TURN 5: The Mystery

Gisele waited with Frederick and Ed. The waiting game was a familiar one, but familiarity did not necessarily breed acceptance. Things were going wrong, but still they lay in wait, unmoving. She showed signs of agitation. Crossing and uncrossing her legs. The occasional sharp exhale of air through her nose. Checking equipment again and again. She was familiar with the game. But that didn't mean she had to like it.

She thumped a balled fist against her thigh fairly forcefully. The sound was loud in the comparative silence between the members of the second team.

"This is taking too long... Why aren't they talking to us?" she hissed quietly.

Admittedly, she wasn't well versed in the time it took to execute a proper kidnapping. She was, however, versed in stopping them. She also knew that if things were taking longer than expected, there were definite problems.

Disturbed from his focused condition by his bodyguard's worries, Frederick sought to reassure her.

Coded>//Relax, Gisele. I'm sure Chalk will let us know if there's a problem.//

Uncoded>//Chalk, should we advance or withdrawal?//

Chalk reported over the radio, //The situation is under control. Minor resistance from an unknown force
has been dealt with save two non-hostiles. Expect delivery within 30,// Chalk reported.

Inwardly he seethed to pursue the two men who'd escaped him, but that would leave Diana to handle the traitorous women by herself. Stuttman, at this time, was more important than taking vengance on those who'd interfered with his assignment.

"Slave, report current position, condition and the status of Stuttman."

While waiting for the unit to answer, he faced off against this Addy and Nadya duo.

"Now," He replied to Nada's question, "We leave with Stuttman and never see you again. Trust me, it's in your best interest."

Nadya didn't seem to acknowledge Chalk's words. Instead, she simply continued to face Diana, keeping one hand behind her back. "Adelaide, they have removed Stuttman to the roof."

The other woman faced Chalk and seemed more inclined to talk. To Chalk, she said, "You don't know what you are doing, Mr. Arkhan. You are being used, set up. The best thing for you to do right now, is had Stuttman over to us and walk away.

"But that wouldn't be in your profile, would it, Mr. Arkhan? No, you would blindly see this mission to the bitter end, wouldn't you? If you won't listen to us, then for god's sake LOOK at the data they've sent you after!

"You're already a marked man Mr. Arkhan -- just like us, now!"

"No, the best thing for me to do is kill you now, but I won't. You've done your research and if you know my name then you already know more about me than I can afford. We'll be leaving now."

"Diana, prep the van."

"You aren't listening, Mr. Arkhan. You just beheaded your own people," Adelaide patiently explained.

Nadya interjected, "Two minutes thirty seconds, Addy."

Diana didn't acknowledge the warning. She had her own timer going. She guessed it was more like three minutes before arrival.

"Shit. You're on your own, now. Your SS bosses aren't going to be able to help you after this. We are the only ones that can, now. Just think for a moment, Arkhan. We could have let my agents kill you or your teammates, and then took Stuttman for ourselves. We didn't."

Nadya nudged Addy gently and softly spoke, "Addy, we HAVE to go now."

Diana had remained in a defensive position, listening to the conversation, but she also began to listen to the other sounds around them. Just as she had been trained to do. She hd used her hearing to listen to what was going on in the club, for several minutes, then returned to the current situation.

At the mention of the SS, her eyes turned hard. She gave a quick glance to Nadya, and then to Chalk, and then back to the woman in front of her. The mention of the SS always got her attention, especially knowing what would happen if she were caught. Still, this was not the place to deal with something like that. There was a time and a place to deal with this information, and now was not it.

Her attention turned back to Nadya. Things about her, seemed to be falling into place. The woman's ferocity and excellence in hand to hand combat spoke of a high degree of training. But the moves she had used wasn't strictly military. And although she was very precise in her movements, Nadya did not have the cat-like quality that Diana had. A Splicer? Most definitely. Military? Possibly. But if so, she's developed something of her own style. That spoke of having a certain amount of freedom...

She was half tempted to question the woman, right then and there, but, again, it was not the time or the place. There were things about her that she wanted to know. What had she been spliced together with was one of them. Was she also persued by De Beers?

Then, things began to turn again. She had picked it up before the others, and had a good idea of what it was.

"We've got incoming, airbound." she announced. "My guess, eta five mintues." A minute later, the faint sounds of the jet could be heard.

She returned to the seeming arguement between Chalk, or was that Arkhan now?

Ed moved to a better location to communicate with his teammates. "W-w-w-we w-w-w-wait until g-g-g-given other options. If n-n-n-no options are g-g-g-given, we r-r-r-return to b-b-b-b-ase. Clear?"

"What people?" Chalk asked in genuine confusion. "The only ones I have working for me are the two here and a small, backup team. I've never seen these toy soldiers in my life." He indictes the bleeding, still forms of the dead agressors.

"Maybe you haven't done your homework. If you had, then you'd know I don't work for the SS and never would after what they did to my family. Try again.

"And how can they be my people if they're working for you? If you're going to play this game, then try to keep the rules, or at least the lies, straight."

Seeing that time was running short, Chalk ordered Slave to put Stuttman in the van and he followed.

"We're on our way." He called to Kellinger. "Secure the apartment."

"W-w-w-wilco, out." Ed turned to the team that was already in motion. "G-g-g-go." Moving as quickly as possible, Ed approached the target. His goal was to not set off any alarms or traps. Any resistance would have been met with deadly force. He grabbed his collapsible staff and held it in his hand for ready access.

When the Hacker heard the go order, he immediately began to focus. His skin turned pale while his pupils dilated. He'd need to be fast to stay next to his bodyguard. And he did just that. He was one step behind her all the way in.

The four story apartment building which served as Stuttman's residence was, as Ed, Frederick and Gisele found out when they approached the place, a secure building. As they made their way to the thick, mostly-glass door, they found themselves confronted with a panel of names with buttons beside them. In addition, there was an old-fashioned security card pass panel. These things usually responded to an encrypted radio response to a short-range transmission which acted to power the card. This would then unlock the door.

One button has the name "H. Stuttman" beside it.

Adelaide continued the intensifying conversation with Chalk. "There are no rules, Mr. Arkhan. You should know better than that. And whether you think so or not, I have been straight with you."

A whine of jet engines began to echo faintly from the sky, then began to grow rapidly louder. Two minutes. Diana counted off in her head.

"I'll leave you with a gift, Mr. Arkhan, a show of faith. If you're talking about Stuttman's apartment, then you're making a mistake. You send those people in there, and they will die."

While Adelaide was occupied with Chalk, Diana got a good sniff of her. She could, generally, tell when a person was lying or not, by the way their body chemistry changed. When a person lied, their sweat would
change, ever so slightly. Just like blood pressure and other things changed in the body. It was something that could not be helped. It just happened.

One of the things she had been trained in, was the use of smell. While she could pick up very basic of emtions through sweat, other thing could also be picked up. Like when a person was lying. Little things in
the body changed. One of them was the way the body smelled. This one spoke the truth.

She also took the extra 30 seconds to get a good sample of Adelaide scent, and that of the other woman. While Nadya's scent was the most dominant, as she was the closest.

"TIME to GO!!" yelled Nadya as she turned and bodily picked Adelaide up. Holding Addy with one arm around her waist, the blonde ran directly for a manhole.

"I will see you soon!" shouted Addy even as the two prepared to make good their escape.

//Security breach, abort mission. Go to ground, people,// Chalk broadcast to Kellinger.

"Count on it." She said aloud, although, mostly to herself. She then moved quickly to the driver's seat of the van. In a moment, she had started the vehicle, and the minute the others were in, it was off.

She drove at a normal pace, not wanting to draw any attention. She waited a few minutes before saying anything to chalk.

"So, I take it, you know her?" She said. "From the way she moves, I can tell she is a splicer, but I'm curious as to what she was spliced with. She's not feline. Her moves aren't quite that graceful. Tell me what you know about her. And, why did you quit the SS?" She asked.

As she drove, she took several side roads, and back streets back to the hideout. She made sure that there was no street tail. From time to time, she would have Chalk check for any air surveillence. That would have been much harder to elude. "And why's Stuttman so damned special?" she also asked.

Frederick was examining the mechanism for the lock when the abort order came through.

"B-b-b-break off. Ab-b-b-bort", Ed stammers out. He then went on high alert scanning all areas (up, down, 360 degree). Once all was clear, he moved the group to the van. Ed remained as back up and cover.

"Wait here, get out of the van, get into the van..." Gisele muttered quietly as the second team made their way back and piled into the van. Her tone was mildly critical, like a complaining child. It was far short of insubordination. Mild bitching for bitching's sake.

Though underneath it all, something was very wrong. Other hostiles, a security leak, and now they weren't even taking Stuttman's apartment. The mission was a failure. Did they even have Stuttman in hand, and would they even be able to get enough information from him?

She stared out of the window of the van, eyes flicking over little details. Agitation had given way to introspection. She turned over to glance at Frederick. She looked concerned.

"I hope Herr Chalk knows what he is doing..."

After getting no answers after a few minutes, Diana pulled the van over to the curb. "Look, I want answers, and I want them now." she said in a very angry tone. "That woman back there wasn't lying. I could .... tell." She says. "Now, from your reaction to her, I would hazzard a guess, you either know her, or have
worked with her. Now, why is Stuttman so damned inportant, the SS would send a hit team?" she said, half demanding, and half asking.

"Also, just who the hell are our employers? And, by the way, that was a heavy duty weapon frame that was on the way. Standard operating procedure for an SS mission that has been pooch screwed." She said, repeating what she had said earlier.

She put the van into park, and waited for answers.

As the van's engine rattled to a stop, Chalk faced Diana with his bloody eyes.

"I have no idea why the SS would send a hit team out after Stuttman or why they'd try to interfere with our mission, nor do I have any idea why she'd claim we were working for the SS."

"Then, when we get back, we have some major research to do. Our hacker friend is going to have a very busy day and night ahead of him," she said grimly.

"Speaking of which, how do you know so much about the SS operating procedures? You can search their databases all you like and never find me on any of their payrolls, but it sounds like you're the one who used to work for them."

"And, frankly, I thought you were the one she knew, not me. That's one of the reasons I didn't kill her."

"Not me, I've never seen her before in my life. But going by the way she was addressing you, I would she say knew quite a lot about you," Diana said.

"My birth name is D'Karem Arkahn." He spoke as truth. "Chalk is my street name and the only one I've really answered to for quite some time now. You may tell the others if you wish, but I don't see how that's
relevant now."

"As to your question, I did. And, I doubt you would find my name in any databanks, unless you dug extremely deep. I was an operative for the Abwehr," She said.

"And how did you get away from them?" Chalk asked, shocked. "I was under the impression the Abwehr did not like loosing any kind of asset."

"I charmed them into letting me go," Diana said with a sarcastic chuckle. "I escaped. And you are right, they don't," she said, very sternly. "Let's just say, there is a certain person who wants to get me back, very badly," she said, then goes silent, Chalk sort of gets the feeling that she thinks she might have said too much, already.

"Stuttman is important only in his connection to the space station we'll be going after, so perhaps the SS is afraid of what we'll find there. That's just a guess, though." He answered her questions honestly and never allowed his gaze to diverge from her face.

"There's something more then just that. They knew we were coming," She said. "They knew we would be after Stuttman. Otherwise, there is no way in hell, they could have had a team mobilize that quickly. There's something going down, and it's very nasty," she said.

Diana made sure to get a real good sniff of him, and judged whether he was telling the truth. He appeared to be, although the dusty smells of the van were interfering somewhat.

"I'd have to agree. This was too great of a co-incidence. If they were trying to take him, why do it covertly in the first place? They could just call him an enemy of the state and bring him in legally," Chalk wondered.

"For the best reason in the world. Use him as bait. Whatever it is he's working on, they knew someone would come after him. So, you use him as bait, to lure whoever it is into a nice little trap. Then, when the timing is perfect, you spring the trap, and you have now captured those who were after Stuttman."

"Yes, but they would have had to have known we were going after him tonight. I don't like what that intimates..." Chalk pondered.

He continued, "And no mole was planted. I'll kill both of those girls on sight next time. I held back for an assumption I shouldn't have made. The fact that they sent an agent in first, and had so much firepower available tells me they wanted a fight. But why did those two turn against their own troops? And if they knew about us, then they'd have known that they'd never have taken us with that small and poorly prepared force."

"It's not so much that they wanted a fight, it's that they were prepared for one. As for the two who turned, I'm not sure about them. They could also have been planted. I've seen it done. You kill off a whole team of expendables, to get a plant on the inside. The thing is, the target doesn't realize it, till it's too late. Meanwhile, the mole is doing everything to disrupt everything they can. They report on plans, and cause dissention among the targetted group," she says.

"It just seems like someone's playing a game with us, is what I keep coming back to. Half accurate information and accusations."

"Oh, you can count on that. Psychological warfare is dirty business. Get the target doubting oneself,
or get them paranoid enough so that they are sloppy, and then take them down. But all the time, they
are under watch." She says.

She put the van into drive, and made her way to the hideout. She took as many back streets and alleys as she could before arriving.

"No." Diana had been thinking about Chalk's pledge to kill the two girls. "Instead, why not use them as allies. I mean, think about it for a moment. We were out manned and out gunned back there, and I doubt either of is could have come out ahead, without their help. If they are agents, then why not use them. Also, remember, that one woman, Addy, I think her name was, was speaking the truth. That tells me, there is a mole. Or if not a mole, then there is some way they knew we were coming. Also, those two back there are pros. They knew exactly what they were doing. Now, I see this as one of two things: Either A) they played the SS, which is ballsy in and of itself, and are legit, and now can use our help. or B) this whole thing is a set up, from the job, to the target, all of it. We were guided along the way, step by step. From you making contact with all of us, to the whole thing with Stuttman," she said.

"To what end? What would the SS have to gain by 'guiding' us into a confrontation with the SS? If it were the SS against the Abwehr I could understand, but this makes no sense."

She paused while the took the van around a corner, and ducked into a small alley. She parked the van there for a moment, out of view from anyone, making sure that they did not have a tail.

After waiting five minutes, she continued the van on the way, back to the hideout. "Now, that russian chick, she was a splicer. Not feline, but something else. She would give me fits trying to kill her. On the other hand, as I mentioned, both of them could very easily be solid allies." she said.

"Not until we know more about them than they know about us. Before I'll accept their aid, I'll need to know their motivations."

"As for bloodshed... leave that to me." Chalk then lapsed into a brooding silence which lasted until the quartet returned to base.

"Okay, but just watch your ass. This thing not what it appears, as has been proven already. When we get back to the hideout, I want to do a scan on the van for bugs or tracers. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but it's kept me alive so far." She says. "Also, you might want to have everyone under go a scan as well. Bugs can be placed on someone, and you would never know it." She says.

Klemmer's cyborg bodyguard was at least happy to know they'd finally gotten Stuttman. No-one had previously mentioned any special skills with interrogation, but she assumed they would make do. Chalk could be intimidating in his own right, but that was about as far as Gisele's own expertise extended. She could intimidate well on her own. She'd had to before, especially as a bodyguard, putting on the persona of a rough-and-tumble street razorgirl, the kind you really wouldn't want to mess with in a bar. It had helped when clients wanted to take a night out, against her better judgment.

On the way back to the base. Frederick struck up a private conversation with his bodyguard. Anyone looking at him would have just thought he was deep in thought.>

coded>//Gisile? Who do you think we're working for? I've never met a fixer that could be trusted absolutely. And that call we got right after taking the base, the Intrusion Countermeasures were at least military grade. I need to find out. I promised myself a long time ago I wouldn't work for either the SS or the Abwehr. They've lost sight of the goals of the Reich. Their motives are selfish and corrupt. My loyalty lies with the mission of the Reich, first and foremost.//

The girl drummed her fingers idly on the interior of the van. She took a deep breath, and too seemed to be deep in thought. The two of them doing this in such a short span might've drawn Ed's attention, but who really cared.

coded// I don't know.. The base was very well equipped for a Jewish terrorist place. Anything can be gotten with enough money, though, even by that kind of scum. I don't know who we are up against, but it is more than Herr Chalk is telling us. Perhaps we would be wise to keep our eyes and ears open...//

She took a moment to stare out the window, reflecting on what to say next.

coded// I agree... though perhaps for different reasons. I... well, it is a long story. I knew enough not to get involved in government organizations. I think they are generally corrupt, but that is the rule rather than the exception, these days.//

Gisele looked around the streets from inside the van again.

coded// Though let us hope that our Herr Chalk is not among that group...//

Upon finally reaching the base, Gisele saw Frederick to his room personally. She was, perhaps, taking her status as his bodyguard a little too seriously. She had been hired for other reasons, of course, but this had been detailed first.

Tossing her heavy armored coat onto her bed, she didn't bother to remove the shoulder holster concealed under it. She approached Chalk first, indicating the unconscious Stuttman with a jerk of her head.

"Well, Herr Chalk... it seems we were successful after all. What shall we do with Sleeping Beauty once he comes to?" It seemed obvious she already had an idea, but was not about to go over Chalk's head.

Finally, everyone made it back to base.

"I would advise holding off a bit on that. The man was thrown through a door like a battering ram." Diana says. "I would guess he has at least a concussion or maybe even worse. Slapping him around and putting him under heavy interrigation right now won't do him any good. We need him alive and functioning, to get any useful information out of him," she said.

"I concur." States Chalk. "We need to insure he's stable before putting him to the wrack."

"I have some knowledge of interrogation, but I'm no expert," Chalk continued. "Diana, you seem to know something of the subject, would you care to handle that task? My methodes would most likely be successful, but it would be a long, messy process."

Diana nodded. While interrogation wasn't her strong suit, she did get a passing grade at it. "I will need a few things. There is a drug called Hazol. Commonly, it's used as a pain killer, like when you go to the dentist. However, there are other ... uses for it. The drug is unique, because it adapts to the person taking it, hence there's little to no risk factor, as with there truth drugs. However, it can get pretty
expensive. I believe it was last listed at around 750 marks per ounce." She says. "That is the safest way I can think of. Unless you are a trained agent, it should work nicely."

Slave continued to watch over Stuttman, squatting at the foot of his cot. Dorsal vents opened to dissipate heat built up in the fight at the bar.

"Slave." Chalk instructed. "Verify base integrity and monitor the perimeter." Chalk's voice was sharp and pointed as he assigned the busywork.

Slave scuttles off to inspect the welds on the security doors. All met established standards, so Slave returned to the center of the base and initiated a passive radar search mode.

Using some basic first aid, Diana brought the prisoner around then prepared to begin asking the questions.

Frederick asked each team member in turn what information they had about what happened. This information would be useful for finding additional information of the 'Net about what's going on. Each member complied, except Slave.

"I'd also like a memory dump from the Slave Unit. A detailed record of what happened would be useful to keep on hand for our own perusal," announced Frederick.

"Yes, actually, that sounds like a very good idea. Let me know what you find." Chalk told him. "You might want to check her physical components too..."

Unit Slave/04143 did not react to Frederick's presence until he attempted to connect to its interface jack.

Slave/04143 the moved to prevent access by physically restraining him. Initially, Slave/04143 will not attempt to cause harm. If the unauthorized attempt to violate its systems continued, Slave/04143 would initiate welding sequence... Frederick backed off.

Meanwhile, an increasingly fretful Chalk finally came to a decision and pulled Diana aside, away from the rest of the group.

"There's something I feel I need to check into before we can start asking Stuttman questions, but I won't talk about it at this time. Give me few hours, though, and wait for me to get back before you break out the rubber hoses.

"Okay, consider yourself covered." She says with a nod. "Just watch your ass."

Chalk headed out the door in silent mystery.

A few hours later...

"Chalk to base... lockdown. Expect company immediately if not sooner. I will be there in 10... bug out. They have the entry codes, security is frag."

He awaited a response from whoever and begins running, conserving enough energy to be able to fight if he has too..

"R-r-r-roger, w-w-wilco, out." Ed started to get ready for a physical confrontation. He darted to his room and grabbed his personal notebook, staff and personal fire arms. Otherwise it was expendable.

Once back in the main room he checked for unfamiliars, using all of his senses.

"Who? Who's incoming?" Diana will inquire. With that, she prepared to leave.

"Very bad men." Chalk answered her. "Do not lose Stuttman and await my arival. If things get too hot, leave without me and I'll find you later."

~I figured that.~ Diana thought to herself. "How did they lock on us so fast?" She asked.

"Who's going in my van?" she asked. "I'll take Stuttman, since he may be of value. Anyone else?" She asked.

"Is Slave in the van?" Chalk asked

"No, not yet, why?" she asks.

"Slave!" Chalk commands. "Enter van and excute complete self-system shut down. Repeat, enter van and power off!"

Slave complied.

Diana checked over her weapons, making sure both the safetys are off, and that they were ready to be used.

She will then help Stuttman to her van. There, she took a minute, and ran over him with a bug detector. Thankfully, he was clean. She then ran over the van as well which also turned up clean, and anyone who chose to go with her.

Ed helped Diana with Stuttman and the detection. Then he got in the van with her.

Finally, she got in the van, and prepared to leave.

Since Frederick was right at the computers anyway, he'll scramble the access codes. He then made sure all data files have been copied to his own systems and are wiped from the base's systems.

//I'm attempting to scramble the access codes.//

It suddenly hits Diana. The Blenders. "Chalk, help me set up a blender mine. We can afford to use one now, and keep one for later."

Gisele grabbed her coat, pistol, and extra clips immediately. She then picked up as much of the repair facility as could be easily transported, some clothing, and her painting and supplies.

She went immediately to Frederick to escort him out.

coded// Frederick, keep working, but make it quick. As soon as you finish, we're getting out of here.//

Suspicious thoughts about Chalk traveled briefly through her head, but she focused on the here and now. Namely, getting out alive.