12pm - Noon. May 1, 2030.
Diana rose from bed, as the phone was ringing. She let the answering machine Pick up, not really wanting to deal with it. She glanced at the clock. Noon. She groaned. The night before she had been to a party, and had gotten very drunk, and barely made it back to her place, before crashing out. While she didn't have a hang over, her head was a fog. She needed a shower.
After the shower and getting dressed, she checked the answering machine. It was one of several fixers she knew, informing her about a job.
Aw, work. It seemed that her line of work was never done. The gist of it was that someone was looking to hire her, and an address was given. She wrote it down, then deleted the message.
She then went downstairs, to her van, circa 2020, and went to the address. After parking, she found the restaurant and went in, looking for the guy. He wasn't exactly hard to miss.
She looked around the restaurant, using her abilities to scout out for De Beer's men, or anyone out of place. She listened for a minute, trying to pick up on something, some conversation that was out of place. However, finding nothing, she went to have a seat, where the prospective employer was.
His dress spoke of being affluent, yet the place was the sort that that type of dress was not out of place. The albino skin, and dark red eyes caught her attention right away. She approached the table, and took a seat. "I was told you were expecting me." She said to him.
When the waitress came around, she ordered a screwdriver.
"Yes, indeed." Chalk replied. "I'm glad you decided to join us, Huntress. Hopefully we can form a most efficient team from the talents being brought together on this day."
"And, please, call me Diana. Huntress is ...." She chuckles. "Just the street name."
1pm, May 1, 2030
Frederick Klemmer had received an email about three days ago from his sources on ShadowNet. That was where most of his business was conducted, or at least set up first. ShadowNet was constructed by a group of European hackers who wanted a secure way of exchanging information among themselves, be it job-related or informational. While nothing could be truly considered 'secure' on the 'Net, it was the best thing they had. To the best of Frederick's checking this contact was legit. Someone wanted to hire Klemmer to help return stolen property from the hands of terrorists. Pay was negotiable, as usual, and Klemmer had an appointment made with the contact to meet at a pub to discuss it a 1 pm today. Klemmer stepped inside the establishment and looked around, finally spotting a pale man seated at the proscribed table.
The exceedingly skinny young man approached the table with a grin on his face. He couldn't have been more than 18 or 20 years old. His clothes belied a well-to-do background which his posture of arrogance confirmed. The dark gray cotton slacks were a sharp contrast with the light gray, high collar, silk shirt. Even the designer backpack he carried didn't spoil the look. One would have thought such a well off young man could have afforded a personal trainer to help him put some meat on his bones.
As he spoke, his voice reflected a genuinely good mood. "Good afternoon. I am Frederick. I understand you have need of my services."
Immediately taking note there was a woman there, too, Frederick took a moment to graciously introduce himself while remarking on her attractive, dark blue eyes. Frederick's mother had made sure he learned to always get on a woman's good side from the moment he met her. She also made sure he knew that the best way to have his compliments taken seriously is to always mean them.
"Guden tag, Frederick." The pale man says while sipping his broth. "Yes, indeed, I represent people who have need of your formidable skills. I must regret that I haven't heard of you personally, but the faction I represent holds you in high regard."
"As do each of the people who will be joining us this day. Please, have a seat. Would you like a drink or perhaps something to eat first? I would like to save business discussions for when the entire group arrives."
Diana nodded to Herr Klemmer. She took extra deep whiffs of both, judging their level of sweat they are putting off, against what it should smell like, should they be "honest" or "corrupt", and waiting for a sting to go down. Her keen senses told her volumes about each of the men, and later Ed, too.
Once into negotiations, Frederick decided his to do his best to determine the technical requirements on his part. If he had to purchase new software or obtain a new decryption routine, his price would go up. With any luck, he already had what he needed. Eventually, it became clear it would be up to him to pinpoint the location of a terrorist group by tracing their communications across the Net.
Frederick took time to try to identify any possible genetic or cybernetic enhancements on the Huntress, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Somehow, the Huntress didn't seem to notice his subtle analysis of her.
He ordered a steak and a pint of German stout.
"It doesn't surprise me that you haven't heard of me. Being too well known can be a hazard in my line of work. It is enough that the ShadowNet knows who I am."
It was obvious that Frederick's table manners were practiced and more cultured than average. He never touched his food with his fingers, used his napkin at all the appropriate times, never talked with his mouth full, etc.
Chalk raised an eyebrow at the though of such a thin, sickly man with such a hearty appetite. "Where must it all go?" He wondered, silently, to himself.
The small talk did continue and Frederick seemed much more versed at social pleasantries than Chalk. It seemed the albino understood only as much of that social courtesy as would prevent him from being considered an outright boar. Nonetheless, he seemed determined to maintain control of the conversation and steered it away from topics which held him at a disadvantage. If this weren't a business meeting, Frederick would have considered him almost rude.
He also seemed to have little to no interest in anyone's eyes or other body parts aside from the occasional mention of trigger fingers.
2 pm, May 1, 2030
Edward Kellinger wasn't sure what to think. He was pretty new to this scene, but he'd had a few job under his belt so he wasn't lost. It was just that he didn't have an effective way to check out these contacts before he met them face to face. That made him nervous, but until he could come up with a better way, he'd have to risk it or starve. The fixer he'd used to get his last job pointed him to this new one, but the fixer wouldn't be handling the negotiations this time. Edward had arrived a couple hours early and quietly watched as the pale man at a table -- the table he expected to meet his potential employer at -- held quiet negotiations with an attractive woman and a skinny young man. Two PM; time was up, and Edward had to either leave the bar and approach the pale man to keep the appointment, or loose a possible opportunity to make some cash.
Ed broke away from the bar just as his drink was about to be refilled. Walking up to the designated meeting table, he nervously looked at the two people there.
"I'm s-s-s-sposed to m-m-m-meet with y-y-y-you," he stuttered. He pointed at the man, "The m-m-m-message d-d-d-did n-n-n-not m-m-m-mention anything ab-b-b-bout a g-g-g-g-girl." Ed flashed a very weak smile and a flush passed through his cheeks as Chalk invited him to sit with them.
The pale man looked up at Ed coolly and indicated he should take a seat.
"Guden tag, Herr Kellinger," he spoke in native German. "I would like you to meet Frau Huntress and Herr Klemmer. If all goes well these will be two of your teammates."
The pair introduced themselves as well.
"You may refer to me as Chalk."
Upon closer inspection Ed noticed that the pale man was not just pale, but in fact appears to be albino. His hair was ghostly white and fine and there was an almost translucent cast to his skin, the blushing pink of blood vessels just barely noticeable beneath the surface. Through his eyes could be seen the same tint, though there it has a darker, more crimson cast. It was a bloody gaze that seemed to penetrate.
Leaning on the table within easy reach was a darkly polished, wooden cane of significant girth; a walking stick of some sort whose handle was lavishly decorated in a carved, pearlescent angel. The figure's gracefully curving nude form was protected by her own wings and the entire work shimmered in the restaurant's moody light.
"There is one more to arrive this evening, and I would prefer to reserve all talk of business until she makes her presence known. I hope that you're comfortable enough. Would you like something to drink?"
"N-n-n-no, b-b-b-but th-th-th-thanks for th-th-th-the offer." At the mention of another female, Ed flushed just a bit more. Ed still sat so that one of his legs was outside of the chair. He seemed to calm down in a matter of moments, however. He peered around the room at odd intervals, still nervous.
"Be calm, Herr Kellinger, I assure you this location is secure. Vigilance is always a virtue, but here you may be at ease."
Chalk engaged in small talk occupying a little more time as he waited for the others to arrive, though it quickly became obvious that he was sizing up his people. He tried to gauge their reactions and personalities, and understand their motivations and drives.
3 pm, May 1, 2030
Gisele had been told by the agency they needed someone to fill a bodyguard role for a while. Curiously, the contact had wanted to negotiate pay with them in person and the company decided to allow Gisele to handle it so long as she gave them their standard 15%. He had set up a meeting at a pub downtown and since Gisele's people had done a background check on it which seemed to indicate the contact worked for a legitimate company, they felt there was little danger. Besides, bodyguards were expected to handle this kind of thing.
Still, Gisele was cautious enough to show up a half hour early and watch the assigned table. There were four people there already, and that concerned her a bit they didn't look like they were planning an ambush. Besides, who would ambush a bodyguard with no client?
Gisele had watched the four from the corner of her eye off and on, trying her best not to attract attention. It was one of her better skills. No-one had said anything about multiple clients or witnesses. It concerned her, but she wanted the job. She was in a lull recently, having just completed an assignment accompanying a Japanese businessman to various meetings with software companies. It wasn't glamorous, but most jobs rarely were.
Finally satisfied with their apparent lack of action or motive, she rose from her seat and approached the table slowly, giving them ample time to see her coming and not be surprised by it. Immediately, she drew up a chair and sat down slowly, shrugging the coat off her shoulders.
She addressed Chalk, who had been at the table the longest. She wasn't sure if any of them had noticed her before, and kept her tone neutral.
"Guden tag," she said simply. "I apologize for keeping you waiting."
"Not at all, Frau Silber," Chalk told her. "Thanks to Herr Klemmer we've been having a fine conversation. Please meet the rest of your potential teammates."
Chalk went on to make a brief introduction of the all giving each a chance to speak in turn. Unlike the others, Chalk did not ask Gisele if she wanted anything to eat or drink.
"Shall we get down to business, then? I've been assigned a task by my employer which calls for skills and abilities beyond my own, and hence been given lease to sub-contract certain roles which you each might fill.
"All of you have come highly recommended by my employer and your respect in your communities is of a level commensurate with the task ahead, which is the liberation of a certain resource from a terrorist cell within Berlin.
"Herr Klemmer, it will be your job to locate this organization. I do not know what all that will entail, or what precautions they may have taken, but I trust in your abilites to overcome them, whatever they may be.
"Frau Silber, it will be your job to keep him safe. Your combat abilities might be called upon to aid the group as a whole, but your primary mission will be to act as bodyguard to Klemmer.
"Herr Kellinger, Frau... Diana." Chalk's blood-red eyes nodded at her correction in nomenclature. "You will be accompanying me in the actual penetration of this cell and liberation of the asset. I will be serving as commander with Kellinger acting as de facto leader in my absence. For these services, I am prepared to offer each of you the following payments."
Chalk then, slowly, pulled four envelopes from his light gray jacket and handed each to their proper recipient. Inside was a small card with a figure that was fair for a serious task, maybe a little higher than the average run but not overly so.
As the negotiations proceeded, the waitress that had been serving the group most of the afternoon left. In her place was a young male, about age 17 who seemed less than enthusiastic to take over her table. However, drinks continued to be provided to those who wanted them, and little attention was paid them by the rest of the people here.
Chalk was edgy due to the change of service. He refused to injest anything the newcomer brought to the table and suggested that the dealings move to a more private location. He glanced suspiciously around trying to find anything else that seemed out of place.
Nodding his approval, Ed moved to leave. As he had nothing, he left no money. On the way out, Ed opened all his senses to his surroundings and was soon flooded by the mass of humanity that spilled everywhere onto the streets.
Gisele watched Ed rise and head toward the door, with no apparent interest. She did the same with the strange new waiter, with the same almost lazy ease, watching unobtrusively. Now that she has met her client and employer, and been given preliminary payment, she looked Frederick over carefully, not even bothering to hide her scrutinizing gaze, assessing exactly how much work it will be to keep him out of trouble.
"Herr Klemmer, please just call me Gisele, if that will put you more at ease. It's best that we be comfortable with one another if we are to be working together, after all." She smiled for the first time since sitting down with the group.
The newly hired bodyguard didn't look much the part. Dressed in black slacks, indistinct black leather shoes, a simple off-white T-shirt covered by a thin, if mostly decorative, moss-green cardigan sweater-vest. Looking like a fairly nondescript woman in her mid-20's, she really doesn't seem the type to be a highly regarded bodyguard.
She defers to Chalk as to if and when the group should leave.
Frederick smiles at Gisele and took a swing of beer.
"Not at all Frau Gisele. The DatenWulf is often given a bodyguard by his employers. I've gotten used to it. I must warn you though, I can be a bit temperamental. If I seem upset, don't take anything I say personal."
"Yes, I believe we should leave now."
Klemmer and Silber joined the rest of the group.
Chalk allowed Ed and Diana to exit first before following, leaving Gisele and Klemmer to work out their own order of departure. He also be kept his eye out for trouble at all times.
Outside, there were busy people moving up and down the sidewalk and the streets were filled with fast moving cars and a variety of motorbikes. Overhead, a few hovercars streaked by as their engines whined and left a turbulent wind in their wake.
Not far away was a park with a large band shell (currently unoccupied), as well as a running fountain containing a bronze statue of Adolf Hitler, founder of the greatest German Empire to date, and father of the Third Reich of 2030. Few people were present here, giving this place the most peaceful scene for further discussion. There were a number of old trees present, and the hilly shape of the park leant both privacy in certain areas, as well as potential ambush points. Recently, nightly news reported a string of rapes having taken place here over the past week, otherwise there had been nothing out of the ordinary as far as anyone in the team had heard.
Chalk still appeared very cautious.
"Perfect," hissed Chalk.
With cold ease, the albino sent Diana and Kellinger on a quick recon sweep of the area while he checked the shell itself.
"You two stay here," he suggested to Silber and Klemmer.
Again with a nod towards his current boss, Ed moved out. With as casual appearance as he could muster he scanned the nearby area for anything that might pose a threat to OPSEC.
Once his sector was cleared, he looked for his counterpart. He soon had eye contact and gave a quick hand gesture to indicate he was done and all is acceptable.
Fortunately, the pair were able to give the all-clear to Chalk and they reconvened their meeting in front of the band shell far enough their voices would not be amplified.
Once everyone was back together, Chalk gathered the group. He waited just one moment, listening to the breeze and the sounds of the crowded city so close at hand. While undergoing its normal, hectic changeover to the Berlin nightlife, the city seemed peaceful and secure. No band of hostiles seemed about to leap from the nearest tree and threaten.
"Now we may talk about your answers and mission specifics." He told them. His strange eyes sweep over each in turn, awaiting their responses. Do they accept, or do they decline?
They must all look into his bloody orbs and reply.
"I m-m-m-must take the j-j-j-job," Ed stammered out.
Turning to Chalk, Gisele's eyes were at first cold, revealing nothing. After a moment, she smiled a little and nods. With a slight tilting of her head toward Klemmer, she responded, "I'm in."
After all, she thought, it couldn't be too hard protecting a computer jockey. If he was good enough to earn a reputation, he wouldn't be traced easily, and thus, not much trouble protecting him. But she wouldn't be here if they weren't concerned, so she was going to play it by the book.
"Herr Klemmer.. We'll talk later and discuss certain terms."
The others murmured assent.
Late that night saw Frederick bent intently over a terminal, with his A/V interface jacked into the machine as he ran searches through the web until he found the trail of a particular email which had been bounced all over the web until the eyes it sought found it. It had originated with a particular underground group of terrorists who were trying to notify their superiors they had successfully grabbed a cyborg Slave unit when it had been brought in for maintenance. They stated they were sure its brain was that of a fellow Jew, name unknown and that they were attempting to re-educate the mind-wiped creature. They were awaiting for further instructions.
The trace had proved extremely difficult. In fact, it was either sheer luck, or sheer incompetence on the part of the terrorists that the email was traceable at all. Nonetheless, it took Klemmer half the night to pin down the virtual address and then trace the path to a physical location. Klemmer was good; that much was clear to everyone.
Chalk, ever cautious, decided they needed to move the same night to limit the odds that the cyborg would be moved before they could penetrate the terrorist base. The location was underground and accessible only by way of an access tunnel connected to the portion of the U-Bahn, a subway system under the intersection at Sh–nhauser and W–rther streets. Since automated defenses were a possibility, Chalk wisely decided to bring in the entire team.
This proved a wise move. Chalk and Diana, on point as they moved through the underground were fast enough to avoid an infrared trigger attached to a camera and automated submachine gun sentry. Diana was able to disarm the system and Klemmer was able to attach his cyberdeck to the exposed node. Using it as a protective firewall, he broke into the terrorists closed, locally networked system and turn off the security. This was bound to be noticed, so Chalk ordered an immediate attack after leaving Gisele to her duty in protecting Klemmer as he attempted to steal any information the terrorists might have, especially in reference to their captive cyborg.
Chalk, Ed, and Diana burst through the doors. The terrorists had barely realized their security had been compromised before the three warriors assaulted the base. This cell had five operatives, of which only three had weapons nearby. It was a slaughter. Somehow, as Chalk led the attack, he seemed able to ignore point-blank fire by MP10 machineguns from the terrorists and closed to enter hand to hand. His ornate cane came apart to reveal a high-tech razor sword which he used to make mince meat of his first target. His target never touched him. Ed and Diana proved much faster than Chalk, and while he seemed to cut his opponent apart at leisure, the other two attacked two terrorists each.
Ed meanwhile was able to fend off one opponent armed with a heavy pistol and one unarmed. Twisting and cart-wheeling through the air, the man seemed in his element. Using moves neither Diana nor Chalk had ever seen before, he quickly disarmed one opponent and laid them both out. He seemed to sustain only minor bruising due to the gunfire.
Diana, too, proved to be more than a match for the remaining terrorists. The remaining armed terrorist attempted to gun her down with his silenced MP10 but Diana quickly disarmed him and shot him dead with his own gun. A kick first to the groin of the remaining terrorist and then the head silenced him.
Meanwhile, Klemmer was delighted. He had just found where they were keeping the cyborg. Unfortunately, someone had also just found him.
Gisele was a good bodyguard and she was ready when the stranger slunk toward them. Vicious razors were extended from beneath her fingernails. Unfortunately, she was nervous, hearing screams and gunfire from down the tunner. Perhaps that was why she missed. At any rate the man retaliated with a cruel shot to her stomach with his .40 caliber pistol. Her armored longcoat easily absorbed the impact, however. The noise surprised the distracted Klemmer and he jerked the A/V visor off and looked around almost in a panic at the nearness of the gunfire. He witnessed an irritated looking Gisele brush at her coat, ball up a fist, and punch the guy straight in the chest. The force of impact was incredible! With merely a punch, the guy's chest caved in with a whoosh of air, there was an audible crunch as bones were cracked, and the man flew back a good three feet to land in a pile on the ground. He didn't get up again.
Shortly thereafter, the group stood before a sealed metal box that looked much like a casket but stood upright. It was basic and featureless, but shone like polished steel or chrome. A single handle stood out on the front. It looked far too cumbersome to drag out of here without attracting attention, so Chalk hoped whatever was inside was mobile or at least self-propelled. Telling the others to be prepared to subdue it as necessary, he opened the casket. Various gasps echoed through the small team as they bore witness to technological power of the Reich.
Technologically, it was a thing of beauty. Aesthetically, it was practical. Personally, it was horrifying. The whole team, save one single member, looked at it and couldn't help be disgusted and yet fascinated at the bizarre creature the Reich had made of a human being. The creature's oddly familiar lines looked humanoid but quite mechanical. It was sleek, yet also armored. It had been stripped of the dignity of a face, instead having a simple smooth dome and an iris portal in place of a mouth. It even hinted at the lithe lines of a female form, but that may have been an illusion. There appeared to be some kind of access panels in its torso. Its sealed system seemed capable of allowing it to operate in any environment.
It took one step forward to balance itself and stand upright on its own. Its head slowly angled each of the team members as it appeared to silently scan them. When it finished it seemed to orient itself toward Chalk and it cocked its head as if in question.
Suddenly, Frederick and Gisele's staring survey of the creature was interrupted. A beacon on an uncoded radio frequency caught the attention of their cybernetic transmitters. It was a simple message, encoded as text instead of the usual wide-band A/V trasmission. It took them a moment to reconfigure their comsets to correctly interpret the transmission. It said, "System online. I await instruction."
Simultaneously, Frederick and Gisele sent back, "Who are you?" and for the first time realized they were each equipped with cybernetic transmitters and glanced at each other in surprise as the cyborg replied.
"Slave/04143. Repair and maintenance unit. Identity irrelevant. I await instruction." It seemed to still be waiting for some action by Chalk.
And then the phone rang. Signaling to Frederick to begin a trace, Chalk moved to answer it. Frederick used his wireless comset to remote in to his deck which was still attached to the local network to begin running a tracker. However, almost immediately, he was forced to dash to the unit and yank it from the network as a powerful countermeasure program instantly attacked it with a power feedback loop. Frederick was going to have to get a hold of a mainframe to track this call, and that wasn't happening today. He looked to Chalk and shook his head. No trace would be possible.
Chalk paused before holding it to his ear, weighing the odds. Finally, he decided to answer it.
"Yes?" He paused for a long moment, listening to whoever was on the other end. Dana and Ed looked at one another, uneasy and Gisele stared at the cyborg with an unreadable expression on her face. Finally, Chalk replied, "Understood," and hung up.
Chalk slowly turned to look at the others.
TURN ONE BEGINS