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

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rednblack

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« Reply #15 on: (11:51:05/01-28-16) »
If James wasn't "breathing" through his air tank, he'd literally sigh with relief when the Juggernaut turns to face him, something he has a hard time seeing true for his former self.  Or maybe not, he had become involved with Illeana before, and as smooth as James found he could be, he wasn't that good. 

He tries to still his mind as the Juggernaut surges forward, though the creeping thought of whether or not a Juggernaut can jump plagued him.  It's legs were short but powerful, and it would have a running start.  He knows that their heads are rather dexterous, and that their long tongues give them a bit of reach -- not that they typically use it, and he wonders if Illeana and he are a different type of prey.  Hecate, I hope so.

Lining up his shot, James waits for the beast to open its maw, sucking in air like the backdraft of a fire before sending the command to fire.  Another three round burst emits from the rifle, lost to the Kansas winds.

<<Target 1: Estimated Contact in 2.08 seconds>>
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #16 on: (15:46:45/01-28-16) »
The juggernaut, with its keen sense of hearing and smell, has no trouble pinpointing the origin of the gunfire. Unaccustomed to being injured - in any way, by anything - it turns its attention away from Illeana and directs the full might of its fury at James.

James doesn't know what the full range of juggernaut behavior looks like, but its present state might accurately be described as murderous. James knows that armadillos can jump more than a meter straight up - either as an evasive maneuver or to scare their predators - which is a bad precedent for the current scenario.

James stares down juggernaut's terrifying maw as he redirects his smartlink reticle. The beast leans back on its haunches, coiling itself to spring. "James!" Illeana shouts (quite unnecessarily) to warn him.

James fires. The bullets connect while the giant propels itself forward and utterly fails to take flight. James feels the rush of air from the beast's swiping paw, but can barely repress a smile at seeing it belly-flop with a giant puff of powdered earth. Credit either goes to the soft ground - which might be incapable of supporting the concentrated force such a mammoth creature try to jump - or the brute's own ground-based dominance, which robs it of any need to ever leap, and therefore any experience with aerial attacks.

Illeana doesn't look reassured. She casts again and James feels an invisible hand grab his collar and yank him higher.

James and Illeana drift higher toward safety. The juggernaut looks up and gives a terrifying roar of anger and frustration that would not have been out-of-place in the Jurassic era.

rednblack

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« Reply #17 on: (11:41:25/01-29-16) »
The Juggernaut roars a howl so piercing it makes James' "blood" run cold.  He's sure it would reduce a fair amount of even well-trained operatives to a quivering mass, and might even send old Chino running scared, but he does his best to remove himself from his body and observe the scene objectively.  He's high, it's flat on its belly, and those meter-long claws are safely tucked away for the moment.  He's not safe by a long shot, but this is not the time to start letting emotions get the better of him.  He glances to Illeana's floating form to see how she's handling herself, and that goes a long way toward keeping his nerves steady.  Still, there's that cut she suffered, though the blood stopped flowing almost immediately.  She'll probably need to feed again soon after that nick though.

"Illeana, are you ok?" James speaks breathlessly into his mic.  He aims straight down at the beast, hoping to find an unarmored spot between its massive shoulder blades and neck.  Finding nothing promising, he sweeps the smartlink reticle down between his legs at the beast's snout and fires another three-round burst.  From its belly flop, the juggernaut contracts, and each bullet passes harmlessly into the ground below.  Did it just flinch? he wonders.  Did I just make a juggernaut flinch?!

He passes his attention to the RV, which Illeana has become quite invested in.  Her lodge is there, filled with reagents and preparations, pentagrams and candles, and her photography collection, to say nothing of the firearms he's spent the last few months acquiring.  "I'm going to send the RV to a rally point," he says, tucking up his knees as the beast rights itself.
« Last Edit: (12:38:29/01-29-16) by rednblack »
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #18 on: (19:38:05/01-29-16) »
Illeana hisses and spits at the juggernaut, upset over the damage to her pants. James knows that this is the adrenaline talking, if vampires even have adrenaline. Illeana has a spell that will not only repair damage to clothing but also change the cut, color, pattern, and fit. She uses it liberally to keep her style in season at all times, and also to provide a quick wardobe change just in case she or James get paranoid. The tear across her pants is a mild inconvenience at worst; at best, it's an excuse for her to experiment with some of the styles inspired by the new season of that Vashon Island just released.

"I'm fine," she says, although she says it with a heavy tone. James can tell that she's still concentrating on the spells keeping them afloat. He feels her drop the telekinetic spell that was yanking on his collar.

James looks her over. She does appear to be fine. If anything, she appears to be judging the thickness of the juggernaut's armor against the length of her sword's blade. She pretends that she's shanking the juggernaut a few times, as if it were a prison yard bully and not some monstrosity that gives national politicians and military commanders bad dreams at night.

Below, a huge cloud of dust rises up from the juggernaut, obscuring James' vision somewhat. It's back on its feet and pacing back and forth. It seems to be contemplating the possibility of throwing something at the pests above it. Luckily there are no boulders - nor hardly any rocks - in the vicinity. It continues to stamp and kick up dirt in its frustration. It might have been denied a full meal, but at least its territoriality was assuaged.

James pings the RV and sends it an ARO of where to meet.

<<@James [Winnebago] Very good, sir. Right away, sir.>>

Illeana had recently installed a vehicle personality to the RV's node, giving it the air of a dignified English butler that she calls Stevens. Illeana wanted James to feel cared for while she was off with Sam. If nothing else, it gave James someone to talk to (sort of) in their absence.

"Stevens!" Illeana comms urgently, apparently alarmed at the thought that the juggernaut might pursue him/it. "Proceed at a measured pace. We're trying to avoid the attention of one of the, uh, locals."

<<@James, Illeana [Winnebago] Very good, ma'am. Will you be taking tea and biscuits upon your return?>>

"Yes, my usual," Illeana sighs. "Rooibos, please. Thank you, Stevens." That was Illeana's code for one of the blood packs from the last embalmer that they had visited. Stevens would have one of the drones prepare it. It wasn't a part of the drones' usual functionality, but Doc had provided some useful code to bypass any squeamishness the drone's programming might have had over handling metahuman blood.

"Well we have half an hour," Illeana says, judging the distance and their current rate of progress. She gives James a look that he has come to associate with her concern. In this case, she probably wants reassurance that he's not dehydrated, or too hot from the sun, or too cold from the wind, or otherwise alarmed by their current predicament. She drifts over and wraps her arms around him as they gently float away to the south.

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« Reply #19 on: (11:22:02/02-01-16) »
While Illeana floats over, James unscrews the suppressor from his Alpha and fires off a three round burst, not even dimpling the juggernaut's thick armor.  He repeats the process twice more, both to keep the beast's attention, and to muffle the sounds of the RV as best he can.  Sometimes you need to poke the bear.

Slipping his arms around Illeana's waist, he re-slings his rifle.

"Well we have half an hour,"

"I should've brought the sniper rifle," James says.  "Would've made a great shot for the boys, eh?"  Juggernauts are more than a passing interest for James.  He's devoured everything that he can find on them, He's studied trids of juggernaut attacks in detail, and read de-classified academic papers and government reports.  Doc even found a few classified bits for his perusal, being the nice guy that he was.  "Or some tracker rounds," James adds.  "So we could could've met in on our own terms next time."  He's already formulating the would-be plan in his head, involving copious amounts of commercial explosives covered in animal entrails -- check that, lots of animal entrails -- and his Desert Strike, floating from above -- check that, way above.   

Noticing that he's spaced out for a moment, James gives his reassuring smile, and gives Illeana's pants a tertiary inspection.  He knows that she's fine, that she's been fine since a moment after the cut, but he also knows that if the juggernaut's claws had gotten any deeper, hooked into her femur and pulled her down even six meters, that she wouldn't have been fine.  And even though she's right there with him, those little terrors persist.  He gives her a squeeze, one that would crush the ribs of an ordinary metahuman, but that she has come to associate with him feeling protective.  "You had me worried."

"You know I've seen worse,"
she answers and fusses over him in turn.

"Well, this isn't normally what they have in mind when they talk about the mile-high club, but. . ." he jokes as they float higher.

"Did you grab the Little Smoke?" James asks as they survey the stretches of prairie surrounding them.  As far as they look it's golden grassland, the occasional copse of trees kilometers away, and the faint wisps of clouds far out on the horizon.  The wind invigorates them as it whips around cool and forceful, and James unzips his chameleon suit to his chest.  He checks in on Sam's progress a few times before they begin heading south to rendezvous with the RV on RR-412.
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #20 on: (18:10:35/02-01-16) »
The juggernaut roars over the gunfire, the chatter of the Alpha completely lost in the primordial scream of the ragebeast. It stamps up and down, sending up huge clouds of dust that the wind picks up and swirls. James can no longer hit the sensitive spots reliably, but he does a good job keeping the juggernaut's attention on him and away from Stevens.

James stops shooting and eventually the pair rises high enough in the sky that the juggernaut can no longer track them. The wind comes from the north and takes their scent away from the juggernaut. Their silent floating leaves the overgrown armadillo at the mercy of its eyes, which aren't up to the task of tracking its prey. It snorts and returns to the empty fields for someone else to deal with.

"Right after the Awakening, when they didn't know better, they would just try to burn the fields," James says. "The fire didn't bother the juggernauts; they probably liked it. The smoke, they didn't like as much. They would just burrow underground and pop up somewhere else inconvenient."

"Too bad you didn't have your Lancer," Illeana says, positioning herself behind James and wrapping her legs around his waist. "Just think of the promotional rights if you dropped a juggernaut with a signature Ares product."

"Sam's device might have done the trick," James says.

"'The mile-high club?' What's a 'mile'?"

James explains. She nods.

"Ooooooh. Maybe when my concentration isn't spoken for." She gives James a squeeze with her legs and runs her fingers through his hair. "And when it's warmer."

It's moments like these - when her concentration is divided - that the light English accent in Illeana's voice becomes more pronounced. It's subtle and James wonders if it might have been stronger before their factory resets back in February. He thinks that she must have learned her English from an Englishman, or perhaps even in the United Kingdom. Her knowledge of European languages - including fluent Romanian, very good Czech, and respectable amount of German - certainly suggested that she had roots across the ocean. Who knows where the Sperethiel had come from though, or the Carromeleg. The elves guarded those secrets jealously. Of course, Illeana was certainly pretty enough to pass for an elf.

"I do have the Little Smoke," Illeana says, producing a small tuft of dry grasses. She offers it to James to smell. It smells... confusing, like a hot summer wind mixed with the damp musk of a smoky autumn evening.

"This is enough for one dose but not for two. I would have liked to stay out there longer. It still needs a bit of processing but that should only take a day. After that, we can either sell it or keep it for the next time Sam needs to cross a border."

They continue to float to the nearest patch of concrete, where they reunite with Stevens and proceed to the UCAS border. They clean up and change into their civilian outfits for the crossing. The sensitive cargo is stowed away with the wireless turned off.

"This isn't going to be like the border between Salish-Shidhe and Sioux Nation," James advises as they inch forward through the security queues. "Even though our paperwork is up to date, there is a chance that the guards will find or invent some reason to turn us back. The guards may be openly prejudiced. They patrol with their fingers on the triggers of their weapons and are more than happy to fall back on anti-vehicle weaponry or even chemical attacks.

"Now we're corporate citizens, and we're Caucasian so it will look like we're coming home, so hopefully we blend. You said we were warded?"


Illeana nods. "I've turned Stevens into my magical lodge. Combined with the materiel from the ASPS, it is very strong."

"Well let's hope they don't take too close a look,"
James says. "They will have a dozen high Force spirits patrolling. If they try to take a peek it could set off a warning. Just make sure you look mundane." It hurts to say that; Illeana is the furthest thing from mundane.

"But my SIN says I'm licensed Awakened," Illeana protests.

James nods gravely. "We'll hope for the best. I don't want to start anything. The layout of the border checkpoint will be carefully sculpted to prevent vehicles from being able to ram a booth or any of the gates. Security is first; convenience isn't even in the top 10. I doubt a tank would be able to move through the checkpoint without falling into a pit or running into a thick concrete wall. They'll have mines release narcojet or hallucinogenic gas, while electrified monowire (!) and patrolling drones keep the surrounding area clear of intruders. On top of that, the whole checkpoint can go into a lockdown which drops steel shutters over the armored glass. There are typically two or three helicopter gunships sited no more than a minute’s flight away, although the pilots aren't always sitting in the cockpit waiting for the call."

Illeana has a look that seems to wondering why she didn't just cross the border on foot with Sam. "Oo, I don't feel too good."

"Sometimes they aspect the domain in favor of the tradition of their security," James explains. "You might be feeling that.

"Just smile,"
James says as he rolls down the window to speak with the UCAS Border Patrol.

"SINs, visas, and customs declarations," the sour-looking man demands.

rednblack

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« Reply #21 on: (21:58:18/02-01-16) »
"SINs, visas, and customs declarations," the sour-looking man demands.

James had approached the checkpoint with the RV's windows rolled down, and his hands at ten and two, the left also holding his Hermes Ikon.  "Afternoon officer," he says handing over his link with a smile.  "As that shows you, I am licensed and registered to carry a concealed weapon, which I currently have loaded, though not racked, in the glove box in front of Miss Anghelescu here.  If you would like, she can hand her link over through me for inspection, or you may have one of your associates approach the passenger side as well."

"Hand me the thing,"
the man demands in a clipped English.

"Certainly, sir.  Certainly," James says, reaching over for Illeana's comm while giving her the "keep smiling" look.  When he hands the commlink over, the guard says, "What's your business in the UCAS?"

"I'm from Detroit originally.  I'm, ah, taking my blushing bride here back home to meet mom,"

James sees the guard stiffen.  "And yet you have a Pueblo Corporate Council SIN?"

Ah, it appears we have a patriot.

"Yes, sir," James answers.  "A personal sacrifice so that I may better look after Ares' real estate ventures in the PCC sector of Denver, the Morrison sprawl specifically.  Have you ever visited?  The Council is tough on us native sons, but fair.  And they do see the value in cross-corporate partnerships when the personnel and nuyen is right, even if they are a bit odd in their citizenship requirements and downright protectionist when it comes to, well, I guess they would call me a foreigner.  Yes, when it comes to foreigners."

"Mm-hmm," the guard says, handing back the commlinks.  "These check out."

"I should hope so.  Thank you, sir," James says accepting the commlinks.  And here is where they will either tell us to pull through, or things will get very interesting.
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #22 on: (02:12:12/02-02-16) »
James looks the man over while the entry request is manually examined by a spider at headquarters. He has some older cybereyes and some jerky movements that also suggest some earlier-generation cyberware. Dated, but still effective. He's carrying an HK-227, with a Colt Government 2066 and a Defiance EX Shocker on his hips. All smartlinked. The man's jacket is armored and he's wearing a helmet, all of which suggest this isn't a sleepy border crossing. James looks past the man and sees a similarly attired troll sitting behind armored glass in a booth, eyeing him sternly.

"You're an Ares employee who doesn't have a corporate SIN?" the man asks.

"Well more like a contractor," James backpedals, hoping that the man doesn't have a firm grasp on megacorporate structure. "When you're down at the bottom of the ladder, underneath six holding companies and so many Vice Presidents that you don't even know who your boss is, sometimes they let you have a National SIN and you can even date cross-corporation." He hopes that fends off any potential questions about Illeana's Saeder-Krupp SIN.

The man grunts, declining to inquire further.

"You just got married? Where's her ring?" the guard asks.

"I bought her this Winnebago instead of a ring," James lies smoothly. The man sees the vehicle is registered in Illeana's name - just over three months ago - and lets it drop.

"Next time skip the Sioux and cross the border on Highway 412," the man says gruffly. "They're nicer down there." He steps forward, already looking at the next vehicle while waving you to go, having received the required assurances from headquarters. James sees him settle his hand back on his HK, ready for trouble from the next vehicle.

The Winnebago pulls forward and slowly navigates the barricades on the other side. Then there's an open road and a stretch of empty terrain that looks pretty much like it did on the Sioux side. An ARO flashes, "Welcome to the UCAS!" as James and Illeana head off to rendezvous with Sam.

Tecumseh

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« Reply #23 on: (02:08:28/02-03-16) »
12:01 AM Thursday, July 4th, 2075 - New Orleans, CAS

James and Illeana sit at a café table in the middle of a cobblestone plaza in the French Quarter. It's just after midnight and the night air swirls with gnats and tourists. It's not Independence Day - that's Secession Day, November 10th in the CAS - but it is Flag Day, which commemorates the new flag design that was introduced to the nation three years ago this day. To celebrate, there are flags hung from every balcony, banner, and railing. There's loud, live jazz music being played on every corner, along with all the usual color and characters that New Orleans provides. James has a cup of chicory coffee and a plate of beignets for dessert.

"What are we doing here?" James asks, knowing that Illeana's enhanced hearing won't have any problem picking it up over the saxophones and their fellow late-night patrons.

"We're going over our investment portfolio," she says. "Now pay attention, this is where we get our lunch money -"

James is growing accustomed to these "quarterly reviews," this one timed to review their portfolio's Q2 performance. It turns out that Illeana is something of a personal investment wiz. She didn't remember where she had learned it, but she said it made sense that immortals would naturally be interested in long-term investment planning.

"As a reminder, I've taken my share of the obelisk proceeds and divided it into nine different ¥50,000 investments, leaving the remainder liquid for immediate needs. Remember, the goal here is diversity, both in industry and in geography."

She sends James a detailed ARO presentation with charts and graphs and fact-filled bullet points. James inhales deeply and sips his coffee.

"Here's the breakdown.
1) Aegis Cognito, based out of Lisbon. They're an independent intelligence agency with an A-rating. Spies for hire, basically.
2) Manadyne, in Boston. Arcane powerhouse, attempting to do so some really exciting stuff with mapping the metaplanes. I'd love to get a meeting with them. They're owned by NeoNet but are listed separately as a AA-corp in their own right.
3) Frankfurt Bank Association, from the Allied German States. Used to be controlled by Nachtmeister until Lowfry killed him in a duel in 2062. Very dramatic. AA-rating.
4) Gaetronics, Salish-Shidhe Council. Second-largest energy corp in the world behind Shiawase, and might be the largest if you only counted Shiawase's energy components. AA-rating.
5) Phoenix Biotechnologies, Pueblo Corporate Council. Strong biotech firm that received twenty million nuyen from Dunklezahn's Will. No rating, mostly because they haven't expanded outside of the PCC yet.
6) Telestrian Industries, from Portland in Tir Tairngire. Cutting-edge technology, including genetics and neural networks/Expert systems, as well as military contracts and government services. A-rating.
7) Universal Omnitech, Salish-Shidhe Council, Vancouver. A world leader in genetech and biotechnology, with mining through DeBeers subsidiary. They're big rivals with Aztechnology but are holding their own. AA-rating.
8) The Pueblo Corporate Council itself. Preferred stock can be purchased and claimed by anyone, but has no voting rights. As owners of preferred stock, we have the ability to enter and live in Council territory, similar to an entry visa. Not residential stock but still features really significant returns. 16% ROI last year!
9) Wind River Corporation, in the Sioux Nation. They specialize in underground agriculture. The fact that it's underground provides dynamite security, and means they're not at the mercy of the Sioux weather. A-rating, but definitely on the move.


James waits for her to wind down a bit before interjecting again.

"I meant what are we doing here?" James asks again, indicating the outdoor café, surrounded by loud music, mosquitoes, and revelers. A rivulet of sweat runs down the back of his neck, the product of an oppressively hot, sticky night. Illeana had fashioned some lightweight armored clothing for them, but ballistics protection was still mutually exclusive with fabric breathability.

"Oh," Illeana says, getting the message that James might not be entirely focused on EPS and cost-to-price ratios.

"Why aren't we up north?" James asks. "The sun is intense down here."

"It is intense," Illeana agrees, "but at least it goes down at night, Up north - like in Algonkian-Manitou - it stays light out until 23:00 this time of year, or later!" James sees her give a small involuntary shudder.

Four local policemen drift past. The Quarter is the spot for tourism - over a million visitors a year - so it's heavily policed. The unattractive metas (i.e. the orks and trolls) are escorted away, leaving the eternally gorgeous elves for the tourists to ogle.

"I wonder if I ever did a tour here," James wonders out loud. "Ares is trying to turn their bug-stomping skill into shedim-stomping."

"Lots going on here," Illeana offers, as if it weren't self-evident. "I've heard you can pay voodoo priests to summon spirits who will 'ride' you" - her arched eyebrows make it clear what she means - "and there are people who get a buzz by buying bites from vampires! Can you believe it?" She shakes her head with wonder. "There's a large Infected community around here. I've even heard that the CDC has a well-hidden clinic in the French Quarter that caters to vampires, offering them meals in exchange for samples for study."

"But that's not why we're here," James says astutely, leveling her with a gaze. "You've got a whole fridge and freezer full of meals. So what is it? What are we here to study?"

She smiles and clasps her hands with a pleading looking, knowing that she'd been caught. James was becoming used to this, being dragged from magical hotspot to magical hotspot so that Illeana could pursue her latest fascination.

"There's powerful magic, deep in the Bayou," she says with a furtive glance at her surroundings. Jugglers and fire-breathers wander past, collecting tips. "They say there are shamans that are born, raised, and die in the swamps, but are more powerful than any tenured professor at Texas A&M&M. The Mississippi River is semi-Awakened, and just pours raw mana into the swamps. The swamp spirits - they're powerful, but primal. Like nothing I've ever worked with."

She gives James another eager smile, hoping to convince him that the hot, muddy wetlands are actually a veritable wonderland of nature and biodiversity, as long as you can ignore VITAS mosquitoes or the fact that the swamp is full of apex predators that survived the K-T extinction, physically unchanged for a hundred million years, except for the Awakened versions which are now even more perfect killing machines than they were before. James' mind drifts to a behemoth, which looks like an alligator, if an alligator had the physique of a hippopotamus. Illeana gives another winning smile, and waits for what James has to say.
« Last Edit: (14:00:24/02-04-16) by Tecumseh »

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« Reply #24 on: (13:44:41/02-05-16) »
Fingering the pentagram around his neck, James sighs.  "That's not exactly an answer."

"My studies," Illeana starts, trying to find the right words, "they require--"

"They require you to lie to me," James cuts in.

"No.  No, it' nothing like that."

"Really?  Quarterly reports?" James dismisses the graphs and trid pie charts that are running through five-year growth cycles.  "No, you could do that anywhere.  What we can't do anywhere is get a working portfolio on Rhodes," James says, sending an ARO of a largely empty field surrounding Rhodes' name, with a few tertiary details, largely unrelated attached.

With Sam's training, being around so much woo all the time made sense.  It's what they were there to do, after all, and truthfully, James had enjoyed learning what he could while they were all out in the field together, or at night around the RV's small table, with Sam crinkling over his space blanket while James made soycaf and skinned rabbits over Illeana's lectures.  But it wasn't long before most of Sam's lessons dealt with things that James couldn't participate in.  Try as he might, there was no sensing mana around him, much less bending it to his will to make himself stronger, or faster, or hyper aware.  And the conversations about astral sight just dumbfounded him.  Seeing without seeing, the geography of astral space, how living creatures and spirits left traces of themselves behind.

"Oh, so it's like DNA?" James had opined over one Illeana's sessions with Sam.

"It's a bit more complex than that," Illeana had said then, quick to get back to her exercise with the Fomóraig.  More complex than DNA.  That hadn't sat well.

James had been under the impression that the two had an unspoken agreement that once Sam left, they would be free to pursue some other interests.  He'd been investigating the Nately's, put off by Junior's insolence back with the black lodge and their other RV, and while nothing concrete had surfaced yet, he was sure that with the right resources, time, and locations, they could do what was right to set things straight with the family.  As far as James was concerned, it was Edward III who was most responsible for his parents' deaths, forcing their hand like that.  And again, there's Rhodes, who likely holds the keys to James' past, whether or not he has any siblings, who his people were, and how James had been made into what he is now.

But critter hunts, tactical thinking, a super soldier to watch your six, that isn't a partnership, much less a relationship.  It's employment.

"I mean," James says, returning his cup of chicory to its saucer, "why the facade?  Why not tell me we're here to do, I don't know, whatever it is we're actually here to do.  Powerful mojo, great.  But why?  Nearly four months we've been hauling here to there, and you don't tell me anything.  And what was going on there back in Kansas?  Was that really about the Little Smoke, or did you know something about the juggernaut, eh?  Maybe see if the rumors were true?  Maybe see if next quarter, or three quarters from now Wind River's gonna take a dive?  Hell, maybe you're thinking about next century?  I mean, no need to tell me then, eh?  Not like it would affect me any."

He sees her face collapse, or at least the face she's projecting at the time.  Does it read her true, or is that just a part of the spell? he wonders before standing and slotting the coffee and beignets from his Jonathan Aarons SIN.  He fastens the top button on his linen sport coat, which is certainly better than fresnel in this weather but still heavy from the ballistic fibers, and touches up the corner of his mouth with a handkerchief he deposits in his coat pocket.  "I'm going to go for a walk."

He exits the plaza, expertly weaving into the crowd of tourists.  At first he doesn't know where to go, and he finds himself on the outskirts of a crowd enjoying a street band.  They're talented enough, and James likes jazz, especially the more traditional stuff that the French Quarter has largely cleaved to as a part of its identity, but he finds himself unable to get into it.  The musicians are done up in their Vaudeville best, and couples around him sway to the music, playing kissy-face and holding hands, slotting creds to the young elf dancing his way and tipping his hat to the patrons.  He tips 20¥, and walks off, hands in pockets.

He doesn't know how long he walks, or where really, though he knows he's still in the French Quarter when he finds himself standing outside of Madame DeSade's Psychic Readings and Talismonger shop.  Figures.  All roads lead to Rome. Hell of a name, though.  Wonder if this one of those possession-type spots for the more extreme clientele.  Switching to his weakest SIN, he steps inside, the smell of booze and sweat subsumed under the new smells of incense and smoke, which he has long come to associate with Illeana, and something else as well, Deepweed, maybe?

"Greetings, Monsieur," the woman says as he enters.  Her eyes glaze over for a moment, a look that James has come to recognize as having his aura read.  "Oh," she continues, likely trying to reconcile his quickened spells, with his essence, with his pentagram necklace.

"Are we here for a pickup?"

What, does she figure me for a whip? James wonders.

"How about a reading?" James says, jerking his head toward the ARO out front.

"Oh, yes, of course, of course," the proprietor says before calling to the back, "Leanna, watch the front, will you?"  The name makes James stop in his tracks, especially with the woman's well-crafted accent, but he relaxes when a young girl comes out front, wiping her hands on an apron specked in greens and browns.  Reagents, James assumes.  Do those smell?

He's led into the back room, where everything is theatrics.  Heavy satin lines the walls, and once he enters, curtains of the same are closed behind them.  Mademoiselle DeSade takes a seat and gestures for James to do the same across a table where a tarot deck, a few small candles, and a quite nice-looking dagger sit.  James undoes the button on his jacket and obliges.  A few brief pleasantries are exchanged and water offered, which James declines.  After a moment, he's instructed to hold out his hands, which he does obediently, palms up.  "I'm not sure what you're going to get from these," he confesses.

"Yes, yes, this will be interesting," DeSade replies.  "So, what do you want to know?  The future?" Her eyes narrow a bit before she adds, "The past?  You are troubled, are you not?"

"Hmm," James grunts noncommittally.

"Ok, suit yourself.  Let's see, let's see.  What have we here."  It's not a question.  She begins rocking and chanting, something that James knows well enough could be something called Centering, which he also knows is related to something called a metamagic, but what that means is really beyond him.  They're not spells, but like spells?  Maybe?  To be honest, he doesn't know if Madame DeSade is working mojo or not.  She certainly wouldn't be the first to fleece tourists in the French Quarter.  Suddenly, she straightens upright, and her eyes shoot open with a look of fear.

"I see," she stammers.  If she is a mojo slinger, maybe she's working her mojo on James because he finds himself incredibly interested in what she has to say.

"What, what do you see?" James asks.

"I see blood." 
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #25 on: (01:27:01/02-06-16) »
James dismisses the ARO of financial data with a flick of his wrist.

Illeana scowls and looks confused, as her eyes track the dismissed ARO. "Hey, I spent a lot of time -"

James continues over her objections. She repeatedly tries to get a word in but can't. "I put that presentation together for - The Little Smoke was for - Of course I didn't know about the - You have it all backwards - We're here to -"

James stands and buttons his jacket. Illeana frowns and looks confused. She watches him go but doesn't try to stop him. Over the music, James is fairly certain he hears two or three gentleman suitors swoop in on her to see if she's okay, if she needs anything, anything at all...

As he walks, he remembers that Illeana has a spells that can bend a man's mind, or play his moods like a cello, or put a thought so deep into his head that he would swear it was his own. Ares had trained James how to recognize such magics and how to resist them. However, there's no trace of them now, and James realizes that Illeana let him have his speech just now, and let him walk away. So does that mean she respects me enough not to mess with me? Or that she doesn't care enough to stop me? The thought twists around him as he walks, and he wonders what he would have done in her shoes.

Illeana wouldn't cry. She wasn't the crying type. She was mentally stable, if a bit unorthodox. But wasn't that true of all magicians? How could you see and feel a whole other world - one that the vast majority of humanity would never experience and never understand - and not be affected by it? Magicians were given a vast amount of leeway at Ares, far more than even a senior-ranking mundane officer might hope to receive. Their gifts were great, but with those gifts came a certain estrangement from the "normal" world.

For example, Illeana barely let the droids in the Winnebago do any of the housework while she was around. She would let Stevens drive, sure, but when it came to cooking or cleaning she always shoo'd away the house drones. James had even come home from a couple fishing trips to find her on her hands and knees, scrubbing the floors. Who did that? She claimed that it was a habit that she couldn't break, and besides it gave her time to think. She had been wearing a cute little maid outfit, so James didn't exactly object, but still... one had to wonder. The RV was spotless, but her magical lodge gave it some truly strange furnishings. James had opened up a drawer one day to get a spoon, only to discover a collection of skulls from several small paracritters. (James recognized those of a bandit and a bombadier and a century ferret.) The next day he went back to the same drawer to more closely examine a few specimens, only to find it full of silverware again. 

James steps out of the music and the humid night air and into the talismonger's shop, his SIN registering him as Commodoro Crujido from Aztlan. (Not Aztechnology, he noted, but Aztlan. He mentally prepared to lie about being from some Anglo-heavy city, like San Diego, Tucson, El Paso, or San Antonio.) He sits for a reading with the Carib woman DeSade, who looks unnaturally thin, trying to gauge whether there might be some truth to the proceedings or if this is "for entertainment purposes only".

"What do you see?" James asks, looking into the thousand-yard stare of her eyes that magicians had while assensing, at least according to popular culture. (But not Illeana. She remained focused on both worlds at all times.)

"I see blood," the woman croaks, her voice surprisingly deep for her gaunt frame. Her gaze spins around the room and she appears disoriented and dizzy.

"You cannot hurt me here," she says, not to James but to the room. "Ooo..."

She sways back and forth. As she does, James has a thought come out of nowhere. It's a sensation that has become much more recent over the last few months. He associates the feeling with the spell that Illeana quickened on him, the one that improves intuition and insight. Details seem to magically jump out of the blue.

Is this woman on tempo? he wonders. Heightened emotional awareness, check. Disorientation and delusions, check. Severe weight loss, check. But tempo has been off the streets for a good three years now. Unless... On the drive to New Orleans, James had done some searching and found stories about smugglers hiding in the swamps. There was even a rumor - entirely unsubstantiated - that one of these smugglers had a cache of tempo tucked away in the Bayou. The other shadow commentators had shot down the notion as entirely unbelievable, but here was this woman in front of him, looking and acting like the poster girl for tempo addiction.

He watches her continue to sway for another minute. Then a different thought occurs to him. Alternatively, maybe she's bad at her job, doesn't make enough money, and hasn't had enough to eat, he thinks, wondering if her behavior might just as likely be attributable to low blood sugar coupled with desperation, rather than a street drug that's been off the market since 2072..

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« Reply #26 on: (12:31:30/02-08-16) »
When Madame DeSade gets around to her reading, jumbled and inchoate as it is, James is still left unsure as to the woman's chemical proclivities or general state of unhealth.  Malaise, the doctors call it.  She tells him there is danger, though to himself or from whatever is in the astral that that may be directed at her, is unclear.  The one thing clearly about him is that he is lonely.  It would hardly take Tempo to discern that fact from a wage slave looking tourist wandering into an establishment of this sort at 02:00 alone.  He finds his mind wandering, wondering why he's there, after all.  Hasn't Illeana been the absolute paragon of helpfulness?  Hasn't she taken her prayers seriously, her devotion to Hecate?  These all-consuming forays of hers into the occult and arcane, these were not things that she would toy with, James knew.  Why then, how then, could she see James as a means to an end when her faith insisted that she was the means for others.  Oh, Ghost.

James abruptly stands, as Madame DeSade waves her hands around theatrically.  "yeah, I uh, I think we're done here.  You've been most helpful." 

Leaving the frail old woman to her lodge, James crosses to the front of the store and slots her nuyen to Leanna.  "Look, it's none of my biz, but if the star comes into here and sees her all spun out on tempo like that, I don't think your 'protection policy' is gonig to cover that."  He pretends to focus on maneuvering his credstick, as he keeps a close eye on the cashier's demeanor.  Outside, he reboots his link as he joins a throng of party-goers lost in the revel of the early morning.  He pats his neck with his handkerchief, and makes plans for a shave in the morning: his beard is not conducive to this weather.  Before leaving the plaza, he does a double-check to make sure he knows the street names, and files through the crowd briskly before finding a street where he can hail a car.

James has himself dropped off a few blocks from their hotel, still thinking that a walk will help him clear his head, as if the muggy swamp air will somehow be different here.  It's not, and he quickly forgoes the idea, and heads up to their room.  No, it wasn't about the walk, or about clearing his head, it hadn't been for awhile now.  Instead, James was humbled, sure that he had gotten it all wrong and had lashed out for no reason.  And now to face Illeana.  It wasn't the apologizing, James was fine with that.  It was knowing that he hurt her.  He popped the room key and entered, finding Illeana sprawled out on the bed, ostensibly asleep.  At least she's still here.

In the sitting room, James finds a note set underneath the reading lamp.  Uh-oh.  He takes a chair, and watches the street below a moment before reading.
« Last Edit: (13:44:36/02-08-16) by rednblack »
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #27 on: (15:14:21/02-08-16) »
Illeana had splurged a bit on the suite. The Winnebago was nice, no question, but there's something about a solid foundation and a spacious bathroom that the RV just couldn't replicate. The hotel lobby had marble floors had a clean, cream-and-white aesthetic that spoke to generations of gentility.

Overall, Illeana was optimistic about the pair's finances, and had justified the expense by explaining how disciplined they had been about their budget while on the road. James' hunting and fishing had saved them a considerable amount, as had Illeana's talent with both physical and magical clothing alterations. And their prudent investments - extensively detailed in the dismissed ARO reports that waited patiently for James' review - had returned reliable dividends that kept them from needing any regular work. Real retirement was within their reach; all they had to do was accept it.

James sits in the comfortable chair and looks at the note. It's written on hotel stationery - in itself an anachronism, and a sign of the hotel's pedigree - in elegant handwriting. It's a single sheet of paper, folded in half. On the side facing out, it says:

To my James

Taking a deep breath, he opens the paper and reads.

I am sorry that you feel the way you do.
Please believe me that everything I've been doing is for us.
You already know my greatest secret, so it would be pointless for me to hide anything else.
Come to bed when you get this, and I'll answer any questions you have in the morning.
Yours, Illeana


James looks into the bedroom, his cybereyes easily picking out Illeana's warm form against the air-conditioned coolnees of the room. Her rhythmic breathing suggests that she's asleep, and her mask sits on the night stand next to her. She's splayed out all over the bed, either hogging most of the surface area or setting a cunning trap so that James can't get into bed without alerting her. If she's wearing any clothes, he can't see them.

rednblack

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« Reply #28 on: (12:57:40/02-10-16) »
James zooms in on the note with his eyes and snaps a picture before folding it and placing it back on the table.  She didn't even seem mad.  With a grateful sigh, he stands, closes the blinds, hangs his jacket and slacks, and cleans the muggy swamp air off of him in the bathroom.  Then he joins Illeana in bed, nuzzling his face in the space between her neck and shoulder blades.  "I'm sorry," he whispers.

"Shh," Illeana says, making room for him.

#

In the morning, James wakes early, his commlink rebooting with an alarm that only he can hear.  He showers again, a luxury and nice change from the water rationing in the RV that he plans to take full advantage of, and then he slowly and meticulously shaves away his beard.  When he exits the bathroom, Illeana is awake and in the sitting room, having prepared a pot of chicory "coffee."  James joins her on the small couch, allows her to pour him a cup, gives her a morning kiss, and commandeers the trid projector to throw Illeana's tables and graphs up from his commlink.  He manipulates the data for awhile, first as they sit mostly in silence, and then as they start making plans for the day.

"So, ya know how I was reading those rumors about Tempo coming back on the market?"

"Mm-hmm," Illeana answers.

"Well, when, uh, when I was out last night, I ended up in this talismonger, psychic reading kind of place, and"

"Wait,"
Illeana breaks in.  "You were where?"

"Yeah," James answers, and describes the spot in the French Quarter.  "But anyway, the old lady running the place, I think she was on Tempo.  It might not mean anything for us, but if we're going into the swamps, we should probably expect more than just the average smuggling operations.  If they're bringing Tempo in, and the Star has gotten wind of it, we may need to keep an eye out.

"What did you have in mind for us anyway?"
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #29 on: (15:00:03/02-10-16) »
"The Fountain of Youth," Illeana says flatly. James isn't clear if she's jesting or not; her deadpan humor can be hard to read sometimes.

She continues on with a serious tone. "The Awakening taught us to reexamine the old legends. Dragons, vampires, all of it." She raises a knowing eyebrow. "Our experience in the PCC is a good example about how advanced the ancients were, at least in matters of magic and mana.

"The indigenous Caribs told stories to the Spaniards about the restorative powers of the water in the land of Bimini. Who knows, maybe they were just trying to get the Spaniards to go away. But there are plenty of examples of mana keeping people young, so it doesn't seem that outlandish to me. If the Mississippi has Awakened, maybe it's time to revisit the matter."


She gives a weighty look to James, leveling him with the meaning and implications of this research.

"There are several options for making a metahuman immune to age, some more invasive than others.

1) Get infected by a vampire. This is drastic, to say the least.
2) Renfield. A physiologically and psychologically addictive alchemical preparation that vampires often use to control their thralls. It's addictive though, and withdrawal is fatal.
3) Leonization treatments. Expensive, and not unlimited. There's only so long that technology can stop the clock.
4) Make a formula pact with a free spirit. If a free spirit infuses someone with a copy of its spirit formula, that person will stop aging. I don't know if a free spirit can make a pact with a mundane though.
5) Conjure a greater spirit with the Hidden Life power. This is beyond my capabilities now, but with enough practice and research I think I might be able to."


She pauses, her expression neutral, waiting and watching James for a reaction.