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The Screaming Sky - DM Downrightamazed

Game Master downrightamazed

"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now." -- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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It is the best vacation you have ever been on.

You were dubious when you got the message, and you had your reasons; nobody ever gets anything for free, and especially not now. Airfare? Train tickets? Who the hell takes the train in this day and age? And since when did the NEG start mandating "mental health" breaks for workers. But nonetheless, the tickets came, the day came, and off you went. The flight was without hitch, and the stupid train was actually a really nice way to get across the countryside, if rather slow. Even though you have the means to have done something like this yourself, it always feels good to get a freebie, and it's even better when the freebie turns out not to be a pile of b#*&@+%& from some huckster.

So it is you find yourself in the town of N'Guigmi, on the north end of Lake Chad in north-central Africa, in what used to be Niger. It's perhaps one of the "safest" places in the world to be, right now, in relation to where the Bugs and Kaos Kids are, and the Dagonites haven't even made it up the coast yet much less made their way here. Weather pattern changes have helped push the lake's shores out, once again placing the city directly on the water, and those same weather changes have helped local businesses and increased the salt and textile trade. Indeed, the locals here seem expansive and friendly, always quick with a joke or to buy a drink; the sure sign of an economy on the rise, a nameless but pervasive optimism.

The resort at which you have been placed is modestly-sized but very well-placed; golf courses are a short walk away, there are go-kart tracks, themed bars, karaoke and dance and comedy clubs, brothels, casinos, a futbol stadium, F1 track, theaters, galleries, restaurants...the whole shebang. You weren't given any money for this trip, but you can handle that part on your own; room and breakfast is covered by your hotel reservations, and for the whole week!

You arrived Sunday morning, checked in at 3:00 in the afternoon. Your plane home leaves Saturday evening at 6:00. It is currently 42 degrees celsius at 10:00AM on Tuesday the 14th, 2086, with extremely low humidity. A dry heat. The sky above is clear and almost painfully blue. Another fine start to what is sure to be another terrific day on the best vacation you have ever had.

Please take a moment to describe your appearance and post how it is you are starting your day today on this surprise vacation. You are all at the same hotel. You do not know each other, though it is quite possible the various pilots amongst you might recognize kin. The engel pilots in particular would stand out due to their Interfaces.

Gatecrash only:
Airfix is with you, and is a very popular figure at the pool.

With a languid sigh, Winston half crawled, half dragged himself from the bed he had apparently deposited himself in the previous night. Staring across at him from the dresser mirror, the bedraggled figure that was his reflection winced with every aching incoherent muscle movement.

He felt the dull pain in his throbbing forehead, a long buried memory of having one too many drinks after work playing at the periphery of his senses. It had been a while since he'd been on a binge like that and his body didn't quite seem to know what to do with the alcohol anymore.

"Ta-Ma-De." Damn it.

The figure in the mirror stared back, sharp Asian features and brown eyes watching him with the cold stare that he knew was his. He sighed again, fixating on the streaks of salt and pepper in his dark hair, ruefully glancing at the slow but inexorable advance of his forehead against his retreating hairline.

You're getting too old for this... his subconscious seemed to say. Part of Vincent wanted to agree. He hadn't been a spring chicken when he signed away his life to the military...

A memory of his wife and child flashed across his mind unbidden, and he blinked away tears. Well what was left to him of his life anyway...

He hated these moments alone, the very reason he'd given it all up to serve. At least out there, the darkness was palpable, physical, something you could shoot at or run away from.

Inside his head with his self-loathing on the other hand...

He glanced at the clock on the wall... Not much time left for the Pity Party or he'd miss the hotel breakfast.

With a groan, he heaved himself into motion, deftly smoothing the creases from the folded red polo shirt and khaki pants he extracted from his travel bag as the well-traveled familiarity of his morning ritual banished his demons back to the fringes of his mind.

Breakfast. Right.

Locking his room door, he casually palmed the key, putting on his best face and walked (some would say "strutted") over to the hotel restaurant, casually selecting a seat where the verandah overlooked the pool.

Ordering a cup of coffee from the wait-staff, he gave a casual wave to the emerald-eyed platinum blonde by the pool as she vaulted off the diving board into the sparkling waters below.

7+3d10 ⇒ (1, 7, 5) = 13 Challenging (16) Tenacity test for chronic pain, 1d5 ⇒ 1 hour

On the trip across multiple timezones John reflects, A government paid vacation... I guess being on AWS status has some perks. I wish they'd hurry up with that damned fitness for duty determination though! John packed light and enjoyed the journey, indulging in some amateur photography to take a few shots of the train and the African countryside before checking in. As far as he could recall he'd never been to Lake Chad and he wanted to remember every detail of what was promising to be a very pleasant week.

John plans on indulging in all the typical touristy activities while he's here; with today calling for some time on the lake, a few hours at one of the casinos, and perhaps wrapping the night up again at the brothel. He'd planned on getting up earlier but the pain had flared up and he'd had a lazy morning. He worked his way through the yoga stretches his therapist had taught him until he felt more-or-less ready to face the day then threw on some light clothes- a wide-brim hat in the local style, and a long-sleeved green shirt and tan slacks from one of those new "miracle fibers" that promised to keep him cool.

He arrives in the lobby with just the hint of a limp and sets to getting some brunch... a panini of some sort sounds like just the thing. John's an older fellow, easily in his 60s with sharp, somewhat careworn features. He's here to enjoy his vacation and doesn't seem to be in any particular hurry, he picks a seat where he can watch pedestrians go by on the street below and places his order.

Are the brothels here regulated and inspected, or is it a more entrepreneurial environment? Specifically, is human trafficking still an issue?

John Mcnaught wrote:
Are the brothels here regulated and inspected, or is it a more entrepreneurial environment? Specifically, is human trafficking still an issue?

Heh. Marvelously put. N'Guigmi seems to be regulated within an inch of its life, as all the brothels are inspected, licensed, etc., and have sex workers of all legal ages, races, genders, etc.

John and Winston arrive at the restaurant at nearly the same time. It is quiet, with most of the inn's guests already out and about and enjoying their daily activities of choice, so John and Winston are two of only seven people eating, including themselves. The restaurant is called, for no apparent good reason, "Slim's", and has floor-to-ceiling windows along the north and east wall. The west side of the restaurant is open and blends directly into the lobby, while the south leads back to the restrooms, kitchen, and other "behind-the-scenes" areas. The furniture all is neutral in color and cleaned and dusted within an inch of its life.

A tall, slim, fit-looking man nearly as old as John is seated on the north side, at a window table, and is dressed impeccably in a pinstripe Brioni suit. He has short-cropped hair with a couple grey streaks in it and intense blue eyes. He looks like his job title probably starts with the letter "C". Seated across from him is a very beautiful woman who might, conceivably, be over 30, but it's doubtful. Her hair is a lush chestnut river drawn back in a simple pony tail and her eyes are hidden behind Chrome Hearts sunglasses. She is clad in a simple sundress that probably costs several times your yearly salary.

The other three diners are a family: husband, wife, and lethally-bored looking teenage son. The parents are clad in stereotypically tacky tourist gear, and judging by their accents hail from someplace in Canada. The teen son is dressed completely -- and perhaps inexplicably -- in light grey and refuses to take off his full-immersion Sony/Ashcroft GameGlasses. The sounds of BugKiller Go! can be heard from the ear buds, which he doesn't have all the way in. The mother and father are blandly attractive, but hardly worth noticing.

The food here is good! Obviously the chefs know what they're doing, and the temperature is regulated well against the blast-furnace heat of outside.

DC12 Observation test:
The attractive woman with the CEO-looking fellow keeps looking at Winston, but then averting her eyes as soon as he looks her way.

DC17 Observation test:
The eyes of the tourist dad linger on you just a bit longer than you're comfortable with.

Observation + Perception
1d10 ⇒ 5
Keep: 5. Total: 5 + 8 = 13

As he sipped at the dark coffee, Winston felt a familiar sixth sense flare at the back of his mind. It felt out of place and strange so seemingly far from danger, yet the sixth sense which had kept him alive on one battlefield after another was going into frantic overdrive, screaming for his attention like the warning klaxons of a missile lock.

"You are being watched", it announced...

The Human brain had it's limits, its finite computing power straining against the constant influx of information from the nervous system that assaulted it every second. Faced with inputs far outstripping it's capacity, nature had come to a crude but effective solution; each stray fragment was compared for relevance to the situation at hand, taking on meaning from contextual clues and prior stored knowledge. Anything deemed irrelevant was left unattended and unprocessed, rapidly inundated and buried beneath the onrushing flood of new competing signals. We only saw what we thought we needed to see and little else.

Winston let his mind lean into the flood of information.

That was it... Ease into it... Let the mind unfocus... Switch to peripheral vision... Drink in the scene...

His mind raced, desperately trying to keep pace with the raw, unprocessed rush of information, other senses like smell and hearing withering into background static as cognitive space was reallocated in a racing flash of firing synapses. Slowly the scene before him began to take shape - it wasn't a complete set of information of course, but superficial as it was, it was far better than he'd had to work with a second ago.

The tourist trash family wasn't likely to be an issue...

Neither was the elderly gent in green at the window...

And pinstripe hadn't moved since he'd got there...

Which left...

She glanced away toward the window, the tiny twitch of motion a seemingly meaningless gesture, yet the tell was an admission of guilt as obvious as a smoking gun now that he knew what he was looking for.

She was cautious and more than a little twitchy...


Waving over one of the wait staff who hovered attentively near the table, he gestured at something on the menu resembling Eggs Benedict, keeping the impression of occupied attention as he fixed the woman at the edge of his peripheral vision, a talent honed in the boardrooms of more than a few heated negotiations.

Nice try, Lady. Let's see what you're after...

DM Downrightamazed:
Something amiss at the lower level DC.

Vincent Chang is going to try to act natural to avoid tipping his hand the he is currently keeping an eye on the woman.

Misdirection + Perception
2d10 ⇒ (6, 10) = 16
Keep: 10. Total: 5 + 10 = 15

Observation: 10+3d10 ⇒ (5, 5, 10) = 20 -1 (chronic pain) = 19

John had spent the better part of his life watching people, *years* if he bothered to add it all up. Crowds were always fascinating and even before the Agency training he had a habit of watching strangers and making up stories about their lives from all the little details he could pick out. The staff was downright drab in their professionalism: immaculate uniforms, no visible piercings or tattoos, natural hair colors, and impeccably polite when addressing guests. The others in the lobby were a bit more interesting:

A wiry Asian businessman in a red polo shirt, probably Chinese, sipping on his coffee. Likely on vacation, he probably wouldn't be alone if he was here to negotiate a business deal. He looked to be in good shape for someone in his position, maybe he was an amateur athlete. He was built like a jockey, but it was hard to imagine the fellow racing around a horse track- the thought brought a brief smile to his face. He couldn't see the typical camera that these guys usually brought with them, worth at least a month's pay... maybe it was still up in his room. Statistically, he probably liked karaoke too.

An executive and his... secretary? Niece? Escort? Bodyguard? It was hard to place the woman, but he amused himself with guesses. She kept making eyes at the wiry businessman and he couldn't blame her, those guys always had more money than sense on vacations.

A couple traveling with a teenager, upper-middle class and determined to improve their family life by changing their surroundings for a week or two. He wished them luck.
...something about the husband didn't seem quite right. He'd played the hapless tourist role on jobs often enough to not dismiss the man out of hand, and every time that guy let his gaze wander around the restaurant it seemed to rest on John. Does he know me? When was the last time I was in Canada?

While waiting for his food John plays up the tourist role, taking several pictures of the lobby, the pool, the street, and other inane things along with random pictures of his fellow diners. When the touristy father looks his way again John meets his gaze and holds it for a socially-awkward amount of time unless the man looks away

A tattooed Nazzadi male enters the lobby. He wears a carefree smile but those who look closer can see it is faked. He gives off an air of competence that is hard to achieve except by those who have seen death and shaken hands with him on more than one occasion. His hair is stark white which doesn't match up with the races black hair and it doesn't appear to be dyed. He carries a golf bag, but he doesn't appear like the sort who'd go golf on any day. His Sharp eyes take in the whole room in a glance as he takes an empty table. He places the bag of golf clubs by his table with the opening angled towards himself.

Kyra sits quietly as he waits for Cythery to come down from their room. He can't help shake the feeling that everything was going to go to hell before long. Maybe because even on their honeymoon they ended up fighting both bugs and the children of chaos. He sighs as a waitress asks for his order and he places an order for coffee with lots of sugar.

Kyra codename Viper XIII wrote:

A tattooed Nazzadi male enters the lobby. He wears a carefree smile but those who look closer can see it is faked. He gives off an air of competence that is hard to achieve except by those who have seen death and shaken hands with him on more than one occasion. His hair is stark white which doesn't match up with the races black hair and it doesn't appear to be dyed. He carries a golf bag, but he doesn't appear like the sort who'd go golf on any day. His Sharp eyes take in the whole room in a glance as he takes an empty table. He places the bag of golf clubs by his table with the opening angled towards himself.

Kyra sits quietly as he waits for Cythery to come down from their room. He can't help shake the feeling that everything was going to go to hell before long. Maybe because even on their honeymoon they ended up fighting both bugs and the children of chaos. He sighs as a waitress asks for his order and he places an order for coffee with lots of sugar.

Cythery grabs her purse and adjusts her shirt in the mirror. Just almost too low cut and sleeveless, to proudly show off her tattoos. She applied a quick dab of lipstick and out the door she went. She carefully locked the door behind her and gave a quick glance around. On her way down the stairs she caught herself feeling that the vacation she was on was almost too good to be true. At last she made her way to the lobby and spots Kyra sitting at a table. Gently she sets her leather purse down and takes a seat next to him. "Sorry I took so long, I had to take care of a few things."

She gently kisses his cheek then swipes his freshly made coffee only to steal a large gulp. When finished, she looks up at him with a cheeky grin.

"Gahh...they just brought that out too..." Kyra says as Cythery finishes his coffee off before he even got to taste it. "Well my love what would you like to do today? There's the pool, I mean when was the last time we got to go swimming? And before you say it no amphibious missions don't count." He says to her just before giving her a kiss in return on th lips. His worries about the vacation put on hold when he sees she is happy.

A waiter glides over to the tourist family's table. "Jeremy, take those things off, will ya huh? C'mon, breakfast is coming, you can't play and eat at the same time. Besides, we..." Tourist Dad harangues his son, but trails off as he makes eye contact with John. After an awkward pause, the kid drops the GameGlasses and makes a face.

"! 'Besides, we'...what?"

The father shakes himself and looks back at the boy. "Nothing. Eat your omelet. I'm not buying you any of the garbage food they have in the grandstand at the race, so this is the only good meal you're going to get."

The husband and wife start in on their food, but Jeremy just makes a face. He sort of sneers at John as he takes pictures, and looks sidelong at Pinstripe Guy's female companion. Then Kyra and Cythery come in, and the teenager blinks and nods as the athletic Nazzadi walk by. He blatantly checks out Cythery's ass, but then his eyes fall on Kyra's golf bag. "Hey! Hey man! Hey Nazzadi guy!" He calls out to the couple. "Hey what's in the bag? Something cool? Something that goes boom? You soldiers? All your people are soldiers, right? Why you here?"

"JEREMY!" the dad thunders. He is blushing with embarrassment as he looks over at Kyra and Cythery. "Oh god. Sir, Ma'am, I am so sorry for my son's behavior. I apologize. Oh god. I am so sorry." His wife is hushing her son, and also makes an embarrassed apology; "He gets a bit rambunctious, and he's never seen adults of...erm, your race." She smiles lamely.

Another waiter arrives with the food for the man in the suit and the striking woman across from him. After just a few bites, the woman leans in and says something to him in a voice too low for anyone else to hear. He smiles indulgently at her, says "Of course" and then she gets up and walks toward the bathrooms.

Woman's DC15 Observation check: 3d10 ⇒ (2, 4, 1) = 7 => 4+8=12

DC17 Observation, for anyone:
As she does so, she looks at Winston (the Asian fellow sitting by himself drinking coffee), then past him and out towards the pool area, as if she's looking for something specific. She never breaks her stride, though, and the whole thing is rather smooth. Anyone who didn't know what to look for would completely miss it.

@John McNaught: DC15 Fear test (Tenacity feat): 3d10 ⇒ (9, 4, 10) = 23 => 10+7=17

John McNaught ONLY:
As you are observing the hapless tourists (or "tourists", you're still not sure) try to wrangle their son into behaving, you hear a quiet tearing noise, like someone slowly ripping a piece of cheap cloth. It only lasts a second, and then a movement catches your eye. The man in the expensive suit has his back to you, but with horror you realize that an eye has opened on the back of his head, pushing his hair aside. It is large and unpleasantly...damp, about two inches across, and has a horizontal pupil like a goat. It is a sickly green color, and vaguely crusty about the edges.

It looks right at you.

The eye closes, there is a velcro-ish sound, and you realize you have been holding your breath. Pinstripe-suit-man gives no indication that he is aware of anything odd, he just keeps eating. Your left knee has begun to hurt.

DC15 Observation, for anyone except John(separate roll from the one above):
You hear a faint tearing sound, like someone ripping their pants. It's really quick; over almost as soon as you hear it. You don't notice anything that could have caused this sound, but you do notice that the older guy (John McNaught) seated not far from Pinstripe Suit Guy has suddenly gone a bit pale, as if he got hurt, or ate something bad, or something like that.

Sorry for the lengthy post, just catching up hopefully its enjoyable~

Alastair started the day like he always did, as he got out of bed his joints and muscles made a minor protest before he began his stretching exercises. After an hour of stretching he moved onto his pistols and armor, putting them on, he continued to do his morning training before taking it all back off again. He pulled on a tanktop and some tacky shorts with Top Dawg on the side with a set of Dobermans standing and looking like thugs on the back. Damn Miria for sneaking these into my bag. He snapped on his PCU before he strode out into the hall to tour through the resort, as he went out the door he paused and looked longingly at his pistols. No weapons the doc said, no armor either, such bulls***, how was a man to defend himself? I got the damn permit for nothing then… Shaking his head he locked his door and pocketed the keycard, hanging the chain it came on around his neck, tucking it into his tanktop so it rubbed against his chest.

He walked around with his usual soldiery gait, towering over most of the people at the resort and because of his bearing people were giving him a wide berth. Well some were. His steel grey eyes took in everything with ease; he kept mental notes of exits, gauged how far he could run before he started getting tired. Nothing went amiss as he quickly looked around rooms and corridors with the calm, confidence instilled in men with years of military service and hard fighting. He didn’t try to hide the scars that ran across his bare shoulders, neck and arms; it was an old intimidation technique he remembered from his life before. He also sported a large tattoo on his left forearm, marking how many he had kill in his life and those few who recognized the significance of it either challenged him or stayed clear.

As he walked his PCU was still latched neatly over his wrist and he had no worries about it overheating, even in this dry heat. Over one of his eyes he had his heads up display linked to his PCU and a small earbud in his ear reading off information. He had his PCU generating a continuous GPS update of maps and coordinates in Alaska. Sadly though, every couple of minutes, there was an interruption to his research. Miria, his maid, had found out his number and was asking all her usual questions, typing so quickly that he hardly had time to respond before another one arrived. How is the trip so far, ooohh how was the train ride~ I wish you’d invited me. =P Send pictures!

She was only a minor distraction though, it was a welcomed static he had come to expect from the enthusiastic woman, it also helped to ground him as well, because as of late he felt he was losing his edge, Valkyrie was becoming more aggressive. Even though the docs said that was unlikely, he could feel her tugging on his mind and if his implant didn’t have the built in safeguards. He didn’t know how long he could last unprotected; he had entered the program knowing the risks and ignored them as he tried to advance his agenda’s. His aggressiveness had landed him in the lap of an insatiable alien intellect and no one really believed what he was trying to tell them. Valkyrie was feeding off his memories and emotions, emulating them and…

He refocused as the smell of chlorine and waves of dry heat assailed him, he was out by the pool and too his embarrassment he hadn’t even realized it. Lightly tapping his HUD revealed four unread messages from Miria. He smirked as the last one was her calling him a jerk, again. She was undeterred and unrestrained in her loud ways despite the fact he was her employer. Sometimes he wondered if he made it too easy on his employees, they stayed in the lap of luxury, while he was out fighting for the NEG. She’d be back at it again tomorrow and until then he would focus on his ‘vacation’. I swear people are too soft, only a merchant could have invent the word ‘vacation.’

A brunette, who was just climbing out of the pool, flashed him a smile as she eyed him hungrily; she paused though when she saw his scars and his odd tattoo. As she slicked back her dripping hair, her smile broadened, he didn’t know whether she was going to ask for his room number or walk away like a tease. So he decided not to give her a choice, he was off to have breakfast and he didn’t quite care for company at the moment. So with a small smile of his own he moved past her, leaving her to watch him walk away instead.

As he entered the diner he took in the room until his eyes fell on his rival, Kyra, who was accompanied by his… whatever they called it in there language. Cythery was her name and he knew of her skills as an Engel pilot, both of them were quite skilled and Kyra had been catching upto him as of late. He was losing his edge…

Since I am arriving late on the scene I will just roll for the newest observation you posted DRA. Didn't want to assume I was there for all of it. :) Not without permission~ =)

[ooc]Observation 2d10 ⇒ (9, 10) = 19
Keep 10+8= 18

The strange sound causes Alastair to tense slightly in the doorway, his instincts told him he should have brought at least one pistol. He didn't have time to curse his luck he took in the diner and noted the exits and refrained from smiling as Kyra was targeted by some young teenager. The longer he went unnoticed the better. He moved up to a table near an exit and put his back to the wall so he could watch the room. He ordered an orange juice and an egg white omelet with everything on it, as he waited for his meal he continued to cycle through maps on his HUD and feigned being distracted.

"Go to that older gentlemen and tell him he is free to order what he wants, today its on the house. Them two as well please; also, keep me anonymous." He casually indicates the pair of Nazzadi from behind his menu before the waiter moves away.

Observation + Perception
1d10 ⇒ 6
Keep: 6. Total: 6 + 8 = 14 (Fail DC15)

Winston fished for his datapad, fiddling with the screen impatiently as he tapped through the news, playing the Bored Business Executive he knew he looked like. Idly playing through the business section, he put on a good show of cursing fickle fate for the unexplained factory fire in Manchester which had knocked Chrysalis stocks down a point. Leaning back in his chair, feigning disgust as he made an exaggerated swipe across the screen while siezing the opportunity to take another mental snapshot of the room.

He noted the arrival of the entrance of the Nazzadi couple with only a the slightest of interest...

Lovebirds... Cute...

Processed, cataloged and ignored - He had bigger fish to fry...

With one eye on the screen, he risked a glance at the lady and her dining companion. They were eating now, speaking in hushed tones drowned out by the altercation between the Nazzadi and the teenage brat.

Call it a hunch, but there were moments when Winston could sense he was being played. There was something about her and the way she carried herself that annoyed him greatly though he couldn't put a finger to it. Winston hated being played for a fool - that irritated him even more...

You didn't make manager at Armorcorp by playing the part of someone else's patsy.

Finished with their conversation, the lady breezed past him in the direction of the ladies.

Observation + Perception
1d10 ⇒ 9
Keep: 9. Total: 9 + 8 = 17 (Pass DC17)

He caught the sidelong glance as she passed, a subtle tilting of the head and focusing of the pupils the only hint that she was watching him. Not much of a tell, but Winston had already been tipped off enough to notice it.

She wasn't just watching him anymore.

He hid his tension in an annoyed wave to the serving staff as if to hurry them along, ears straining to hear the click of the toilet door so he could surreptitiously sneak a glance at whatever she was watching behind him.

The game was afoot.

DM Downrightamazed:
Missed the lower, made the higher. Who rolls like that?!

Anyhow... While she's gone, Winston is going to use whatever opportunity arises as part of breakfast as a cover to take a good look at the poolside again.

Observation:1d10 ⇒ 71d10 ⇒ 21d10 ⇒ 3 keeping the 7 missed the first
Observation: 1d10 ⇒ 11d10 ⇒ 71d10 ⇒ 8 keeping the 8 made the second one
Kyra's eyes just stare at the boy and it just so happens that a ray of light hits them causing them to reflect the light. "Don't worry I had a younger sibling before. He says to the parents and then turning towards the boy. Not all of us are soldiers, but me and my wife here are. No nothing in this bag can explode I'm afraid to say. But between you and me, it would probably..." He stops momentarily as he hears the strange tearing sound. Make this place more exciting. Oh and before I forget. It's considered rude to stare at people the way you stared at my wife. He says a bit of ice creeping into his voice at the end.

The teen blanches and looks down at Kyra's admonition, mumbling an apology more out of fear than contrition. "...sorry..." He starts picking at his food, then, minding his own business and putting his gaming system back on, to play while he eats.

Winston only:
The only thing you can see of any interest in the direction the woman looked is, perhaps obviously, the pool area where Airfix is now sunning herself, oblivious to the sidelong looks from the half-dozen young males in the pool. In addition, there is an extraordinarily attractive brunette girl out there now as well, who if nothing else is keeping the hapless would-be lotharios in the area too torn between choosing which girl to stare at -- her or Airfix -- to actually be of any threat or annoyance to anyone. They stay in the pool, goofing around, or sit on deck chairs pretending to be cool.

You are about to turn back to the room when something catches your eye. In a plain white sedan in the parking lot, past the pool area, a man dressed in an identical pinstripe suit as the fellow here in the restaurant and wearing dark sunglasses is seated, looking straight ahead in that distinctive way spies do when they're facing one way but looking another.

A tall, athletic human enters the area (this would be Alastair, obviously) but doesn't seem to take note of anyone, occupied as he is with his personal comm devices. He speaks nonchalantly and quitely with his server. A few minutes later, waiters approach John, Kyra, and Cythery to tell them that their breakfast has been paid for, as has anything else they may wish to order this morning.

Coincidence... I think not.

There were times when your gut warned you that something was up.

Sometimes, the best refuge was the one taken in absolute audacity.

And that was the story that he was sticking to anyway...

She could kill him for it later.

He let slip the disinterested mask of apathy, leering down at the pool from his position on high.

Stereotypical globetrotting Chinese businessman... More money than sense... Mistress in every city... Always cruising for one more...

He let his gaze rest on the blonde by the poolside, half-hoping that the brain's unique knack of telling when one was being watched would alert her to his presence.

And if not, she made a believable cover excuse as any to conceal the sidelong glances he occasionally stole at Pinstripe Mk. II over in his sedan. The dark glasses hiding his eyes made it hard to figure out what he was looking for, but Winston figured that he'd tip his hand soon enough.

And if the rest of the restaurant made him out for a cradle snatcher or pervert, well... more power to them...

DM Downrightamazed:
If Airfix notices Winston, he'll shoot her a wink, looking like he's hitting on her while signalling for her to pay attention in Pinstripe Mk. II's direction with a jerk of his chin.

If she doesn't notice, then Winston is going to continue to "scope her out" as he watches Pinstripe Mk. II.

Winston is also paying partial attention for the sound of a door opening. No sense in getting bushwhacked by the femme fatale from the toilet.

Winston's probably missing a lot of contextual clues from the rest of the scene, but he's so primed and fixated on one particular set of stimuli at the moment that he pretty much is stuck in tunnel vision on a particular subject for the moment.

Also, Eggs Benedict.

::That it couldn't be Alastair...:: Kyra thinks to himself as he saw a glimpse of a human male that matched his rival/friend (they never could figure out what they were) appearance, but why the hell would he be in Africa. That suddenly changed when the waiter came up to them and said what ever they ordered was on the house. Yep that was definitely a Dawnbringer move."Oh eff me. What's he doing here?" Kyra says to Cythery with a slight groan he just knew this trip was to good to be true.

@Winston: Airfix pretends to stretch and gives a little nod as she does so. 10-4, Gatecrash She then rolls onto her stomach and leaves her right hand by her purse, where you know her sidearm is (illegally) stored at the moment, and turns her head towards pinstripe's car, her dark sunglasses blocking her eyes. As usual, she's on the case.

Just in time, too, because you hear the telltale clicking of high heels on linoleum and sure enough, Sundress Girl walks by, on her way back from the WC.

What the f~&*!?

F~!$F+$*F$&+! This town was supposed to be clean; usually I love proving the intel boys wrong but I could have gone for a quiet week...

John keeps his cool as best he can while he knows he's being stared at, then takes a minute to plan a few diversions to his day's schedule. He doesn't have any connections with the regional office, so he'll have to report this up his normal channels. He is a little surprised about the message from the waiter; he doesn't believe it's a coincidence but he doesn't know whether to read it as a warning, a threat, or a tip-off. Regardless, he orders a fancy coffee and brings out his electronics, working hard to keep his "tourist" body language in tact and not show just how keyed up he is. He proceeds to do a few things in quick succession while he sips on his drink:

  • Subtly adjust his position to have a better view of the lobby
  • Double-check that he has a secure connection
  • Place a call/send a message to Arlette, John's boss back in Chicago, reporting what he just witnessed.
  • Look up the local GIA field office
  • Upgrade his boat rental to a larger vessel, with at least 100 square feet of deck area
  • Look up a local occult supply store

    Have I observed that particular phenomenon before?

  • @John: You have never witnessed this before. As the anomaly goes away, the pain in your knee fades to a slight, dull discomfort. You are in the middle of speaking with Arlette, her clipped and throaty midwest-USA voice almost soothing after what you witnessed, when you call goes dead and the line shuts down. Glancing at the status HUD, you see the dreaded "searching..." error message where it should be displaying signal strength.

    Suddenly, all of you using the ubiquitous OTA data connection are cut off, your devices switching to a "searching..." dialog as they scan for an open connection. The beautiful woman in the sundress calmly walks across the restaurant, her high heels ceasing to make sound as soon as she steps on the shallow carpet of the main dining area. She sits back down across from pinstripe-suit guy, and her food arrives seconds later.

    Outside, the pool area empties, leaving Airfix by herself.

    The tourist family are calmly eating.

    John has been a part of enough snatch-and-grabs to know what comes next, but "they" seem to be playing it cool so maybe there was some time left. He marks all potential exits, no matter how unlikely, and calls the waiter over. In a quiet voice he says, "Excuse me sir, I need to speak with hotel security- it's rather urgent. Could you please show me the way?"

    Smart girl.

    Though the NEG Military would never acknowledge it, she was an exemplary soldier; smart, cagey and adaptable. Yet, instead of moving on up to a command position, here was someone of her caliber saddled with hanging around a balding Asian tanker past his prime...

    The least he owed her was his respect.

    He let the thoughts slip from his mind as he concentrated once again on his act, returning his eyes to his datapad as Sundress breezed past him again.

    The screen flashed once, twice, and then cut off, a "Searching for Network" sign rolling across the browser window. Tapping frantically at the little console, he only succeeded in smearing an odd coffee stain across the screen. The OTA connection remained as it was...


    "TA-MA-DE!" He let loose the curse audibly, having no idea real idea how invoking someone else's mother would help this situation but doing so anyway.

    Suddenly, he wished he hadn't been so entirely stupid to leave the Fumigator 2000 canister he'd always carried with him on business trips back in his hotel room. It wasn't much against the weighty reassurance of his military issue Defender, but that was hanging in an armory a continent away.

    And the other was still out of reach in his suitcase... His subconscious reminded him.

    And contrary to the stereotype that all Asians know Kung Fu, you're a wuss.

    Shoving the palm-sized device back into his trouser pocket, he stole a sidelong glance at the pool area, noting the crowd slowly filter away from the rapidly emptying pool area.

    Empty like a killbox...

    Didn't matter if it was Migou or CEO, battlefield or boardroom. There was always one particular tell that disquieted him; that sense of casual ultra-normalcy that was the prelude to them springing something on you.

    Time to go.

    He signaled the serving staff, gesturing urgently to his timepiece and shaking his head. No longer hungry at that point, he set off on an even gait to avoid arousing suspicion, identifying the nearest staircase to the pool level.

    Got to get her out of there now...

    DM Downrightamazed:
    It's too empty for Winston's liking. Dropping surveillance, cancelling the food order and heading down to the pool and get Airfix out of there.

    If there's time afterwards, Close Combat Wuss that he is, Winston would like to drop by his room and grab his pepper spray.

    "Yes I'd like to make a reservations for two at 7...hello hello...I think that b17<h just Hung up on me." Kyra says as his pcpu suddenly went dead. The screen showing a signal discount. "Watch it! He calls out to a short Asian man who almost knocks his bag of clubs over in his hurry to leave along with a curse in nazzadi.

    As his PCU loses signal, Alastair does his best to remain composed. As if he had just been about to shut it off anyway. As he continued to look at his menu, he continued to survey the room until Kyra's shout caught his attention. The asian man was on the move, why was uncertain at this point but someone was upset about it. He casually glanced at Kyras and Cythera before going back to acting like everything was cool, but to the trained eye Alastair was ready to pounce and not in a good way.

    Of everything I have there is only two things I miss right now, my pistols and Valkyrie. With those I'm unstoppable...

    He casually lowered his menu and rested his right hand near his utensil's as he spoke. "Your loud on and off the battlefield, I didn't know they were sending you on a 'break' as well Kyra." He gave Cythera a surprised expression, despite knowing full well she had been there, and smirked at Kyra. "I see they sent someone to keep you in line as well. Good to see you as well Cythera, keep Kyra out of trouble will you." She was a fine pilot, along with Kyra as well. Alastair knew his rivalry with Kyra and sometimes the pair of them was legendary and he had to admit sometims it was hard to tell whether they were friends or not as sometimes their fierce rivalries blurred that line.

    It didn't mean howevere he couldn't hint at Kyra being on a short leash...

    Leaving it at that he went back to studying his menu and dumming his fingers on the table as he waited. He was really hoping to have some eggs right about now...

    Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

    Challenging(16) Tenacity test for Chronic Pain: 8d10 ⇒ (1, 3, 10, 7, 1, 5, 10, 9) = 46|2*10=20, success

    The sun beats down fearcely on the Nazzadi's back as he finishes his morning swim. It was one of the few things he found himself at peace while doing, the heat of the sun on his back, the coolness of the water below. 'A mental health break they called it, surely my depression wasn't that bad, sure, I'd had a few off days, oh well, can't complain about a free holiday, no matter what the motivation' He thought to himself as he dried himself off.

    It had been good so far, He'd never been on a train before, and the experience was interesting, if not a little slow, but it was good to be able to stretch his legs again, he hated long periods of inactivity.

    He sighed and thought to himself he should probably go find himself some food and a good cup of coffee, and with those thoughts he set off to find himself a small cafe.

    @Devereux: The hotel itself has a well-regarded restaurant, this you know. As you glance up into it you see it is very sparsely populated, though there also don't appear to be many servers making the rounds in there.

    There is a knockout-gorgeous blonde sunning herself on a deck chair, though she is keeping her hand near her purse and facing out towards the parking lot. She is the only one still here, everyone else cleared out for some reason.

    DC15 Observation test:
    Following her line-of-sight, you can see a man in an expensive-looking suit sitting in a plain white sedan in the parking lot. He is in a standard 'observation' position, but you have no idea who -- or what -- he could be watching. This is a resort town, for crying out loud!

    Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

    3d10 ⇒ (5, 2, 3) = 10 => 5+7=12

    Devereux wraps his towel around his waist and heads to his room to get changed, watching the blonde out of the corner of his eye. Maybe this holiday wont be too bad after all, I could get used to this.

    In his room, he quickly throws some jeans and shoes on, his gaze lingers briefly on the scars on his chest before he pulls his shirt on.

    After dressing he lazily makes his way down to the resteraunt for some coffee, the morning swim and warm sun doing their job at relaxing him, once in the resteraunt he finds a table near the windows.

    "Going so soon, Gatecrash?" Sundress girl's voice suddenly rings out. Jeremy, the snotty teen speaks up, but now his voice is crisp and professional. "You have five minutes, Nyx, then the NEG runs clobber on my shunts." She nods.

    "Please, Winston, Stay. As you just heard, we only have five minutes. Your gunner is fine. That man in the car is watching over her, not watching her." There is a brief flurry of activity as the "husband and wife" stand and take the "open" sign off the host's stand and switch it to closed. They both quickly pull on polo shirts that look like staff uniforms, and run interference on guests trying to get a bite, keeping the quiet restaurant area free of bystanders. One man they let through, though; a Nazzadi.

    Sundress -- who you now know is apparently called Nyx -- speaks again. "Ah good. You're here, Devereux. Take a seat." She then speaks to all six of you. "Pardon the deception, but from your psy evals it looked like you could all use a break anyway, and I needed time to move your mecha. About a week's time, to be precise. I am here to propose a job for you all. OH! And let me ruin the surprise for you up front; you're all going to say 'yes'." She nods at the man in the suit, and he quickly stands, pulling out a series of thick manilla envelopes. He hands one to each of you, then looks askance at Nyx. She shakes her head. "Later." She remarks cryptically.

    She moves to a point in the room where you can all easily see her, though she still seems primarily to be addressing the asian fellow. "Oh but you don't know who I am, do you Winston? Well, you'll learn soon enough. All of you will. You're going to be working for me, effective immediately. In those envelopes are your new assignments, passports, clearances, and protocol grids. Your mecha are being moved to a place outside of Abéché, in Chad, so you'll be able to take the train there." She fixes her eyes on Kyra and Cythery. "How...romantic." She says sarcastically.

    "Three minutes." calls out Jeremy.

    Nyx continues. "In Abéché you will find further instructions from me, pointers to local resources, other necessities. The group of you -- and our Nazzadi tager friend here -- are going to be helping to save all of mankind, one trinket at a time. Or dying quickly, I suppose, that's also a possibility, and I want you to know I completely respect your right to have question about that." She nods sternly. "There are sites, you see, that contain things all our enemies don't know about, or not yet. The Dagonites are fixated on R'lyeh, the Kaos Kids on Hastur, etc. But we're collecting...artifacts...things that are under the radar. We're going to crack the codes first, and we're going to defeat them all."

    "Two minutes." Jeremy again. His "parents" deflect a couple more tourists.

    "And if you're thinking that this is all crazy and you're going to just get back on a plane in four more days and go back home, well, I suggest you look through the contents of those envelopes, first. Just a suggestion." She looks around, then smiles the most plastic and fake smile you have ever seen in your life. "Okay! Well I'm sure you all have lots of questions, and that's normal for sentient carbon-based lifeforms like yourself. So be happy about that! We'll talk later. I'll leave the six of you to introduce yourselves. Let's go, team." She turns and starts walking towards the lobby. Jeremy taps the side of his GameGlasses and suddenly your PCPUs start back up. There is a racket in the kitchen. When you look where Nyx should be, she is gone, along with the man in the suit. Jeremy and his parents have resumed their disguise as a tourist family, and are not acknowledging any of you in the slightest.

    Guests begin walking into the restaurant area, and take seats. The staff comes out to serve them.

    Finally, Alastair's breakfast arrives.

    Photo reference for Nyx.

    Kyra stays surprisingly silent for the conversation with Nyx. His hand clenching so tight his knuckles crack. Something about these these "things" doesn't sit right with Kyra. For them to just have their mecha moved...even they as pilots can't just move their mecha. What are these "artifacts" they want? Who or what are they?

    When everything returns to normal he suddenly cracks. "I blame you for this Alastair! Every time you show up things go bad! Remember Russia?" Kyra says as he slams his hand down on the table causing everything on the table to rattle. He then opens the envelope to see what's going on. Very carefully...

    When their abrupt change in demeanor doesn't involve firearms, narcotics, and a black bag over his head John starts breathing again. He goes into "briefing mode", noting the details of his encounter with habit born from decades spent sitting through meetings.


    That last name he knows, and it's some seriously highly classified intel. Some sort of 4th order transmogrification ritual used by a secret society supposedly dedicated to fighting the cults. What was going on? How had he drawn this kind of attention? Only one way to find out- John carefully accepts the envelope he is given and tries to only handle it by the edges while he opens it; he'll be having it fingerprinted later...

    As these unknown's moved into position, Alastair slipped the barely sharp knife on the table and kept it pressed up along his forearm out of sight. It would only take one pound of force for him to punch through human skin even with a cruddy knife such as this. All he had to do was nick an arterial vein and it would end one of these unknowns. He fixed the woman with a smile that didn't touch his eyes and if she was as clever as he thought she was, then it would be apparent that he wasn't planning to go quietly. As her 'team' gave him the manilla envelope he was about to make his move, but as the woman spoke about moving their 'mech's he paused.

    Things started to make sense, everything fell into place after what she said. Valkyrie was here? No wonder my thoughts were so scattered... Damn this woman... Who were they? They couldn't be part of the Scions, this was far too blunt for their involvement...

    He took the envelope with his free hand and careful slide the knife back on the table as he turned to 'open' the envelope. After the woman and her partner disappear, he gives the 'tourists' a frosty glance before looking at the envelop. Just as he is about to open it his food arrives, by then though he is calm once more. This encounter made him decide there and then that the NEG docs are full of s***, he would never go unarmed again.

    He lived just fine doing it his way and the one time he listened to some balding fool in a white coat and smelling of dried pi**. He found himself armorless and at the mercy of a team of unknowns. As his food is set next to him he politely thanks the waitress and slips her a decent tip, especially because his food is hot off the grill and not cooled in the slightest. As she walks away he keys up his HUD and calls Camelots secure line.

    He takes a quick bite and sips at his orange juice just before Miria, as expected, picks up the line. "Calling to apologize? Doesn't matter your still a jerkfa..."

    He cuts her off, his tone serious and business like. "Not now Miria, tell Cassandra Icebreaker is in effect."

    Miria's tone was filled with both shock and worry. "ICEBREAKER! Seriously, but I thought this was a vacation?! Are you alright Boss, how long will yo..." She never got a chance to finish as Alastair hung up the line. She would be furious but she would do her job and thats all that mattered, because he had bigger fish to fry...

    He opens the envelope and casually looked at the contents as he gestured to the free seats at his table. He hid his smirk as Kyra's comment reached him he remembered Russia, it had been an intense battle against the Migou then. They had barely made it out. Kyra still hadn't forgot about that..."Kyra forget Russia and focus, Cythera have a seat please. 'Winston', 'Devereux' if you would join us as well. First lets get the introductions out of the way." He stands, towering momentarily as he shakes hands with the newcomers. "[Insert Rank here] Cadwallader, Alastair is my first name. Dawnbringer is my call sign, pleasure to meet you. What brings all of you here?" With that he sits back down and looks to each of the newcomers in turn.


    Protocal 'Icebreaker' means that Miria and Cassandra are to lock down Camelot and enable full security protocol's and not to disable them until he returns. It also means they are staying even longer then expected and their shift is indefinite for now.


    What rank would Enegel Pilot's be DRA? :X

    Cythery is quiet for a moment almost severe. Until she breaks down into a grin. "That's exactly right who knows what kind of trouble he'd get into if I wasn't here. Nice to see you too Alastair. You two pretending to hate each other still?" She says with a smile.

    When the woman who called herself Nyx showed up Cythery listened to everything she said cataloging everything in order of importance. First the fact that hey could completely shut out the government for a full 5 minutes. That they could apparently get then full new documentation move neg materials ie their mecha. Then her concentration is broken when the woman made the snide remark about a romantic trip. If only I had Artemy I'd show her... She thinks to herself.

    "How romantic? What crawled up her ass and died? She once again calm moves over to Alastair's table introducing herself as well as she does so. " [insert rank] Cythery. Pilot of the Malach class engel Artemy.

    Kyra sighs as he pulls up a chair and takes a seat. "Names Kyra Cythery is my wife. I'm also the pilot of the chasmal class engel Azrael. Callsigns Viper, hey."

    Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

    See my comment in Discusion about Tagers, for now I'll be ignoring that I am one until we figure out how I'm rolling.

    A little taken back at being addressed by name Devereux takes a seat and listens and watches the scene unfolding in front of him. Just my luck he thinks to himself Can't I even catch some slack on my break without someone trying to turn my life around, again.. Nevertheless he takes the folder as it's handed too him and waits politely for his new "boss" to finish.

    Once the resteraunt returns to normal he signals a waitress to bring a pot of black coffee to the table of the man refered to as Alastair, and walks over to introduce himself, saluting smartly before taking his seat, 'Sergeant Major Devereux Atkinson, of the NEG Infantry at your service'.

    Once the introductions are out of the way and his coffee has arrived, he pours himself a generous cup and offers the pot around, then opens his folder.

    Cythery wrote:
    "How romantic? What crawled up her ass and died?

    HAhahahaaa! I almost spit coffee on my monitor when I read this. LOL!

    As everyone makes introductions and opens the envelopes given them by Nyx, there is the sound of footsteps and a seventh person joins your group; a crushingly attractive blonde woman with very distinctive emerald eyes approaches, clad in a very well-cut and flattering bikini. She, too, is holding one of the same envelopes the rest of you were given. She approaches the business-y looking asian man that Nyx addressed as 'Gatecrash'. "Winston are you okay? Wh-what is all this? Did you know this was gonna happen? I'm kinda freaked out, here." Her glittering gaze sweeps over the rest of you. "Hey. You guys friends of Winston's? I'm Chelsea. Callsign is Airfix. I'm Winston's gunner, 172nd Armored." She shakes hands with everybody.

    Devereux, you would recognize her instantly as the hottie from the pool area.

    DC10 Observation:
    You suddenly realize where you know this girl from; she used to be a model. You've seen her on billboards, TV, all over. What the hell is she doing in the army?!

    Cythera's comment made Alastair almost snort his orange juice in a bad way, just when he thought that he had her figured out...

    No wonder she could keep Kyra in line, the woman was like an Engel. Strong, intelligent and unpredictable. All qualities that had kept them alive in battle after battle.

    Armored division, Infantry and Engel Pilots... quite a collection of varying skills an individual's... His thoughts were interrupted by the newcomer who suddenly was speaking with Winston. Her beauty and apparel caused Alastair to freeze momentarily before he mastered his thoughts. He stood up slowly, shaking her hand before waving a waiter over and asking them to bring an additional chair and slide a second table up so that everyone could sit comfortably. As he waited though something nagged at him, like he had seen her before and he never forgot a pretty face...

    observation 2d10 ⇒ (6, 7) = 13

    Keep 7 + 8 = 15

    Alastair raises an eyebrow as he assess the woman before him, nothing came as a suprise nowadays. He'd come to expect the unexpected as the world continually changed day by day. He gave her a respectful salute and waved her to the new seat, which was placed by Winston, despite her star status he wouldn't insult her. She was a fellow soldier after all. He answered her question as he turned to face the SM. "No, just met most of you today. Please have a seat Miss Chelsea. Well met Sergeant-Major Atkinson, always good to meet a fellow ground pounder. Please join us." He returned the man's salute and then quickly waved him to a seat as well, sitting only after the newcomers were seated. "Whatever refreshments you need are on me, especially now that our 'break' is over. So the big question: Who were they and why did they know so much about us? Any idea's?"

    He kept himself calm and composed, it wouldn't help at all to get worked up, he ignored the twitch in his hand as the adrenaline worked its way out of his system. Moments ago he had planned to kill a man with a regular cutting knife and now he was sitting exchanging pleasantries with soldiers. What an odd twist to the morning...

    The envelopes all contain the following:
    * Train tickets to Abéché, departing Saturday.
    * A map of that city and the desert to the north.
    * A list of five names, all of them local, judging by the language.
    * A list of three mobile numbers, none of which you recognize.
    * What looks like a PIN number for a private bank account
    * A single paragraph from the book Gravity's Rainbow:

    Thomas Pynchon wrote:
    But these heretics will be sought and the dominion of silence will enlarge as each one goes down...they will all be sought out. Each will have his personal Rocket. Stored in its target-seeker will be the heretic's EEG, the spikes and susurrations of heartbeat, the ghost-blossomings of personal infrared, each Rocket will know its intended and hunt him, ride him a green-doped and silent hound, through our World, shining and pointed in the sky at his back, his guardian executioner rushing in, rushing closer...

    Winston only:
    In addition to the above, your envelope also contains a series of surveillance photos. It takes you a moment, but after going through them you realize these are pictures of a hot pick-up you did in Cuba; a platoon of infantry were pinned down between Dagonites and Migou that were mostly battling each other, but didn't care at all if some lousy humans got caught in between, and certainly wouldn't spare the ammo…

    You barreled in with your usual dash-n-crash style, bringing a building down on three Bugs while Airfix dropped Dagon mecha like it was going out of style. Then a terrible thing happened; the infantry left too early for the LZ. They were stranded in the open. They were all going to die.

    Except you were there, and you dashed your mech out in between the troops and the enemy, recklessly smashing through civilian structures and single-handedly providing cover for the troops. Afterwards, those soldiers all expressed their gratitude, as did NEG command, in the form of a medal. You were a hero that day.

    But now…these photos…some of the civilian structures you took out had apparently been populated. The recon reports said all civilians had been evacuated! You had your orders! The last two pics are unmistakable; close-ups on a dead woman and child, their torsos horrid crushed masses of flesh. Even worse, more pics follow showing the dagonites moving in, taking captives, taking them…

    In red sharpie, someone has written the word "Redemption" on the last photo.

    John only:
    In addition to the above, your envelope contains a series of seven photos. Each one is time- and date-stamped. The time of each photo is precisely midnight, and the dates cover a span from December 18th-25th, 2080.


    The first six pictures are identical; they are all photos of you lying in a hospital bed of some sort, hooked up to a massive array of bizarre equipment you do not recognize. Wires and tubes protrude from your head and left arm and disappear into sealed boxes with no visible display. The last photo, however, is different. In this picture the bed is empty and the equipment has been dismantled and smashed and thrown around the room. There is smoke, and a large quantity of some sort of darkly viscous liquid is pooling on the floor. Seen in the far right of the frame, walking out of the room wearing only a hospital gown, is you.

    An eye, large and leering, is open in the back of your head, and is staring right at the camera.

    Alastair only:
    In addition to all of the above material, your envelope also contains a smaller envelope. It is letter-size, and contains a note hand-written in an ancient calligraphy on an exceedingly elegant stationery that you recognize; it can only be purchased from a single shop on Bond street in London. A shop that you know for a fact has been there for some centuries, and used to house communication means of a completely different sort…

    Written on the paper is a single phrase: "Go with them." Below it is another mobile number, and while you don't recognize it, you do know that this area code is one only used by others of your kind, and the absolute top echelons at that. The most powerful Scions of them all.

    Devereux, Kyra, Cythery only:
    In addition to the above, in each of your envelopes is a surveillance transcript, supposedly of a conversation between a Chrysalis Corporation executive and a Nazzadi general, but one who is a Migou Loyalist. It reads as follows, "X" is the CC executive, "F" is the general.
    F: …and you're certain of this?
    X: Beyond a doubt.
    F: [garbled] should even believe you. Just one!
    X: …
    F: For example why haven't our masters used this if it exists?
    X: We are quite certain they do not know it exists. Or rather, they probably know it exists, but not that [garbled] this manner.
    F: …
    X: Let me be clear. We really do not care whether or not you wish to take advantage of this. We will be.
    F: … Fine. Okay, fine. When are you doing it.
    X: That's privileged information, I'm afraid-
    F: [expletive deleted] you, [expletive deleted]
    X: Language, general, language. That is most unbecoming an officer.
    F: So what do you want from us, then?
    X: Your assistance. We give you the antigen, you help us deploy the Item far and wide enough to effect all of your kind who are loyal to the NEG.
    F: You have it, of course. How do we know this antigen of yours will work?
    X: You don't. But given the alternative, it's the best offer you're going to get.
    F: [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]

    @Alastair: Don't forget that in Framewerk you can "take 7" generally under the same circumstances you could "take 10" in PFR. So this observation check, for example, could easily have been a take 7 for you. Just sumpin' to keep in mind. :-)

    As he slowly returns his lower jaw from it's hanging position resting neatly on the floor.

    "Right... of course... whatever you say... of course we'll do it... and you might as well call me Qin Shi Huang while you're at it..."

    Act like you know more than you know. Belligerence encourages further explanation. Look for a hole in the story...

    "So should us Carbon Based Lifeforms salute you as part of your new Private Army?"

    Tinmen, ground-pounders and one old guy. Brilliant start to the day... And what was with the "Carbon based lifeforms" dig?

    He glances at Sundress again, opens the manila envelope and blanches.


    Going visibly pale, he thrusts the photos to Airfix, not particularly caring how many others catch a look.

    Glancing around the table at group of faces, Winston suddenly visibly sags into a chair like a deflated balloon and intones the list mechanically, the fight completely gone out of him.

    "Winston Chang. Callsign 'Gatecrash'. Sergeant. Tank Commander. 172nd Armored."


    Photo reference for Airfix.

    Anyone who catches a glance at the photos Winston hands over (since he's not being secretive about them at the moment, I'm not gonna require an Obeservation check) will see what look like surveillance pics of a battlefield with both Migou and Dagonites on it fighting NEG armor and infantry. Notably, there are a couple pics of "Collateral Damage" to civilians. The blonde girl, Chelsea, also blanches when she sees them and pats Winston on the shoulder in a sisterly manner. "We didn't know, man; how the hell could we have known? And what is 'redemption' supposed to mean? Redemption for whom? Over what?"

    Christmas, 2080.

    What. The. Hell?!

    John almost overlooks the other contents of the envelope, staring at the pictures until reality intrudes and the others introduce themselves. He does note the quotation, and can follow a metaphor as well as the next fellow. What was he being aimed at?

    Literacy (Adept) ;)

    "Alastair wrote:
    So the big question: Who were they and why did they know so much about us? Any ideas?"

    John puts the pictures away and approaches the table where the others have gathered, "Major John Mcnaught, Chicago Civil Defense Militia" he introduces himself. "At the risk of belaboring the obvious, we all seem to hold military rank. Whoever they are, they have high-level access to military personnel records." He seems a little pale as he clutches his envelope with a cloth napkin wrapped around his hand, "*VERY* high level access. They have also authorized the movement of hundreds of millions of Terranotes worth of military hardware- or less likely, have stolen it." He pauses a moment to think then continues, "I don't suppose the rest of you are here on official orders for a "mental health break"? We could try to track down which person or office originated and authorized those orders but I have a feeling that we wouldn't get very far. These people seem like they know how to cover their tracks..." He waves his hand to take in the restaurant's return to normalcy.

    Everything you touch goes straight to hell in a hand-basket, Winston. Yet you somehow always pull through like a cockroach.

    Shut up.

    Which of them is it going to be this time? The Nazzadi couple? The retired major? Or maybe even Airfix? Who is going to die for you this time? Who is fate going to take in your place so you can pretend to be good at your job?

    SHUT UP.

    Poor scared little man, still playing at being the soldier... Just like you tried to be a father. Success don't mean anything here... your touch kills them in the end."

    Shut up. An audible whisper this time.

    Fate hates you. I hate you... I HATE YOU! The voice of his despair swam in his ears, cold and hateful, at once his wife Hui Ping and his daughter Janine, at once the mother and child he had never met, at once Airfix and...

    "SHUT UP!" He birthed the thought into reality, the sound of his vocalized rage raw and laced with despair.

    He felt her hand withdraw suddenly as if slapped and he pictured the faces of the rest of the table stunned at his sudden outburst.

    "Ladies and gents... I'm sorry... but I can't do this... I'll get you all killed... I just... can't..."

    The sightless void behind his eyelids was somehow comforting.


    DM Downrightamazed:
    It's a Cthulhu mythos thing. No sense letting a particularly good excuse for bout of despair go to waste, especially in keeping with Winston's character flaw being Flaw: Pessimist.

    Just seemed like a good time to stop being upbeat and chipper for a moment and was as good a response as any to Mcnaught's question "I don't suppose the rest of you are here on official orders for a "mental health break"?

    If it's immersion breaking or interfering with the flow or getting overly drama queenish, let me know and I'll stop. :-)

    "Wow your going to get us killed? Please bugs, kaos kids, and dagonites have been trying for years and look I'm here Cythery is here and even Alastair...though by sheer luck I'm sure is still here. I heard about Nazza-Duhni, you saved how many soldiers lives that day? Do you think their families would have been happier with out your assistance? Sometimes s*** happens and there's not a damn thing you or I can do about it. So you know what you do? You put that stuff deep down into your heart and you lock it away. Keep living if we give up...well it'd be easier to just go on ahead and shoot yourself. Kyra exclaims as he grabs Winston by the shirt collar and pushes him down into his chair. "You think your the only one who has regrets? I watched my mother and father be killed by the bugs when they returned. I would have died too but I ran. Do you know how often I have wondered if they hate me? But at the end of the day it doesn't help one bit to worry. All I can do is live and try to make amends. Besides I've never gotten to operate with any of the armor corps it'll be interesting."

    Alastair calmly slipped the note under his PCPU and typed in the number for later use. He was starting to understand how a pawn felt when it was grabbed by the neck and moved by an unseen hand to its death on the board. Was he one of the ones to make it to the otherside or was he merely a diversion? Time would tell.

    Kyra and Winston's outbursts brought him back to those at the table, despite Kyra having the right of it. Alastiar wasn't in the mood for distractions to the conversation at hand. They were also making a scene. He fixed Kyra and Winston with an intense stare as he spoke in his best Drill Sergeant voice. Despite the fact few of them outranked eachother, Alastairs voice came down like a hammer. "Sit down, Warrant Officer Kyra and act with professionalism. That goes for you too Sergeant Winston." He doesn't wait for them to respond as he lightens his voice and continues speaking. He looks at Airfix, momentarily, his steel grey eyes mean't his previous words were for her as well. "Collateral Damage. The words means it all and its obvious that you didn't mean for it to happen, if you had then I wouldn't see any reason to show you mercy. One thing I hate is a bloodthirsty soldier, its obvious you were trying to help and intel screwed up and left those people out to die. All you can do is become better at what you do and running away from it isn't the way. You have to face it, embrace it, besides they would have died anyway if you hadn't been there. So focus and let's move the hell on. Understood?"

    He smiles coldly then as the nightmare dredges its way from the blackest pit of his mind. He didn't fear death, he feared failure. He looked to the older man who spoke as he waved for another chair and a stiff drink, because the man looked... Uneasy and shaky. Alastair rose and proffered his hand to John. "Glad to have you Major Mcnaught, please have a seat." Alastair sits shortly after John does.

    If John doesn't then Alastair sits anyways. ;)

    "I had hoped we had more of an idea then that. Its obvious they aren't with NEG or else they wouldn't have worried about cutting off communications." He nodded to the tourist family. "No matter what we need to get to our hardware and make sure it wasn't tampered with, they may know a lot about us and have high-level access but I sure as hell won't let them boobytrap or tap into my Engel. I will make some calls but I doubt my contacts will have any idea as to why our gear was moved. Most likely the response will be 'its above my pay grade' or something like that. But I will see what I can turn up.

    Male Human Alchemist 9

    Devereux sips his coffee while he reads through the contents of his folder, then he carefully closes it and watches his new companions in silence. After Alastair dresses down Warrant Officer Kyra and Sergeant Winston he speaks up, 'According to these Transcripts, the Miguo are cooking up something that could affect all Nazzadi loyal to the NEG, some sort of antigen. I don't know about you guys, but this worries me, it's always been a rumour that the Miguo kept a trick up their sleeves to pacify us, but I just dismissed them as rumours...' He turns and looks around the table, 'And what the hell is a tager, why was I called one, I've heard all kinds of racist slang, but that's never been one of them.'

    Male Nazzadi Sergeant Major

    Erm, oops, didn't notice I posted as one of my alts, sorry... it wont let me delete it now.

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