NationStates Jolt Archive

Sic Semper... (Nathi)

24-06-2004, 19:40
It's an interesting device he spins idly in his hands, a bit of physical intelligence brought back by the good cadet from his jaunt in the Dominion. Interesting, but simple... first generation quantum-entanglement devices were always fascinating in both their necessary simplicity and yet the bulk from lack of sophistication. Nothing like SIS gear except in name and function, he thinks idly.

Looking up at his calendar, he nods gently to himself. Things were timing up just right. Close enough that those who need to remember do, that those who do not need to remember do not, that connections made will be sparse but just enough to keep a flicker of conspiracy alive, for it is that tiny bit of doubt, that amount of wonder of is it possible? and who could do such a thing? is what keeps people on their toes, prevents them from becoming soft and idly content. For idleness brings decay, decay brings defeat, and defeat is unacceptable.

Also... most importantly... The timing is perfect for my sense of theatrics, he thinks as he fits the elegant vocoder device to the headset. Even something as simple as an electronic voice modulator is more advanced than the untraceable communications system in both the skill in its manufacture and the many, many contingencies discovered from years of experience that it was planned to avoid.

A quick test; the voice in his ears is not the voice that escapes his lips, not by any measurement. Just a gently thrumming, androgynous, eeriliy disembodied synthesized voice lacking the timbre and depth of reality yet maintiaining full enunciation and comprehensibility... perhaps even more so.

A flick of the headset's channel switch turns it to the Dominion's Channel Spook, their ace in the hole when it comes to avoiding the prying eyes and ears of the Scolopendran Intelligence Service. Won't this surprise them.

* - * - *

One and a half billion kilometers away

Somewhere, in the Dominion, the device the headset is keyed to transmit to buzzes, then announces to whomever may hear in the middle of local office hours, that period around ten in the morning where everyone is active and has not yet settled into the routine of the day.
[code:1:89f7d5c156]Hello there. Sorry to bother, but I'm afraid you're compromised. Take me to your leader... THE leader. I've got some hot tips for her that she probably can't trust anyone else with.[/code:1:89f7d5c156]
Dread Lady Nathicana
25-06-2004, 05:24
When the message notification beeps softly, Captain Longari yawns and idly flips the switch, turning on his headset and compscreen. This section was supposed to be quiet today. Had been for the past few months, in fact. A lot of shuffling and reorganizing had gone on after That Fiasco, as some had come to quietly call it, and personnel were still being ‘re-evaluated’ on account. When the system immediately replays the message, he nearly spews his cappuccino over the screen.

“Aw, bloody hell …”

A quick acknowledgement is sent back in reply – no more than recognizing that the message had gotten through, accompanied with ‘stand by’.

Meanwhile, as these things tend to go, the incident is relayed up through the chain of command, eventually going to Giancarlo Torino, Defense Minister, and from there to Antonio Pellegrino, Intel, both of whom make their way quickly to Nathicana’s office, their expressions tense.

“What now?” she asks tiredly as they enter, having instructed Else to let them in.

“We’ve got a leak on Spook,” Pellegrino says, stepping forward to hand her a headset. “And whoever it is wants to talk to you.”

She looks at them quietly for a moment, one brow arching up. “And you think this is serious, I take it?”

“Well, considering we’ve no idea where it’s originating, and I doubt very much we have anyone just screwing around on it, and the center it showed up in was one of those operating the search for you not a few months back …” Giancarlo trails off meaningfully.

That, of course, brings her up sharp.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll take this privately. If you care to, wait outside. Else will see to your comfort while you wait.”

It isn’t a request, and they both know it well enough. With concerned looks they both make curt bows, and head back out to the outer office, muttering quietly to each other.

”What tips, do you think?”

“No idea. More importantly, who are these tips coming from, and how did they get …

The door closes, cutting off any further listening in for herself. With a frown, Nathi puts on the headset, takes a slow sip of water, then begins.

[code:1:449a39c04a]Alright, you’ve got my attention, let's find out why. And you’d best hope that this is worth my time, whoever you are. I’m in no mood for games.[/code:1:449a39c04a]
25-06-2004, 06:07
[code:1:35630cd2cf]Oh, certainly worth your time, my dear Dread Lady. Let's just say that I'm in a position to know your... circumstances concerning a certain Ardan power and its expectations for proof of the Dominion's fealty towards its cause. I have more than enough information to... expedite an act that should be not only most sufficient in proving your worth to the Ardan alliane, but will also serve my own purposes as well.

For purposes of plausible deniability--which is quite useful in your position, no?--and security on my part... for the Sword and Shield watches its own almost as much as it watches others... I simply ask that you have one of your agents who is more experienced in the darker forms of our art contact the unlisted comm-number Al-Ayyatun-3412-Exchange-7199 and leave some sort of way I can contact him by. He can call from any public phone, any street kiosk, any borrowed cell phone he may like.

I am certain that you have such an agent in Scolopendra; I would be mildly disappointed if you didn't. Either way, the offer remains open. It is simply up to you to accept it.[/code:1:35630cd2cf]
Transmission ceases, but far away, the man continues to listen.
Dread Lady Nathicana
25-06-2004, 19:32
The silence is heavy as Nathicana runs the information back through her mind, bristling angrily at some of the phrases used. Sword and Shield – Scolopendra Intel. Possible explanations for them having the information, few. They could have had the area bugged … their tech did, after all, outstrip the Dominion’s, like it or not, and the scans could have missed it. The meeting had been quiet, though Alkanphel’s coming and going had been plain enough for anyone watching. There was Tim … not an option she enjoyed thinking of, but an obvious one nonetheless. Honorable to a fault, and terribly patriotic. Devon had of course, been right. The boy was a terrible liability.

Her brows furrow as she follows along those lines. Occam’s Razor. Enough time had passed, ample opportunity for them to have gotten whatever information was needed from the boy, and do some validating of their own. Certainly, her recent associations with the warlord had not gone unnoticed – denial of seeking any possible closer ties to Arda was out of the question.

And the com device … That took her longer to sort. And again, the most likely answer was Timofeyev. He’d been monitoring their pursuit as well. In all the rush and fuss that had ensued, she had never thought to get it back from him. Nor, she was willing to bet, had Devon. There had been other more pressing concerns at the time, though she was certainly cursing herself for her lack of focus now. And, though it makes her mad as hell at the moment, the fact that she’d have done the same thing in his place does not escape her.

Her eyes narrow as she decides on a course.

[code:1:30614b1d45]First off, the Dominion owes fealty to no one. Whom we choose or do not choose to do business with is a freedom I believe we all share, save those few pitiful souls who’ve given their autonomy away to other powers.

Secondly, your information is incorrect. Any ‘circumstances’ that exist between this ‘Ardan power’ and myself I assure you, is quite under control, nor do I have any need to ‘prove my worth’ to them, nor serve as a go-between for some nameless, faceless, masked voice at the end of a stolen comlink.

Which brings me to my third point – claim what you will, words are cheap and easily tossed about. You make rather free with names and symbols, yet I have no proof of who you are, what side in this you may or may not represent, nor what your intentions and purpose might be. For all I know you are yourself an agent of Arda, hoping to trick us into revealing something, though I’ve no idea what, as our dealings have been forthright all around.

I’ve not gotten to where I’m at by blindly accepting vague offers and trusting mysterious strangers to magically provide me with things I may or may not have a use for. If you do represent the Sword and Shield, there is perhaps a way in which to prove it, in which case, I may be willing to discuss this problem of yours further. For in coming to me, however you wish to couch your offer in terms of assisting me and mine, you’ve shown you want something that I can provide, clear enough.

It is simply up to you to prove the connection to my satisfaction.[/code:1:30614b1d45]

She quite pointedly fails to confirm or deny the presence of agents in Scolopendra. If it is her ally she’s speaking with, it would be an insult in any case – both nations were quite aware of how things stood. If it isn’t, no need to make any additional mention.

Nathicana reaches again for her water, and listens intently for a response.
25-06-2004, 23:41
On the other end, the man recommences transmission with a soft chuckle. The vocoder doesn't make it seem any less heartless, although it does have a bit of honest mirth.
[code:1:d2e2570a46]Heh heh heh heh. I like how you play the game, Dread Lady. Quite artful, making me prove my case. I would say I'm impressed, but I expected no less from you. Now... how to not tip my hand too far...

We quite easily snatched more than a few of your ministers in broad daylight, especially Marissa and Calfa in the Piazza during your fabulous speech. I could assemble a list of the others we collected for you in that little micro-purge, as we did most of the work for you.

We would've found some way to grab Cesare as well, but you insisted. Mustn't waste good material, even if he's one of the three ringleaders of that most obnoxious coup.

Also... it's my department to know that SMISO and the Shadows were planning on throwing you bodily into your office like so much luggage.

I certainly hope that is sufficient to verify my identity to you; my morals may be looser than my peers but the accusation of being an Ardan? That, my dear Dread Lady, stings. Heh heh heh.[/code:1:d2e2570a46]
Dread Lady Nathicana
26-06-2004, 01:57
Nathicana nods slowly, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

[code:1:6e87e857a4]There are only two kinds of paranoia, my dear. Nicely played.

You’ll pardon if I chuckle a bit at your ‘looser morals’. I’ve found in my dealings with you people, that could equate to no more than ‘I occasionally sneak office supplies home from work’. At least in the case of Scolopendra, honesty and integrity hasn’t stifled intellect.

Perhaps the admission that you’ve piqued my curiosity, if nothing else, will soothe the sting somewhat. You’ll get your call. And in return, I’ll get further information on just what this is all about via our new mutual contact. We will see from there how to proceed – unless you would like to skip the middleman, and explain just what it is you need us to do for you that you would rather not do yourself? It would save time …[/code:1:6e87e857a4]
26-06-2004, 02:06
[code:1:7779149823]Curiosity is a good sign. What needs to be done is the removal of a pustulent little cancer that should not be connected to me and could be connected, if you so choose, to you... but only to the particular people, of course, who would take it the right way.

As I said, make sure your lackey is sufficiently versed in the darker forms of our art. Saying any more at this point could be saying too much.[/code:1:7779149823]
Unheard to the headset's microphone, the man lightly drums his fingers on the desk. Such nervous little gestures when no one is looking are quite common in his line of business.
Dread Lady Nathicana
26-06-2004, 02:28
Removal … interesting turn, this. Not typical of the usual Scolopendran ideals, but definitely not beyond belief. No wonder they’re asking us. Pity to get one’s hands dirty with such distasteful work. Not to mention, we’re useful to them as well in a close position to the Imperium, and we both know it.

Then again, depending on who … indeed, depending on who. Couldn’t be Speaker. Nor Razak. Nor several others I could think of offhand. And if does turn out to be, by some odd quirk of fate, someone I’d rather not see eliminated, I’ve some quick work ahead of me. If not, again, depending … this could be useful after all.

A slow sip of water as she ponders, brows furrowed, and then the reply.

[code:1:cfcfa1ddd4]If they aren’t well-versed in such, they’ve no business being where they are. I think that’s answer enough.

Now, unless there’s anything else, I’ve arrangements to make.[/code:1:cfcfa1ddd4]
26-06-2004, 02:32
[code:1:7cb3e5bcee]No... no, I think that just about covers it. I'll be waiting.

Five Civilized Nations
26-06-2004, 03:00
#tagged for a very interesting read...
26-06-2004, 04:05
((Taggishness indeed.))
Dread Lady Nathicana
28-06-2004, 02:54
“Else – get Pellegrino back in here, now.”

Already Nathicana was sifting through digital files, those she was aware of at least, and all tagged with some small symbol or other, denoting different groups. “I know he has agents unlisted. Been standard since .. hmm. Serptente, Pantere, Corvi, Scorpio …”

Antonio Pellegrino enters the room, his face tight with concern. “Well?” he says softly enough not to be considered rude, even less comforted by her brisk, businesslike manner.

“I need names, Toni. Agents inside Scolopendra, and only those with serious skills, and ready to do some wetwork,” she says crisply, transferring the info she’s already gathered to a datapad and pushing it across the desk to him.

He arches both brows at that, giving her a quick once-over to try and gauge her mood, try and read something between the lines before scanning the list of possible candidates.

“One-way trip,” she replies to the unspoken question. “And the less you or anyone else knows, the better.”

Offering a quick nod of understanding, he scans the list, ticking off a couple, then pondering for a moment. “I believe I have the one you want. If I may?” he says, gesturing to her computer. She pushes it across the desk without a word, watching him closely.

Several screens and passwords later, a file is called up, printed off, then locked back tightly behind the security screens. Nathicana takes back the portcomp once Pellegrino is finished, reaching back to retrieve the printed file.

Born: Elena Aulenti
Age: 26
Current Assignment: Classified

Nathicana scans the rest of the document, taking note of training, skills, years of service, anything in fact that Pellegrino’s system hadn’t blacked out or marked classified, then nods slowly.

“I believe we have a winner. Grazie, Toni. I’ll be handling the details of this one myself – make it happen, then consider Morana out of contact for the duration.”

An apartment in Stonozka

Morana took up her small datapad, and sat on the edge of her bed in the small but serviceable room that had served as her home for the past few months. Leaning over, she switched on the white noise generator, then adjusted the small headset. The earlier contact from home had been somewhat of a surprise, but not entirely unwelcome. The only question now was what the job entailed.

“Reporting as directed. Verification code Kronos four seven tau dash six three zero sigma phi. Status, green.”

“Acknowledged. Gaea one zero alpha dash nine two seven delta alpha. Set to receive?”

“Acknowledged, standing by.”

“Find a phone you feel comfortable with, be it cell, public, or otherwise. Contact this comm-number: Al-Ayyatun-3412-Exchange-7199, leave information for callback. All instructions are to be relayed here before taking any actions. Green must be given. No exceptions until instructed otherwise by myself, and no others. Are we clear?”

”Crystal. Any further instructions?”

“Negative. Awaiting update. Aerie out.”

Taking off the headset, Morana frowned slightly. This was … unexpected. Still, she had a job to do, and the familiar mix of anticipation and cautious intrigue was already causing her pulse to race, her skin to prick. She retrieved one of the four cell phones she kept on hand from their drawer, and dialed in the code she had been given, waited for the answering service to give it’s customary beep, then spoke clearly.


Turning off the phone, she kicked back on her bed to wait.

And in an office some one and a half billion kilometers away, a dark-haired woman poured herself another glass of ice water, and waited as well, brow furrowed.
28-06-2004, 04:49
Streets of Stonozka Topside

The man feels his multi-use communicator--fulfilling the functions of vidphone, PDA, digital camera, digital videocorder, and pager--vibrate in one of the large pockets of his sleek trenchcoat. Taking it out with a breezy, practiced flip of the wrist as his thumb toggles the screen latch, he notes the number and nods. Thumbing speed dial, he brings the device to his ear. "Yeah, listen... I'm gonna be delayed. Traffic's a bit rough out here."

It was true enough, at least on the street he walked alongside of. -Hrr. How long should we postpone?-

"Don't worry, I'll catch up on the minutes. I may be fifteen minutes late."

-Acknowledged.- He immediately flips the device shut, stashes it in the pocket he retrieved it from, and skips over the railing leading down to the metro in true le parkour style.

Outskirts of Stonozka

The transition between the inner urbania of the Scolopendran capital city and the broad steppe of topside is made up of construction projects, skeletal structures vaguely reminicent of the geometric, vertical Scolopendran style arching up towards the blue sky dominated by the clear yellow-orange orb of Saturn and her rings. Some buildings have their skins of rebar complete yet unpainted, dull hulks of a dusky tan.

The man steps into one of these deserted structures, no change in his confident step as he climbs flights of stairs to the third floor, head gently bobbing to the very quiet music ( in his headphones. Listening keeps him from his bad habit of humming or whistling, he's found.

Taking out a multitool, he selects a screwdriver and removes the plate from a comport obscured from the hallway by a fortunate kink in the room, occasionally looking up to confirm his solitude as he fishes out a small device the size of the tip of his little finger connected between the building line and the comport. Untwisting the connection and pocketing the device, he reconnects the building line and the comport, then replaces the entire apparatus in the wall before leaving through an emergency exit. It had been tricky to set up this dead-box line, but it was worth it. If anyone in the future happened to find a single cell-phone call to an unlisted number in corporate archives and they put the pieces together, it would still lead to a link in Nadya which did not, does not, and never will exist.

Or maybe, he thinks, It will. Excellent.

Now is not the time to check the information. Now is the time to wait.
Executive Apartments, Stonozka

Speaker-Rrit bares just a hint of teeth. "This hardly classifies as 'appropriate initative,' Advisor Spoilsport."

The portly man just grins easily, having never tried to break the habit. "Oh, I dunno. I think that since you signed the KIST accords and haven't looked back since, it's my job to capitalize as much as possible on it."

"You do have a... history of capitalizing," the Supreme Emperor replies, "but this"--he taps one finger on the manilla folder in front of him, claw just barely out--"is unacceptable. The WTO does not stand for our ideals, and thus opening ourselves to free trade--which was never our intent in KIST--with several known oppressive nations is unacceptable."

"Hey, I'm just a trader by trade," Ralph says easily, "and a good decent utilitarian to boot." He raises one hand in an almost mocking Boy Scout salute. "I figure if we can get money from those naughty, naughty oppressors who put the proles to the point of subsistence, we can put it into our own good works."

"After you slip a good bit off the top into your own pockets," Science Advisor Jon Hertzfeldt growls sotto voce.

"What, my dear fellow Advisor?" Ralph says sweetly. Served the rutabaga right, the twit... should've never been as high as he was, not when there were more qualified and those more open to good business.

"Maybe I'll tell you later, Ralph," Jon replies quietly.

Kommetrez's eyes narrow as his face falls into its traditional not-smiling pose... but perhaps with a bit more downward emphasis. "Your timing is impeccable, Ralph... with us trying to make contact with the UnAPS"--in Scolopendran fashion, the acronym is transliterated to 'yoo-naps'--"they'd take very poorly to us working with capitalist nations with absolutely no concern for the working class."

Scolopendrans are generally absurdly easy when it comes to racial slurs; if Ralph had said "rutabaga" aloud and in the right tone it would almost be taken as a term of endearment. Economic slurs, on the other hand, especially concerning the working classes...

"Hell, we were already planning on pulling the wool over their eyes in our dealings with autocratic nations, no?" The trade advisor grins broadly. "I don't think a few more omissions about our relations will hurt."

"The difference with our allies are that their people are left to be happy," Speaker says quietly, one hand unconsciously gripping the edge of the conference table, tendons beginning to bulge.

"Hey now," Garbo says with a close-lipped smile, "all's not lost. I'll just see what I can do with SIS to limit the damage. In fact, we could use Ralph's winnings here to fund some of my darker culture-shifting campaigns. Nothin' brings joy to the heart of a Follower of Rostov like fomenting righteous rebellion and shifting around less-than-open societies. 'Give us resources and time, and we can do anything.'"

"That is the only saving grace of this." Speaker closes his eyes, sets his jaw, and forces himself to sit back in his chair. "Meeting adjourned."

The Advisors filter out of the conference room and Ralph turns to go down the stairs to the International Trade Section to run some papers, but finds himself stopped short of the door by the brawny, salt-and-pepper haired arm of the short-sleeved Razak. This Mobile Infantryman hasn't given up the weightlifting regimen, it seems.

"Don't think the Federal Police have forgotten Xaosis, Ralph," the old colonel says with no humor at all in his voice.

"What?" Spoilsport says with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, the investigation may not have enough evidence to pin you as good as you deserve," Razak says quietly, "but if we took it to court we'd win. Oh yes. Even if you are the fair-haired child of the business community."

"You won't," Ralph grins broadly, "because, for one, I'm innocent and for two it'd be horrid PR. The clean idealist white knights would suddenly have a spot on their armor, real or imagined. Like I said months ago, you were bright to limit to the private sector. We've no love lost on megacorps anyway, ScoloMart got busted up as it should, and Al-Thynniyan is now busting his ass in correctional boot camp. You've won against the Ardan buyout."

"Not as long as you're on the payroll," Razak says quietly, "and I still disagree with Jon and Speeks on keeping you on just because you're useful. It's stunts like this that just make me feel more deeply about it."

"So? I've seen the reports from the FedPolice, it's all circumstantial evidence. I'm actually quite shocked you, being rational, believe it."

"I will get you, Spoilsport, if your usefulness continues to wane. Even if it requires a special sort of permanence." Razak grins much too broadly, with all too many teeth. Living with a 'tosh for years way back when gives him the meanest kzingrin ever sported by a human."

Ralph hides the fear in his eyes with a scoff. "Again, you wouldn't tarnish yourself so."

Razak leans back, folding his arms while keeping the grin, his steel eyes locked on the shorter man's. "You could be surprised."

Spoilsport wisely scurries off.

* - * - *

Later, off-duty, the man idly walks into a public phonebooth. Today only firmed his resolve, and so he easily slips the vocoder onto the mouthpiece with the voice-changer's gecko-pad adhesive rim and dials the number he retrieved from the bug.

[code:1:80b139b6eb]The matter in hand is in Locker 265 of Metro station at Bravo and 16th, Dome Prime, Underside... very public. Passkey is quite possibly your Lady's youngest compatriot. Don't try too hard.

Contact: Hotel Angelique, Stonozka-1890-Exchange-2811, Room 19.

Vocoder back in pocket, he hangs up and walks off.
Dread Lady Nathicana
28-06-2004, 07:40
Morana answers the phone and simply listens, taking out her pad again and entering the contact number. She then takes up the headset, and follows procedure again, and, after a pause on the other end, gets clearance to move ahead.

“Obvious query,” she says, her datapad at the ready.

”Youngest compatriot. Hrm … “ The voice at the other end is silent, as Nathicana ponders the riddle for a moment. A reference from a past missive catches her attention, and she nods, smiling a bit at the connection. “Cavaliere bianco,” comes the reply finally. “If not that, contact me again.”

“Understood. Morana, out.”

Shrugging on a pair of loose cargo pants, complete with ample pockets, and well-stocked with useful items, and then a sturdy pair of serviceable boots. A comfortable black t-shirt sporting an intricate celtic triskellion design ( in shades of blues and aquas on the back completes the ensemble. After pulling her long auburn hair back in a simple ponytail, she grabs her shades, her backpack, and pockets her datapad and heading out the door.

Catching the light rail transport, she settles into a spot near the doors, watching the cityscape flow past, noting not for the last time how different it was from her home town, Campanella, on the Isla d’Galitae. Idyllic was the word that immediately sprang to mind. Not at all like the utilitarian efficiency of the Segments, though she had grown to love the diversity and beauty found there. If anything, she had learned that neither the people nor the place were things easily categorized into neat little packets. While many things could be counted on, both had a way of surprising you when least expected.

Keeps me on my toes, she ponders, a half-smile turning up the corners of her lips.

Exiting the transport at her intended stop, she mingles in with the crowd, making her way through the bustling station with a casual confidence, acknowledging those around her when appropriate, and seeming not to notice when called for. The odd mix of races didn't even phase her these days, though looking back, it hadn't always been so. The time she had run into a kzin accidentally was an experience not likely to soon fade. One simply does not take a quarter ton of muscles, claws and teeth lightly.

She maintains a sharp situational awareness, affected nonchalance or no, heading straight for the lockers. It takes her a moment to find the one she’s looking for along the wall, following the numbers til she hits 265. Leaning in, she presses the button and speaks clearly.

“Cavaliere bianco.”
28-06-2004, 08:10
The door opens easily, revealing...

...a faux-leather attache case pushed to one side of the locker. Something wholly expected in a train station luggage locker. Further inspection shows it to be unconnected to anything inside, not rigged and free to be moved. It has simple metal clasps on it with three-dial combination locks; if someone really wanted to get into it they could probably just cut through the brass-plated steel hinges on the bottom.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 01:33
Morana hesitates only so long as it takes to verify the status of the case, then takes it out with casual ease, giving the locker a once over to check for any other items tucked away in corners, slipped in between metal joints before closing the door and walking off with a purpose, case firmly in hand. She maintains her nonchalant manner, occasionally glancing at those around her with a casual interest. It never ceased to amaze her how this nation had managed to bring together so many different cultures and races, all seeming to blend together in an intricate tapestry that somehow ended up feeling ‘right’. There was an overall sense of purpose here that seemed missing in her homeland, and it troubled her occasionally.

Like now.

Taking out her cell phone, she dials in the number left from her last contact, pausing to check routes on one of the station boards. She quickly plots a course even as she speaks.

“Room nineteen, please.”

While she waits, she tests the weight of the briefcase in her hand, making idle guesses at the contents and pondering the pros and cons of opening it before she makes the rendezvous. Not trusting would be quite in character for a Dominion agent. And she had learned that while Scolopendrans seemed to often be honorable to a fault, they were no fools. Still … it had been impressed on her that this was important, and such tampering could possibly jeopardize the mission.

Well damn.
14-07-2004, 05:34
The concierge at the front desk transfers the call with a quiet click. There's some moments of silence, then a synthesized feminine voice. "We're sorry, but this room is currently unoccupied." Then follows another click, some silence, and a traditional answering-machine beep.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 05:43
Interesting ...

“Acquired,” she says simply, listens for a brief moment, then cuts the connection, pocketing her phone. Cursing softly under her breath, she rethinks her decision, idly pressing the catch buttons on the top of the briefcase as she glances towards the restrooms, and the relative privacy the stalls there offer.
14-07-2004, 05:57
The clasps fail to open, probably because the three numeric turn-dials next to each are not set properly. Apparently [572][981] is not the correct code.

Across the city, someone checks his communicator and listens to the message. Unlike so many others, it is not immediately discarded; he presses another speed-dial key linked to the cell phone number he had been given. Excellent. What is it currently set to?

Morana flips open her phone, listens, and checks the dials. "Five seven two and nine eight one, respectively," she replies, making her way towards the restrooms with a purposeful stride.

The man smiles... not as if anyone could tell behind the vocoded voice. Not the tampering type. Good. Also excellent. That will do quite well. Any questions at the moment?

She chuckles softly as she steps through the door. "The obvious. Where to proceed."

Obviously and naturally. "Naturally" ends up with just a bit more emphasis. We are just friends on the phone, after all. Any problems so far?

"Not at all. Been enjoying myself thoroughly." She pauses, pondering. Naturally ... topside? "Though I've been pondering heading out for a glimpse of open sky."

A sigh. Definitely a professional... trying too hard. Hhhhhh... yes, open sky is always nice... I think there's something in the suitcase I left you for that. Will it work?"

Heading into one of the stalls, Morana closes the door, sits down, places the briefcase on her lap, and takes a mutlitool out of her pocket, making short work of the hinges along the bottom. She opens it up carefully, peering inside. "Lets see, shall we?"

Definitely a professional of a different kind. There goes the naturalness of the conversation... I hope she's not doing this in public. Willful, at least... something to keep in mind. But of course.

Inside the otherwise completely empty suitcase is a newspaper clipping referring to some trade deal, with a photograph of International Trade Advisor Spoilsport shaking hands with a businessman. Morana slips the multitool back into her pocket, and nods thoughtfully. Target acquired, so it seems. "Definitely some sites I hadn't previously considered seeing," she murmurs, folding up the clipping and stashing it in one of her pockets as she stands and closes the briefcase, tucking it under her arm. "Given this, I figure it's a simple process of elimination to trim the list to fit my schedule."

Yes, well, such is the nature of things. I'll do my best to offer suggestions so your time is well spent. I understand you have to check back from time to time; just call me here--same number--when you've some free time.

"Appreciate the help," she replies, walking briskly back out into the open and heading for the boarding area that would take her home. "And plan on it. Always nice to have one's own private tour guide, so to speak. Til then." Morana waits long enough for an appropriate reply.



The agent disconnects, boarding the transport.

* - * - *

Advisor Hertzfeldt frowns, looking over the late-edition reports from his Science Section for today. Today had not quite gone as planned; a phone call earlier, while pleasant for a change, had taken away quite a bit of time from work. "Hey, Jon."

Hertzfeldt jumps in his seat, startled by the wholly unexpected entrance of Spoilsport. His response probably has a bit more spite than he was wanting to show. "What do you want?"

"Eh, I was a bit out of line earlier," the pudgy man says with his best mending-fences smile. "You've always been so forgiving in the past... truce?"

"I dunno..." Hertzfeldt replies. He wasn't a fool by any means; he was just unsuited for command in the limelight. His lackluster performance as Supreme Emperor in the last administration hadn't improved his self-esteem nor his public image any. "Fool me once, shame on you..." The rest of the proverb goes unsaid.

"And who says I've fooled you?" Slightly wounded smile.

"Quite a few, actually, although it was some time ago." Jon folds his hands and leans forward on his desk. "I don't particularly care to be taken advantage of, and I find your timing to be quite curious. Is something the matter?"

Unbidden, the trade advisor grabs a chair and sits in it. "Just checking to see if I still have any friends on staff."

"Sorry, but I'm afraid paying us would simply make us like you even less," Jon lets slip with a stony face. He wonders about his cruelty for a moment, then decides to take comfort in that his wit is still intact.

"That's cold, Jon." Ralph looks honestly hurt.

"Oddly accurate if what... some have told me is true."

"Look... I know Razak has a mad-on 'cause he thinks I was in Xaosis' pocket. Still... you have to admit, not everyone is idealistic as you. He's been jealous ever since I made that killing on the oil deals. Some people hide behind idealism to spread what they do best... and, I know it hurts your idealism to do so," he says softly, "but you have to realize it."

Jon nods sagely. "Yes, I do think people tend to use my idealism against me." He then grins perhaps a bit too broadly. "I also think I'm learning to temper that idealism to my needs."

Spoilsport blinks.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 06:17
Devras, the Dominion

“Spoilsport? You’re certain?” Nathi asks, her eyes narrowed, focusing on the Raphael replica across the room – more precisely, the spear in the hand of Saint Michael (

“Quite. I’ve been given a line for directions and information, and they’re counting on me to check home. The contact has been very cautious.”

“Stand by.”

Nathicana bites her lower lip, her brows furrowed as she ponders the implications. She’d pegged him for a player when she first laid eyes on him at the Granny Slag’s grand opening. He’d spent quite some time with di Medici talking shop. The report had come back noting this was a man to watch – someone likely to fit in more with the Dominion’s mindset than Scolopendra, oddly enough. Add to that the speculations going around for some time concerning Xaosis and ScoloMart, and the situation got even more interesting. The Segments ran a tight ship, however. Anything more had been hard to verify, though intel had been able to turn up hints of a deeper investigation being run discretely.

Reasonable enough … A replacement shouldn’t hurt our relationship much, in fact, could assist it. Another likely link to Xaosis that I wouldn’t mind seeing go quiet as well. Still, they have Kommetrez. Whether he’s privy to all, as he likely is … damn the man, he always has considered himself Scolopendran, regardless of the change. And I’m certain he has their best interests at heart. If so, they know. Perhaps another reason why we’ve been contacted to assist with this.

She reaches for her usual glass of ice water, sipping slowly as she mulls over any further possible paths this might be leading to. Still, it should serve my purposes well enough. Xaosis opened the door, things with Alkanphel and Althalon seem to be going smoothly enough. Regardless of assurances, this ought to help sway the critics and cement things nicely. I wonder if I could put an NDA spin on it …

“Proceed as directed in regards to this target only. Authorization must be gained from myself and no others before continuing on to any other targets aside from this one. Keep me apprised as best you can of the situation as it progresses. Are we clear?”

”Received and acknowledged. Target is green, all other possible targets must be approved, progress reports expected as soon as situation allows.”

“Excellent. Care and discretion, Morana. Best of luck. Aerie out.”

Stonozka, Scolopendra

Morana methodically laid out the tools of her trade, checking her various bits of equipment, her array of weapons ranging from a simple and brutal garotte to the more elegantly discrete vials of poisons and methods of delivery, assuring herself all was in order. When she was ready, she flipped open the cell phone and made the call.

“Earlier you said you had some thoughts on how best I could spend my time. I’d be interested in hearing suggestions, if you’ve got a few.”
14-07-2004, 06:20
Spoilsport frowns. The phone rang, Hertzfeldt picked it up, then said something about not being able to do the weekly pub-crawl tomorrow and shooed him out of his little cubicle semi-office. Everyone was acting strangely towards him as of late... but it was no worse than last year after the elections, when that idiot Al-Thynnian got himself caught. Spoilsport had told him running for Supreme Emperor was hasty, that even with the Legislative Unit firmly bought the people themselves weren't ready and would just vote out everyone they felt was tainted by too much pretty polly... which they promptly did, thanks to that bloody moron's meddling.

Walking over to Garbo's more secure cubicle office, Ralph steps back as Agent Drake--quite the tall man of English extraction--steps out and almost on top of the shorter, corpulent man. "Hey, watch where you're going, Agent."

"Oh. My apologies," Drake replies in his noticable but not overbearing accent, looking serious as ever. Spoilsport reminds him of the cads he helped 'acquire' in the Dominion. Calfa's head made a gratifying noise on the frame of that Fiat, he finds himself thinking, I wonder how Spoilsport's would compare? Alas, it will never be my place to know. "Sometimes I become so fixed on duty that I find myself lacking in the niceties appropriate to my station."

"Yeah, that would be kind," Spoilsport says with an edge of irritation in his voice.

"Unfortunately, my job dictates that I am very rarely kind to men." The SIS agent nods once with almost a wink, then stalks off.

Shrugging, Ralph peeks in the door of the cubicle office, watching Garbo bob his head in time to the music invariably playing over his new headset. Man loves his music... "Hey, Janus."

The intelligence advisor looks up, smiles, then removes the headset, twiriling it lightly in his hands. "Ya?"

"You still on for pub night? Hertzfeldt's opted out."

Garbo frowns a little. "Weird. Usually it's his chance to relax."

"I know... still, I think it's best that it's just the two of us. I'll tell ya later. Anyway, still in?"

Janus nods, quiet concern passing over his face. "Of course."

Spoilsport grins genuinely and heads off as Garbo settles back into his traditional groove.

* - * - *

The one in question has a significant pattern to his activities, which should ease things a bit. We do need a body, which makes things more interesting, and probably a souvenir or two as well, although I'll leave that to your Lady's discretion. The fact that someone is going to stumble across it means that it can't be too clean--to professional--and the actual act requires professionalism to keep it quiet. I trust your skills in this vein are sufficient.

Every Friday he visits a pub, The Braying Donkey, near city-center topside Stonozka at 1800 hours and leaves at 2000 hours like clockwork. City-center is where a lot of light manufacturing and bioreclamation is, so there's plenty of blind alleys you should be able to get a drunk man into.

After that, you'll have evidence on you that is quite time-sensitive. The less time you spend in-country, the better. I've arranged transportation out but it will require a rendezvous at Reclamation Plant Three, which is no more than three blocks away from The Braying Donkey. I know this is quite the risk, but my shuttle won't do very well with a corpse at the helm and it doesn't particularly care for strangers. The plant is automated, and is empty around that time. The north loading docks are always open; the one nearest the street is blocked from the central camera system by a partition and so I will be waiting there.

Any questions?
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 06:42
Morana takes note of the times, locations, details, committing them to memory, the familiar feeling of mixed anticipation and anxiety welling up again as she listens.

Red flag. Too clean cut … too easy. There’s usually something in the general area. I’m sure transportation could be arranged – there’s still time. The drop for this information they mention, however … damn, this could be touchy.

“Several. Is he easy? If so and if you know, what are his tastes? Men, women, no noticeable pref? Better perhaps to approach with an offer or angle? Damsel in distress? Strong-arm tactics? Simply looking for a hook. Drunk or no, not everyone’s fool enough to just be merrily led off by a someone they’ve just met. There’s always the options of brute force or ‘helping my poor drunken friend home’, but those have the potential to end up so much messier ... Which brings me to this. While I am appreciative of all the assistance towards the completion of this job, my mother raised no fools, and always warned me about accepting rides from strangers. I can’t help but think it would save both of us trouble were I to acquire my own transportation.”
14-07-2004, 14:23
Heh heh heh. Good luck on that. The background checks and bioscans on getting transportation to get you off-world can be rather fierce. Certainly you remember the difficulties of customs getting in, with the requisite bioscan and such? Well, even though our biosphere is rather durable, we also don't like the idea of some of our critters getting out and ruining someone else's biome. Anything that doesn't make a DNA matchup with yours that isn't standard microbial fare gets you stopped...

...and we don't want that. Your mother didn't raise a fool, it seems, and so it must also be apparent that whatever you're picking up and shipping out is useful to me as well. The last thing I need is for you to get caught and have all those questions raised. Would be messy, quite messy indeed.

My mother raised me that doing something half-assed is worse than doing it at all, and so I'm still in a position to tip off the target if need be and just wait for another go. So, before I give you additional information on how not to get caught, I think I need some reassurance that you're not going to do anything to get yourself caught. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, after all, and I'm afraid your method of saving us both trouble will do little but bring more of it.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 15:40
Dammit all to hell … it’s been so long, I’d forgotten. Tight here, and after all that mess a while back with Berserker, even moreso out there. Pity … so much more to see. Was rather getting to like the place. I wonder … bluff? Strong probability this goes high up, in which case, not at all. If so, unlikely to get favors called in on account. Forward it is, eyes open.

“Well, we can’t have that, can we? Onward and upward, so it seems. Lets try keep the amicable nature of this arrangement we’ve had so far through to the end, then,” she says, maintaining a casual tone.

She begins removing all unimportant information from her handheld device, then sets it to transmit via Spook back home to the database, taking advantage of the ‘delete on send’ option.

“Trouble is something neither of us care to deal with, I’d wager, and I know I’ve no desire to drag this out any longer than necessary. You’re asking me to trust you – in this case, I’ll have to ask for some of the same. If my word as a professional that I will see this through is not enough reassurance, then set me a task that won’t interfere with the limited time available for the job.”

The other phones were cleared of numbers, last numbers dialed were set to one. It never hurt to be prepared. If a quick trip it was, a quick clean would be needed, something usually initiated by call or lack thereof. If her suspicions were correct, the location was now compromised in any case. Nothing a mention to home during her next communication wouldn’t solve.

“So – are we green, have you a task, or …” She trails off, glancing around the simple, sparsely appointed room, judging what all she might need, and at the same time, how much she could get away with packing out herself.

Or shall I start running?
14-07-2004, 15:47
I think this is wholly acceptable. Previous directions essentially performed the same purpose as the task you now suggest and I defer on that account.

Spoilsport is certainly heterosexual and likes to haggle. While not particularly 'easy' he does have looser inhibitions when inebriated. It's more of a game he plays, or so I've heard, that he sees just how low he can argue the price and then usually abstains. Apparently the man likes his work and takes every opportunity to practice. Still, from what I've seen, he has great respect for those who can hold their own in debates and negotiations, so an assertive nature would probably be best. He tends to resist outright imperatives, so a more suggestive than authoritarian mode would be best.

Is there anything else?
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 15:49
“You mentioned ‘time sensitive evidence’. What am I looking for, and if such details are unknown to you, shall I take it to mean ‘deliver whatever I can find on the man’? It would be in keeping with the look of ‘mugging gone horribly awry’ at any rate. A pity how these things still manage to happen in this day and age.”

Interesting mix. Pleasant challenge, she ponders, walking over to the small closet to look through some of the clothes hanging there.
14-07-2004, 15:58
More interesting than that, even. For the circumstances required, something a bit more personal would be appropriate. Wallets, identification, all that can be forged rather easily. Some more personal token, like perhaps something his mother gave him, would require far more information and ingenuity than that, and could be directly attributed to the body left behind.

No, a 'mugging gone awry' is just a bit too mundane for my purposes. The act of a ritualistically violent fetishist, on the other hand, will inspire just enough awe and curiosity to keep people guessing without guessing very closely at all to the truth.

What, exactly, it is is unimportant. This is why I left the souvenir to your Lady's discretion.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 16:02
“If one has to go, one may as well make it memorable exit,” she says with a wry smile, keeping her tone casual, even as her pulse quickens. “This of course, can be done, though it will be understandably unpleasant and no doubt, messy. You certainly have a flair for the dramatic.” She pauses, then nods to herself, continuing.

“I believe I have what is needed to proceed. Unless an unforeseen problem or additional question presents itself on either end here, I will simply plan on our next discussion being at the designated rendezvous point upon completion of the task. If there are no further instructions …?”

Maledicalo … First things first – finish the job, get out, then find a place I can get lost. I don’t think there’s any going back on this one. Not with the repeated references to ‘The Lady’s discretion’, the target, the misdirection. No one is going to want loose ends on this. Goddess willing, I can work the rendezvous in my favor. I’ve a day to plan, work the recon, get a sampling of evening activity in the area …
14-07-2004, 16:03
That's not the first time I've been accused of that.

At the rendezvous point.

Looking down, the man checks a small box he has in his pocket, registering the dull lights next to the punch-tape stickylabels. Hmm... 1700 hours... flow looks about right. People do want to enjoy what time they have before Fajir, after all.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 16:06
”Requesting a cleaning for current residence. Believe location may be compromised. Final instructions have been given, target remains the same. I assume you have the information required as to the Lady’s preferred ‘souvenirs’?”

This query takes the lady in question aback, enough that there is a noticeable pause before she responds with the first thing that comes to mind. “The eyes, of course. It is hoped you can work out an appropriate situation with that.”

“I believe so. Do I have authorization to continue as directed? The area and scenario requires some reconnaissance. Time is of the essence.”

Again, the hesitation. “All points acknowledged. Authorization granted. Given the short notice of the assignment, extraction details are still being worked out,” she began, only to be interrupted.

“Extraction has already been arranged via contact. Will contact to arrange rendezvous once clear, difficulties at this time, seen to be minimal.”

Why doesn’t that comfort me? No doubt they’re planning on cleaning up the loose ends themselves. Saves me work, but keeps them in control. Goddammit …

“Again, acknowledged. We don’t like it on this end, but … do what you must, so long as the job is completed. Best of luck – Aerie out.”

On closing the connection, Nathicana frowns. Something of that nature was going to draw attention. Misdirection, perhaps, but … it was a nasty business, and provided more opportunity for mistakes. The woman had best be as good as Pellegrino had said.


Tucking away the headset, Morana gathered her gear, carefully stowing it away in a neat multi-pouch pack. There was much to be done. Already a list of items was forming in her mind, ideas on what she had, and what would be needed. It wasn’t a matter of excitement or pleasure; simply a quiet, methodic planning for the task ahead. She filled a thermos with the rich chocolate cinnamon hazelnut coffee she’d started on arriving back at the apartment – a taste of home. Once finished, she took up the simple pack she’d had earlier, stowed the thermos, and made her way to the nearest transport. From there it was a series of stops and lifts that would lead to her destination, grabbing a bit of Tandoori to go along the way. It was going to be a busy night, after all.

The view from topside had for some reason both intrigued and disturbed. Part of her was in awe of the view, dominated by Saturn and its magnificent rings, and the engineering achievements that made it possible. Another part of her couldn’t shake the feeling of overall ‘wrongness’ when she looked up at the strange sky, and the absence of the single familiar Luna of home.

Finding The Braying Donkey was a matter of accessing the public directory, and from there more travel and footwork. Always moving with a purpose, and a confident, casual demeanor that said she belonged exactly where she was at any given moment, she began tracing her way through the area, using whatever advantage accessible higher buildings offered, wherever it would not draw undue attention. She took note of likely locations, keeping a sharp eye out for those corners most likely to be cloaked in deep shadows come 2000 hours. There was still time yet, though the light was fading.

Reclamation Plant Three, and possible routes to it from various alleyways was also on the list for reconnaissance, and in particular, getting a look at the north loading docks, and the rendezvous point. She never lingered long, always having some excuse to be pausing whether it was to eat a bit of her meal, or stoop to retie her boots in areas where such actions might be noted.

Once relative darkness had settled over the area, checking her watch, she quietly took up higher ground and settled in to observe the area, watching for any discernable patterns in the ebb and flow of the residents, the patrons of the pub, high and low traffic areas and their relative position to the likely spots she’d scoped out before.
14-07-2004, 16:10
Friday, Executive Apartments

Spoilsport generally keeps away from the other Advisors, and he's generally not missed. There'd been flare-ups like this in the past; all he had to do was make himself scarce and wait for it to blow over. Unlike other nationalities, the usual Scolopendran demeanor wasn't exactly prone to breeding grudges; all he'd have to do is make another spectacular economic deal and run with the good press on it.

Then again, he thought, that's what the WTO deal was supposed to be. We've got a leg up on almost all the other nations technologically, and I'm sure no one would arch an eyebrow at our standard trade restrictions... still, it will be most profitable once it all gets set up. Thing is that none of them understand. This, to a point, is true; pseudosocialist states tend not to understand--or at least not to believe--the concept that an economy should be based entirely on the concept of consumption and not the actual generation of wealth that can be used to specific ends. There's a reason why many simple items in Scolopendra are far more durable and easier to upgrade than those made elsewhere--once you have one, you shouldn't need to go out and get another. Bah. Foolish uncompetitive practices.

Just a day of paperwork and the occasional calls to business leaders and foreign connections, like any other.

1900 hours, The Braying Donkey

No one really knew why bars in Scolopendra followed the pattern of English public houses or inns, straight down to the squattish, archaic architecture that simply stood out when compared with the Art Deco behemoths that surrounded them. They simply did, and people seemed to like them nonetheless, and so they remained that way.

The Braying Donkey is one of that class, nestled deep within "Old" City Center of Stonozka, and it hailed itself as being "the first Topside pub on Titan." No one really bothered to check, but no one else bothered to make the claim, so there was no need. Located as it was between several police precincts in the quietest part of downtown, it is considered a safe meeting point for various bits of the Scolopendran government located in the Executive or Legislative Apartments at walking distances away. Normally, Advisors would kick back on Fridays, share a few drinks, and generally unwind from the commonly hectic week. The Intelligence Section doesn't particularly like the idea, as it would make a perfect target for some sort of sting operations, but, as Drake explains:

"It's tradition, just like why these places are poorly lit and have low-rooms."

"Still don't like it," Garbo says. "I hate keeping myself sober just so I can shoot straight when it all hits the fan."

"If," Ralph says with perhaps too much feeling, "if my good man. You're not easing my worries any."

"And a slight taste won't hurt too poorly... which is why I limit myself," Drake says as he raises his glass in mock salute. "Skull." And a sip of brandy goes down. "Worries, Advisor?"

"Errr..." Spoilsport looks at the tall Englishman. "Eh, probably nothing too big. Just being paranoid."

The professional spy chuckles darkly. "Well understood. Perhaps it will keep you alive some day."

"That's not nice," the pudgy man says with mild indignation.

"I already told you, Advisor," Drake says as he looks from under his brows over his glass, "I am very rarely nice to men. Skull." He finishes his brandy, then checks his watch. "Well, that's my one-drink limit. I'd best be off."

Janus smirks. "What's the rush, Drake?"

"The usual. Things to prepare. One never knows when one is going to get shipped out in my line of work."

"Don't I know it. Take care."

Drake nods, then turns around as Ralph broaches a question. "What are you preparing for?"

The spy grins. "If I told you, then I'd have to kill you. Good night." Turning back around, he leaves into the warm Stonozka night.

Ralph shudders. "That's what worries me, Garbo. I get the feeling someone is after me."

The Intelligence Advisor frowns, sympathy once again flitting past his face. "Need a security detail?"

"No... I don't think so, at least. Drake's been acting funny as of late, Hertzfeldt is distant and... making hints, and Razak's playing hardball again. Nothing new, or at least, shouldn't seem new... but..." He drinks another shot of vermouth, enjoying the mild haze and warmth it elicits. "I dunno. Just doesn't feel like last time. Not the first time I've been threatened with jail... maybe worse..."


"Well, I don't think any of them would assassinate me, anyway." Another slug.

Garbo folds his arms. "Right then... you're getting escorted."

"No, really, don' have to. Just seein' me on my way will be jus' fine."

"Okay..." Janus replies with concern. "You just take care of yourself, okay?"

2000 hours

"Advisor?" The barkeep's muffled voice came through layers of soft cotton. "Advisor? It's 2000. Time for you to get home."

Spoilsport nods... the barkeep is such a nice man... and dumps enough workreps on the counter to cover whatever his tab is before slowly walking out the door, assisted lightly by Janus. Once he gets outside and some cooler air on his face, he sobers up a little. "I fink I can walk jus' fine from here. Thayns, Garbo."

"Not a problem." With a nod and a smile, Garbo walks on ahead at a brisk pace. For as warm as it was earlier, it'd gotten surprisingly cool.

In City Center, the streets are lined with massive buildings that reach up to the sky, skyscrapers of thirty or fourty stories and lines and lines of windows with the visually engaging, solid appearance attributed to German Futurism and Art Deco. Unlike their predecessors, however, these monstrocities are made of concrete far deeper than the facades they show to the street, reinforced throughout with armor-grade composites and metals, and thick clear-composite windows. While they certainly don't look like bunkers, they could be used as them in a pinch... which is of course the point. One of the things the planned city is planned for is defense, which allows for lots of fire angles and very little places that could be considered good cover. Blind alleys, the infantryman's best friend, are everywhere... but there are always windows that look out to them, although most are dark at this hour.

Ralph Spoilsport walks down these streets, not quite stumbling, whistling some old drinking tune to himself.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 16:23
Morana had made all the preparations she could, including stowing her pack quietly in a nearby dumpster, covered with care in one of the cleaner corners by another bag of seemingly worthless garbage. There were two spare guns hidden underneath similar dumpsters in other areas, both along the escape routes towards the docking bay that she had laid out previously. The knives she has on her she keeps carefully concealed, along with what few aides she requires for this night's job.

Having watched the target and his companion exit the pub from across the street, she marks his progress, keeping her eye on him as she works to get some ways ahead without loosing him, then takes up a casual position against the cool concrete wall of a building along his path. The companion, she tries to take note of as well, assuring herself he’s well and truly gone.

In a society with no nudism taboos, the dress one chose for such exploits was approached in a similar way, with altogether different intent. It wasn't about what was shown. It was about what wasn't, adding that touch of mystery to those selling themselves on the streets.

She wears black leather boots, thick-soled but flat, laced up to the knee, and a form-fitting latex dress sporting a scooped neckline that reveals an expanse of smooth pale flesh, and a hemline that hits just above mid-thigh. The dark grey long coat she wears over it all, light material tied loosely at the waist, manages to both hide and hint at what lays underneath, framing her breasts and the one knee that protrudes from its soft folds as she cocks it up against the wall, revealing just enough leg to tempt curiousity. Her own hair is tucked neatly under a shoulder length cinnamon-colored wig, pageboy style, a black biker cap set at a jaunty angle atop it, deep brown colored lenses disguising her usual blue-grey eyes.

Morana waits 'til he’s nearly to her, then pushes up off the wall casually, stepping forward with a practiced yet subtle enough sway of her hips, painted lips turning up in an inviting smile as she matches pace with him.

“You look cold,” she murmurs softly in a low voice meant just for him. “Care for some company?”
14-07-2004, 21:07
"Hmmm..." The pudgy man ponders, as he usually does, risk and cost-benefit analyses even under the haze of alcohol. His thoughts are slower and duller, but the edge of an trader brought up in the Arabian spirit remains. "Perhaps," he says with a slight slur, working to keep his tongue firmly under control. "The cold of the night issnot quite effecting me as bad as it might."

Looking up and down the street and finding it deserted, he chuckles. "Locashun is a prior'ty for any bidness, and I s'pose you had some trouble pickin' one yersself. Not exac'ly a conssummer-rich environmen' if you get mah alcohol-addled drif'."

* - * - *

The man waits in a little culvert in the metal framework that makes up the upper levels of Reclamation Plant Three where the north loading dock door, left open a crack, is just visible. Waiting is the worst part.
Dread Lady Nathicana
14-07-2004, 21:12
“True enough. But then, sometimes it ain’t about consumer-rich so much as rich consumers,” she says with a wry grin, glancing around the area herself, speaking now in a matter-of-fact manner. “I always did look at such transactions as ‘short term employment’, really. Simply a matter of determining the needs or wants of the potential employer, establishing what services are to be rendered by the employee, and coming to an mutually beneficial agreement on both parties as to the price.”

Slipping an arm around his shoulders in a familiar way, she continues nonchalantly, even as she looks over at him with a sly sort of knowing smile, pressing her body up against him meaningfully.

"Y’see, I know what you can do for me. I also know damn well what I can do for you. The question is, would you like to know more about what all I have to offer? I think you just might be surprised. At the very least, I guarantee you won’t regret it."
14-07-2004, 21:22
Ralph grins; what few misgivings he has in his mind about there being no customers either rich or poor are answered with a quick Well, if it were that convenient, something would've happened by now. "Temptin' suggeshun. It rarely hurrs to invessigay' offers furver."

"Oh, most definitely. Only a fool passes up a good opportunity without question, or getting a better idea of just what he can get out of it. And you I can see, are no fool." As they come to one of the alleys, she gently steers him in that direction, merely an unspoken suggestion and an easygoing pull of the arm around his shoulders.

Bleah... alcohol seeping into brain. The man does his best to keep his control, diverting energy from concentrating on walking to speaking more clearly, taking advantage of the woman's situation to use her as a mild support. As such, he offers no resistance. "A fool perhaps... but definitely a merchan' by trade."

Morana chuckles and nods, slipping her arm lower and under his arms to better support him, leading him back further down the alleyway. "Now that I can appreciate. In my profession, you've gotta have a head for such things, after all. And speaking of merchants and trade ... what carnal delights can I offer up for your pleasure, Master tradesman? I think you'll find the possibilities are nigh endless."

"If my memory of tradecraf' doesn' fail me, first one sees what is in the store and determin's what is there befor' relying on the staff, for they are quick to make commission." He chuckles. "Also, is bad form for one to get to set on a particular item an' find it out of one's price range."

"You do this for a living, or do you just have a lot of practice?" she asks, guiding their steps around the corner towards one of the areas she'd scouted earlier. She took careful note of any windows, signs of movement, lights, all while walking with a casual purpose. "Give me a roundabout price range to start pondering, and I can give you a more precise list," she says slyly.

The area is silent and lonely. "Well, I wouldn' say I do this for a living, no... but trade, yes, that is my trade, as it were. Heh." He chuckles a little. "And it would be a poor showin' on my mentors if I was to set a definite limit on how much I could be fleeced. No, an inventory an' some cursory browsin' is usually in order first."

Morana seems to ponder this thoughtfully as they walk, then comes to an aparent decision. "Perhaps a sample?" she murmurs, moving around to stand in front of him, then pressing him slowly up against one of the concrete walls in a particularly dark spot in the alley. She smiles at him encouragingly, the tip of her tongue flicking out to whet her lips.

This is somewhat unexpected. As reported, this is a sort of game to him, but he's actually surprisingly chaste all things considered. He looks momentarily back towards the way they came as he mumbles something. "Err..."

Perfect. Taking advantage of his distraction, the small concealable blade she'd held cupped in her free hand, the slim loops of its grip shining like rings on second and third fingers, is pressed tightly just under his jaw. As her other hand reaches up to clamp over his mouth and hold his head steady, her thumb focuses the pressure needed, guiding the short but frighteningly sharp blade across his throat in a quick, graceful arc. "Nothing personal, Ralph," she murmurs, using both hands to hold him steady. "Just doing my job."

His eyes go wide with realization as he sobers instantly with a muffled "Mmmf!" of suprise, then roll back into his skull as he quickly desanguinates.

Morana wastes no time, glancing about quickly as she lays him down, and takes out the plastic bag, large needle and thin hemp cord she'd pocketed earlier, setting them aside. First, the 'souvenir'. Did you have your mother's eyes, Minister? she wonders idly, deftly popping them from their sockets and cutting through the optic nerve and extraocular muscles that keep them attached. Into the bag they go, and from there, into an inner pocket of her longcoat. In keeping with the theme, his tongue is next removed, though this is slated for a dumpster. The needle, she had already threaded with the hemp to save time. Lips are stitched shut with a quick, broad cross-stitch and tied off. Then the eyes, one 'X' apiece to hide their gaping ruin. Next, the ears, each folded over and secured with two tight 'X's, all tied off quick and neat. Checking again for any signs of life, she continues, avoiding the pooling blood as best she can. Hear no, see no, speak no evil ... not anymore, at least. Poor bastard. She sets about arranging the body, posing him in a cross-legged position wedged up against the corner that the dumpster and concrete wall offer, his hands resting palm upwards on his knees in a mockery of meditation.

The tongue is discarded, and the artistic part of her can't help but hope that the underlying message there isn't lost on the speculators. With a quick glance to make certain all's in order, she cleans her knife on his shirt, and makes her way swiftly towards the dumpster her pack is hidden away in. Once far enough away, the wig and hat are removed and tucked under the folds of her flowing longcoat, in turn removed after she takes the bag from the pocket as she reaches the dumpster in question. She works quietly and as quickly as possible, retrieving her pack and discarding wig, hat, and hemp. Hiding in the extra shadow the dumpster provides, she peels off the one-piece dress, and pulls on a loose black t-shirt and cutoff denim shorts that her boots don't entagle themselves in. Into the pack goes the plastic bag containing the 'proof', the latex dress rolled up as she walks quickly towards the rendezvous point, discarded in another dumpster along the way after being rubbed clean of prints as she can manage with an cloth soaked in a common household degreasing solvent. She stoops to retrieve the small handgun she'd squirreled away carefully there, concealing in the folds of her shirt as she approaches the docks. Mindful of her surroundings, she walks forward quietly, drawing out her weapon as she nears the dividing wall, putting her back up to it and scanning the area.

Reclamation Plant Three, externally, resembles a plethora of concrete boxes thrown one on top of the other with no attempt at grace or aesthetic appeal; entirely Brutalist and utilitarian, simply a facade of concrete armor thrown over its intricate network of pipes, chemical baths, and low-energy decompilers. Its inner workings were one of Scolopendra's greatest achievements; the realization of almost fully-efficient waste recycling. It is facilities like these which allow Scolopendra to be an industrial power and yet not adversely affect its environment. It has various doors, fire escapes, and loading bays for both garbage-haulers and resource trucks, with the former served on the north face and the former loaded on the south face. There are at least a dozen doors on the moderately lit north face, starting a good distance from the street to allow for reclamation machinery. The metal lamellor door nearest the street is open about ten centimeters; the rest are fully closed. Morana looks around again, scanning the shadows, listening carefully for any hint of noise before quietly moving towards the door. Keeping herself to the side of it, she catches the lip with the toe of her boot and pulls upwards, dividing her attention between the task at hand, and her surroundings, her gun up and ready. The door lifts up easily on its oiled hinges, rattling softly as mechanisms of linked metal tend to. Not being linked to any chains or force-saving devices, it only goes so far when lifted by boot. She bends at the knees, still keeping to the side and as much of her back to the wall as possible, catching hold of it with her hand and giving it a firm pull, still watching for any trouble, and trying to catch a glimpse of what lays beyond the door. The door rattles up the rest of the way it is pushed, the marginal difference of light between inside and out casting a dim but definite trapezoid into the darkness within, jagging up on a bit of pipes disembodied from their attendant machinery. Other than that and the stained concrete floor, there is nothing to be seen.

Reaching into a side pocket of her pack, Morana takes out a compact set of low-light goggles, and slips them on, taking a moment to adjust, and peer around before slipping quietly inside, gun out and back up against the wall again as she continues to scan the room.

In varicolor lowlight-IR, the man sees the brighter form of Morena appear from around the door and back up against the wall as he braces behind a girder high up. His thumb moves slowly, gently, activating an IR targeting laser that illumines a brilliant star on her breast, that moves up carefully as he moves the forearm that braces his weapon. The star settles on the multicolored form's forehead, and a gentle pull of the eraser pistol's trigger sends an intense dose of infrared radiation transparent to the body but all too opaque to blood vessels, especially those of the brain. The flash of light from it, and the subsequent few-hundred degree increase of temperature that results, is visible only to him. Her body spasms, going rigid, jaw snapping shut with a click and a brief reflex noise of gasping pain for all of the tenth of a second it takes to flash-cook her brain. The body drops, her handgun clattering across the floor.

The man slips his weapon into a shoulder holster then climbs down quickly but carefully, dropping the last few meters with silent footfalls. Quickly walking over, he quickly searches the body until he comes across the bag of eyes, shaking his head with an invisible smile as he slips the bag into an inside pocket of his trench coat. He then closes the door and walks over to the machinery the light-disembodied pipes lead to. Turning off and flipping up his IR goggles, he kicks open the flue to an ever-burning furnace, highlighting his face in a demonic red as light-distorting heat and steam issue forth. After taking things of interest--phones, spycraft, the like--he shoulders the limp frame of the Dominion agent and chucks her bodily into the furnace.

In several hours, she will appear from the other end as naught more than bulk carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and various trace elements.

Walking back, the man picks up her pistol, examines it momentarily with a shrug, then tosses it in after to be converted into so much iron, carbon, tin, and various organic compounds. Leaving the flue open, he turns his back to it before running an evidence sweep. Finding the area sufficiently clean, he opens the loading door again with his left hand safely ensconced in a common thick work glove, then walks off in his common steel-toed work boots, flipping switches on his simple little box device as he makes his way through the building and lets him out through a side door, but not before a quick trip to a circuit-breaker panel and another quick flash of a multi-tool gains him the safe return of one of his many bugs.

From there, he simply fades into the night, humming softly to himself. "See your razor gleam, Sweeny, feel how well it fits; as it floats across the throats of hypocrites..."
15-07-2004, 21:04
Saturday, 0650 hours

Detective Wen Hua De sparks his lighter with a flick of his wrist, sparks from the flint catching the fuel alight in a blue-white flame. The white paper of the cigarette between his lips curls away from the heat, blackens, then glows an incandescent yellow as its immolation becomes self-sustaining. Snapping the nickel-plated lighter shut with a click, he returns it to the pocket from whence it came as he draws from it and releases, grey smoke curling from his nostrils in the pre-dawn haze.

He flicks his eyes to the man in overalls quietly fidgeting with his work gloves and trying not to look at the thoughtful dead man. "Not often we get two calls from you guys in the same morning."

The worker shrugs and coughs, tilting his body slightly to avoid having to look at what used to be Spoilsport. "The door to the plant was open... nothing lost, though, but the flue to the decompiler open. Then we caught this... crazy stuff."

"Perhaps not." Wen takes another drag, then pulls the cigarette from his lips before flashing his eyes to a blue-dome in the usual ballistic armor. "Got the place locked up and checked?"

The police sergeant nods, gold triple-chevron bobbing along with his sloped blue helmet. "Taped, bagged, and tagged, Detective. I've got cops dumpster-diving everywhere within a five-block radius. Can tell you right now that the vic's tongue's in that dumpster right there."

Wen raises an eyebrow and smirks. "Not just between here and the plant?"

The sergeant shrugs. "Hey, perp may have backtracked." He pokes one mempolymer-armored thumb at Spoilsport. "From the looks of the vic, we're not talking about the usual village idiot here."

The detective nods and smiles. "Good initiative, Sarge. Tell me if you grab anything." Tapping the ash from his cigarette, he replaces it in his lips before kneeling down by the man eternally meditating in the lotus position, nodding to the CSI spook taking pictures. "So, what are we thinking?"

"Well, from blood patterns, cause of death is pretty obvious."

"Filleted like a fish."

"Yup, against the wall here."

Looking at the clean but slightly dusty concrete beside Ralph, colored with a swath of ruddy brown shoulder-width; Wen flicks out some biolatex gloves and slips them over his hands--self-cleaning and stain-resistant. "Got positioning pictures?" The CSI woman nods, and Wen pulls the body back from the wall. "Well, if he had his throat slit, he wouldn't have blood pouring down his back. Vic got laid down... probably for the surgery." He then lightly pokes the X's of the sealed eyelids. "Perp also kept a pair of presents."

The CSI woman nods. "We'll need to take the body to the lab for further analysis, but I'm not finding much in the way of field evidence. We have a few hairs, but my portascanner reads 'em as polymers."


"Seems like. We do know from blood settling and rigor that he died less than twelve hours ago, more like seven or eight."

Wen turns his head, exhales more grey smoke, then looks back at the body. "Any idea on what our poor Advisor did last night?"

"Not my area of expertise, sorry;" the woman shrugs, "that's your job."

"Heh." The detective lightly probes the half-clotted wound on Ralph's neck with one finger. "Damn deep cut there, and damn clean, from what I can tell. Well, when you get done with the vic, I'd like you to check for heme using UV or something. If he got his throat slit this deep, perp's bound to have some blood on him to track."

The CSI woman nods as Wen stands up and walks to the mouth of the alley, looking up and down the street lit with white-light LED streetlamps, orange-tinted by Saturn's ten Lunar-diameter disc. From the direction of the plant runs another armored police officer, blues a bit dingy from his current mission. "Hey, Detective, we got ourselves a head of hair, a hat, and the perp's sewing kit. Another guy down the line has a dress."

"Well, at least we can't say we've got a dearth of evidence."

* - * - *

Reclaimation Plant Three

"And 'at's how we found it. We've routed collection to th' otha plants."

"Odd." Wen frowns. "We have a smart perp who, according to CSI, wore a wig and then a shower-cap or something underneath that, so DNA evidence is going to be a bitch. She coated her stuff with solvent, so fingerprints are essentially out. She even thought ahead enough to change her appearance... so, question is, why would she not close the flue and the door after disposing of the evidence?"

"Yeah... 'bout that..." The worker rubs the back of his neck with his rawhide work glove. "I don' think she 'disposed ev'dence.'"

Wen quirks his eyebrow. "What?"

"Well, we keep in'ventry of the bulk product that comes out, right? Morning count beats evening count by about seventy kays or so. This plant was s'pposed to be idle all night. I know it ain't my place to say, but I think she disposed herself."

The detective blinks, then looks to the CSI woman. "Well?"

"Well, we have blood evidence on the perp's things that's got to be bloody hands or else I'm turning in my degree... but there's no blood on this flue. If she went in there, she sure as hell didn't climb up unless she wore gloves."

Detective Wen places his hand on the only slightly warm high-metal ceramic even as he blinks from the heat radiating from the decompiler. "But there's no point if she was just going to kill herself. This is just twisted."

* - * - *

0745 hours
Razak's Loft

"What?" Razak frowns mightily, listening to the voice on the other end through his communicator's speaker.

-Advisor Spoilsport made a bad real-estate deal last night, sir. Looks weird; eyes and tongue cut out--we've got the tongue, it was thrown away--sorta ritualistic and such. I'll get a dossier to you. Anyway, you wouldn't happen to know what he was doing last night, would you?-

Razak grimaces. This is bad. "On Friday nights he usually goes--went--to The Braying Donkey for drinks, 1800 to 2000."

-Got it, sir. Any idea who'd have a motive?-

Razak sighs. Can't be too obvious about this... "He had a few people high-up who didn't like him much, but none with the motive to kill him, I think."

* - * - *

0830 hours
The Braying Donkey

"Hum. He was here for two hours with Garbo and some guy I don't see often they called Drake. Drake left about an hour before Garbo and Ralph, who left at the same time."

Wen twirls another cigarette between the fingers of one hand, free hand tapping lightly on the bar. "Hear anything suspicious?"

"Well, Ralph was pretty far gone, more than usual. Said something about being worried and assassination. Garbo offered a security thing but Ralph declined." The bartender puts the glass he was cleaning away on the shelf behind him. "The guy Drake I think is some Intel spook; I dunno if he was acting suspicious or just being a spook. Ralph only opened up after Drake left, though."

"Hrm." Well, that means we have at least two people in the general vicinity.

* - * - *

0913 hours
Drake's Pad

Drake looks down and nods. "Good morning, Detective."

"Yeah." Detective Wen removes the cigarette from his lips and idly taps away the ash. "Can I ask you some questions?"

"Certainly. What's the situation?"

"Advisor Spoilsport's dead, murdered. I've heard you were with him last night."

"Hrm." The tall Englishman frowns. "I was, at The Braying Donkey." Drake steps aside, showing the detective in. "I was talking shop with Advisor Garbo before hand and along the way so I figured I'd stop in. I stayed for an hour, then had to go back to Intel to do some bookwork."

"Where were you between 2000 and 2100 last night?"

"At the Intel Section doing that bookwork. Didn't leave until 0100 this morning, actually." Drake smiles slightly. "You caught me just as I woke up... most fortunate, that. How did the Advisor die?"

"That's our job to find out, Agent. You got proof?"

"Of my alibi? Yes, actually. IntSec's extremely secure, you see, and they've bioscanner logging of everyone inside. I'm sure they'll show it to you if you request it in the course of the investigation. Is there anything else?"

Wen frowns. "You have any idea if he had any enemies?"

"Oh, we've all got enemies," Drake replies, "but Spoilsport had a tendency to make them on the inside rather than out. I could probably be more helpful if I knew more specifics, but I don't think I know anyone who would kill the blighter..."

"That's the weird thing. I'll say now it looks like he was arranged to be killed. We think the perp is now no more than seventy kilos of CHON down at Reclaimation Plant Three."

"Hmm... if that's true, then why are you asking me for an alibi?"

"We don't think she climbed in of her own accord."

"Ah." Drake shakes his head and chuckles. "Clever. What if the arranged killer was arranged to be killed?"

The detective sighs. "I'm running an investigation, not writing a conspiracy theory. It's possible, I guess, but let's just take it one step at a time, shall we? Sure you don't know anyone who would have it in for the Advisor?"

"Hrmm..." Drake rubs his chin. "I know Advisor Hertzfeldt and PseudoEmperor Razak have been extremely displeased with Spoilsport."

"Well, Razak only makes sense, given the investigation and all. What about Hertzfeldt?"

"He doesn't have it in him to do these things personally, I think, but he's certainly bright enough to cover trails along the lines of assassinating the assassin... which he again probably wouldn't do himself."


* - * - *

1132 hours
Hertzfeldt's House

Hertzfeldt seems a good deal paler than usual, and that's an accomplishment. "What?"

"Spoilsport's dead and I've heard you may have an interest in it."

"Well..." Hertzfeldt gulps. "I'll admit that I've fantasized a bit, and I'm not exactly saddened, but 'interest' may be a bit much."

Wen grins. "Right. And so how do you explain..." He indicates Jon with a slight movement of his cigarette in his fingers.

"I'm scared to Hell, that's how I explain that," Jon snaps.

"Well, where were you yesterday in the vicinity of 2000 to 2100?"

"I was collating reports from the Galaxy Exploration Command... at home," he says sheepishly, "so there's no time-stamped video of me or anything. I was in contact with various GEC captains and colonies off-and-on during the period, though, so you can check through them."

Wen frowns. "I don't think I can walk out-system..."

"I did have to use the GEC's transmitter banks. You could probably get their usage logs and confirm the connections... except those are secure information." Jon shrugs just a little. "I just hope this gets worked out; getting busted for something I didn't do has always been one of my numerous neuroses."

The detective sighs. "I'll see if your story checks out later. Any ideas as to others?"

"Well, Razak didn't like him much. I'd suggest talking to Garbo; he was Ralph's best friend."

* - * - *

1402 hours
Garbo's House

Garbo's face falls, body going almost limp in the doorway. "Goddammit, I knew I shouldn't have listened to him. How?"

"I'll have a report forwarded to you, Advisor," Wen replies, "but, in short, we've got a body missing eyes and tongue; an evidence trail leading to the reclaimation plant; and seventy extra kilograms of CHON. Pretty nutty. I've already talked to Drake, Hertzfeldt, and now you..."

The Intelligence Advisor shakes his head slowly, looking down at his feet. "Shit. I'm responsible for keeping these people safe, and... damn. How are their alibis looking?"

Wen nods, cigarette dangling lightly from his lip. "Well, Drake's is dependent on IntSec records--"

"You'll have them."

"Hertzfeldt's is dependent on secured GEC records, apparently..."

"I can get those too."

"And I haven't heard yours yet." Wen frowns.

"I'll admit, I don't have one," Garbo says, "at least, not that can be confirmed. After my weekly stops at The Braying Donkey I go on walks. And now I'm organizing security for the Dread Lady... this is just..." He frowns, sets his jaw, and sighs. "If you need anything for this investigation, I'll get it for you. What's the current theory?"

The detective frowns. "Hired assassin, later taken care of."

"I'll check international angles, if any; I'll also check funds and see if anyone can afford a hired killing."

"Awfully helpful..." Wen mutters.

"My best friend is dead, Detective," Garbo frowns, "and I want the bastard who did it caught. Right now, though, I need more information and I need to prepare for the Dread Lady being in town... I'll have more time later... to..." Garbo frowns again, looking away.

Wen nods quietly. "Do what you need to, sir."

"Thank you, Detective. Find the punk."
Dread Lady Nathicana
15-07-2004, 21:40
Sabato, 0420 hours local time
Nathicana's Villa, Devras

Pausing her pacing along the vine-covered veranda outside her bedroom, Nathicana leans tiredly against one of the decorative support columns, and looks out over the lights of the city below, the moonlit bay beyond, swearing softly under her breath.

The cleaning team reported in, all clear, no visible problems at the apartment. She should have checked in by now. And barring that, I’d think my contact would have confirmed … unless something’s gone wrong. Rogue agent, always a plausible excuse, especially as there’s no proof at present, and no tie other than that contact … whoever it is. Would incriminate them as well, so … stronzo di merda, I need to know!

Muttering assorted colorful phrases, she stalks back inside, removes the small headset and starts to put it aside. If she hadn’t heard word by now, she wasn’t likely to. Still … there was always the contact. Sighing, she slips it back in place, and begins going through her limited baggage again, for the fifth time since she’d packed it.

I’d hoped to have this business wrapped up before I left. How I’m going to enjoy my vacation with this hanging over my head …

All is in order, as she knew it would be. Nathi walks over and lays down on her bed bed, kicks her feet up, and puts her hands behind her head as she stares up at the ceiling, frowning. Eventually, the long hours she’s remained awake keeping in contact, monitoring the situation as best she could from afar, catch up with her, and she drifts off to a light sleep.

Several hours later, Gianni’s voice breaks through the comfortable haze, and she sits up, blinking in the early morning light streaming through the windows.

“My Lady, I realize it’s early, but Minister Pellegrino is here, and wishes a word with you. Shall I send him up to your office? He claims it’s important.”

Glancing down at the rumpled clothes she’s slept in, she sighs and nods, standing and stretching. “Grazie, Gianni. That would be appreciated. Please tell him I’ll be right there.”

It doesn’t take long to pull herself together, and soon she’s settled behind her desk, door closed, the usual precautions taken, looking across to Pellegrino with a questioning expression.

“What’s gotten you out of bed so early today, Toni?”

“You’ve got a trip planned today. I’m going to ask you to at the very least delay it,” he says, his serious gaze even more piercing than usual. In response to the stubborn set of her jaw, and the telltale lifting of the chin, he continues, leaning forward. “Advisor Ralph Spoilsport, Scolopendra’s trade minister, was killed last night, and from what little information we’ve been able to garner, it was no random accident or mugging. No details, but the way they’ve been acting, the security they’re keeping on it, seems to suggest something more. I don’t think this is a good time for travelling there. After all, if they can’t keep someone as high up in their government as he was out of harm’s way, what’s to guarantee your safety?”

Nathicana studies him closely for a moment before answering, her face taking on a shocked expression, her shoulders slumping as she settles back into her chair. It was obvious there was more he wanted to say, but was tactfully avoiding doing so. Suspicions, my dear Toni? Good man.

“No idea who, or why?” she murmurs, biting her lower lip and reaching for her glass of ice water.

“None that we’ve been able to weasel. You know damn well how tight those folks can be when they want to. None of our eyes and ears has seen or heard enough for confirmation, and speculation won’t get us anywhere.” Pellegrino watches her closely, as he always does, looking for some sign, some telltale link to the odd business that had come up a couple days previous. Nothing. Damn her eyes, I don’t believe in coincidence.

“Damn, this … complicates things.” The nervous twitch of her fingers, the way she studies her glass of water, her guarded expression, all carefully calculated.

“Do you think?” comes the mildly sarcastic reply. “It hasn’t been that long since we had our own bit of upheaval around here. I realize you’ve put off most of your travelling on account til now, and I know you believe yourself to be among friends there, but please. Reconsider? If not for you, then for the nation you so recently vowed to protect. You’ve set things in motion here, but it hasn’t settled enough to guarantee a smooth transition. You have no heirs, and there is … concern as to your choice in Calabrese among the Ministry. The nobles are proving to be a contentious lot, and what few have been verified are already jockeying for position and creating hell for the Herald’s office with their efforts to influence or quash the rise of other houses.”

“I’m well aware, Toni, and I’ve no intention of leaving things half-finished here. However,” she says, holding up one finger, “Not only will I be in the company of two of the most able beings I know of to keep themselves and their companions safe, I have that little ace in the hole you gave me the other day. I think she’ll work out well.”

Pellegrino is too surprised to hide it, a confused look of irritation creasing his brow. “What in the hell did you mean by ‘one way’ then? Why the added secrecy? For chrissakes, woman, it’s my job to help keep you safe!”

“I know, Toni. Suffice it to say, I have my reasons, including needing someone you wouldn’t mind losing for a while. So long as all goes well, you’ll have your little angela d’morte back. I’m certain whatever is going on has nothing to do with my visit, nor do I foresee any problems while I’m there.” She leans forward, reaching across the desk to lay her hand lightly on his, and smiles encouragingly. “I’ve amply prepared, Toni. Trust me on this one, as I’m trusting you with keeping things tight here at home.”

He scowls, drawing back and leaning into his chair, arms folded. “At the least let me send some –“

“No, Toni. No armed guards. This isn’t a state visit, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have more than what I’ve arranged tailing me around. Your people have me from here to the airport, and I’ll have escorts for the trip and back. You will have to content yourself with that, and the knowledge that before I took the Dominion for myself, I used to have the position you now hold, and know damn well what I’m doing.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he mutters, getting to his feet. “I’ll be watching.”
15-07-2004, 21:48
1525 hours
Federal Police Precinct 1 (Stonozka Topside)

Detective Wen throws down the manilla folders carrying varying government seals. "Ugh. All these alibis check. It's a wash."

The sergeant from the alley looks up and shrugs. "Well, maybe we're goin' 'bout it all wrong. Occam's razor, an' all--it's perfectly poss'ble that the lady just threw 'ersself in. 'Sides... sure, Hertzfeldt has motive, but no M.O. like that. Razak may have M.O., but no real motive... the guys in Section Five say they were real close to gettin' the vic on that whole ScoloMart thing. Drake's certainly got M.O. but no motive."

The detective sighs. "Yeah... I guess I may have read a bit too much into it... just damn twisted is all."

* - * - *

1707 hours
Outside the Executive Aparments

Second Lieutenant Bondayehr looks up at the simple vertical edifice and rubs his chin in thought for a moment. "Hrm. I know they'll all be in there due to... well, recent events," he frowns, "but I wanted to talk to Advisor Hertzfeldt and PseudoEmperor Razak about that homework and they wanted to see me so I might as well. 'Sides, I'm sure there's people in there you want to visit with." Walking past the assault-armored Mobile Infantry on patrol to the standard one by the door, he stops and flashes his identification that indicates him as both an officer of the Aerospace Directorate and a SMISO operative-in-training.

He can imagine the private inside the tin can blinking as the battlesuit takes up the ID wallet in one armored waldo-hand and peers at it with the suit's multisensor. "Good afternoon, sir."

"Second Lieutenant Timofeyev Bondayehr escorting Dread Lady Nathicana d'Aquisto of the Dominion"--he cants his head slightly to the raven-haired woman in the hijab beside him--"to the top." He accepts his identification back with a slight bow.

"Due to the extreme situation, we need to visually check your weapons and that you unload them."

Timofeyev nods then first removes his standard-issue ten-millimeter powergun pistol from its shoulder holster. The clear plastic magazine of polyurethane discs disengages with the click of a button, and he removes it. Sliding open the jam-release bolt, he removes the chambered round before demonstrating the empty chamber, sliding the removed magazine into a purpose-made loop in the holster harness. He then unslings the 25.4-millimeter kzin-pistol-modified-into-a-carbine he purchased earlier in the day--

"Err, sir," the man in the suit leans back, metal hand clanking against the dome-like head in a parody of scratching one's neck, "mind if I just hold onto the artillery piece?"

Bondayehr just chuckles--"Not at all,"--and hands the weapon to the trooper. Nathi simply displays her knives and demonstrates unloading the magazines from her Beretta pistol like Bondayehr did, then demonstrates its empty chamber, locking the weapon with the bolt open before returning it to its holsters. Thus appeasing the guard, they receive their passes and go in, making their way to the upper floor. The cubicle farm is as it always is, low cubicle walls seperating the various departments of the Executive Unit with Advisors getting the prime real estate near the windows. Bondayehr veers off towards the Science Section and Hertzfeldt's desk as Janus looks up through his cubicle office's door, the only floor-to-ceiling office in the large room. Grinning to himself, he gets up and walks out of the office, silently jamming to the beat on his headphones before looking up and recognizing the woman under the hijab.

"Oh, hi, Dread Lady," he says with a smile, "I'm afraid we haven't met and still don't quite have time to. Anyway, now that we're done with it, Speeks said to give this back." He takes off his headphones and presents them with a single graceful sweep of his arm before bowing shortly and returning to his office, closing the door after him.

They look remarkably like a Dominion special operative's headset; between the connecting band and the headphone is a small printed note.

The middle of Rostov Bridge (you'll know where when you see it), alone, 2300 hours tonight.

I have something you may be interested in.
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 00:11
Nathicana is for once glad her expression is hidden as much as it is, and as a secondary thought, glad she is where she is, on account of the sudden urge to go kick down that door and throttle the man on the other side of it. She does at least have the presence of mind to secret the headset and note into a pocket on the pants she’s wearing underneath her surprisingly comfortable ‘disguise’.

That smug son of a bitch … and he said Speaker knows. No, wait … he said ‘now that we’re done with it, he said to give it back’. Damned if that couldn’t mean a number of things, and given the subtlety involved here … gods, please no. Not Speaker. If he ordered this, I … She stops that line of reasoning, scanning the room til she sees a familiar furred shape. Ignoring the cold sick sort of feeling that’s settling in her stomach, she moves forward with a purpose, delicately pulling back the part of her hijab hiding her face.

“Speaker-Rrit,” she says softly, trying to keep a warm, concerned tone to her voice. “I’m sorry for your recent loss.”
16-07-2004, 00:12
The kzintosh turns, managing an upturning of his predator's lips and a winking of his bat-wing ears despite looking very tired, fur not at all up to its usual luster. "Thank you, Nathi. It has been a... difficult time. Has Garbo talked to you?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 00:19
"I can imagine," she says, looking him over with concern. "And he has, at least very briefly in passing. Thank you for that."

She shifts her position a bit, feeling uncomfortable. "I’m almost beginning to think myself a jinx of some sort. No matter where I am, trouble seems to follow, whether ahead or behind as it were. Perhaps this is a bad time ... "

She trails off, making no move to approach, her mind turning over the possibilities and the conflicts they present.

Maybe Pellegrino was right ... right into the lion's den, as they say? Coincidence this all panned out for here and now ... possible. Probable? Not nearly so much. Still, it seems so out of character for him, all of this subterfuge and dirty dealings. Not at all the Speaker I've come to know, nor in keeping with the racial heritage he so values, as far as I understand it. He can't be. He simply can't be involved.
16-07-2004, 00:20
Speaker nods and smiles again. "Sorry for keeping it from you for so long. Garbo insisted on checking on its physical intelligence value. Now that SIS is done with it it is only right that we return it. I only wish it could be under better circumstances." He sighs softly, gently adjusting his baldric and its attendant blunt wtsai knife. "There was no love lost between us, but I am still responsible for my subordinates. Is there anything I can do for you?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 00:44
“Of course, Speaker. One does what one must.” If her tone seems a bit tense, perhaps it can be explained by the casual mention of what she sees as a breach in security.


“As I said, perhaps this is a bad time. I’m certain that we could reschedule if need be. My timing, as usual, seems to be poor, and I realize you’ve much to take care of with all of this … unpleasantness.” She looks back over her shoulder, scanning the organized blocks of cubicles to locate the other she’d counted as friend and hoped to see on this trip. “I could just stop by Razak’s desk, and … well, there is Tim, but I could always arrange to come back to pick him up after spending some extra time with mia sorella. It would be no trouble at all - I don't wish to be a bother.”

Better circumstances indeed. Still, he seems genuinely distressed. Voice patterns don't match, unsurpisngly. But did he know? Did he authorize it?

Already on her guard, and feeling more tense by the moment, she turns the phrases over, looking for hidden meanings, innuendos, the sorts of things she's used to dealing with inside the Dominion. In her own mind, questions she's often asked herself as to 'why' seem to take on a more sinister cast than they have in the past, the answers she comes up with, more likely than the idealism she'd since come to believe. It vexed her that usually, she wouldn't care. What others did within their governments was their own business. After all, she'd done similar things ... worse things, really. It wasn't that. Nor did Garbo's obvious involvement phase her.

It was the thought that those few she had come to believe strove to rise above such dealings as she was intimately familiar with turning out to be no better than she was herself. And if so, all her evaluations, opinions, and beliefs concerning them had to be re-evaluated. That, and it shattered her newfound trust and belief that things could be better.

Please let me be wrong about this.
16-07-2004, 00:46
Speaker is a diplomat, and not a bad one at that. After working with humans for three and a half decades, he's learned how to pick up on the subtle nuances in human behavior. The catch in Nathi's voice, the unusual guardedness...

"Not a bother at all," he replies, concerned. "You see..." The kzintosh looks down momentarily for words. "As a culture, we do not grieve, generally. Not openly. In my own culture, we grieve even less, for noble constancy is a virtue in a Hero." He manages an almost human shrug. "It is not so easy to maintain that constancy, but we do our best. Also, you may know, "

The local S.H.O.D.A.N. avatar peeks out from Speaker's office, and, catching Nathi's eye, waves momentarily. "I've checked over the evidence from the Federal Police and the Intelligence Section... even though it's odd, I don't see anything that necessarily conflicts with their estimation of the situation."

Speaker nods. "What is the current threat to the rest of us, then?"

"Minimal, if they're right;" she replies, "somewhat more than that if not."

Another nod. "We will maintain precautions for now, just in case. First priority is to maintain continuity in the InterTrade Section."

Razak sits at his desk not far from the door to Speaker's office, the lieutenant leaning over his shoulder, both of them pointing at diagrams and talking over a blue plastic binder filled with papers.
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 00:47
She nods to her sister-in-mind, sending a quick greeting and hug analog over the private lines they share. Again, the uncertainty, though not in the same regard as she observes the interactions, listens carefully to the spoken words.

How much do I dare ask her about, if anything?

Choosing to avoid such discussion for now, she turns her eyes back to Speaker, assuming a gentle, knowing smile. “Striving for excellence in all one does, adapting as best one can. Aye, Speaker. I’ve seen it often enough of Scolopendrans, and among those, some in particular. I don’t suppose there is any way I can help, other than to stay out from underfoot? I should probably let you take care of business here at least, and see myself off to wherever it is you prefer to keep me while here, after a quick word with Razak. I hope I’m not creating extra work, all things considered. I can take after myself well enough, especially after my little refresher course not too long ago.” She maintains her bearing well enough, save for the occasional nervous glance at her surroundings.

I'm certain Garbo got that device from Tim. Speaker knows about the device, at the very least. As leader, the likelihood of him knowing the rest certainly exists. Razak's position and close friendship with Speaker perhaps leads to possibilities there. Shodey, bless her, has her fingers in everything, and there's no telling what she may or may not know, though that doesn't particularly worry me so much. And then Tim there, training up to be a spook himself, and looking awfully comfortable with Razak at the moment ... and if I take this line of reasoning much farther that way, back a few months to the odd coincidence of some young idealistic cadet trying to right a wrong, and their willingness to humor my idea of a reward, and afterwards, keep me updated on the boy's progress, I truly start looking crazy. Christ, I wish I had a clearer picture of what's really going on.

And then there's tonight ...
16-07-2004, 00:49
"You are not creating extra work," Speaker replies with a wry chuckle, "and I am not going to repeat that again. If anything, now I am looking forward to your visit more than ever. Life happens, as they say; it is up to us to deal with it. Excuse me, but I have paperwork that needs done." Bowing shortly with a smile, the kzintosh slips into his office, leaving the door open, still talking to Shodey about security situations and continuity structures. Shodey looks concerned about Nathi for a moment, then leaves her to her own devices as she continues her role as unofficial Advisor.

Bits of the conversation between Razak and Bondayehr seem primarily concerned with something about turbine powerplants and boundary layers of some sort.
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 00:58
Raising a hand in acknowledgement and a quiet farewell, she makes her way over to where Razak and Bondayehr have their heads together.

"Scuse," she says as she approaches, then nods to Timofeyev. "Our boy here suggested we stop by, so ... here I am. Sorry to hear about what happened, and that this little trip seems to come at a bad time. Perhaps we can salvage in spite of it."
16-07-2004, 01:12
Razak looks up and genuinely smiles. He also looks like he needed it. "Not a problem, none at all. Anything to break the concentration from what just happened... and bad time or no, you're here and thus deserving of our hospitality. And," he says, turning back to the lieutenant, "that's why aircraft structures are based on the principle of maximizing internal empty volume. Minimizes mass and therefore weight while increasing capacity for fuel and payload."

"Makes sense, sir," Bondayehr replies, "but how does that relate to the prevalence to honeycombing structure and armor that one usually sees in fightercraft design?"

"As much of that goes outward as possible; that's one of the reason our aircraft are rather large. Did you get that comparison essay on the differences between civil and military technology applications done?"

"Yes, sir." Timofeyev flips to a paper in the back of the binder. "I wrote it in my sleep... literally."

The silver-haired man nods, then looks back up to Nathi. "Since you're here, is there anything I can do for you?"
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 01:15
Good ol' Razak ... poor man looks like he could use a break. Then again, so did Speaker. And neither one of them would I think the type to -- oh bloody hell. And Tim ... for the most part, he's been his usual self, though a damn sight more confident, whether he realizes it or not. That and a damn sight more dangerous.

Nathi shakes her head and smiles, with a bit more warmth than before. "Bah. If anyone should be asking to assist, it's me. You've got an interesting city here, old man. Tim's shown me enough to whet my appetite for a bit of exploration. If you boys don't mind, I think I'd like to spend a bit of time doing just that. Mind if I just show up on your doorstep tomorrow morning?"
16-07-2004, 01:17
"Rumblegrumblemumble..." Razak mutters with a wry yet humorous smirk, "old man indeed. I resemble that statement. Sure," he says a bit louder, "I've no complaints there."

Given the construction of the sentence, Timofeyev gets the idea he's not invited. To his credit, he doesn't look hurt, but he does abstain from commenting until there's something of more surety to respond to.
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 01:20
"Grazie. I'll plan on it then, and let you boys work out any additional plans from there. Depending on what you folks decide, I'll even pick up some pastries and muffins on the way over," she says with a soft chuckle, giving Bondayehr a wink. "I'm sure we could all use a break from our usual routines, and there's no better way to do that than in the company of friends."

"Tim, if the offer is still open, I think I've imposed on your limited time here enough for today, but would truly appreciate a place to stay tonight. Should give you some time to catch up here, and with whomever without me tagging along. I may be a bit late, not being terribly familiar yet with the transportation routes ... that is, if that's ok?" she says, brows furrowing slightly.

I hope I'm doing the right thing here.
16-07-2004, 01:27
Bondayehr nods. "Whatever makes you happy works for me. I'll leave the light on for you."
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 01:32
“A piu tardi,” Nathi says, waving to both of them, then drawing her hijab back across her face, she makes her way back down the way they’d come. Once outside, she avails herself of the local transportation services, and for a while, just rides the bus routes aimlessly, switching at seemingly random stops.

The thoughts don’t go away, and she ponders them while watching the buildings and people flash by outside the windows, but she doesn’t let the distract her from her purpose – trying to get in the clear.

Now and then, she threads her way through more crowded areas, attempting to blend in, going so far as to stop no less than three times to purchase a new set of clothing, wearing it out of the shops she purchases it in, and heading in another random direction. She references the public directories, the first one being the bridge in question – a marker she’s certain will be picked up on if they’re looking – and thereafter, nothing more than mundane locations, tapped in with a covered finger, eyes disguised behind dark glasses of varying design. She makes certain to not visit the addresses typed in, aiming to keep herself several blocks away, at least.

She gets her first glimpse of the bridge at a distance, taking in the overall picture, noting the length of the span, possible lurking spots in the solid architecture, and the fact that should things go awry, it’s just secluded enough to make a call for help unlikely to produce results. Nathi understands immediately what Garbo’s note means as she scans the hemicircular viewing deck that juts out over the river. A place standing in full light now, but at the appointed 2300 hours, likely cloaked in deep shadow. It does little to ease her mind.

Food isn’t a problem, and she takes the opportunity to sample some of the more exotic fares Scolopendra has to offer at its smaller shops, common eateries, or quiet out of the way locations. Care is always taken to blend with the crowd as much as possible, though she never quite shakes the itch between her shoulderblades.

As evening begins to fall, she takes a walk across the Rostov Bridge, judging the height of the bridge from the water, looking for any strategic outcroppings, architecture that could serve as cover, spots that one could get into the understructure at, if any. One thing is clear enough in her mind. If Garbo was damn well smart enough to have it closely monitored. Waiting here or trying to hide herself on the bridge ahead of time would serve no purpose. What would be called for was intense situational awareness, keeping her already sharp ears tuned for any hint of danger, and keeping her wits about her. There was no other way but to cross that bridge tonight at the appointed time.

Getting settled in a shadowy nook across the way, Nathicana sips the sekanjabin she’d picked up at her last stop, savoring the sweet mint flavor while she can. The minutes pass by, and she once again curses herself for not having taken Shodey up on the offer for enhanced eyes as she watches the bridge closely, pausing only to check the time. Just before the appointed hour, she systematically readies her gun, double checks to make certain her knives are easily accessible, then starts out across the bridge to the appointed rendezvous site. The unrelieved black Khimar set she had settled on flows gently around her as she walks, its length concealing her from her knees to the tip of her head, save for the eyes, hiding the hand that grips the familiar Beretta. Though she feels certain she is watched, she keeps her steps light and quiet as possible, while moving forward with a purpose, straining to hear any hint of trouble.

Chi pecora si fa, il lupo se la mangia. Let's hope I've not done just that.

Trans: Those who make themselves sheep will be eaten by the wolf.
16-07-2004, 01:33
Rostov Bridge is the kind of structure one would expect to find in Eastern Europe, a low-lying string of half-concrete half-stone arches with solid concrete railings, a causeway intentionally designed to look as if it would fit somewhere in Prague. It rises over the broad and gentle Tethys river which flows from the mountains of Xanadu to the eastern sea. In the exact middle of its span, on either side of the bridge, jut out semicircular platforms like graceful turrets, intended to give pedestrians good views of Stonozka on both sides of the river and the river itself. Instead of street lamps there are small trees, making them like small concrete parks; telescopes are mounted on the solid railings to afford closer views. At night, it is illumined only by glare off the road, making things visible yet indistinct. A dark figure casually leans over the railing on one side, seeming to look out over the river at times and down at others. The sound of him humming softly to himself wafts gently on the mild river breeze, getting cooler as the night grows darker.

Nathicana continues her approach, walking nonchalantly to the railing a couple of feet to his right, and leaning up against it gently herself. Her gun she keeps pointed towards him under the cover of her khimar. "As-salaam alaykum," she murmurs softly, studying him from the corner of her eye.

The man nods, obviously smiling under his afro hairstyle as he looks down at his watch. "Punctual."

"You expected less? As pleasant as this all is," she says in the same soft voice, nodding slightly to the area in general, "let's cut to the chase."

Garbo nods. "The chase it is, then. I really wouldn't bother with the roscoe; I think two more bodies would just lead to more questions that nobody could answer, and that's just a few too many." He pauses, and smiles to himself, still looking out over the river. "Just curious--what theories do you have?"

"I've no interest in killing you, Garbo. Any precautions I may or may not take are for peace of mind alone, no fear. I dislike messes, especially those easily avoided," Nathi replies with an amused shake of her head. "As for theories, I may have several, but the prime one is this. For whatever reasons, the benefits of keeping him no longer outweighed the need for removing him. I happened to be in a position to both assist and be assisted, oddly enough for our mutual benefit, and whether for personal or professional reasons, distance was needed as well. So, here we are."

"That interest is mutual," Janus says with a chuckle as he shifts his left arm a bit, making a suspicious bulge under his trenchcoat move a little. "And that much is certain. Any ideas as to why it was needed? Before we continue, it is imperative that you understand the reason for this little deal, my dear Dread Lady."

Nathi's eyes narrow slightly, and she subtly shifts her weight in preparation for a quick push backwards if needed, though at this range she doubted her reflexes would suffice. "Details seem to point towards that little Scolo-Mart business from a while back. The bigger picture, however, points to a man who put himself before his country's needs and ideals, possibly tarnishing the reputations of others in the process. One supposes that sort of thing could cause problems."

Garbo chuckles coldly. "Ralph was my best friend, my dear Dread Lady. I found in him a sort of kinship, a similarity in mentality, which is quite unusual around here. He realized, as did I, that those methods so discouraged by our nation actually do have their times and places. Unfortunately for him, his acknowledgement of the grittier side of reality was done at first for nation... then for personal gain, as you guessed. There are forces out there which use greed and lust for power to corrupt the weak, and it is my job to make sure those forces hold no sway here." His voice turns cold. "Ralph certainly was a weak man, and that was simply unacceptable. After he was firmly in Arda's pocket via Xaosis, he managed to bribe the Legislative Unit in Melkor's stead... thus the weaknesses of the Hertzfeldt administration.

"I gave up my own ideals to protect those of the greater society as have Intelligence Advisors since the great Maria Rostov. Thus, I knew it fell to me to take the action necessary to ensure that the threat of Ardan infiltration stopped with Ralph's heart. And that's where you came in." He grins, still looking out over the river, almost reciting a soliloquy. "You have been a mixed blessing, to say the least. Your proximity to Arda both eases and worries my mind; I'm sure the feeling is somewhat mutual." Janus chuckles again. "Now we have something definite on each other, something that can make our heretofore tacit relationship more... binding." The intelligence advisor removes a plastic bag from his trenchcoat with his right hand, idly looking it over. "I'll admit, you're useful. I'd like that to continue into the future, and I'd like that to be mutual. After all..."

He hands the bag over to Nathi, clear plastic smudged with translucent red which fails to obscure the white globes within. "Sic semper tratidus."

"You are a right cold bastard, Garbo, and by damn, I can respect that. Best friend, you say? My ... that must have stung," she replies, the hint of cool amusement in her voice as she looks over the trophies with a professional interest, then secrets them away under her khimar. "They say 'he that dies pays all debts'. Let us hope for his sake they're right.

"So," she continues in a thoughtful tone. "This is how my dear idealists survive, hmm? I'd always wondered if some kindred methods and mindsets existed, carried over perhaps from our distant common backgrounds. And here, I've found it. I'm not sure whether to be flattered or offended that you think you need some 'hold' on me, boy ... though I'm leaning towards the former. As for worry being mutual? Perhaps. I'm certain you've heard a common view on paranoia that I share with several whom I hold dear. Sometimes such 'mutual' arrangements work out for the best. However, if we are to continue, there are certain details I'd like a bit more clarity on, if you don't mind."

Garbo grins. "Certainly. I thought you'd appreciate my rather dark art... and would put up with my tendency towards the theatric. Fortunately," he adds momentarily, "such things aren't often necessary. Still, always good to have the capability on hand."

"More kindred in spirit than one might think," she says, pulling aside her hijab to reveal a secretive smile. "True, I could stand to lose a bit were this to become public. Still, given the mindset of the Dominion, and our reputation, I can't help but think you stand to lose a bit more than myself." She pauses for a moment, then glances over at him, the smile fading. "But enough speculation - I need some answers. Was it only you?"

Garbo looks over at Nathi for the first time, smirking wryly. "Why, you wound me, Dread Lady. The whole point of me doing this is so none of those innocents I hold so dear have to. That is simply how it is done, ever since Rostov and Ghostwriter. Certainly the entire government falls under suspicion for the activity of one, but that is constructive--it keeps the people thinking and prevents them from becoming soft and apathetic. In short, yes."

"Excellent," she says simply. "Then we understand one another even better. Granted, you've known them longer, but it might surprise you to know that I too have an interest in keeping some of these 'innocents' as you call them as far from the realities you and I are familiar with as possible."

"Well then, we should work splendidly together." Janus the two-faced smiles deviously.

"Odd ... when have we not, my dear?" she says with smile of her own. "Perhaps now we can spare some of our mutual acquaintances undue worry in the future. It would, after all, be in our best interests. If there is nothing else ... " She trails off, questioningly.

"Not on my end. The ham in me is appeased and my objectives met."

"Well then, I'll bid you adieu. I've folks waiting on me." She turns to go, then pauses, a very devious smile on her lips. "You know, to your credit you are much more of a challenge, and infinitely more intriguing than the last Janus I knew." A pause, a thoughtful tilt of her head. "Good night, il mio avversario degno. Sogni d'oro."

And with that, she continues on her way across the bridge, her senses still sharp, the telltale itch between her shoulderblades, still present. Garbo waits a good five minutes before returning the eraser pistol (set on maser--can't be too careful against cyberaugs) to its streamlined holster and walking off the other way, whistling to himself.
Dread Lady Nathicana
16-07-2004, 01:38
Eventually holstering her Beretta, Nathicana takes a rather roundabout route back to the Lieutenant's apartment. Her first stop, once she finishes hopping the rail and busses, is her personal transport. Walking confidently up the ramp, she disables the security, and slips inside.

Lets see ... sealed lockbox ought to do for now. Will take care of them as soon as possible.

Tucking the plastic bag away in just such a container, she takes off the khimar and folds it neatly atop it all, and locking it up securely.

Once she's picked up her usual duffle bag with her things in it, she steps out, resets the security system, double checks it, and makes her way to the young man's apartment. The ride, and the time she's had for quiet contemplation has done wonders for her nerves, and though she remains alert, her step is decidedly lighter, the tension gone from around her eyes.

True to his word, the apartment is lit, though it looks quiet. She tries the door, and finding it unlocked, opens it quietly, pausing before peeking in for a quick look around.

It is a simple studio apartment, and somehow, she'd expected that, knowing the young man. Still, it is neat, and while entirely foreign to her sense of design, quite comfortable in its clean Art Deco style. A serviceable kitchenette, bathroom facilities across the way, and across from the bar keeping the areas separate, the main room.

Utilitarian steel shelving units hold various belongings, and a low red table sporting a white cloth and holding a rather large carbine field-stripped into components, along with a bottle of oil and cleaning instruments sits in the center of the room. Cushion-like seats in primary colors are available for comfort, and dozing atop the covers of a low bed, is Bondayehr, his BDU cover tilted down over his eyes.

Well aware of the dangers inherent in waking unexpectedly those trained to react, she knocks lightly on the door as she steps further inside, quietly shutting the door behind her.

"Tim," she says in a soft but clear voice. "It's just Nathi. Sorry I'm so late."
27-07-2004, 16:46
Timofeyev tips up the brim of his cover with two fingers of one hand just enough to expose his eyes, smiles, and unceremoniously rolls off the half-meter wide mattress he barely fit on in the first place.

Nathicana smiles tiredly, coming the rest of the way into the room. "No need to get up on my account, boy," she says quietly.

Timofeyev looks up from the floor. "Who said I was getting up?"

The woman gives him an exasperated look. "Get thee back to thy bed, dammit. All I need is a blanket. Unless of course, you're willing to share," she says, the corners of her lips turning up in an impish sort of half-smile.

"Sharing is good, as you say. The bed, however, is undoubtedly a one-person affair."

She starts casually stripping out of her clothing, carefully folding each item, then setting it all in a neat pile against the wall, out of the way. "Well then, sharing off the bed works just as well - if, that is, you don't mind. Because I simply shan't be taking your spot there if you'll be left without."

Timofeyev lowers the visor of his cap again. "Well, you're the guest, so it's your call. Whatever makes ya happy."

She chuckles and shakes her head, snagging the yellow blanket off the bed and then lays down next to him, spreading the blanket a bit. "Want some?" she asks, holding that side of the blanket out before covering him up as well.

Timofeyev stretches slightly, then settles back in on his back, hands neatly folded over his stomach. "Thanks," he replies with a smile.

Nathicana finishes spreading the blanket over, leaning over to kiss him softly on the cheek and smiling in return. She curls up just a bit on her side, one arm making a comfortable pillow for her head. "Again, grazie, Timofeyev," she murmurs, closing her eyes.

Bondayehr returns the slight curling up gesture, having never been very good at sleeping on his back. "For what?"

She stretches a little, reaching over with her free arm to lightly drape it over him, shifting a bit for comfort, her eyes still closed. "For everything," she says simply.

He relaxes under her arm, offering his own in kind as he returns the gentle kiss on her cheek. "You're welcome," he replies equally simply, and then he instantly falls into a deep sleep.

Nathi smiles, listening to his breathing even out, her augmented hearing picking up the comforting sound of his steady heartbeat. Poor boy. I'll wager decent sleep for him is more rare than getting out is for me. She lays there for a while, eyes opening again as she realizes that as comfortable and tired as she is, sleep simply isn't coming yet. Il dio, that Garbo is a cold bastard.

The events previous replay themselves over in her mind, each section carefully re-examined, subtle details noted and filed away. The object lesson had not been lost on her. 'It is imperative you understand', he had said. Not for his sake, or any need to be understood by another - oh no. So that she knew the price of failing to keep her own priorities straight. One needn't be a citizen to be considered a traitor.

Suppressing a shiver, not wishing to disturb her companion, she closes her eyes again, and tries to settle in. We shall see, my dear Janus. We shall see.