"...firefight erupted between rival gangs today near Patton Base on Avalon." The perky reporter stood in front of the bar where Cortez had just been. The place was crawling with medtechs, sobbing civilians, and a ring of military police. Already, one could see more TI aerodynes dropping down to secure the area. "As you can see behind me," she pointed to the front of the bar... or what used to be the front of the bar; the entire front section was gone, "the destruction to this favorite hangout of Tech Infantry is total. Many civilians escaped before authorities could question them. We have with us Major Francis Holderan, Public Relations Officer for Patton Base." A bright, nicely uniformed officer appeared on the screen. From the bright smile on his face, Fabian thought that maybe his suit was smarter than he was. "Major, what information can you give us on what occured here?"

            "Well, Janine, the initial call in said that troopers were causing a disturbance. However, I've been assured by our CID that that was not the case. We believe that two rival gangs were hired seperately to do the same job. Whoever was their employer probably believed that the resulting fight would cover up the evidence."

            "So what was the gang's job?" Cortez was getting sickened by the netcast quickly. The entire affair was too scripted. Not as subtle as the Fed's normal broadcasts; must have been a rush job.

            The major clicked a button on the remote and half the screen was filled with a woman's picture. Fabian knew who it was instantly. "Her name was Theresa Denikson, president of Tessier-Ashpool, S.A. CID believes that she was the intended target. Her two bodyguards, as well as herself, were killed in the firefight. There was several other killed, but they seem to be of lesser importance."

            Apparently Perky Janine hadn't expected that answer. So she tried to be intelligent and said, "Do you believe that this hit was corp related?"

            The corners of the major's mouth tensed and he replied, "We won't know anything else until the CID completes its investigation. I'm sorry, that's all we have for you." Then the officer made his way off camera.

            "Well," the reporter put her bangs back in place, "there you have it. Gang hit near Patton Base. This is Janine Meerton, Avalon Action News."

            The camera switched back to the studio. "Stay tuned on this net channel for '49 Hours," with Kenneth Haverlock!" A small screen appeared in the corner with a weasely looking man inside. "Tonight on '49 Hours," we'll look into the Tech Infantry: Muscle or Menace? Are these recent violent outbreaks truly random, or is there a more sinister purpose..."

            Fabian turned off the cybermodem and looked around the French-Chinese restaurant. That fixer of his was supposed to be showing up; he was fifteen minutes late. He wanted to tie up all his loose ends. His plans were finally coming together; the last thing he needed to spoil his serenity was a tardy associate.

            Still there were other things. There were always other things. Why were the gangs there? Where was Babbage? Most of all, where was his tea?!

            The half-breed oriental waitress finally brought him his steaming pot. About time, he thought, but then the kimono she was wearing didn't allow for quick movement. Fabian gave her a brief nod and she disappeared. Ah, Japan. Riding with Nobanaga into Osaka, his army of highly trained samurai had surrounded the town, and there was no other daimyo who could oppose him. His enemies were defeated and the Christian nobles with their Jesuit masters were silent. He was truly the shogun and now the emperor would have to admit it. Along the royal road, the geisha girls came out to honor their new conqueror, all of them in their beautiful kimonos...

            Cortez shook off the memory. He had to make a few calls while he was waiting. "M. Terrant, please." The automated secretary at the Diagram Group headquarters quickly switched over to the suited schmuck he was used to dealing with. "Ah, M. Terrant. Perhaps you were watching the news this morning?"

            The suit gulped loudly. "Yes?"

            "Good. I'm sure that your superiors will need a replacement for M. Derikson."


            "Never mind. I may need your help later. I'll call back then. Discom."

            There was a look of fear on his face before the screen went blank. Good. Fear was a good control on the young psyche. Pain and pleasure responses. Man likes to think himself a intelligent, evolved creature, but it is still an animal, based on instinct rather than logical reason. These mortals seldom live long enough to break out of the chains of their false morality.

            Cortez purred while he tasted the hot tea. Yes, he thought, pleasure, pain; these are the tools we employ.

            As the sun was falling below the horizon, casting a beautiful sunset through the dust-filled venetian blinds, the fixer finally came through the door. He was out of breath; still trying to compose himself, walking nonchalantly over to the table. Fear, pain response... he was afraid of disappointing me, and so he should, and so he is controlled. Fabian took another sip of his tea and didn't bother looking up at him. "You're late."

            "Hey, it wasn't easy!" the fixer shot back, throwing the BLAM on the table in front of him. "I had to pay that reporter chick five grand to get that! Then she had to snatch it from the CID shmuck."           

            Cortez looked up at him and smiled. "It was worth it."

            "I'm just in it for the money, bro."

            "Aren't we all?" Fabian picked up the miniature video disk. "Do you mind?"

            The fixer threw up his hands in a "whatever" shrug. Cortez made a quick inspection of the BLAM. No explosives, no hidden bugs; the fixer was too trustful, never believe a pretty face. Then he placed it in the device before him and watched the data. It was the security camera from the bar. He quickly past the stuff he had seen with his own eyes. Yes, there comes in the Arab and his werewolf bodyguard. Then the drug dealers, then his corporate friends, then his unforunate spill. Fabian cringed as he saw his positioning. Terrible; he had his back to the second bodyguard. Had they got a drop of that FTS on them, they would have shot me, he thought; that would have ruined everything. A calculated risk, he knew, but it was one he should have thought of. Then getting dragged outside, passing the now-late Theresa, and out the door. Both suits sat down at the same table, assuming that each other was their contact. Denikson reached inside her coat and took out her phone. Babbage was scratching his head, already the drug was taking effect. As the woman talked on the phone, Charles was getting more and more agitated.

            The Diagram bodyguards got more nervous as Babbage started to talk very animately. The O'Reilly ones followed suit. Denikson put down the phone and started talking back. However, that only angered the finance v.p. more. Finally it was obvious that Babbage was yelling. Then he stood up and reached for the woman.

            Both sets of bodyguards immediately drew their guns and opened up. The plasma bolts shot everywhere. Denikson went down with a shot to the arm; one of Babbage's guards went down. The Diagram guards shot at Babbage but they just missed them. The O'Reilly guard took out another before getting hit himself. The table in front of the table lifted up, without Babbage or anyone else touching it, and knocked down the remaining bodyguard. The suit walks forward as Theresa limps up to her feet. The bodyguard makes leap forward and Babbage throws out his arms. A huge surge of power bolts out from his hands. Before the light blanks out the screen, the bodyguard is ripped apart, and Emme Derikson is decapitated.

            The next shot that's visible is the huddled masses hiding under their tables. Babbage stands alone, the front of the bar gone, and he makes a quick (almost practiced) scan of the area before he scurries out the hole he made in the masonry. As he turned off the recording, Cortez mused to himself. Hmmm, so maybe Babbage isn't the pushover that he thought it was. Good, this might make this deal interesting.

            He smiled over at the fixer. "Excellent. That'll do."

            "What about the money?"         

            Fabian pulled out a credit card, entered in ten thousand credits, then thumbscanned it permenant. Tossing it over to him, he said, "Will this do?"

            The fixer looked at it and coughed in surprise. "Ye... yeah! Man, I love working for you! If you need anything else, PLEASE let me know."

            "Not now. I have some other appointments to make." Fabian reached into his pocket to pay for the tea.

            "No, NO man! Here, I'll go pay for it!" the fixer gleefully smiled and rushed to the counter, waving his new credit card in his hand. Fabian made a discreet exit out the door. As he made his way out into the darkness of a new night. The street lights were coming on and the moon and stars were yet to come out. As he crossed the square, Cortez heard the BOOM! of the credit card's explosive as it took out the fixer and the restaurant he had just left. Pity, he thought as the light of the flames reflected off the cobblestones he walked on... I rather liked their tea.

            Cortez made his way across the parking lot, in order to put enough room between him and the destroyed rubble of the suburban shopping mall. Quickly taking the back streets, he made his way down an alley, then another, finally approaching the center of the old suburb's downtown. From there, he would pick up the monorail back into the capital. Fabian needed time to think. He had already taken care of the fixer; he was a nobody, the old ghoul had checked that out right away. However, with Babbage on the loose, and obviously a mage, it was time he checked more about their mystery man. Malevont needed to be kept a watch on. Soon or later, Babbage would find him, and Cortez wanted to be there when he did.

            As he passed into another alley, the skin on the back of his neck prickled; something was wrong. Fabian calmed his breathing, began to lower his pulse, and began to look around with his mind. Ah, there was someone waiting for him; a reddish glow hid behind a garbage bin. Cortez continued to walk past him, ready for his attack, but it never came. It was time for some answers. In a celeric move, he whipped around, threw the man on top of the garbage bin cover, and his nails extended to their full deadly length. The gutter trash was completely surprised. "WHO ARE YOU?!" Fabian screamed, holding his fingernails to his neck. Still, the man was too frightened to speak. Finally, he just slashed his throat, picked him up, and threw him in the bin.

            "He was nobody." came a voice from behind him. Cortez pivoted to meet the new threat. Fabian couldn't see him in the early evening darkness. Then a light appeared up on the second story fire escape. A light seemed to extend from his hands and light the man's cigarette. He was dark-haired, pale, and resembled more of a raven then a human. "However, you don't seem to be _just_ anybody." With a single leap over the railing, the man jumped and landed squarely on his feet, no worse for wear. "In fact, I believe you're a threat. Do you agree with me, boys?"

            A dark chuckle of agreement poured from all around him. Menacing figures appeared out of the shadows, surrounding him completely, leaving him little avenue for escape. Cortez gave them his patented smile as he replied, "So, gentlemen, may I ask who are you?"

            The raven cocked his head in smug glee. "We are the servants of the only true and righteous ancients. You're a ghoul, that's as plain as night... but then again, so are my boys. You're on the wrong side of the war, whoever _you_ are, and you're in our domain." He raised his hand and it went black as the characteristic spikes of vicissitude surged through his flesh. "It's time for you to die."




Experience --


Orders: 3 x 5 points = 15

Good Writing: +5 points

Inventive Planning: +5 points


Total for Episode One: 25 experience points.


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Text Copyright © 2000 by Marcus Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.