The team had finally completed their mission and returned to Earth. Much to their irritation, they soon discovered that many of them had been identified and now wanted by the police.
"I think I need a haircut." Ti stated as he looked at his picture. It was a good likeness, but a little fuzzy. Normally he was much more photogenic.
On the way back to Earth he'd suggested that the group hold up in a safehouse he knew in Moscow. It'd been used a few times after jobs and so far had been pretty secure, hopefully the derelict building would still be there.
"Not much, but Dante'd had it set up with good communications and all the amenities of home. Oughta' be able to stay there until the heat dies down."
As far as the tension between him and others in the group went, he was willing to let those things lie in the past. He'd actually almost been able to shake Nadya's hand as she left... almost.
"I should look up a few old friends, too. Try to set myself back up in the city, you know? Could help having my connections running again."
Shoot... Moscow 8? The entire town would be buzzing with news of the group's exploits, and most likely theyd all be hailed as heroes. Heroes with prices on their heads, sure, but stand-up guys nonetheless. Something like this could lead into some major jobs if he could hold the crew together long enough.
"And relax, everyone. I gotta feeling that things are gonna start going our way soon. Just one of those feelings, you know?"
Frederick hadn't been happy about his accounts being seized, but he was noticeable less happy about a price being on his head. And upon finding out that the guards had been killed back at the base, he went absolutely ballistic for about a half hour. Ranting about how the Heer soldiers didn't have anything to do with the SS or Abwehr, except when used as pawns.
Once he calmed down, he contacted his father by phone, then sent him a detailed report by encrypted e-mail. They both knew that once the SS declared someone a traitor, they'd have to go to ground. It would also be hard to prove that there had been extenuating circumstances. He also
included a contact procedure, whereby the Heer could still acquire his services for covert missions.
Calmer yet after talking to his father, Frederick posted an ad for the remaining group members on the Shadow Net. Each one said, "...late of the Moscow 8" at the end. he also posted a cleansed version (portraying the Reich as a pawn, not a participant) of his report to the Heer on the 'Net. He titled it, "The True Story of the Moscow 8."
Ed, no stranger to being on the run, just shrugged. He took a few hours and left messages with people he knew in hopes that his former group was aware he was still alive. One did manage to contact him a day later. This was how Ed learned of one of his 'borthers' was killed. It was not related to his story, but he still felt more alone than before.
He did not set off by himself. He had invested too much in his current friends to just abandon them. Although he did not outright tell them, he let them know by staying with them and helping where he can. He did ask for 3 days upon to reflect on all the things he learned and hopes to learn.
Ed realizes that something of him must change. He started to work on his attitude and bring it more in line with being a civilian. Being a soldier is all he had ever known and figured it will help him in the future. But being able to blend in with the normals will help as well. He started by changing his wardrobe and his basic mannerisms.
Gisele sighed with mild relief at the press releases for the infamous "Moscow 8". She was only identified by a picture and vague physical description. No image recognition would work on her at the moment. Her current face wasn't registered in the national database; only her real one. But she hadn't had the same face for more than 8 months at a time, and now would be no exception.
"I need to visit a body shop," she said quietly to Frederick as they returned to Earth. It seemed unlikely that Gisele had a car that needed repairing, so the meaning was understood.
The procedure, to the amazement of everyone but Gisele, took a little under two hours. Plastic surgery was never so easy. The results were also fairly startling. Where the familiar image of Gisele had entered with mouse-brown hair and soft, unassuming "girl next door" features, the woman exiting was quite different. Dirty blonde hair, cut somewhat wildly and jagged as was the style, stark powder blue eyes and a skin tone a shade paler. Finer bone structure reinforce lean features, yet sculpted to portray almost extreme youth.
The little touches added realism. Beneath the dirty blonde hair were thick black roots, the deception increasing slightly more with a small artificial scar on her left hand. A bit more synthetic padding to increase bust size. It added up to a very different physical picture.
Two hours from start to finish. No fuss, no swelling, no healing. The ultimate makeover.
Later, a phone call to her agency in Berlin confirmed her position in relatively ambiguous language. That she was "still with her friends" and was wondering if she should "come home".
It had been a while since Leon had seen a soul at this particular safe house.
He knew the Reich was thick with SS who were looking for any sign of wanted men, or more, potential "assets" to be claimed by the Company. Therefore, getting as far from Berlin as he could without having to go through Customs was a must. That meant Russia. Or rather, Muscovy, as the district was called now.
Leon had talents that were valued just about anywhere there was a crime syndicate, and the advantage of being in Moscow was that he was near the largest crime syndicate this side of the Atlantic. That meant he could find a job, if he wanted to, or just lie low for a while.
Lying low was what he had been trying to do for a few days now. He wanted to at least let the heat die down a bit before finding another job, so he had made a deal with the crime syndicate. He did one "freebie", so they let him use one of their safe houses.
Now it looked like he had company. He'd been returning with a bag of groceries when he noticed something was different. His hidey-hole was occupied. It looked like quite a rag-tag group, too. A great big guy, a few women, a skinny guy and an average looking joe was what he could make out through the window.
It didn't look like the place had been broken into, so these must have been people with at least knowledge of where the key was kept.
Ti whistled appreciatively when Giselle made her return. Inwardly he was jealous... she had the ability to chage her whole body almost as easily as he could change coats. Just as soon as she was tired with one face, presto there was another.
Then again, looking into a mirror, he wondered exactly what he could do to improve on what he already had.
"Save a dance for me, okay?" He grinned.
"Listen up, though. I been kicking around my old spots a bit and it looks like no one wants my head on a plate after all."
This earned a dark though not truly angry look towards Fred.
"Don't know what happened to that reward but its not out there any more. Then again, the one offered by Der Reich is bad enough. At least I don't have to worry about every hired gun in Moscow coming after me. Just the really greedy ones and they'll want us all."
"Give me a couple of days, though, and I'll bet you I can get us some work for better cash then at least I've ever seen. Just depends on if we want the Moscow Eight to stay that way."
Adelaide gave Ed a goodbye kiss which certainly left him tongue-tied for some time after. However, she told the group she had some scores to settle with her old bosses. Something about un-asked for cybernetic implants and some kind of Club...
However, she did state she'd be in the area if they ran into trouble and wanted some help. Frederick knows how to reach her through Asagiri.
Nadya, on the other hand was more reluctant to leave. Nor did she want to stay. For the first time in her life, she was truly free from Nazi control and she wanted to see if she could make it on her own. Her parting was quiet and private with Diana. Diana saw her out.
"I'm leaving." Diana announced to the group. That was all she said.
"I'll be back in three days." She said.
She didn't really care what the others said or thought.
She followed Nadya out the door. That, in and of itself, was not the least suprising. During the flight back to earth, the two of them could be heard in the cockpit from time to time. This time, however, Ti wasn't quite so anxious to join.
Diana still had three days left to her cycle. That meant, she was now hornier then hell. However, she had managed to keep herself in check on the mission, which was no problem. After all, she had had something to concentrate on, and something to occupy her time with. Now, however, and on the flight back, her body had told her, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to pay the piper. The two of them walked a couple blocks away, to a small 'ma and pa' type market, where they called a cab. Diana had disguised herself, so that, while she might vaguely resemble the pictureof
her on the news, there was just enough doubt in anyone's mind.
They found a small flea bag type hotel, and paid for three days. Then, the two of them settled in. The firfst day was spent in bed. The two of them barely got out to eat anything, or even watch tv. They slept all of six hours, the rest of their time spent 'enjoying' each other.
The second, day, went by a bit smoother. Diana's cravings for sex had began to slacken off. Only 12 hours o the day were spent having sex. This time, they actually watched the news, and went out to eat. However, Diana had forgotten to disguise herself. It wasn't until they arrived back at the hotel room, that she realize it. Still, however, there was just enough make up on to cause some doubt, but not a whole lot. After some sleep, and three more 'rounds' with Nadya, she turned on the news.
Nothing much really caught her attention, it was, pretty much, the same old stuff. News of the 'moscow' 8, local news, and a sports report. In football news, it turned out, Spartek Moscow was leading their league, and looking to take their 15th straight title.
There was a knock at the door, and Diana reached for her pistol. She spied out the window, relaxing a bit seeing that it was only Nadya. She had gone out to 'get her fix', as she put it. Diana hated to see the woman like that. It wasn't so much her aversion to drugs, as it was having seen her go through the vague, early stages of withdrawl. She knew that if Nadya was ever going to be 'clean', the withdrawl alone was going to be utter hell. That, alone, would require money, and money was something they didn't have at the moment.
The idea of a bank job came to her. She figured that one of the smaller, local banks, on the outskirts of the city would have, or should have, enough cash to get her into some kind of 'high class' treatment. The only problem was, however, that she A) didn't know the area. B) wasnt' keen on the idea of drawing any more attention to herself. C) wasn't sure that Nadya was in any condition to pull of such a job. and D) wasn't sure of the timeframe that would be required to pull of such a job, anyway. Let alone E) she didn't know anyone in Moscow.
So, the idea of scoring a bank job was put out of her mind. The rest of the day came and went as the previous one had. Nadya slept, and Diana 'did' herself. When Nadya was awake, the waking hours were spend in the heat of passion, ending with both of them falling asleep in each other's arms, cuddled together, their bodies intertwined.
The third day dawned, and, much to Diana's relief, her body was about to return to 'normal'. She and Nadya one two more 'rounds', before she found that she was finally 'worn' out. She was relieved.
However, that relief wouldn't last long. She was now hungry. She did a good make upjob, and then headed otu the door. All the way to the 'burger joint', she had the feeling she was being followed. At the fast food place, she took her order 'for here', and sat in a corner, where she had a good view of the outside. It took her a few minutes but she finally spied what she was after. There! They were doing standard surveillence. two people on foot, one on each block, and one more in a vehicle. She recognized it as a standard 'triangle' surveillence. While it was, for her, pretty easy to beat, it was just a pain in the ass, in general. She ate her breakfast, and then 'went shopping'. She ahd noticed a used clothing store nearby, and entered. She chose some clothing, including a floppy hat, to cover her face with. She quickly changed clothing, putting her old clothes back on the rack.
As she went to pay for the new clothes, she whispered to the clerk: "Can you help me. See that guy out there," she said, pointing out one of the guys across the street. The clerk squinted, but finally spied him. "He's been following me for two days. Can you please call the police. I fear he's one of the moscow 8." she said.
The clerks eyes grew big at the mention. Visions of the reward danced briefly in her head. "Also, is there a back way out of here? See that guy there." She said, pointing out the man who was going through some of the mens clothes, yet keeping a close eye on her. "I fear I saw a gun on him. I think he might rob your store." she said, pouring on the 'concerned citizen' routine.
The clerk nodded, and quickly reached for the phone. After a very brief conversation, she hung it up. "They will be here in minutes. Although you can leave that way," he said, pointed to the back of the store, and a sign that said 'exit'.
Diana nodded her thanks. With the clerk distracted, she neglected to pay. The man she had pointed out to the clerk moved with her. He seemed to be talking to his shirt or jacket collar, as he moved to shadow Diana.
She took her time, moving around the store, getting close to the man. She finally 'accidentally' bumped into him. She used the 'bump' to slam her fist into his stomach as hard as she could, leaving the man on the floor gasping for breath. She reached into his jacket, and removed the pistol he had there, and placed it into the purse, she had also picked out. She also lifted his wallet.
Then, she moved towards the exit sign.
About then, the moscow police, or what passed for the police showed up. The two officers entered the store, and approached the clerk. She pointed to the where the man was standing, and teh two officers thanked her, and approached him.
Diana used the distraction to escape. Or so she thought. She missed the 'employee' in the back, who had been watching her.
She moved through the alley, working her way back to the hotel room. Checkout time was still two hours away. She needed to check on Nadya. They had had a very long, serious talk the night before, and Nadya had agreed to seek drug treatment. Diana had told her that she would help her in anyway that she could.
When she returned to the hotel room, all she found was a note:
Need to go.
See you around.
Diana's heart sank. She cursed, also. Nadya was something she was going to have to deal with, sooner or later. Later, it seemed, had won.
She was about to to check out, when motion in front caught her attention. She looked out the curtained window, and cursed her luck. There was that plain car out by the front office, and she had spied movement on the roof of one of the other hotel rooms. Snipers!
She quickly gathered her stuff, and pouring what little there was, into her purse, her hands filled with the MP.She looked out the window again, and noticed that the hotel clerk was outside, pointing in thedirection of her hotel room.
Had the clerk recognized her and called them? Or had she been followed, and didn't realize it?
She cursed again. She then went to the bathroom window, and found it glued shut. She took the butt of the MP, and smashed it open. She slid through the remains, carefully, trying not to leave any blood behind.
She found herself in an alley. To her left, there was only more alley, while to the right, there were several men slowly moving in her direction.
For the moment, she was 'hidden', by the garbage, and other stuff that littered the alley. She concentrated on the men, and growled her bad luck. While she didn't recognize them, as such, she knew their movements. They were the Moscow version of SWAT. ~Just great!~ She thought to herself.
She moved among the 'garbage', and other stuff, crawling on her stomach where she could, and moving in a 'duck' walk otherwise. It took her a good ten minutes to get to the end of the alley. However, just as she reached it, her 'cover' ended, and one of the men spied her.
She rose, fired several rounds at the men behind her, and then began to run. But run where? she knew where the safe house was, but that was a ways away. She and Nadya had purposely gone half way across time, or so it had seemed, when they got the cab.
She spied the car almost right away. The unmarked car swung around the corner, lights flashing. Diana ducked behind one of the parked cars, moving towards the front of it. She watched from behind the front driver's tire, as the unmarked car slowed. The occupants were looking for
her. As the car pulled up even with her position, she suddenly rose from her hiding spot, and fired one three round burst into the car. The first round tore into the head of the passenger, while the second two buried themselves into the driver.
The car lerched to the right, bumping heavily, with barely any damage to the car, itself, itno a parked car. In a flash, Diana was over the hood, and had removed the driver, and was just hitting the gas, as the first of men from the alley, approached the alley, still ten feet from the street.
Diana reached up and removed the light from the room, she could use that later. With the light gone, the car now 'resembled', just another car on the street. she eased past the street with the commotion, whcih was now blocked off. The passenger in the car, had fallen into the passenger foot well, so, for the moment, she was out of sight.
With nerves of near steel, she drive 'casually', past the police, and disappeared. Dispite the urge the 'gun' it, and make a hasty get away.
Behind her, two of the three men emerged from the alley. They seemed to be looking around. Diana, however, turned the corner, and lost sight of them. For the moment, she had escaped. She drove for a while, looking for a place to pull over, that was deserted. She finally found a place, and parked. She reached down, and pulled the dead passenger up. She removed her police id, wallet, gun, and extra clips, and anything else of value she found.
Looking at the picture, and smiled. With the right make up job, and redoing the picture just a tad, she could deffinately impersonate the woman. She removed the woman's long jacket, and put it on. It was a tight fit around the shoulders, and a bit short, coming to mid thigh, instead of down to her knee like it was supposed to, however, for what she wanted it would work. She searched removed the keys from the ignition, and went to the trunk. She had known a few street cops in Berlin, and had found that they virtually all kept something 'extra' in the trunk. She wondered if the cops here in moscow were the same?
Diana searched the undercover, and found a shotgun, and some 'non'-lethal rounds for it in the back. She had already removed the id from the cop, and had also moved the body to the trunk as well. The only question, now was what next?
The immediate thought was to return to the safe house. That, though, could be tricky. However, for the time being, it was the only answer.
She set about destroying the police car, having gotten everything out of it of any real value. She ripped some of the clothing from the dead cop, and used it as a fuse. She ripped about a foot long worth of material, shoving most of that into the gastank. Then, she lit the rest. Five minutes later, the car erupted into a ball of flames.
On her way back to the safe house, she stole a car. Two hours later, she dumped the first stolen car, and opted for a second, and finally a third, before leaving that one in a parking lot, two miles from the safe house. Thoughts of Nadya came to her mind. She missed her. She quickly, though,
worked to put those feelings out of her mind. She had seen too many people caught because they weren't focused on the task at hand. Still, she hoped she was okay.
Walking back to the safehouse, she took extreme precautions. She walked on one side of the street, and then quickly changed to the other, unexpectedly. She lingered in front of store windows, using the reflection to see if she was being followed or not. She even stopped off for lunch, at a fast food place, lingering a few minutes after she was done eating, to see if she had a tail.
Finally, a half mile from the safe house, she was satisfied that she wasn't being followed, she relaxed a bit. Still, though, she kept up her guard. Just incase.
She finally arrived back at the safe house. Immediately, she noticed something was not right. There was a new scent. The first thought that wen through her head was that the house had been compromised. That thought, though, went away as she saw Ti, and the others. So, if the house wasn't compromised, then who was the new scent?
The news of the 'big shoot out' had been all over tv. While she and Nadya were't identified as being part of the 'moscow 8', exaclty, they were, for the time being called 'unknown terrorists.' Later reports would report that a possible suspect of the fabled 'moscow 8' had been involved in the shoot out, however, authorities were still investigating.
Meanwhile, events had been unfolding back at the warehouse.
Leon's eyes narrowed and he moved away from the window, trying to reason out just who these people were. The alcohol in his veins wasn't helping matters.
Had he been found so quickly? It appeared that there were many problems associated with not knowing who it was that wanted him dead. All he had was a picture, a few words of conversation... not enough to give him an identity. If the mystery man had contacts with the Russian underground, Leon might have just screwed himself.
It was possible that Alexei Yushenko, the man who had set up the safehouse, had sold him out. The work he had done for Alexei could be recognized as his work by the right people. The people in the safehouse could be the group Yushenko sent to collect him. They could also just be others who were on the run and using the safehouse.
Leon's instinct told him that the group in the safehouse weren't associated with those who wanted him dead. He had expected people like the assassin on the train and this situation felt different. The question that important now was 'Can I trust Yushenko?'.
Leon walked a few blocks to a public vidphone and dialed up Yushenko, holding the groceries in front of the camera to block it.
"Alexei, it's Leon. Anything you want to tell me?".
"Leon, my friend. You sound like you are under some stress. Is your vacation... disagreeing with you?" Alexei was always cautious of the possibility a phone would be tapped and getting him to say words like 'safe house' or anything related to the crime syndicate was near to impossible."
"Yes, there are problems, Alexi.", Leon continued. "There seem to be some other tenants at my rental. Perhaps you double-booked by mistake?"
The conversation continued as Leon watched a pretty, long-haired woman dressed in a heavy overcoat exit. He could swear he'd seen her face on TV recently. Then it clicked. She was one of the suspects who were supposed to be one of the recently-famous Moscow 8. She looked to be headed for the alleys.
"No, no, Leon. No one has checked with me about the house. You want I should, ah.. send by some boys to help with the moving?"
Leon was still on the phone when a couple real good looking broads walked out of the safe house. On was blonde, hair cropped short and had a muscular build for a woman. The other was dark, attractive and walked like a cat. The two walked hand in hand quickly down the street, appearing to be walking toward a third-rate, pay by the hour hotel.
The safe house was occupied but three of the occupants had vacated and now Leon knew a little more about them than he did a few minutes ago.
"Wait, I'll call you back.", Leon said tersely as he hung up. He jogged towards the alley he had seen the woman in the overcoat enter, his left arm wrapped around his bag of groceries. Leon palmed the zat gun in his right hand as he approached the alley, keeping it behind the bag. He slowed to a quick walk as he entered the alley, his eyes scanning for the girl in the overcoat. He needed answers and the girl was going to provide them.
Adelaide moved swiftly and seemed as at home in the shadows as a lioness in her den but she seemed always just barely within sight. A couple times he saw the profile of her face as she checked her six before sliding into another series of alleys. Soon enough Leon wasn't sure if the girl was the one who was lost, or if he was.
Leon cursed quietly as he turned around and tried to find his way back to the safehouse. Leon wasn't sure where the girl was taking him, but a member of the Moscow 8 was likely to have many friends here and Leon wasn't in the mood to meet them. He pulled a bottle of vodka from his bag of groceries and took a long drink as he walked back.
Eventually Leon found the payphone he had used to call Alexei and dialed him up again. His odds of taking down three people with a zat gun were slim if things turned out bad, he needed some backup.
"Alexei, it's Leon. I'm still having some problems moving three items. I need to move a wiry lamp, an average sized end table and a big ass refrigerator. Can you send someone to help me finish moving in?"
Leon rubbed the long scar on his left arm as he waited for Alexei's boys to arrive before approaching the safehouse again. For the past few days he had been a stone sinking through water. It was time to stop that incredible momentum.
Inside the warehouse, Ti had his own ghosts to worry about.
Watching the women leave, Ti didn't bother to excuse himself as he walked to a more run-down part of the safe house. While the serviced areas were well kept by the people using it, there were still some parts that were left to trash just for appearance. This is where the big man went alone.
Broken drywall and dirt crunched beneath his heavy heel as he walked, moving through a large, open, almost industrial room. The ceiling was high and rough with concrete while the sodium lamps strung there hummed and flickered with their dying embers. He stood in the center of this chamber and looked around.
Over to his left were several gaping holes in the wall, about the size of a man's fist and this is where his long stride took him next. Standing before the punctures, he ran his hand along the edge and let him mind drfit. His fingers curled in and he turned to look behind him for the
ghost he knew was still haunting him.
"What'cah think, T-Man?" Dante asked him.
"Gonna work out just fine." Victor answered. His arms and shoulders still ached from the recent implants, but it was a good ache. About like finishing a hard workout after sitting around too long.
"Gonna work out just fine." Shrugging his shoulders, Ti activated his new ware for the first time outside of the street doc's place and he made a solid fist. A few pumping motions later and sheetrock littered the floor from the fast holes he'd put into the wall. His hand stung from the impacts but nothing more, and the wall definately was fareing worse.
"Hah!" Ti crowed. "What's gonna stop us now, huh? Toughest jobs out there won't mean nothin' to that." He pointed at his handiwork.
"Lookin good, my man." Dante himself had some ware installed too, but nothing on that level. Together the two had raided Ti's trust fund and given themselves enough of an edge to break into the business with style.
"But watch this."
Dante's vision swept the room as his systems memorized the locations of every object in the room. Then he closed his eyes and drew his semi-auto with lightening speed and proceded to sanp off shots. Trajectory information raced through his mind, being fed by the onboard tactical system, and each round went unerringly to its target. Soon the room was a mess of broken lights, shattered woodwork and cored plaster.
"Wicked." Responded Victor. Dante's lean form rose from his combat crouch on the littered floor. His long red hair a wash of flame around his head and that wild look Ti knew so well dancing in his eyes.
"Show me anything on the street like that, bro. We have the hardware and the attitude."
The last line was said with mechanical precision, taken from the recently released American movie 'Terminalien vs. Predacon III'.
"S'raight. And, I have a job lined up already. Grunt work for the family. A real made man, dig? Guy's made his bones back when we were suckin' tit."
"Hah!" Interrupted Victor. "That was just last night when I went to yo' momma's house!"
"Bullshit. You're so ugly she always charges you double and I know you're to flat-assed broke to afford that."
"But shuddup. I'm talking about a Real Job, you know? We pull this off and that's all we need. The right people will have heard our names, they'll have seen our work and from that point on it's just point..."
"And click!" Ti finished for him, drawing back the hammer on his own massive revolver, much larger than Dante's gun. "I know, you've only told me about twenty damn times. What, you worried about running muscle for a little firebug operation? Gimme a break."
Thunder rocked the enclosed room as he fired a few rounds into the wall where Dante placed most of his shots. While the heavy rounds weren't placed with a fraction of the accuracy of the smaller man's, Ti's shots took enough material out of the drywall that accuracy was not even a consideration.
"Piece of cake..."
But it hadn't been. The job had been a disastor, as Ti recalled, ending up with him running from Moscow and eventually into the present company. And just when he'd thought Dante was finally left behind, the man showed up as a freak of science in the worst meat grinder he'd ever seen.
Except it wasn't Dante. He knew that now, but he'd had the ability to make Ti think that he was. That was low, real low. Ghosts should be left behind. The dead oughta stay dead, but strange things happened in this world, he now knew.
Drawing his Jackhammer, Ti leveled the weapon the the same wall they'd used for target practice just a few short weeks ago.
"Rest in peace, Tovarich." Four shots exploded in salute for his childhood friend.
Bolting out of one of his meditative trances, Ed darted towards the sound of gun fire from the back of the warehouse. As he got closer, he kept a back to the wall and moved closer. Activating his armor, he started to shimmer as he got to where the explosions were. He peeped around the corner and saw Ti holding his favored hand weapon.
"Wh-wh-wh-where!?" His question was for the hostiles that must be in the area.
Ti was in the act of dumping round from his jackhammer when Ed made his appearance. His ears still rang from the weapon's discharge and he barely heard the question, though he understood what the man was after anyway.
"Rats. Just doing a little pest control." He lied.
He'd just said goodbye to an old friend and didn't really see any reason why he should share that with the others unless they pushed. Spent shells clattered sharply on the concrete floor.
"Any business going on tonight?" Ti changed the subject less than smoothly. "Wouldn't mind chasing down a few watering holes. Back on familiar ground, and all, if you feel up to it."
The big man moved from the smoke filled room and headed towards the main part of the safehouse, holstering his weapon as he did so.
Leon reached Alexei from the public phone.
"Da, we can help. We could send a couple of trucks by to be sure we can get it all in one trip. But let me call and make sure someone is home, first, eh? Sit tight, I'll call ye back."
[moments later in the warehouse..]
Rrrriing, rrrringg, went an antique phone from its nearly forgotten position at the back of the warehouse.
Frederick dropped his head at the sound of the phone and shook it gently. Obviously, someone had notice the occupancy of the safe house. It wouldn't be much of a safe house if they let bums move in and take over. Odds were the big Russian would know the person at the other end of the call, "That would be for you, Ti."
Ti didn't see how... no one was supposed to know they were here. Granted, he'd left word with a few of his people that he was back in town, and most of them knew that he and Dante used this place a lot. Stil...
Shrugging his shoulders and drawing his jackhammer, the man moved through the warehouse and to the antique phone. Picking up the receiver, he was momentarily dismayed by the truley outdated cord which streched from the hand unit to the base and had to take a second or two to untangle the dusty device. Damned thing had about tied itself into a knot.
"Da?" He finally said once finished with his fumblings.
"Hello? This is the owner of the warehouse you are using. I would appreciate if you tell me who you are, before I have to go to the trouble to send in a moving crew to help you leave the premises."
Ah, let's see. That would be Alexei Yushenko, Ti recalled. Not the actual owner, of course, but one of the men who tended to look after the syndicate's properties and related interests. Ti never met him personally, but by reputation he seemed an easy enough fellow to get along with, so long as you took care not to ruffle his feathers.
Ah, indeed. Up until then, Ti had been in a good mood and felt like being a smartass. He wisely decided not to go with that now.
In his native Russian, the man replied.
"Mr. Yushenko. It is me, Victor Hernandez... Ti."
He swallowed. Now was the moment of absolute truth. Would the mob really be after Ti for the failed mission of a few weeks ago, or were things
really calm enough for him to be back in Moscow?
"I appologize. I should have let you know I was here, but Dante and I used this place all the time without trouble. I hope there wasn't any inconvenience."
There was a pause on the other end of the phone.
"I wouldn't use that name too much if I were you, young man. Anyway, I hear you just had a little adventure of your own, da? Anyway, you should have called me, Vic. I have a rather upset client who had plans for that warehouse. I will speak to him and see if I can work things out. Stay put a while, eh? I'll send him over to talk to you if I can relax him a little."
"Da. I'll give him a warm reception, no?" Ti hung up the phone.
What was this? Sending someone over? Why? Was it to just say hi and check in, or was it something more sinister? Ti didn't like it...
This could easily be a hit man sent to take out the entire group... maybe get revenge on the botched mission, maybe collect on the reward. However
it worked out, odds were against the group right now that this would be peacful.
Still, it sometimes didn't pay to fire the first shot, you know?
"We'll be having company soon." Ti reported to the others. "Could be trouble, don't know right now. But be prepared."
Following his own advice, he prepped the shotgun he'd picked up a while back and loaded that fourth round into his Jackhammer. While doing this,
he noticed Giselle had returned and looked like she had something to say.
The phone in the booth near Leon rang. When he picked up, Alexei's voice spoke.
"It's okay Leon. Unexpected guests, but they are okay with me. Big guy is probably there with friends, right? Anyway, his name is Victor and he was trying to get into the family but disappeared about a week ago. Managed to pull off a pretty big job in the meanwhile, though.
"Leon, I was wondering if you might do me a favor. Find out who he was and is working for, and I'll make it worth your while. I have a feeling he still wants to be in good with the syndicate, like his pop, so you might be able to use that to make friends. What do you say?"
"Alexi, say no more. We're friends, of course I will help my friend.", said Leon warmly. It was his way of agreeing without explicitly committing. "I hope they speak some German, as you know my Russian is horrible. I will go introduce myself."
Leon walked back to the warehouse and knocked on the front door. Alexi had sounded like he was telling the truth over the phone, for all the man's faults he seemed to be a man who kept his word. Alexi's personal code of conduct made him one of the good guys to Leon. He wondered what type of code the others in the warehouse followed.
Upon hearing the knock, Ti signaled to the others to be in position. Giselle he wanted near the door as her defenses were better than most in
the group, and shrapnel might not mean as much to her as, say, Fred.
Ed he directed to stay farther back but ready to lend support and Frederick himself... Ti just waved off. Of course the hacker should take a more
secure position. This was the job of thick bricks, not skilled technicians.
With people where they were supposed to be, Ti drew his jackhammer and moved to the side of the door. If they really wanted to get him, they
could just shoot through the walls with some damn big anti-tank gun or drop high explosives through the open door. Hopefully, neither of those would happen.
With his free hand, he touched the door open and let it swing free with him out of its line.
Leon smiled at the person who opened the door but his eyes told a different story entirely. They weren't cold, but burned with an inner malevolence, never still, and always visually interrogating his surroundings and company. The scar that went from wrist to elbow on his left forearm was an uncommon sight since there were surgical techniques to remove it entirely. He didn't seem self-conscious about it though, preferring to leave it exposed to the elements and observers, warning others that he was no stranger to pain.
Leon didn't distinguish himself in his dress, preferring substance over style. Steel-capped working boots, rough leather working pants, topped off with a thigh-length black leather jacket ñ all faded black with signs of wear and tear. His movements were always economical and considered, out of character for a man who looked more likely to apply sledgehammer over scalpel tactics. He had a bag of groceries in his arms.
Leon's muscles tensed involuntarily as he saw the door swing open freely with no one behind it. A trap? No way in hell he was just walking in.
Somewhere far in the back of Leon's mind, a stone continued to sink. Risking his life for mere shelter, there wasn't much further down to go.
"My name is Leon Metzger. Alexi should have informed you I was coming," he said loudly from his position.
Gisele grimaced at the unexpected arrival. It seemed that whoever this person happened to be, they weren't going away easily or any time soon. She sent a short range transmission to Frederick.
//Frederick... I've gotten news of a job here in Moscow from my agency. I have to take it, so I'll go with or without the rest of you. It's important, and time is of the essence...// She sighed and put a hand to her forehead melodramatically. //Let's get rid of whoever this is, and I'll tell everyone the details.//
"Ti.. whoever this is, make him go away," she hissed. "Now."
Hearing the sharp whisper, Ti made a 'calm down' motion with his hand. This man was sent by one of the Big Muscovy bosses and it wouldn't do to simply turn him away at the door. If they did that, next thing to knock would be armor peircinging.
As Leon spoke, Ti figured he wasn't going to start shooting, at least not immediately, so he poked his head into the doorway and took in the scene.
"Da. I was just being careful, though. Bad neighborhood, you understand?"
He eased the hammer back on his gun and, keeping it pointed at the ground,
holstered it before stepping into full view.
"Sorry to be so rude. Come in, Mr. Metzger."
Frederick stepped out into the open, where he could see and be seen. "Come on in, /Marshall/" He tried to use his best Western accent (Not easy when speaking German) so that everyone would know he was joking.
Turning to Ti, he continued, "Big Guy, we have an errand to run. You want to come with?"
Leon stepped inside the warehouse slowly, nodding to Ti and Frederick.
"Understandable.", he said to Ti in a conspiratorial tone. "It's always a good policy to be cautious."
Leon's eyes moved quickly about the warehouse, looking for any changes which had taken place since he had last been inside.
Leon had followed his hosts in, watching around him. There was another woman in here, one he hadn't seen before.
As for the others, some of them looked like they could be members of the newly famous Moscow 8. Frederick, especially, he could identify as the hacker mastermind that must have disabled tight security enough to let eight intruders into the base. Ed, too, looked like he could have been one of the eight, but he didn't stand out a lot. Ti? Well the pictures were fuzzy and they didn't have a name, but a guy this big was hard to miss. There was a fair chance that this was half of that team.
"I brought some groceries... you are welcome to help yourselves. We will share.", Leon said in a friendly tone when he was inside. Old habits died hard and Leon was already thinking of the strangers as potential customers. Leon never went for the hard sell, he probed to figure out what a person wanted first. All that remained after that was to demonstrate he was the man to make that desire come true. But after what had happened, Leon was no longer sure he wanted to continue to be that man. Thinking about the past brought the pain back, the vodka would take it away for a while.
Ti accepted the offer and took the bag from Leon's hands, all the while watching for hidden danger. A fast look through the bag showed nothing more sinister than a box of bran flakes and he dropped the load to a counter to be forgotten.
"Excuse me, for a minute." It was Ti's best voice, the one he used when talking to his bosses. For all he knew, this man still was just after a bounty but there was no reason to assume he wasn't working directly for Alexei. If Victor had any hope of getting back in good with the Family, this was most likely it.
He'd seen, though, that Gisele was disapproving of the action. She was right, to a degree... there was no real reason to trust this man or even accept his presence. At best, the group could be endangering someone who wanted nothing more than a place to hide for a while. At worst, he might be their worst nightmare invited straight into their camp.
Ti preferred to view the middleground, though, going against his natural Russian grimness.
"Gisele," He made a 'follow me' motion with his finger. Hopefully she'd be willing to talk with him outside of Leon's earshot.
"I know that you don't trust him, and you'd rather just get rid of him, but don't forget we have a shortage of manpower right now, da?"
"Nadya, Addy and Aleph are gone... well, Nadya will be gone soon. That just leaves you, me, Ed and Frederick. Pretty short on firepower if you
"Now, this guy, he has some high up connections in the Mafia which marks him as a little more than the average citizen. I'm guessing, and this is only a guess, that he's made it through more than one firefight in his life. I'll bet that he can be useful to us somehow. We just need to talk to him a bit to find out what kinds of services he can offer."
"If, after that, it turns out he's not useful to us we can dump his body somewhere dark and damp. No harm done, right?"
Actually, he was hoping it wouldn't come to something like that. If he had to kill someone in the safehouse, then things would go bad for Ti in the
"Whattya say? Feel like giving the guy an involuntary job interview?"
Gisele resisted the immediate urge to grab Ti by his shirt and do him bodily harm. That would be counter-productive, but it certainly would have felt good. The big Russian was doing his best to ooze charm and suavity, so what the hell. Humor him.
"Alright, big guy," she started, leaning in closer to Ti's ear. "I've been given a job by my agency, and it's basically take the job or die. But success sounds very rewarding, if you know what I mean. Now I really didn't want to pull in any outsiders and instead to just ask you guys for help. I trust you all, you're very good friends to me." Ooh.. she was really laying it on thick, but playing the part and making it believable.
"But I suppose you are right.. it's a job here in Moscow, and if anyone would know the city, it's you and this new man. Let's give him a chance to prove himself in the field. Because, you see, it worked for you, didn't it?" She smiled reassuringly at Ti with a certain undertone that said if Leon didn't work out, the police would find his body in a river somewhere, if they were lucky. Ending the little covert conversation, she came back to the small assembly, smiling.
"Mr... Metzger, was it? Your arrival came to us as a surprise, but rest assured, you're welcome here. We have nothing to hide." She smiled invitingly, the perfect polite hostess. The squatters, welcoming him? Somewhat pretentious. "We apologize for using your facility without asking, but we won't be here for long. We were actually about to undertake a job here in Moscow, the only reason we are here, I'm afraid." She paused for a moment, and hoped everyone else was paying sufficient attention not to interrupt.
"Which makes your arrival somewhat.. fortuitous. You see, we need a guide while we're here. Someone who knows the city well and could help us follow up on some recent rumors. Of course, we can pay you for your troubles, if you're interested, that is.."
"The job is a little non-standard, but important nonetheless. We're looking for a boy. A runaway, a stray.. but not your average police 'missing persons' case. Time is short, so we need someone with intimate knowledge of the city to help us find this boy, rumored to be somewhere in a place
called.. 'The Pit'?"
Ti was happy that Giselle accepted Leon's presence so readily. After all, he remembered his own introduction to the group clearly... Leon was very lucky.
Now, as for the job she was talking about, he wasn't quite as thrilled. He never liked to work with undue pressure or blackmail. Being forced to take a job under threat of death was really not his style, but then he wasn't the one being threatened. He'd meant to ask her more about that but
unfortunately she was already away, talking to the new man.
She continued her pitch while he waited in silence until mention of 'The Pit'.
"You gotta be kidding me!" He exclaimed. "The PIT? How old is this kid? What the hell is he doing in a place like that?"
"You know that the Reich has that cesspool under constant surveilance, right? And you do know that it contains more psychotics, drug dealers, kidnappers and criminals per square inch than any other place in Moscow, yeah? Hell, more than any other place in Russia!"
Some rather colorful swearing followed in that native tongue.
"What's he doing in there? Who is this kid, anyway?"
"You came to the right person, I can help you get into the Pit and find the kid," said Leon. "It sounds like you're short on time so I'll state my terms up front.".
"First of all, we need to bring in some extra firepower for this. Trust me, you'll thank me after we get inside.", Leon was becoming more and more animated as he spoke. Negotiations required a certain flair for elaboration and creative license. This was Leon's game. "We'll need an army but I just happen to know a one man army that we may be able to bring in. He only does high profile jobs but I'll do my best to persuade him to help us out. We go way back. You can discuss his fee with him directly but I want him with us."
"I myself have a problem with a missing person in Germany," continued Leon. "All I have is a picture, everything else I know about him is falsified.". Leon looked directly at Frederick. "If a skilled hacker could access certain secure sources and use a facial recognition search to find out who he really was and where he was, I would be very grateful."
Diana listened to what Giselle said, about the job. "Sounds to me like the kid was snatched." she said, with a bit of disdain.
In her years with the SS, she had seen that sort of thing done, and had even done the snatched a couple of times. The SS was notorious for snatching kids as a form of blackmail. Do this, or you will never see your kid alive again.
That meant, also, that there could be SS watching the kid, as well.
Well, if that was the case, then she deffinately wanted in. Anytime she could screw those assholes over, was fine with her. "Also, I have an idea on how to get the kid out." she said, holding up the police badge. "Detective Vonya Gretzky at your service." She said with a smile. "I figured it might come in handy for trying to exit the Pit." she said. "Playing cop would be one way to get out. We just need to ... alter the badge a bit."
"This way, if the SS check the badge number, and I can guarantee you they will, it will check out. Or, several of us can 'become' cops, and use that as a way to escape the Pit. Rescuers of sorts, for the kid." she said. "We can play off the kid being some big shot's kidnapped kid, and we rescued him. A team of police exiting the pit, would likely get less attention then a band of mercs trying to do so." she explained.
"Hey, sweet deal." Ti says while giving the badge a once over. He'd seen enough of those things to recognize a real shield when he saw one.
"Got any more, or was that the last one in the vending machine? I know some people that'd pay big bucks just so they could hang it from their rear view mirror."
"Sorry, last one in the vending machine." Diana said with a chuckle.
"Think it'll get us out of the Pit? Maybe we shouldn't hang in a big group if the Reich has our descriptions? Might be a little obvious even if we are
under Police Protection."
"Well, it will take a bit of a make over, but I think everyone here can be altered enough so that they will give anyone doubt. Also, I think letting the SS know we are going in after the boy would help as well. After all, where is the best place to hide a stolen car? At the police station. Also, if we go in using the police id, it will throw the SS off the track as well. After all, who would think the Moscow 8 would be heading to the Pit?"
Diana turned to the stranger. "Name's Diana, you are?"
"Leon Metzger.", replied Leon with a smile. He recognized her as one of the women he had seen leaving the warehouse earlier. "A pleasure to meet you."
"If you need some changes to that badge or other paperwork done, I can hook you up.", said Leon confidently. "I know the best guy in Moscow. He'll be in the Pit when we get there. Pay him large, he's your man. But you'll need to be able to pay on delivery so have some currency on you."
It took a while to locate the man Leon spoke of. That, on top of finishing re-provisioning and doing a little beginning scouting ate up a couple days of time. While Gisele was still concerned about getting to things right away, a search would have been clearly fruitless without someone who really knew the area. It was too large and area and the boy merely one is hundreds, if not thousands.
The Pit was large. It was the direct result of the first nuclear weapon unleashed in warfare and it had happened 90 years ago. Germany had lost Stalingrad, and with that city a critical amount of her fighting force was wiped out. The Furher knew he no longer had the resources to win a conventional war and had called for the first nuclear weapon to be dropped on Moscow in April, 1943. Red Square was the primary target and it was utterly obliterated along with Stalin himself.
Due to some miscalculations on the part of the German engineers who built the Bomb, it ignited a bit too close to the ground for maximum effect. It was balanced by the fact that the Germans had also put far more uranium fuel in the bomb than really necessary to achieve the desired effect. The second and third bombs were much more efficient, but trial by error sometimes is the most effective teacher. At any rate, the explosion dished out a gigantic, shallow hole in Moscow, filled with ruins, bodies, and shadowy outlines of people burned into brick.
Decades later, this part of Moscow slowly began to fill with drifters, homeless, and criminals trying to escape the law. A sort of shanty-town rose from the ruins atop of old buildings and sometimes inside them. The Pit, as it is now called, is circular in shape and has varying degrees of danger. Much like Dante's rings of hell, the most tolerable areas lie on the fringes of The Pit.
It was near the fringe at a place called The Hole that you found Deacon.
"Give me a minute to talk to my friend.", Leon said to the others. "He's not the type of person you want to surprise. I'll wave you over when I've got things in hand. Keep a low profile."
Leon stopped a moment and looked into Gisele's eyes. "Anything else you want to tell me? This isn't just about some kid, it's something MORE. Otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. My pal Deke is going to know this. I don't care about details but you need to come clean on any added complications we'll face now if you haven't already."
Gisele kept her eyes impassive, almost too much so. They looked dead. "I told you everything about the kid I know. His name is Piotr, he's somewhere in the Pit, we have less than three days to find him, and after that it's too late to matter anymore. Find him and we get paid."
When they were finished talking, Leon made his way over to Deacon and began to speak quietly.
One man stood apart from the rest, both literally and figuratively. Leaning against the wall behind the women with his hands plunged nonchalantly into the pockets of his navy windbreaker, it was obvious this one was not a potential john. He immediately strycj passerbys as a rooster guarding the hen house with that cool, territorial gleam in his eyes. And that's exactly what he was. Not a glorious occupation, but it put food in his belly.
Scratching his bed head hair with one hand, his eyes, but not his head, shifted to observe the newcomers. A couple of skirts, but not working girls, a rather unremarkable fellow, one guy that breathes of importance (SS? business? hacker? the rooster's unsure which, but a man of that stature surrounded by muscle in this part of the globe means he's wielding money or power or both), followed by the biggest MF he's ever seen. While no kitten at a little over 6 feet and muscled, this last one dwarfs him by comparison. Still, he regards him without trepidation.
His gaze shifts again as one of the girls and a customer seem to be closing a deal.
"Hey, Leon, long time no see," Deacon greeted him in Russian. He offered up the hand he's been scratching his head with for a friendly shake before, "What brings you slumming in this cess pool? And with company?" He indicated the group with a nod of his head. Animal instincts carefully compressed under a human exterior, he kept his cool mask firmly in place while cornered wolverine impulses shoot through the reptile brain. Did that bastard sell me out to freelancers? Deacon wondered. Those people he's with could certainly fill the part. The .44 calibre bulge under his armpit started to feel heavy and hungry. But he gave Leon the benefit of the doubt; men in his line don't fare well when they go turncoat.
Leon smiled broadly when Deacon greeted him. He had been worried the man wouldn't remember him at all. Perhaps this was actually going to work. He answered quietly in flawed Russian, about as bad as the English Deacon had heard him use previously.
"Deacon, the others with me want to find a child who is in the Pit. The child must be found in three days. I need you as a guide and to back me up. I told them we go way back so they'd know they could trust you. They'll pay you for your time. You can work out your price with them... or I can manage you.". Leon's smile came back. "My management fees are quite reasonable."
Leon's face became serious again. "I can't do this without you, Deacon.", confided Leon. "I need this job and I'm guessing the extra cash won't hurt you any. You interested?"
Impressions of The Pit
Even as it made Ti nervous, The Pit filled him with that adrenaline rush of excitement he always felt when slumming. Granted, he'd grown up in one of the seedier parts of Muscovy but even that was a paradise compared to this place. From the few times he'd come here, the big man knew that danger hung out at every corner and fights happened sometimes as a way to say hello.
It was great!
Remembering the price on his head along with the warrant already out for his arrest he wondered at how easy it would be to leave this place, but didn't let that detract from his enjoyment of the moment. This is where real life occurred for him, where he could finally breath easily. No one cared about how dumb he was, or how uncultured and low. All that mattered was he was big, strong and intimidating. That was enough to mark him as someone of importance and fear.
He loved this place.
Spanish eyes peered from a smiling Russian face at all the shadows and dealings. He never lingered long enough on any one activity long enough to be rude, but he constantly watched for danger, secretly hoping to be attacked at any minute. Unfortunately, that never happened.
He wondered if the group would have enough time down here to 'play', but figured the job was going to take up too much of their attention. He knew a few places where people fought, bare handed, for money and never had the confidence to try his luck. Now, though, with his store bought brute strength and miles of armor plating he was ready to take on anything that stepped into the ring with him.
Well, maybe not anything. He remembered his loss against Mr. Bones clearly and didn't want to have a repeat of that dismal performance. Maybe it'd be best if he just focused on why they were here...
He didn't know what the deal was with this boy they were supposed to find. He was pretty sure, though, that if a kid was down here not of his own free will, odds are he was in one of the squid brothels. A lot of sick people were paying good money to be with little boys and Ti would dearly love to pull one of those places down brick by brick. Of course, now he was probably strong enough to do that literally.
This new guy seemed okay, though he wasn't sure if Giselle had really accepted him as well as she claimed. Ti was finding her almost impossible to understand... she seemed compasionate and vulnerable one minute, hard and abusive the next. If anyone of he party needed professional help dealing with their own inner deamons, it was probably her.
Too bad, though, because metal or not, she had a really cute...
Ah, they'd found the guide. He was over by a flock playing shepard when approached. Ti hung back and just watched the scenery, particulary some of the more attractive and younger of his charges and hoped this wasn't going to take long. He stood impassively, impressively in his tan longcoat and waited.
Ed looked around. He had seen things like this before, but it still got to him. Being what he was, he should be immune to this. He wasn't. Maybe if he had stayed in his maturation chamber a little longer. Maybe some of the scientist wanted to make sure he, and his brothers, were flawed in some aspect. He was unsure. Ed just kept a straight face as he glanced around, hiding the revulsion he was feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Diana had heard of the Pit of Moscow, but that was about it. There had been some very vague rumors and speculation about what exaclty it is, but had always put it down to just that, rumors and speculation. Now, however, she was face to face with it, the rumors and speculation weren't even close. The unabashed poverty is what hit her. Bulidings were still scarred from the bomb blast. In a way, it fasinated her.
In her travels, she had gone to the united states, and had read 'their' version of history, and found the contradictions fasinating. She had nearly gotten caught several times, something that would have gotten her into deep shit, no doubt. It amazed her, though, how things had gone right. A mistake here or there, and things could have been very different.
Her mind returned to the present. This place was well known all over europe. Yet, unless one actually saw it, the description didn't do it justice.
From the moment they entered the Pit, she was on her guard. If half the things she had heard about them were true, then this was, possibly, THE most dangerous place in the world.
When they stopped by a brothel, and Leon went to see his 'friend', she waited. Her arms were crossed across her chest, however, each hand reached into her long coat, for the handles of her twin pistols. From time to time, she took a whiff of the air, however, each time, she was rewarded with a headache. The air was so bad, her sense of smell was completely lost to her. That, only added to her paranoia. Not that it would have done a whole lot of good, being that it was a numbers thing, but it would have given her partially a piece of mind knowing that she could still smell an enemy. Now, she could not, and that set off alarm bells in the back of her head. So, like the others, she waited, alert for anything that might happen, or at least, hoping that she was.
She wondered about 'Leon'. She had barely met him, and already he was playing the middleman pitch. She had met his 'kind' before, and didn't like them one bit, even if they did prove to have their uses.
"By the way, do you know of any drug rehab centers, that are discreet in the extreme?" She asked. What the hell. If he had the connections, maybe she could put them to use for Nadya. She had promised her she would try to help. "I mean so discreet, that even the SS deals kindly." She said.
She knew that would cost, and cost a lot of money. But she figured if she had a bead on a place, then that was a start.
"Drug rehab? No, I don't know anyone off hand," replied Leon. "I can see what I can find out later when we've got more time."
Sit around long enough and people will tell you what's important to them. Of course Leon had done the same, telling Frederick exactly what made him indispensable. Leon wondered what Diana was hooked on... she didn't look like the type.
Diana's appearance seemed to heighten the odds that he would end up in a ditch somewhere after this was all over. Too many people to keep an eye on. He needed to make sure that didn't happen. Leon really needed to do some research on the Moscow 8 but didn't have the time. Perhaps Deacon knew something about them.
Deacon glanced up at the group Leon arrived with, looking them over with a critical eye. After some kid loose in The Pit... must be sporting some kind of new ware; or maybe a trannie (transgenic). A test subject of some sort, of that the navy jacketed man's reasonable sure; nobody willingly descends into the heart of this hell hole without worse demons snapping at his heels.
"Are they trustworthy, my friend?" Deacon asked, again in hesitant Russian. This close to the Gestapo he didn't want to attract any unwanted attention by blathering in English. "You know my, uh, predicament."
At the mention of extra cash, a slight ache, psychological mostly, throbbed in his lower back; he was in need of a new liver and kidneys and he knew it. Deacon had been scraping together what he could from these low profiles, trying to stay under the radar, but it was slow going. A job prospect like this could get him the needed organs from a street doc who won't ask too many questions.
Leon hesitated for a moment before answering. He looked like he was deciding how much to tell. "I'm not sure. They seem trustworthy so far but we won't really know until the kid's found. We'll need a way to keep them honest just in case. Any ideas?"
Deacon shrugged his shoulders, offering no suggestions; it's just one more instantiation of the prisoner's dilemma to him. No way to insure cooperation besides flashing your strengths to deter defectors; prove you're too invaluable to lose or too dangerous to betray. This is the law of the urban jungle as he's come to know it.
"If I see anything that suggests problems, I'll signal you. They don't have an exit plan yet which makes us valuable until we're out of the Pit. We should demand payment before that time."
"There's something you're holding back from me, tovarisch," Deacon warmly scolded after a few musing moments of silence, his eyes darting left to observe the arrival of another john. The fact that they don't have an exit plan yet relieved him of some anxiety, though. Meant they're not too tightly tied to the SS and Gestapo or they could come and go freely. Still, they could try to hand him over and cut a deal... he'd have to guard what he says. And make contingency plans.
"You're right of course.", said Leon. He really didn't want to talk about the others but he didn't know how Deacon would react when he noticed. "I don't want to mention it because I need you for this. But it's something you should know." He paused, not wanting to say anything explicit where he could be overheard. "I know something of our employers. They have secrets of their own to keep. It's vital we do not attract any attention."
"I believe your friends are growing impatient," Deacon said, pushing off the wall with his shoulder. He'd been eyeing the big man eyeing the ladies. "Let's do the meet and greet then." Lazily tucking his hand back into his pocket, he waits for Leon to lead the way.
"I think there's more to this kid than I've been told," added Leon. "But the potential reward makes these added risks worthwhile. In my work I've come to appreciate ambiguity, simple tasks are the ones that raise my suspicions."
"Da," Deacon concurred. "Probably a runaway, some kind of test subject, maybe. Too much hassle getting a kid in and out of The Pit for most kidnappers, I think. Know who's the hiring agent? No probably not, huh, if even they do. Let's go meet your friends before they think we're conspiring against them," he jokes, though with an edge of truth. Double-crosses were too common in these bleak days.
Ti quickly became bored and disinterested in the negotiations. He didn't know this new man and he wasn't sure what his value was beyond tour guide, but Ti was fairly sure he could manage without him. After all, while the man wasn't exactly a regular face in these parts, it also was far from his
first time in. He'd been here on the fringe a few times and knew some of the ins and outs.
And the streets showed so much promies, too! Why, there was a roving gang of musclebounds obviously heading for a beating. Though whether to
admister or receive, Ti wasn't sure. He did know, however, that he'd like to be there when it happened. Too bad...
And that hooker over there had been eying him for several minutes now. He could be having SUCH a great time if he weren't here on business. It took about all his willpower for the tall-good-looking man to NOT paw the ground like an excited horse.
"What is taking so long?" He asked in a quiet voice.
"Either he's in, or not. We'll be standing here all night missing the fun if he doesn't make up his mind.
Leon walked back to the others with Deacon. "My friends, this is Deacon.", said Leon. "I've asked him to put his other projects on hold in order to help us out."
Deacon nodded as he was introduced but didn't offer his hand. Instead, he assessed each member of the group in turn, trying to discover some hint of what Leon's keeping back and cannot say in present circumstances. Some of the faces look vaguely familiar, but so many circulate through the shadowy fringes of society that he can't keep up with them all.
The motley bunch radiated seasoned professionalism, but there was something about one of the skirts that makes him uneasy. A trannie, something feline about her. Probably got cat spliced into her genome, he guesses. He doesn't trust them; most of that was due to the fact that they put him out of work, he knew, but it didn't shake his feelings. Hed be keeping a real close eye on that one.
"Leon says you're looking for a kid in the belly of the beast," Deacon addressed Frederick, whose demeanor suggests he's heading up this outfit (Deacon assumes), in poor German. "What's the pay and do you got something better than 'boy' for a description? Picture or something?" Too many hustlers, willing and otherwise, and dregs of other flavors for such a general account to suffice; they'd have a better chance finding Hoffa's body in three days. At least it's laying still somewhere. Plus he was going to need something more specific among the people he knew on the inside for any hope that it will bear fruit on this job. At the team's expense, of course, not from his cut.
Upon hearing the familiar accent of a true westener, Ti's handsome face ignited and the big man smiled.
"American, no?" He seemed overjoyed at the concept of finally meeting one of that breed. "I LOVE it when plan comes together!"
The last line was delivered in a broken, poorly pronounced English that spoke volumes of Ti's education. All he knew about America and the English
language he'd picked up in movies and on TV.
For years he'd watched the old movies, devouring everything from John Wayne to Sylvester Stalone. Arnold Swarzenegger to Sigourney Weaver. Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Johnny Cash, Johnny Carson and Johnny Number Five. It was all gold to him and made the simple minded Russian think the entire country was populated by dedicated soldiers like Ranbo, super intelligent con-men like the Stainless Steel Rat, child
geniouses and brave adventurers. What a wonderful, colorful country that must be and how exciting it must be to live there.
Granted, he knew that the figures he'd watched his entire life were fictional, and that there weren't really Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles populating the sewers, but when all you saw about a place is romanticized, flashy imagery, it did tend to warp your perspective. The rest of the world tried their best to compete with the brilliance of the big Hollywood productions, and China and Japan had managed to crank out some good works, but nothing compared to a big budget blowout like only Americans could produce.
The old Muscovy studio, now under Reich control and guidance, was due to come out with Mishka's Marauders IV this season, but everyone knew it was just a poorly done remake of the American Dirty Dozen and its sequals.
And the acceptance! All those cultures living side by side and sharing ideas, concepts and ways of life. How wonderful it must be to chat with someone over a whit picket fence who, in another part of the world, would be your enemy.... Ti dearly wished to see a place like that.
What a wonderful night! First partying in the Pit and now he's met someone from the greatest country in the world. How could it get any better than this?
"Okay, okay... which movie am I doing..."
Ti adopts a deadpan expression and holds his fists out before him. Impressions at a time like this? Is the Ruski drunk?
"I vill crush you."
The blank expression holds for a comple of seconds and then... "Get it? Remember that one?"
Deacon shot Ti a deadpan look; he decided to indulge the big man like he was a child so he'd shut up. "I don't know; something with Schwarzenegger?" he answered in English, though quite low in comparison with Ti's booming voice. He shrugs, "I don't really watch many movies, though, even the classics."
"Now please, tovarisch, can we try to keep a low profile? The Gestapo are within earshot." he added in Russian, gathering from the man in the tan coat's accent that that was his mother tongue.
"Ivan Drago." Ti replied. "Rocky IV."
To be honest, he was a little embarrassed at the reaction.
"And, tell you what, if you really want the Gestapo to pay no attention, then by all means keep talking in hushed, conspiratorial whispers. They're really not trained to look for something like that. Maybe we should even go hide in some shadows somewhere. Put on cloaks and strap on daggers."
His words were harsh but he was still jazzed from the night air and the surroundings, so they didn't come out sharp.
"Look, we can't try to be sneaky, not right now. Look around you." He indicated the milling crowd around him, most of which were rowdy if not
"Maybe English was a bad idea, but do you see many people skulking? If we're the only people on this street keeping to ourselves its the best way
to attract attention. Stay this tense and we'll never make it past those guards."
"Best way to dissapear in plain sight is to blend with the crowd so, please, lighten up. All of us. Okay? We're in one of the best party spots in the world. Just enjoy."
"Ti," she hissed. "Shut the hell up!" she said in Russian. "Do you want to pay a trip to the SS interrigation chamber?" she snarled in a voice just over a whisper. "Keep in this stupidity, and you will." she said. "Okay, let's get this thing on the road. Where do we look first?"
"Hold on," Deacon answered, switching from Russian to German to address Diana. "We haven't discussed my fee yet or the job. Retrieve some boy, right? Three days? Have any idea why he's in The Pit? On his own or does he have company? These kind of details are going to make my job a whole lot easier. But money first; we can discuss the specs inside but I have to make sure it's going to be worth my time going in. Gestapo will let anybody dive in, but not every dreg can slither back out, if you catch my meaning. Got to be worth the risk."
With forked middle and index finger he indicated a couple of girls behind him, trying to make it look like he was talking shop in case the gate guards begin to wonder why such a large group has gathered. Deacon hoped his would-be employers catch on.
"WE have a way out, once the boy is retrieved," Diana said. "As for your fee, what do you THINK you are worth?" she asked. She was just curious at just how much the man thought of himself.
Leon smiled as the game began. First to name a price had the potential to lose if they quoted too high or too low. "How much are your lives worth? Walk down the wrong street in the Pit and you cash in permanently. Deke and I ensure that won't happen."
~Ahhhhhh ..... a smart ass.~ Dyana thought. "Really? Well, Ti," she said, nodding at him, "seems to think he knows the place well enough. So, why exaclty are you eeded?" She said. "Playing Tour guide is nice and all, but what else?"
'Ahh... ooh, noo!" Ti wanted to wave his hands and shout at Diana. Sure, he knew the surrounding area well and he could probably figure out what was beyond the fence, but he'd never actually been there.
As a guide, either Leon or Deak would have been the better choice. But, how could he tell her that without killing the deal? Admit it now and they
lost all of their barganing power and he knew Diana would just rip into him again about that.
Most likely the brief look of panic showed on his face long before he had to say anything. "The edge.", replied Leon simply. He did his best to calm himself and mask his tension. He couldn't let them know how much he needed this.
"If Ti knows the Pit well you may do OK.", said Leon. "You all seem competant, you might get the kid out. I'm sure Ti's told you the dangers you'll be facing."
"With professional help your chances are better. A lot better. Deke and I are that added edge that will help you find that kid. If you need that kid safe then the edge is worth a lot to you. If you don't understand what we're bringing to the table, you need our help more than even I expected."
Leon looked at his watch. He needed to wrap this up before Deke got pissed. "Show me you can pay us what we're worth. Don't waste our time if you aren't serious."
Facing Ti, Deacon had seen the brief spasm of panic on his face when Diana; she's bluffing, he knew. Time to call. He was just learning to dance the dance of biz, but he knew you always overstate your capabilities and settle for something closer to what you can really deliver.
"But you're on a timetable, frau, if I heard correctly. Your Ti might now The Pit well enough," and he flashed one of those crocodile smiles that says he knows more than she does about that, "But you don't want to spend half your time ducking into alleys because you busted in on the wrong turf in the first hour, eh. Plus I got connections inside; people who can be our eyes and ears. Probably make finding your proverbial needle in the hellhole a bit easier since the Pit's a big place. And Pit folk aren't too friendly with strangers. You think about how much finding this kid is worth to you and you quote me a price; if it meets my minimum, we got a deal. If you think you can take 6," looking over at Leon for confirmation that they'll pool their leverage, "Into a host-en with little or no intel and find one boy among hundreds in less than three days, be my guest. I'll be watching for you to come through those gates."
Ed & the Hooker
One of the hookers caught sight of a potential client.
"Hey, handsome," she moved up against Ed. "You look like you could use a little excitement." She was a bleach-blonde with dark eyes and would probably look a lot prettier with less makeup and a less slutty dress.
"They call me BMW, 'cause I'm a smooth ride," she smiled at him and licked her lips. Reaching out to touch his chin she put on her most seductive look and said, "What do you say?"
The other hookers, seeing the team had business with their bodyguard, had stayed clear of them. However, this one noticed Ed was very quiet and guessed he might not be with them.
Ed blushed rather intensly. He fumbled on his feet and stepped a few little
steps away from the girl.
"Umm.....I'v h-h-h-had t-t-t-t-too m-m-m-much alr-r-r-r-read-d-d-d-dy.
I-i-i-i n-n-n-need t-t-t-to c-c-c-cut b-b-b-back."
With his hands by his sides, Ed attempted to break off from the girl. He knew laughter will soon follow, and maybe a few catcalls, but he would take
it. Just for a moment he thought of just bolting and waiting for the group, but that passed quickly.
Had Ed just been an average looking joe, the hooker might have let it go at that. However, she decided that a guy as good looking as Ed would surely be more experienced than he was sounding. I mean, he wasn't born just six months ago.... Was he?
At any rate, you don't get rich at this business by letting good prospects just walk away. BMW pressed for the, uh... sale.
"Aw, come on, handsome, don't you like girls? I'm sure a strong fellow like you could probably get any girl he wanted, but I'm thinking maybe I have some tricks you'd like learn." She smiled hungrily. It was an act, of course, the kind of game that hookers thought they were supposed to play to attract good customers.
She reached out to touch his arm. "Why don't you let me show you something I think you'll like." She indicated going inside with a quick glance.
'Go for it!' Ti thought to the little guy. 'Might do you some good, put hair on your chest.'
But, no... Ed obviously wasn't enjoying the lady's antics no matter what the situation. And, besides, the girls around here probably had more
diseases floating around than an Nazi bio-research lab.
"Save it, sweetbread." He said to the girl. "He's tox. Got the burns real bad and can't put out the fire. Unless your Johns like hearing you
scream, I'd find another mark."
Ed looked over at Ti from the corner of his eyes, then back to the girl. The blank look on his face was quickly changed to one of re-assurance.
"uhhhh...y-y-y-yeah. Th-th-th-the d-d-d-d-docs s-s-s-s-said s-s-s-something ab-b-b-b-bout an ointment and s-s-s-some sh-sh-sh-shots f-f-f-for s-s-s-six m-m-m-months. B-b-b-big m-m-m-marks f-f-f-for th-th-th-the tr-tr-tr-treatment. I alm-m-m-most h-h-h-h-have th-th-th-the d-d-d-down p-p-p-payment."
Again he flushed but it subsided quickly.
BMW looked from Ed to Ti and back to Ed again. "Okay, honey, you take care of yourself then." She moved off down the block good way away from the 'window shoppers'. What did they think this was? An art gallery? The thought made her laugh as she walked away.
Ti took a long time in admiring the view she presented. Coming or going, BMW always did have some of the best chassis on the road. Only companies like Ferrari, Boughatti and Lamborghini had better styling, but that made sense.
Guns, broads and cars. All the truly beautiful things in life were best when made in Italy.
Looking around at the spectacle the group was creating, and the number of eyes they were drawing by simply standing there and not doing anything, Ti throws out a suggestion.
"You know, I might not be able to spell inconspicuous, but I know when we aint it. Too many people are starting to think we're up to something anyway, so why don't you three finish up the 'gotiations while the rest of us try to blend. Might get less attention that way, you know?"
"How about if Supergirl", He shot a thumb back at Giselle as he said that. "Backs you up, Kitten, while I keep Ed and Fred out of trouble? Say we got bored and hooked out for an acid bath."
It was a plan that was probably going to be turned down, but he threw it out anyway. For some odd reason Giselle and Frederick were inseperable even though she wasn't, technically, his bodyguard anymore. Still, she was the best choice right now to watch Diana's back and the group was just too large to go without notice much longer.
Ed was a bad choice to stay since he was already having trouble dealing with the fishnets around, and Frederick wasn't exactly a combat machine if things turned ugly. Ti was a bad choice, naturally, since the first sign he'd have of trouble was when a brick bounced off of his head. And even then there was no guarantee he'd spot it.
The game of 'name a price' was still on and Leon was waiting on one of them to actually begin the game with Deke so he would know who he had to deal with. Deke hadn't started so it looked like he'd played before.
Leon stepped over to Ed and Ti with a large smile on his face. He still hadn't figured out Ed's game, the man had potential to be a Kaizer Sose. Leon wondered if he was the one actually pulling the strings.
"Guess you're saving the test drive for later," remarked Leon to Ed. "Any particular preference on who can best handle your Autobahn?", he asked with a sly grin as he looked around.
Deacon offered a few suggestions of places to kill brain cells, though he imagined the lip is The Pit Ti's familiar with. Twisting to his right, the American waved over a pair of working girls. "See that these gentleman find what they're looking for, please girls. They're quite wealthy and trying to kill some time," he winked at Ti, hoping the dense man grasped at least this much.