Geppa

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119 posts. Alias of Treppa.


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“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”


The girl's eyes fly open wide. "Realllly?" she breathes softly, "That would be amazing!" She resumes her watch over the rail with a huge grin.


Alyce leans on the rail nearby, likewise gawking at the architecture below. She has placed herself near Cassie, as usual, occasionally peeking at the graceful, daring socialite to catch her reactions to events and conversation.

"I would like to see the city, too, and go to parties. I'd particularly like to see the sights at night." She leans heavily on the last two words, eyes flicking to Cassie's face to see the reaction. As the others chat and point out sights below, she finally scoots closer to the (in?)famous dancer to tug on her sleeve and whisper in her ear.

Whisper:

"Um, Mme. DuSollier? I mean, Cassie? Are you... you know... planning any work in Rome? Because I sure would like to go along and help out with... whatever you need done. If, uh, if you need help. I mean, it's not like you need help. I know that. But if you would take me along, I could maybe help and maybe learn some things from you. Please?"

The girl's fair face flushes bright pink and she ostentatiously stares over the rail, not looking at the lovely cat burglar beside her.


Alyce returns to the present as Ralph withdraws his hand from her grasp. Looking around the aerial theater, she takes in the glittering nobility in the audience, the seldom-seen helmetcat performer, the ornate gilded scrollwork of the steampipe covers, the young woman realizes that this is exactly what she had dreamed of while whiling away the weary hours in her sedate household. A burst of delighted laughter escapes involuntarily while she applauds the aria with the enthusiasm of youth and innocence.


Alyce realizes she never released Ralph's hand but makes no move to do so once the theater goes dark. Distracted by the warm and somewhat sweaty grip, she pays little attention to the music until the helmetcat appears. She unconsciously tightens her grip as she realizes the full extent of the Duchess's control of the ship and the instruments.

Then the pure strains of the noble helmetcat's voice vibrate her ears oddly, making her brain buzz with excitement until suddenly...

Spoiler:

Alyce leans out the window of her parent's home, gazing dreamily at the gaily-dressed crowds passing by. You're too young, her mother had told her, so here she was watching the masquers glide through the streets, some dancing, most laughing, all with a glass in hand toasting the end of one year and the coming of the new. A carriage pushes through slowly, even the matched white horses masked below their gorgeous head-plumes of ostrich feathers. Her attention is suddenly riveted by the mane of flaming red-gold hair borne by the female occupant of the carriage. Could it be...? The gold domino and lace fan could not hide the delicacy of the woman and the grace of her movements. Surely that must be Lady DuSollier! The man seated next to her bent to whisper in her ear, and she laughed daintily even as she swatted him gently with the closed fan. The carriage pushed slowly through the crowd in the direction of the Mayor's Palace, and Alyce sighed at the wonders that must be awaiting the famous dancer.

Straightening, Alyce gazed at herself in the mirror. Her hair was paler than Lady DuSollier's, but their face and build were much alike. Alyce could think of no reason she should not have the glamorous life of a wealthy debutante instead of being stuck in a very prim and proper house.

She opened the drawer of her white and gold-leaf dresser and pressed a hidden stud inside. The back of the drawer released, spilling the contents of the hidden compartment there. Alyce unrolled the kit of lockpicking tools and fondled the black silk hood and mask. Should she or shouldn't she? Lady DuSollier was a cat burglar, she was certain of it. Always in the place where the gem or artifact disappeared, or at least within a short day's travel. That's how she got her money, surely, and won her freedom. Alyce's heart beat fast at the thought of stealing out that night, sneaking through houses whose occupants were out at parties, filching valuables and disappearing like a ghost in the night. It wouldn't take long to gather enough to leave this town and strike out on her own. But should she? What if she were caught and brought shame to her parents -- her dull, loving, sweet parents? She hesitated in thought, fingertips stroking the soft, pebbled leather of the burglar tool case.


Alyce squeaks as the mechanical MC begins his spiel, then claps and bounces for a second before grabbing Squirrel and Drake's free hands. "It's starting, come on!" she whispers, leading them to velvet-cushioned seats in the small but lovely theater. She seats herself between them, nudging Ralph once they are settled. "Now don't fall asleep!" she commands, then quiets as the MC falls to pieces, almost holding her breath in anticipation of the helmetcat's music.


Alyce dimples at Ralph's compliment and graces him with a formal curtsy as he approaches. "You'll turn my head, Lord Squirrel. And don't you look handsome? With a tailored suit, you would fit perfectly in the ballrooms I used to spy on as a child. Why, you'll give our good Doctor-actor a run for his money, won't he, Lord Drake?" She nods at Drake in a friendly manner, then jumps slightly as Ralph's head touches her shoulder.

"Oh, er... you must be exhausted, Squirrel," she says softly, raising a gloved hand to gently touch his hair, "Try to stay awake. The Duchess has yet to sing, and it is a rare thing to hear, I understand."

She glances curiously at the table where Cassie and Vorian are seated, chatting companionably, then on to the slim figure in white now seeking a seat. A tiny wrinkle appears between her eyes, then vanishes as she schools the curious frown from her face and smiles brightly at her companions. "Yes, this should be an amazing evening."


Alyce, tuned in to the tension between the pair, accepts the flute and takes a sip, then raises her glass to Cassie and Rashida before slipping away to join Ralph and Drake, leaving the friends alone for a private chat.


Alyce follows Cassie's clothes-changing example but dresses a bit more formally. The fitted bodice of her deep red velvet dress poofs at shoulder and waist into fuller sleeves and a skirt covering rustling petticoats - full, but not overly so. In honor of the evening's event, she draws on opera gloves and does her hair styled up and full as well as she can by herself.

"I thought since the Duchess was singing..." she blushes, seeing Cassie looking so sleek and sensual.


Alyce sips the cocktail thoughtfully and stares off at the mountains. "But Veritas is in the League, right? Why would she... hmm. Were any of the targets at the party members of the League? Maybe they're out to eliminate up-and-comers?" Leaning against the rail, she looks down without a trace of acrophobia. "Look!" she cries with a child's delight, pointing to the mountains below where a bright red steam train winds its way up and across the side of a mountain far below.

A passing crewman follows her finger. "Yes, miss, that is the train to Italy. They're headed for the Brenner Pass. You won't see it for long, as the captain steers south by southeast along the Alps to Geneva, so we will miss the scenery they will see. This route is much safer for us, though, as the alpine winds can wreak havoc with airships." He crosses himself swiftly.


Alyce watches Cassie's gyrations with wide eyes. "Do I have to be able to do that?" She holds out her glass for a refill.


"No, no... just right. But I thought fighting was about knowing moves and styles and things like that. I can use a gun, but not really deal with somebody hand-to-hand. Isn't that what you will teach me?" Alyce looks at her drink for a moment and then tosses the remainder back, choking slightly afterwards.


Alyce takes a sip of the drink Cassie gives her and tries not to let anyone see that her eyes are watering. After a moment or two, she manages to gasp, "It's delicious. Thank you." She takes another sip or two, these burning less as her tissues become numb, and nods as Cassie speaks. At Cassie's offer of training, her face lights up. "Gee, that would be swell, Lady DuSollier! If you don't mind."

Not too corny on the innocent act, her wiser self warns.


Alyce pales. "But why try to kill the Masons? And why kill all the nobles at the party? Some of the highest are there, excepting League members. What is Von Ryuko up to?"


Alyce reclines upon the deck near her mentor, their auburn hair occasionally flying in the tendrils of chill wind that sneak around the parasol, welcome cooling from the heat of the sun as the ship gains altitude. Not daring enough to sport a bikini. she dons a white maillot and lies face down propped on her elbows, making notes in a little diary as she surveys the magnificent alpine vista crawling below.

"Thanks so much for letting me tag along, Lady DuSollier," she says quietly, not wishing to disturb Cassie's technical efforts, "It's so good to be away from there. I'm tired of disappointing Mum and Dad. Maybe now I can do something useful. But can you tell me what's been going on? I'm certain I don't know the whole story, possibly Mr. Drake and Sir Squirrel would like to know, too. We can help better if we understand everything."

She listens thoughtfully to whatever Cassie deigns to tell about the party and its aftermath.


Alyce nods at Cassie. "I'd be happy to get some sun, and to hear the Duchess sing tonight would be amazing! Whatever happens at the end of the journey, today is going to be worth remembering."


Alyce looks alarmed. "If we are in a hurry, I will go find Sir Squirrel. It won't do to leave him behind. He has... talents. But maybe he has returned to the ship. I'll check his quarters first." With a blush, she dashes off.


"I could go look for him -- Squirrel, I mean," Alyce volunteers shyly, trying to be useful.


Alyce sidles up to Cassie and murmurs softly, "I may be able to help with information wherever we go. After all, Masons are everywhere and willing to help on another. I... can I go with you, Lady DuSollier?" She looks almost adoringly at the chic Frenchwoman.


Alyce sighs softly as she closes the door of the little cabin behind her, glad to be able to relax. She gently removes the warm weight of the sleeping helmetcat from the sling she made of her jacket, where the Duchess had been stashed since Alyce retrieved her from the cushion of the little launch. Amazed at how hard the helmetcat could sleep, Alyce pulls the pillow from the bed and sets it on a comfortable chair, settling the noble cat upon it for the night.

She pulls all the covers from the bunk and wads them into a ball, resting on the soft mass as she curls up on a corner of the bunk in her clothing, unwilling to undress in a strange place with no nightclothes, and oddly reluctant to be seen by the helmetcat should she wake. She reaches up to turn the gaslight down low and is asleep by the time her hand hits the pillow.


"We can all find rooms, I guess. Better than going out in the streets." Alyce steps aside, relinquishing her spot at Squirrel's side to let Drake prop up the wounded man. "I will go ahead and open doors. Direct me, Lady DuSollier."

The young girl leads the way, at Cassie's direction, opening any doors needed so the trio can progress unhindered to the passenger cabins. She tries a few of the cabin doors to see which ones might be unlocked and therefore free, exclaiming happily when she finds two adjoining with a door between, directly across from Cassie's cabin. "Will this do?"

A door down the hall pops open and a dark head peeks out. "Ah, you're all here and well. Good. What about the Duchess and Lord Ritter and Ysillith Mittens? Are they all secure here?" Rashida queries with some concern.


Alyce nods at Cassie with a shy smile, then turns to Drake. "Doctor, is it safe for Herr Squirrel to return to his cabin, or does he need to stay here in the infirmary for tonight? We can help him to his own bunk on the way to ours."


"If it's not too much trouble," Alyce concedes shyly, "I can go find an empty cabin. But where did Lord Ritter go? Was he uninjured?"


Alyce grimaces prettily. "Well... you're all hurt, and Drake needs to stay here with his patients. I don't want to put any of you out. And between the festival and whatever's happening at the Grand Hotel, the streets don't look too safe. If it's not an inconvenience, I will stay. I will go find a place to spend the night, unless there is something I can do to help anyone...?" She trails off with an uncertain query.


Alyce smiles down at Ralph and brushes his hair back from his eyes with a swift, gentle, tentative touch. "I'm fine; everyone kept me safe, Herr Squirrel. But you, Lady DuSollier, you should seek the aid of the good doctor here." Alyce sets a gentle, solicitous hand on the Frenchwoman's back. "I saw you limping. A lady like yourself must not wander around hurt. I'm sure the Lady Massri will be fine. Nobody dares trifle with a Massri."

She worries her lower lip between white teeth for a moment. "I should go home. I will go look for the lady on my way, if you like."


But I don't want to go down the rabbit hole again.


"A ledger? What sort... financial? Some sort of experimental records? We should comb through it with every tool at our disposal. And maybe it's in code!" The young woman's eyes shine with excitement. "But really, I can't believe the entire League is corrupt and villainous. They're so damned secretive, though, and it's hard to figure out who is doing what. But you think... Von Ryuko? He's not in the League, is he? Do you think they're working together on that lab? What is the facility for? Why is it hidden?"

Her pretty face wrinkles in concentration as she ticks the names off on her long fingers. "Ajani, Blackmoor, Montresor, Tyranis, Veritas, Wolfkrone. Those are the League families. What's publically known is that Ajani holds most of subsaharan Africa; Blackmoor had North Africa but that's been almost taken over by the Massris, so the Blackmoors established their new steamworks in East Asia; Montresor has the opera house here as well as other 'entertainment' holdings throughout Europe; Tyranis their hooks into banking and stocks - they very quietly turned from a minor noble house to League members by means not entirely known; Veritas has Iceland and Puffin Power; Wolfkrone their arms factories and mercenaries. What does Von Ryuko have to do with this... and which family runs that sinister lab?"


Alyce, who had leaned in to listen to Cassie, gasped and spun to face Drake, having surmised he had left the cabin, so quiet was he in the darkness away from the gas lamp dangling over the examination table. She calmed quickly upon seeing who it was, flipping her hair back and standing hipshot in unconscious mimicry of her adjacent idol. The similarity between the two, rather than being diminished by proximity, was accentuated by direct comparison, Alyce's hair being a touch lighter than Cassie's, but both displaying the same high cheekbone, the identical slight tilt of lustrous eye and fullness of red lips.

"Oh, Drake, I didn't know you were still here. Do you... do you think the League may be acting against the best interests of the world?" she asked breathlessly over the thundering of her startled heart, which she was certain was audible to all present in the low-ceilinged room.


Alyce rushes to Cassie's side as the noblewoman prepares to depart, taking her elbow solicitously to help the injured woman to the shore. "Here, Lady DuSollier, let me help you. You are hurt, as are most of the gentlemen. I seem to be... well, almost fine."

She leans and whispers into Cassie's ear.


"Some sort of O," Alyce says in a tiny voice.

Rashida shakes her head. "You can't really use mine," she says sadly.


Alyce slips through the first door, tiptoes through the wreckage, and set her ear to the inner door. After a moment's pause, she looks back to the rest of the group, shrugs, and shakes her head. The door is soon cracked opened under her nimble little hands and she peeks through the tiny opening into the next room.

Then she steps back and swings open the door wide, exhibiting the room beyond, littered with the debris of spider-type automata. "There's nobody here," she whispers. And indeed, all is silent.


Alyce's cheeks turn a faint pink as she beams at Drake, shouting over the sound of the warning sirens and klaxons. "Me? No, it was you. Well... I guess it was both of us. Good thing we weren't alone. We would have needed eyes in the back of our head to get through... oh no! Lord Ritter was alone! You're right, we've got to find him. But which way?"

Alyce looks around the area, but has obviously become completely disoriented with all the turning and reconfiguration. She looks to Drake with some despair, waving her broom feebly.


Alyce dashes along with Drake, ducking and dodging through the maze of changing passageways and hostile mechs, tugging Drake aside slightly when a flailing mechanical arm he hasn't noticed swings towards his head, and being tugged away from a sudden jet of colorsteam she fails to notice. After a few shots, his remote abruptly cascades brilliant sparks and falls quiet, refusing to function at all.

"Oh dear," Alyce gasps as the device fails and the mechs resume their pursuit, grating RAMORAY!! KHOTH!! RAMORAY!! KHOTH!! through their clockwork vocabulators.

A segment of wall slams to a new position directly before the fleeing pair, and they juke left to avoid a mech with whirring lathe bits thrusting in their direction. The floor beneath their feet rises abruptly and slams to a stop, dropping Alyce on her rump. They find themselves center stage, amid a whirl of mechanized scenery clomping across the floor, with clockwork guards at parade through the theater. A spotlight pinpoints the pair, and the guard mechs surround them with frightening speed.

"BREATH WEAPON DETERRENT READY. PLEASE DO NOT ALLOW CHEMICAL TO ENTER EYES OR MOUTH. ANTIASSASSIN MEASURES ADDENDUM: 'UNLESS YOU ARE AN ASSASSIN.'"

The sudden rain of strange fluid blinds the couple momentarily while the clockwork guards seem unaffected. They can hear one speak through the noise of the brief downpour.

"Khoth, Drake. Identity confirmed," one mech grates, "Employment status: active. Position: janitor. Direction: Mop." The deluge ends and the two find themselves dry almost immediately, with the mech thrusting a mop and bucket at Drake.

"Kórógyi, Alyce. Identity confirmed," the mech grinds, "Employment status: active. Position: server. Correction. Position: janitor. Direction: Sweep." It releases the mop and bucket, heedless of whether Drake has accepted them, and thrusts a broom at Alyce as she scrambles to stand. She accepts it automatically, and it clomps back a step.

The ring of guards disperses, leaving only the speaking captain. "Mop. Sweep. Now."

Alyce glances at Drake uncertainly, then addresses the mech, quavering. "Frau Stuptsmann told us to clean the under stage area right away." The guard flicks its ocular units briefly, then the section of stage drops beneath their feet, returning them to the shadowy maze beneath the theater's great stage. The walls and mechs still rearrange randomly, but none approach with hostility. In fact, they ignore the duo completely and go about their business.

"What just happened?" Alyce blinks at Drake in bewilderment.


"A scream! Was that the Massri?"

Alice starts to dash off in the direction of the scream, pulling free of Drake and heading in a different direction from Vorian Ritter.

Gears grind and latches rasp, warning the girl an instant before a stage lift crashes ungoverned to the floor before her. Her momentum carries her stumbling onto the lowered segment of stage, which starts to rise again immediately.

Alyce hurls herself to the floor and rolls off the rising stage, momentum carrying her back to Drake's feet. "What's going on?" she cries in confusion, as a nearby wall segment rotates and shifts to a new position. The loudspeaker booms again as the klaxon and siren sound, flashing red light giving the understage a hellish glare.

"ANTIDRAGON MEASURES IN EFFECT. ANTIASSASSIN MEASURES IN EFFECT. PRESS ANOTHER BUTTON FOR MORE ASSISTANCE. YOU'RE WELCOME."

From where the wall formerly stood, several spindly mechanical frames detach from the wall, limbs rotating in a blur with an ominous whistling noise. "Stop. Assassins." A mechanical voice grates the command as the devices move to close with the pair.


Alyce moves to Drake's side and takes his arm. "You're hurt. Lean on me and we can follow Lord Ritter. But... but what about the pretty helmetcat? That thing is going to kill her! I should have tried to stop it. Can't we help?" Another tear rolls down her cheek.


"I think... I think she's trying to draw him away from us," Alyce replies with a tiny hiccup of a sob, a single tear sliding down her cheek. "Brave, brave Duchess," she murmurs, almost to herself.


The giant alien approached Alyce's position, crouched in the dark and the rubble, and she fingered the manacles gleefully, preparing to spring from the shadows. But as the muscular giant drew nearer, she realized just how small the handcuffs were - designed for humans, not aliens - and that they would never clasp around his thick wrists or ankles. She held her breath as he stormed past, feeling much like the survivor of a cyclone who cowers under a house, waiting for the blow that never comes.

She felt guilty that he was pursuing the pretty little cat, but relieved that he ignored her presence. Vorian's cry for help roused her from her paralysis, and she crept to his side alongside Drake.

"I'll be glad to help you stand, Lord Ritter. I'm... not injured like you and Drake. Maybe you both should stay here, though. I'm not sure how we can help the lady helmetcat."


As the great blue alien wrenches at the white cane, sending Drake in a short arc, Alyce is at the end of the 'crack the whip' chain. Stumbling, she loses her grip on Drake's arm and goes flying, arms windmilling to try to keep balance, until she tumbles into Vorian's legs, taking him out as neatly with a rolling tackle. The noble and the kobold investigator go flying.

Coming to a sudden stop against a hard stone wall, Alyce is momentarily stunned, Clousuk's top hat clutched tightly in one hand. As she catches her breath and the world stops spinning, she hears metal clattering at the wall above her and realizes that something hard and metallic is in the hand grasping the little top hat.

Still lying on the floor, she lifts the hat above her and explores it with her other hand, drawing out a pair of gleaming, finely-machined handcuffs, obviously professional. Her eyes widen as her pink mouth makes an 'O' of astonishment before breaking into a wicked grin. She rolls to her belly to see Drake fall, the outline of the powerful alien becoming visible through the thinning smoke.

But where did the adorable kitty go? I think Wowbanger wants to kill her!


Alyce waves the hat at the retreating form of the kobold Inspector, now slug over the nobleman's shoulder, and begins to follow, then hesitates and looks at Drake. "Shall we go along?" she asks, holding the little top had in one hand and taking Drake's arm with the other, glancing between Drake and the intimidating helmetcat balancing atop his shoulder.


"Thank goodness I didn't really kill anything," Alyce gasps, "That would be too awful! We should get out of here, though, and find the rest of your friends, Drake. If the cute little kobold can walk."


Alyce peeks out from behind Drake, who is busy assisting Vorian Ritter.

"Oh, you poor thing!" She kneels down to set Clousuk on his feet, then dusts off his hat and tries to place it properly on his head. It promptly tumbles to the ground. "And your cute little hat got squished. What a shame! It's so adorable on you."

Something bright clanks to the ground between them from the vent above, and Alyce reaches out to pick it up. "What is this?" she ponders aloud, examining the star-shaped flat piece of metal curiously, "And where did it come from?"

She looks up to the vent opening above and gives a shriek, throwing her hands into the air instinctively to protect herself. The silvery star zips upward as it slips from her startled fingers. There's a muffled shriek and a black-clad form tumbles from the vent onto the hapless inspector, clawing at the shuriken embedded in the bridge of its nose and across both its eyes.

"Oops." Alyce looks horrified.


Alyce clings tight to Drake's back, first offering a shoulder to the helmetcat in case she wanted a quick ride down on the rope, then drops off quickly once they land, crouching next to the trap door and nodding acquiescence to Drake's direction.


Alyce watches the final scene of the opera with parted lips and shining eyes from the outstanding (though dangerous) seat on the overhead catwalks. She doesn't seem to notice the actions of the clockwork ushers or the Serv-Bots, only the glorious sounds of the music and the magnificent costumes. At the sound of Drake's voice, she shakes her head as if shaking off a strange dream, then smiles at him and nods. "Wasn't that wonderful? I suppose we should go now. I'll follow you anywhere, Joey... I mean, Drake."


"I still want to, believe me. But there are killer robots in the audience and the Tesla field is still up, so I can't get out. And we're balanced on beams above the stage. I guess we can huddle up here for a while. Do you think they'll let everyone go when the performance is done? From what I hear, it's almost over." She steps delicately after Kittington, following carefully through the maze of beams. "I can stay here if you want to go after your friends. It sounds like they may be in trouble. I promise I won't stir until it's safe to leave. You don't have to stay with me up here."


"Look!" Alyce gasps from atop a beam, pointing down to the stage where Ysillith has torn great gashes, then disappeared into a trap door, "Drake, everyone is going down there. Should we go help?" She has to yell to be heard over the orchestra and singers, who have resumed their performance with the force of fear.


Alyce wrinkles her nose at the dust on the beams, then swings her feet up to rise to a crouch atop one. "These are really wide, Drake. A lot wider than balance beams in school. Come on, or the kitty is going to leave us behind!"

She rises to her feet, eyes fixed on Kittington, and follows the noble feline, stepping lightly along the beam and carefully ducking low-hanging cross-supports, a slight smile flickering across her face as she recalls the bloody hole in Wowbagger. Strangely colored as it was, she was certain the green ichor was his blood.


Alyce clings grimly to the bric-a-brac and then the beams above the stage. She starts at the helmetcat's greeting. "Oh, hello kitty. We're trying to get above the slaughter down there. Good kitty." Her voice shakes slightly and she deliberately does not look down.


Alyce's cheeks grow rosy as she suddenly realizes exactly who has offered to escort her to safety. "Well, Drake," she says breathily, gazing at him worshipfully with her big green eyes, "If you think we'll be safer up there, I'll give it a try."

She shoots a look at Cassie's clutch bag as if she'd like to retrieve it, then looks at Ysillith and quickly turns to clamber up the ornate decor surrounding the boxes, moving towards the stage to get to the raftered area where Drake says the Duchess is hiding.


Alyce looks between Drake and Ysillith in confusion. "Up, down... I don't know what you two are planning, but I'm not going out there with those horrible things. I'm no hero!" She places the silver revolver back into the clutch and hands the bag to Drake. "Here, this belongs to Lady DuSollier, I think. I'm sure she'll want it."

With that, she resumes her seat on the fainting couch.


"I can hold my own," Alyce says modestly, "But those clockwork things are in the aisles down there. How do we get to the stage, if that's where we are going?"