View Full Version : Augment
2008-01-07, 08:53 PM
Baerdog7 as Starling
Dorizzit as Sparrowhawk
Geesi as Blue Jay
A Voshkod Production
2008-01-07, 09:00 PM
Part One - 'Don't Argue in Front of the Augments'
The wind rips into the hold of the C-5A like a hungry beast as the rear ramp lowers, thirty-five thousand feet over Tajikistan. A few stray bits of paper swirl outward into the night, falling like sparse snowflakes on confused locals far below.
The voice, calm as ever, an unknown woman, radiates from the center of your brains. "Jump in thirty. One minute of freefall before you deploy."
Images flicker behind your retinas. A plateau, covered in snow, a long lake, covered in ice. It's cold in the cargo hold. The C-5 begins a slight climb, and the world climbs into view below the open hatch, ice and cold and stone, seven miles down. Sensors are going off, warning of cold, of low oxygen. Plenty of time yet.
The voice, so calm, so reassuring. "Twenty to jump. Starling, you have uploaded Russian and Tajik. Blue Jay, we need fast uplink of those photos you get, so find a sat dish if you can. Sparrowhawk. Kill them all." The voice always makes such sense.
Yellow lights appear in the hold. You can see the lake, shining ice in the moonlight, seven and a half miles below now. "Ten to jump. Be careful, boys."
2008-01-07, 09:23 PM
Sparrowhawk sits calmly and quietly, comparable to a wolf or a bear in a time of calm: a beast at rest, a powerful force capable of vast levels of destruction, but holding back until the proper time. In his hand he clutches the worn marble he always has with him, it's numerous star patterns dull in the dark hold of the C-5A. When the voice sounds, he places the marble in his pocket and cracks his knuckles, before standing, and going through the complex stretching exercise he always does right before deployment, each and every muscle in his body tested and used, part of the exercise holding his body against the wind coming from the opening. This done, he sits once more and runs his fingers through his wild, knotted black hair several times, before beginning a long breathing exercise. His eyes close as he feels relaxation overcome his anxiety. Despite this, the twin blades, one over each wrist, begin revealing themselves unbidden, sliding in and out of his wrists in his anticipation for the coming bloodshed.
2008-01-07, 10:57 PM
Starling lounges on a bundled up cargo net, calmly reading his tattered copy of The Hobbit. His eyes dart across the pages, indifferent to the fact that the interior of the plane was almost dark. He had memorized the text long ago, but the tactile sensation of turning the pages still helped to calm him down.
When the alarm sounds, Starling packs away the book and does some stretches and calisthenics to help limber up.
See you two on the other side, he says as he walks to the end of the cargo bay. The jump was soon, he had to get into character now.
2008-01-08, 04:04 AM
Blue Jay crouches on the floor, checking over his equipment one last time. Springs, rods and slides form up to establish a set, organized whole. So many parts working in unison for the most efficient effecting of their purpose. A little like himself, and perhaps the others. Perhaps not, too. Doesn't matter. Thirty-five thousand feet in the air in hostile territory isn't really the time to wax philosophical.
With the alert, he quickly and carefully finishes his latest reassembly and makes sure everything is secured. He doesn't bother with his memento. Old things are well and good, but it's the cutting edge that will save your life.
2008-01-08, 07:58 PM
"Go." With that simple command, you step out into the freezing slipstream. Hundred mile hour winds rip at you, trying to tear away your weapons, Sparrowhawk's massive railgun, the smaller flechette pistols of Blue Jay and Starling. The Earth spins wildly below as your secondary eyelids close to block the wind. Telescopic vision shows, even from seven miles high, a temporary structure on the plateau.
Six miles. All the lights are green in the backs of your minds, everything's fine.
Five miles. Terminal velocity, plunging down like darts.
Four miles. The air is thicker, buffeting you.
Three miles. By instinct, you pop the parafoils.
The plastic man falls from the top of the stairs toward the hardwood floor below. The plastic parachute tangles and he plummets, bouncing twice, as a drunken voice shouts 'Streamer! Streamer!' over the sounds of laughter and football . . . . Sparrowhawk, you shake the random . . . memory? . . . from your head, and the three of you start gliding toward the target.
2008-01-08, 09:22 PM
Sparrowhawk shakes his head. The hell? That was odd...right. The mission. Got to focus on the mission. Think later. That's not what I'm not paid to do. In the minutes before impact, he runs over his gun, checking all the parts and ensuring that nothing is out of place. This done and left with nothing else to do, he he begins stretching his muscles as best the harness and location allow.
2008-01-09, 01:38 AM
Starling relishes the feeling of freedom that free fall brings. He allows any feeling of fear or nervousness flow out of him as if blown away by the wind. He doesn't bother to check his gear after his chute deploys; he knew that it was already in perfect order. He does, however, notice a momentary lapse of concentration on Sparrowhawk's face and gives him a questioning thumbs up to see if everything is all right.
2008-01-09, 12:32 PM
Sparrowhawk finishes his second set of stretches, his thoughts over the memory remaining despite his attempts at focus. He shakes his head and clears it before returning Starling's thumbs up.
2008-01-09, 05:39 PM
The skydiving is the best part of the whole affair, Blue Jay has to admit. Something primal about what would otherwise be a simple business of gravity, air resistance, adrenaline. Well, not skydiving precisely, but he feels he'll take what he can get.
His gaze is fixed on their target, analyzing even as he plummets. The party is waiting for them.
It wouldn't do to be late.
2008-01-23, 11:16 AM
The ground comes up with surprising swiftness. At about two thousand feet Sparrowhawk can pick out the landing field, just behind a rock outcrop, shielded from main facility. And there's someone down there, a guard perhaps, leaning against a rock, a bottle in hand.
2008-01-23, 03:37 PM
Great. Just what we need... Sparrowhawk yells to the others: "Warning! There's a person, I think a guard, down there about where we're going to land. Ready yourselves..."
2008-01-23, 04:58 PM
Starling wordlessly acknowledges Sparrowhawk. He had, of course, seen the guard as well. Chances are the guard was drunk, or asleep but he wasn't about to take any chances. He activates his active camouflage and silently changes course to land on the other side of the rock from the guard.
2008-01-23, 05:57 PM
Flipping through various channels of vision as he descends, Starling notices that the man has no infrared signature. He's cold, cold as the outside air.
2008-01-23, 06:23 PM
Looks like we've got ourselves a popsicle, Starling says to himself.
He glides his parachute back to land on the far side of the boulder from the base and draws his sidearm, a silenced Beretta 92. If he notices any movement from the guard before he lands, Starling will shoot for the head.
2008-01-24, 09:24 AM
With small puffs of snow, the three augments touch down. Almost immediately, Blue Jay can feel it. The strange electrics in the area. Not the old comforting smell of AC power, the light sting of DC power, the brittle taste of Chernakov radiation, but something else, something oily, slippery, here and not here at once.
The guard is dead, very much so, an obscene smile carved under his chin by a very sharp knife.
2008-01-24, 09:39 AM
Starling holster's his sidearm and begins searching the guard for keys, access cards, pass codes, or anything else that might be useful.
Somebody's beaten us to the punch.
2008-01-24, 12:19 PM
"So it would seem..." Sparrowhawk scans the area, watching for signs of movement.
2008-01-25, 01:15 AM
"What... what the hell?" Blue Jay says to himself as he dusts himself off and gets to analyzing the area.
"Hey, check for power sources for me if you get the chance. There's something here that isn't your average generator. If it's a generator at all..." Too expensive to set up a microwave sat for this, but...?
"You know. If you aren't busy dodging bullets at the time. Priorities and all that."
2008-01-25, 08:02 PM
Peering carefully around the rocks, you all can see soldiers, and competent looking ones at that. Scanning through his database of uniforms and insignia, Blue Jay recognizes them immediately - Russian Spetsnaz. Best of the best, and not the group of third-stringers you were expecting. Two outside the door to the structure, scanning the sky for something.
2008-01-26, 12:44 AM
"Belay that," Blue Jay whispers, embarrassed, "doesn't look like you'll be having a lot of free time. Special Forces, Russians. Doesn't look like they met a lot of resistance getting in.
2008-01-27, 11:15 AM
"Because it's an easy mission. That's why were using these three. They're fresh off a wipe and need something simple to get them back in working order." Dr. Crane blinks at the bright lights shining all you all.
Monitor one speaks. "It does look easy. The Uzbeks can't put up much resistance."
Monitor five crackles. "But what if the Russians get involved? They are neighbors."
Monitor eleven. "Unlikely. We've seen no signs that the Russians are spooling up for this."
Twelve monitors, turned off, except for the speakers. Dr. Crane, in his labcoat, smiling nervously. Snowbird, behind you all, a slim red-headed woman, acting as security. Mission briefing.
2008-01-27, 08:21 PM
Starling shakes the strange...memory out of his head.
This is an interesting development. We should take the sentries out quietly to not alert the others. Wait here.
Starling reactivates his active camo and slinks off in the direction of the guards at the entrance to the structure. As he moves, Starling begins emitting calming pheromones in an effort to lull the guards. He loops around so as to approach the guard to the left of the entrance from the side. When he's in range, Starling hits him with tranquilizing spit, melting back into the shadows on the side of the building.
If the other guard investigates:
Starling sneaks up behind the second guard as he approaches the body of the first. He pulls out his monofilament garrote wire and moves up to strangle him from behind.
If the other guard doesn't notice:
Seeing that the other guard hasn't noticed, Starling sneaks within spitting distance and hits him with more tranquilizing spit.
2008-01-27, 09:02 PM
Sparrowhawk settles down and sits with his back leaning against the rock. "Geh..." he grumbles softly. "I hate halving to be subtle (primarily because I have great difficulty in that area). Let me know when I can kill something."
2008-01-28, 03:21 PM
Pores open and send chemicals into the air, soft lulling phermones, a clear message to the brain: Everything's all right, everything's fine, mother's here now, my dear child.
And then Starling spits on the guard. He hits it just right, below the ear, and the chemicals paralyze and seep under the skin. For a moment he can see the guard's jaw working, trying to open, trying to say something, and then the Russian crumples into the snow.
The other Spetsnaz trooper turns, bringing his gun down. He's trained; he's not going to go over and check, he's reaching for his radio . . . .
2008-01-28, 03:34 PM
Starling sees the movement. He moves with silent stealth. Not far though, just a few steps, just enough to get him closer, drawing his pistol as he moves. Within seconds he is in range, spitting another glob of tranquilizer at the second guard, his pistol trained on the guard's head ready to fire should the tranq work too slowly.
2008-01-28, 04:31 PM
He's fast, and the gun is already coming up. The active camo isn't too effective when you're moving quickly, and Starling has just a moment to see the man's surprised eyes when the flechette pistol rumbles quietly, spitting ceramic fragments into the trooper's face at hypersonic speed.
* * *
"The mission is simple," says the voice from monitor four. "Land at the target location, kill everyone present, find out what entered there, uplink photos and available data, await recover. Can they handle that, Dr. Crane?"
"Easily, sir. The recent datawipe would not have effected any of their combat abilities. These are recent acquisitions, and we've wiped some of the models, like Snowbird here, over thirty times with no degradation of combat abilities."
Behind you, Snowbird giggles quietly.
2008-01-28, 04:42 PM
Starling deactivates his camo and begins searching the bodies for card keys or security passes. He grabs the dead one's radio and clips it on his belt before picking both men up and carrying them back to the others.
****ers are fast. Here, let's tie this one up, he says, indicating the unconscious one. He drops the dead one behind the rock, but props the unconscious one up more gently. We may still be able to use him.
2008-01-28, 05:27 PM
Sparrowhawk poses the practical question: "Do you have anything to tie him up with? Also, how do you think he could be useful?"
2008-01-28, 05:58 PM
Starling pulls a handful of zip ties out of a pocket and begins restraining the unconscious soldier. I can't believe you two didn't bring any zip ties. He undoes the guard's belt and gags him with it.
He shrugs in response to the second question. I'm not sure...yet. C'mon, we'd best get on with the mission.
2008-01-28, 06:22 PM
At Starling's slight, Sparrowhawk grumbles under his breath. "Whatever. Let's get this over with." He hefts his Railgun, the massive and heavy weapon effortlessly held in his practiced and powerful hands.
2008-01-28, 06:44 PM
The railgun hums, and Blue Jay can feel an almost painful burning coming from it, the electrics are so heavy. A light blue sheen appears around it as the micro-black hole inside begins to emit Hawking radiation. Jay can see the little lines of gravitiational forces connecting the gun to Sparrowhawk's heart.
The other soldier is zipped and stashed when his radio blares in Russian. Starling's uploaded Russian is more than capable to interpret. "Green, what is the outside status? Report."
* * *
Snowbird silences herself in the back of the room. Monitor eight pipes up. "Dr. Crane, is she OK?"
Crane grimaces. "Yes, sir. We had a bit of a problem last week and had to do a hard wipe. It seems to have caused a few glitches."
"Just a few," she subvocalizes behind you all.
2008-01-29, 11:01 AM
"Curious..." the intaug murmurs to himself at the wonders of modern technology. One more reason to stay well out of Sparrowhawk's way.
Assuming the radio isn't set to respond at the moment, he'll glare at it and answer Hawk, "Status codes, for one, but I guess it's a bit late for that."
2008-01-29, 10:56 PM
Starling groans as he grabs the radio.
Everything seems to be normal, Sir, Starling replies in fluent Russian. We detected movement a few yards out, but it was just a couple of birds. Probably disturbed by a fox or something. So when did you say we got to come back inside, Sir? It's freezing out here.
2008-01-30, 10:14 AM
The radio clicks twice. "Your relief is out in five."
2008-01-30, 12:17 PM
Understood Sir. Over.
Starling turns to the others.
We've got five minutes before the next shift arrives.
2008-01-30, 02:02 PM
Sparrowhawk looks annoyed. "Fun fun fun. What's the plan, keep killing the relief shifts until someone notices?" he says sarcastically.
2008-01-31, 12:05 AM
"We get inside. Fast. I'm not confident about being able to handle snipers, which is exactly what's going to happen if we stay out here," Blue Jay looks around expectantly, searching for signs of movement, "these are the Spetznaz. If we're lucky we may only have a squad or two bearing down on us, and if we're extra lucky they won't think we know they're coming. On the plus side, we're in a good situation to ambush a lot of them. So, thanks, Starling."
2008-01-31, 07:47 AM
The snow swirls over the plateau . . . .
[OOC: Waiting for you guys to come up with your plan.]
2008-01-31, 09:30 PM
Let's do it then. Sparrowhawk, I guess we'll follow you in.
2008-01-31, 10:02 PM
Sparrowhawk grins, in his element. "Stealthy, or open?" he asks.
2008-01-31, 10:56 PM
Fast and quiet. Move through and clear things nice and quick like we usually do.
2008-02-01, 06:48 AM
"Works for me..." declares Sparrowhawk as he begins heading quickly towards the compound, keeping his head down and moving as quietly as possible.
2008-02-01, 01:44 PM
"I love it when people are reasonable..." Blue Jay says to himself, following Sparrowhawk up a reasonably safe distance.
2008-02-01, 09:09 PM
The main building is a large, temporary structure, vibrating slightly against the window. The three augments approach carefully, Sparrowhawk in the lead. As the comaug nears the door, it opens, revealed several Spetsnaz troopers, AK-74s at the ready. They seem like they were expecting trouble, but perhaps not expecting trouble to be quite so close.
2008-02-02, 07:54 AM
Sparrowhawk lunges forward, firing off his gun in tight, controlled bursts, knowing that his skin can reflect their bullets. Getting into the middle of them, he continues to spread confusion, causing them to shoot their allies as much as him. Soon enough, all lie either dead or dying.
2008-02-02, 03:09 PM
The railgun begins to howl, the sound of dogs being fed into a meat grinder, and it starts to pull matter from somewhere and blast it out at incredible speeds. When it hits flesh, it burns it to gas. Where it hits structure, it punches neat round holes.
Some of the Russians manage to survive the first volley and open fire, accurate shots peppering Sparrowhawk, a round glances off his cheek, revealing a long string of what looks like diamonds.
The second volley sweeps them away, and the gun starts to slow down, from a howl to a growl, and finally to the purr of a satisfied cat. Shouts can be heard now from inside the building, people cursing in Russian. From the door, Sparrowhawk can see a lot of damaged equipment, and a large screen blocking the rear half of the building.
2008-02-02, 06:58 PM
Starling lets out a low whistle.
Nice work Sparrowhawk.
Starling keeps moving to the next room, fast and quiet. The tone of his pheromones changes as he moves, no longer calm and comforting. He exudes agitating pheromones, designed to sow fear and discomfort. They gnaw at the back of mens' minds, awakening genetic memories of primal fear from a time when humans did not sit complacent on the top of the food chain.
2008-02-02, 07:29 PM
"Remind me to stay out of the line of fire," Blue Jay says offhandedly, not over-concerned with the massive and inevitable alert just yet. As a point of curiosity, he checks if the dead soldiers are even recognizable or if any of their belongings are still intact.
2008-02-03, 07:50 AM
Sparrowhawk nods satisfiedly and moves with Starling.
2008-02-04, 12:50 PM
[OOC: Sorry, tending for the ill this weekend.]
The holes in the structure let fresh cold air in, blowing the panic phermones around. The Russian voices behind the screen grow more agitated, panicky.
As he enters the structure, the magnetics and electrics are playing haywire with Blue Jay. Ghost images flittering by in visual spectrum, deep groaning noises vibrating the skin. Something wet on the cheek . . . .
The report of the gun is still echoing across the linoleum, and there's something wet on your cheek, blood, her blood, and she's sprawled out without a sense of grace on the cold kitchen floor, and now the gun's aimed at . . . .
Blood from your ear, dripping on your cheek.
Sparrowhawk and Starling round the barrier first, and stand frozen for a moment, the sleek lines, skin like oil on water, shimmering shifting colors dancing, lines like a dolphin of crystal, the thing hovers slightly off the ground. Only the whine of bullets, fired in panic, bring you both back to reality. Several Russian troopers firing, very close, very wild, while a couple of others cower near a filing cabinet.
2008-02-04, 01:02 PM
Starling takes cover behind the barrier before firing his flechette pistol at the nearest group of Russians. He maintains a facade of unnatural cool, but his mind is frantically racing to take in the situation.
What is that thing?
2008-02-04, 02:06 PM
Great. Just what we need. Complications. Despite his griping thoughts, Sparrowhawk stays stationary and fires at the hip, spraying railgun fire across the room, careful to miss...it.
2008-02-04, 08:00 PM
Ceramic fragments spatter across the room, and matter from elsewhere punches holes in the space time, while the fields in the room quaver and waver painfully in Blue Jay's skull. Moments later, the room smells of blood and cooked flesh, and bitter metallics.
The thing is about thirty feet long, seven high, twelve across, and floats with all the elegance of a soap bubble.
The voice is in your heads again, soothing. "Everything alright? Situation report?" But in a subchannel, down in the bottom of your skull, there's something else talking, chalky, scratchy, rhythms of a nursery rhyme . . . .
Blue Jay, if you concentrate, you can almost lock out the voice and hear what the distant subchannel voice is singing.
2008-02-05, 12:33 AM
Blue Jay grabs his head. He had had a bad hunch as soon as he saw the electrics, and it was starting to creep up on him. It was alive. Maybe. The energy was hitting his brain with all the grace and subtlety of a freight train, so he excused himself for not thinking so straight.
He focuses on the subchannel. Someone else could bother with Control. Someone else could always bother with Control.
2008-02-05, 12:53 AM
Starling gets out from behinds his cover and holsters his pistol. Control was saying...something, he wasn't really paying attention. Without saying a word, Starling walks outside. He takes a minute to breath the crisp, fresh air and calm his mind before going back to the big rock for the guard.
Starling returns to the facility after a few minutes with the guard slung over his shoulder. He ties the guard to a chair and pulls a packet of smelling salts out of a vest pocket.
Blue Jay...what can you tell me, he asks, waving the salts under the guard's nose.
2008-02-05, 06:10 AM
Since no one else seems to care, Sparrowhawk reports back. "Could be better. We ran into the Spetznaz. They're all dead now."
2008-02-05, 07:46 AM
"Affirmative, Sparrowhawk. We'll make our ops call up here as soon as Blue Jay is done looking at the data. Nice job." You can almost hear the smile in Control's voice.
The Russian slowly comes back to life. He mumbles in Russian for a moment. "Snowing . . . so cold . . . ." His eyes snap open, quickly take in the situation, and then he's still and quiet. You can just barely smell the fear in his scent, but he's clearly been trained for this sort of situation.
Control's voice begins to fade into white noise, and the other voice becomes clearer, like a voice on AM radio as you drive through the mountains, fading in and out, a voice of a dying child deep in a well, singing in starvation "London Bridge is falling down . . . ."
2008-02-05, 09:45 AM
Starling stops releasing his panic pheromones. He turns the chair so the soldier is facing the...thing.
Tell me what that is, he says. His voice is like a knife sliding on a oiled stone. Now.
2008-02-05, 10:06 AM
Blue Jay, a bit entranced, starts silently treading toward the thing, though not too close. No matter how outlandish the object, emissions certainly wouldn't sound like... "The signal's weak. If we had a better receiver, we could..." he trails off, not entirely clear on what they could do.
2008-02-05, 10:06 AM
As soon as you turn the chair, he closes his eyes tightly, so as not to look at it. "My name is Corporal Arkady Velnikov, I am here by invitation of the government of Uzbekistan, my serial number is 38-482-5810-2, I will say nothing else."
Whatever it is, this is what you're here for, what they're waiting for pictures and data of. It's hard to shake loose the cobwebby voice and focus on the thing, though. Concentrating on it makes it blurry, and you have no idea how it will photograph, if at all.
2008-02-05, 12:50 PM
Starling produces a Leatherman tool from a belt pouch and unfolds the pliers.
Are you a family man, Corporal Arkady Velnikov serial number 38-482-5810-2?
2008-02-05, 12:50 PM
Jay's eyes narrow, thinking. It couldn't be anything else, and that realization shakes him out of it a little. He looks around for the equipment the previous residents were presumably using to study it. Hopefully the fighting hasn't trashed everything, and maybe they'd have some ideas of their own. "Command, please advise on possibility, procedure or pitfalls of copying organic memories and sensory input to database. It'll be a hell of a lot more complete than a camera."
2008-02-05, 04:29 PM
The man's voice has gone flat. "My name is Arkady Velnikov, I am a corporal in the Russian Army. My name is . . . ."
[OOC: If you're going to work him over, feel free, but we're not going to RP it.]
"No worries, Blue," Control says. "We can pull out that out of your skull. Get a good look at the thing from every angle, and see if there are any computers, papers, anything."
* * *
Monitor Four squawks. "This is not a good idea. We have no idea what they're heading into, but the readings are anomolous enough. It could be sending children into a meat grinder."
Monitor Nine responds. "You're being pessimistic. We have no indications that there's a situation here."
Four again. "Wrong. You haven't seen all the data. I have. We need to send in experienced ones."
Seven now. "The experienced ones are having problems lately, haven't you noticed? And besides, they're all children in the end, damn it!"
A look of concern flickers across Dr. Crane's face. "Gentlemen, gentlemen, please don't argue in front of the auguments. They have simple loyalities, and need to see a unified front."
Behind you, Snowbird laughs.
2008-02-05, 05:30 PM
"Comforting, to be sure," Blue answers without a hint of sarcasm and commences doing just that, "but there's a lot more to this thing than just visuals. If you can take a good analysis of its EM fields from memory, be my guest."
He muses a moment, drawing a finger down his cheek in line with the trickle of blood, "...and why is it singing...?"
2008-02-05, 06:54 PM
Starling sighs. He wasn't going to get anything out of the corporal and he knew it. No use trying to work him over. He puts away his Leatherman and walks over to Sparrowhawk.
How long do you think we have until someone comes to investigate?
2008-02-06, 06:24 AM
Sparrowhawk shrugs. "Does it matter?"
2008-02-06, 09:53 AM
Not really. Guess I was just trying to make smalltalk while Blue Jay figures out what to do with that thing.
2008-02-06, 09:58 AM
"Blue Jay," says Control, a note of concern in her voice, "didn't catch your last. Did you say 'singing?'"
Sparrowhawk, the rest of the room is empty, except for the thing. It is hard to take your eyes off of it, the colors shift around, making faces, memories . . . .
The Corporal murmurs in Russian. "No one's going to come for it. It's here for us."
2008-02-06, 01:25 PM
"Affirmative, control," he answers shortly, grabbing a (hopefully) intact radio from one of the soldiers. "Hey, Starling, ask him what range and spacing of frequencies this can use." Continuing to circle the anomaly and getting his various readings, he toys with the radio a bit, holding it to his ear searching for the weak, probably low-band signal.
"Build it up with silver and gold, silver and gold..." he mutters to himself.
2008-02-06, 04:15 PM
Control's voice blasts into everyone's heads at once, overloading. "Attention all augments. Stand by for communications from Majestic. Heed and obey." Those last three words ring, locking down higher mental functions for a moment, leaving you little more then empty vessels for what comes next, dogs waiting for Master's voice.
A new voice, rough from a combination of cigarettes and command, growls between your ears. "This is Majestic. Move the signing object down to the lake immediately. Do it now. Follow-on forces are inbound to secure the site."
You are all suddenly overcome with a massive imperative to move the thing down to the ice-covered lake below the plateau, by any means.
2008-02-06, 04:40 PM
Sparrowhawk acts immediately, attempting to move it in the most obvious manner: lifting it off the ground.
2008-02-06, 05:33 PM
The thing, for all its size, moves easily, almost weightlessly. Your fingertips tingle slightly where you touch it. There's still a wall between you and the outside.
2008-02-06, 06:26 PM
"Too big for the door," Blue drops the radio to the floor instantly, quickly stowing whatever papers, diskettes or the like he had found over the course of the basic sweep, if any. "Stand away a bit if you're making a new exit, it might react badly..." he eyes the railgun, hoping Sparrowhawk has the same idea.
It takes a lot of concentration to register 'intact' as better than 'moving.'
2008-02-06, 07:05 PM
Sparrowhawk sets it down and moves away before firing out of his Railgun, attempting to open a hole to the outside large enough to move it through.
2008-02-06, 07:19 PM
It's like something out of a bad movie. The railgun howls (and you'd swear the thing howls in harmony) and cuts a hole through the side of the structure. The howl of the railgun and the howl of the thing and the howl of the wind outside combine, a demonic chorus. Even the captured Russian is howling suddenly, rocking back and forth in his chair.
2008-02-07, 12:36 AM
Starling grimaces at the mad howling and breaths a genuine sigh of relief when it's over.
Great. Let's get this thing out of here.
Despite his misgivings about the object, he goes to help Sparrowhawk move the object outside.
2008-02-08, 10:09 AM
The thing moves with suprising ease out of the building and into the wind. Oddly, the wind doesn't seem to affect it; it doesn't rock or shake in the slightest as you manhandle it down the rocks to the frozen lake below.
The sustained winds must be over thirty miles an hour, gusting toward sixty or higher. Snow is scudding across the ice in vicious white waves. When you finally get the thing out there, and let it go, Sparrowhawk and Starling notice little beads of blood on their hands where they were holding the thing, and quickly fading ruddy handprints on the side of it.
2008-02-10, 07:45 PM
Gah, the thing cut me.
He pulls a rag from his pocket and wipes the blood from his hands. His hands clean, he radios command.
Command, this is Starling. We are at the rendezvous point and await our pickup.
2008-02-10, 08:29 PM
Sparrowhawk looks at his hands without emotion.
"I've had worse."
He wipes his hands on his pants.
2008-02-10, 10:01 PM
Yeah, I bet you have.
2008-02-10, 11:36 PM
As the thing is where it should be posthaste, Blue allows himself a shift of priorities, running a finger along the thing's surface with about ten times the apprehension his comrades are probably even capable of. By his reckoning, anyway. "Not quite a cut, I wouldn't think. That would probably be too ordinary for a giant, floating, electrified singing alien."
2008-02-11, 07:58 PM
"We are twenty seconds out," says Control, and suddenly the lake is flooded with lights. Dipping down over the cliffs, a massive C-5A turns on its landing lights. As your eyes adjust (much quicker than a normal) you see landing skids deploy from the wheel wells and . . . someone . . . something? . . . falls out of the front wheel well, landing in a puff of ice at 150 miles per hour. The C-5 touches down just beyond the person, and the sound of its engines reversing and spoilers deploying is almost deafening over the wind.
The C-5 rolls out toward the far end of the lake while the person that dropped out of the wheel well stands up, brushes the ice out of her red hair, and approaches you. Snowbird.
* * *
"I'm going." Snowbird says it as a declaration behind you.
Monitor one. "Like hell you are."
"I'm going." Same flat tone.
"I don't think that's wise, gentlemen," says Doctor Crane. He's nervous.
Monitor ten. "You are not going, Snowbird, and that's final. You're too close to this."
She stands, a sleek motion. "You're going to send them? They don't know what they're getting into. If the Compact's broken . . . ."
All the monitors erupt, people yelling at her, quiet, sit down, shut up, stupid woman. As it quiets, Monitor One's voice comes over again. "Tricksy baseball, Snowbird. You are not going."
"I'm not going," she says, the voice of a little girl.
2008-02-12, 05:36 PM
Apparently she got her way one way or the other, Blue thinks, edge of his lip twisting into a frown. "Be ready to grab the thing and go. I've got a bad feeling," he mutters to Sparrowhawk.
"You're late!" No sense in letting her go ungreeted. "We could've used an extra hand in there."
2008-02-12, 05:50 PM
Sparrowhawk's face remains impassive. "Agreed. I have a very bad feeling about this..." he waves acknowledgment to snowbird.
2008-02-13, 11:21 AM
The C-5 is wheeling around on the ice, the landing lights sending Snowbird's shadow out toward infinity. Her face is locked grimly, and as she approaches she pulls two huge hand-cannons out from her billowing trenchcoat. She's about fifty yards away, approaching at a steady gait.
2008-02-13, 12:56 PM
Starling puts a hand on his pistol. There was something about Snowbird that disturbed him. Her gait, her face; something seemed just a little bit...off.
Didn't expect to see you here, Snowbird. He shouts, raising his voice over the noise of the C-5.
2008-02-13, 02:40 PM
Sparrowhawk shifts to put himself between "it" and Snow Bird, and readies himself to use his gun in an instant if necessary.
2008-02-13, 05:27 PM
Well, that clinches it. Comaugs were never much for subtlety, so much the better. Blue puts "it" between himself and Snowbird, figuring if she's here to take the thing it'll slow her down and if not, well, he makes a lousy human shield anyway. "Command," he calls in, as quickly and quietly or downright silently as he can, "can Snowbird's compliance code be used by us or just you? We have a situation."
2008-02-13, 07:33 PM
"Uh, negative, Blue Jay," says Control. She sounds very nervous. "We're, we're not authorized to give you that information. Stall her. Majestic is on the ground."
"Hey guys," Snowbird says, approached steadily, "what'dya find?" She's smiling, a lopsided thing.
2008-02-13, 08:11 PM
Sparrowhawk sticks his thumb over his shoulder at "it". "This. It causes bleeding. And it sings. And I can honestly say I doubt I have ever said that before or ever will say that again."
2008-02-13, 10:54 PM
Of course. Never so easy as that.
"How can you tell?" Blue Jay mutters darkly, before speaking up. "Doesn't really seem the type for a music box full of knives, so we figure it's a pop idol from a higher plane of existence. It's not bad, either. Can you hear it?"
2008-02-14, 08:11 AM
"Yes, I can hear it. Every day, every night, every time my heart rotates, I hear it." She's been more heavily modified then you, you realize, as you notice one blue eye is looking at the thing, but the other is focused clearly on you.
"I want to hear her again," she says, coming closer. The tension is clear in her hands as they grip the guns. "I want to go back into the crystal forge, I want to hear the source sing to me, I want . . . . I want to feel the love of her knives again."
"Stall her," you hear in your minds. Control sounds very nervous. Snowbird gets closer. The C-5 has come around, the ramp is dropping people are coming out.
"It's so lonely here," Snowbird says in the voice of a little girl. "So lonely where it doesn't hurt anymore."
2008-02-14, 10:26 AM
Starling takes a step towards Snowbird. He begins releasing calming pheromones and the single step is all that he needs to change his posture from guarded suspicion to warm reassurance.
Come here, Snowbird. Let's go talk about it, he says smoothly.
2008-02-22, 06:01 PM
Her gun snaps up, level at Starling's face. "You know, Starling, you third generation types aren't kitted out that well. I don't have a sense of smell anymore. I had them put in a chemical chromatograph instead. So I know what you're doing. And I'm not going to let you."
Soldiers are rushing across the snow, a tall man with them.
2008-02-22, 08:29 PM
Bummer. I forgot about that.
Starling feints left before ducking and rolling to the right, popping up to his feet and unleashing a burst of fire on Snowbird.
2008-02-22, 10:16 PM
Sparrowhawk jumps left, circling around snowbird so as to put himself directly opposite Starling. He then releases a tight burst of fire at her legs and feet, attempting to wound, immobilize, or distract her.
2008-02-24, 09:23 AM
It's almost an idea, but... no, way too risky, far too unpredictable. Before the plan gets any further than that in Blue Jay's head, a lot of gunfire starts to erupt. Beautiful.
Whipping out his pistol and using the object for a bit of cover, he aims a burst across and slightly to the left of Snowbird. Crazy reflexes are well and good, but since they're just keeping her busy...
One could almost swear he mouths the words "I'm sorry" before it's all flechette fire.
2008-02-25, 07:29 PM
The rounds thunder into Snowbird's legs, and she seems to flash with light and heat. She's laughing, a crazy humorless thing, and fires a round at Sparrowhawk. It catches him on the thigh, sending him flipping crazily across the ice as his internal dampeners try to catch up. Steam's rising around her as the flechettes crash into her, and she's almost to the thing. She's singing, suddenly, and the thing is singing with her, in chorus with the snow and wind and the ice groaning beneath you all.
2008-02-26, 07:10 PM
No good. Well, if Blue's going to commit a vast breach of security, it might as well be on a mission he doesn't even slightly mind having erased from his memory.
What was the phrase? It was a bizarre thing, which was probably good for keeping it out of casual conversation. "Tricksy baseball, Snowbird." Yeah, that was it. Bless his hyper-enhanced recall ability. "Drop your guns, get on that plane and don't come back here." He thrusts a finger to the landed transport, idly wondering if it'll work or not. At least it probably won't make things worse.
2008-02-26, 07:59 PM
No time to talk. She can't reach the thing.
Starling sprints to the object. He's closer to the object than Snowbird, maybe he can kick it away from her to buy some time. When he's close enough, Starling attempts a flying kick to propel the object away from Snowbird.
2008-02-26, 08:26 PM
Starling leaps toward the thing, smashing into it with both feet. A few moments before, it seemed so light. Now, smacked with kinetic energy, it is a hovering stone, and he falls.
Snowbird pauses, shakes her head like a cat, at Blue Jay's words. In that pause, the tall man has closed the distance. "Snowbird," he roars, and you recognize the voice of Majestic, that commanding presence from your heads. She turns, raising guns, but he's still shouting, "Delta Fall!" There's a light paff and Snowbird falls, gracelessly, into the snow, blood pouring from her ears and nose, a crimson fan on the snow before her.
2008-02-26, 08:55 PM
Sweet dancing Jehovah that hurt!
Starling curses as he rises painfully to his feet, falling silent as soon as he sees Majestic.
2008-02-27, 12:22 PM
Blue Jay grimaces, moving out from behind the object. "Starling," his voice is a deathly hush, barely audible over the wind, "can you check Sparrowhawk? That shot looked like it could knock out a battleship."
Having seen a little too much in the past five minutes to entirely trust to the principle "no one can survive an explosion inside their skull," Jay kneels down and checks the fallen Snowbird for a pulse. "Objective is secured, sir. Thanks for the save."
2008-02-27, 12:37 PM
Huh? Yeah, sure. Starling grunts, limping over to Sparrowhawk. When he gets to Sparrowhawk, he lays him out and attempts to perform any first aid he can.
Alright you big lug, tell me where it hurts.
2008-02-27, 01:13 PM
Sparrowhawk grins mirthlessly. "My leg. I got shot there." He stands with some effort. "I'll be fine. I've had worse."
2008-02-27, 02:18 PM
Blue Jay kneels down next to Snowbird, feeling for a pulse, but getting instead a rumbling woosh beneath her skin, like touching the outer housing of a generator.
Majestic walks across the ice, a tall black man with military bearing and a soldier's body, going soft around the edges from long years behind a desk. You can't shake the feeling there's a number there, not just a man, but you also love this man, will defend him, protect him like he was your mother . . .
. . . kissing you on the cheek and giving you that same wan, brittle smile she gave every night as she tucked you in. When you were younger, a comforting smile, but as you grew, you realized how fragile it was, like a mask she wore, and wondered as you settled down in your bed whether Mom and Dad were going to fight again tonight . . . .
Starling seems lost for a moment in some memory as Majestic speaks, a voice you remember from one of the monitors. "Good work, gentlemen. Let's get this thing loaded." His wish is your command.
Behind you all, the C-5A suddenly vanishes in a fireball. Perhaps it was the wind, perhaps the fight, but whatever it was, the Russians took advantage of it. Missiles lofted from a trio of attack helicopters crash down all across the lake, shattering the ice, filling the air with a groan like a dying dinosaur as the ice you're standing on begins to canter dangerously over the frigid water. The helicopters start rolling in, armored dragonflies, while a heavy lift heli-crane follows at a distance.
2008-02-27, 02:26 PM
Sparrowhawk gives a succinct summation of the group's opinion on the subject of the attack helicopters: "F***." He begins firing on the aircraft, steadying his gun on his arm.
2008-02-28, 01:55 PM
Blue is less succinct. "Damn it, Murphy, what did I ever do to you?!"
Three things to secure. Two are critical. Two can't come in contact with each other. One is autonomous and more important than all the rest combined, but very, very squishy. It's like that puzzle with the dog and duck and river, but with attack helicopters.
He grabs one of Snowbird's guns plus whatever she carried it on, and tosses the other to Starling. Lifting the ambiguously dead augment, he gets an idea. Maybe a an astoundingly stupid one, maybe a good one. He might as well ask which. "Sir! How good is she for a shield in this state?" If the answer is positive and if he can comfortably handle it, he'll foist her off on Majestic. The Man probably isn't designed to take a stray missile, but unless he's far missed his guess, Snow very, very much is.
2008-02-29, 12:07 AM
Starling takes the gun from Blue Jay.
He aims the hand cannon at one of the helicopters and unleashes a hail of fire.
2008-02-29, 03:54 PM
"She'll make a fine shield," Majestic shouts over the wind, "but what we need to do is get a way out of here. Our backup aircraft is back in Nevada. We need that chopper!" He points at the helicrane.
In Sparrowhawk's hands, Snowbird's gun does nothing, somewhat disappointing. "It's keyed to her DNA! No one else can use it," Majestic says. Blue Jay's flechette rounds ping off the armored front of the attack choppers.
The ice on the lake is now adrift, shattered by the missiles.
2008-03-01, 03:08 AM
Blue Jay stops himself from a sigh. He'd give a lot for guns that work when you pull the trigger and intelligence reports that aren't bending over backwards to keep anything helpful a secret, but those wouldn't involve singularity-powered miniguns or energy beings, either. So very torn.
"If we fall back, would they have to land to secure that thing, sir? Starling could get inside if they're on the ground!" he shouts back.
Of course, it would risk losing the objective, wouldn't it...?
2008-03-03, 09:43 AM
"Listen up!," Majestic commands. "You are ordered to secure three things safely. That object, Snowbird, and me, in that priority. If you need to sacrifice lower priority items to save higher priority items, you're authorized. Under no circumstances will you allow Snowbird or me to be take alive and whole. But I'd prefer it if we all got out of here." He pulls a pistol out from under his coat and takes cover behind the object, dragging Snowbird with him.
2008-03-03, 04:27 PM
Starling throws away Snowbird's useless hand cannon in disgust.
Sir, I'm sorry to steal your cover but we've got to get this thing off the ice. Blue Jay, give me a hand here and let's get this into the trees. Sparrowhawk, see what you can do about those gunships.
He begins pushing the object towards the forest as quickly as he can.
2008-03-03, 09:22 PM
Sparrowhawk carefully lines up his shot. His eyes focus unnaturally as his visual stabilizers take effect. He breathes in, ceasing his breath so as to create a stable firing platform as he lays his gun across his arm. Finally, he fires, the singularity powered rounds blast outward towards one of the gunships, ripping through its armored hull and shattering the machinery and men inside. A sensitive spot is hit, and the whole thing goes down in flames, a pyre for those lost inside.
2008-03-04, 08:04 AM
"Snow's... what, energy shield? Should work. Thank God for MPD technology, I guess..." Blue Jay scoops up the fallen gun and holsters it, too, before digging his heels into the ice and helping Starling push.
2008-03-04, 11:14 AM
Starling and Blue Jay begin to push the object across the ice. Majestic drags Snowbird, keeping the thing between him and the helicopters.
Sparrowhawk takes careful aim and round of superheated plasma slices through a chopper's armor like a laser through butter. The fuel ignites and spills down to the ice, raising a billow of steam as the burning wreckage smashes through. The ice shivers again, and parts in several places.
The other two attack choppers open fire with chainguns. Rounds ping off the object, which begins to moan under the impacts. Several round smash into Sparrowhawk, dull thuds against his armor.
The helicrane begins to lower a large net and all three remaining choppers push in. It looks like they're going to try to snatch up the object without stopping.
2008-03-04, 04:29 PM
Sparrowhawk chuckles as the gun rounds ping off of him. He fires wildly at one of the two remaining choppers, his attack ineffectively punching a few holes in the craft, with the majority of the shots going wide. He dashes as he does this, putting himself between the lowering net and the primary objective, holding his position and keeping the heat on the one helicopter.
2008-03-04, 06:39 PM
Sparrowhawk, get the helicrane!
Starling keeps pushing the object, hunching down to try and avoid the bullets.
2008-03-04, 06:48 PM
"We need it!" Sparrowhawk exclaims. he addresses his next statement to both: "You guys cover Majestic and try to deal with those choppers. I'll worry about the Helicrane. I've got a plan."
2008-03-06, 07:50 PM
"Most beautiful four words in the world. Starling, stop. I'm going to try something." Sliding around the object, Blue Jay makes sure Majestic is appropriately covered by the thing's sheer mass and brings Snowbird back to the other side. "Very sorry, sir, I'll need her for a second."
Putting one of the guns into her hands, he makes a rough sighting at one of the attack choppers, braces them both for recoil and 'helps' her pull the trigger. Kind of like helping a novice marksman aim, but with ambiguously dead people, he muses. Hopefully the DNA safeguards aren't quite that picky. If they're even capable of picking that sort of thing up.
2008-03-06, 09:59 PM
Have I ever told you guys how much I love you?
Starling grins and turns to fire his pistol at one of the helicopters, for all the good it will do.
2008-03-06, 10:17 PM
They aren't that picky. Unsupported by Snowbird's augmented arms, the shots are hard to take, but effective enough. One of the attack helicopters ceases to be, blotted out by a fireball.
The net swoops toward the group, the helicrane pouring on the speed, as the last attack chopper unleashes a volley of rockets. Suddenly you're all floating on separate pieces of crumbling ice as the rockets impact. The net is about five feet away from Sparrowhawk.
2008-03-06, 10:27 PM
Oh look, I'm floating away. Awesome.
Starling grimly keeps shooting at the last chopper, dodging fire as best he can on his little chunk of ice.
Sparrowhawk, if you've got a plan you better do it soon before I float away to be King of the Lake!
2008-03-07, 06:43 AM
Sparrowhawk holsters his gun in an action faster and more fluid than any human could do. Laughing maniacally, he leaps high into the air, grabbing the net with one hand and hacking through it with his other arm's blade, rendering it useless to grab "it" with.
This done, he begins climbing the remains, scrambling until he's nearly at the helicrane itself before leaping up and grabbing hold of the side, metal crushing in his herculean grip as he desperately holds on. Clenching with his left hand, he draws his right hand back and slices through the side of the helicrane. He grabs the inside of the slice and pulls it open, until he can get in. He climbs in, looking at the people arrayed around him. He smiles grimly and unsheathes his blades, trying to avoid further harm to the helicrane. Even those on the ice can hear the screams.
Hopping into the (recently vacated) pilot's seat, Sparrowhawk flies closer to the last attack chopper before unleashing a quick burst of fire, carefully aimed at the same spot that made the other one he destroyed explode. Taking his time, Sparrowhawk carefully maneuvers to pick everyone up. When he picks up Starling, he asks, with a sardonic smile, "Good plan?"
2008-03-07, 09:43 AM
Good plan. Starling agrees, grinning as he climbs into the helicrane. He turns around to help bring the object and any of the others who aren't inside yet into the helicrane before taking his seat.
2008-03-07, 12:33 PM
The inside of the helicrane is a charnal house of flesh and blood. Sparrowhawk may be efficient, but he is not hygenic when he works. Majestic boards without a second glance at the giblets. "Get that thing hooked up." He starts plugging some coordinates into a GPS. "Here's where we'll make pickup."
Within a few minutes, the thing is firmly attached, and Sparrowhawk heads aloft. Majestic pulls out a cell phone, dials. "This is Majestic Six. We have the item. It appears the Compact is broken, I recommend a face to face meeting at the opera house. Oh, and slag the target location." He hangs up, and pulls out a pair of sunglasses. "Better hope those optical dampeners are in order, boys."
A streak of light suddenly begins to descend from the sky. Behind you, a white flash, as the electronics of the helicrane flicker and spark. Blue Jay feels a near overload of some of his senses as the electro-magnetic pulse races by. A cloud of fire and dirt rises over the location of the encampment.
2008-03-07, 01:09 PM
Starling watches impassively as the encampment is levelled before his eyes.
Good bye Corporal Arkady Velnikov serial number 38-482-5810-2. You loyally served your country to the end. I hope you go to a better place than I am destined for.
He turns to Majestic, nudging a bit of vertebra out of the way with his toe.
Permission to speak freely, sir?
2008-03-07, 01:36 PM
Blue winces as the wave of information washes over him, but after getting over it stares at the remains of the target site.
It isn't often that enhanced cognition only has one thing going through its mind, but every now and then it happens. Holy zen! We have an orbital death ray?!
2008-03-07, 01:57 PM
Sparrowhawk only whistles appreciatively at the destruction unleashed, the majority of his attention focused on flying the Helicrane. He waits to see if Starling's request is granted, having a few questions of his own.
2008-03-07, 01:59 PM
"Granted, Starling," Majestic says, settling back in his seat. "What's on your mind?"
2008-03-07, 06:34 PM
What exactly is that thing and why were the Russians interested in it? Something tells me that it's not an alien pop singer.
2008-03-07, 06:41 PM
Sparrowhawk pipes up as well: "And why was Snowbird so obsessed with it?"
2008-03-07, 11:23 PM
Blue Jay takes a look out the window, listening all the same. It would be a very interesting answer, he's sure, but the odds that it'll be a truthful one are about on par with winning the lottery. With last week's ticket. Ripped in half. Twice. And then set on fire. At least, that's what he tells himself.
2008-03-08, 08:21 AM
Majestic lights a cigarette. "If the Russians knew the deal, they would have dropped a hydrogen bomb on it. They want a piece of the Forge." He sighs. "It all begin in 1945, when we blew a hole in the world . . . ."
Interlude - Eating Memories
On the wet grass, crying, clutching your stomach. "Get up and walk it off, you wuss! I'm not raising a goddamn pansy, boy!" He slams the football into your stomach again, laughing. Sparrowhawk is being reprogrammed.
His picture stands at your bedside, the crisp blue uniform, the flag behind him. "He was a good man, dear, and I wish you had known him," your mother says, stroking your forehead. "Someday, you'll . . . ." She starts to sob. Blue Jay is being reprogrammed.
"I won't let it happen," you hear your mother saying shrilling. "I don't care." Your father's voice, gruff. "No choice, dear, you know what they'll do. Remember what they did to Karen. They'll kill us to. We have to." She starts to cry. Starling is being reprogrammed.
Part Two - Put the Frighteners On
"We have a problem," says the first monitor. "A small press magazine has released some details on our recent operation in Russia. Not completely accurate details, but information nonetheless. We need to know how they found out what they know."
"Gentlemen," says Dr. Crane, "we've just finished reprogramming the augments to erase the information on the Russian operation. I recommend not revealing too much."
The sixth monitor crackles. "They did a damn fine job out there, as well."
"So the can handle this. Soft or hard?," says the fifth monitor.
"Both," says the first monitor. "Starling will work Rebecca Holm, editor and author of the article." A picture appears of a comely brunette, late twenties. "We'll provide locational info. Starling will use his various social assets to pump her for information before he terminates her. Blue Jay and Sparrowhawk will hit the offices of 'Strange Times' and put the frighteners on. Secure any data, and kill everyone in the place. Make it look like a robbery gone bad. Any questions?"
2008-03-08, 08:43 AM
Sparrowhawk asks: "What equipment will I have access to? I very much doubt someone attempting robbery would be wielding a singularity based railgun."
2008-03-08, 10:57 AM
"I don't know about that. Nothing quite like antitank rounds for safe cracking," Blue Jay responds, "how secure is their network? If they're a small operation we could probably get some more information with a couple of keyloggers."
2008-03-08, 02:09 PM
Starling balances on the back two legs of his chair with his fingers laced behind his head.
What's my cover for this mission, or am I making up my own?
2008-03-08, 02:25 PM
"I was more referring to their financial state; if they are attempting armed robbery, I somehow doubt they would have sufficient funds to afford a weapon of that caliber, regardless-" he smiles slightly "-of the expedience of using such a weapon."
2008-03-08, 05:05 PM
Blue puts a palm to his chin, musing on this a second. "Probably, but can't you buy a Soviet nuke for less than a hamburger these days? Maybe Hypertech-R-US was having a clearance sale?"
2008-03-08, 05:24 PM
Sparrowhawk chuckles. "Maybe."
2008-03-09, 07:47 AM
The first speaker crackles. "Doctor, keep your augments in order." Crane shoots you a warning glance. The speaker continues: "You'll get more standard weapons. Sawed-off shotgun, pistol. The network is likely somewhat secure; but we want everything on it before we destroy it. This is not just about collecting information; this is about putting the frighteners on."
"If I may," monitor eleven pipes up, "we want the people asking questions dead. Why? Because it will scare the other people in their little community of conspiracy theorists. And they'll write even more absurd articles about the black government. And all right thinking people will sigh, and shake their heads, and complain about these 'nuts' using the unfortunate deaths of others to drive their agenda. So the conspiracy nuts end up even more marginalized, and a threat to our agenda is eliminated."
"Quite right," one says. "Starling, your motive is simple. She's cute, find her in a bar, and use all the tools at your disposal to get her talking. You come up with a name and history, we'll get you supporting ID."
2008-03-09, 08:12 AM
Sparrowhawk hangs his head, abashed, at doctor Crane's look. When hearing about his equipment, he lifts his head and nods solemnly.
2008-03-09, 01:08 PM
Blue coughs. "I apologize. Anyway, we kill everyone, get all data available. If I may, I'd like to requisition a cellphone jammer, wire cutters, jump drives, ski mask, that sort of thing. Maybe a truck; would taking the more secure computers to crack later be acceptable? I have the utmost confidence in Starling's skills, but some corroborating evidence couldn't hurt."
2008-03-11, 09:39 AM
"You can pull what you need from supply. Nothing too high-tech. Can't leave any real evidence, just speculation. If you need to take the computers, do it. Any other questions?"
2008-03-11, 11:23 AM
Sparrowhawk speaks impatiently: "I'll be ready as soon as I have my equipment."
2008-03-11, 12:36 PM
I'm good to go as soon as my suit's pressed.
2008-03-11, 05:28 PM
"I think I can work with that," Blue mulls, "no further questions."
2008-03-11, 07:19 PM
The monitors go out. Doctor Crane takes a deep breath. "You all had better be more careful. The last thing you want is for them to start thinking you have personalities. Speaking of which, I need to go work on Snowbird. Take care out there." He opens the door to leave, revealing a massive black figure. "Ah, Condor, you must be briefing." Crane steps aside, and Condor enters the room.
He's huge, about seven feet tall and probably four hundred oddly shaped pounds. In bad light, he might pass for human, but otherwise he looks like he's smuggling an armored vehicle under a skin tent. A second generation comaug, you recall. His voice is a low grumble of metal and glass. "I got 'em, Doctor." You'd guess he was once a black man, many, many trips to the Forge ago. Crane slips out.
"Listen up. This one should be easy. The target is a small magazine called 'Truth,' based nearby in Las Vegas. Four staffers. One editor, Becky Holm. That's your target, Starling. After work, she frequents a bar near the offices, the Greenwood. Get close to her there, earn her trust, find out who leaked, and kill her. Other staffers include two writers and one tech guy. They'll be in the office, usually stay late, obsessed types. Blue Jay and Sparrowhawk, enter the building and kill 'em. Let's roll."
You all head toward the elevator. You're underground, you realize, in a very sterile environment. All steel and glass and armed guards. Signs read "ENHANCED OPERATIVE ENVIRONMENT." Condor leads the way, stomping heavily down the corridor. "So," he rumbles, "I hear Snowbird finally lost it. What went down?"
2008-03-11, 11:56 PM
"You aren't- hell, what am I saying? We aren't cleared to know that, so you know it must've been good." Someday, Blue figures, they're going to go against an experienced enough enemy and get beaten senseless because the swiss-cheese memory means the oldest tricks in the book are brand spanking new.
"Hope it's temporary. She's handy to have around."
2008-03-12, 03:01 PM
Sparrowhawk nods at what Blue Jay says, adding: "The best I can tell you is that it had something to do with an important target...I think. It's ironic they care about what we do and don't know, seeing as we can't do anything to them and have no outside contact, except for some missions. And people we speak with don't usually survive those. Oh well, not much you can do about it." He shrugs nonchalantly.
2008-03-13, 01:13 PM
You all keep walking as you talk, into a large glass elevator. It starts to rise, giving you a view of a bay below, with a swarm of men working on some sort of delta-winged aircraft.
"Snowy's twitchy. She's the last of the first generation models, and you know the trouble they've had. She's been told she can't go back to the Forge. I think that's killin' her," Condor says.
The elevator passes into an area of dark rock, still heading up. "Hey. Word to the wise. Remember things. Burn 'em in. The scrubs aren't as good as they think they are. Keep working it, and you'll remember," he whispers. Suddenly the moon appears through a hole in the rock; you're above ground, a mountain rising above you, desert country around.
2008-03-13, 05:01 PM
Starling pipes up for the first time since Condor's appearance.
You're right, Condor. I've been remembering things...faces and words that I know I know...knew...but can't place.
He turns away from them, gazing out across the landscape.
The desert is beautiful tonight.
2008-03-13, 05:59 PM
Sparrowhawk seems to be in one of his rare introspective moments as he stares out over the desert.
"It always is, Starling. It always is."
He stares out over the desert, lost in his thoughts. It's fairly unnerving.
2008-03-13, 08:08 PM
I read somewhere that the topsoil in the desert is only a quarter of an inch thick and takes a really long time to replenish. It's why erosion is such a big problem. Yet, the plants and animals have all adapted to their harsh environment. It's simultaneously one of the most fragile and hardy ecosystems on Earth.
Look, I can see a coyote.
2008-03-13, 08:44 PM
"That's an augdog, not a coyote. Won't find a coyote within ten miles of this place. The augdog's snap 'em up for fun." Condor falls silent, and the desert drops out of sight as you're back under stone. "Magnificent desolation," he whispers.
2008-03-13, 08:49 PM
Sparrowhawk shakes his head to clear it.
"Lovely. Is there anything around these parts that isn't twisted somehow?"
He pauses for a moment.
"Never mind, stupid question."
2008-03-14, 04:14 PM
"Playing with fire, 'hawk. With the doctors, with us, with the Forge, with each other." Blue's been content to watch a moment through the cold desert night and the introspection.
"Better be worth it, you know? I'd be pretty disappointed to have all this just because the men upstairs didn't want to get into power the regular way."
2008-03-15, 07:38 PM
"Better settle down now," Condor says. "Some of these areas are monitored." You walk down a brief passage. He pulls open a door, and you enter a massive hanger. Black helicopters with men scurrying about them, saucer craft hovering, tethered to the ground like balloons. A battered helicrane with Russian script on it, achingly familiar.
He leads you over toward a scruffy white van. There's a table there, with clothes, guns and plastic bags. "Change, put in the pocket litter, gear up." He points to the bags, which are filled with the detritus of another life. Credit card slips for gas stations you've never seen, cigarette butts smoked by someone you'll never meet, some loose change.
An augdog passes by, sniffing. The atrophied eyes have been stitched shut, and the nose is a massive thing dominating the face. The nostrils, the size of half-dollars, have a fine mesh over them, and the ears have been sheared off, replaced with little pink buds of flesh. It turns toward Condor and bounds over, mouth agape, jaw engineered to open like a snake's, wider than the head itself. Condor kneels down and pets the thing. "Hey, Blister, who's a good dog?"
2008-03-17, 06:19 PM
Starling walks over to the table and throws his hands up in dismay.
Argh! I keep telling them that Armani suits fit my form so much better than these off-brand ones they keep giving me but do they ever listen? Noooooo!
Grumbling, he changes anyway.
2008-03-17, 07:00 PM
Sparrowhawk arches an eyebrow at Condor and smirks slightly in amusement before changing. This he does quickly and tersely before picking up and examining the largest of the guns, checking it over to make sure there are no unforeseen defects. "Best part about being a Comaug? You never need to ask which gun is yours."
2008-03-18, 04:29 PM
Blue's pretty glad he's not a dog person, looking at the thing. He can't even really tell what breed it used to be. "Cry havoc," he says to himself, getting into this things.
"What, no knives? These are civvies, no need for more mess than necessary..."
2008-03-22, 07:35 PM
Soon, you're all locked and loaded. "The van's GPS has the directions. Anyone tries to access it without the right codes, or removes it from the van, it'll wipe. Air Force patrols won't bother you on the reservation. And when you pass by the Hole, say hi to the Forge for me. You'll know what I mean." With that, Condor passes you the files of the targets, the addresses, the photos. "Good luck, and put the frighteners on them."
You all pile in the van. The GPS bleeps, showing you your current location. Oscura Peak, New Mexico. Deep in the White Sands Missile Range. You have a long day of driving to get to Vegas.
2008-03-23, 07:07 AM
Sparrowhawk hops in and lounges on the back seat, looking over his section of the target files. He finishes this, and, bored, takes out his marble, and begins to toss it up and down, catching it each time.
2008-03-24, 01:20 AM
Starling hops in the driver's seat, adjusting the mirrors to his liking.
Everyone jump in and buckle up. We've got to get to Flagstaff by nightfall. I figure we can spend the night there and haul ass the rest of the way to Vegas tomorrow. Capisce?
2008-03-24, 04:17 AM
"Mm," Blue Jay answers, riding shotgun and looking over his files. Such a pity these people had gotten mixed up in something like this, but that was the press for you. "Can trade off wheel duty whenever, if you need some extra practice for the part."
2008-03-24, 12:37 PM
Starling nods at Blue Jay as he guides the van out of the hangar.
Sure, I'll need some time to study up on my mark. We can switch when we cross over into Arizona I suppose.
2008-03-25, 06:15 PM
The road - if you can call it that - winds down from Oscura Peak into the desert. The only way you can tell its the road is it glows, slightly, in ultraviolet light.
You pass into the Jornada del Muerto, the "Journey of the Dead Man," a sere plain between desert mountains. The van jolts over bad desert roads for about an hour when you spot it. A cairn of stone, standing alone, with a road circling it. Your internal Geiger counters start to tick more quickly. This area is slightly radioactive.
The GPS is directing you past the cairn.
2008-03-26, 12:27 AM
Starling whistles as they wind down the road.
I wonder if this radiation will give us superpowers. I'd want the ability to fly.
He keeps his eyes peeled as they pass the cairn.
2008-03-26, 08:00 AM
"Super-leukemia is a power, right?" Blue replies without hesitation, paying extra attention to the place. If this is the Forge, it's awfully unassuming.
2008-03-26, 09:16 AM
As you drive by, your augmented vision can easily pick out the plaque on the front of the cairn:
It all begin in 1945, when we blew a hole in the world . . . .
2008-03-26, 05:42 PM
Starling scans the cairn for any more words as they drive past.
I wonder how many times we've read those words...
2008-03-28, 09:34 AM
You suspect you've seen it too many times. The words are familiar, the scene is familiar. The magnetics of the place are all skewed, lines of fire pouring down toward the cairn. But you're driving past, and away.
2008-03-28, 12:51 PM
"Wonder if that's the forge...oh well, not much to do about it. I hate memory holes!" The last is a petulant cry, unusual from Sparrowhawk.
2008-03-28, 04:56 PM
The cairn falls away behind you and the desert horizon beckons, far off across the mountains. You don't think that is the Forge, but it's connected. It's a place of power.
Starling's driving first, though the night, the canopy of bright stars overhead, like, like . . . .
". . . pinholes in black construction paper! That's how I made it. And see, when I turn on the light, it's the night sky!"
Father gives you a smile. "That's brilliant, kid, brilliant." He looks tired, you know he hasn't been sleeping well lately. He and Mom have been fighting a lot more these last couple of days, and yesterday she gave you a long hug and went to your aunt's for a couple of days. "Hey, sport, let's go out tonight and see if your sky matches the real one, OK?"
2008-03-29, 01:07 AM
Starling smile despite himself at the memory. Of course his sky had been accurate, he'd stayed up late for three nights in a row to see where each of the stars were in the sky outside his bedroom window. He remembers being so proud of himself, and how proud his dad had been too.
A pair of oncoming headlights snap Starling out of his reverie. Weird. I haven't thought of that night in ages.
2008-03-29, 02:12 PM
Blue has been silent. He's had to be. Rigorous concentration isn't really his thing, with thoughts usually skipping from one stone to the next across a great river of information.
But his focus has been on the answer to the easiest question, and one of the most dangerous. The one he needs to be able to remember in a heartbeat and to answer just as fast. The thing that needs to be burned to his memory, closer than the faces of his father or mother. They are gone now, a reasoning he has traced countless times. What he needs is the answer.
Starling's jerk to attention disrupts his focus. "Hey, attention," he reminds his fellow augment, careless about his phrasing, "a car accident right now would be the most embarassing thing ever. What's on your mind?"
Maybe the other answers are closer than he thought. It's worth a try.
2008-03-29, 02:29 PM
Sparrowhawk gets out of his seat and lies down on a convenient stretch of floor, done with his notes. "Let me know when something interesting happens," he says. "I'm going to sleep for a while."
2008-03-29, 04:13 PM
Starling shakes his head.
Nothing...everything...I was remembering something from my childhood. Something I hadn't remembered in a long, long time.
2008-03-31, 03:59 AM
Blue Jay gives a nod. "Anything good? We could use a couple more happy memories around here, I think."
2008-03-31, 11:06 AM
Starling smiles to himself.
Yeah, it was pretty good. I'd made one of those night skies out of black construction paper. You know, where you poke holes for the stars with a pin and hold it up to the light? Anyway, I was showing it to my dad and he seemed so proud. He and mom were having trouble, I think, and he never smiled much then, but he smiled when I showed him my sky.
2008-03-31, 01:29 PM
Blue Jay pauses for a moment, parsing, then scrambles around his belongings looking for a spare sheet of paper and a pen. His tone is calm, but his haste betrays that in spades. "Heh, a little astronomer. Funny question, Starling, but do you remember how all the constellations were ordered back then, maybe any celestial events?"
Jumping peppers, he thinks. It's a long shot of long shots, but it could be interesting.
2008-03-31, 03:55 PM
Oh, man. Let me think he says, pinching the bridge of his nose. I remember the moon rising in my bedroom window...there was Orion to the right and Leo up and to the left. I remember having to wait for Orion having to rise above the tree in our yard so I could see it. There was one more big constellation, the long one that looks like a snake. ****, what's the name of it? Hydra! It was Hydra, but I couldn't see the entire thing before it went down behind the houses.
He waits for Blue Jay to finish writing before continuing.
So what does that give us? If I could see the moon I must have had an east facing window. Do we know when Orion, Leo, and Hydra are in that part of the sky?
((OOC: It is a damn good thing I've got Google Earth on my computer because I am not nearly this good at astronomy.))
2008-03-31, 07:28 PM
With the knowledge you have on hand about astronomy, you can narrow it down to the southern United States. It's a start, perhaps.
Night fades into day, and Sparrowhawk takes the wheel. The road is long and straight, desert on either sides, heat mirages shimmering like pools of water. The sort of road where people just lose track, fade out, and die sleeping at the wheel. The rumble of the road and the flickering of the white line and the straight road toward Las Vegas and something jumps, a jackrabbit from the brush, frantically crossing, and time slows . . . .
. . . the van veers hard right. "Sierra Hotel!," your dad whoops, "got the sum'bitch." You know that you couldn't have heard the van roll over the rabbit, or felt the bones crunch, but you're sure you did. Without looking back you just know there's a long red streak of blood leading back toward Fort Benning and nothing but a long straight road leading toward your new home. "God damn, I love this part of the country," he says, cracking open another beer. "Four rabbits, two snakes and an armadillo. Sierra hotel." The van is too hot and smells of beer and cigarettes . . . .
. . . and the rabbit is in front of the van, seemingly frozen.
2008-04-02, 04:47 PM
Sparrowhawk awakens from his reverie with a start. Crying out incoherently, he jerks the wheel to the side, the van swerving heavily as he manages to barely avoid the rabbit. He suddenly feels glad that he decided to wear his seatbelt for a change as he is nearly thrown from his seat by the force of the swerve.
2008-04-03, 07:30 PM
Starling, now riding shotgun, nearly slams his head on the window as Sparrowhawk swerves.
Geez big guy, keep your eyes on the road! I think I saw my life flash before my eyes, those bits that They didn't erase anyway.
2008-04-04, 11:44 PM
Blue Jay, lounging in the back and lacking his belt, is thrown onto the floor. Starling's pretty succinctly summed up his feelings, but he adds, "Almost hit Humphrey Bogart or what?"
2008-04-06, 03:54 PM
Files fly about the van, mixing up lives of targets. The rabbit leaps free, back into the brush, as the van blows by.
2008-04-12, 07:34 PM
Day rolls toward evening, the light rises brighter then the dying sun. Neon the colors of alien rainbows, Las Vegas, the gaudy shadow of the American Dream, the mirror of Jefferson's city on the hill, the city built in the desert by the Mafia and the OSS.
One last look at the files. Becky Holm, the editor, Starling's target. Unmarried, a cute brunette. Grad degree from UNLV in journalism. Thought to be a high flyer at one point, crashed and burned from the LA Times, and ended up here, in Vegas, editing a UFO magazine.
Greg Harris, former Air Force Captain, married two children, writer for the magazine. Picture of him in his dress blues, standing before an American flag, probably his promotion ceremony.
Charlie Wu, the other writer, unmarried. Notes that he might know tae kwan do. No other real information.
Brian Butler, IT and webmaster, a heavyset man with ugly glasses. Unmarried.
The van drives down the Strip, past the waterfalls of fire, the pirate ships battling, the Sphinx and black pyramid, toward the old part of Las Vegas. Vegas may be in the middle of a desert plain, but there a social slope here. The top is the strip, and as you slip down, you pass the older casinos, the older houses, and then the edge of town that the desert is fighting to reclaim. After this, you fall into the sand. And this is where the targets are.
2008-04-17, 10:49 PM
Starling shifts in his seat, gazing out the window at the casinos as they pass by.
You guys ready?
2008-04-18, 03:24 PM
"Of course," Blue Jay replies, checking over his supplies, "You? I'm no expert on women, but I hear picking one up is tough without a personality. You might have the hardest job here." He has a bit of a gleam in his eye. Is the intaug joking again, or what?
2008-04-18, 06:01 PM
Sparrowhawk shrugs. "Close enough. Let's do this."
2008-04-20, 01:07 PM
The first target, the offices of the magazine, is in a light industrial area along some railroad tracks. Second floor, first floor being occupied by a company that makes gauges. Third floor is empty. From your current location, you can see some lights are on in the offices.
The bar is about three blocks away. The target is known to walk there on her way home.
2008-04-20, 04:21 PM
Sparrowhawk looks around. "Finally..." He turns to Blue Jay. "Ready?" he asks.
2008-04-20, 06:52 PM
Damn you're vicious Blue Jay, Starling says, chuckling.
Don't you worry about me being able to pick this chick up, that's what I was built for.
Starling hops out of the van and straightens his suit.
I'll meet you guys back here in the morning?
2008-04-20, 08:17 PM
"It takes you that long to pry a woman for information and shoot her in a dark alley?" Sparrowhawk asks with a totally straight face.
2008-04-20, 09:10 PM
You have no idea how the female sex operates, do you? He chuckles. Let's just say that my part of the operation requires a bit more finesse and leave it at that.
If the other augs have nothing else to say, Starling will head down the street toward the bar.
2008-04-21, 07:37 AM
Sparrowhawk grumbles annoyedly at Starling. He looks at Blue Jay. "Well, we had probably better get going. Here's the plan: we get up onto the roof, then go down through the third floor to reach the targets. From there on in, it'll be as easy as shooting a bunch of newshounds. Any different ideas?"
2008-04-22, 12:25 AM
Blue Jay nods to the departing Starling, giving a short mock salute. "Good luck."
"Fire escape? Should work fine, most likely," he answers Sparrowhawk, "we should probably scope the place out some first, find which exits to bar, lines to cut, all that. If they had given the two of us more respectable clothes we could have come in on the story that we're looking to start a business there, but..." Blue trails off, lost in thought as usual.
2008-04-22, 04:54 AM
Sparrowhawk thinks for a second. "Hm...you're probably right. If only we could see the inside of the building. Anyway, do you know which wires are the phone lines?"
2008-04-22, 07:04 PM
You pull out the floor and wiring plans thoughtfully provided by the folks back home. The Third Floor hasn't even been built out yet - no interior walls, just support walls. The magazine offices have a small reception area, a couple of offices for the writers, a larger editor/publisher office, a server room, and a bathroom.
The bar is a seedy looking place, painted over windows. The dull thump of music can be heard.
2008-04-24, 11:51 AM
As Starling walks into the bar, he casts his eyes about the place to get a lay of the land and to see if his mark is already there. Either way, he takes a seat near the middle of the bar and orders a beer.
2008-04-24, 04:24 PM
She's there. She looks much more wan and drawn then she did in the picture, but that might be the light . . . or the location. There's one empty shotglass in front of her, and another one gripped tightly in a fist. Her facial expression is plain: "don't bug me." And it seems to be working. The usual flirts and predators that are seen in bars like this are giving her a wide berth.
2008-04-25, 03:53 AM
Blue sorts through the plans judiciously. "Just a second," he says, checking probable exits both for themselves and for the targets if, say, two men with guns suddenly showed up.
2008-04-25, 08:48 AM
Three possible exits from each floor (if you disregard windows). A stairwell at either end, and a cargo elevator in the middle. The elevator will be easy to disable.
2008-04-28, 12:16 AM
Starling moves down the bar, putting one barstool between him and Becky, and orders another beer. He looks at her and smiles, releasing a wave of relaxation pheromones, but doesn't try to start up a conversation.
After several minutes of letting his pheromones do their work, Becky's glass is empty and she seems to be a somewhat less cold. Looks like your glass is empty, Starling says, turning on his stool. Can I buy you another?
2008-04-28, 08:36 AM
She looks up, sees you. You sense a slight rise in blood pressure and respiration. One hand goes back unconciously to check her hair. "Oh, ah, sure," she says with a small smile. Her accent you'd place in Georgia.
2008-05-02, 08:39 AM
The engine of the van ticks down slowly.
* * *
She looks down at her drink. "You don't say much, do you?"
2008-05-02, 12:13 PM
((Damn, I can't believe I missed the update again. :smallmad:))
Starling chuckles and signals the barkeep for two more of what she was having.
Sorry about that, sometimes my mind wanders. My name's John, and you would be....?
2008-05-02, 12:30 PM
Sparrowhawk says to Blue Jay: "Alright, I'll let you handle the technical stuff and wait on the roof." He grabs his gun, concealing it haphazardley in his coat against a simple glance. He crosses the street quickly and enters the alley next to the paper building and, looking around to ensure that there are no prying eyes, he makes a super-human leap on to the top of the building. And then he waits.
2008-05-02, 06:00 PM
There's a brief flash of heat as you land and the inertial dampeners kick in. The thud is muffled and, with the third floor empty, you doubt anyone heard anything. There's a hatch up here, likely to allow access to the roof for AC repairs.
"Becky," she says. You're getting an odd vibe. She's annoyed, but not with you, with herself, you think. What's up with this guy? Why's he so fascinating? What's wrong with me tonight? Something like that.
"So, I haven't seen you in here before. I mean, I'd have noticed." She looks down at her drink and flushes slightly.
2008-05-02, 08:56 PM
(I must be aiming for a record or something, sorry...)
Blue nods to Sparrowhawk, giving one quick missive, "hey, keep to your gun if you can help it, when everything goes down. I don't have too much on forensic science in at the moment," he taps his temple, indicating the database, "but I get the feeling you're a little too strong for the average robber."
Stowing the more portable of his tools, he drives the van further past and looks for an appropriately out-of-the-way place to park, ideally a place where two men carrying stolen electronics won't be seen by all and sundry.
2008-05-04, 12:57 PM
The van is safely secreted in a dark alley.
2008-05-04, 08:12 PM
Starling smiles into his drink.
Yeah, this is my first time here. I'm actually here on business, some of my coworkers are up on the strip gambling away their pensions. I've never been a big fan so I ended up walking down the strip until I ended up here.
So I'm assuming that you are from around here. What is it you do?
2008-05-05, 05:25 PM
Blue checks over the plans one last time before stowing away his various tools and weapons in his coat. A cursory examination of the lighting and electric fields should tell him whether or not the targets are in. None of the following applies if they aren't.
First order of business is the phones. Assuming the lines aren't buried, a snip at the inlet should be really all that's necessary. It doesn't need to be professionally done, just fairly inconspicuous. Checking for police or passers-by, he'll work as fast and quietly as possible.
If the plans show the elevator reaching to the third floor, he'll ascend a fire escape, join Sparrowhawk and make ready to get moving. Depending on their internet plans, that may have done in the 'net as well and even if it going out is common to them, it's usually taken as a signal to go home.
2008-05-06, 07:28 PM
"Me?" She flushes again. "Oh, I'm an editor for a stupid little magazine you've never heard of. What about you?"
EM and IR indicates that the offices are occupied. The elevator does go to the top floor. Snip snip and the phones die. A moment later, you're on the roof with Sparrowhawk.
2008-05-06, 07:38 PM
Sparrowhawk pulls his mask on over his face. He runs one last check on his shotgun. "All set," he says. "You ready?" regardless of response, Sparrowhawk then walks to the roof level elevator and calls it up. Stepping in, he holds the door for Blue Jay. "Let's go."
2008-05-07, 02:09 AM
"Should be," Blue Jay replies, stepping into the elevator, flicking on the jammer and doing likewise with his mask.
"Caedite eos; novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius."
2008-05-07, 01:15 PM
I run...ran...a small rubber stamp manufacturing company up in Portland. We recently got bought out and the buyers have brought us to Vegas to wine and dine us while we finalize the deal. He shrugs. Tell me more about your magazine.
2008-05-07, 08:28 PM
The elevator begins to descend, a musak version of Stairway to Heaven polluting the air. It drops smoothly to the second floor, and the doors open with a bing. There's a reception area, doors leading off left and right. A large sign - "TRUTH" - hangs on the wall. Pictures of UFOs are everywhere.
2008-05-08, 07:34 PM
[Sorry, Starling, missed your post.]
"Oh, it's a stupid little thing," she says, "but it pays the bills. It's about, well, it's embarrassing, UFOs. Aliens. Things like that." She laughs. Her posture shifts, indicating some comfort, and her smell changes slightly, giving off calming notes.
2008-05-08, 08:40 PM
Starling gives an encouraging smile, trying to ease her apparent embarrassment.
Sounds like something I might read actually. I'm kind of a sci-fi geek. So, what's your big story right now?
He orders another round and nonchalantly eases into the seat next to Becky.
2008-05-09, 10:44 AM
Blue Jay holds up a hand, signaling for Sparrowhawk to wait. He checks IR again, looking for people, and signs to 'hawk the location of the one nearest either stairway, or any between there and his location. The one nearest to their position, he moves toward.
(I'm assuming it's reasonable for them to know at least some military sign.)
2008-05-10, 07:36 PM
From the maps you've seen, the server room is left, writer's offices right. The computer guy will be in the server room, the two writers off to the right. Lights are on in all locations.
"Well," she says, swirling her drink for a moment, "we've got a couple of 'big' ones. The sort of thing the UFO nuts love. Formation lights over Denver, a missing trawler in the South China Sea, and this thing in Russia."
2008-05-10, 07:43 PM
Blue smiles to himself at the serendipity. Training, military experience and the like aren't liable to be anything Sparrowhawk can't handle alone, and he himself has no objections to mucking about with computers while the comaug handles the martial artist and war vet.
Thus, he signals Sparrowhawk to head right, and assuming an affirmative response, Blue Jay will go left.
2008-05-10, 09:16 PM
Sparrowhawk nods and heads right. Upon first human contact, he raises his gun and says, calmly but firmly: "Everyone on the ground. Now. I have an extremely low tolerance for uncooperatives and I have very little reason not to shoot you now."
2008-05-11, 01:51 PM
Starling grabs a handful of pretzels from the bowl on the bar.
Oooh, tell me about the Russian thing.
2008-05-13, 08:46 AM
As Sparrowhawk nears the first office, he hears music and one side of a telephone conversation. The song is Box of Rain, by the Grateful Dead.
Walk into splintered sunlight,
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land.
Maybe you're tired and broken,
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do, to do for you to see you through?
A box of rain will ease the pain, and love will see you through.
A man is talking on the phone. From the back, Sparrowhawk recognizes target Greg Harris. ". . . yeah, I'll be home soon, honey. Tuck 'em in. I know, but . . . . look, it's not stupid . . . . all right, we'll talk about it later." He softly hangs up the phone as Sparrowhawk steps in, issuing commands:
"Everyone on the ground. Now. I have an extremely low tolerance for uncooperatives and I have very little reason not to shoot you now."
Harris turns in his chair, sees the gun, sizes up the situation very quickly. "All right. I'm going to get on the ground now, very slowly." He starts to move out of his chair, keeping his hands in plain sight. "My wallet is on the desk."
* * *
At the door to the server room, Blue Jay can see target Brian Butler, wearing pair of heavy headphones, typing away furiously in HTML. He hasn't seen you yet, you think.
* * *
"Well," she says, and you catch a bit of excitement in her voice. "We had some reports that a UFO had landed in one of the old Russian states, and the Russians had gone out to pick it up." Her smell changes slightly; there's a lot more to it than that.
2008-05-13, 01:23 PM
Of course he is. What else would he be doing, Blue thinks to himself for a moment.
It doesn't take long to pull his pistol, lean over, lightly lift the headphones off Butler's head and loudly chamber a round. "Hey there. I'd like you to step away from the desk, if you'd be so kind."
His tone is almost mellow, but there is that saying. Gun with authority, gun with many bullets.
2008-05-14, 08:23 PM
The fat man's arm blurs with the sound of ripping silk. There's a momentary pressure on the gun, and then Blue Jay can see the barrel's been bent about sixty degrees to the left. Then the other arm snaps around with the same wet ripping sound, and Jay goes flying through the drywall with a smash.
2008-05-15, 05:40 AM
NO! This is wrong! He has a family! an inner, long buried part of Sparrowhawk exclaims. They want him dead, he dies, another answers. Still, Sparrowhawk can't help but shake the feeling that he shouldn't be doing this. Sparrowhawk begins to nod at the man. "Thank you. I'm so-" he hears Blue Jay thrown through the drywall. "Son of a b****!" Sparrowhawk thinks quickly, trying to decide if he should help Blue Jay. He finally decides against it, figuring that Blue Jay is superior to normal humans and that he can't let the target get away. Still, he doesn't do anything other than look at the man down the barrel of his gun.
2008-05-15, 03:29 PM
It's never simple, Blue grumbles somewhere inside his own private world of pain. The fact that the target never even turned around occurs to him a couple of moments later.
Coughing like he's lost a lung, he tries heaving himself to his feet. "Of all the places we have to hit, we get the one with Spiderman. Just my luck," he says to himself, taking a more in-depth look at Butler's EM readings.
Intel has really got to get their asses in gear.
2008-05-16, 01:49 PM
Starling motions to the bartender to bring two more drinks and leans in closer to Becky, his voice tinged with excitement.
Then what? What kind of UFO?
2008-05-17, 11:11 AM
Your excitement is infectious. She starts her next drink. "Something big, if you believe that stuff. Uh . . . do you believe that stuff?" She looks up curiously at you.
His EM readings are not normal human, but also not what you'd get off an unshielded augment. As he lumbers through the whole in the drywall, you can see that both his arms are hanging at his side limply, while a golden fluid is draining from tears. It looks almost like he overstressed them and they tore. "Who are you?," he asks mildly.
The momentary warring in your mind is almost painful. Orders against instinct. Shooting an unarmed man, shooting the target, a dull throb at the back of the brain. You see him tense when the noises erupt from the other end of the building as Blue Jay is pummeled. Then you hear the click behind you. "Drop it now," someone says.
2008-05-17, 01:58 PM
Sparrowhawk's moral quandries are put on hold as he is given a real need to defend himself. He says nothing, but drops down superhumanly fast and spins with his leg out, knocking his unseen assailant off their feet. He then quickly grabs them by a convenient article of clothing and tosses them next to his first target. "Nice try."
2008-05-17, 09:04 PM
"Peter," Blue Jay answers, almost without thinking, "Peter Murfel. Look, I, uh," he's staring at the torn arms, as inhuman as anything he's seen recently, "I guess it's kind of stupid for me to say something like 'I wasn't looking to hurt anybody' right now," it's a little distracting, the way it looks like his limbs are broken, "um, what exactly are you?"
2008-05-18, 12:50 PM
Starling's eyes meet Becky's and he holds them there while he speaks.
I think it'd be foolish not to believe there was something else out there. The Universe is a huge place and it seems kind of...hedonistic to think that Earth is the only planet in all of existence with life on it. I just don't know why they'd land in Russia of all places. He says with a chuckle.
2008-05-19, 01:11 PM
It's an easy grab, and with a bone-jarring crash you slam target Charlie Wu onto the ground next to target Harris. "OK, my friend," Harris is saying as Wu struggles for breath, "you want money, I know that, the computers are the best thing we have . . . ."
"These people," he says contemplatively, "are mine. Not yours." The eyes are dead, absolutely dead, like the eyes of a stuffed bear. "I'll have to crack you open to see what makes you tick."
You catch and hold her eyes easily. The pheromones, and your patter, are doing the job perfectly. She's interested, her natural caution is breaking down. "Why not Russia? Big and powerful country, right? They already own America, after all."
2008-05-19, 06:02 PM
A hint of a smile plays at Blue Jay's lips. "I'm sure that will be very educational for everyone involved," he answers, "but if you're big on keeping these guys, there's kind of a problem. I'm not here alone."
He gives a broad shrug, recalling the floor plans and trying to parse an escape route. "Kind of a shame, you know. Faster than the eye can see but fail just by not being close enough at hand? Almost ironic, really."
If Butler tries anything, he'll attempt to dart past. If the big guy's got leg capabilities anything like his arm ones, he might not want to risk the damage it takes to catch Blue, not if he has to be fit enough to fight again.
2008-05-20, 04:59 PM
Running through the brain, escape routes, backward toward Sparrowhawk, out the windows to the left . . . .
"Escape? Who is Sparrowhawk?" Butler's voice doesn't change, and he does not move closer.
2008-05-20, 05:06 PM
The act of violence clears Sparrowhawk's head of the instinctive morals that had been holding him back. Two shots, each to the brain. The clinical, brutal efficency trademark of a Comaug. And yet, as he stares at the cooling bodies, the image fixes itself in his brain. Even though he has killed so many, something makes them stick. Something. He shakes his head, and then heads back to look for Blue Jay.
2008-05-20, 05:27 PM
Blood pools on the cheap carpeting as you turn away. The music changes, Brokedown Palace by the Dead.
Fare you well, my honey, fare you well my only true one.
All the birds that were singing are flown, except you alone.
2008-05-20, 09:51 PM
Blue Jay's smile broadens into a wide grin, not that it can be seen through the mask. But the feeling is there, as strong as any could be inside his half-mechanical mind. Triumph and a certain unhinged serenity.
Words are not necessary. His own fate is irrelevant. Butler has already lost, outmaneuvered by a foe that didn't even know he existed. He should probably be ashamed of something so humiliating, Blue thinks.
It doesn't even matter who Sparrowhawk is. Not unless he can revive the dead.
2008-05-21, 09:23 AM
"You're an interesting creature, Mike," Butler says. "Something's torn your mind in half. What have they done to you?"
Blue Jay can see Sparrowhawk step in behind Butler, gun raised. Sparrowhawk has a clean shot at the back of the fat man who is, oddly enough, floating about an inch off the floor.
2008-05-21, 11:24 AM
Immediately noting the oddities of the man, Sparrowhawk immediately shoots him, hitting his head, heart, groin, and three other non fatal areas which could be feasible storage locations for vital organs.
2008-05-21, 10:16 PM
Seeing Sparrowhawk, Blue Jay decides to contemplate that later. Mostly out of curiosity and perhaps to help his partner, he gives something a try.
It's a funny thing, being inside someone else's mind. He idly wonders how much ability to process his thoughts Butler actually has. And if there's one thing Blue does better than anybody else, it's think. Not necessarily sense or wisdom or even (it would seem at times) intelligence, but raw computation.
Thus, he engages the floating telepathic alien network administrator in a massive burst of a brain gone haywire, continual recursing and modification of calculations, a giving form to a pattern of nigh-infinite complexity, attempting to overload him with junk data.
If it works, it'll be a pretty neat trick. He'll have to remember it.
2008-05-21, 10:49 PM
Starling gives Becky a quizzical look.
Who owns America now? The Russians or the aliens?
2008-05-22, 09:34 AM
She grimaces. "Oh, forget it. Lots of conspiracy theories in the UFO world. Little green men, men in black." Some defenses have gone back up, her next glance at you much more shuttered.
Sparrowhawk and Blue Jay
Jay starts his mind down a thousand twisting roads at once. "Mike? What are you . . . ." Butler starts to speak, twitches, and then gunfire explodes in the room. Sparrowhawk, at this range, fires with the precision of a surgeon. Golden fluid, sweet smelling, comes pouring out of the wounds like warm honey. Then, like a ruptured sack, the entire body splits open and slumps to the floor, a sudden wave of sickly-sweet nectar and organs that have no place in a human body.
Hovering about four feet off the floor with fluid dripping from it is a foot long green worm. It must have been nestled near his heart.
2008-05-22, 10:34 AM
"I don't know what they've done," Blue eases off the logic bomb only enough for his own operations, "But I think you are why."
He pulls his shotgun, brings it to bear and blasts the worm with half as many rounds as the thing will hold.
2008-05-22, 10:37 AM
"Okay, this officially goes out of the ordinary." Sparrowhawk tosses his gun up into the air, and his wrist blades flash out of their sheathes. He strikes the creature three times, before leaping back and catching his gun, firing a round of shots into the creature.
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