Tightbeam The Maze

Discussion in 'The Terminal' started by Claudia Volpe, Mar 13, 2019.

  1. Claudia Volpe

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    [​IMG]

    Eventually she gave up on the taxi. The roads were so congested that it was quicker to walk. Within a few strides she was desperately missing the air condition. She shrugged off her jacket but the summer heat in Tunisia was oppressive. Her shirt was soaked through before she was half way to her destination.

    A dropship could have taken her right there, but her orders were to get to the scene quickly, grab the details and report back without drawing too much attention. A dropship drew attention.

    The area was a warren of whitewashed stone houses. A tight compress of humanity that mostly had the sense to keep out of the midday heat.

    Vople saw her destination, hoping that the ship that had burned above atmo to get her here as fast as humanly possible had been worth the nausea.

    The police line was the first hint that the was the right place. The dark bullet holes in the bright stone walls was the next.




    "Well, something wasn't right about that," Volpe said. Her hair was back to a deep shade of black now. Behind her was the high ceiling of her airy apartment.

    "Arrived at the scene just after a UN team. They questioned whether interplanetary affairs had a reason to be there, but they let me in and I didn't leave a name. It was a mess. They claim it was two gangs having a shoot out and not an OPA cell as per your information.

    "Casualties on both sides left in the apartment. One side definitely had several people who looked like they spent a lot of time in low G. Then I noticed that the shell casings, bullet holes and bodies didn't line up. Someone had moved things around. One of the dead had fragments of armour plating in his chest. Which is odd given that he wasn't wearing any armour. Someone interfered with that scene in a rush. Sending what I have on that strange casualty."

    Volpe narrowed her eyes. She vanished from view but left the recording running.

    "Pissed someone off cos there's someone watching my apartment. Will report back again in the morning."
     
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  2. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    A reply arrived at three am in the night, encrypted up to the gills.

    The watchers are most likely ONI. I don’t know yet if they’re involved or just investigating, but be careful.

    Re: body
    Came up in the database as Menhardt Kaufmann. Ex-special forces. Last known contract was security for a M-K subsidiary, but it was terminated back in January when M-K shifted its assets around. It was involved in military R&D before restructuring.
     
    #2 Lucrezia Dionisi, Mar 13, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  3. Claudia Volpe

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    5:07 am CEST

    Anything in the background that would suggest pushed out or made unsuitable to hire? Any black flags?

    It does not seem likely to me that this individual would end up running with some low level gang. Official story is turf fight. Someone botched a job.

    Given this was flagged for your interest, suspect cover up.

    Don't believe ONI. Too amateur.

    Going to visit friend in morgue.
     
    #3 Claudia Volpe, Mar 13, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
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  4. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    20:23 ENAT

    Kaufmann is a hijacked id. He died in a border exchange in the Central Asian TZ seven years ago. Original records were falsified with new biometric data.

    [ encrypted file attached ]

    No real id yet. Forward any findings that could narrow down the search.
     
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  5. Claudia Volpe

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    Acknowledged. Going to do some digging.

    Claudia stopped at the door. She had chipped off a sliver of wood from the drawers. Checking the corridor she dropped to her haunches and held the sliver up and closed the door on it. Only a few millimetres of the wood were visible. Deciding that was enough she left the hotel. She didn't notice a tail picking her up as she left.

    Visited the morgue. Body counts don't add up. Not Kaufmann wasn't there. Checked security footage and he wasn't brought in. Neither was one other. Someone bodged a hit here.
     
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  6. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Letizia dropped the terminal on her glass table.

    “Porcà miserià.”

    The blathering of a reporter about the address earlier barely reached her ears. The angry buzz of a headache drowned out all the other noise as she watched the message destroy itself down to the last byte. Minutes ticked by until she finally shoved off the divan and put herself through the motions of preparing a cup of coffee.

    By the end of it, her hands weren’t shaking anymore.

    With fresh caffeine coursing through her veins, Letizia stalked over to snatch up the tablet. She typed in the numerical address from memory, then paused with her fingers above the holokeys.

    Not-Kaufmann had a partial tattoo that could be tied to organised crime. Arms trafficking.

    [ encrypted file attached ]
     
  7. Claudia Volpe

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    Got a tail. Heading back to apartment and then vanishing.

    Claudia drew her sidearm. There was no sign of the door having been forced, but the little splinter of wood was no longer wedged in the door. Left hand came to rest on the door handle. Her finger slid from the outside of the guard to rest on the trigger directly.

    There was a click from the stairs. A safety catch. Shit.

    Lucrezia received no further updates for two days.
     
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  8. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Letizia had learned not to make a habit of worrying about others. The purpose of having multiple assets was to avoid being overly-reliant on a single agent.

    Then again, every instance of divulging confidential information was a potential leak; a calculated risk safeguarded by layers of security and her own measures to ensure deniability.

    They had slunk into lunar night that same evening her operative had gone dark. If she weren’t staring at the particular dossier on her desk, she might’ve even found the irony somewhat amusing. Now two days had gone, and the dossier was still burning a hole in the back of her mind.

    She tapped a manicured nail against the side of a crystal tumbler. Her second husband’s favourite vodka sang back.

    Status?
     
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  9. Claudia Volpe

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  10. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Even though she split her time between Earth and Luna, Lucrezia slept here as often as not. The couch at her office, on the other hand, had been broken in a long time ago.

    Thus it was thanks to chance alone that the front door even slid open that night. Lucrezia stepped inside with a distracted murmur on her lips, features washed in the stark blue light of her terminal. Her heels clacked as she toed them off, rounding the kitchen island intent on a glass and a drink.

    The rug in the living room was a pristine white square in the artificial light pooling through the windows. Housekeeping and ‘housekeeping’ swept the place twice per week, unscheduled. They kept the flat just as immaculate as she liked – free of dust and bugs alike.

    And then she saw her.

    The tumbler slipped from her fingers and shattered on the priceless hardwood.
     
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  11. Claudia Volpe

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    Volpe winced at that. She winced again because the sudden sound made her flinch and sent pain lancing up her arm again.

    She had already helped herself to a glass, held in her right hand. Her left arm hung out of the end of a blood-stained sling. Claudia looked a little pale. She muttered an apology as she stood up.

    "Thought that might have stayed in one piece in the low gravity," she looked down at the glittering shards. She bet the glass had cost plenty; she hadn't even considered the floorboards.
     
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  12. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    “It’s— was crystal,” she replied distractedly, brown eyes flicking from the woman to the spilled drink and then back up.

    The way she gathered herself was a physical thing, almost – a presence drawn from the pieces of momentary shock back into a dignified whole. Her composure settled around her shoulders, chin ticking up an increment.

    “What are you doing here?”
    And then, a split-second later, “Bleeding on my couch?”
     
    #12 Lucrezia Dionisi, Mar 14, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  13. Claudia Volpe

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    She managed to look vaguely guilty as she turned back towards the chair. She couldn't see any blood. What was on the sling looked as if it had dried out some time ago.

    "Back street Tunisian doctors," she said with a shrug. A shrug she immediately regretted.

    "Purged my terminal, couldn't report back in full through dating messages. Got a bit more Tinker Tailor out there than I was expecting."

    With no apology at all she placed her crystal glass down and retrieved the bottle from the cabinet. As well as a third glass. Claudia hadn't even looked at what she was drinking, but she figured getting shot earned her a glass of whatever the fuck it was.
     
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  14. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    She dithered at the entrance to her own living room for a moment, then strode inside with a decisive line to her brow. “And you’re quite certain you weren’t followed?”

    When the operative turned from raiding her cupboard she found herself face-to-face with Lucrezia. Her arms were crossed as she levelled the woman with her best glare. “This isn’t what we agreed on, Miss Volpe. Breaking into my home—”

    Lucrezia stopped herself short, took a deep breath. “But by all means, do help yourself.”

    Clearly she needed to invest in better security.
     
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  15. Claudia Volpe

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    "Not followed otherwise would have left another message. Didn't figure showing up at your place of work would be sensible. Didn't want to stand outside the door."

    Volpe poured two glasses and brought one to her lips. Her expression verged on defiance. A shift in her eyebrows and she appeared to be looking for sympathy.

    "Also a good painkiller. Did I mention that I was shot?"
     
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  16. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Lucrezia lifted the glass to examine for the first time which drink her guest had pilfered – Grey Goose, she concluded after a whiff. Volpe’s brazen moxy would’ve amused Pjotr, at least.

    The windows faded into a dark tint at her voice command as she crossed the room to take up her perch on a divan. When she looked at the operative next, Lucrezia took care to avoid the wounded arm with her gaze.

    Blood had never agreed with her stomach.

    “What happened?”
     
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  17. Claudia Volpe

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    "Three of them ambushed me at my apartment after visiting the morgue. Two were waiting inside and one was following me."

    "Where is she?"

    "You were right behind her?"

    Claudia stepped out of the apartment opposite her own. The first bullet struck her tail in the back of the head. Next two went in the gut of the man inside. She stepped across the corridor and through the door. She looked left. The last one of them was on the right. Another gunshot, not hers. Then two of her own fired blindly back.

    "Had a few minutes with one of them before I had to go. Didn't have much to spill. They were far down the ladder. Someone well connected is getting military hardware manufactured in Turkey and France off-world. Someone else wanted to shut this down. And kill me," she added with a cant of her head.

    "I'm trying to find out whether this was a UN or national agency. But they were using hired killers. And with stolen identities like our friend."
     
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  18. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Lucrezia studied the play of light through her glass and the caustics shimmering on the back of her hand. Volpe’s words filtered in one-by-one and she absorbed them, turning them about in her mind’s eye to squeeze them for every iota of information.

    “UN involvement is doubtful. Unless…” her prim brow furrowed. “Well, given the… recent events,” she gestured in the vague direction of Claudia’s wounded arm, “I suppose we now know for sure there’s more to this than meets the eye.”

    Lucrezia forced a smile even though there was nothing amusing about the situation. The involvement of Mao-Kwikowski spelled trouble. It was easier to find people in the Ceres underworld than in the maze of their shell corporations and subsidiaries.

    Brown eyes finally left the still surface of her drink. “I suspect this might very well be a turf war. It’s only the level they got wrong.”
     
  19. Claudia Volpe

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    "There is the option of questioning the local authorities to find out who was talking to them. I'm not going back there alone though. Could do that officially or... less so."



    "You can't do this!"

    The protest was weak, spoken through a jaw that was clenched shut. Every part of her training told her that he was correct. This was not how things were done. Yet when you were alone and in a hostile place with just seconds to spare there wasn't the luxury of following protocol. Some part of her screamed that this was wrong. One part of her enjoyed watching him in pain for what he had tried to do.

    "You're going to die here. Quickly or.." Volpe ground her boot into his side where the bullet had passed right through him.



    "Traditionally we spend our time trying to keep the OPA from bringing weapons and explosives in. But before I left there was an operation trying to stop them exporting stealth materials. There are enough companies that would probably sell even if they knew where."

    Volpe grimaced and grunted. She shifted her arm awkwardly in its sling. "I think I need to find a proper hospital."
     
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  20. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    “No.”

    Calm but final. They were swimming in her waters now. “We’re not blowing the front door when the keys are right under the mat.”

    “You’re no use to me crippled, Miss Volpe.”
    She stood, terminal already in hand as her thoughts raced along the stings of her web. “There’s a ward in Borman square – get yourself checked in. The medical costs will be taken care of.”

    “Now, unless there was something else?”
     
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