History in the palm of your hand

The Set Up

These stories all start like this; Johny's at his computer with a conundrum, he's got files, and is doing this -thing- where he's being all information-management and he's totally in control and -super cool- while doing the minority-report thing.

This story is not like those. Johny is lying down on the couch, watching a trid-game while Marcus is reading a scandle-sheet about the English Nobility. The video-phone rings, but it doesn't give him the chance to get up before it force-connects. The dark skinned, angular face of Carla Brooks, director of security and operations (And Sam's boss) fills the game screen just as the Eagles were about to score a touch down. Sam doesn't have the option of being angry.

Carla Brooks, Director of
Draco Foundation Security

"Clemens. Your attention please."

"Ah shit, yeah boss. Whats up?"

"I have a personnel request from Wordsmyth. He requires field agents for one of his issues."

"He what?"

"Shut up. He requests a specific mixture. One Human non awakened, one elven non-awakened, one elven awakened. All watchers, all trustworthy."

"You're kidding me, right?"

"I never 'kid', Mr. Clemens."

"No. You never do. I'll put them on on a plane to Manhattan in… 10 minutes."

The kitchen smells faintly of strawberries as Kass quietly works with the knife in her left hand, telling Maya, "Now the real secret is to go slow, and not cut off your fingers. See how I hold it? Just like that, and take your time. On the trid, they are always being so speedy, but really there isn't any reason for that, they are just showing off." Maya watches Kass as she works, or at least has her head turned that direction, seeming happy for the attention and the soft elven words from her second mommy.

Slinger is actually down at the Aurora, doing katas with one of the beginner classes. It galls him to be a beginner at anything, but right now he's learning how to roll and tumble with the rest of the class. He's mostly mastered that part — down, roll, back to his feet. Down, roll, back to his feet. Lining up with the rest of the class, doing it in sequence with the others.

Lilith is in her apartment, taking lessons from a grizzled, stick thin old woman dressed in black. The lady scowls at her, as Lilith stands before a music stand filled with papers. Her voice rises and falls, rises and falls…and the old woman lectures Lil on her breathing, tapping out time with one wrinkled finger.

Sam kills the call with a grumbling mutter, much to the amusement of Marcus. It's not often Marcus gets to see Sam put in the spotlight like that. "Marcus, call Slinger, Silk and Slither." A pause as the alliteration hits him. "Supurb." Says he then, moving to get his shoes on. "Have them meet me here. We'll take an air taxi to McCarron, then a flight to New York."

"Right! Don't forget to wash behind your ears, mummies calling!" Despite that, Marcus turns to the video phone, calling Kassandra, then Lilith, then Slinger, to request their presence as swiftly as they are able.

Slinger is right in the middle of a roll when his phone goes off, over in his bag. He does complete the roll at least, coming up right to the scowling face of his sensei. He bows apologetically. "Apologies, sensei. My employer," he adds. Sensei ahs, and nods, gesturing to the youth, who walks over to his phone and answers it. He's on the phone for only a moment, before he bows hastily to Sensei again, then to the class, before he grabs his bag and heads out of the dojo at a dead run.

Lilith has to politely interrupt her lesson as her cell goes. She scowls at the message, then winces at the chewing out her instructor gives her. "Signora, please, please, I am so sorry…" She bows humbly, amidst fervent promises to practice towards the angry little Italian woman. Signora leaves, and Lil grumbles quietly as she grabs her canvas bag, always ready at hand, throws some nice clothes with it, and drives out to Sam's as quickly as possible.

Maya is less than OK with the situation but only fusses a bit while Kass gets ready, which takes less time than people might think. She is always prepared, with Maya's bag sitting ready by the door and her gear layed out in one of the hundred secret locations around the house. Travelling requires a certain set of gear, and so she will take an assortment of bags to the car, then Maya, sending Aladriel a message along the way.

Sam is dressed and ready to go when the closest to him arrives, probably Lilith, followed by Slinger, then the far flung Kassandra. He's got a monochromatic black suit one, so dark it seems to absorb light itself. The only ofset is a crimson red silk tie that falls perfectly in the coat with nary a wrinkle. His hair is coifed perfectly and Sam would, in that instant, not look out of place standing next to Damien Knight or Lucian Cross. His hands are behind his back as he waits for them to arrive.

Slinger still has the phone to his ear. "I got time to get changed out of my gi? And what can I bring with me?" the youth asks, hearing the urgency, but making sure he has his checklist. Kind of useless to show up and not have any of his items — he depends a little too much on them.

Marcus will tell Slinger to change quick and come ready to travel.

Lilith slides into the flat with her usual grace, complimenting Sam's black with her own dress. The only offset is the large, sturdy roll up back she carries with her. "Good evening, Samuel. Pleasure to see you again."

Far flung indeed. Travelling in from the far reaches of the Ute Sector, Kass makes a stop by one of the sitters to drop off Maya before heading to the core to Sam's place. Having a few clues from Marcus about 'mummy' calling, she will have brought several stylish changes of clothes in one bag, but is currently *not* dressed up. She slides out of the elevator without any bags, heading to Sam's and knocking to enter.

Slinger at least has his gear in the SUV, keeping it in the compartment with the spare tire. His foci are in his gym bag — the ones he takes off for aikido, anyway. Of course, he had a watcher spirit summoned to keep an eye on the bag, just to make sure nobody made off with the thing. Safe enough, that is. He jumps in the shower, swiftly changing back into his street clothes, and shows up at the appointed location with his gym bag — and a larger overnight bag which contains his armor and a few other items that he keeps just for when he has to kit out for a Shadowrun.

Marcus will allow the various runners in to the room, where Sam is now chatting with Lilith about some innane subject. He never says anything about a run until everyone is present. When the others do arrive, he gestures back out to the hallway. "Follow me. We are proceeding to the Helipad, then to McCarron Field, then via plane to Laguardia, then a helitaxi to the DIMR. We have been called to a meeting there with the director. Have your smiles on, kiddies."

Lilith arches a brow. "Thank goodness I've dress appropriately." She smiles appropriately, eyes sparkling.

Kass rotates, pausing to murmur to Marcus some bit of gossip before nodding to follow Samuel out into the hallway and to the roof. "Ah, the director. How pleasant." She glances curiously to Slinger and then to Sam, raising an eyebrow but otherwise not asking any questions.

"Stupid, stupid question," Slinger remarks. "Director of what?" He can think of various options, but none of those make sense. Not for a street kid like him. The list of where we're going draws his attention, though. "I got armor in here and other stuff — what should I leave at home?" he asks Sam, with a hint of concern in his voice. Well, more than a hint. Speaking swiftly, with a quick grin at Marcus only, along with a smile for Lilith and Kassandra. But he's all business, sensing the need for speed.

"The Director of the DIMR, Slinger, and bring your bags. They will be secure aboard the plane." Says Sam, moving out and down the hall to the elevator. THe elevator will take penthouse level tenants up to the helipad on the roof, where an aerotaxi will swiftly move them where they wish to go. It's part of the luxury lifestyle.

Lilith chuckles softly, pausing a moment to give Marcus a little wave of greeting. "I was guessing something like that…"

Once they make it to the roof, Kassandra's bags are there either loaded or waiting to be loaded. She only smirks faintly, hands moving to quickly secure her hair in a loose ponytail before they board the aerotaxi.

Lilith can move with surprising ease in those spiked heels of hers. She gets in the aerotaxi, still chuckling softly to herself.

"DIMR," Slinger repeats. The fact is, he's still, at heart, a young street mage, not really a mover and shaker. But he follows Sam up the elevator, figuring there will be plenty of time on the flight to figure out exactly what's going on, and what he's getting into. He checks — yup, he put on deodorant after his shower. "Cool. I assume he has a job for us, and this isn't to hang medals around our necks, or somethin', right?" he asks with a grin. And lights up a smoke once we hit the roof, unless the taxi is right there.

"No. I very much doubt the Scribe would require the very specific makeup of the team he's requested, to hang metals on your neck, Slinger. I highly expect the worlds foremost metahuman expert on magic and mana to have greater things to do than pagentry." Says Sam as he climbs in to the helo, holding the door for the ladies.

Lilith slips past Sam and buckles in. "Oh my. This *should* be interesting."

Slinger sucks down three drags of smoke, then tosses the cancer stick over the side of the building. It'll go out by the time it hits the ground, most likely. He exhales a cloud into the air, his mouth formed into a silent 'O' when Sam tells him that — and very quietly he stashes his luggage and climbs into the chopper, belting himself in. And just sort of sits there with wide eyes, looking for a moment like the kid that, in many ways, he is.

Giving a look to her bags to make sure they are secured properly, Kass will nod her thanks to Samuel, slipping to a seat and strapping in efficently. She listens to the little clues floating in the air, both eyebrows raising at the mention of the Scribe. She holds her tongue, however, primly adjusting her skirt, looking woefully underdressed currently.

Sam settles in for the ride to the airport. He will explain very clearly, that he has no idea what the mission requirements are, what the mission is, or even why the specific composition was requested; One Nobilis Awakened, one Nobilis unawakened, one Sapiens Unawakened. No clue at all.

Slinger glances toward the other two, giving them another nervous smile. "So… at the risk of sounding stupid… heh, too late for that. What's DIMR stand for?" the kid asks. He fidgets a little bit during the ride, though he stays leaned over near the window, peering out like a kid. He's spent very little time in a helicopter when he wasn't getting shot it, actually, in his few years. And seeing the city spread out below him, as we cruise through it, is amazing.

Lilith tilts her head as she listens, a curious expression on her face. She's intrigued. She looks over her shoulder at Slinger and grins, but is silent, perhaps waiting for Sam to explain.

Johny looks to Slinger, somewhat amused. "The Dunkelzhan Institute of Magical Research, Kavian." He somewhat expected slinger to know that one, but Slinger has been out of circulation for a while. "Ehran is the current director, a position he took only after stepping down from the Tir Council of Princes in early 2059."

On the Plane.

Kass, for her part, stays quiet and watches the interaction between the man she knows and the man she doesn't. She double-checks her straps as they climb airborne, ankles crosses and hands in her lap, looking calm.

Lilith crosses her feet neatly and looks over at Kass as they settle in the plane. "Good evening, by the way. It's nice to see you again, Kass." She smiles, perhaps with a bit more life then she's had the past week or so. She also gives a nod to Slinger. "You too, Slinger."

The elven girl nods soberly, "It is good to see you again as well, Lilith. Another trip, eh?" Kass chuckles, nodding quietly to Slinger, glancing between the human woman and the elven man, "I see you two have met?"

Lilith shrugs, getting a bottle of water out. "Aye, I've met the fella. Did a bit of a run with him earlier, he does good work." She winks at Slinger. "Sam seems to like him, so I'm taking him as trustworthy as well."

Slinger smiles. "We've had some run-ins, yeah. Sorry about the last time," he adds, apologetically, to Lilith. "Didn't mean to intrude where I wasn't wanted. It /was/ a nice dinner, though," he adds, with a warm smile. To Kassandra, he nods. "Sam and I have known each other for years. Worked together all that time. We go way back." He fidgets a little bit more, stares out of the plane, trying to suppress some of his wide-eyed fascination. And fails.

Kass plays with one of the bracelets on her right wrist, nodding. "Well, that is usually a fairly good recommendation, yes." She listens to the man, nodding, "Ah, an old friend then. Well, those are often the best to get to know, then. I believe we met not too long back over a piece of business with my friend B-Side. I go by Silk on the streets, but a friend of Samuel's can call me Kassandra."

Lilith shakes her head at the lad. "It's no worry, really. Just procedure, I guess." She smiles at him, then nods again to Kass. "And me, Slither…although, I really should get the title changed. Malus suits me better." She shrugs, just idle fancy to wile away the flight with.

Slinger chuckles, nods. "Yeah. Thanks again for your help on that — you got us about twice what we would have seen from any other source, and I know it helped a lot of people." Lilith gets a warm smile, a soft chuckle. "Well, Slither might get confused with Slinger on the radio," he points out. "That'd be the only practical reason. But I s'pose you can go by whatever name pleases you."

"As long as people got helped, that's the important part." Kass murmurs, moving from playing with her bracelet to winding a piece of hair around her finger slowly and then back down again. "Malus is pretty good, easy to yell 'Mal' if we need to shorten it."

Lilith nods, settling back comfortably in her chair. "Perhaps I'll suggest it too Sam, then." She idly turns the little ring on her pinky finger, glancing over again to Slinger. "So, Slinger. What were you up to when you met Kassandra? I'm rather curious to hear the story, if it isn't a sensitive issue."

Slinger chuckles. "They both sound so… evil, though," he says with a playful grin directed to Lilith. The question, though, causes him to lift a brow, shrug. "Nothing huge. We got together some supplies to deliver to the Warrens, specifically to the Saints. They're… old friends of mine, too. Not bad for gangers, really. Ran the blockade to get some relief supplies in there. Helped them out, helped people out in general."

Letting Slinger tell the tale, Kass glances out the window for a moment before her eyes seek out the ring on her left hand. She smiles a bit, cheering up just looking at it. She is mindful of what is being said around her but silent for the moment, letting things flow as they will.

Lilith nods. "That was good of you." She keeps her voice soft, smiling at the magic elf. "As to my names…well, Slither sounds less evil and more, well, I don't know. Silly, maybe." She chuckles. "It's rather foolish, isn't it, discussing the validity of commtags."

Slinger chuckles. "All names like that are silly. Or pretentious, which is silly. Or just strange, which is silly." He shrugs one shoulder. "But it beats using real names on the air, and it's one of the places get a chance to show off." He leans back in the seat, staring out the window. "So we're headed to Washington?" the youth asks, tilting his head. Curious, at least.

"Names are important. Silly or not, it is a part of you." Kass muses, quietly, "Every name adds a little story to your life." She shrugs a little, "Sorry about waxing philosophical." She thinks a moment, "I am honestly not sure, myself, if we are headed for Washington or The Big Apple or some other place. It all depends on where the Boss is, I guess."

The captain of the plane can inform, if asked, that the destination of the current flightplan is to La Guardia international Airport, in Brooklyn, New York State.

Slinger glances around once on board. A little more comfortable than the air taxi. "Anything to munch on?" he asks, tilting his head. Not demanding, just asking the question. "And can we smoke?" he wonders. Asking both of those questions of — well, Sam if he is with us, or the pilot if not. The youth already has his cancer sticks out. "I admit, I could get used to flying like this. Our own plane… like we were important people or somethin'," he comments, lopsided grin and all.

Once on the planeride to La Guardia, Kass will excuse herself to go change, vanishing into one of the back areas of the private aircraft.

The aircraft is the finest in corporate leer-jets, one of a hundred thousand in the air; sleek and elegant, fully stocked for a 5-10 hour flight. Trid, tortoise-mode matrix, lavatories and a small galley. There is a stewardess who will tend to needs, but no, smoking is not allowed.

Lilith casually sits, buckles in, politely asks for a small whiskey on the rocks, and gets out a book to relax with for the flight.

Slinger scowls, and will hold his addiction, but he won't like it. At least, that part of it. By the time the flight is over he's going to be more than a bit irritable. "You'd think this was 2010, the way everyplace is starting to ban smoking," the kid grumbles. "Jeez. What do this big execs do when they want to have a stogie?" He shrugs one shoulder, but overall he's still relatively pleased with the trip. Just the addiction kicking in. Hopefully food will help settle his nerves during the trip. That and a fizzycoke.

Lilith chuckles as she flips a page. "Meditate. Learning to overcome an addiction when one needs to can be a valuable trait…imagine if you're on a run and suddenly have to go cold turkey? What then?"

The stewardess smiles politely. "The big exec buys his own plane, Mr. Slinger. Can I get you a drink?"

Kassandra will likely be gone 20-30 minutes.

Slinger chuckles softly. "Yeah, I know. Good practice. Builds character. And why," the youth asks, "does everybody insist on putting a 'Mister' in front of it?" he asks, though it's good natured. A Fizzycoke would be wonderful," he adds, with a warm smile. He really is mostly kidding.

Lilith just smiles to herself as she reads. "As regards meself, Slinger, it's my stolid British formalism. That and Mr.Slinger *does* have a nice ring to it. Like something out of a trid."

The stewardess shuttles off to the galley, both the check on Kassandra; as a 30 minute bathroom break is a bit much; and to prepare drinks as requested.

Some 30 minutes later Kassandra will reappear from the aft of the aircraft following the stewardess, having changed into something more appropriate. A black gown is molded to her figure, a custom number that seems to have been poured over her body rather than slipped on. A matching black wrap accompanies the gown, and she seems to have spent the rest of her time on her hair and make-up, having taken the time to curl her hair and make sure everything is just -so-.

Lilith smiles, rising from her seat to take the bathroom next. "Kassandra outdoes me, as usual. I doubt I can match her excellence." She gives the woman a good natured wink, however.

"I didn't want to show up all frumpy, or else I fear that they might fire me." Kassandra chuckles faintly, standing for as long as she can while the plane is en route. "I shant want to sit too long in this, or else it will wrinkle up and that is simply not acceptable." The elven girl checks the small handbag for the few things she may want to take with her.

Lilith nods wisely, idly hooking a pair of garment bags on her way to the bathroom. "Heavens forbid, Kass. But now I'll have to wear something different, you know. We can't all wear black." She chuckles and slips in, calling out from behind the door. "What do you think? Scarlet or something else?"

Lilith laughs. "Black is my colour, I agree, but I do so love a splash of colour now and then. And it'll compliment your dark beauty." Sometime later, Lil emerges, a very different woman then when she entered. Her hair didn't take much work, nor her make up, and the shimmering scarlet gives her pale skin some warmth with a hint of danger. "Does this work?"

Slinger chuckles. "Mister, as I said, sounds so formal. That's exactly why I don't like it," the youth would have replied. And enjoyed the meal and fizzycoke when it arrived. Better food than he usually gets, after all; Slinger is one who tends to save money on food to put into gear, whenever possible. But when he sees Kassandra emerge, he looks a little uncomfortable. "All I got is what I wore," the youth admits. "That and my 'gi', but it needs washing." And the trouble is, he's in a T-shirt and slightly ratty jeans, along with the required trenchcoat.

The Stewardess, a prim looking human woman of about forty, offers a nod to Slinger then. "Stand up, Mr. Slinger." Says she. "And formality is the order of the day." She moves in to the back of the plane, coming out with a tape measure.

"You look radiant as always, Lilith." Kassandra smiles at the other woman before glancing to Slinger with a speculative glance. She starts to speak and then chuckles when the Stewardess takes control.

Slinger stands up, hesitantly. And winces. "You're gonna put a suit on me," the youth mutters. "And it's gonna /itch/!" He's not really complaining, though — the grin just afterward indicates that he's kidding. But he hardly can seem to be /eager/ about it, can he? That would be totally out of character. "Just as long as there isn't a hat. That'd mess up my hair, big time."

Lilith shrugs as she sits gracefully, brushing her skirts just so, preventing them from wrinkling as long as she doesn't move much. "Pfah. I am about as "radiant" as a steel knife by moonlight, if I may wax poetic." Lil does seem pleased with the compliment, turning her smile to Slinger next. "Now that young masterpiece, surely, will only accent our glory. We shall make a very pretty picture for the Director."

"Hats are so last decade, Mr. Slinger." Says the woman as she takes a few quick measurements. "You can sit down now. Perhaps meeting Mr. Ehran will give you a sense of formality." Says she, moving back in to the back of the plane. She can be heard tapping on the trix-console.

Slinger nods quietly. "Mr. Ehran. Had never heard his name before. I want to be respectful, but… wearing a suit is trying to be somethin' I'm not, you know what I mean?" the youth asks. "I mean… " He trails off, and just smiles, sitting back down, realizing he sounds like he's complaining. "I'll wear what I'm given. At least it'll be better than what I have… or my sweaty old gi."

The Stewardess looks to Slinger. "Being what you are not, is often a call for any job you take. If we could be who we really are at all times, I would be the lead singer for Shield Wall and touring in Eurasia right now and not ordering a suit for a young man with an overblown sense of identity."

Kass chuckles faintly, walking carefully around the cabin of the plane while Slinger's clothing is taken care of. She slips an earpiece into her right ear, the bone conduction mic in place in case there is trouble.

Slinger smiles. "Ouch," the youth replies. "All right. I will wear the suit with gratitude, and will try to ignore the itching. Just as long as it doesn't become a habit." He sighs softly, moving back to his seat, and belts in. "Wish Sam was here. I dunno who this guy is, and so I can't say /anything/ to him. 'Cause I might say the wrong thing. Sam's the one who knows how to move at these levels. Me, I'm just a street kid who learned some mojo." Mutter.

Slinger's accent is actually getting thicker, more reminiscent of the Denver streets where he grew up.

Lilith watches, perched like a queen even in her flight seat. "You'll do fine, Slinger." She gives him a gentle smile. "I've worked with important folk before. Want me to give you some tips and hints? It's really not hard at'all." To set him at ease, she briefly slips into her own Cockney guttersnipe with a wink.

Kassandra smiles faintly at the slipping accents, staying out of the conversation. Lilith seems to have things well in hand, and too many cooks etc.

"If you want a hint with him." Says the Stewardess, now moving to pull down some shades to keep the sun out of peoples faces… "Don't try and act 'elven'. Don't try and speak that elvish language thats on the streets right now. He doesn't much care for it. He's flown with me a few times and he's kind of down to earth, if the earth had a brittle, tempestuous crust."

Slinger looks up at the Stewardess, his eyes brightening a little at that news. "Really?" he asks, tilting his head. "I… uh… that helps, actually," he admits, with a faint smile. "If he's real people, then I can be real people, too. If that makes any sense." But then he falls silent, listening to Lilith — and that, at least, seems to help. He really is young, under all of that — his attitudes, his bearing, everything about him says that he's about seventeen or eighteen. A kid who never really grew up, despite growing in power and achievement.

Lilith winks at Slinger and spends the flight giving him tips and lessons…she rounds off the trip with a hilarious routine, done in a variety of ribald Brit accents, showcasing a little number she'd prepped for the Apple.

New York City

Ehran the Scribe has been crossing the globe in the last 5 years, doing an annual archeological dig at some far flung but previously unknown location during the three summer months, to give field leadership to the growing corps of DIMR Archaeologists that are plumbing the mysteries of the past. When not on a dig, the man of considerable wealth spends time shuttling between the FDC and NYC offices of the DIMR.

The plane comes to land at La Guardia after a very short time spent circling the sunset silhouetted cityscape of New York City, its fantastic skyline iconic even in an era of 400 story skyscrapers (Indeed, Truman Tower of Chicago weighs in at 352, nearly 4500 feet tall (no, really)). The plane flies in along the east river, then touches down with a half bump.

A black limousine is waiting to take the trio and Sam, who slides in just before the car seems ready to take off. His hair is perfect and his tie just 'so'. The driver then DOES take off without any further prompting.

Kassandra pages: The dress, btw, is the one Armando brought.

Kassandra senses "Johny's eyes slide over the dress, then to her eyes, a slight, very hidden smile coming to his lips. Some hint of pride, some hint of appreciation."

Slinger gets out of the plane — and he'd hoped to have a chance for a smoke. But before he even knows it, bang, he's in the limo. "Never been to New York before," he admits. "Hey, Sam. How was your trip? And… any more idea what this is about, now?" the youth asks. He's definitely fidgety, though he closes his eyes, calming nerves jittery thanks to the lack of nicotine.

Lilith looks over Sam appreciably, idly brushing an invisible fleck off her dress. "Good evening, Samuel." She settles into her own professional mode. This sort of thing…this is where she can truely feel confidant. She smiles a bit, poised, smiling, genteel. "How was your…ah, Slinger beat me to it."

"The trip was fine, my friends…" Says Sam, settling himself down in to the car. "And no. It's need to know, ears only. So no transmission or trix communications. Old adage of such things, is if I can hear you, so can everyone else."

Kassandra slinks into the limo, smoothing out her gown. As the other two asked, she doesn't need to, simply listening to the others talk and filing things away for later. She will spend the trip checking her make-up and hair.

Lilith bends a delicate white neck, voice quiet, pure London society. "So noted. Thank you."

Slinger nods quietly, and settles in for the trip. The whole VIP treatment. The youth gazes out of the window, casually listening, feeling — well, out of place. He's no rock star or corporate executive. And he's hardly dressed to be the type to get out of a limousine. Best enjoy it, maybe even flaunt it a little bit. His lips curl up in a grin at the notion of people being horrified to see the ratty teenager — who /isn't/ a recognizable rock star — getting out of the car with two beautiful women. Never a bad thing, all things considered. That thought contents him through the trip.

For her part, Kassandra simply *is*. She lets the others talk, socialize, interact. She doesn't seem ill at ease in the finewear, nor is she nervous. She just allows the events to unroll around her, taking them in and processing them in a quiet way, sinking into Silk, her public face on.

Johny is totally the bodyguard to Slingers grunge-rocker and the ladies groupy-high-class-bitches act. Oh yeah. We could tour 300 days a year based on charisma and style alone. The limo makes its way in to the city, moving past iconic buildings such as Yamatetsu Gardens with its neo-gothic arches, the Zurich-Orbital Geimenshaft Reserve with its classical Corinthian columns and the Ares Spire, with its post-modern steel and glass edifice. A canyon of man made proportions.

The Draco Building, a newer tower, sits across the street from the well known Empire State Building, a massive dodecagon that rises in to the air some 366 stories (Which, as some may know, were constructed to Metahuman standards, with each floor being 15 feet tall) and some 5,490 feet in height, topped by a life-size representation of Dunkelzhan standing guard over the city, his Ruby Eyes watching the east for its sunrise. Several times people have tried to steal those eyes. They have all failed.

The Car pulls in to the garage, where a small entourage consisting of a tailor and two assistants will greet.

Slinger's eyes are drawn to the building. In Denver, the Draco building is definitely a landmark, strong, tall, but somewhat nondescript. Here, it is almost the centerpiece of the city, the power emanating from it nearly palpable. And Slinger shifts his gaze into astral vision, straining to see the top of that building, to see the famous statue — and what it might represent to the world of magic.

Lilith looks up at that statue as she exits the vehicle, tilting her head back. Unconsciously, one hand rubs fingers over the small gold ring on her other hand. Unaware of her own actions, she looks back down, simply nodding her head to the people who greet them, smiling just enough.

The tower is warded so very heavily, that one may think the building was built OUT of wards. Spirits of all sorts and forces buzz around in this ultra-secure area of town, some in the 'uniform' of various corporations or NYPD Inc, the local security provider. The tailor steps over to Slinger, gesturing. "Come come! Quickly!"

Kassandra considers the building as they approach with a faint sigh. She leans over, removing a small Celtic patterned toe ring. She puts it on the seat beside her, leaving it there as they pull into the building. She'll lift it after a minute or so, replacing it on her foot. That task accomplished she will glance to their entourage.

Once outside, though, Slinger takes the opportunity to immediately light up, inhaling a massive drag of smoke. Leaning against the car as pleasure surges through him, he slowly relaxes, feeling the welcome nicotine thudding into his blood. He smokes a lot of strong cigarettes, and the result is a powerful addiction to the drug they contain. His one major vice, really, but it has grown in prominence as he has aged, as he has seen more and done more. He coughs softly, grinning sheepishly — and then he eyes the tailors warily as they summon him. Quickly. He takes another drag as he allows himself to be summoned.

Lilith simply smiles a bit more as she watches Slinger, then moves alongside Kassandra. In her own heels, Lil still towers above the female elf, a scarlet and ivory pillar to her warmer, darker curves.

Johny slides out of the car, his suit losing any trace of wrinkle as he stands up, smoothing it. Ahh, modern fabrics. He watches as the men quickly hustle Slinger in to a side alcove, and force him in to the suit. The Tailor, an awakened man of small magics, but very good at what he does (Men like him make up the vast majority of the awakened world, actually, with full blown magi being exceedingly rare), uses the Fashion spell to ensure the suit fits properly.

That taken care of, they will release Slinger, now dressed in a navy blue, so blue its almost black suit, a light grey shirt that seems to shine in the light, brought to gether by a tie that very slowly shifts colors based on the spectrum of light it receives and the mood of the wearer. Completely formal, completely -good- looking on the mans frame.

Kassandra will slide out of the vehicle, taking great pains to *not* be where Slinger's smoke trail is going, having practice from dodging smoke from Samuel. She considers the tailor, the building, the limousine. Even in heels she is a scarce five foot five inches tall, and so she wraps the wrap around herself, looking to Samuel and then the others for direction.

Slinger is a hair over six feet tall in the old measuring system — short for an elf, which just adds to his youthful look. Cigarettes have probably stunted his growth. But he is calmer after he finishes that cigarette and tosses the butt casually into an ashtray nearby, exhaling the last of it. But slowly, the scowl on his face gives way to a more pleasant grin — it /does/ fit well. He's never had a well-fit suit, actually. When he was young it was hand-me-downs for special occasions, and now they are a style of dress that he frequently eschews, using magic when he has to look good. He spreads his hands, a little nervously. "Tell me I don't look like a total dork?" he asks, with a nervous little chuckle.

Lilith gives Slinger a sly wink, waggling a slender finger. "Magnificent, sir. Never doubt that."

Sam eyes the young man, stepping closer to look Slinger's frame up and down. "You look -good-, Kaivan. Very good. A good suit is better than a crown or a stack of money when it comes to getting access to the higher levels of any society." He says, then turning on a heel, to the elevator bank that will take them to the highest levels of the building. "GOing up…"

Slinger chuckles. "I bet I couldn't afford this if I worked 'till I was a hundred," the youth predicts. But he does walk a little taller, despite trying to shrug it off. At least his hair looks good, still mildly spiked in front, longish in back. Tied back for now with a simple binding to keep it more neat. And he follows Sam toward the elevator, making sure he still has his foci on him — most of them, anyway. The sword, of course, stays in his bag, and he casts a glance back toward the limo. "Hopefully our bags will be taken somewhere?" he asks, still nervous. He's not even slightly in control, and that, itself, is nerve-wracking.

Falling in line with Samuel, Kassandra looks over the building and their path, idly memorizing the route as well as looking over the decor. She moves with effortless grace even in the heels, seeming to glide with every step. She is still quiet, still watching, her eyes never seeming to be still.

Sam steps in to the elevator, a large freight-sized, but elegantly styled to make it seem more like it's high capacity and not for boxes. He moves to the control panel, placing his left thumb to a reader. It recognizes with a green flash and a number board of touch-buttons appears on the screen. He ques in 350 and the doors slide closed.

"The suit would cost about 15,000 nuyen. It's Syrian Damask, well cut and tailored by a magical talent, on short notice. You could get a suit of the same quality for about a third that if you ordered 6 months in advance."

Lilith just remains silent, in her element now. She watches too, watches the others, their reactions, trusting their experience to compliment her own…she notes Kassandra's busy eyes, and slowly begins to do so as well, though taking more time to observe the artistic value of their surroundings.

Slinger winces at the mention of the cost. That's what he makes on a rather risky Shadowrun. "Wow," is all he can say. On the other hand, he's wearing things right now that cost far, far more than that. But those aren't clothes and jewelry — those are, you know, tools of his trade. The elevator around him hums to life, and the youth shifts his vision into the astral realm once again, just briefly. Ready to return to the real world in an instant if things get too rough.

It's just an elevator. There are four people in it, with no specific spells or spirits watching.

The elven girl is still quiet, although she will chuckle faintly at the relative costs of suits and dresses. She doesn't offer the price of her own outfit, nor the bewildering array of jewelry on her body. It is clear, though, that if it is all costume pieces they are the best on the market, and if not .. well.

Lilith just waits patiently. Her own jewelry is scant, her outfit simple…subtly belying the cost. A brief, slow curve of her lips as she turns her gaze upwards, silently counting off the floors.

The elevator rises with such a smooth fluidity, at first you may not notice that the elevator is moving at all. Only the swift ascension of the numbers on the small screen mark the absolutely fantastic rate of the elevators climb. Inside 20 seconds, you've climbed a hundred floors. The elevator only stops at every 20th floor, smaller, slower elevators accessing the other floors in an arterial system. Within the minute however, you stand at exactly 5280 feet above sea level.

The doors open to show a massive office complex, not exactly the soul deadening sort of complex that you see in the Trids, but rather, large cubicle's with a liberal dress code, the sort of customization you expect from computer-geeks and the magically knowledgeable, if not active. Basketball hoops, posters and other such decor mark the various cubicle's.

Sam steps out of the elevator, straightening his jacket instinctively. He starts his way down the main 'avenue' of the floor, heading for the far back wall. This floor is some 2 stories tall, a vaulted ceiling to provide plenty of head space. IN the background, a foot ball flies from one cubical to another, punctuated with a 'HEY FUCKER!'

As you move past them however, people sort of pause to look at the group as they pass. Conversation dies away, and people gopher up out of cubicle's to look over as the group makes its way to the massive double doors at the far side of the floor.

Lilith keeps herself poised, looking straight ahead, gliding with cool, beautiful effiency over the floor and down the hall with the faintest of silken sounds from the fabric of her dress. She does, however, turn her head to flash one young gentleman a wickedly sly wink while she walks.

She can't help herself, sometimes. It's what she does, after all.

Kassandra is on Sam's heels, moving with the same quiet grace as before. Her eyes skim the room, picking out likely exit points, windows, the occasional phone or terminal of interest. By the time they are but halfway across she has determined no less than three ways out of the area. She seems supremely indifferent to the looks she is given or any murmured comments, following in Sam's wake, a shark clearing out the minnows.

Slinger can feel himself moving, but only barely. The smoothest elevator he has ever been on takes only a few moments to get him where he is going. And he shakes his head to clear it, grinning as he realizes his ears didn't pop. And what a technological marvel that is, actually, and the effort that went in to equalizing the pressure between the various floors. The upper floors are pressurized like a jetliner, in fact. He swallows once, then nods, following Sam out of the elevator, staying a good bit behind. And takes just a moment to look around at the office. Relaxed, cordial — the sort of place he might actually be able to work. But the way conversation stops — Slinger averts his curiosity and instead concentrates on following Sam, straightening his walk and trying diligently to lose the half-crouch of a warrior, reflexes wound by combat.

What you have here is a dashing group of adventurers that this room only reads about; watches trids about and files reports about; A group of Shadowrunners, beautiful, deadly shadowrunners that make Karl Kombatmage look like a silly child. The Magi Slinger, young looking but dangerous, the shadowman Nacht, powerful if relaxed. The siren Lilith, one of the more recent additions to the team, but the one who told Suketeth-he-between-tears to feck off and Kassandra, Silk, the goddess incarnate who can sell sand to Arabs.

As cool as the building is for those who have not been here, it's the people who walk through it now, who are of interest to those who work here.

Sam comes to a stop at the reception-desk to the office of the Director of the DIMR. "As per request." Says Sam then, nodding to the woman seated at the desk.

Silk comes to a stop behind and to the left of Nacht, hands lightly clasped together at waist-level. She nods quietly to the receptionist typer person, allowing her quiet gaze to slide around the general area once more, looking for what she may have missed along the way, watching the reaction they have on the workers here, listening for faint sounds and conversations.

Slinger… actually finds himself enjoying this. Being looked at. He's usually the one who gets overlooked, and to a degree, that's the way he likes it. People who aren't noticed aren't shot at. And all too often, his 'rep' isn't all that well known outside his own community — too much of what he does is hidden, discreet, in the shadows. So to finally get noticed actually has his breath catching in his throat. It's a headrush, all right — and he has to breathe a little deeper to make sure it doesn't go to his head all of a sudden.

Lilith just stands there, self possessed, settling into herself, cold but not too much, unapproachable but there.

«OOC» Johny says, "Gimmie a perception check, silky"
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence for "Perception check":
1 1 1 2 3 3 4 7

"… Thats the watchers? I expected something… taller?"

"Dear god, she's gorgeous!"

"Thats Ngorthian… the one who found the Locus.."

"I've read her reports… she's very complete…"

"Of course, Mr. Wulfson. The Director is expecting your team." Says the receptionist. She passes Johny an envelope marked 'eyes only' and then gestures for the rest of the team to enter the main office area. Johny eyes the envelope, then nods to Silk to take the others in to the office.

The two massive oak doors split open, the seal of the DIMR breaking down the center, to allow the group to proceed inward.

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Nacht nods, Silk moves. It is really that simple, the faintest smile crossing her lips as her head dips into a slight nod to the receptionist, not giving any indication at the things she's overheard, what she has seen. Her gaze with skirt over the envelope Johny is given, moving away from him now and into the office.

Slinger actually cringes slightly, as not only is his name mentioned, but mispronounced. His /real/ name. The name that only a few people actually know. That's not something he's accustomed to. But he turns his attention to the matter at hand. The Locus — where he had to make the worst decision of his life. Or rather, the hardest. And there are nights when he wakes up and still wonders if he made the right call, if there wasn't /some/ other alternative to what he ended up choosing. But then the time for reflection is past, as the doors open, and the youth steps through, bringing up the rear of the procession.

Lilith drifts silently past Johny into the office, face bearing no change to see him linger behind.

The interior of the office, all three stories (This room goes up farther than the rest of the floor) is stacks upon stacks upon stacks of books, a terraced, sort of hanging gardens of Babylon library that contains more volumes of paper-bound books than probably exists in a 200 mile radius. Interspersed with this is a massive collection of plants, hanging from planters, growing in open rows of dirt, giving the place an odd sort of feeling. The air is warm, scented with earth and bloom, the 'back' wall near the office-area of the massive room, glass to give an expansive view of New York City and its harbor. In the distance, brilliantly lit, rests the Statue of Liberty, torch still shining even in the future.

Currently tending to a beautiful Strelitzia Nicolai plant, a White Bird of Paradise, is Ehran, called by some the Scribe, by the Matrix as 'Wordsmyth'. To many others, he is many other things entirely.

Ehran the Scribe, Director of the DIMR

Lilith eyes are first, immediately, drawn to the books. Rows and rows of books, leather bound tomes, no doubt some old, some ancient. Fascination briefly betrayed in her expression, just once, as her eyes light up, then quickly become hooded again. She…reluctantly turns her gaze to the man tending the plant.

Kassandra smiles, brightening as they enter the office, her gaze moving to the various plants and planters. She visibly stops herself from moving to them, although she seems to pay them more attention than the books or the Scribe, at least for the moment. She finally gathers herself, letting her eyes fall on the man tending the plant, speaking quietly, "Good evening, Sir."

Slinger enters the room behind the others, immediately taking in the scent of old and dusty tomes — and the plants. Those are what catch his eyes next. His master made him learn about Awakened plants, long ago, and he has never had a use for that knowledge, until now. Until now he can recognize at least some of the flora that surrounds him. The boy lets out a slow breath, then inhales the heady scent of the chamber — an amazing extravagance. And then finally his gaze moves to the man himself. Younger than Slinger expected — he had anticipated an old man, crotchety, complete with a hunched back and absolutely nothing in common with the young mage.

«Auto-Judge[]» Johny (#799) rolls 15 for "Mystery!":
1 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 5 5
«OOC» Johny says, "Mystery sucks!"
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) has the Knowledge Skill Parabotany with the value '4' (only to Johny).
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) has the Knowledge Skill Herbalism with the value '3' (only to Johny).
You paged Slinger with 'The room is -full- of rare, temperamental awakened plants, but not dominating; they have equal space with rare, temperamental -normal- plants.'.
From afar, Slinger nods. Slinger would still be fascinated. :)
Long distance to Slinger: Johny nods. Figured :)

Ehran turns to the group that walks in the door. He flicks one hand and the doors behind the group close, sealing Johny out of the meeting. "Thank you for coming." His voice, when its turned to you, is not a hall-shaking, window rattling deep tone that you expect all powerful men to have, but instead, a fairly normal voice, the kind of thing Bob down the way in Mergers and Acquisitions has. A deep voice, but not all together impressive in itself. "Please, come in. I won't keep you long. I trust your flight was comfortable?" He turns then, to lead the group further in to the hothouse/library that is the Office of the Director of the DIMR.

Moving in at the bidding, Kassandra remarks, "It was very comfortable, thank you very much." Her gaze drifts to the plants as/if she passes any of them, heading to where Ehran directs, not turning at all when the doors close behind them.

Slinger turns back around when the doors close — and he realizes Johny isn't there with him. And swallows once — Sam has been his guide through most things like this, but this time, he's on his own. Well, he has Lilith and Kassandra, but he does not know and trust them to that level. Slowly, the suit-clad youth turns back to Ehran, nods once and steps forward, clearly nervous. Clearly uncomfortable with meeting someone of this level — and afraid of making a mistake. A small smile crosses his features as he nods, flicking there, before vanishing, as he tries to get some concept of who this man is.

Lilith bows her head, gracefully sinking down into a perfect curtsy with nary a rustle of scarlet silk. Her voice never rising enough to disturb the sanctity of the library, measured with perhaps just the right amount of respect, not awe. "Thank you for receiving us, m'lord." Trusting to old habits and older mannerisms as she rises again, smiling faintly. "It was a lovely flight."

Ehran looks to Lilith then, a smile crossing his features. "Lord. Thats not a term I've heard used since I left the council of Princes. It's ill suiting. Call me Ehran for now." Says he, moving behind a desk. "Can I get you something to drink? A few niceties before I send you scampering off across the world in search of ancient artifacts…"

Lilith tilts her head to the Scribe again, hiding her smile. "Forgive me, sir. I find it easy to slip back to the habits of my home when I'm in proper company." Her eyes rise again, calmly watching him. "I am almost afraid to ask. Almost." Just a hint of a sparkle in her eyes, hidden beneath the wall of propriety.

Slinger follows Lilith's example, skipping the curtsey. Just nodding agreement, and standing in silence, trying not to look menacing. Right now, he knows little about this man — other than that he represents in many ways the pinnacle of his elven heritage — something about which he knows nothing except the language itself. Except that somehow, it is part of his culture, unknown. Nervously, the youth simply follows, waiting to be addressed, respectful in silence alone.

"I would love some juice if you have it, Ehran, or water otherwise." Kassandra remarks, looking around the office here. "Your office is lovely, as an aside." She lingers as much as she can, letting her gaze walk the room, touching with her eyes what would be inappropriate to touch with her hands.

More than Slinger knows, perhaps, does Ehran represent the depth of the Elven Conspiracy. C-O-N… spiracy. Ehran doesn't gesture, doesn't twitch, but there is the tinkling of glasses a level above you, before a tray of drinks, consisting of a decanter of pomegranate/apple juice and a tea service floats down, delivered by a small slyph, a translucent micro-woman. Ehran nods his thanks to the spirit, then to Kassandra… "Thank you, Ms. DePavia. I try to keep it alive, but I've something of a black thumb." He smiles then, reaching forward to take a glass of juice for himself.

"I asked Mr. Wulfson for a team of professionals, and I see he has delivered well." A pause is given to look at Lilith, then Kassandra for a moment… "I'm glad you've recovered from your encounter with Suketheth. I'm pleased that you lived through it." A pause then to look to Slinger… "And welcome back to the Tellurian, wavebringer." He nods his head then to Kaivan.

Lilith face remains quietly blank, perhaps losing some of it's sparkle with the mention of the horror. "Recovered, yes, forgotten, no." Her ears twitch, just a little, at the term "wavebringer". It triggers a thought, a memory of some old legends she read, out of the Irish mythos…she tilts her head back, shaking of the distracting train of thought.

Ehran smiles quietly… "No one ever forgets the Enemy, Ms. Dewinter. No matter how long ago you saw them."

Kassandra's eyes go to the slyph first, moving to collect a glass of juice. She considers the being a moment, gaze drawn back to Ehran at mention of Suketheth. She inclines her head, "It was something of a trial, but I believe we have recovered as much as we can, at this point." She glances to Slinger at the mention of terms she isn't familiar with, filing them away to research when she has time.

Lilith nods her head to Ehran. "Indeed." She speaks quietly. "A time of trial. Yes…although my memory is a curse at times. I do not think fondly on my actions that day, or my own idiocy."

Wavebringer. He had never heard that term before, and yet it sense a shiver down his spine. "Thank you, m'Lord," he murmurs. He had meant to say 'sir', so the word surprised him. And yet — as the head of this organization, as the pinnacle of what Slinger has served all his life without even intending to, it is true and fitting. This is his leader, and the tone in his young voice is respectful, yet quiet, just above a whisper. And yet it is perfectly audible in this room, with its near ideal acoustics. "I hope I may be of service again." It's all he dares to say, and even that leaves him breathless.

"You are blessed, DeWinter, in that your idiocy as you term it, allowed you to survive to better think your actions. It is not something most can attest." Says Ehran before taking a contemplative swallow of his juice. "I did not call you out here, each of you, simply to sip juice and otherwise enjoy your company, pleasant though it may be."

Lilith nods her head again, gratefully acknowledging his words. "Thank you, sir." She then continues to watch, waiting and silent for now.
Nodding, Kassandra holds her own juice glass quietly, listening to the man now. She doesn't interrogate him, letting him come to his point and reveal what he will, when he will. She is satisfied to listen, to watch, to learn and to look.

Slinger smiles and inclines his head. So much this one could teach him, though he has no beverage. Not even having the temerity to ask for one. Instead, he shifts his attention away from the plants, his attention onto the matter at hand, entirely. Onto what will be required of him — and he will go through hell, if needed, for this man and what he represents. Again.

"There is a dig going on in the Arkangeles'k Oblast of the Soviet Russian Empire at this moment, in the Northern Dvina Valley. This dig is of some concern to me, on a personal level. I would consider it a personal favor, if you were to travel to this place, enter the dig… and retrieve a particular chest in a particular room of a particular ruin that I have good authority to believe is intact." Says Ehran then, coming to sit down.

"I have reason to believe that this location will soon be very hotly contested by forces from Awakened Siberia, Soviet Russia and the Atlantian Foundation. Respect Bratlavsky though I do, there are thins I do not wish her to possess."

"Alright. I take it we should not be seen and should refrain from making too much noise, too much of a scene?" Kassandra asks quietly, taking a sip of her juice.

Slinger listens thoughtfully, steepling his fingers as he listens. Specific. He likes specific. Specific makes it very easy to know when you've finished the job. The youth breathes deeply, his eyes resting upon Ehran, but he does not say it will be easy. Instead, he simply waits for more information. The question of whether he will do it is a foregone conclusion, though. He will trust this elf with his life, and be glad for the opportunity to have died for a cause if it comes to that.

Lilith watches. Listens. "As you direct, sir." Another faint smile. "Subtlety and silence over force?"

Ehran seems to pause at that. Thinking it over, carefully, rationally, dispassionately. In that moment, his features simply stop moving, stop -expressing- anything. When he returns, only a moment later, he exhales. "I cannot bring myself to order the destruction of the dig. It's too… personal." he says quietly then.

"Go in quietly. Destroy nothing you do not have to. The dig has not yet discovered the main complex, but I will give you information to guide you there." Says he.

Lilith lowers her eyes respectfully. "Aye, Ehran."

"I understand completely. We will do our best to maintain the utmost level of discretion and invisibility while on site." Kassandra remarks, her voice quiet.

Slinger nods quietly, thinking about that. No destruction, no death. No harm… just in and out, tracelessly. "What can you tell us, m'Lord, about their security precautions? Especially magical?" he asks, his voice cracking slightly before he catches it, forcing it back into a normal register. The youth is captivated, even though he is already trying to envision what he is walking into, already thinking of ways to do it, pitfalls to avoid.

"As of yet…" Says Ehran, taking a sip of his drink again, using it as a method by which to collect his thoughts… "The dig is from the University of Moskova. They have a magically active Provost with them, but I do not envision that they are going to be your primary problem." Says the Immortal behind the desk… "Rather, when last I left the city, it had within it several layers of magical defense. I can remember most, but not all… that means you yourselves will have to overcome, outwit and survive them…"

The elven girl nods again, considering that carefully. "All right. That sounds remarkably like we'll need to play it by ear once on the ground. We will have transportation in and out of the area? And will we have local talent as a guide or are we on our own once we touch the ground?" Logistics. It is what makes or breaks a run.

Slinger listens to that thoughtfully, and his lips curl up at the edges. A thrill passes through him, the thought of pitting himself against magical traps and tests from years before. He nods once, eager already. Eager to prove himself, once again, as if none of his past deeds mattered — but were just a chance to get this new opportunity. "We will do it, sir," the youth says quietly. "I… I look forward to it. Are there… any reference materials? Descriptions of what we might encounter, anything we can use to prepare?"

Lilith falls silent now, letting the experienced runners take over…and once again, perhaps, wondering why *she*, of all people, was called by Ehran, here, for this sort of run. She's soft, squishy, not bad with a pistol but still…

Ehran stands up then, one hand to either side of his body, pressed to the wood of the desk… He swallows then, looking to each person in turn. "Each of you knows… feels, understands.. a small portion of what the future holds. Some are motivated by Curiosity and Adventure (He looks to Lilith) some by Idealism and Valor(To Slinger) some by Love and Rebirth (to Kassandra)… But the city of Sereatha, the city of Spires, will test even the strongest man. Once, the greatest city in all of the… elven… for lack of a better translation, nations, it was called the city of spires. It rivaled Thera, as the young races call Atlantis for power and magesty." he shakes his head then… "It, unlike Thera however, did not survive the scourge intact."

Only Lilith's eyes betray any emotion, filling with a touch of sorrow at his words. Hiding her own…uncertainty, her own curiosity at his or the foundations choice of Watchers for this job. But she listens, standing still.

The youth nods slowly, absorbing this. And when Ehran mentions Idealism and valor, Slinger averts his gaze, his cheeks flushing. He is that. It is his pride, his downfall, his weakness… and at the same time, his strength. He /believes/. Unlike so many of the people out there, who go through life looking for the next nuyen, this kid really, truly believes that it makes a difference between right and wrong. He is either a fool or a hero, or both. But the story itself is fascinating, and it sends tingles down his spine. The thought of the ruined city, of its majesty crumbling, makes him shiver at the thought of it. And of what might have survived.

Wordsounds get noticed by Kassandra, added to the ever-growing list of things she simply has to find time to look into. She nods slowly, considering the danger that must face them if Ehran himself warns them of it. She exhales, nodding quietly to the Scribe. She nods again, "We will do our best, Ehran."

Standing to his full hight of just over two meters tall, putting him at about 6'3, Ehran nods to the others. "I have prepared an optical chip, read-only, for you to examine on your trip to the White Sea. Read it over, and while the information is scant, it is more than you will have. The most I can tell you is that no single person can gain entry. It will require the three of you. If one falls… if one is destroyed, you should leave the area. Do you understand?"

Lilith bows her head. "Aye, sir."

"Completely." Kassandra nods slowly, examining that statement from all angles and the ramifications of what was said .. and not said.

Slinger hesitates, then nods quickly. "Yes, m'Lord," Slinger says, his voice quiet. "Thank you for your trust. Your confidence. We will not disappoint you." Slowly, the boy rises to his feet, having hardly even realized he was sitting, but knows he is being dismissed — even if he could stay in this tranquil, fascinating place for hours. A small smile, still nervous, but nonetheless eager. He is not crass enough to offer a handshake, or anything more than an inclination of his head.

The optical chip comes in to his hand after a sweep over the oaken desk. He offers it forward then, to whomever will take it.

Lilith looks to Ehran, briefly, stretches out a hand to take the chip…she murmurs softly, not understanding why, but the thought catching her heart, her soul, and the words rediscovered tumbling from her lips like still droplets of water. "'Twas in a mist the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the gods of Dana, or as some called them, the Men of Dea, came through the air and the high air to Ireland. It was from the north they came; and in the place they came from they had four cities, where they fought their battle for learning…"

Lilith takes a rapid step back, fearful now that he might've overheard.

Ehran cannot suppress the very amused smirk that comes to his lips at that very 'modern' view of the Fair ones.

Raising an eyebrow, Kassandra glances to Lilith and then nods courteously to Ehran, "We will be in touch when we are successful." No room for doubt, no room for 'what ifs' or 'we mights'. With that, Kass replaces her glass on the services and moves to leave, her wrap going back around her shoulders.

Lilith murmurs again, embarrassed now and perhaps a touch confused. "Pardon, sir…" She takes a few steps back again, not raising her eyes.

Ehran picks up his pruning shears then, offering a courteous nod. "The Slyph will show you out." As if on cue (and probably -on- cue), the Slyph returns, hovering in the air, one hand outstretched twords the door.

Lilith murmurs once more before turning to the Slyph. "Sir." Another graceful curtsy, a faint moment of hesitation, before she moves away to the door.

Kassandra follows the being to the doors, her mind already racing with the ramifications of their mission, of what failure likely means, of any number of topics. She stays quiet for the moment, having already said her goodbyes. For now, she simply walks.

The youth inclines his head again, his heart still fluttering in his chest from the man's sheer charisma. And he steps out into the hallway, glances around hoping to see Sam. His lips finally curl up into a grin, and he shakes his head. "Man," he whispers. "I have never… met anyone like that," he says, amazement in his voice. Which is kept low, intended just for his companions.

Upon exiting the office, Sam appears to be gone, the receptionist is typing something on a cyber-terminal, using it as a desktop style computer, despite the notion of desktop computing being completely outdated in 2069.

Out of the Chasm

Lilith idly rubs her arms, hiding a growing and *deep* sense of embarrassment. She'll simply follow the others out of the building.
A sweep of her eyes takes in the office, tracking for Samuel's form; outside of Aladriel and Maya she is the next most familiar with it. Not seeing any of his incarnations present, she will give the receptionist a questioning look. If no other information is forthcoming she continues back along the path they came in.

The youth glances around. "Where's Sam?" he asks, nervously, and glances at the woman behind the counter. "And… I never caught it — are they getting us transport, or are we arranging that?" Either way is fine with him, though he's never been the best at that sort of logistics. Travel is something he tends to do on foot, or drives, if anything.

The receptionist will rise when the group as a whole emerges. "Mr. Wulfson has already departed on his particular errand." Says the dwarven woman, probably in her 50s, marking her as one of the first to 'express' as a goblin early in the century, with the way Dwarves age. "But he sends his regards and confidences. This.." She sweeps a thick package in a manila envelope, in to her hand. "Is for you. It should cover your logistical challenges as far as Archangel'sk. Passports, local currency and so forth."

Kassandrda will collect the envelope, nodding her thanks. "Thank you very much." She'll leave it closed for the moment, considering and then heading for the elevator, fingers moving to open it as she moves. She always thinks better in motion, the kinetic exercise helping her mental faculties work.

Lilith bobs her head as well, moving after Kass.

And Slinger follows the others out of the office, resisting the urge to put his hands into his pockets. Some of the sense of urgency has passed, the fierce rush to get out here. Just a few hours ago he was in the midst of his Aikido class and looking forward to a soak in a hot tub. Now he is on an errand for one of the most powerful people in the world. Amazing how things can change. But he says nothing until we get out of earshot.

Kass opens the envelope, thumbing through the contents by the time they hit the elevator, sorting who gets what, which identity is whose, and how much money they have to deal with, along with important details like cars, planes, and other transportation needs. She does this with the least amount of fuss, a sort of precision and efficency that comes from repetition.

Lilith wordlessly hands over the optical chip to Kassandra, unaware, or mostly unaware, of the slow flush rising up from around her collar bone, over her neck, to her face. It might not be noticeable.

And then the slow walk out of the office complex, to the elevator. With an envelope. Whispered speculation as to whats in it, how the meeting with the Director went, runs rife in the office space, active even at this late hour of the evening. The elevator door opens, an older man in a black suit standing in the elevator. "Good evening. Roof pad, yes?" Asks he, apparently now the elevator operator…

Kass collects the chip from Lilith wordlessly, nodding to the Elevator Guy (assuming that is what her notes show). "Yes, please." She hands out the passports and other information to those directed.

Slinger is walking along. Right now a brass band could march through and the kid would pay no attention. Roof pad — up near the statue. A chance to see it up close. A small smile wafts over his face, and he could use a chance to grab a smoke, anyway. "Please," the boy murmurs.

The elevator rises smoothly the last 20 odd stories of the mile high building. It's not pressurized so much, as thats usually not needed until 10,000 or more feet. The view, to put it mildly, is… incredible. On a clear night (Which is rare, in New York City) you can see as far north as NEw Haven, Connecticut. Here, above the fog layer, it's like looking out on a sea of islands jutting above the surf. So quiet, nothing but the wind, the sounds of the city muffled by the moisture laden air.

Slinger takes advantage of the opportunity to create some clouds of his own, lighting up a cigarette — and standing downwind from Kassandra to avoid annoying her with the smoke. He breathes in deeply, holding it in his young lungs, and slowly starts to relax. "He's amazing," the youth finally says, breathing out a column of smoke into the air, letting the beauty of his surroundings slowly transform him. And he moves toward the side that has the statue, his gaze sliding upon it to take in its beauty. This is as close as he will likely ever be to it.

Lilith watches, her face blank, but appreciating the view all the same. She swallows, trying to equalize the pop in her ear, and a fine line of goosebumps runs over her skin as the chill air swirls around her. Lilith doesn't respond to Slinger's comment at all.

Kassandra smiles as they get to open air, moving out of the elevator and heading out onto the roof, looking out over the city, peering into the night to see as far as she can, letting the wind whip at her body. She laughs a little, holding her wrap tightly so it doesn't fly off.

Long ago, the Statue was enchanted around its base with preservation spells, such that keep the fog away from it, damaging water and condensation kept away… lit from all sides, Lady Liberty stands looking out in to the harbor, torch aloft.

Back on the helipad however, which is the size of a city block, a blue and white VTOL aircraft sits, its engines off, but the ramp down. Your bags all sit on the rooftop, awaiting personal inspection.

Lilith shivers again as she looks to the Statue, her gaze distracted, mind elsewhere for the moment as she waits and contemplates.

The attractive young elf drinks down his carcinogens, walks toward his bag with the thing dangling from his mouth. It's a filthy habit, but one that sustains him. And he takes a moment to check his bags, just to make sure. Just because that's what you do. "So what sort of arrangements are we looking at? We heading straight there? Sleeping on the plane?" he inquires.

Duty is an ever present nag, and so Kassandra moves from letting the wind play against her skin and back to reality. She moves to her bags, hmming quietly and selecting a few, moving the others back. She'll find a likely person on the roof or otherwise have the ones she doesn't need sent back to Denver, taking the pair that she has selected and moving to the VTOL.

"A wise man once told me to get sleep whenever you can. We may have to switch craft before we get there, but I think we are pretty much headed as close as we can. I'll check over the info a little closer once we are airborne."

There is of course, a trustworthy functionary present who will be happy to help transport your goods.

Lilith looks over her shoulder, the wind whipping and tugging at her hair, her silk shawl flapping around her shoulders like a pair of scarlet wings as she moves to the others. "Aye." The wind molds the dress to her body as she moves, her tail twitching in agitation underneath her skirt. "Sleep when ye can, plane shouldn't be too bad."

Slinger zips up his bag, then takes it over to the chopper to be loaded. And finishes his smoke while the others are working. He doesn't have all that much gear, really, all things considered. A nice comm, some spare foci, his sword, and his armor. That's about the extent of it. Everything else is worn jewelry, or in his young mind. "I can sleep just about anywhere," Slinger promises.

Lilith just has her big roll up canvas pack, as usual. Her guns, a whip or two, clothes and appropriate armour, a comm. Spartan, useful necessities.

Kass drags/carries her luggage up the ramp, eyes searching for the pilot. She moves to stowe her belongings, which at this point is a black military-grade dufflebag and a small satchel. She'll secure the heavy bag, the satchel going with her to her seat, along with the mission details and gear.

This VTOL is a commuter job, used to get you to larger airports. The pilot indicates it's a half hour flight to the Long Island Airport that houses the intercontinental aircraft used for the next leg of the journey.

Lilith drags her bag, stows it, clutches her skirts up as she climbs into the craft. She finds a seat and buckles in, and then waits, eyes closed.

Considering the pilot's comments, Kass will hold back getting into the mission details on the VTOL, leaving the chip for the ride to Russia. She'll glance to the others and then dig her secretary out of her bag, opening a text window and sending out a message. She'll occupy herself with this for the flight over.

Slinger finishes his cancer stick and grinds it out on the bottom of his boot, and then disposes of the butt by field-stripping it. Nice thing about unfiltered smokes — they're biodegradable. Smoke streams from his nose and mouth as he boards the aircraft and settles into a seat. He stretches out, taking advantage of the extra legroom. "I am /so/ glad I'm not a troll," the youth comments dryly.

The transfer is made a short while later, to a large twin engine'd MD-81 transcontinental Jet aircraft. It's got plenty of room, even if the back of the plane is full of Draco Foundation Cargo, with only the forward portions of the plane for passengers.

Aha! Once on the big plane, Kass will excuse herself to change again, taking much less time this time. She'll come back in 'running' clothing, the makeup scrubbed off, hair down and quick braided. Instead of the half-hour of labor-intensive time the last change took, she is back in less than ten minutes.

Lilith follows Kass's example once again, stripping down and washing up privately, changing into her snug and much warmer fullsuit, jeans, and a real turtle neck underneath a sturdy trench coat. Plopping herself back down, she idly begins to spend time on her hair, working her fingers in and unbraiding while she waits, nodding to Kass.

Slinger climbs into his seat for takeoff, then grins as he is able to relax — and hopefully sneak a smoke. So far, this is a relaxing trip. And he waits for a briefing, since the other two have the documents in question, he relaxes, taking advantage of the extra space to stretch his legs out. Letting them read, and then summarize.

Once she is changed and Lil is back, Kassandra will get out the chip and move closer to Slinger and Lilith, looking to see if the compartment has a player. If not, she'll use the secretary. Regardless, she'll start going over the mission briefing information in a way that everyone can see and contribute to.

Slinger does take his turn in the lav, folding and neatly stowing the suit before changing back into his more comfortable clothing. "If all suits were like that, I would wear them more often," he sighs. "Too bad I gotta give it back." He grins broadly, and turns his attention to the briefing.

Conversation and Legwork

The data chip (playable over the planes trid system) contains a variety of local information on the area of Archangel'sk, directions to a natural cave opening approximately one hundred miles away and some historical information:

One of the greatest cities of Shosara before the Scourge was Sereatha, the City of Spires. Located in the southern reaches of the nation, Sereatha was a center of culture, a gathering place for the best in the realms of the arts. Its many Named spires housed orders dedicated to crafts, to aesthetic pursuits and to the Passions. From the Spire of Justice, the Swords of Justice maintained order and brought the compassion and justice of Mynbruje to the southern lands. Within the Spire of Floranuus, the Learners' Guild sought the inner path, studying the nature of what it meant to be elven. From the Crimson Spire, the Knights of the Crimson Spire taught the traditions and customs of the Shosaran Way, and protected society from those who would forcibly or by treachery disrupt those ways.

Then came the Scourge, and Sereatha prepared in the same fashion as other major Shosaran cities, creating a citadel of true elements to shield the city. Provisions were laid in, gardens were created to preserve flowers, and wardens were appointed to guard against invasion. During the Scourge, the wardens would maintain a watch on the city's protections, strengthening them if necessary, and keeping vigilant against the possibility of intrusion by Horrors.

Prior to the sealing of the citadel, a particularly subtle Horror managed to gain control of the small daughter of one of the wardens. Years later, as the girl grew into a troubled adolescent, the Horror used her to get at the warden. Fearing the repercussions if it became public knowledge that his daughter's continuing sorrow was the work of a Horror, he allowed the Horror access to his own mind in return for the release of his daughter. Once the Horror had control of the warden, the citadel was quickly breached. The Horror closed the breach behind itself, to keep other Horrors out, and fed slowly for many decades. True to its word, it left the warden's daughter untouched, but consumed the minds of every member of her family.

Eventually, the Horror was slain, but by then other Horrors had discovered the breach. For decades, a desperate battle was waged within the citadel, as more Horrors came in and the population retreated further and further. At last, only a few spires remained inhabited. Then the tides of magic turned, and the Horrors began to withdraw. When the Scourge was declared over and the citadel was opened, there were not enough Name-givers remaining to rebuild the city. As it was, few wanted to remain at the site of so much anguish and death. The survivors of Sereatha abandoned the city and moved north, to merge with the populations of more successful citadels. Only the Knights of the Crimson Spire
remained, continuing their sworn duty to protect the elven way of life, and to rid the land of all remaining Horrors.

The city was never reclaimed, existing as a vast monument and mausoleum, slowly reclaimed by the world around it. Near the end of the last age of magic, several of the survivors returned to seal the city away for the coming downturn of magic.

Lilith continues to work her fingers through the masses and masses of thick, straight hair that get tumbled loose as she peers over at Kassandra's briefing.

The youth isn't even sure what Watchers are yet, but he's watching the presentation as it unfolds. "Okay. Check me on this. Elves are supposedly immortal, at least, some of the old ones, right? Me, I figure cigarettes and my career are gonna kill me eventually. But… some of these Knights might still be around, right? Might well shoo us off. They aren't gonna think we're uber-cool, I doubt. Even then, we're dealing with some magic traps, and I dunno if I have the power to get through them."

Lilith eyes flutter closed, troubled thoughts rustling around. Might as well try and rest now, if and when she can…she briefly murmurs, before shadows of dreams start to tug at her, "Just point me where to go…"

Kass spreads her hands, "It is certainly possible that they might be around, although I certainly hope not. As far as the magical traps, Ehran sent some information on a few of those, the rest .. we'll work a way around. It may not be a matter of power or skill, but thinking our way around it, or simply having three of us turn a key or stand in a certain place."

Slinger nods thoughtfully. "Well, in matters of prophecy and stuff like that… we will either have what it takes or not. I'm a little more concerned about the dig. Getting in, getting out, staying undetected. I can probably make sure people take a nap when they need to. If that's needed. The people in the expedition aren't our enemies, though they are opponents." He fidgets; he plans better with a cancer stick in his fingers.

Slinger thinks of something, and lifts a finger. "Do we by any chance have any cold weather gear? My armor will help a little, but it's still gonna be damned cold. I mean, this is Russia, right? Northern Russia? Looks like Siberia from the look of it."

Some of the traps that he provides data for, do in fact, require three points of pressure on certain parts of the floor, or several holes all plugged at once… It's like George Lucas designed the entryway to the city. The Dig itself, the university one, is about a half mile from the entrance that is outlined, but you know those crazy college students, someones going to wander away to make out with another student… go in to the creepy cave… and make the archeological discovery of the century.

Kass shakes her head, "I don't have any on me, but I hvae no doubt we can scare some up once we get there. We have money and that is the universal cure."

The youth considers a bit more. "Which leads to the next question. I don't speak Russian. I do speak German and Sperethiel and Spanish and English of course. And French and Japanese. But…" He shrugs, considering thoughtfully. "All right. Part of what confuses me — humans weren't really around during the last cycle, right? So why is one of the keys human?" he asks, tapping his chin.

"I can handle the local language, and I believe Lilith is versed in some dialects of Russian as well," Kass remarks, flipping through some of the information, "And we can likely teach you a few terms you might need, like 'bathroom' and 'don't shoot.'" She laughs a little at that, sobering afterwards to address the other question, "It may not necessarily be 'human' that is needed, but 'not elf'. There were other races, is my understanding. Perhaps the 'human' element in this equation is a placeholder for something that we don't have this cycle."

Slinger relaxes, hearing that at least somebody speaks Russian. "Makes sense. So we need a not-elf, not-awakened. Man," he says with a laugh, rubbing the back of his neck. "This is like some of those cattle-call auditions I hear about for films." He considers that for a moment. "The more information we have going in, the better. Especially anything cultural."

The trid screen at the front of the plane comes online, with an 'incoming call' logo. Tripps, Cpt. John.

"More information would be great .." Kass cuts off, hitting the ACCEPT for the call.

You can't write this shit better. Because, really, I can't. Sam's face fills the screen as he reclines in what looks to be a seat just like yours, an airplane seat. "Good Morning, Angels."

"Mornin', Captain Tripps!" Slinger calls back, waving to the screen. "Other than bookin' me on a nonsmoking flight, things are good. And… we're tryin' to figure out how not to die, mostly. Other than that, we're peachy." He grins and leans back in the seat. "Got anything else for us that we oughtta know?"

"Good morning, Johny." Kass smirks just slightly, toying with a braid, reworking the cinnamon-coloured ribbon into her hair. She nods to what Slinger said, listening to the boss now.

Johny leans back in his seat, a cigar in one hand and a decanter of brandy in the other. "Well. When people shoot at you." he says, a grin coming to his lips. "Be where the bullets are not. But seriously.. I got the download from Mr. Ehran a few minutes ago, and it occurred to me you may have questions. I'm not actually allowed to just tell you what to do, but if you have specific, direct questions, I can offer my insights."

Slinger smirks. "So you know what we need to do, but you can't tell us?" he asks, with a chuckle. "Sounds typical. I guess the question is… what are we gonna need to know? You know I'm not exactly used to working with ancient mystical drek. I learned a lot last time, but I figure I'm gonna have to puzzle all of these runes out. And I find myself wondering — exactly how much has Sperethiel drifted in the last ten thousand years or so?" he asks, with a smirk. "Or however long it's been."

Good questions, those. Kass glances from Slinger to Johny's face, letting the men interact. She retrieves her datapad, taking notes.

"Not that far." Says Sam, thinking it over. "Linguistic drift was pretty small, given that after the fall of Thera and the rise of the Pharohs, there were no elves, so the language immediately stopped being used as the elves bred out and died. Only a few, those immortals, lived on. And those number less than a hundred, if I don't miss my estimates. So when the awakening came again, the Sprenthiel that came in to direct use so quickly, came from them. Now, In the last 40 years, there's been HUGE drift, but thats because the language started updating itself. Most core, simple concepts will remain consistent, at least so much you can interpret through context; a little like uh.. lets say, middle English and modern English. Middle English sounds a lot different, but its written in much the same fashion."

Slinger nods slowly, thoughtfully. "I guess I dunno what to expect. We go into the cave, and… it's a series of tests. Tests that will probably instakill us if we mess up. I'm not scared… just hoping I know what it takes. Maybe you can brief us, tell us things we'll need to know. Maybe more about the Knights, or the Guardians or Wardens or whatever." He tilts his head thoughtfully, fingers caressing the pack in his pocket nervously. Already starting to crave one of the noxious things.

«Auto-Judge[]» Johny (#799) rolls Fourth World Lore + Task Pool: 3:
3 3 4 4 4 9 10 11

Johny seems to think that over for a moment. "There is only one knight of the spire left, and pray to all the gods you do not encounter him. He's as likely to help you as he is to gut you."

Kass curls up in her seat, tucking her legs up under her. She remarks quietly, "So we are going to be dealing with static traps and mechanisms rather than Knights, likely, or perhaps spirits."

Nodding, Sam glances at a datapad. "Last reliable reports put Harlequin at the Chateau D'if as of last week."

Slinger blinks. "Harlequin. You mean, /the/ Harlequin?" the youth asks, tilting his head. And he smirks. "The Chateau d'If is supposedly impossible to break out of. Which means, given a week, we could run into him." The elfin youth shudders. He knows /that/ is out of his league. "Well… once we get in there, we either succeed or fail. You got any material I can study? Trouble is, I don't have specific questions until I get /in/ there, and then it's too late."

Johny leans forward then, putting the drink aside. "Slinger, he -owns- the Chateau D'if. That said, running in to him may be a possibility. He has a long standing rivalry and grudge with with Ehran. And when I say long standing, I know of geographical features that are younger."

Kass stirs, shrugging, "That is an X factor, and given what is known means that it is impossible to plan for. He might kill us all as easy as offering us pie." The girl makes a few notes, idly drawing Elvish runes. "We can probably extrapolate the sort of things we will faced given what Ehran has already shown us."

Slinger winces, and sighs. "So tell me about him. The real skinny — because all I know is legend and hyperbole. If in fact it's hyperbole and not just confused data." He closes his eyes, rubbing at his forehead, and ponders breaking the rules and having a cigarette. Johny knows that look.

Johny chuckles quietly. "Slinger, smoke. You're on a cargo plane, not a leer jet now. If nothing else, Kid. You're a fucking shadowrunner." Says the older man now. "As for Harlequin… Uh. I don't really know much. I've never met him. I hope not to. I know he was instrumental in the closing of the spike, I know he has some sort of relation to Dupree… But nothing specific. If you think I'm a spook? This guy makes me look like.. well… a toddler with his grandfathers binoculars."

A faint chuckle marks Kass's contribution to the current conversation, continuing her notetaking. She has pieces of the information they've received thus far, making notes in a mix of Arabic and Elvish on her secretary.

Slinger smirks. "I just don't wanna get busted for something that small. But I'll go in back in a bit," the youth admits, with an apologetic glance to Kassandra. "What's the spike, who's Dupree?" Slinger asks. "Remember man, all this weird history shite… it's weird, but my education didn't cover a lot of that. My education was all about moving feathers with my mind and enchanting," he points out. "I didn't exactly go to school."

"You wouldn't learn this in school anyway. I keep forgetting I haven't had a chance to fully breif you yet. The spike was an irregularity in the astral realm where the Great Ghost Dance was performed. It provided an area of extremely heightened magical energy, enough that the Invae, that's bug spirits, were able to come across far sooner than expected. According to the records, the Invae presage the Scourge by about 700 to 400 years. The spike was flattened in the wake of Dunks death with Harlequins help. Dupree is an elf on the board of directors of the Foundation."

"Ah, yeah. You told me about that. Just didn't think of that when you said spike." He nods thoughtfully. "So Dupree is another one," he says thoughtfully. "The thing is… I don't know that much about the Foundation. It's just that they seem like the best bet for actually doing some good in this screwed up world. So I gotta trust somebody, gotta believe in some good guys, y'know? Otherwise, what's the point." He lets out a sigh. "All right. So tell me more about this citadel. And what we're looking for, maybe?"

An arrow is drawn from Harlequin's name to Dupree, a question mark added. Kass remarks, "Ehran said a chest. I suppose it goes without saying that the Foundation would frown upon us removing other artifacts?"

"I can't tell you that this isn't necessarily a Foundation job." Says Sam then. "But a personal favor for the Scribe." He then looks off screen, pursing his lips. "As to artifacts.. I don't suspect you're going to find much of anything. The city was abandoned for 2000 years before the age of magic failed. If there was accessible loot, I promise that your great great great great great grand-elves took it."

Kass remarks, "Loot is a relative term, though. Consider that a plate from that time period is a virtual treasure. But I understand what you mean."

Slinger nods quietly. "I dunno. The Scribe might not mind if we came back with something else, for his own personal collection." He exhales slowly, thinking. "Hell, I didn't even ask what the job paid. Even if it pays nothing, though… might be worth it for the experience." He considers that for a moment, smiles warmly. "Yeah, I agree, that's worth it, by itself. So I guess we find out the rest when we get there… unless you can think of anything to ask, Silk?" he asks, yielding the floor to her completely.

Johny turns his attention to Kassandra.

"It is a virtually unknown situation. The basics are fairly simple: infiltrate and acquire the goods, avoid dying. I don't expect our trouble to come from topside, unless we have some phenomenally bad luck and the Atlantian Foundation has found the entrance we want and are mucking about in there. Otherwise, the traps are our nemesis."

Kass waves a hand, "Payment isn't even a real concern here. A 'favor' for Ehran the Scribe? Hell, a chance to see the City of Spires? I'd do this for free."

"Payment is ballparked at 40,000 per, or a doubled amount in kind trade." Says Sam then, but nods. "Mostly, it's experience."

Slinger chuckles, nods. "Yeah. I have to agree. No contest on my side," the youth agrees. "Man like that, you do favors for and hope he remembers you. He seemed to at least have heard of me, which surprised the hell out of me. What was it he called me? Wavebringer." He shivers. "I had never thought of myself as anything like that. More like a scared kid in the wrong place at the wrong time," he admits with a laugh.

"Congratulations." Says Johny then. "You're just like the rest of us. I'll be honest, Kaivan. I'm fucking terrified of whats out there. I've seen just little enough to think I know what I'm doing, and just enough more to know how little I understand the situation. I play most of this crap by ear, taking a few cues from what sources I have, from what lore I have."

Nodding, Kassandra agrees. "It's all we can do. Every time I run across things like this, it is different from before. But it is always an exciting adventure, as well. We'll do fine, I have confidence."

Slinger chuckles, smiling warmly. "Thanks. I needed to hear that. Half the time it seems like I'm way outta my league. And I don't admit that except to people I trust, you know?" He glances over at Kassandra, giving her a quick smile. "With you, and people you trust. Around most people, yeah, I'm cocky as hell. People think I'm arrogant, so they underestimate me sometimes. I prefer it that way." He grins. "I have confidence, too… just 'cause if we fail, it won't matter. They'll wonder why there's a fresh couple of elf skeletons down there. "Look at how well-preserved this one is!"

Sam raises the brandy snifter then. "Live hard, die fast, leave a beautiful corpse. Or, more preferably, Live hard, Die never, Live forever and have lots of fat healthy children." He grins then.

Slinger wrinkles his nose, but still grins. "Unless medical science advances a helluva lot further than it has, I won't be havin' any babies, fat, healthy, or otherwise. Take care, Sam. We'll call if we think of anything else on the way, 'k?" he asks. And then he gets ready to sign off, stretching, enjoying his last few moments. "Gonna go in back for a cancer stick," he announces, climbing up from his seat.

"I'll be around and reachable for for at least…" He glances at his watch. "18 more hours."

"Be careful, Samuel." Kass remarks quietly to the man, closing her notes as well.

"Always. Don't fall in a lava trap or get eaten by a grue… and for the love of god, when you knock the balrog off the goddamn bridge, step back from the edge." Says Sam, reaching for the kill switch.

Slinger slides in back, through the boxes and stacked crates, heading toward the rear of the aircraft near where the air return vents are, and pulls out his pack. He leans against the wall of the airplane, lighting up, taking a deep, hard inhale while he thinks about what he was told. What he learned. And what he's going to face.

Kassandra's laughter is quite evident before he manages to close the call.

The flight progresses; with Lilith eventually waking up. The aircraft is currently over the Mid-Atlantic, an hour out from a landing at Moscova.

Slinger has gotten a little bit of sleep, and woken up by this time. He's in back, amidst the crates, huffing down a cigarette. Or two, actually. Luckily the ventilation on the plane is good enough that not /too/ much drifts forward. But the young elf is nervous, and when nervous, he abuses his lungs. He comes forward about that time, shaking his head. "We got any idea how we're handling this?" the youth asks. "Never been to Russia before. Especially in the winter."

Lilith stretches a bit as she awakes, wincing a little. "Cold weather gear…gods. I know that to sleep when you can is ideal, but perhaps I did a little too much. What interesting news did I miss?"

"I imagine we can play it by ear .. I need to see the situation on the ground before I can make any sort of definate plans, myself. We can get some warm gear, see if there are any rumours floating around, see what is going on and then make our move from there. It shouldn't take long to figure it all out, this isn't likely to be some bustling city." Kass says, ruffling her hair a bit.

Lilith nods, smiling a little. "Just tell me where to go. I'm afraid I can offer little other then some linguistic skill and some vague understanding of the Russians. Miserable bastards." She rotates her neck, idly getting out her gun to double check and clean. "Point me and shoot, basically."

Slinger nods. "Outside my area of expertise is all. I'll just play Stupid American. Or Canadian, that works, too." The youth smirks, and fingers his pack in his pocket, before he leans back against the wall. "Just hope we can find something warm that goes over my armor," he remarks. "It oughtta be pretty warm on its own, though. Supposed to have that Enviroseal stuff, but not sure how low it's rated for."

Kassandra chuckles faintly, "Well, we'll see what is available. As far as areas of expertise .. well. This is the thing that Sam would say is relatively important to learn to do .. one of the basics, really. Consider this training, in case you don't have a negotiator." She doesn't chide, her words matter of fact. "All learning is a good thing." She starts carefully braiding her hair, fingers moving slowly as she gets a good job done so that the mass can be moved out of the way.

Slinger slips down into his seat. "I'm pretty good in my own turf, which is, Denver, when we're not talkin' high society stuff. I'm learnin' — just makin' sure nobody's depending on me for that part of it, y'know?" He smiles. "So used to bein' on my own, not having other people to rely on who can make things happen that I'm not good it. Never ceases to amaze me to watch you two work."

Lilith nods, expression sombre and thoughtful as she slowly, mechanically goes through the process of checking her weapons. "Aye. But…still, a mighty lesson to learn. One that leaves little room for error." Her voice remains calm, quiet. "I suppose I'm more intrigued then anything over my role in this, and to see what happens….ah, now Slinger. You're a fine lad in your own right. I'm just a lady of leisure, meself." SHe gives him a smile, a genteel expression at odds with the way she neatly snaps the pistol back together.

Slinger nods and checks his gear. "So what're we walkin' into first off? Do I leave the armor on the plane? Unload it? Stuff it in a box and come back for it? We goin' through customs, or we just getting dropped in the forest?" He fondles his pack, then shrugs and pulls out one of the sticks, lighting up as he leans back, more contented already. "I'm following your orders for this part of it, at least," he adds, giving Kassandra a grin.

"Well .. there is always room for error. There is seldom a fatality when buying a coat .. and it is good practice for other things." Kassandra shrugs a little, letting her now braided hair dangle freely. The majority of the mass is contained with cinnamon coloured ribbon. She remarks, "I'd take anything with you that you are going to want. I am not sure of our destination, but these rides usually don't sit idle waiting for us. So, pack what you can and be ready to carry it. With luck, Sam was kind enough to drop us close enough to walk."

The youth nods firmly, having a direction at least. And so he begins to shift his items into a simple backpack — at least that is something that got brought along. Tucking the armor inside it, which fortunately breaks down into pieces that can be transported, even if it is bulky and heavy. That's just about all he has — that and his pistol, and a few foci. And his pocket secretary… all the basics. His phone is turned off — unlikely that he could get reception out here anyway.

Lilith nods. She begins arranging things, sliding things into holsters, a whip at her hip, idly checking her…nails…buffing them, then rummaging around for some extra layers to pack around her full suit as a detriment against the cold weather. Just the essentials.

Kass will rise, heading to collect her gear and make sure what she needs on her body is there and the rest is packed in a simple backpack and a satchel. She says to the others, "We need to have minimum contact; no killing unless there is no other choice. The best situation would be to avoid contact at all costs."

Lilith looks over at Kass as she slips a snug turtle neck over her fullsuit. "Aye, that'd be nice. I wouldn't want to disappoint the old man. Or Ehran." Again, that same thoughtful expression. "Were there any details I missed whilst I was napping?"

"Stupid question," Slinger pipes up. "Doesn't buying cold weather gear necessitate contact? Or should I sneak in and steal it? 'Cause I can do that," he says, that broad grin filling his features again, around that cigarette. He finishes stashing his gear and comes back forward, sprawling into a seat in a manner the FAA would not approve of.

Chuckling, Kass remarks, "No contact with the enemy. We are probably not going to be engaging any shopkeepers." She glances to Lilith, "Um .. blah blah we might meet Harlequin blah blah do the job and don't be stupid blah blah." She considers again, "That was about the main thrust of what he had to say."

Slinger shakes his head, exhaling slowly. "Harlequin. There's a name to chill ya to the bone," the youth remarks, belting himself in. Another drag of his cigarette, hard and deep, before he crushes it out in the ashtray provided on the seat. Which hasn't been used in a long time, but as Sam pointed out, he's a filthy Shadowrunner. Rah.

Lilith arches a brow. "Harlequin. Huh." SHe plops down with an air of simple acceptance. "That'll be interesting. Otherwise, that does sound like Samuel." She chuckles a bit. "Enlighten me a bit about Harliquin? I've heard a few things when I was still living in London, but…"

"Immortal elf," Slinger drawls in response to Lilith's question. He's always a little jittery before a mission, though he's calming his nerves. "Apparently, has some sort of major rivalry with Ehran or something. As likely to destroy us as to help us, Sam said — though I'm figuring more the former. Hoping we don't run into him because frankly, he's like dealing with a dragon. We got no way of knowing what it is he really wants."

"Basically, he is a major player from another age, a big time spy slash mage slash adventurer. He has a bit of a rivalry with the Scribe. He might be a problem, he might stand around and watch, he might help. He is the quintessential wild card." Kass shrugs, eyes considering the level of smoke in the air. She remarks idly, "I don't expect much problem topside, as long as we can blend in."

Lilith nods. If anything, she seems rather at peace with these rather alarming facts. "Huh. Wily old geezer, then…hmm." She folds her hands together, staring up at the ceiling. "What happens will happen. Worrying too much about it will only make things worse."

Slinger nods. "Yeah. Whatever it is, we'll pull it off," Slinger agrees. Mercurial, his mood shifts in an instant, and the youth relaxes, just waiting for the landing to begin. And for us to finally have some of the questions answered by reality itself.

Kass spends the last minutes of the flight securing her gear, checking her radio frequencies and prepping her Battletac system. She seems to be running very light this trip, a bare bones approach.

The flight descends in to Moscova (Thats MOscow, for you anglophiles), with bags and persons transported to a smaller, twin engine turboprop aircraft that appears to be hardened against cold weather.

Slinger will also coordinate comm frequencies. And crypto. He has a decent comm, and one that's fairly concealable. And he does just that, before he situates his gear — and his backpack. Customs will happen if it happens, and he'll just have to assume it won't. Or that the guards can be bribed. That's why he has Kassandra. He looks young, at least, and hopefully, therefore, harmless. The youth swallows, clears his throat, and belts in for the descent.

Lilith leaves her back behind. A wool turtle neck and thick stockings over her fullsuit, then a pair of sturdy jeans, then a thick vest, then a heavy duty winter coat that hangs to her knees, fur lined hood. Face covered by a thick balaclava, of course. It's cold out. Weapons stuffed or holstered at key points, comm on and ready.

It's all about confidence. Kassandra changes planes, her backpack strapped on, satchel bouncing on her hip. She has a watch cap pulled down on her head, her pointed ears covered along with her hair. She moves to where she needs to go, a steady smile on her face and eyes searching for persons she needs, planes she wants, signs that tell her what is going on.

Lilith moves quietly behind Kass, hands in flexible and warm leather gloves, but still shoved into the pockets of her winter coat. She grins at the woman, white teeth shining from the mouth opening of her woolen mask. "G'day, ain't it?"

And Slinger, not having been prepped for this, has no cold weather gear at all. Just his T-shirt and jeans. And by the time he gets a bit away from the aircraft, he's shivering pretty fiercely, though his trademark grin is still there. He does have gloves on, of course, but most of the rest of his skin is fairly exposed, and his arms are covered with goosebumps. He shields his eyes from the cold, but doesn't say much of anything, just examining his surroundings carefully.

The small plane to Arkangele'sk is private, a single pilot (not even a rigger) at the helm. He's an ethnic Tajak, a sort of mongoloid arab with russian influence in the eyes, but the dusky skin of the desert Pashtun. His accent is Ukrainian, however. Soviet Russia was an odd trial in ethnic migrations and forced intermingling.

"We be land in three and zero minute!"

Lilith looks over at Slinger. With a faint smile, she passes over her winter coat. She's used to cold weather, and besides, the armor, turtle neck, vest, all wool and solid leather, add enough layers to keep her comfortable. "Here, lad."

Dressed in blacks and blues, Kassandra calls out her understanding to the pilot, strapped into her seat. She looks like a young transfer student, perhaps, certainly not old enough to be a doctor or professor. She seems relaxed, simply existing for the moment, watching the scenery as they come in; anything could be important when you are running for your life later.

The youth shakes his head, hands in his pockets. "We'll be on the next plane soon," he points out, with a grin. "My own fault for not bein' better equipped. I'll survive." But he does seem relieved once we get on the next plane, and he belts in, closing his eyes with pleasure as at least the small aircraft provides some relief from the cold. Next to these two experienced runners, he's an amateur, a kid trying to play grownup.

Lilith huddles in with Kass, making sure her straps are secure. She nods to Slinger, then peers with interest outside. She might be a body guard, perhaps, or just Kass's friend, perhaps dragged along for her little adventure. SHe nods politely to the pilot, then settles in, but watchful.


To: eslecalpemos.clpms.ecalpemoS|kliS#eslecalpemos.clpms.ecalpemoS|kliS
From: tnoduoyon.wonkotdeen.koopsykoopS|960yugykoopS#tnoduoyon.wonkotdeen.koopsykoopS|960yugykoopS

Silk; I've arranged for some basic gear to be on the ground for you when you arrive. A four wheel drive, some snow-suits and other basics I figure you don't already have in the inventory; It's a little warm for your arctic gear and a little cold for jeans and a tee-shirt, no matter how good you look in them.

- Sam.

Kass murmurs, "Just .. be cool and follow my lead. No matter what I say or do, don't act surprised. Keep your expression friendly, if you can, as the situation calls for it. Act natural, don't skulk, don't act scared, don't act like you are casing the joint." The elven girl gives a few pointers, checking her secretary as it beeps at her. She shows the message to the others, "And there we go. See? All taken care of."

Lilith chuckles as she looks over. "Aye aye, ma'am." She seems relativly at ease already, perhaps. "And it was kind of him to arrange things."

Slinger grins, breathing a sigh of relief. "Cool. Sam thought of us." He chuckles and spreads his legs out, considering. "So where are we landing, relative to the site?" he asks, trying to picture the map in his mind. Starting to actually get a feel for how bitterly cold the outside is — Denver doesn't get that cold, even in the dead of winter. Of course, it fails to be Russia. He takes the opportunity to brazenly light up another smoke, watching the surroundings pass beneath us. Realizing slowly exactly how much one snow-covered hill looks like another.

Kass glances out the window, considering the area. "Not sure yet how close we are. Likely a few miles, given the car he is leaving us." She sniffs as Slinger blazes up, regarding the smoking elf. "You are going to owe me a case of shampoo before this is over with; it takes FOREVER to get that smell out of my hair, and Ally won't let me in bed smelling like smoke."

Lilith snorts under her breath. "I've got some lovely stuff at home you can use, m'dear. I usually get the good stuff for this mop." She points at her head with a wry smile, then gets out her pocsec to process some information.

The elfin boy grins, relaxing as he puts his feet up on the seat in front of him. "Done and done. And I would think Ally would be happy to have you, no matter how you smell. Just blame it on me," the youth says casually, and takes a thick drag from his tobacco stick. "Surely I'm not the only runner you know who's an addict," he smirks. He looks out the window again, yawning — jet lag is a bitch, and his body's internal clock is definitely askew from what the vision outside is telling him.

On the Ground in Arkangel'sk

"Okay being happy time now, moving downward to hit ground!" Calls the pilot, putting the plane in to a steep dive.

"I don't hang out with many other people, although Samuel smokes like a chimmney." She shuts up as the pilot works to crash the plane, or land, depending on your point of view.

Lilith grunts as her body is pulled delightfully along for the ride. She grimaces briefly at her stomach, then patiently closes her eyes. "Yipee fucking doo."

Slinger, though, checks his seatbelt, then looks out the window excitedly, grinning like a schoolkid. He does finish his cancer stick with a deep drag, then crushes it out, letting the toxins stream from his nose and mouth while he crouches down, looking out the tiny windows as the plane goes down. Sam hired this guy, so he has to be competent. Right? Right. Trust Sam. Believe in Sam.

Sam hired a guy who hired a guy who hired a girl who hired a guy who knew a guy who hired guys who fly planes.

Trust in your gut, which was just left a thousand feet up in the air. The plane noses over, diving down below a buffeting thermal layer, shaking the plane.

Coincidentally enough, one of the most effective anti-motion-sickness medications is, in fact, nicotine. And Slinger is pumped to the gills with it. He just grins, letting out a whoop of delight as the plane dives, and holding onto the seat in front of him like he was enjoying a roller-coaster ride.

Kass hangs on, trusting the straps at the moment more than the pilot. She always seems to be in some crate in the middle of nowhere these days. Dwelling on that, she watches and waits, murmuring softly to herself in Arabic.

Lilith keeps her eyes closed. She begins to hum softly, murmuring the lyrics to some old tune, probably unfamiliar to the others…"When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide, where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride, till I get to the bottom and I see you again. "

The plane noses up at the last seeming possible moment, its skis extended to take the weight of the plane with a mighty hiss and thump of fresh powder against the struts and wings.

Lilith sings softly. "Will you, won't you want me to make you, I'm coming down fast but don't let me break you.

The landing, for all the build to it, actually happens fairly smoothly. And Slinger says seated until the plane costs to a stop. Then unfastens his seatbelt and grabs his gear. Hopefully those snowsuits aren't too far away. "We in a hurry? Or can somebody grab one of those suits and bring it in to me?" he wonders casually, as he peers out through the windows.

Lilith grunts with the force of the landing. "I can grab one, sure."

Show time. The plane lands and Kassandra removes her engagement ring and threads it through a white gold chain, dropping the whole assmebly beneath her shirts, the chain fully long enough that the ring will be well hidden. She unbuckles herself as they come to a stop, chuckling faintly. "Cold is good for you. It'll help you to think. This, this isn't bad. Now the trip to Antarctica, *That* was a bad hop."

THe plane comes to a stop near the end of the runway, then taxies back to the hanger area. Inside the hanger, a white truck akin to an old Suburban waits, the rear holding several bags, the engine idling to keep the thing warm. Snow is piled deep outside, save where the runway scrapers keep things smooth.

The youth grins, saluting Kassandra sloppily. "Yes'm," he replies. And he shoulders his backpack, heading for the door of the aircraft. At least it's an actual runway. He steps out onto the tarmac, hit instantly by the cold, but he's tough, he can handle it. Even so, he sprints toward the other vehicle, after glancing around to make sure there's nothing targeting him right at this instant. Even so, he keeps his head down, until he reaches the SUV in question. Ah, beautiful, blessed heat!

Lilith unbuckles and hops outside of the plane. Her breath makes little white poofs in the chill air as she looks around, eyeing the truck for a moment, quietly observing and waiting before she moves to approach.

Kass takes a big deep breath of the outside air, looking around cheerfully. She trudges towards the SUV, her boots crunching along. She seems indifferent to the possibility of ice or slick ground, her footsteps coming with an easy grace, almost sliding along. She smiles, peering up at the sky and commenting, "I hope it snows some while we are here."

Lilith chuckles as she shuffles along after, making sure her hands are tucked into her pockets, gloves or no. "Aye. Haven't seen a good bit o'white for ages."

The SUV is toast-osty warm, with a Russian cover-band doing a version of 'Secret Agent Man', some kind of jarring mismatch of American Slang, russian cadence and whining electro-technic riffs. The keys are in the ignition, the bags are in the back labeled 'S' 'L' and 'K'.

Lilith peeks into the back with interest, prodding the bag labeled "L". She unzips it and peers inside.

Bags. Bags with his name on it. Or at least a letter. Though he hesitates between S and K, and finally reaches for 'K', using the logic that 'S' must be for Silk. He's shivering a little, but the warmth of the SUV is soon warming his skin enough that he can reach for the zipper, grinning. "Sam thinks of everything."

Inside each bag, you will find the following:

2 Cold Weather Survival Suits (Like an arctic survival suit, but less bulky)
3 suits of underwear/thermals
10 Chemically powered pocket heaters
1 Set of anti-glare/snow-blindness goggles
A note from Sam indicating the cost for these will come out of your paycheck.

Also, Slinger is going to look odd in Kassandra's underwear.

Kass, for her part, sliding into the driver's seat with a little sigh, closing her door and looking over the controls, getting to know the vehicle. She whistles a little Christmas song as she piddles around, checking glove compartments and the like.

Lilith snickers quietly at the note, but carefully tucks it away. She looks over at the others, giving Kass a faint smile. "Dare I ask how he knew what kind of panties to get?" She rummages around a bit more. "Do we need a minute to change into this gear, or do we wait till later?"

Slinger paws through the bag, then comes up with some underwear that looks decidedly feminine. "Either Sam's sense of humor is showing," Slinger says quietly. "Or I think I have your bag." He passes it forward, then reaches for the next bag, the one marked with the letter 'S'. And begins to change clothing. "Hope nobody here is modest," he comments with a faint smirk, as he begins to strip off his clothing, without hesitation at all.

THe glove compartment contains a travel map, a book with the owners manual and a copy of the local insurance paperwork.

Lilith just gives Slinger a look. Turns back to her own gear, quietly begins to change into the less bulky winter wear herself. Modesty is not an issue, since it goes over her full suit. It doesn't take long, and a few minutes later she slips in, riding shotgun beside Kassandra.

Kass raises an eyebrow and shrugs to Lilith, accepting her bag from Slinger. "You two get changed." Being a bit more modest, she snags the map and places it on the seat next to her, taking her time in getting ready. "Wish I'd have known, I'd have packed my own polar gear. Probably a bit much for this operation tho." She'll work on getting ready, staying fairly quiet as she considers her next courses of action.

Slinger eyes the snowsuit, then puts it on — leaving his formfit on beneath it. Like long underwear. He's skinny, so tends to be a little cold, anyway. The extra warmth will do him good. He slides into the snowsuit, using the back seat to stretch out, and then settles down into it, stashing the rest of his gear in the truck. "All right. I'm done. Ready to rock and roll."

Lilith buckles in and nods. "Same here."

Kass takes a few more minutes before being ready, then pulls out the map and checks it over quietly, looking around at where they are, getting a feel for the map, the area, the time of day. "Alright, let's go see what we can find out."

The Map shows the main roads down the Dvina valley, heading back twords Moscova, some 600 miles south. Thats not a long distance in North America, 600 miles, but here, thats the sort of distance you fly or get on a train. Arkangele'sk has high speed rail service down the valley, but you're not going that far. Maybe 100 miles south, according to the map data you were provided.

A hundred miles in this weather. Slinger gets in back and lights up a smoke, enjoying the chance to grab one, while he waits for action. He stretches out back there, making himself comfortable — and keeping an eye on our rear, trusting Kassandra to handle the navigation.

Kass hrms at the map, nodding and getting her bearings. She touches the wheel, her eyes closing for a moment as she keys the internal switch, triggering a cybernetic change and engaging software in her brain. She says to the others, "Bit of a trip, so get comfy." Her voice and mannerisms have changed slightly; her words come with a faint Southern twang, Mississippi if you have the ear, perhaps the Delta. She engages the vehicle, starting off slowly.

Lilith nods, stretching a bit. "Mm."

The truck has two full tanks of gas, as noted by two separate fuel gauges. A guesstimate might place the trucks range then at 500 miles, maybe 450. The big truck handles the snow well enough, the roads clear of most major drifts and those that are not, are small enough to roll through with little more than a shudder.

Kass seems to be able to handle the vehicle fine, hands and feet moving in harmony and giving her mind time to think, time to plan and dream and otherwise occupy itself. She stays quiet, concentrating on the road for now, taking advantage of the relative peace of not being shot at to make time.

Lilith taps her fingers along her thighs for the ride, quietly thinking things over. Ehran. Harlequin. Snow. Sam. More snow. Cold. Ehran. Damn, he's not a bad look…snow snow snow cold cold cold….

Slinger, himself, is sitting in the back, smoking intermittently, while he thinks. "Silk?" he calls. "We got the map of where the dig is? Wanna make sure we don't, you know, alert people if we get too close. I'm sure they got, well, prolly drones of some kind up. Search and rescue and stuff like that, mebbe. Radar."

"Nyet, tovarisch." Kass remarks, "We have a general idea of where we need to be. We'll have to park and hike, probably."

Lilith nods. "Good thing I wore me boots." She tilts her head, looking out the window over the drifts.

"Da," Slinger says, which, combined with 'nyet' comprises the sum total of his knowledge of Russian. He leans back in the vehicle, watching around us, though the monotonous scenary is wearing on his young, active mind. "We got long enough for a nap?"

"An hour or so, depending on weather, bandits, awakened Polar bears, that sort of thing. Maybe even longer." Kass shrugs, "Sleep while you can."

Lilith chuckles. "I've 'ad my sleep." She lets her accent fall back into the comfortable zone. "Gods, I must be wide awake. Crisp air helps…and it can't hurt to have another pair of eyes on the road. Slinger, why don't you conk out?"

Slinger shivers in the back of the SUV, chuckles, shakes his head. "Nah. I'd hardly drift off before we got there. And I'm grumpy when I wake up. Nobody wants that," the youth comments lightheartedly. Walking, he can do. Actually, he'll probably fly, assuming no magical security of any kind.

"How far are we gonna be from the camp again?" he asks, thoughtfully, considering whether he's likely to be spotted. He glows like a Christmas tree to astral sight.

The trip down south, at about 60 miles an hour, will take approximately 1.5 hours. More than enough time for a nap. The M-8 is large enough that traffic is almost non-existent. The road departs the main road at Erin-Navlok, a small town on the Dvina River.

"A few miles, give or take. Hard to say, really, till we get there and see where we have to ditch the ride, what we have to go around. A few miles by the map anyway." Kass shrugs, driving with quiet patience and skill.

Slinger yawns again, and actually does doze off back there. Thankfully, not with a cancer stick lit. Instead, there are soft little snores coming from the rear of the truck, almost inaudible over the road noise from beneath. Warm youth — and when sleeping, he looks innocent.

Lilith will let herself be patiently bumped along until they arrive…at the sound of snores, she twists her body to look at the back seat. A soft smile crosses her face before she looks forward again.
Paying attention to the road, Kass runs through the data via a cable from beneath her cap into the datajack, reviewing everything said, every scrap of information on the dig and the City of Spires. There are precious little clues that Ehran has given them, and she will commit those to memory.

Russia is a very very boring place. The mountains here are low, carved by glaciers and furrowed by time. Not very impressive; not very craggy and certainty not very interesting. Icy, to be sure. Boring, to be sure. Sparsly populated, if at all (A bountiful gift of VITAS, striking away a third of the worlds population, followed by its brother Goblinization in marginalizing another 10 percent itself, compounded by the Euro Wars, which saw a further 5 percent of the local population removed…) it has the feel of wide open, empty land.

Because it is.

Lilith mutters under her breath. "If not for St.Petersburg, Russia could very bloody well go to hell. An deliciously icy hell at that."

Kass spares Lilith a glance at the muttering, perhaps not picking out all the words. She nods simply, the datastream still rushing across her visual range, superimposing itself over the road. She drives on, checking the map occasionally.

Soft little snores continue from the back, along with soft little whimpers as Slinger turns over in his makeshift bedding. Vulnerable — and trusting, especially of Lilith, whom he seems to regard as a big sister of sorts.

Lilith looks over at Slinger again as he whimpers, frowning a little. Gods, hope he doesn't have a nightmare and wake up all shaky and such. But she does touch his forehead, perhaps to calm him, perhaps to wake him up if they're nearing their destination.

The vehicles autonav, despite being Russian in its language, seems to indicate a point of interest. To the right, for those who speak Russian, would be the Moscow University Dig, noted by the large signs bearing the Red Star of the Russian Army.

Lilith murmurs softly to Slinger. "Oi, lad, s'all right. Up with you."

Kass keeps going slowly, mindful of road conditions, road blocks, ice, guns, that sort of thing. She consults the map, apparently not willing to just get out and chitchat like a tourist. She'll look to be heading towards civilization, if such exists, or at least to get a better look at where the location of their 'secret' way in is.

The touch to his forehead wakes him up slowly, and the teenaged-looking elf opens his blue eyes, gazing up at Lilith with a faint smile. "We there yet?" he asks, with his voice a little small, and then yawns, his whole skinny body stretching. And then he sits up, giving a couple of soft coughs, and clears his throat, glancing around the vehicle. And reaches for a smoke, of course. "Was havin' a nice dream. About bein' somewhere /warm/," he comments, though it's with his normal grin.

Lilith just give him a quick smile, and noting his wakefulness, turns back to observing the outdoors. "Shouldn't have moved to Denver, Slinger. Now, shake off the fuzzies and stay sharp, we're in the area I believe."

The small town is perhaps some 30 miles back, on a single lane dirt road that's been rutted by the passage of large trucks. The dig is perhaps a mile and a half back when the road broadens in to a turn out, a few tire tracks cut in the fresh snow of the turnout.

"Denver's warm," the elf remarks. "Sometimes." He lights up his smoke, drawing in deeply, and sits up, eyeing his surroundings. Once nicotine flows into his blood, he's awake fairly quickly. One advantage of being a smoker. And he does begin scanning the area fairly carefully, his eyes taking in his surroundings. "Did we pass the dig or somethin'?" he asks, curiously, glancing around at the various tire tracks.

"Denver is warm a lot, at least half the year. It was warm last week, for goodness sake." Kass murmurs, eyes checking the map, the road off to the dig, the map. She keeps going, mentioning, "Yes, we passed it. I'd like to get a lay of the land before it gets dark. I hate running around someplace I haven't seen."

Lilith nods. She falls silent, keeping watch for now.

Slinger does the same, falling silent. He finishes his smoke and stubs it out, making sure it's completely extinguished. Heat signatures are no fun at all. Despite being somewhat lighthearted sometimes, now he's all business, when it counts.

It's an odd thing. The evening sun lasts a lot longer than it really should at this point, but the sun seems to just hang there on the horizon, clinging to the earth and casting long twilight shadows that just don't seem to fade, but slowly.

Slinger, himself, is checking his gear, and making sure he is outfitted. "Want to make sure we're not spotted. That's the important thing. I'd rather not have any contact at all with the camp. Just easier that way," he comments, glancing forward to the person who has the map. And anxious to get inside — where hopefully his skills will be of some use.

Lilith nods, getting ready as well. "Nice the sun lingers on for now. With any luck the dig won't pose much of a problem…though I suppose it's too much to ask to simply be able to drift past and get where we need to be."

"That does seem to be the crux of the plan," Kass remarks quietly, looking for a good place to park the vehicle, out of sight from the road and onlookers so they can have a looksee on foot. She'll quiet after her comment, eyes peeled for a nice place.

Slinger considers that. "I could invis all three of us. Would drain me a little, but I can do it," the youth murmurs thoughtfully. "I could invis and levitate all three of us, but that'd really drain me. But I can do it. Only problem is if they have anybody watching the astral…"

It's russia. It's made of wide spaces with no one in it. A old logging road heads off in to the woods in the general direction the GPS is leading.

Lilith shakes her head. "Save your energy for the big stuff. We've got space and we've got a little time yet."

Logging road? Sure, why not. Kass head the vehicle down the road, letting Lil and Slinger talk things out. She does the driving.

The road takes you up in to the hills, looking over the Dvina valley and the small town below. Lights are slowly coming on, the dig clearly starting to shut down for the night. The forest grows thicker, strong and tall evergreens.

Lilith looks around at the forest, watching the trees, then turns her eyes to the camp, nodding. "Settling down for the night, good. Hopefully they won't be a problem."

The Dig is about 10 miles back, but the GPS indicates the location you are looking for is about 5 miles off the road, through the forest and up the hillside.

"Look for somewhere where we can hide the SUV easily," Slinger suggests, as he wiggles around in back, climbing into his cold weather gear. The youth checks his equipment, his smokes, everything he'll need for some protracted adventuring. "And lemme know if you want the invis spell. I can pull it off," the youth says, with a smile in his voice. "I'm sure I can."

Checking the map and the GPS, Kass will slow the vehicle down and pull off the road, careful not to get stuck. Once towards the treeline and out of clear sight of things, she'll put it in park. She raises an eyebrow at the commentary, nodding quietly. "A bit of a walk before us, no more than a few miles. Ok, five. Still, I don't want to draw attention to where we are going with the vehicle .. at night, the noise will give us away. Plus, we can use the exercise."

Lilith chuckles softly, turning her gaze once again to the forest. "Of course." She lets her eyes scan as she slips out of the truck, stretching slightly. "Can't hurt. Endurance training and all that. Do you think we need the invis, Silk?"

"Been workin' on that," Slinger comments, sitting up and then climbing over the rear seat, so that he has a better vantage point — and it's easier to talk. And he's more ready to hop out of the vehicle if needed. He checks his Narcoject pistol — right there where he needs it. Check. Foci, check, expendable and otherwise. Expensive, but good in a pinch. He nods once. He's ready.

Outside temperature: 41f. Wind: 3-7mph, from the south to north.

"I do not desire any spells on me, no. Given that we have no idea what sets off any of the traps in the area, any of the magical defenses or spirits in the woods, all that sort of thing, it doesn't seem like we should chance it." The elven girl shrugs, pulling her pack out of the SUV and slipping it on. She pulls a pair of reinforced goggles on and nods to the others.

"That's okay. I'll take yours," Slinger says flippantly. And starts working on his spells, powering up a little bit…

Lilith nods. She makes sure she's got her weapons readily available and then shrugs her canvas pack on her shoulders, settling it so the weight is just right for the hike. "Ok then. Ready to roll."

Slinger also checks the outside temperature. "If it stays like this, we won't need the clown suits. Could just wear my greatcoat, would be fine with just that," he comments, glancing at the others for their input. "Would give a little more armor, if that becomes important."

Taking a few steps back as Slinger starts powering up spells, Silk shrugs. "Sun is going down, probably see a goodly temperature change after dark. Dunno what sort of environment the city is under, either." She gives the man time to get his spells set and then turns and heads off into the woods in the direction they need to go.

Lilith tilts her head, eyeing the general atmosphere. "I'd keep it on, just in case. Who knows, storm might blow up sudden, or we could…aye, what Silk said." She shrugs and smiles, and then tromps after the elven woman.

"Noted," Slinger replies. And doesn't bother changing. If it weren't for the weight of his bigger armor, he'd bring that. In fact, he's tempted to…

The GPS beeps quietly, pointing up the hill side.

Commlink-Slinger> Slinger says, "Radio check."

Slinger climbs out of the SUV first, hovering above the ground as he pushes the door closed, and floats upward, invisibly, through the trees. Using them as concealment as best he can, while scanning the astral for any threats.

Commlink-Malus> Lilith says, "Mm"

Kass turns down the beeping device, moving with care through the woods. She isn't racing to get to their goal, instead she is taking her time, looking around quietly. She moves from tree to tree, using the brush to break up her silhouette and protect her from wandering eyes.

Commlink-KassGM> KassGM says, "A single click marks Silk."

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Intelligence vs TN 4:
2 5 5 5 9 9 = 5 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Aura Reading vs TN 5 for "Complementary.":
1 2 3 9 = 1 Success

Up the Mountain

On the Astral, the area is alive. Very much so. Even with the astral haze that seems to cling to the land scape, it's easy to see tat there are scars across the landscape here and there, where strip mining or heavy logging have rent the land like a dragons claw. Spirits of the forest flit here and there, but nothing seems to be actively watching or looking for you.

Commlink-Slinger> Slinger says, "Astral looks clear."

The forest is fairly dense, with undergrowth and only a few trails, mostly made by game. This far north, this far away from civilization, and this far in tot he wild, only the game travels here. Russia has long had a problem with population and the VITAS, succession of Siberia and the lure of Europe have only helped that along.

Lilith keeps her eyes and ears open, despite the apparent lack of humanoids.

Following the game trail when she can, Silk moves along as quietly as possible. The girl doesn't talk much and now she is far past that, keeping her thoughts to herself as she checks the map, the GPS, the lay of the land. She moves along at a quick walk, peering at the occasional bit of underbrush or interesting rock as well as the trail.

Slinger himself floats above the ground, staying up in the trees and using them for cover. The magic on himself costs him no effort, leaving all his attention free for his senses. Some exercise! Though he'll probably drop the spell once leaving tracks is no longer a concern, and altitude no longer any sort of advantage.

Theres lots of interesting things. After a few minutes, you come across an area where trees have been snapped off about half way up, dead now from the damage. It's a line that progresses up hill a ways. Fire, perhaps some other shock, killed the trees here rather specifically.

Lilith sniffs the air slightly, peering at the trees as she slows a bit, but doesn't stop, to inspect them. "Hm. Any ideas?" She drifts closer to Silk to let herself be heard, murmuring softly.

Silk shrugs to Lilith, pointing in the direction they need to go. She pauses at the trees, hmming quietly. She moves to collect a few pieces of the deceased folliage, carefully putting them away in a zip-type bag and into a pouch on her belt.

Slinger examines the dead trees, the damage, keeping his vision in the astral. Lilith and Kassandra are more than capable of observing things in the physical realm; he can help most by keeping his sight in the realm that only he can see. And he glances around, then pulls out his cigarettes after sniffing the air. Nothing too flammable here, from all appearances.

Lilith nods and follows, noting her actions with a faint smile and then walking on. She does turn her gaze a little more closely around her, perhaps looking for other clues as to what might've happened.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence vs TN 8 (to Johny) for "Default for Talismongering. Going to collect some just in case it has uses later.":
1 1 1 2 3 4 4 11 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Intelligence:
1 2 2 4 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence for "Perception. Elvish Low Light, some thermo":
1 2 3 4 5 5 5 5

Kassandra finds a few interesting bits of this or that, including a scrap of shiny metal.

As to perception, naw. You don't make any great leaps of observation or astuteness at the moment. The sun is setting though now, creeping lower and the temperature is starting to drop. Rapidly.

External Temperature: 36f

Crouching, Kass will find a stick and brush any debris/dirt/etc away from the metal and examine it visually before ever touching it.

Lilith shivers slightly, and moves to Silk's side, keeping watch while the other woman examines the metal.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence for "Test":
2 3 4 4 4 4 5 11

The metal is light. Lighter than steel. Lighter than most any metal for a fragment this solid. It's got some fibers fused in to it. It looks manmade of a sort, and then it hits you. The trees, cut off evenly, the swath. Aircraft Aluminum.

Hmming, Kass looks the bit of metal over a moment, eyes traveling over the trees, looking both ways. She nods quietly, sliding the piece of metal into the same pouch and comments quietly, her words barely carrying the few feet to Lilith, "Airplane may have went down around here." She nods in the direction it appears to have cut through the trees. She shrugs a little and heads off in the direction they need to go again.

It just so happens that direction is best served by following the cut in the trees.

Slinger has his cigarette lit, and is staying downwind of Kassandra. The smoke appears as it flows out from his invisible lips, foggy on the air, but hard to see in the darkness. He still cups it with his fingers, absently, as he stays on overwatch, eyes flicking ahead for the plane. "How long ago?" he asks, not bothering with the comm.

The elven girl shrugs, keeping her voice low. She pauses, sniffing the air a moment and then touching one of the snapped off trees, "Years. Half a century, maybe less." She shrugs a little and starts along the damaged and dead trees, heading towards the direction they hope to find their goal at.

Lilith follows Silk, nodding. She glances up to Slinger and shrugs. "Might be a good idea to put away the cig when we get closer." Her voice carries as softly as the smoke trailing from the cig, and she simply trods onwards, once more watchful of her surrondings.

As you make time up the mountain, easier here where there is less undergrowth, in the scar, you feel the air around you getting colder. Both as you gain altitude and as the sun drops completely away, leaving just the light of the halfmoon in the sky. At least it's clear, giving that light more ability to reach you.

At the top of the scar, there is a great furrow in the ground, the fusillage of an ancient Russian Bomber broken and bent, almost unrecognizable save for an engine mount here, a wheel sticking up there, the rear tail assembly over yonder…

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence for "Perception Test: Elvish Low Light, occational Thermo":
1 2 2 3 3 4 4 9
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Intelligence:
1 4 4 8 10 11«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Intelligence for "Perception Test: Elvish Low Light, occational Thermo":
1 2 2 3 3 4 4 9
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Intelligence:
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Intelligence for "Perception":
2 3 3 11 16
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Military Equipment for "Comp?":
1 2 3 4 4 5
«OOC» Johny ooohs
You paged (Kassandra, Lilith) with 'An unexploded 1000 pound bomb over there…'.

"I know," Slinger says. "That's why I'm smoking one now." Another lungful of the evil carcinogens, and he knocks his ash off onto the ground where it'll be inconspicuous. "Who thinks it's coincidence that it went down right here?" he asks.

Lilith snaps up her fist in the automatic STOP gesture. "Hold. Bomb, 1000 pounds. Right over there."

Stopping, Silk hunkers down and considers the bomb. She absently looks around, forehead crinkling slightly as she considers a few things. That done, she'll start a wide path around where the bomb is located, given what she knows about the sort of explosive power they have, the relative year it has been here, and the fact it hasn't gone off. She won't go miles out of her way, but at least gives it a fairly good distance before turning back the direction they need to go.

The bomb is a good old fashioned Russian Semi-Guided. Lots of conventional explosives, with an altimiter set to when it should explode in the tail.

Either the altitude was set too low or it was damaged in the crash.

Lilith gives the bomb a wary glance and gives it a wide berth. At this point she's scanning the ground much more closely as they take a quick and hopefully safer detour.

Slinger is also steering clear of the bomb. It looks dangerous. And he's also making sure not to smoke near it — nor to grind out his cigarette butt near it at all. It might not be set off by fire — but then again, it might be. "If it's stayed here this long, it should be fine to stay here a few days more," he surmises. "I vote we don't frag with it, lest we be fragged."

How biblical.

Lilith snorts softly under her breath.

It's not hard to avoid the bomb. But who knows how many others are out here? This aircraft could carry a load of nearly 50 tons. That could be up to a hundred of these bombs, so temperamental, scattered about the forest.

Silk keeps that in mind, keeping her eyes open not for bombs but for disturbances in the forest and ecosystem that will be a greater indicator of where things are than the possibly rusted over or moss covered bombs might be. She keeps the same steady pace going that she's had the entire trip, moving ever forward.

Lilith is making very sure to keep her eyes open, sliding her gaze in a slow, careful pattern over the forest floor, the trees, looking for abnormalities.

Luckly, most of them probably exploded in the crash. The GPS leads you further up the hillside, angling in to a ravine that cuts a deep channel in to the mountain, an area between two peaks.

Lilith shivers a bit more in the cold air, trusting in quick movement to keep her warm, glancing up to the two peaks rising above them.

March march march. Silk trudges along on their nature walk, eyes taking in the scenery as she scans for problems, looking for goodness knows what. She pauses at least once near a tree to take a quick gulp of water and catch her breath, eyes searching the surroundings before continuing in the direction of their quest.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Willpower for "Oh good.":
2 3 4 5 8
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Willpower for "Yipee":
4 4 4 10 29
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Willpower:
1 2 3 4 4 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Willpower for "KP 1/21":
1 1 2 2 4 8

In to the valley you trudge. Trudge trudge trudge trudge. What happens is so subtle, that Kassandra and slinger don't really notice it. See, its not hard to disorient you in the woods, not hard to subtly guide you away from something. But the GPS isn't fooled by such things; so to Lilith, who spies the GPS… its like Kassandra is slightly, but decisively, off course. She walks at 354 degrees on the compass, but needs to be walkign at 350. Just enough to be off course, never finding the goal.

Lilith frowns slightly. "Silk. You're off course by about 4 degrees."

Sighing, Silk looks to Lilith and then down to the GPS quizzically, "We've been walking in a fairly straight line, it .. eh?" She taps the device, looks around, then back to the device. "Odd. Must have stepped wrong at the last tree." The elven girl checks the GPS again and starts carefully forward in the correct direction.

Slinger himself eyes the unit, frowning a little bit. But once again, technology has never been his strong suit. Instead, he's been focussing on the spirit realms, and simply following, allowing Kassandra and Lilith to guide the way. "Might have to watch that more carefully," he remarks.

«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Willpower:
1 1 3 3 4 9
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Willpower:
1 3 4 5 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Willpower:
1 3 3 4 5

And onward you trudge, on the 'new correct' heading… moving on in to the forest. For about a hundred paces, you stay true to course… and now its Sligner that notices when the group, Lilith included, subtly veers away, curving around.

Lilith frowns again, then looks up around them. "Might be something to those old tales of travellers never finding what they seek."

Slinger draws to a halt, eyeing the GPS from above. "Off course again," he murmurs. "Good thing you have that. We'd be totally lost without it. Something in the area is trying to confuse us, and it's sorta working."

Kass hms, pointing herself in the right direction again. She shakes her head, "Dunno, could be the GPS leading us wrong too."

«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Willpower for "Oh dammit all":
1 2 2 4 8
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Willpower:
2 3 4 4 5 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls Willpower for "KP 2/21":
1 1 4 4 4 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Willpower:
3 5 5 5 5
«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Willpower for "Karma reroll":
1 2 4 5 16

Slinger shakes his head, even though the gesture is invisible, and lights up another smoke, watching it drift away in the wind. At least that provides some degree of orientation, despite his tendencies to think otherwise. "Look… probably not. Here's the thing. The GPS is tech, right? It's doin' stuff with satellites and radio signals and drek like that. Back in the day, they didn't have this stuff. So their defenses are gonna affect our minds, not the gear." He pauses. "Though I bet this is why the pilot crashed. They didn't use to have GPS. All they had then was dead reckoning and maps. And compasses."

The Bridge

The GPS seems to be working properly, its Ping-rate to the sat-grid very good, with full bars of service. Setting the course properly now, Kassandra, Lilith and Slinger will quickly come to what looks to be a small clearing of woods, against a near vertical sheer of rock that is perhaps 200 feet tall; like a bite out of the mountain was simply taken by some massive creature.

Also, +1 to Slinger for correlating the crashed bomber with why it crashed.

Lilith gazes up with a measured glance of respect and awe. "Mm. Poor buggers." She murmurs to Slinger. "And it means now that we're here we may have some measure of protection."

"They had GPS thirty years ago, unless I am misremembering, and even further back than that." Silk remarks quietly, then shrugs, not willing to argue about it at the moment. She goes back to being quiet, moving hopefully where they need to go.

"Then I think this thing is older than that," the youth remarks. "Even so."

Slinger floats toward the clearing, flipping vision back to the astral. The GPS is hard to read in the magical realm, but once we seem to have arrived — or at least are getting closer — he can risk shifting his attention away from the gadget. Now his attention moves up toward the column of rock, trying to get some idea of what it is, what it might be… and what secrets it might conceal.

Lilith walks slowly, respectfully towards the apparent monolith. She doesn't have much hope, but peers at it for signs of anything unusual, other then the obvious magical trickery going on around them.

War has a way of denying one side access to basic navigational satellite links that one side maintains that the other does not. GPS and Euro-Star are American and Euro Inventions. Russia would have been on its own in regards to that.

The clearing is a half circle of clear earth, no growth. No life. Macrobioticly dead. The half circle abuts a shear wall of stone that rises up 200 feet, a ridge line carved away maybe by a glacier, so sharp and fresh it looks like something gnawed on the mountainside. At the center of the half circle, there is a nitch in the stone.

You paged Slinger with 'On the astral, the ground just feels dead, too. None of the film-grain sprinkling of dots of life.'.
Slinger pages: Anything in the center of it? That niche?
Long distance to Slinger: Johny nods.
Slinger pages: How's it look astrally?
You paged Slinger with 'Ground: dead. Just blank space, not even the usual peppering of life in healthy soil. The doesn't appear special, but geomanticaly, its at a powerful point in the mountains overall form.'.

"Hold on," Slinger murmurs, before coming near the half-circle. He glances around for something living, anything. A leaf. A green branch. Anything that might have life. And once he finds it, he gives it a toss past the boundary, into the semicircle. Just testing the effects, watching in the astral to see if the spark of life is extinguished.

Lilith pauses…no, she's not going farther into that dead zone. She watches Slinger, then his actions.

Silk will dutifully stop, turning off the GPS and attaching it to her belt. She sinks to a knee and waits, getting another drink of water.

The stick lofts in to the semicircle, landing near the mid point, close to the niche. It's an interesting thing, the way the ground ripples. It just rises up, like a wave, ejecting the stick back out of the circle.

Lilith arches a brow as she sips water from her own canteen. "Well now." She looks thoughtful. "Maybe there's a trick to it, if there's some sort of field that prevents us from entering."

«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Historical Literature:
2 2 8 10

You know. There's a story. Cuchullain as he comes to the Shadowy Fortress of Scathach for training in the art of war. A bridge that he had to cross, that would rise up to buck him off.

Slinger nods thoughtfully, and grins. "Well… let's give it the old college try," he murmurs. "I'm headed in." And with that, he floats forward, staying a good ten feet above the ground, and warily eyes the ground beneath him as he heads for that niche. Just to test the theory, after all…

Lilith holds up a hand. "Wait. I'm not done."

Lilith continues, watching the circle. "It was kind of a tricksy thing, that bridge. We loved the story because of the action…Old Cool was using it like a trampoline, you see. He knew it'd bounce him around, so he leaped first." She chuckles. "And then got bounded arse high jumping when the bridge bounced."

Slinger chuckles. "Well, we don't know until we try it. So here goes!" And he crosses the threshold, levitating, using the energy of the spell to keep him aloft while he eyes the ground beneath him warily.

Silk listens to Lilith, eyes going to whereever the invisible mage is speaking from. She shrugs a little and sits crosslegged on the ground, waiting to see what the results will be.

As Slinger enters the circle, the power of his levitation starts to falter, and every moment he stands within the circle, it sapps a little more, feeling a bit heavier…

The young mage fights it for a few moments, and then quickly zips back out of the area of the spell, shaking his head. "Shit. No, it just sucks energy out of my spell," he admits. "Might be able to get in there if I move fast enough, but it'd be pushing it and I'd probably end up on my ass." He glances around. "Other ideas? I came up with the first one!"

The moment slinger exits the circle, his spell comes back to full power.

The elfin mage floats above the others, and then glances down. "Anybody wanna try to just walk in, see if our force of will or something can defeat it?" he suggests. "Or maybe we could drive the SUV through it, since it's, you know, a vehicle and not organic. It really seems to dislike living things.

Lilith smiles a bit. "We could try it like the old stories say….I can give it a go." She gets to her feet, shrugging. "SUV would be too much trouble to get up here, and no need to desecrate the place with a machine."

Slinger tilts his head. "What did the stories say? I admit, my mythology's a little rusty," he comments. And fishes out another cancer stick, lighting up while he watches, his eyes intent upon Lilith, trying to glean any clues he can.

Lilith stretches a bit, keeping her eyes on the circle. "Well. What I was saying there. Old Cool jumped onto the bridge without fear, and then jumped again when it bounced at him, and used that to get himself higher."

Slinger nods, comprehension dawning. "That means our objective," he comments, "is up there." And points upward. "Or is it in the center, there?" he asks, frowning, trying to figure out the goal. Originally, the niche in the center seemed to be the obvious destination, but now he is less certain.

Lilith looks upwards, then to the niche. She shrugs, that same calm, level look on her face. "We'll see. I've no issue with it, but if anyone else is in better shape then I am and thinks they can handle it…" She leaves the question open.

Kass listens and watches, digging through her bag to look over Ehran's notes. She has most of them committed to memory, of course, but she checks anyway to be sure. She shrugs and rises, "I can give it a go, I am fairly fast. Maybe I can make it before the … whatever .. tosses me back out."

Slinger nods, dropping his levitation spell. He'll just plain have to run it. Thirty seconds isn't a lot, so he finishes his cigarette and tosses the butt into some snow, listening to it sizzle as it goes out. And he breathes deeply; he'll actually need his lungs for once.

Kass frowns at the dropped butt but doesn't address it at the moment. She focuses on the nitche, on where the notes say she needs to go. She takes a few quick breaths and takes off running, heading into the field and away from the forest.

Slinger will bury it in snow, just so it's hard to locate. There. Someday it'll thaw, but Slinger's DNA will be mixed totally with that of the tobacco, making extraction — and magical traces — impossible.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Athletics + Combat Pool: 4 vs TN 5 for "Test 1, 3 successes needed":
1 2 2 2 4 5 5 5 5 = 4 Successes

The ground rumbles at the intrusion of a full living being, a tremor running through it. The wave starts, a very subtle depression of the ground under Kassandra's feet, before it comes back up rapidly…

Accelerating quickly, Kass feels the tremor beneath her feet as she runs, gathering herself and pushing herself forward in a leap, trying to get past the wave and move forward without being shoved back out.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Athletics + Combat Pool: 4 vs TN 8 for "Test 2, 2 successes needed":
2 2 2 2 4 5 10 10 11 = 3 Successes

The ground roils up, propelling the elf in to the air. She managed, beautifully, to use the energy to push her forward still. The ground seems confused for a half moment, the human is still here. It shudders again, building up for a more powerful wave…

Bouncing nimbly, the elven girl hits the ground and keeps moving, using the energy and moving forward. She gathers herself as the wave builds again, hoping she times it right. Flying is fun, but being thrown is not as fun.

«Auto-Judge[]» Kassandra (#9777) rolls Athletics + Combat Pool: 4 vs TN 10 for "Test 3, 1 successes needed":
1 1 2 2 2 5 9 10 17 = 2 Successes

The third attack from the ground is full of sound and fury, almost as though fists of earth were pounding the underside of the ground, trying to hammer Kassandra off her feat and throw her back, to conquer and disrupt her, to do the job it was put here for… Thunder and hoofbeats, the sound is like.

Lilith murmurs softly. Almost to the earth itself, as much as to Kassandra, even though neither will be able to hear her. "Peace, friend."

Nimbly rising in the air, Kass gathers herself and rides the wave rather than resisting it, using its energy to help move her rather than forcing herself upon it. She hits the ground again lightly and still moving forward, reaching for the niche, the rockface, what she hopes will be the end of the race.

Lilith tenses as Kass flies. She puts herself down into the runner's crouch, waiting.

The moment Kassandra's feet hit the solid stone of the niche floor, the ground quiets, rippling like water in a pool… and then solidifying. A pair of runes glow on the stone wall, one red, one greenish, then fade back in to nothingness.

Slinger has his arms folded, watching — but even he is gaping in astonishment at Silk's prowess. He drops his arms to his side and lowers down, preparing to run at the exact instant that the path is clear. Ready to take off as soon as it's safe to do so. Unfortunately, he isn't the fastest runner by any means, even with the improvement to his reflexes that is still active. Once the ground quiets, he launches himself forward, knowing that he has to run as fast as he has in a long time.

Lilith nods her head once and bolts after Slinger, spinning off a thin patter of dirt as she launches from her crouch.

«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Athletics vs TN 4 for "Run!":
1 2 4 9 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Athletics vs TN 4 for "Run!":
1 1 4 10 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Athletics vs TN 4 for "Run!":
3 3 3 5 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Lilith (#8983) rolls Athletics - 1 vs TN 4 for " kp 1/14":
2 5 9 = 2 Successes
<Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #1.":
1 3 5 8 15 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #1.":
1 3 5 8 15 = 2 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #2.":
2 3 4 4 10 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 4 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #2, KP 3/21":
2 2 2 4 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 4 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #2, KP 5/21":
1 1 2 3 = 0 Successes
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 4 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #2, KP 8/21":
4 4 4 8 = 1 Success
«Auto-Judge[]» Slinger (#69) rolls 5 vs TN 8 for "Athletics, defaulting, #3":
1 3 5 11 11 = 2 Successes

It takes a supreme effort of will, but Slinger scampers over the ground like his life depended on it. Which is fortunate, because it probably does. The young mage is out of breath by the time he arrives. He stumbles several times, but through sheer force of will, and desperation, he manages to get to safety just as the ground starts to notice his presence…

Lilith runs like the devil. Or one after her. Whatever works, and it does, and she flies over the ground towards Kass. Don't think. Run. Muscles strain, tremble as her long legs flash out to their limit, and she covers the remaining few yards…don't think…heel skids on the cold, dead ground, and she falters, but keeps moving. Breathing hard, she lets the forces move as they will and pulls a neat tuck and roll as she slips up. She rises slowly to her feet, panting, but nonchalantly. Meant to do that.

Quietly Kass remarks, "That was fun. We should do that again." She tucks away her canteen and checks her notes again, looking around to see if there are instructions on how to get into this place. With luck, it won't involve running and flying and jumping.

The niche holds all three persons easy enough… and when all three are there… the ground behind opens up in a deafening bass roar, like it were a speaker for a moment… the deep bass rattles the stones like grains of salt on a membrane, reverberating in your knees… and then it stops.

The Niche slowly wides, opening further to allow a metahuman shaped being to pass beyond, a breeze of cold air wafting out of the now larger crevasse.

Lilith casually dusts herself off, then winces and wriggles a finger in her ear to soothe the ringing as the bass roars over them. "Hells." She eyes the entrance, then the others. "Shall we?"

"Ah," Kass remarks laconically. She nods slowly and heads towards the opening. She moves with deliberation, attaching a flashlight to her right forearm with a strap, securing it in place but not turning it on yet. She glances to Slinger and Lilith and with a look of mischief steps forward.

For the first time since he started, Slinger is regretting being a smoker. He's breathing hard, though he's in good enough shape that doesn't last very long. He's grinning, though, and then his eyes turn to the niche, trying to see into it. He may not have a lot of fancy cyberware, but he does have his original eyes, elfin low-light intact. Something the engineers have never been able to quite reach. "Who first?"

Lilith rolls her eyes a bit and ambles in after the woman. She keeps her eyes wide, to adjust to the light change….fingers out slightly to brush against any obstructions or walls to guide their way.

Who first. Such a good question.

And it will be answered… next time we meet.

Reference Maps

The Bay of Riga and Baltic Sea of Europe
The White Sea Area of Soviet Russia
The City of Spires
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