Sprinting through the innocuous, Berliner crowds, Chalk made his way cautiously to the base. Careful not to draw fire from the mounted machine guns he found the parking area and met up with the gang in the van.
"This... looks confusing." He muttered as he climbed inside the vehicle. "They should have been here by now, unless I've been played for an absolute fool."
"No one has seen any sign of aggressors?" He'll ask. None were reported.
"Damn!" Chalk exclaimed. "I suppose you guys want an explanation?
"I encountered that Addy woman who aided us in the fire fight. She managed to produce very convincing evidence that one of us, whether they knew it or not, was acting as a plant for the SS. She also managed to convince me that by going to her I put the entire group into jeopardy... though as paranoid as I am about those notables it wasn't a very difficult task."
"What evidence would that be?" Diana asked.
"I still think that base security is compromised, though," Chalk continued. "Why they aren't here yet is anyone's guess... I believe they've had hours to organize a strike force. I'm surprised you're all still in one piece.
"It could have been a set up. She could very easily be working for the SS, or the Abweher. You were set up, from start to finish," Diana says.
"Personally, I don't think our presence in Berlin is required any longer, and to remain here would just put us in jeopardy. We have Stuttman and he has the information we need, hopefully. We'll be moving out of the city and into a more secure location."
"Any idea where to?" Diana asked.
"I'm thinking Muscovy by way of Sweden," Chalk responded. "Let's find out what Tri-Tech is really up to."
"Okay, that sounds like a possible plan" Diana said. "I guess we are Sweden bound."
"Great. Now how are you planning on getting there without papers?" responded Frederick.
"Anyone know of a high class forger?" Diana asked, half serious, and half with a chuckle. "If worst comes to worst, and we can't get any that are forged, then my other suggestion would be overland. After all, the border is a large area, and they can't patrol it all the time." she says.
Frederick came out from the computer room and made an announcement. "I don't think you can trust Adelaide and Nadya, they are Abwehr assets. I manage to get a hold of a new internal SS bulletin. It gives their serial numbers and length of service with the SS. Apparently, they were transferred in from the Abwehr three months ago as part of some deal. Anyway, according to the SS these agents have turned terrorists and murderers and are responsible for killing some 23 and injuring 40 in and around the Big Eden and also for the bombing of an apartment complex which killed eight people including a family of 4. The Abwehr has no record of them that I could find. But I've never been able to crack their main databases."
"No, I don't trust them," Chalk responded. "The thing is, I distrust the SS even more. What Adelaide told me just sounded too much like the truth to ignore. Of course the SS would say that about them, they've turned traitor against both organizations. They want us out of Berlin? Fine. We'll oblige. We won't be hitting the space station from here, anyway, so we might as well leave."
Using her bug detector to sweep the place, Diana was soon able to determine there were in fact no bugs transmitting in the Base or the team.
Then Chalk came home. Blip! went the bug scanner. Then it was silent for a while, as if there was nothing there. And then Blip! again. The pattern repeated every thirty five seconds or so. However, it didn't register as a transmission. Instead it was simply static that was so feint it could not be read past one meter from Chalk.
"Must be my after shave." Chalk commented, dryly.
"After shave with a 35 second cycle? I don't think so. Better start stripping. We'll want to find that bug. Unless you already know where it is." Frederick said this last part with a slight sarcastic edge. Kind of like he's poking fun at Chalk.
"Yeah, I know where it is. And it's not coming out without me being labotomized. Somehow, it was implanted without my knowledge. I figure the SS probably had an in with the street doc I went to a long time ago but I don't have any real proof of that I can offer."
"Well, if you know where the asshole can be found, I'm sure we can .... convince him to either remove it, or tell you what really happened." Diana said.
"If the information Addy's given me is correct, then the bug is soo deeply imbedded in my nervous system that it'd be impossible to remove without extensive damage. We can have someone go over me later, but I don't believe I'll be free of the thing anytime soon. Hopefully she was telling the truth about the jammer.
"Don't worry." He holds up his wrist. "The same thing, more or less, happened to Addy and she got some outside help. This device emits a jamming signal that'll keep them in the dark. I was guessing that they'd move as soon as they realized I was on to them, but apparently not. I don't know, and I don't like what that means, but I do know that it ticks me off."
Diana gave Chalk a hard glance, and then the look is gone, as quickly as it appeared. "For someone who doesn't trust her, you sure are referring to her a lot." she stated. "As for the SS, I think we can assume, for the most part, at least, for the moment, that that is true."
"Simply because that's the most likely option, right now. I trust the SS less than I trust her, and if we're interpreting the data from your scanner correctly, she's at least being honest about the bug and how to block it."
"I want the SS to die. I never liked them before, but now they must pay. If they want whatever's on the damned station this badly, I want them to not get it."
Diana shook her head at this. "You may damage them, and make them look like idiots, but I doubt you or I will ever see their termination." she says. "As for making them pay, that can be done." She says, with a very evil smile.
"As for what's on the station, for now let's just have to worry about finding a safe house for the moment, and questioning Stuttman. Then, we can go from there."
"I'm also not sure I want my employers to get it, either. Things just haven't been right lately and maybe it's best we figure out what's going on ourselves and decide what to do with it without any kind of intervention."
"Well, that is a double edged sword. On one hand, there is a huge black market for things like that, but on the other hand, double crossing them is a good way to get a death mark on your head. Granted some of these corps aren't as powerful as the Reich, but they can get pretty nasty," Diana said.
"So can I." Chalk's jaw forms a tight, rigid line along his face.
"W-w-w-with out p-p-p-papers, overland is our b-b-b-best op-op-op-option." Ed seems to like this option as he has very little contacts with anyone that could help him.
"Well, I'm not going overland. Let me know where to meet you and I'll fly. *I* and least have papers," stated Frederick firmly.
"Well, that's great for you." Diana says very sarcastically, with a glare. "Although, I'm not sure I would want to fly. If the SS gets wind of anything, then you are screwed. When you land, they will nab you." She said. "I know a couple of people who are good at making travel papers." She says.
"No." Chalk corrected her. "If the SS wanted to stop us they'd be at our door now. I'll bet, in their arrogance, they think they still have everything under control." A suspicious look crossed his eyes at the thought. "Though by what means I have no idea. We need to be careful from this point on, even more so than usual."
Frederick snorted in contempt. "They wouldn't stop me. The SS and Abwehr are both aware that I don't like them. But they're also away that I would never knowingly betray the Reich. My loyalty, and that of my family, is beyond reproach. They may stop you, but the most they would do to me is tell me to go home."
"Really? Well, I've known the Abwehr and the SS to lock up the most loyal of citizens for little to no reason. So, you want to gamble on your family's reputation, fine, that's up to you. Just don't come crying to me when they take you away in cuffs for interrigation," Diana shot back.
Chalk nodded at Klemmer's impassioned speach.
"And this is exactly why you need to stay with us, Herr Klemmer." His eyes will fall on the hacker intently.
"I don't believe the actions of the SS, as I see them, are in the best interests of the Reich. At the very least there is dissension in their ranks, and possibly even conflict with the Abwehr. None of that can be good for Der Faderland (sic), and by siding with me now you may gain the chance to expose that corruption. Haul it into the light of day where the buring eyes of the Fuhrer herself can cut it from her land."
"Fine, but don't expect me to get dirty. I don't do dirty," replied Frederick.
Chalk continued. "The trouble is not going to come when we try to move. It will most likely be when we complete this little adventure, and whatever results the SS were looking for is in our hands. I still don't know what that is... but there's a way we can find out."
"That's a good point." Diana concedes. "They like to strike when it's not expected."
He gestured at Stuttman.
"Yes, we need to find a safe place to get all the information we can out of Stuttman. That should tell us where we need to go next. Since Sweden is the coporate headquarters for TriTech, that's the most likely place though our executive might be able to direct us to a better location.
"From there, most of the space launches come from Muscovy so we'll probably be able to hitch a ride on a rocket, unless we can get so far into TriTech that we hijack one of their own private launches.
"Anything's possible at this point."
"We'll still need papers, and operating cash. Diana, while you're questioning Stuttman, Kellinger and I will see your contact unless you want to keep his identity a secret. I can still perform the interrogation if you'd rather, but I think you might be better versed in the techniques than myself.
"Regadless, I want Kellinger there to back you up if you go. Slave will stay close to Stuttman to protect him."
"No problem," replied Diana. "How about if you begin interrigations, and I'll end when we get back? Oh, and if you get a chance, get ahold of that drug I mentioned. It's like a truth serum but doesn't have any of the after effects that tradional ones have. It's kind of like going to the dentist and getting laughing gas." she said.
"As for papers, I know a couple of people who do damned fine work. They are paranoid as hell, and expensive, but they do damned fine work. The only thing I need from each of you is a photo." she said.
Chalk rubs his face thoughtfully for a few moments before responding to Diana.
"I've never had to do something like this before, but it looks like a reasonable option right now. My face would be very noticable and that's attention I really don't like. Does anyone know enough about disguises to give me some color?"
Chalk continued, "Klemmer, you're in charge of getting us our operating cash. I don't suppose you'd know anything about robbing banks?" he asked with a cold lipped grin.
At the mention of robbing banks, Diana got a grin on her face. "Hey, I know some people who would love to helpl" she says. "They are, what the reich would call "professional terrorists". Kidnappings, bank robberies, they specialize in everything like that." she says. "In fact, we are very close," she said, with a chuckle.
"No need. Herr Klemmer has the skills we require," responded Chalk.
"Sure about that?" Diana asks. "The only problem, though, would be it would probably take a day or two to actually get them to Berlin. With being wanted as they are, travel can be tricky." She says with a grin and a chuckle.
"And who exactly were you expecting me to take money from?" asked Frederick.
"Myself." Chalk pulled a credstick from his pocket and handed it to the hacker.
"This is the private account for all of our operating funds and my own retirement. Whoever I've been working for has the numbers needed to make deposits, and I assume they can monitor withdrawls with a good enough data tracker. We need this money someplace where they can't watch it.
"Go in, do what you have to do but launder the funds so we can use them. Create a diversion within the banking system like a terrorist attack, drain the funds and make it look like a robbery or just convert them invisibly to hard currency. It doesn't matter to me.
"With luck, no one will even know about it. It's a small enough account that the bank president wouldn't even have to report it to his insurance company, just replace the money out of his own pocket to preserve the bank's reputation. Even if it's reported he's still going to try and keep the noise to a minumum."
Frederick took the identifier that Chalk gave him and proceeded to the 'Net. After determining how much money was in the account, he divided it by 100. This was his working amount. The first thing he did was select 100 diferent accounts with at least as much money as the working amount and set up delayed transfers into them from Chalk's account. This will be delayed by 24 hr. Second, he performed immediate transfers for an equal amount from each of those accounts to one of a hundred accounts in another bank. Third, he transfered that money trough a series of banks and accounts, consolidating it slowly as he went. Some of the transactions were delayed until sometime in the next 24 hrs and some immediate. Finally it ended up back in the original bank under Frederick own name. Along with a request to prepare cash for the closing of the account. Frederick then went back to Chalk.
"I think I've managed it. Your account won't show as empty until tomorrow. I need to stop by the bank and close the target account. They should have cash ready for me to pick up."
"Can we do that from any branch? I'd prefer to get moving as soon as possible. Let's head for the countryside for now and find a quite place to ask a few questions."
Frederick's mind was on something else, however. "When you interrogate Stuttman, find out his bank codes. And if he has any bank code for Tri-Tech. Laundering our funds cost us a pretty penny. In the mean time, I need to go to the bank."
coded//Gisele, you coming? We need to pick up a lot of money//
Frederick got his coat on and headed for the door.
"Let's hit the bank on our way out of town. If everyone's ready, we'll get moving," Chalk said.
"Wait a minute..." Chalk started again.
"We have a lot of people going a lot of different directions. Let's try this from the beginning."
"A safer location is important right now, so let's focus on that. We need to relocate while we're all still together. Preferably to someplace outside of Berlin.
"Diana, we can't provide your contacts with a picture of me until we come up with a disguise. Let's do that as soon as we're set up, and then you and Kellinger can take care of the paperwork.
"Klemmer, it'll only take a few minutes to stop at the bank, assuming there's no trouble, so we'll do that on the way out of town. Since I'll be handling the interrogation at the same time, we'll get the serum on the way out as well."
"Oaky." Diana said. She put the van into drive, and moved down the street and out of the city. "Any idea where we are headed, exactly?" she asks.
"I'm not sure... which grocery store carries truth serum?" Chalk asked with a straight face. "You're the expert on that one. After that, I'd say Klemmer's bank, then pick the kids up at soccer practice, stop to get dinner and home."
Diana chuckles at that. "None do. You have to get it at a pharmacy." Diana chuckled, and gave Chalk a sideways glance, chuckles some more and shook her head. "You're the boss," she said with a smile. At the first pharmacy they came to, Diana pulled in, and went inside to find what she was looking for. She came out several minutes later, and handed the bag to Chalk.
"Give him one dose of this." She said. "Then, allow about 20 minutes for it to take effect. After that you should be able to question him, and his answers should be truthful." she says. She started the van in motion again. When they come to a branch of the bank, she pulled into the parking lot. "Okay, boys and girls, time to get some cash."
"Frauline Gisele and I should go in alone. We wouldn't wan't to attract too much attention." With that, the skinny hacker started toward the bank door.
Trailing along with the group, Ed hung in the transport. He kept a look out for anything that might indicate a tail or otherwise give him suspiscion.
Shortly before leaving the van with Frederick, Gisele flashed a smile toward Chalk. It had a certain lazy ease to it, almost disconcertingly calm.
"Frederick and I will return with the withdrawal immediately. After that, I will do all I can to make you more... passable, Herr Chalk. Perhaps it would be good for the rest of us, as well."
She left with Klemmer without being ordered or bidden, following him casually. Her walk and stance were slightly different, the word "bodyguard" not seeming appropriate to the pair, even under scrutiny.
"Passable?" Thought Chalk to himself. "Maybe I should just tell the border patrols I'm going to a costume party as Andy Warhol..."
Frederick and Gisele walked into the bank. Even though what they were doing should have been well covered, it was still a nerve-wracking thing to go through.
A million worries began to assault Frederick's mind as he pushed through the bank doors. His movements on the web could have been tracked. The base might have been watched and SS men could even now be closing on his friends' position. Or just as bad, some second string bank network security drone could have been sitting around sniffing packets, selling information on transaction movements to the highest paying mercenary or mafia.
A million marks. Damn, that was a lot of money. In spite of everything he could do, Frederick could feel a trickle of sweat begin tracking its way down his temple. He brushed it away and hoped no one noticed. Before he headed for the teller, he glanced at Gisele to see how she was faring.
It was a little unreal, actually. She looked absolutely, inhumanly calm. Not a trace of sweat or reddening of the skin was detectable. She was like ice. Or just a common woman out to make a normal withdrawal from her bank as she always did twice a month.
Shaking his head, Frederick approached the teller and told her what he wanted. The woman say the woman was surprised he wanted to take out a million marks from his accounts would be an understatement. Frederick's nerves seemed to sway under the strain as he waited for her assistant manager to arrive, and then later the general manager of the bank.
As they counted out the bills in various nominations, Frederick felt like the eyes of half a dozen people must be upon him and the time it took seemed to stretch into eons.
And still Gisele looked as normal as if this were an everyday occurrence.
Nonetheless, the money was soon readied and placed in a steel briefcase. Once in Gisele's strong and capable hands, the pair turned and quickly walked out of the bank...
Gisele took the briefcase with a gentle smile and even held the door open for Frederick as they exited. By the looks of her, nothing was amiss at all. She hoped that this image was broadcast to the others, and to Frederick. Seeing one person exuding calmness tended to make others relax as well, and by the looks of him, Frederick needed relaxing.
"That wasn't so hard, was it? Just another day at the office," she chimed in gently, yet another attempt to get Frederick to just stop sweating bullets.
coded// Nothing to worry about. Just don't look back and for God's sake calm down.//
This was all well and good. Keeping a calm face was remarkably easy, but inside she was perhaps just as hopped up as Frederick. She had never held this much money before. With this kind of cash, her debts would be easily taken care of. It was an interesting and exciting prospect that made her smile like that cat who'd eaten the canary.
coded// We... had best get back. You did well, Frederick. Good job. Let's be on our way.//
She began to escort him back, without seeming to be an escort at all. All the while, a smile played on her face.
coded Frederick sent, //Well, with any luck we'll be able to get Stuttman's bank codes and empty his account. Plus, we need to be on the look-out for other ways to earn money. A million Marks isn't going to last us a year.//
Chalk watched calmly as the two make their way back to the van, his eyes scanning the surroundings for any sign of trouble and the ever present cane tap-tapping against the dash.
At last Frederick and Gisele had the money and the team began to pull away from the bank. The team was still considering what to do about travel papers as Diana manned the wheel.
Pulling onto one of the main thorough fairs, Diana prepared to cruise a bit until their next step was worked out. Eventually, it became apparent someone was following, albeit not very closely. Worse, they seemed to have been doing a good job of it. The team's driver had only now realized they were being followed, and she realized coldly that they could have been followed for longer than that.
The car in question was, of course, a black BMW hovercar with windows tinted, obscuring the number of passengers it carried.
"Heads up, we have a tail." Diana said, as she picked it up. As she identified the type of car, all kinds of thoughts went running through her head. She recognized the government plates on the car, and and right away, De Beers came to mind. Of course, it might not be him. But he did have this thing for black BMWs. Diana din't believe in coincedence, and figured it was either SS, or Abwehr, of which neither was a particularly good sign. Thoughts raced through her mind. Could it be De Beers? Had the SS possibibly alerted him, after having identified her from the club? The thought they could work for Tri Tech entered and exited her head just as fast. Tri Tech didnt' drive government plates. "They have government plates, so choose your poison, SS or Abwehr." she said to the others. "Either way, we are getting into deep shit." She says.
"Don't worry about them," Chalk advised, "at worst they'll try to box us into an ambush location. Try to lose them as we're getting out of town, or find a good confrontation spot. For now, just keep heading for the pharmacy and act like nothing's wrong.
"Klemmer, can you see anything to run a make on them? I'd like to know for sure who we're dealing with."
Slave powered up.
"Diana, start heading out of town and watch for ambushes. Kellinger, keep an eye on the car behind us while we watch up front. Be careful about air support, too."
Hopefully the van had a rear facing window that would enable him to watch the streets behind.
"If you think you can lose them, go for it, but I'd rather set up a confrontation in our advantage so we can find out who they are.
"Slave, initiate radar search of area. Identify possible pursuers and notify us of forethcoming traffic patterns."
Chalk wasn't sure if Slave had the logic capacity to analyse the bustling Berlin streets that well, but it certainly was worth a shot.
Stuttman, having kept very quiet since he came to after Diana's ministrations, finally spoke.
"Ahem. Excuse me but, who *are* you people? Why have you kidnapped me, and what can I do for you that would enable all of us to part ways peacefully? Or.. uhm. If you haven't kidnapped me, then I think I would thank you from saving me from the woman who threw me through a door. Except, that all that talk about stopping at the drug store has me a bit nervous, to tell the truth." He sounded just a little bit pathetic. He'd been trying to figure out what was going on, but had failed utterly. At least he was sober.
It was by now late at night (around midnight), and everyone had had a busy day. Stuttman himself was still nursing a nasty bump on the noggin thanks to Nadya.
"Don't worry, Stuttman. Everything will be over soon. You did check him for a tracker, right?" Chalk will ask Diana.
"Herr Stuttman, is it? I am Herr Klemmer, Systems Security Specialist. What do you do for a living?"
Frederick was trying to start up a conversation with Stuttman. However, he knew Stuttman may become suspicious if he noticed that the conversation is pretty much one sided.
"I just crunch numbers, plot trajectories, that sort of thing. Then I send the results I've pushed through my formulas to the next higher up. Why do you ask?" questioned Stuttman.
"Trajectories? What kind of trajectories? You mean missles or something?" Frederick deliberately ignored Stuttman's question, hoping that posing another question will distract him.
"Well, rockets and orbital railguns. Space station maneuvering, too. Why, I have a 98.7% accuracy rating," Heinrich Stuttman beamed.
As chance would appear to have it, a number of trashcans and roadside debris tumbled into the path of the pursuing hovercar. The driver, apparently quite adept, yanked the nose of the vehicle up and the hovercar rapidly ascended and accelerated. It quickly passed out of the view of the ancient van as it moved to hover almost directly overhead.
"Hey, that's pretty good. So do you plot the routes, or do they let drive those big Space Stations too?"
coded to Gisele, Frederick commented, // 98.7%? That atrocious. It's a good thing he's not a hacker. Anything less that 99.9% would get him killed is less than a week.//
Smooth motions drew the window down on his side as Chalk leaned dagerously out. Keeping one hand solidly wrapped around the 'oh shit' handle, the albino reached into the opposite side of his jacket from his magnum.
Instead, a higher tech version of the same device appeared which he then aimed carefully and he fired his EMP gun...