate around the biergarten to ask about Marie. There are no looks of recognition or any other clues to pounce on so they decide to move along.

"Let's try this place," James says, throwing an ARO of a beer hall called Heilige Arnold to Illeana. "It was raining last weekend so the outdoor biergartens would have been closed. Plus, there's a vaguely concentric circle that she seems to be appearing in around the city, perhaps unconsciously moving around in what she thinks is a random radius from wherever she's staying. This place would be on that ring."

Once there, they find a highly traditional beer hall: cavernous ceilings, exposed wooden beams, chandeliers with flickering candles, crackling fireplaces, waitresses in the traditional German cleavage-friendly attire, the whole works.

"Prices are even in Deutsche Marks," Illeana notes. "About two to the nuyen at current exchange rates. I wonder if that's a business decision or part of the traditional atmosphere that they're promoting."

"Let's think this through," James says. "Let's say she was here on the weekend. Who else comes to beer halls on the weekend? Men and women looking for companionship. Marie is certainly attractive, so let's find someone in her demographic that might have been checking her out."

Illeana nods, impressed at the logic. She scans the giant room then juts her chin toward two humans, both serious bodybuilders from the looks of them. Either of them looks like more than a match for an ork, and maybe even a small troll. One has black hair and an olive complexion and the other is ashe blonde with a tan that's fading from the summer. They are both handsome in that youthful "I'm in peak physical condition and in the prime of my life" kind of way, but the ashe blonde has a particular confidence and winning smile.

<<@Illeana [James] They're huge! Ware?>>

<<@James [Illeana]  Biomuscles in the guy with black hair. Blonde chummer looks ... all natural! Well, he has tailored pheromones like yourself, but the muscles are from Mom and God. I can't tell if he's on Ripper, but looks like the body is the product of sweat and tears. He's got a libido to match, given his testosterone levels. Looks like a good candidate.>>


As they approach, they see the men talking and laugh and eating like bodybuilders: roast chickens, huge plates of sausages, and large steins to wash it all down.

"Entschuldigen Sie..." Illeana says to interrupt their conversation. The men turn to her and smile widely. They don't look surprised that they've been approached by such a beautiful woman. Perhaps it happens to them all the time.

"Bitte setzen," the blonde says to Illeana, gesturing to the bench next to him, barely acknowledging James' existence.

Illeana demurs on taking a seat. "Ich suche meine Schwester," she says, sharing an ARO of Marie. "Hast du sie gesehen?"

The men exchange a look, then nod in the affirmative. Illeana accepts the spot at the bench. There's a rapid back and forth, which Illeana summarizes in English for James. "They're saying they saw her, but not tonight. She was here over the weekend, just like you guessed."

"I speak some English," the blonde says when he hears Illeana speaking English. His accent (the non-German one) that suggests he learned it in England. "Your sister was here on Saturday. She is very attractive, like you, ja? It is easy to see the resemblance."

Illeana tries to accept the compliment gracefully. "She is missing and we are concerned. Anything you could tell us would be helpful."

The man gives a rakish smile, then weaves his head back and forth in that way that means, Oh I don't know. "My memory's a bit fuzzy," he says. "We were drinking a lot that night, ja?"

"Looks like you have quite a feast here," James notes. "Perfect way to recover from a heavy lifting session. Why don't we take care of the bill for you?"

The blonde purses his lips and nods thoughtfully after considering the proposal. He sends to tab for DM 200 to James. "Ja, I remember a little better now.

"Your sister was in here by herself. Unusual for such a beautiful woman, no? No friends or men or anything. She seemed to be looking for someone. 'Perhaps for me!' I thought, so we introduced ourselves, my friend and I. She was not very warm, your sister. Rather icy."
The black haired man nods in agreement, and is evidently able to follow the conversation.

"She said she was waiting for someone. A little man appeared next to her, said she was with him." He holds his hand out palm down to indicate a man of small stature. "In German we would say 'leseratte' or 'bücherwurm'. Not very handsome, ja? Nowhere near her league, unless he is handsome in other ways, ja?" He rubs his thumb and fingers together in the universal sign for money.

"But he was not afraid, no? Not intimidated in the least, by her or by us." The blonde shrugs. "Could be corporate, could be too stumm to know better. She left with him. Not arm-in-arm, no. Rather stiffly, arms crossed." He demonstrates, jutting his lower lip out in an exaggerated fashion to mimic a sour expression.

The blonde stops and opens his hands to indicate the end of the story. "And then she was gone, ja? And here we remained, rejected and alone." He and his friend laugh, seemingly amused at the memory of the one who escaped their manly charms.

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #189 on: <01-30-17/1751:32> »
If a new actor is to enter the arena, at least we have seen his entry, James reasons before breaking in.  "Uh, short man.  Human?" he asks pointing to himself and gesturing to the group, "or dwarf?"

When the blond man stops talking and opens his hands, James and Illeana thank them both "for all your help," and leave the biergarten.

"So, extraction then?" James asks once they're back on the street.

"I'm not so sure," Illeana answers.  "She did tell the übermenschen she was waiting for someone."

"So, she meets the ugly hoop out in public, and then goes off with him almost immediately.  At the least this was not a preliminary meeting."

"So, no negotiations,"
Illeana finishes.  "What was the point of meeting in public then?"

"Exactly,"
James says.  He opens the door to the X89 for Illeana and walks around to the driver's side, inputting a destination on the car's autopilot through his commlink.  "If my theory about her radius holds, she won't be back here.  Just the meeting burns this as a location.  If we're lucky, she may well be still walking the streets, and we can catch her at another one.  If we're not lucky, her movements will be dictated more by this outside actor than by her own security protocols."

"You mean Dr. Faustus."

"Probably.  I've got three hostels that fall in our likely perimeter.  Let's hit those up first, see what that nets us.  After that I'll probably be up for a nightcap, but we should call it there until tomorrow."

"I don't know,"
Illeana says, as the X89 finds its pace with the Frankfurt traffic.  "If we come up empty tonight, I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep unless I get some good exercie."

"A little cardio,"
James asks.

"Maybe some heavy lifting too," she smiles.
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #190 on: <01-31-17/0206:29> »
James and Illeana have luck at the hostels. It seems Senio has been to two of them, but never more than a night at a time.

First they speak with Ewald, from the United Netherlands. "Ja, is true," he says in English, dragging on some exotic European brand of cigarette that Illeana charmingly lights with the tip of her finger. "She was here, Thursday or Friday. She came, she did not talk, she slept, she left. No, there was no small man as you describe."

Then, there is Anders, a very blonde Swede from Stockholm, dressed stylishly in a corduroy blazer and motorcycle boots. Illeana charms him with compliments about his clothes, which are all of his own design. "Ja," he says, and James begins to wonder if the Europeans have any other word for 'yes' other than 'ja'. "She was here. She came with the skinny man, got her bag, then left with the skinny man, just as you describe. Not a pleasant fellow, and she didn't seem happy to go with him. He said things that were not nice about the Green Tortoise here. It is not bad, is it?"

The hostel appears serviceable, if simple. Anders is sharing a room with five other men, some of whom are taking an interest in Illeana.

"Did you hear where they were going?" James asks. "We're concerned about her safety."

Anders nods, sipping from his brännvin. "The little man, he said, 'I will take you to Solomon. It is safe there.' She seemed skeptical, but she took all her things and went. Nice car. Porsche Aguilar. He made her carry her own bags though."

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #191 on: <01-31-17/2252:55> »
"Bienenstock?" James asks putting the BMW in park.

"It means 'beehive,'" Illeana answers, pointing to the sign, a funky but fairly stiff-looking bee sitting cross-legged astride his home smoking a cigarette.

"Alright, let me look at you.  Soft eyes.  Good.  Let's see what we can get,"

Inside the hostel Anders is helpful and friendly, and when he says, "The little man, he said, 'I will take you to Solomon. It is safe there.' She seemed skeptical, but she took all her things and went. Nice car. Porsche Aguilar. He made her carry her own bags though," Illeana takes her cue.  It's a combination of small changes: turning away from Anders slightly, the sinking of the shoulders, bending her head to James and exposing the pale lines of her neck.  James knows this pose from somewhere buried under some synapse of some long-forgotten class on counter-intelligence.  Appear weak, demure, in need of rescue, and the men will come running.

Somehow James thinks that Illeana came to it more honestly.  Perfect predator, that one.

"The skinny man," James says.  "Not what you'd call handsome, yes?  Hair about,"

"Ja, ja, to there, that's right,"
Anders replies, and gives Illeana a concerned look while James puts a protective arm around her shoulder.  "Is something the matter?"

"He's . . . not unknown to us, if it is him.  She came and stayed with us for awhile the last time he, you know,"
James says uncomfortably.

"Arthur!" Illeana says reproachfully.

The door opens behind them, and Anders jumps up to greet the middle aged dwarf woman entering with an industrial size tub of laundry detergent.  He says something to her in German that James doesn't pick up on, but in a few moments James is taking the detergent to the back room while Roberta, he thinks it's Roberta anyway, pulls up the security footage for Illeana.  A scan of James' commlink later, and they've got their picture.  The resolution could be better, but it's a clean frontal shot. 

This guy's never had to hide from a camera in his life.

Back in the car James sits down satisfied.  "Ja, ja, ja," he says with an incredulous laugh.  "What is with these people and their constant affirmations.  I see ending a sentence in 'no.'  It's much more sulty, no?  French and Spanish, now those are languages,"

"Slot,"
Illeana says with a roll of her eyes.  "Just because you haven't figured it out yet."

"Ich habe ja so viel gehört, dass ich Deutsch kaufen könnte eins,"
James forces out and Illeana laughs.

"You just said, 'I've heard yes so many times I could buy German one.'  Er, more or less anyway." Illeana says.  "What were you trying to say?"

"I don't even want to say."


#

Back at the hotel, James orders a very spartan dinner, and pops the still photo into a facial recognition database.  "Ok, scan this," James says, while he plugs the newfound name into a general matrix search.  "The skinny man is Heinz-Christian the Baron Krauss von Espy.  Faustus, so no surprise there.  What's this, looks like he's a legacy member.  His father, Roland-Heinze, was inducted in the summer of '54."

"Employer?"
Illeana asks.

"Not sure.  Maybe AG Chem, maybe he's employed directly by the society, a talent scout, so to speak."  He sends some passages that are translating poorly to Illeana, and she fills in some of the gaps.

"So, what about this 'Solomon' angle?" James asks.  "Probably a biblical thing, or loosely so, right?  Let's see, Solomon was known for his wisdom and discernment.  Maybe this is a place where prospects are judged?"

"That doesn't really fit with the safety promise,"
Illeana reasons, trying a different approach with her own searches.

"He was also the builder of the first temple in Jerusalem.  I think the old masons held him in high regard for that.  Maybe--"

"Hold on,"
Illeana breaks in.  "It's not 'Solomon,' it's 'Salomen.'  A Faustus Society club.  Well, the Faustus Society club.  You can't join another once you're in."

Once he has the right name, James spends the next few hours pouring over gossip, conjecture, and Salomen's own public access page.  Eventually, he closes the windows and looks about the hotel room in a daze.  Pinching the bridge of his nose he says, "I think I'm tapped out.  What do you think?"

"We're not sure Marie is there presently.  We could try a sneak-and-peak, or see if we can corner the Baron Kraus von Epsy, have him take us to her."

"It shows they have fencing.  Maybe tomorrow I hit up one of the local salles, say this Tauberbischofsheim place, and see if I can't make an impression.  I'll express an interest in Mensur, that's fencing where the participants use sharpened swords and try to cut the unarmored face of their opponent.  It's an old world tradition, very aristocratic, borderline illegal.  Should be perfect for Faustus.  Maybe I can charm our way into an invitation."

"Sounds doubtful,"
Illeana says with a shrug. 

"It's thin, but it'd be the best way inside.  We'd be supposed to be there.  If it comes of nothing, we'll look into the Baron.  In fact, why don't you see if you can put a bead on his location tomorrow while I'm out.

"Another thing.  If I was to enter the salle with your parrying dagger, I'd appear mundane, but the dagger wouldn't.  Would obviously not be mine?  I mean, do you have some essence thing going on with it?"


In the morning, James eats a light breakfast, but hydrates himself along with a half-liter of Oktoberfest, calming the nanites.  He strides confidently up the steps to the Tauberbischofsheim fencing club, with his bag of gear over his shoulder, and smiles at the receptionist inside.  "Do you speak English," he says.  She nods curtly, and James continues, "I'm Arthur VanBrandt of London.  I see open fencing begins at 11:00, may I purchase a guest pass please?"
« Last Edit: <02-01-17/1203:32> by rednblack »
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #192 on: <02-03-17/1203:40> »
James strolls through the main fencing area on his way to the locker rooms.  It's a bit busier than James would've guessed for the day and time, and he wonders if places like this are the German equivalent of golf courses on his continent, a place where business gets done under the guise of relaxation and play.  The look of the locker room reinforces the idea.  Real wood, he notes, passing by purchased lockers that have brass plates with names and titles toward the back where the daily renters stand.  Out of habit, he plucks a single hair as he scratches his ear, and then tucks the hair into the seam of the door.  Only the extremely perceptive would notice it, should they begin to look through his stuff, but if the hair doesn't fall when he returns, he'll know they were looking.

Emerging back on the fencing floor in his full kit, James limbers up and runs through some brief footwork drills before putting himself in the rotation.  His first match is against a young man in his early twenties who vigorously introduces himself as Helmut Vannacht as they approach the strip.

"You'll do fine," he assures James in broken English, not at all seeming put off by James' own linguistic shortcomings.

The bout ends up being called on time.  The man lunges, James retreats.  James goes for an outside strike against the man's wrist, and he's deflected with a simple turn of the hand.  Helmut, it seems, is quite aerobic, and when he fails to score a touch on rather beautifully done counter-riposte, he begins jumping in place and advancing menacingly. 

If you only knew, James thinks, and times a low lunge to Helmut's hopping and catches him on the knee for a point..

"Ser gut," Helmut says with a lackadaisical salute as he returns to the starting line.  James is a bit emboldened now, but through a string of attacks he can't land a follow up point, and while the outside of Helmut's wrist looks like a prime target, he's never able to connect.  His own defense never cracks, though, and before the judge calls time, James has forced in two more points, the first in a flèche that simply outran Helmut, and the second in a counter attack that clipped a fold in the sleeve of his jacket.  Lucky too: another 1/8 of a second, and Helmut would've scored the point.

They salute formally and shake hands before returning to the benches, while two men with AG Chem written on their knickers take the piste.  "Well done," the one on James' side says as he hooks into the wireless link.  After their bout, the man returns, and takes a seat next to James.  "I know why he didn't hit you, but do you know why you didn't hit him?"

"He's fast," James says, fanning his open jacket to get some air on himself.

The man looks unimpressed and holds out a hand, waves it up and down in a so-so gesture.

"Helmut is a master of the psychological aspects of the game," he says.  "You were trying for the outside of his wrist, ja?  It looked weak?  No accident.  You open your whole arm when you try for that attack.  A slower man would have been bested seven times out of eight, going for that hit.

"I think you rely too much on speed."

"My coach says the same thing,"
James confesses.  "Arthur VanBrandt, it's good to meet you."

"Adalard Schulz,"
he replies extending a hand.  "We are having a series of bouts, er, more of a show really tomorrow night at the Botanischer Garten Frankfurt am Main.  You know it, the botanical gardens?  Why don't you come.  We shall see about getting you some real competition, eh?"

"I'm honored, Herr Schulz,"
James says.  "May I bring a guest,"

In the next few minutes, Adalard Schulz fills James in on the nature of the event, which seems much more high society than a simple fencing tournament.  If anything the athletics seem more of an excuse for the social aspects, than the social aspects augmenting the display of athleticism. 

"You'll fit in marvelously, Arthur," Adalard says. 
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal

Tecumseh

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3889
« Reply #193 on: <02-04-17/2014:08> »
8:04 PM Friday, October 18th, 2075 - Mittelmeerhaus, Botanischer Garten Frankfurt am Main

James and Illeana approach the giant glass conservatory, the gravel of the path crunching underneath their feet. After a day of clouds, the skies have mostly cleared. A small breeze kicks up the hem of Illeana's Moonsilver cocktail dress. James is dressed in his Nightshade tuxedo from Prague. Illeana had tried to tailor their Berwick suits magically, but despite her best efforts she couldn't make them look as good as their black-tie outfits. For fun, Illeana uses the Illuminating feature of her Nightshade dress to light their path unnecessarily. Not only are they both capable of seeing in the dark, but the conservatory is glowing warmly from within.

"Ah, Arthur!" James hears a voice call out. He sees Adalard Schulz standing near the entrance, beckoning him. He notes the use of his first name, but perhaps it is because Adalard is a silver-haired fox - at least in his 50s - with a trim physique and a great deal of panache. He wears a slim grey suit with a white shirt and black necktie that compliments his distinguished hair and neat, narrow mustache. For a split second, he reminds James uncomfortably of Mr. Nately.

"This is the gentleman I was telling you about," he says to his companion, a blonde beauty in a sweeping black dress that displays more than a little cleavage. Introductions are made, with Adalard lightly raising Illeana's hand and kissing it.

"Maria-Theresa Heidkrüger," the blonde says primly as she shakes Illeana's hand lightly. James notices the two of them staring each other down the way that beautiful women do when they feel the other is a dangerous competitor.

"Marie Senio," Illeana responds with an equally arctic smile.

"Did you have your valet bring your kit?" Adalard asks James privately, looking around for it with a slightly concerned expression that suggests he's worried that James might have left it behind.

"Of course," James reassures him. "It should already be here."

"Very good. Shall we step inside?"

They step past security, two large humans in Argentum coats to keep the autumn evening at bay. There is a cursory check for weapons. The Ares Light Fire in James' smuggling department remains undetected, and Illeana manages to telekenetically slip in her fencing dagger and a couple throwing knives behind the guards while they aren't looking. Inside, Illeana covertly hides them in her clutch purse.

The interior is a riot of plant life, both mundane and paranormal. Some rooms are muggy and tropical as a jungle (triggering flashbacks to the swamps of Louisiana), while others are dry and home to desert species. James and Illeana stop to admire a cardon cactus stretch over ten meters overhead.

"They are even larger in the wild," Adalard says. "Up to twenty meters!"

"Many things are larger and more dangerous in the wild," his date says cryptically. "Not everything thrives in confinement." Illeana wonders if her previous self - the serf to Aden - came to the same conclusion.

A small sitting area has been cleared in the middle of the conservatory, with white, wooden chairs for a hundred people arranged around a low, small stage. A string quartet plays pieces by Bach, Handel, and Beethoven while waiters circle with flutes of champagne and trays of canapes.

Suddenly there's a flash. James and Illeana turn and see a small Eastern dragon circling above! It dives through the conservatory, shattering the glass ceiling and before bombarding the guests!

"It's an illusion," Illeana says, feeling James tense.

"That's what I thought in Detroit," he says under his breath, "but then it turned out to be Schwartzkopf."

The illusion flies just overhead, bobbing and weaving among the crowd. Finally it comes to its summoner, a smug-looking Heinz-Christian the Baron Krauss von Espy. The dragon wraps itself over his shoulders while a fawning group of lovely young women clap appreciatively.

"He looks proud of himself, doesn't he?" James asks rhetorically.

"Likely his natural state,"
Illeana quips. She switches to her limited Spanish and drops her voice, lest they be overheard. "Hay muchas personas. ¿Qué hacemos?"

rednblack

  • *
  • Prime Runner
  • *****
  • Posts: 3225
  • TECH-NO-LOGIC-KILL
« Reply #194 on: <02-07-17/1837:34> »
James laughs as though Illeana has said something funny, and possibly flirtatious.  He leans in deeper, "
Voy a poner un espectáculo con la lucha de la espada. Luego me reuniré con el duque,"
he says, slipping his hand around to the small of her back.  "Ahora se ruboriza bien,"

Last, as he gives her a quick kiss on where her cheek should be, James adds with a bit of a warning, "Mantén tu tercer ojo abierto. Su SIN no encaja aquí."

James turns to Adelard's date, and gives a quick bow of his head.  "I will leave you ladies to it.  You will find my companion to be a much more suitable conversationalist than myself.  Nein sprechen sie deutsch," he says, unaware that he actually asked a question.

James walks with Adelard toward the stage and asks, "Is this where the bouts will take place?  Please forgive a foreigner for any ignorance this statement will betray, but I have always been enamored with your people's tradition in the Mensur bouts.  They are, shall we say, for real men, no?"

After talking about the various strengths and weaknesses of cultural rituals, James nods his head to the Baron, and says, "That was quite a display.  Do you know him?"
Speech
Thought
Matrix/Comm
Astral
Subvocal