Episode 26 – Western New Year’s Eve 2094
When the SRS Iris returned from Lippincott and Lalande 21185 to 21 Lutetia and the Star Runner’s capital, Captain Natalie Masaryk was summoned by the nomad leader, Charlie Adkis, to report to him in person. This was not an unusual request as Natty always spoke directly with Charlie when she returned from any assignment. What shocked her as she entered the room was that Adkis wasn’t alone. There were two other men waiting there with him. The Asian man she didn’t recognize, but the other was Director-General Raymond (Ray-ray) Hardy, the leader of the Commonwealth of Liberty from the planet de Kamp in the Barnard’s Star system and one of her (numerous) former lovers. Ray-ray seemed pleased to see her. He had brought a special catnip-based liqueur he created especially for her, but Natty was conflicted. She really likes him, but is still convinced that Fate kills every man (or woman) that she falls in love with. Charlie got down to business. He had already read her reports on Lippincott and was quite satisfied with the Team’s work there. There was a new problem.
Charlie introduced the unknown third man. He was Tsou Bao-Zhi, the premier of the Chinese People’s Republic of de Kamp and Secretary General of the Community Party there. It became quickly apparent that this was a secret meeting and none of these people were “officially” here. Since the SRS Iris was in dry dock for repairs and a complete jump engine overhaul, Charlie and the other two leaders had an offer of employment for Natty and her Team. It seems the UN has been expanding its power on de Kamp recently. Bloody raids by suspected groups of Scavengers on that world had moved the Planetary High Council to grant the UN and its Peacekeeper forces the right to patrol the area between the colonies on that world. In the minds of the three leaders before her (all of whom voted against the resolution) this had increased the UN’s authority on this world to unacceptable levels. The UN, for its part, has started to act as if this neutral territory between the colonies was now their sovereign lands. The three leaders before her had a plan to correct this by de-stabilizing the ruling parties in the colony of New Zion (who has two votes on the Council) and convincing them to help reverse the recent Planetary High Council decision.
The three explain to Natty that they don’t need a Black Ops team since they already have that covered. What they need is a top flight team to do Grey Ops in support of this operation. Even so, this operation will be run under IMF (Impossible Mission Force) protocol (the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions). An agreement is quickly reached: Operational expenses will be paid by the triumvirate funding the mission. Each team member will get 300,000 Solars down and 100,000 additional per month. The Team will become graduate students at Hare Duniya (Green World) University in Naiasa, the former capital of the Family’s colony (now in the Chinese colony) which is located right on the border of the Fellowship of Zion. These student ID’s will be their primary cover identities on this mission. The Star Runner fleet has assigned a heavily armed Tiger Shark class patrol craft for their use. This ship, the SRS Barracuda, will be in orbit around de Kamp and be manned by members of the SRS Iris’s crew, who will also be under new identities. The Team’s “identities” arrive in Naiasa a few days before New Year’s Eve and settle in.
Team Identities (so far):
Khan: Primary – Ben Chang, a Chinese language professor and proctor for a graduate student living pod in University housing. Ben also owns a Meditation Center in Naiasa.
Natalie (Lanikova) Masaryk: Primary – Claire Daniels, a History Major from the Australian/Star Runner colony on Lippincott; Secondary – Wendy Barrows, a diplomatic security officer for the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa; New Zion Rebel – Lily Fields.
Nip Vaduva: Primary – Sakagi Olevsky, a Robotics major of Russo-Japanese descent from 21 Lutetia. Secondary – “The Mousey Librarian”, a diplomatic security officer (researcher) for the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa; New Zion Rebel – a “NET specialist”
Others – Owen will be a medical student; Stepka will be another student; Mason / Priest are as of yet undecided.
Duke (GM’s character): Primary – Rendall Sands, a graduate student from the Mars Republic here to study fragile ecosystems. Secondary – Ronan March, profession and background as yet undecided.
Only Natty’s history professor, Sung Gan, and Nip’s Robotics professor know that the Chinese Ministry of State Security has assigned the Team there. These professors are loyal Party members and will ask no questions. The Team has been told that the local authorities will not be aware of the mission.
For Natty, when she arrives on de Kamp, Raymond Hardy has her come secretly to Mountain Springs for another meeting. The biogen is a little disappointed that it is all (secret) business. There Ray-ray introduces her to a rugged looking young man. His name is Damien Ingersen, the current “Bossman” of the Sons of Wotan, and son of murdered founder, Inger Rolfsen, the original Bossman of the Sons of Wotan, who was murdered in 2072, one month after the “inciting massacre” that brought about the destruction of their colony by the UN. Damien tells Natty that the Sons didn’t commit that massacre, and shows her a video of that event. He needs help proving that the Sons were framed. Natty says she will see what she can do.
For everyone else, the adventure begins on New Year’s Eve.
Thursday, December 31, 2093:
As the Team prepares to go out for the evening’s festivities with some of their fellow students they have met in graduate housing, Sakagi (Nip) gets to know two other fellow robotics students and members of the R2-D2 Robotics Club (the Jeekies): Dilruba Calik, a young woman of Turkish descent and Nikou Mahdavi, another young woman of Iranian descent. Nikou and Sakagi hit it off as Sakagi speaks a little Farsi (3). The young Russo-Japanese student is fascinated to learn that the R2-D2 Robotics Club holds a “Battle Bots” competition this coming June.
Professor Ben Chang (Khan) dresses in his professorial tweeds, horned rim glasses and carries his hambo – like a wide-wooden cane. Sakagi puts on something “cute” she can move in and takes her knife. Claire (Natty) wears a nice dress and takes her mono switchblade. All take their phones, ID and a little money.
The three Team members along with the two NPC “Jeekie” girls stop in the graduate cafeteria for a bite to eat before they head out. There, another student they know, Kang Shuo, a graduate student getting his Masters in Theater Arts, comes up and suggests that they all should head over to the city’s broadcast center, steal the Golden Panda statue there and move it to the courtyard in front of the city’s Museum. The two Jeekies, Ekram Hebbarand (a History student), Rafiki Mbala (a journalism major and their Commonwealth contact/spy) along with Elka Nesselrod, a Masters candidate in Ecology, are listening and think this is a great idea. (It turns out this city has an annual tradition of a New Year’s Eve prank.) The Team’s psionic shields activate and they realize that Shuo is a psionic “Wild Talent”. He is very “persuasive”. They think the young man probably isn’t aware he has this ability.
This ad hoc group brainstorms a plan. In a few hours they have put together a bunch of matching coveralls with caps, a van and some forged paperwork. Claire drives the van. Sakagi and Elka sit across from the broadcast plaza in a small park by the river to control a grid bug that will disable the Broadcast Center’s security camera. Rafiki will control the street cameras as they move the statue across the city. At the museum, they will just have to keep their heads turned away from the cameras. They get to the Broadcast Plaza by the river and unbolt the statue. Shuo puts a burlap sack over the statue of the Golden Panda and they move it to the van as two policemen show up and ask what they are doing. Everyone turns to Shuo. As a policeman starts to look under the sack, Shuo tells the officer, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. It’s a present for Jiang Lijun.”
Either that name or the young man’s psionic gift make the police back off. The group finishes loading the Golden Panda into the truck and off they drive with Rafiki spoofing the cameras along the way. The uniformed group moves their “prize” into the Museum Courtyard, drops it off and they drive away. No one pays them any attention. They ditch the van, the uniforms and melt away to enjoy their victory.
Sakagi wanders around with Elka and enjoys the lively street scene listening to street musicians, getting her face painted and watching a local juggler before returning to the graduate student’s dorm. There Sakagi gets cleaned up and heads out to meet the rest of the group at a local club called the Kamal ka Khilana Nightclub. The two Jeekies, Dilruba Calik and Nikou Mahdavi head out with Sakagi. One of the grad students they have met recently, Kajori Adhikari, is singing there.
Meanwhile Professor Chang and Claire head out to enjoy the city wide party before meeting up those three. They meet a local street artist and face painter, Luk Hailee. Claire gets her face done. As Luk works on Claire, the two young men with the street artist get into a fight. It seems one (Dou Kai-liang) is Luk’s current boyfriend and the other (Yu Chang) is her ex-boyfriend.
Professor Ben Chang peacefully tries to break up the fight by interposing himself between the two. After one warning the ex-boyfriend attacks the professor also. The young street punk has no chance of hitting, but Luk sees the weapon and tries also to interpose herself. She gets stabbed for her efforts. The girl goes down with a very slight wound. Her ex flees in panic.
Claire tends to Luk’s wound and while the boyfriend isn’t paying attention, the biogen uses her healing ability to lessen the damage. Both she and the professor get the artist’s business card and her friendship. Claire and Ben return to the dorm where she does her own face paint work before heading out to the Kamal ka Khilana Nightclub to hear Kajori Adhikari sing.
The three PCs along with Dilruba Calik and Nikou Mahdavi meet there. They sit down, get some drinks and listen to Kajori sing. She is an excellent and talented performer. At the end of her set she comes over to say hi and introduces the group to the evening’s other performer, Gwayne Driscoll, and the owner, Jival Kamala (born and bred in Naiasa). Sakagi asks where the “bad” neighborhoods are and Jival gives the group the brief “skinny” on some of the rough places in town. They all chat, dance and have a good time while getting to know each other. Sakagi reaches for her wallet to pay for a drink and finds it gone. As she thinks back she realizes that someone jostled her while she was watching the street juggler. The NET savant pulls some cash from her bra where she had stashed it (boob money). Sakagi dances with the owner before the group all head out.
While walking they are approached by all kinds of vendors trying to sell something. They turn down the role play chips, but the girls buy some sparklers. Sakagi picks up a little marijuana. The dealer introduces himself as Logan and tells them all where he hangs out (Armadillo and 2nd Avenue, a bad neighborhood) if they want more. As they head to the other club they want to go to, the group passes the Museum. There is commotion going on with police and a news crew around the statue of a Golden Panda.
A little further down the street, they run into a tarot reader. Dilruba and Nikou get their fortunes told as do Ben Chang, Sakagi and Claire. For the professor she predicts mastery of spirituality and fecundity, but warns him to “watch out for things that aren’t quite as they appear to be.”
Sakagi’s fortune is going on a journey and will attain mastery of some other worldly matters. Claire’s is “you are embarking on a journey with spiritual aspects and you will come to rule.”
The group arrives at the Baoshi (Jewel) Nightclub & Lounge. Inside they see Rafiki and go over to say hi. Their fellow student is sitting with another young man who is introduced as Ganoleska Greywolf, a reporter for the Barataria Broadcast News. Ganoleska waves a couple of other people over. They are Nigel Brooks, the owner of the club and Tavio Gurabi, a theatre professor from the university. Ganoleska talks about the problems of reporting in a state with no free press. Tavio waxes poetic about the challenge (and fun) of testing the limits of censorship. The tarot reader comes into the club and gives Ganoleska a kiss. It is obvious the two are an item.
Claire notices Tavio smiling at her and begins to flirt with him. The two dance and the biogen asks him if he wants to join their group as they continue on their New Year’s Eve pilgrimage of revels. He accepts. The group asks about the best place to view the fireworks from and the answer is by the Central Bridge. When the group leaves for the walk down Central Boulevard, both Tavio and Nigel join them. Rafiki, Ganoleska and Ooljee Rainwater, the tarot reader, go their own way. Sakagi questions how you can have fireworks when the sun never sets, but is told the local fireworks are infused with more color so they can be seen clearer.
They all go down to the river to view the display which is fired off over the river. There are actually a few people watching on the other side of the river in the Fellowship of Zion’s town of New Hope (known locally as No Hope). Afterwards the group head to the city center for the main city celebration at 12 am. As they are walking down Central Boulevard, a dozen young men boil out of an alley across the street and rush towards them. They appear to be looking for trouble. As the attackers close, two pop out Wolvers, others deploy Big Rippers while others have Big Knucks and other black cyberware.
The fight is quick and brutal. Nigel goes down quickly with a crippled leg. Tavio is stabbed but remains up. Claire drops the wolver wielder on Tavio. Sakagi knocks one out and throws her dagger into the head of the booster whose wolvers just dropped Nigel. Ben Chang first tries to reason with the attackers and then employs his “hambo/cane” to knock the attackers out. After ten seconds, eight of the assailants are down – three dead, two stunned, and another three seriously injured. The remaining four break and run. Claire sees to Nigel’s wounds and then works on the fallen boosters who are down, but not dead. Dilruba Calik and Nikou Mahdavi are hysterical and ask Sakagi how she just dropped those attackers so quickly. The group takes note of the booster group’s gang signs (tribal tattoos among others) and Sakagi takes pictures of them. A quick look around (and a scan by Sakagi for remotes) finds no cameras, so the group helps Nigel up and leaves the scene as the sound of approaching sirens is heard.
While Nigel heads for the hospital, the rest of the group goes to the City Center for the 12 am celebration of the New Year 2094. Claire looks at Tavio as she is concerned he might be put off by her actions in the fight. It quickly becomes clear that he is more interested than before (Beautiful, smart and dangerous, Tavio thinks). As the crowd breaks up, the ‘students’ and their ‘professor’ head back to the graduate student dorms. Tavio whispers in Claire’s ear that his apartment is this way. Well, violence always gets her excited so she ditches her friends and goes to the theatre professor’s place. They ride each other until they are hot, wet and exhausted.
Friday, January 1, 2094:
In the morning, the Team sees a news report on the vid screen in the group’s living pod in graduate housing:
Attackers Defeated by Would-Be Victims
One onlooker snapped a few grainy photos—but most fled when a dozen cyber-enhanced assailants rushed a small group of people returning from the fireworks display on the riverbank.
“It was amazing,” one eyewitness stated. “It happened so fast. One minute, there’s these guys running across the street towards—I think it was three men and a bunch of women. Next thing you know, there’s only four of the muggers left standing. They must’ve been shocked as all hell cause they ran off like Shiva himself was after them. One of the victims stayed a minute to help a guy who was bleeding out—but then they all left before the cops got there.”
“These people are heroes and deserve a medal,” stated Captain Brad Farley of Precinct A. “We’ve been trying to clean these ‘boosters’ off the streets for months now, but they hide in the shadows like rats. Three of these goons were dead when we got there, two were stunned and three seriously wounded. We are braindancing the survivors to find their bolt holes—but no doubt those will have changed by the time we get there. I would personally like to thank each and every one of the people who fought off this attack. Unfortunately, the few photos we do have are useless for finding them.”
There was also a second big story:
Beloved Panda Statue “Relocated” to Museum Grounds
The Broadcast Tower’s Golden Panda statue was transported—somehow—all the way from Outer Boulevard halfway across the city, through Central Plaza, and onto the Museum courtyard. Everyone wants to know: HOW did they do that? No one has claimed responsibility for the “relocation”, and no one claims to have seen the perpetrators.
Police Chief Tariq Banerjee said, “This ‘relocation’ prank is theft, plain and simple. No one should be treated differently under the law. Yes, the statue was ‘returned to the public’ and that should be taken into account by the judges. But that is a matter for the courts to decide. My duty as a public servant is to catch the culprits and bring them to justice. We do have some leads that we are following up on.”
Mayor Abhi Bezawada said, “Perhaps Chief Banerjee has forgotten what it is like to be young and foolish. Yes, this was a crime under our penal code, but far more important is to ensure the safety of our citizens and visitors. Last night’s attack by cyber-enhanced criminals was a vile and desperate act. We must improve our city’s ability to detect such actions the moment they begin to occur—identify the culprits when it does happen—and deter the criminal element from engaging in such actions in the first place. I call for investments in new infrastructure to extend the traffic camera system so that it covers all of our major streets, avenues and boulevards.”
Province Chairman Hsu Ying agreed. “Naiasa is the fourth largest city in our Colony, yet our traffic camera system lags behind those in both Hangzhou and Wuhan. It is time for resources to be re-purposed towards this vital goal.”
‘So much for low profile,’ thought the Team. Well, except for Claire who spent her morning continuing to roll around with Tavio in his bed.
Episode 27 – First Classes & First Mission
Team Identities (so far):
Khan: Primary – Ben Chang, a Chinese language professor and proctor for a graduate student living pod in University housing. Ben also owns a Meditation Center in Naiasa.
Natalie (Lanikova) Masaryk: Primary – Claire Daniels, a History Major from the Australian/Star Runner colony on Lippincott; Secondary – Wendy Barrows, a diplomatic security officer for the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa; New Zion Rebel – Lily Fields.
Nip Vaduva: Primary – Sakagi Olevsky, a Robotics major of Russo-Japanese descent from 21 Lutetia. Secondary – “The Mousey Librarian”, a diplomatic security officer (researcher) for the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa; New Zion Rebel – a “NET specialist”
Owen MacGregor – Primary – Alex (A.J.) Johnson will be a medical student from the Blackwater Florida area of the United States on Earth; John Marshall is a diplomatic security officer for the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa
Others – Stepka will be another student; Mason / Priest are as of yet undecided.
Duke (GM’s character): Primary – Rendall Sands, a graduate student from the Mars Republic here to study fragile ecosystems. Secondary – Ronan March, profession and background as yet undecided.
Friday, January 1, 2094:
That morning Professor Ben Chang (Khan) has just finished his morning exercises at his Meditation Center and is cleaning up for his open house and first group of students (the Team), when Cheng Quon, the General Manager of the Jin Dan Shangye Co, the Chinese government contact of the Team and new student of the center, comes by to see him. There he informs the professor that while his Meditation Center isn’t wired, every room in the graduate student dorms is bugged by people unaware of the Team’s mission. Also, he brings Ben (Khan) downstairs and shows him a secret room. There is a secret door leading to a tunnel that heads towards the Zion town of New Hope. It comes out in a small, rent-by-the-hour inn by the river. The night clerk there is an operative of Cheng’s. The professor heads back to the dorms to make sure that everyone knows that their rooms are bugged.
At the dorm, Fred, the NET ferret, informs Sakagi (Nip) of the bugs in the room. These devices are built into the wall. Claire (Natty) finally makes it home disheveled and reeking of passion from her night (and morning) of ‘getting to know’ Tavio. When the Team is assembled, they have a meeting (thru Owen’s mind link) about what to do about this. Shutting the bugs off is out of the question as that will be noticed. Putting a loud radio is suggested, looping innocent conversations is discussed as well as just making sure it broadcasts no conversations is brought up. Finally, Ben Chang (Khan) proposes hanging a picture at the place where the bug is in the Team’s “study room” and making sure the nail is driven through the device effectively disabling it. This will work for only that room. Disabling another bug like this will seem too suspicious. This option is adopted and the Team has a safe room.
The Team relaxes for the day and stays in except for Sakagi (Nip) who goes out to see her two new ‘Jeekie’ friends, Delruba and Nikou. There she learns about the robotics competition (a variant of Battle Bots) coming up in June. Sakagi’s suggestion that they work together on a project brings out the information that it is a single competitor competition; one person, one robot. The three toss around ideas that will not violate the letter of the rules and consider working together on three robots.
Saturday, January 2, 2094:
The Team heads down to the Meditation Center to meet with Professor Chang. Arivazhagen Janaki Moopanar who owns the Sarchimocca Kaiffee next door to the center is outside handing out coupons for free coffee. They tell him they’ll be there after our class. The group has their meditation class after scanning the building for bugs. After the meditation session Chang brings the group to the secret room in the basement. He tells everyone about the tunnel leading to the small inn in New Hope on the other side of the river. Sakagi sends her personal remote, ‘Cogsworth’, down and checks the tunnel. Claire (Natty) and Stepka start to mark the secret room as one of their teleport points. The Team discusses what to do about Kang Shuo, the psionic they have discovered. It is agreed not to scan him, but just get to know him. A.J. (Owen) tells the group he is going to volunteer at the hospital to get to be a regular there. After the meeting they go to the coffee shop.
At the shop, the owner (“Call me Ari”) comes over and serves us. A.J. pulls out a small flask and he and Claire have a little kick in their java. Ari chats the group up. He is a Tamil Indian and a member of the local Buddhist Temple. Claire asks about the face tattooed people they saw on New Year’s Eve. Ari tells them that they are (boosters) and are led by a man named Gul. After a while Ari goes back to his work.
Later a Chinese man enters and takes the proprietor by the arm and pushes him into the office. A.J. goes up to the door and knocks. Ari says he is busy, but A.J. is insistent and needs to talk with him about the ingredients that he might be allergic to. Sakagi starts to send one of her earring remotes (bug) into the office but both Ari and the Chinese man come out.
Claire scans Ari for his emotional state and he is nervous. A.J. reads both Ari and the Chinese visitor. The stranger is running a protection racket. A.J. schmoozes Ari and gets invited back into the office. There the owner tells him that the mob is trying to shake him down and he doesn’t know what to do. A.J. offers to help and suggests he record the threats of this mob guy. Ari accepts the help and A.J. gives him his phone number. A.J. asks for a picture of the mob guy from his security system, which Ari gives him.
Sakagi buys a couple of pounds of coffee and some flavored creamers. Later in the afternoon, they all head back to the dorm.
Sakagi calls her two new ‘Jeekie’ friends, Delruba and Nikou, and they get together and brainstorm their robot plans over some coffee. Claire gets dressed up and heads out to the Baoshi Nightclub to inquire how Nigel is doing. A.J. goes with her.
When Claire and A.J. get to the club, she sees Gandoleska and Ooljee. The two ‘students’ go over and Claire introduces A.J. It is clear Gandoleska knows that they were involved in the ‘booster’ dust up a couple of days ago, but isn’t going to pry. Nigel sees her and comes over to say hi. Claire tells A.J. that Ooljee is a tarot reader and he asks for a reading.
Ooljee tells A.J., “I see you are a warrior and you have some kind air of intuition about you. You are also a seeker of truth.”
A.J. puts down some more money and asks her to give Claire another reading. “She is embarking on a journey about power and authority. She is also a seeker of truth.”
As the two listen to Ooljee it is clear that she has issues about being lied to.
Claire dances with Nigel (she rolls a 30). He limps a bit. A.J. and Claire go home around 11.
Sunday, January 3, 2094:
The Team spends the day getting ready for the start of classes. Claire and Stepka go to the mediation center and continue to mark spot for teleport. Stepka finishes and has this location marked.
Monday, January 4, 2094:
A.J. heads to his first class in neurology. It is with Dr. Larry Pendleton, Professor of Medical Sciences and Dean of the Medical School. The man’s reputation is that he is tough but fair. As A.J. sits and waits for the class to begin, an attractive young woman sits beside him, but pays the operative no notice. Dr. Pendleton begins by saying that it is very important to get the diagnosis right. The class’s first assignment is to find a case where a person’s life was impacted by a misdiagnosis. Find out what happened and why. Was it a reasonable mistake? The young woman mutters under her breath, “Yeah, right, like that would help.”
A.J. whispers to her, “Why do you say that?”
She replies, “Like finding out after the fact doesn’t help.”
“Only if it can’t be undone,” the operative offers.
“But what if it can’t?” says the woman.
Any further conversation would probably attract the attention of Dr. Pendleton, so A.J. asks his fellow student out for coffee after class. She agrees.
Professor Gao assigns Sakagi’s class the project to figure out a way for nanotech to be used to make an explosion. He further asks that they figure out a way to prevent evil people from using it.
Professor Xue Shaiming, who is teaching a course entitled the Philosophy of Courage Across Many Cultures, assigns Claire’s class to interview three dojo masters on the course title and write up their conclusions.
Professor Chang is taking a course on Lai Tung Pai and Shaolin Philosophy from Dakota Quinn. He is to learn about the Chun philosophy and how that gives an advantage to the practitioner.
Around noon A.J. meets the girl from class at the Sarchimocca Kaiffee. She introduces herself as Vanika Mishra. It seems her mother died of a misdiagnosis. The mother was pregnant with what would have been her baby brother. The doctor at the hospital sent her home with an aspirin for her headache, but she went into convulsions the next day and died. It turns out the mother had HELLP (a form of preeclampsia). They chat for a while and finish their coffee before leaving.
In the afternoon the Team attends Professor Chang’s Mandarin class. Claire’s phone rings. It is their contact Cheng Quon. They agree to meet tomorrow afternoon at the Meditation Center. Then Claire calls Dakota Quinn to ask for an interview. He invites her right over.
Professor Quinn chuckles when Claire tells him that she is taking Xue Shaiming’s class. He tells her, “Courage is an illusion, a label that we attach to deeds. We cannot reach a state of enlightenment as long as we cling to illusions of any kind. The path to enlightenment is for each individual to find for him-or-her-self.”
The two discuss the nature of reality and he invites her to take his class or come down to the dojo.
Tuesday, January 5, 2094:
Claire attends Professor Sung Gan’s history course. There she runs into Ekram Hebbar, another Master’s candidate and Sung’s teaching assistant. Ekram invites her out to lunch and she suggests the Team’s new favorite coffee shop. The young man blushes as he talks with the pretty operative and she begins to think he might be developing some sort of crush. She talks about her role as a research assistant for Professor Sung and about the history of her home planet of Lippincott. A.J. comes in to the shop and Claire shoots him a wave. Ekram waves also but it is clear that he isn’t pleased that A.J. is here, but mellows out when the interloper sits across the room and doesn’t come over.
After lunch Claire goes to meet Cheng Quon. He has a first mission for the Team. The Team will have to pick up three or four people, who have been “disappeared” by the government there, in the Fellowship of Zion’s capital of New Jerusalem and smuggle them out of the country. They discuss the mission a bit and agree that the packages’ will be delivered here to Naiasa and then moved to another location. The two will meet again on Thursday to hammer out the details.
After Quon leaves, a young woman comes into the Meditation Center. She says her name is Lin Qiao Satu and Cheng Quon is her uncle. Professor Chang talks with her. It is apparent she is following her uncle. Satu is surprised that her uncle would be interested in a meditation center. The girl signs up for meditation classes. After Satu leaves Professor Chang goes downstairs where Claire is finishing marking this site as a teleport point and informs her about this “niece”.
That evening Claire calls the Choi Li Fut dojo and makes an appointment to see the master there, Kim Mi-Sun, tomorrow at five thirty. A.J. works out at the university gym and looks for a “smoking club”.
The Team has a meeting in their ‘study room’ at the dorm. Claire lays out the new mission. After much discussion, it is decided that the Baratarian Embassy in New Jerusalem will send a large box of unclassified diplomatic documents or furniture to the Consulate in Naiasa on Sunday morning. Claire and A.J. using their identities as the Baratarian Diplomatic Security officers, Wendy Barrows and John Marshall, will take the train to New Jerusalem on this coming Friday night to escort this diplomatic shipment. They will take one of Stepka’s teleport crystals. The ‘packages’ will be put to sleep and then transported to the SRS Barracuda in orbit by Stepka from New Jerusalem. There the people will be kept unconscious. Wendy Barrows (Natty) and John Marshall (Owen) will then escort the box back to Naiasa where it will be held at the Aasaan Shipping Company’s warehouse until the consulate opens. At that same time, Stepka will teleport the escapees to the warehouse and they will be loaded into the now empty box. The box and the escapees will then be delivered to the Baratarian Consulate and awakened. The plan is adopted.
Claire and A.J. teleport to the Baratarian Consulate in Naiasa. When they arrive they take on the faces of their Baratarian Diplomatic Security officers. There the consular officials call Anouk Shiriki, the Manager of Special Consignments for Baratarian shipping company, and another of our contacts to come to the consulate. Anouk is informed about his part of the plan.
Wednesday, January 6, 2094:
The Team goes to (or teaches) their classes. Around noon Claire calls Kiu Yao, the master of the Houguan (Monkey Fist, Drunken Monkey) Dojo and makes an appointment to interview him tomorrow. At five o’clock Claire heads down to meet Kim Mi-Sun of the Choi Li Fut dojo. When meeting her, the biogen bows very low. Master Kim appears very serious. Claire explains her assignment and Kim Mi-Sun tells her, “I’m always happy to meet one of Xue Shaiming’s students. Well, courage is ingrained. Either you have it or you don’t. For the courageous, Choi Li Fut is especially useful because it gives you effective defense against multiple attackers. It contains a wide variety of techniques, including long and short range punches, kicks, sweeps and take downs, pressure point attacks, joint locks, and grappling. According to Bruce Lee: ‘Choy Li Fut is the most effective system that I’ve seen for fighting more than one person. It is one of the most difficult styles to attack and defend against. Choy Li Fut is the only style of Kung Fu that traveled to Thailand to fight the Thai boxers and hadn’t lost.’”
Claire thanks her and leaves.
Thursday, January 6, 2094:
The rest of the Team continues with their weekly routine. Claire meets Cheng Quon after his meditation session and informs him that the packages’ will be delivered Sunday morning to Naiasa. Claire also informs him that his niece Satu was here asking (spying) on him. He tells her that his niece is very headstrong and inquisitive. Mr. Cheng says he tries not to involve his family in his business.
Later on Claire goes down to the Houguan (Monkey Fist, Drunken Monkey) Dojo to interview Master Kiu Yao. She tells him her assignment and he replies, “Seriously? You’re taking Shaiming’s course, right?” He shakes his head. “Every year he comes up with something totally around the bend . . . [sigh]. But that’s not your fault. Okay. Courage; well; courage is what one does with fear. Take for example, a tiger. It would be foolish not to be afraid of a tiger. But then, do you run away? Or do you stand your ground and fight? Better still, can you outsmart the tiger? Courage, I think, is when you keep on thinking when you are faced with a tiger. So . . . flexibility and adaptability are key components for developing one’s courage. And Houquan Kung Fu, well, when you’ve learned to run across the ground on all fours like a monkey, I can’t think of anything more flexible than that. Your body learns to ‘think outside the box’ as Westerners like to say.”
Claire thanks him and heads home.
Friday, January 7, 2094:
The rest of the Team will continue doing their regular schedule. Both A.J. and Claire separately head out of the dorms and meet up at a camera blind spot. They teleport to the consulate, switch identities and go down to the train station as diplomatic security officers, John Marshall and Wendy Barrows. There they board the 6 pm train to New Jerusalem.
Saturday, January 8, 2094:
Diplomatic security officers John Marshall and Wendy Barrows arrive in New Jerusalem at about 6 am. Everyone at the train station appears to be on edge. It looks like someone may have “wacked a beehive”. While a Zion security official is going over the two agent’s papers, John starts whistling. The official asks suspiciously, “Is that some sort of code?”
John answers cheerfully, “No it’s that song, Don’t Worry Be Happy. You know that song don’t you…”
“Yes, yes,” the official cuts him off. The man is clearly annoyed.
“Please don’t get him going on that song,” Wendy asks.
The official glares at the two and tells them, “Shut up and go on.”
John chuckles and says to Wendy, “Oh come on don’t be like that. You know I rock karaoke night.”
The two agents walk to the Baratarian Embassy. They notice that there is a lot of military activity on the street for 6 am. At the Embassy they meet with Ambassador Carlos Delgado. Everything they asked for has been arranged. The diplomatic box is ready and will be brought down to the station for the 6 am train back to Naiasa on Sunday. The three ‘packages’ are waiting at the safe house protected by two operatives in Zion Army uniforms. John and Wendy are brought up to the top floor of the embassy where they can see the safe house about 200 meters away. The two agents are provided with a floorplan of the safe house and are then left alone at their request.
The two use their disguise features and take on the faces of their Zion Independence Freedom Fighters (ZIFF) personas. Lily (Natty) teleports the two of them to the attic of the safe house. There they relieve the two guards, who are shocked the two got by them. The guards leave. The Team’s operatives talk to the three “escapees”; they are scanned to make sure they are the real deal (and yes, they are). They are told that they will have to be unconscious for the trip. John gives them some aspirin and a minute later he puts them unconscious with his mental power.
Lily (Natty) places Stepka’s teleport crystal down in the room and calls her. She teleports to New Jerusalem and brings the unconscious escapees to the SRS Barracuda in orbit around de Kamp. The two then revert to their diplomatic security identities, pick up the crystal and teleport back to the embassy.
With nothing else to do, the two agents visit the tourist sites in New Jerusalem especially the Bible Museum. They wish for the Zion security officials to be able to account for all the time they are in the capital. The two act like they don’t have a care in the world. Their actions will not be those of people on a covert mission.
Sunday, January 9, 2094:
Early that morning John and Wendy bring the diplomatic shipment down to the railroad station and place it on the train, which departs on time. A few hundred kilometers down the tracks the train is stopped. Some officials come to the two agents’ compartment and demand to see the diplomatic box. The two bring them to it. There the Zion officials have a portable x-ray machine. The two agents protest, but the officials scan the box anyway. They find nothing, but what the manifest claims. Clearly disappointed the Zion security people leave and the train rolls on.
When they reach the Zion city of New Hope, a mass of Zion security people search the train thoroughly, but find nothing. The diplomatic shipment isn’t touched. Anouk is waiting in Naiasa with a truck and drives the two and the box to his warehouse. A search of the box finds that a tracker has been placed on it. They leave it in place. The two ask Anouk to leave and they make sure that they are alone. Wendy calls Stepka, who teleports the three unconscious people to the warehouse where they are placed back in the box.
When the Baratarian Consulate opens, a truck delivers the diplomatic box and its new contents there. The Chinese send an ambulance which picks up the three still unconscious escapees. The two operatives become Claire and A.J. and they teleport back to the dorm. When Claire turns on her phone there are three messages from Tavio Gurabi, the theatre professor. He asks her if she would like to go out for dinner … or something. She says yes and tells the Team not to wait up. The biogenetic cat goes out to get her itch scratched.
Episode 28 – Life in Naiasa
Monday, January 11, 2094:
Claire (Natty) wakes up at Tavio’s apartment and heads to the shower to get ready for her morning class. She invites him into the shower to “do her back” and he ends up doing much more. She then heads out to her Philosophy of Courage Across Many Cultures class to turn in her paper.
Sakagi (Nip) and Ben Chang also head out also to class. All three ‘students’ pick up a copy of a local newspaper, the Naiasa Chronicle:
Body Found on Train Tracks
At 1pm last night, the body of a Chinese man was found on the railroad tracks. Both his legs had been broken. The cause of death has not been released, but the coroner has said the manner of death was homicide.
Captain Brad Farley of Precinct A said the man has been identified as 25 year old Hong Uang, who has ties to organized crime. He refused to speculate as to whether Hiru Bezawada, the Mayor’s brother, was involved.
Claire immediately feels that some sort of message is being sent here. One doesn’t usually die from a broken leg—and two broken legs suggest something about either where he was standing and how he got there, or what he was doing there.
The biogen turns in her assigned paper for her Philosophy of Courage Across Many Cultures class. Her professor is impressed with it and gives her an ‘A’. Professor Ben Chang (Khan) attends his class with Dakota Quinn, A.J. attends his botany class and Sakagi goes to her nano-tech class with Professor Gao. Sakagi asks to speak with her professor after class. She asks if she can enter the battle-bot competition. Gao Vinh replies, “With all your skills, don’t you think that would be a little unfair?”
“Yes, I guess you’re right,” she replies.
However, the two work out a deal so she can enter the contest. Sakagi’s robot entry will have to be half the size of the maximum allowed under the rules.
All the Team ‘students’ and their proctor are getting ready for lunch when over the video plays the local NETNEWS:
Gambling Den Owner Arrested
At 9 am this morning, Police Chief Tariq Banerjee announced the arrest of Talak Trivedi, owner of Lakee Vastu Ya Totaka (Lucky Charm) Restaurant on Dogwood and Second Avenues.
Banerjee said, “We have been watching this restaurant for several months. Last night, we conducted a raid of the premises and found gambling equipment and patrons in the upstairs apartments, above the restaurant. While gambling itself is not a crime, running an unlicensed casino is a felony. We found several roulette wheels, rummy tables and sports betting paraphernalia.”
Mr. Trivedi’s lawyer stated in his client’s defense, “The upstairs apartments are leased to several individuals who are not related to Mr. Trivedi. We will be mounting a vigorous defense against these charges.”
If convicted, Mr. Trivedi could be facing fines amounting to several hundred thousand solars.
All attend Chang’s afternoon Mandarin class before heading back to their graduate housing. There they get to see the breaking news of their first operation on the Baratarian Broadcast News:
The Daring Rescue of Three Zionese “Disappeared” Citizens
The Chinese People’s Republic of de Kamp today announced that three of Zion’s “disappeared” citizens have been delivered to the People’s Central Hospital in New Beijing.
According to Dr. Mok Tai-shan, head of the hospital’s emergency services, “An ambulance drove up to the emergency bay at 5:09 am this morning and honked its horn. When our staff boarded the vehicle, they found two men and one woman with wounds consistent with torture. All of them have been treated and released. I believe they have applied for political asylum.”
The Zion Independence Freedom Fighters (ZIFF) has claimed responsibility for rescuing these three “disappeared’ citizens of the Fellowship of Zion. Their broadcast stated, “It’s time for Zion to Put its People First. This is the start of our People’s Campaign to redeem our Nation from the dark path it has taken in recent years. We call on all Zionese citizens to support our common cause. Future broadcasts will alert you to actions you can take to help us Restore Righteous Leadership to the Presidential Palace in New Jerusalem.”
Chinese Premier Tsou Bai-Zhi denounced the Fellowship of Zion for “humanitarian atrocities” against its own citizens, and stated, “We welcome these refugees with open arms.”
A press conference will be held tomorrow morning at which these three will tell their stories to the public.”
It is a quiet evening at the dorm generally. Claire teleports herself and Sakagi to the Baratarian Consulate. The biogen wants the NET runner to work on two copies they have of the film of the massacre. Compare the two for any anomalies. Get aging software, and age both attackers and any recognizable victims; in particular the two women who were kidnapped during the incident. Then run facial recognition on attackers and victims as both young and old.
Tuesday, January 12, 2094:
Claire goes to her history class and afterwards she asks Ekram Hebbar about Makar Sankranti, the Hindu Festival that starts tomorrow. The young man is thrilled she has asked him and explains the three day festival. When he finishes he asks her out to lunch. They go to Ari’s coffee shop next door to Professor Chang’s meditation center.
At the Meditation Center, Ooljee Rainwater, the tarot reader, comes by and signs up for his class. She speaks to Ben Chang privately and asks if he believes in ‘Spirit Guides”. When the professor says yes, she is delighted and identifies her own spirit guide as a Sea Otter. More importantly, the woman wants to open a Temple to the Great Spirit and wonders how Professor Chang got his license for his center. She asks if he can help her. The professor tells her that a friend set it up, but he will see if he could help.
Another young woman arrives and also signs up for his class. She introduces herself as Leila Shahzad and asks if she could get some ‘private lessons’. Chang schedules her for his regular class and a private lesson on Thursday morning. After this person leaves, Lin Qiao Satu, Chen Quon’s niece, shows up and looks around before asking if her uncle is here. Ben notices that she is not disappointed that her uncle isn’t there, which seems a little surprising to the meditation master. Claire is meditating in the room and scans for Satu’s emotional state. She is relieved her uncle is not here.
Professor Chang holds his regular Meditation class. Afterwards he informs Claire about Ooljee Rainwater’s request for help to establish her temple. She advises him to tell the fortune teller that his contact has left de Kamp for Earth, but is expected back. They will deal with this later.
Late in the afternoon a major Naiasa Chronicle news story comes out:
Zionese Refugee Describes Abduction, Terror, Torture
“They came in the middle of the night,” said the woman—whose name and photo has not been released in order to protect her family from retaliation by the Zionese government. “Five men dressed all in black. They dragged me from my house, my daughter was screaming, ‘Mommy, mommy!’ And then, later, they threw me into this tiny dark box of a cell and raped me.
“The next day, I would guess it was the next day, I almost never saw any daylight, they dragged me into another room and said my neighbor had identified me as an agitator, that he had seen propaganda pamphlets in my house. I told them it wasn’t true, that I was a loyal citizen, praying to God every day and asking Jesus for guidance, but they just strapped me to a table and started burning the soles of my feet with—I would guess it was cigarettes.
“Confess—confess! They kept insisting I was guilty and telling me to confess. But that would have been a sin against God, telling a lie. So I refused, and they took me back to the cell and raped me again. Then the next day—I’m guessing it was the next day because they fed me that night—a slice of bread and a bowl of warm soup. The next two days was just more of the same; ‘Confess!’ and the cigarettes, going up the backs of my legs. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and told them, ‘Okay, okay. Yes, there were propaganda pamphlets in my house.’
“So now they kept asking where I got them. And of course I didn’t know. So I tried telling them I’d found them in the street. But they said that wasn’t possible. So then I said I’d found them at the grocery market that someone must have left them there. But they said no, I was part of a cell, a terrorist cell, and who was in it with me? Who gave me those pamphlets?
“I was at my wit’s end, starting to think about whom could I name, even knowing what a horrible sin that would be, when the door burst open and armed men came in and killed the people who were torturing me. I don’t remember a lot after that. I pretty much just collapsed. My rescuers carried me out of that room into some kind of vehicle, I never saw it clearly. Then we drove through the city streets and soon they carried me into a house. After that, some other people came in and gave us some drugs to knock us out. The next thing I remember is waking up in the ambulance on our way to Beijing.”
Premier Tsou Bao-Zhi denounced “these shocking human-rights atrocities” and said China welcomes any refugees who cross the border into the People’s Republic. In Beijing, Marty Truman, the Ambassador for the Fellowship of Zion, denied that any such torture had taken place, calling the woman’s statement “a pack of lies” and the entire incident “a fabrication by those Z.I.F.F. Terrorists.” He added, “They probably tortured some of their own people just to create this so-called ‘evidence’. Lew Jones loves his people. He would never condone or countenance anything of this sort.”
As for the Team, Sakagi continued her work on facial recognition with the film of the massacre in Biafra. Claire goes to see Kajori Adhikari and the two arrange to play some music on Friday morning in the courtyard of the graduate student housing.
Wednesday, January 13, 2094:
At 6 am in the morning the fire alarms go off in the dorms. Everyone files out in their jammies and robes. Sakagi calls to her robotic assistant, “Come, Cogsworth.”
A fire truck comes and the firemen go inside. The firemen eventually come out. Claire scans their mood. The two seem annoyed. One carries a metal trash can lid with what looks like the remains of a burned jacket. Mahaj Banerjee walks up to the fireman who is holding the lid with the burnt article of clothing and says, “Oh, my God, that’s my jacket.”
The young man is very angry and makes a phone call. Ekram Hebbar, Mahaj’s roommate, comes up to the Team and says, “Wow, that’s something all right. That old jacket was his, and he thought he lost it.”
Everyone heads to class. Sakagi runs into Dilruba and Nikou, the two Jeekie girls. Sakagi tells them she has entered the Battlebot competition and the three tease each other playfully over who will win.
After a full day of classes everyone heads back to the dorm, where they see a police car out front. Claire scans the two policemen’s mood as they pass and senses they are nervous. The two officers head to the cafeteria which has been closed since the fire. They are dusting every surface for fingerprints, and have seized the dorm cafeteria’s security camera footage.
Most people remain at the dorm to study in the evening except Claire, who brings a few pieces of clothing she brought from Lippincott and heads to the Hindu Temple at Third Avenue and Dingo Street. There she meets the chief priest, Hamal Dewanji. Claire explains that she is from Lippincott and had met a priest of Shiva there, who had awakened her interest in Hinduism. They discuss the festival of Makar Sankranti and the fire at the dorm this morning. She learns that Mahaj is the son of the police chief, Tariq Banerjee, and this father is a devout Hindu; his son, not so much. The chief priest allows her to make a small fire to sacrifice her old clothes. He then invites her to a festival next week on Wednesday which marks the beginning of the 40 day festival of Vasant Panchami which culminates with the burning of an effigy of the demoness Holika. She asks at what time of day this celebration will occur and she is told around 4 pm. She is told she can bring her friends.
That evening Sakagi realizes that her friend Dilruba is occasionally cranky and irritable and asks Nikou about it. The Iranian girl has noticed this too, but doesn’t know why. They decide to confront Dilruba next time they sense this.
Thursday, January 14, 2094:
In the morning, Claire invites everyone in the pod (she considers them her family) out to dinner tonight. It is the closest she can approximate to honoring the second day of Makar Sankranti. Everyone accepts. Ben Chang heads out for the Meditation Center to give the private lesson to Leila Shahzad. Leila asks a lot of posture questions and asks Ben to “put her” in the right posture positions. It is clear she is interested in him. Professor Chang tells the Team through the mind link about this and feels he might be being targeted for assassination. The Team goes through a number of ways she could do it. Still, this doesn’t deter Ben from jumping her “bones”. When the rest of the Team leaves the dorm, there is a new police car parked out front.
In Claire’s history class, Professor Sung Gan explains the various factions that have developed on the planet de Kamp. During class Ekram seems upset. After class Claire asks him what’s wrong. Someone had put plastic cow dung on a crudely drawn picture of a cow just outside his and Mahaj’s door. It is clearly an attempt to make fun of the two young men’s religious beliefs. After they discuss this new incident, she tells him that she went to the local Hindu Temple. Ekram is very pleased by this.
Around noon all of the graduate students and proctors in the Team’s dorm get a text from the dean of the university. Everyone is to be interviewed by the police and a university lawyer over the incident involving the burning of Mahaj’s jacket. Just after the text Claire gets a call from Rafiki. He wants to talk privately. They agree to talk after meditation class. Claire then goes out and buys some new clothes for the dinner tonight. Sakagi meets with Nikou at Ari’s coffee shop and they converse in Farsi.
Leila Shahzad shows up for the Mediation class. Claire scans her coming and going. When she comes, she is resolute. When she leaves, she is feeling satisfied. Lin Qiao Satu also shows up for the afternoon meditation class. Claire scans her. Satu is a little puzzled and confused. After the session she asks Ben Chang, “How did you come to teach meditation?”
Ben replies, “Because I know how to do it, I enjoy it, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do.”
“That’s a nice thing to do,” Satu responds. “You seem like a person I can trust. Can we talk in private?”
The two retire to his private office, but Ben keeps his mind link open. The nervous young girl asks if you thought something bad was going to happen would you hire a detective or something to find out what was going on. Claire tells Ben in the mind link to press her for more details. Satu says, “It’s a family matter.” When asked if this is about her uncle she replies, “Only tangentially.”
Satu gets nervous when asked if it concerns another family member and says, “I’ve said too much already,” and gets up to leave. Claire comes to the door and tells Ben that he has a potential student coming. As Satu leaves Claire puts the thought in the girl’s mind that, “Professor Ben Chang is someone you can trust.”
Rafiki comes to the dojo and he is nervous. It seems he and his roommate, Kang Shuo, were the ones who burned Mahaj’s jacket. Shuo thought that the police chief’s son needed to be taken down a notch, and Rafiki thought that sounded like a great idea, so they burned the jacket to give him the hint that he needed to leave his old ways behind. Rafiki thinks that Shuo probably did the second prank involving the cow dung—which made Rafiki realize that maybe the first prank wasn’t such a great idea, either, and wonder why he agreed to loop the cameras in the cafeteria to hide what they were doing. But worse, if Shuo breaks, then Rafiki will be screwed. Claire assures him it will probably all be fine.
That evening all of the Team goes out to dinner together and Claire wears her new clothes to celebrate Makar Sankranti. She informs them about the Festival next Wednesday and that they are invited. All have a wonderful time.
Friday, January 15, 2094:
Cheng Quon gets back to Claire about the man found dead on the railroad tracks. The man was a member of the local Chinese Tong. The police think this murder was committed by a rival Hindu mob not connected with the mayor’s brother. The victim may have been involved in the extortion rackets. Claire then heads to the courtyard to play music with Kajori Adhikari. Gwayne Driscol, the other singer from the Kamal ka Khilana, comes too, along with a few other local musicians. Claire delivers a competent performance.
Dilruba and Nikou show up to see Sakagi and ask her if she wants to go out on the town with them. The three head off and wander around until they see three musicians from New Year’s Eve: Jyu Tai-shu, Nikhel Thakur and Istaqa Helushka playing on a street corner. They stay to watch and listen for a few songs. During the second tune, Sakagi sees the man who tried to shake down Ari at the coffee shop a week or so ago walk up and take the female singer by the arm. Sakagi activates one of her camera bugs and takes some shots of the potential gangster. Sakagi surreptitiously takes one of her tracking bugs and levitates it near the ground and places it on the gangster. All the while the NET runner tries to listen in on their conversation, but it makes little sense (Sakagi botched). She thinks the gangster is talking about “taking out the trash.” When the gangster tries to pull Tai-shu away, Sakagi walks up and compliments her singing. The gangster glares at the young interloper, but that doesn’t faze the young NET runner. Sakagi does hear the next thing the girl says, “Oh, like you’re a great role model.”
Sakagi notifies people in the mind link that someone needs to turn on the tracking gear in the Baratarian Consulate. In the graduate student housing courtyard, Claire excuses herself and goes to her room, blips to the Consulate, turns on the tracking gear and blips back. She returns to the courtyard with some new sheet music.
Back on the street corner Sakagi keeps chatting up Jyu Tai-shu about her music. The NET runner learns that the gangster is actually her brother. The impromptu corner concert breaks up and Jyu Tai-shu joins the three girls. Soon Dilruba wants to go somewhere particular. All four girls head over there. Sakagi realizes that they are heading to the area where Logan, the drug dealer hangs out. Yes, Logan is there and Sakagi notices that Dilruba makes a furtive signal to the drug dealer. Dilruba actually seems a little irritable. She doesn’t stop or talk to Logan, but wants to have lunch at a small restaurant there. Jyu Tai-shu sees the eating place and suddenly has somewhere else to be. When the now three girls sit down Dilruba excuses herself to go to the bathroom. Sakagi and Nikou talk in Farsi with each other. Sakagi starts to put the moves on the young Iranian who finally asks, “Are you hitting on me?”
“Just being friendly,” Sakagi replies hopefully.
Nikou is aghast that Sakagi thought she might be gay. She freaks and runs out the door. Sakagi gets the feeling that her friend is overreacting a bit. There is something more than her approach involved. Dilruba comes back in a very good mood. Sakagi and Dilruba enjoy their soup, which is delicious. Sakagi soon realizes that she blew her appointment with the police and the lawyer. She calls up the police and reschedules for tomorrow at 10 am.
As the jam session ends, Cheng Quon calls Claire again and wants to meet. The two go to the Meditation Center. Cheng Quon brings some excellent Chinese food for lunch. The next mission the Chinese are considering is moving a large broadcast transmitter into Zion for a Radio Free Zion. They discuss this at length and Claire finds a lot of reasons why this is a bad idea. In fact most of Cheng Quon’s ideas have a lot of problems. An important piece of information she receives is the knowledge that the Chinese are training and fielding the core group for the Z.I.F.F. military force. In the end Claire offers to come up with an overall plan to destabilize the current Zion regime. Cheng Quon is willing to wait a little bit to see her plan. She tells him that she has given the problem some thought and will come up with an action plan quickly. Claire then hurries to her meeting with the police.
Professor Chang is at his own police interview now. The detective at the interview is Detective Wang Xiong from Precinct D. The university lawyer is Otaktay Bearclaw. They ask the professor what he was doing on both mornings in questions. In bed, he tells them. They take down that information and ask for his fingerprints.
Claire goes in for her interview with a big smile on her face. They ask her name and she points out that it’s the name written on their sheet of paper in front of the officer. She responds to his questions with the same answers as Ben Chang. Claire expresses her outrage that Mahaj’s religion was insulted and tells them she is a friend of his roommate, Ekram. When asked if she knows anything about the crime, she says that she would have told Mahaj before this if she did. Then she cheerfully gives up her fingerprints. Claire learns that it was Ekram who actually stepped in the fabricated cow dung.
At the Meditation Center Leila comes by for another ‘private lesson’. Ben stops charging her for these sessions. It doesn’t feel right for her to be paying money for sex. The quickness of this relationship worries not only Ben, but the others. Sakagi is tasked to run a background check on Leila.
As evening approaches, Claire heads down to the Pearl River to feed some fish to honor the Animal Kingdom on the third day of Makar Sankranti. Some very strange looking creatures come to the surface. Sakagi blips to the consulate and checks the tracking bug’s route. The gangster stops at several businesses along 2nd Avenue. Finally the bug stops transmitting after he stops at the corner of Zebra Street and 3rd Avenue. She looks up all the businesses, but the signal stops at the Tiger Lily Restaurant. The NET runner taps into the city security camera at the corner and sets it to record everyone’s coming and going. This information will be sent to an anonymous drop box.
Tavio gives Claire a call and they meet at Nigel’s club, the Baoshi. The biogen asks various team members if they want to come and most do. Sakagi totally botches her wardrobe and style roll. Claire won’t let her out of the pod like that. She fixes her up. When they arrive, Tavio is there and all dressed up. In the corner Gandoleska is talking with the lawyer, Otaktay Bearclaw. Claire tells Tavio about the excitement of the two pranks that brought the police there. She shifts the conversation to the “escapees” from the Fellowship of Zion. This would make a great play and she puts that in the form of a ‘psionic’ suggestion with minimal success. Everyone dances. Claire forgets herself and stuns everyone on the floor, including Tavio. (She generates a 44 on her roll.) When they finish, Shuo enters the club and comes over to where Claire is almost sitting in Tavio’s lap. The theatre professor’s teaching assistant (Shuo) starts talking about the three political comedies that Tavio is considering producing. Claire asks Shuo if he has talked to the police yet—and the answer is yes. The biogen decides to risk reading his emotional state. Shuo is a little gleeful. The teacher and his assistant discuss the plays up for consideration. Claire asks for copies to read. At the end of the evening everyone goes home. Tavio invites Claire back to his place and she does, of course.
Saturday, January 16, 2094:
At 10 am in the morning Sakagi goes to her make up meeting with the police and the university lawyer. The detective, Wang Xiong, appears a bit annoyed, but Otaktay Bearclaw, the university lawyer, seems bemused by the whole thing. The detective looks at the Japanese looking girl with her last name, Olevsky, and comments, “I’m sure there’s an interesting story behind this.”
In the brief banter that follows Sakagi refers to her mother in the past tense which interests the detective. Sakagi confirms that she has passed away and says sarcastically, “Thank you for bringing that up.”
The questions are the same as the others, “Where were you last Wednesday and Thursday morning?”
She replies, “I was passed out in bed.”
“Were you passed out from imbibing?” Detective Wang inquires.
Questions revolve around Sakagi’s consumption of alcohol. Finally Sakagi offers Cogsworth, her self-mobile PDA robot, as a witness to her being in bed alone. The detective immediately seizes on the fact that a robot can be programmed to respond any way the programmer wishes. As the police are looking for a NET runner / programmer who blinded the security system, Sakagi immediately makes herself a suspect. They confiscate Cogsworth to study its memory. This could spell disaster for the Team as Sakagi had used this robot to check out the tunnel running to New Hope across the river. This doesn’t occur to Sakagi as the police take Cogsworth away.
The rest of the Team does school work and Professor Chang works on his lesson plans and meditates. Claire spends her time with Tavio and learns more about the plays he is considering.
Sunday, January 17, 2094:
This is a quiet day and the Team spends its time doing much the same as yesterday. The police return Cogsworth. Sakagi checks the memory to see how much of it the authorities examined and if they have programmed it to spy on her. They only checked the time of the two incidents under investigation and no, the police didn’t turn it into their ‘spy’ drone.
Monday, January 18, 2094:
Before breakfast, Nikou comes and talks to Sakagi. She apologizes for freaking out over the pass the NET runner made at her. The Iranian girl makes it quite clear she is straight, but the two want to remain as friends. Later, down in the cafeteria, Sakagi notices that neither Nikou nor Dilruba are there.
Everyone goes to class.
At dinner Nikou and Dilruba are back. Sakagi asks where they were during breakfast this morning. The two look at her strangely and reply, “It’s Ramadan.”
Tuesday, January 19, 2094:
It is another normal day of classes and teaching. Sakagi continues to work on her research for both the Team’s primary mission and Claire’s side project. Leila Shahzad again shows up for the Mediation class.
Wednesday, January 20, 2094:
Claire and the rest of the Team head to the Hindu Temple for the Festival of Makar Sankranti just before 4 pm. There they see several of the students they know from the university along with Nigel, the owner of the Baoshi Nightclub. The Hindu devotees are building the framework for a bonfire with an effigy of the demoness Holika crowning the future conflagration. As devotees add small branches and twigs to the pile (which will continue for the next 39 days), a crowd of about ten or eleven protesters gathers outside the temple. They are carrying signs that decry the use of graven images, claiming that this is against God’s word. The women are wearing hajibs and it is clear that the protestors are Muslim. All goes peacefully until a group of ten Hindu hooligans show up and start throwing stones at the protestors, saying, “You stone people to death? See how you like it.” Another woman wearing a hajib, who is not with the protestors, steps between the two groups and tries to calm the angry youths. She says, “Please stop, this is a peaceful protest. This violence is against God, any god. These people (the protestors) have a license to be here.”
A rock hits her in the head and the woman staggers a bit. Ben Chang and Sakagi go to her aid. The martial arts master uses his hambo to deflect any further stone missiles from hitting the woman. Sakagi helps the injured woman. Several scattered bystanders appear, but stay at a distance. The men are a bit older and the women are wearing very short skirts and flamboyant, skimpy tops. Claire also moves to interpose herself between the two groups. She begins to yell at the rock throwing youths, “You are disturbing the festival, you should go now.”
The biogen is also targeting the protestors individually with her Empathic Projection to turn the individual’s emotions little by little into leaving. Fortunately for her the rock throwing thugs continue to target the Chinese man (Ben) rather than the pretty girl. She keeps this up as she looks for the leaders of the attackers. When she finds one, Claire directs a major psychic push against him backed up by some Luck and tells him, “You should leave now.”
This calms the attackers down and a couple of the mob starts to leave. A young Hindu man from the street comes up to the thugs and tells them to leave also. His words send the rest of the rock throwing mob away.
Claire first aids the woman’s cut on her head from the thrown rock. This woman thanks Ben, Claire and Sakagi and introduces herself as Ekisa Paruchuri, aide to Feng Osa, the mayor’s chief of staff. The team has helped a person of political importance in the city. Ekisa Paruchuri is also fascinated to learn that Professor Chang has opened a meditation center in the city. The rest of the festival that night goes off without further incident. The protestors remain, but all remains peaceful for the rest of the evening.
Episode 29 – Of ‘Honey Pots’ and Protests
Thursday, January 21, 2094:
A.J. (Owen) is waiting for his Diagnosis Class to begin and is thinking about his herbalism class where he learned that some plants on this world are actually mobile, with many tiny legs like centipedes. He thinks about his assignment for that class and wonders if he could just offer a salad made up of local native plants to people and see how it affects them; not a good idea. As he muses on this, he sees Vanika come into the class. She tells him that she is working on misdiagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis because the medicines used can be dangerous on people who actually don’t have the disease.
After Meditation class that afternoon, Satu, Cheng Quon’s niece, asks to speak to Ben Chang (Khan). The professor promises not to tell anyone about their conversation, but keeps the mind link open so the Team can hear. The girl tells her meditation master that her mom seems distracted of late. Also, she has seen her mom come out of a hotel when she is supposed to be at work. If she is having an affair, her father will never forgive her. At some prompting from the Team, Ben tells her he has some friends that are very discrete, who could look into it. Satu agrees, gives Ben a peck on the cheek and runs out.
At the Team meeting following class, Sakagi gives the Team her results on her research on Leila Shahzad:
Leila Shahzad lives in an apartment building on the rightward side of Ring Boulevard between Warthog St and Filbert Boulevard (close to the Kamal ka Khilana nightclub, the one owned by Jival Kamala where Kajori sings). This is a moderately upscale neighborhood. In other words, one needs to have a fairly good income in order to afford it.
Leila is 24 years old. She came to Outer Bengal 15 years ago with her parents and two younger brothers. When she reached 18, she came to Naiasa as a student at the University. She was studying art, and dropped out after her second year.
You do not find anything about her employment—either now or in the past. However, you do find three interesting items:
1 – She is mentioned as the model for a nude painting of a woman that was sold at the [Gallery Name] 5 years ago.
2 – She is mentioned in the Naiasa Chronicle’s “Crime Watch” section in an article published 3 years ago: “Three women were arrested tonight at the Kamal ka Khilana nightclub and charged with solicitation: [person], Leila Shahzad, and [person].”
3 – Going through records kept by bail-bond agents, you find a note indicating that a person named Zeng Meifen paid her bail.
You do not find any additional records about this arrest. She does not appear in court records, so whatever happened, she did not go to trial, and she was not put into the stocks.
Leila lives alone—no one else lives in that apartment with her.
Ben Chang suggests Sakagi look into this Zeng Meifen. Sakagi playfully asks Ben if Leila fucks like a high class hooker, but Ben has no experience to gauge that question on. Chang informs the party that Leila has requested another ‘private session’ tomorrow. It is agreed that the professor should continue to see Leila, but just be aware of the possibility she is a “honey pot”.
A.J. suggests that we get rid of the mobster who is trying to shake down Ari, the coffee shop owner. Claire tells A.J. that the situation is a little more complicated as the mobster is the brother of one of Sakagi’s (Nip’s) new friends, Jyu Tai-shu, an undergrad ecology major and street singer. Also, another Chinese mobster was killed recently and his body was left on the nearby train tracks. This location is close to the suspected Tong headquarters in the Tiger Lily Restaurant.
Sakagi also presents her research on Jyu Tai-shu’s brother, Jyu Junbao, and Hong Uang, the man found dead on the railroad tracks.
Junbao is the older brother of Jyu Tai-shu, undergrad ecology major and street singer known to some members of the Team. He is also the “protection” enforcer who threatened Ari, owner of the coffee shop next door to Ben Chang’s meditation center. Junbao is married, 27 years old, and the father of a 2 year old son.
The tracer that Sakagi put on Junbao showed him stopping at roughly a dozen establishments along Second Ave between Filbert Boulevard and N. Main Boulevard, spending several minutes at each stop. He then turned left on N. Main and went down to Third Ave, turned left again towards Zebra Street. The tracer went silent at the Tiger Lily Restaurant at Third Ave and Zebra Street.
Junbao is officially employed as a bouncer at the Pingjing de Taiqiu (Serene Billiards) Hall, which is owned (licensed) by Cao Qiang, a businessman. This billiards hall is located next door to the Tiger Lily Restaurant.
Junbao appears in the Naiasa Chronicle’s “Crime Watch” section three times in a four-year period beginning 12 years ago, but nothing in the past 8 years. The arrests were for possession—of various items involved in criminal activities. The pattern indicates he was “employed” as a runner—someone who took goods from point A to point B on behalf of a higher ranked person in the organization. In each instance, he pled guilty. His first sentence was to the stocks for 3 days. The second and third were fines of 400 solars and 2000 solars, respectively.
Hong Uang is the 25 year old man whose body was found by the railroad tracks on 11 January 2094. Both his legs had been broken. He was not married. He left behind his parents and an older brother.
Claire surmised correctly that the broken legs were a “message” to whoever employed him that he had been trespassing where he was not welcome.
Uang was officially employed as a guard in the Kuaile Shiguang (Happy Time) Liquor Store, which is located on the leftward corner across the street from the Tiger Lily Restaurant. It is owned (licensed) by Cao Qiang, a businessman.
Two articles in the Naiasa Chronicle’s “Crime Watch” section mention Uang’s arrest for extortion one year ago. He was found guilty, and fined 10,000 solars. He was defended by Wu Shin, lawyer.
The Team decides that the network of criminal organizations in this city needs more study before any action can be contemplated. There is also the fact that none of this has any direct bearing on their mission. Sakagi has one more piece of information for the Team. It involves Claire’s side project for Ray-ray and Damien Ingersen; the investigation of the inciting massacre that led to the Planetary High Council authorizing the UN to destroy the Sons of Wotan Colony. Claire doesn’t inform the Team who she is doing this for and no one asks. They all volunteer to help. Sakagi has finished studying and enhancing the two films of the massacre. She ran age progression software on the attackers and victims and then ran them against all the databases she could access.
Wotan Massacre: Aging & Facial Recognition of Perps
For 9 of the 10 aged faces of the attackers, there is nothing. On the tenth—incidentally the one with the clearest view of the face—there is one possible match.
Three years ago, a memoir was published by a former member of the “Panther Claws”. This group was rumored to be—and might still be—a special ops group attached to a private mercenary force that is sometimes hired as “adjunct forces” by various military powers. The back cover photo of the author, Jody Greene, is a possible match. That is, the photo somewhat resembles the aged version of one of the perps. But it’s only a possible match, not definitive.
The book, entitled “Path of the Panther,” describes several successful rescues and daring missions the Panther Claws were hired to do in the range of 10-20 years ago. The pages contain nothing about any kind of massacre or dirty tricks.
Jody is alive and living on an O’Neill cylinder on Tau Ceti. He is 46 years old. He was born and grew up in Ontario, Canada. Sakagi was able to find his school records through college along with Jody’s initial military training, which include a variety of covert op skills and specialty combat skills (e.g., martial arts, sneaky stuff), but nothing thereafter.
Claire feels that a mission to that O’Neill cylinder in Tau Ceti is in order, but not for a while. There is much more information here to be found. She does, however, decide to get a copy of Jody Greene’s book and set Sakagi and her employers on a NET search project (discretely) of the Panther Claws.
Friday, January 22, 2094:
At the Meditation Center Ben Chang gives Leila her ‘private lesson’. Afterwards she asks Ben for a tour of the center. The professor agrees and informs the Team through the mind link. Claire blips to the consulate and picks up a bug detector and jammer. A.J. suggests she also get a radiation detector to check for a ‘rad tag’. While at the consulate she also picks up a small frequency scanner. After Claire jumps back to the grad student housing, she, A.J. and Sakagi head over to the center to meditate. Before confronting Leila, the Team scans for radio frequencies coming from the Center. There are none. A.J. tries to drop her with Memory Assault I but botches. She suddenly takes an intense dislike to the Team and starts to leave. A.J.’s second assault drops her. They scan her for bugs and radiation before searching her. The phone Leila is carrying is very expensive and protected by an extremely complex encryption. Sakagi fails on her initial attempt to cut through the encryption. She makes a second attempt (at a higher difficulty) and finally breaks through. Leila’s phone is cloned and the contents are downloaded. The majority of the calls on the phone are to Zeng Meifen.
A.J. starts to probe her mind. Zeng Meifen sent Leila here on a general fishing expedition to find out what is going on at the Meditation Center. A.J. also searches for other ‘clients’ she has investigated for Zeng Meifen. That might be information that will be useful later. A.J. erases her memory up until she and Ben have finished their ‘lesson’ and implants that she falls asleep. After Leila wakes up, she again asks for a tour and Ben gives her one (again). Leila leaves the Meditation Center none the wiser.
Saturday, January 23, 2094:
In the morning, Sakagi begins her research on Zeng Meifen. It takes a few hours but she assembles the following dossier:
Meifen is the licensed owner of Huaya Shenshi Shejiao Julebu (Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club), located at Bldg. #3 (on Warthog Street between N. Ring Boulevard and Second Ave). Meifen emigrated to de Kamp from China 23 years ago with her adoptive parents Kim Huang and Zeng Qiu. She lived with them in New Shanghai for less than a year before moving to New Beijing. When Naiasa was folded into China, she moved here.
The Huaya Shenshi Shejiao Julebu is a “members only” high-class brothel. It opened in the year after The Family was folded into Zion and Naiasa became Chinese. The original owner was a high-ranking Party official who died of apparently natural causes 9 years ago at a time when Tsou Bao-Zhi was expanding his “business licenses for everything” policy. Meifen applied for the license, and was approved. She is 43 years old.
Kim Huang and Zeng Qiu have a natural daughter Mi-Sun, who is 4 years younger than Meifen.
After Sakagi is finished with this research, she heads out to buy some parts for her competition battle-bot.
That afternoon, Claire gets a phone call from Tavio Gurabi asking her to meet him at the Baoshi Nightclub. She gets all dressed up and heads down there that evening. When the biogen arrives she spies her friend, Kajori Adhikari, almost sitting in Tavio’s lap. Claire walks up and says, “Hi!”
Tavio looks really, really uncomfortable. Claire pops down on the other side of the professor blocking any chance of him wiggling away from Kajori. The (now trapped) man explains that Kajori was asking about the plays he was planning to put on next and if there was a part for her. Tavio is trying to squirm away from Kajori so Claire puts her arm around him. Tavio says there will be auditions soon. They talk about the plays he is planning to do. Claire smiles at Kajori and the singer looks at her questioningly, but soon realizes Claire is interested in them both. The three head back to Tavio’s for the evening and are soon all in bed together. Claire rolls a 19 with Tavio and a 42 with Kajori. Tavio is a happy man.
Kajori confides in Claire that she is trying to “get off this mud ball”. She wants to become rich and famous and eventually move to Alpha Centauri. They talk and get to know each other better.
Sunday, January 24, 2094:
A.J. decides to check out Zeng Meifen’s Huaya Shenshi Shejiao Julebu (Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club). He drops money on some good clothes and heads down there. He looks it up on the NET before he goes. It won’t be suspicious since he is a young man. A.J. fills out all the proper forms and pays the high membership fee. He asks Zeng Meifen, who is doing the interview herself, if he can get a temporary day pass. She likes him so she says yes and gives him a tour. The operative visually checks out the place for cameras and listening devices. Although he doesn’t see any directly he believes there are some in the public areas of the club. He asks if smoking is allowed (no) and explains he is a cigar aficionado. He asks if there is a smoking club in town. Yes, there is, and Meifen gives him the name of the establishment and its address. A.J. then sits down to watch the dancers and have a few drinks before leaving.
That evening Sakagi checks her drop box for the images captured on the street camera across from the Tiger Lily Restaurant. Up until last Friday about 50 people are recorded entering the establishment. On Saturday the images of 30 visitors in the afternoon and another 50 that night are recorded. The cache for today shows the images of 20 people coming in the afternoon and another 40 that night. There are about a dozen people a day that are repeats. While downloading the information the NET runner feels something is wrong here; something is off. She drops out of the NET and tells the Team. They all discuss it and decide not to use the street camera any more for surveillance. The Team has a dozen repeat faces and they can work on that.
Claire spends a long and sensual day with Kajori and Tavio.
Monday, January 25, 2094:
In the morning Claire checks her phone and there is a coded message to call Chen Quon. She returns his call and they decide to meet after the meditation class tomorrow. Also, the original papers of the late Floyd Osbourne, the Assistant Criminal Investigator of the Sons of Wotan Massacre Report, arrive for her to study. The following is a brief summary of the notebook:
Ballistics – all for model [assault rifle] manufacturer [which one]. Smallest lot recent sold 144 to Genauigkeit Bewaffnung (Accuracy Weapons) Stuttgart.
Genauigkeit – Mostly single – individuals – 2 dozen Johann Schmidt. Aha! Paperwork in order; Talkative; “Getting supplies for ‘some bikers’. Like big calibers.” Aha! Shipped to transport company – Geschwind Verkehr (Swift Transport) – Frankfurt. Paid cred chip cash.
Went to PO Box 3854 [Wotan capital] – registered to Leidolf Thorsen – leased only 1 month before shipment. No Leidolfs. 🙁 Only one Thorsen. Ottar?? close to Inger??
Crate gone – no one remembers – all deny seeing Ottar get it. Weird; so how did signature card get there? No prints other than PO folks? More Weird; someone lying? Dirty tricks? Does not add up.
Tire Treads – “dirt bike” tread perfect for outback terrain. Easy to modify wheels to fit those treads; typical for use by raiders wanting maneuverability; fits with Wotan “going everywhere” bikers.
Forensics @ scene = useless. Trampled over, per Sikdar.
Coroner reports – were delivered to Special Investigator Prabal Nasiri Kahn.
Claire sends a request for the current location of the people who worked at the Post Office in the Sons of Wotan Colony.
After classes A.J. invites Claire to go shopping with him and help pick out some high end clothes for his investigation of Zeng Meifen’s Huaya Shenshi Shejiao Julebu. She gives him some good advice. Sakagi works on her robot.
Tuesday, January 26, 2094:
When everyone arrives at Ben Chang’s Meditation Center for class, there is a group of about 10 protestors outside. They are carrying signs that the Center is an unlicensed Temple and “No Temples on Central”. This group isn’t blocking the entrance but they are noisy. Ben walks up and asks, “Where is the Temple?”
They point at the Meditation Center, so Ben asks, “Is it behind my Center?”
The man leading the protest replies, “The Meditation Center is the Temple!”
Ben goes inside and calls Ekisa Paruchuri, the aide to Feng Osa, the mayor’s chief of staff and the woman he protected from the mob at the Hindu Temple last week. He tells her about the protest and asks if they have a permit. She says she will check and call him back.
When Claire and A.J. walk up, she scans the mood of the protest leader, who seems kind of happy and exultant. His face, however, doesn’t seem to match his mood. A.J. scans the leader’s mind and he is happy that he is getting paid to do this protest. A.J. goes up to him and touches the leader and follows this train of thought. It is Kim Mi-Sun, the master of the Chou Li Fut dojo that is paying him.
Inside Ekisa Paruchuri calls Ben Chang back and says they do indeed have a permit. It was issued to Tse Wei-Shan, the head of the Falun Gong Temple. Ekisa asks if he has a temple in his center and he denies it. The woman finds the whole thing odd. She gives Ben the name of the Temple licensing clerk (Jin Daiyu) and the professor calls her. The woman will get back to him. Claire suggests Ben get a lawyer to deal with this.
Cheng Quon arrives for his meditation lesson and is disturbed by the protest. The Team decides to seal up the secret room in the basement with the tunnel that leads across the river to the Zion city of New Hope. The reason for Mr. Cheng’s visit is the next mission they need accomplished. He wants the Team to plant a virus into the closed Fellowship of Zion’s military network. There are two possible ways he has considered; either the military hospital in New Jerusalem or the one at the armed forces base in New Hope. Claire also requests a copy of the Chinese criminal database to simplify Sakagi’s search for the criminals. Quon is a little reluctant so instead he offers to grant Sakagi a username and password so she will have access to the continually updated database. That is quite sufficient.
After receiving the mission, Claire asks some probing questions about his sister, and whether she is happily married. He tells her the woman is a 42 year old fashion designer, who lives with her husband, a government bureaucrat. Insofar as Quon knows, her marriage is fine. Claire’s admonition not to worry doesn’t seem to sit very well.
Wednesday, January 27, 2094:
Everyone attends class. During lunch time Claire looks up some lawyers in town and gets the name of a Jagoda Jaworski and gives it to Professor Chang. After Mandarin class, Ben calls her and makes an appointment for tomorrow afternoon.
That evening the Claire blips a few people into the secret room in the Meditation Center and they seal up that space from the Center proper.
Thursday, January 28, 2094:
When everyone goes to the Meditation Center for afternoon class, the protest outside is slightly larger, but still peaceful. Afterwards Ben heads down to the lawyer, Jagoda Jaworski’s office and explains his predicament. She takes his case (and a retainer) to look into the matter.
Episode 30 – Research and Revels
Friday, January 29, 2094:
Sakagi (Nip) gets access to the Chinese People’s Republic of de Kamp’s criminal database. She runs the twelve people who kept going into the Tiger Lily Restaurant. They are: Jyu Junbao, the thug whom we already knew, and Jiang Lijun, the owner of the Tiger Lily restaurant and two adjoining buildings. The other ten are: (random names of) the Hostess, who seats people at the restaurant; the Head chef; a Sous chef; another Sous chef; the Dishwasher, a Waitress; a second Waitress; a third Waitress; the busboy; an elderly man who serves as janitor. The database records do not show any of these ten as having a criminal record.
The NET runner also gets the owners of the speed dial numbers off Leila’s phone. Besides Zeng Meifen there is Vaskar Mitra, the Consul from Outer Bengal in Naiasa; Hiru Bezawada, the Mayor’s twin brother and reputed local crime lord; along with a Tyr Jensen, whom the Team hasn’t heard of. A.J. (Owen) suggests that he also be researched.
Claire (Natty) contacts the Team’s three employers for any information they have on the group: The Panther Claws. She also gets a copy of Jody Greene’s book, Path of the Panther, to read. In particular she is looking (in the book and from any governmental information) for pictures of people he worked with.
Jagoda Jaworski, Professor Ben Chang’s (Khan’s), lawyer calls and reports that she has filed an injunction to stop the protests occurring outside his Meditation Center.
A.J. has had his membership approved at Zeng Meifen’s Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club. He invites Claire to join him, but she has a date with Tavio tonight. While there he sees Alex Marshall, the Baratarian Consul in Naiasa.
That night Sakagi researches Wu Shin, the lawyer whose name has come up in regards to some of the gangsters in Naiasa. She generates the following report:
Shin came to de Kamp 14 years ago as 22 yo and recent grad from Hong Kong University, and settled in Naiasa. Two years later, he was arrested for fraud, found guilty, and fined 40,000 solars for selling faulty merchandise. The fine was swiftly paid. The following year, he enrolled in Hare Duniya University’s Law School, and was admitted to the bar in 2086.
Wu Shin is apparently a “player” in his personal life. Numerous photos of him with different women appear in NET gossip sites.
From the Chinese Criminal Database:
Wu Shin is Jiang Lijun’s main lawyer of record. He also defends numerous criminal defendants with ties to the Triad. He is a silent partner in several business interests: a perfume manufacturer, a hobby store, and a flower shop. All three are prospering. These business people are women whom he defended successfully in criminal court.
His photo is not among those who enter or leave the Tiger Lily Restaurant.
Claire spends the night with Tavio Gurabi and talks about the plays he is considering, among other things.
Saturday, January 30, 2094:
The Team goes on a picnic in a riverside park across the Pearl River from the Zionese military base. Claire invites Tavio. Sakagi invites Dilruba and Nikou. Ben and A.J. come stag. During the couple of hours there they check out possible places to teleport to during the break in at the hospital which is scheduled for tomorrow. They make note that the hospital is on the far side of the base. The Team also makes note of the radio tower and the military headquarters building. It is decided that A.J. and Claire will make the intrusion and put a radio tap on a computer terminal there. Sakagi will remain at the Baratarian Consulate to break into the system when the tap is installed and upload the virus.
After the picnic Sakagi goes back to the dorm to research and assemble a dossier on Jiang Lijung, the owner of the Tiger Lily Restaurant. This is what she finds:
The owner of the Tiger Lily Restaurant is Jiang Lijun. He is also the founder and director of the Naiasa Chinese Benevolent Association, and he is a prominent businessman in the city.
Facial Recognition & Criminal Info Database:
Jiang Lijun: owner of Tiger Lily Restaurant and founder of Naiasa Chinese Benevolent Association. He is 48 yo, married with three children ages 17, 14 and 11. He came to de Kamp with the original group through the Gate and settled in New Shanghai. His wife, Ma Juhua, is 37 yo and came to de Kamp through the Gate four years later. They came to Naiasa when it was joined to China.
Jiang is believed to be the “Dragon Master” or head of the organized crime Triad in Naiasa. The Triad activities include extortion, counterfeiting, money laundering, loan sharking, smuggling, drug trade and gambling.
His main lieutenant (or “Red Pole”) is believed to be Shao Peng.
Criminal database: His arrest record has two incidents of petty burglaries, ages 24 and 26. In both incidents, he pled guilty and was fined increasing amounts. A third arrest was for loan sharking, age 29. His trial ended in a hung jury, and the prosecutors declined to prosecute him again. He has not been arrested again. However, notations in his file show cops’ suspicions of his entry into and rise within organized crime.
That evening Claire and Tavio go out to the Baoshi Nightclub and are soon joined by Shuo. They discuss the three play ideas up for consideration. The first is based on Aristophanes’ The Assemblywomen, except it takes place in New Beijing and targets the Communist Party. The second is based loosely on cinematic Wag the Dog sex scandal but takes place in Naiasa. The last is a play based on Dr. Strangelove. Claire suggests that the Wag the Dog idea sounds best. Since Wag the Dog is about the President getting involved in a sex scandal and declaring war on another country to distract the public, they should set the show in the Fellowship of Zion rather than Naiasa. At that moment another man walks up. It is Furud Doshi, a local Hindu playwright who came here with the Family. Furud has had several plays produced already. He hears Claire’s idea and likes it. They all throw out ideas all night. Claire suggests that maybe the First Lady of Zion should maybe have an affair with the commander of the military? And the person in charge of keeping order is totally humiliated? As they are talking, Claire taps into the mind link with A.J. who suggests that maybe someone in the show might steal all the money of these leaders? Furud, Tavio and Shuo like the idea. The playwright tells them it will take a few weeks to write up, but this is just fine.
A.J. himself is at the Smoker’s Club and sees Cedric Miller, the UN Consul for Naiasa. The Consul is also a member.
Sunday, January 31, 2094:
Kajori calls Claire Sunday morning while she is at Tavio’s apartment. The girl wants to come over, but Tavio doesn’t look too thrilled about it. Claire tells her female lover that she and Tavio are heading out to a meeting in a few minutes, but she will be home later. The two girls make a date.
Sakagi spends her morning working on a dossier about Cao Qiang who seems to be connected to the local triads. It turns out he is.
Qiang is 34 yo, married with 2 kids. He is the licensed owner of the Pingjing de Taiqiu (Serene Billiards) Hall, which is next door to the Tiger Lily Restaurant, and the Kuaile Shiguang (Happy Time) Liquor Store, which is across the street.
Qiang came to de Kamp with his parents on the Chinese sleeper ship in 2069 at the age of 9. He was their only child. They settled in New Shanghai. The following year, both his parents were killed in a freak accident. He was enrolled in an orphanage, but ran away. In 2079, Qiang enrolled in the Hare Duniya University in Naiasa. He majored in business administration, and earned an MBA in 2084.
Chinese Criminal Database:
Qiang is believed to be Jiang Lijun’s “White Paper Fan” or business advisor. It is likely that Lijun paid for Qiang’s education at the university, although there is no proof of that. His photo is not among those who enter or leave the Tiger Lily Restaurant. In fact, he does not appear entering or leaving either the billiards hall or the liquor store.
While an undergraduate at Hare Duniya University, Qiang did some research on whether certain people were especially “attuned” for using the I-Ching divination system to assess “potentially lucky” business activities. This was published in an obscure scholarly journal on psychic phenomena. The research results were not definitive, but indicated that one individual studied did seem to have such an affinity.
In the afternoon Kajori calls Claire again. They meet back at the dorm. It is clear to Claire that Kajori wants more than just talk or play a little music, so the two disappear into the biogen’s bedroom. Dilruba comes by to talk to Sakagi and asks, “Have you heard about the fire in the Robotics Lab in New Shanghai?”
No, Sakagi hasn’t and Dilruba tells her that five of last year’s master’s students are now transferring here because of it. Sakagi relishes in the increased competition. The two decide to throw a party for the transferring students on this coming Tuesday and call up some of their friends to help plan it.
That evening it is time for the break in at the Zion military hospital. Claire says good night to an increasingly needy Kajori, but lays a long lip lock on her in front of all of the biogen’s pod mates. A.J. and Claire blip over to the Baratarian Consulate where Stepka has prepositioned two blackjack stealth suits. A security employee of the consulate drives them to the river north of Naiasa where the two jump out and start the mission.
The two move down to the Pearl River and look out across to the base. They scan for guards with their tele-optic vision. They pick a building in front of the hospital and then Claire blips herself (as Wendy Barrows) and A.J. (as John Marshall) onto the base. They drop off a Grid Bug and let Sakagi guide it to the hospital roof to tap into the camera security system. While they wait, the two look to see if they were seen. (They were not.)
Cheng Quon had supplied Claire with a blueprint of the building, and marked four offices with an “X” indicating the presence of computers that were probably linked to the military NET. The two operatives now observe the windows of the two closest rooms, using various visions looking for a heat signature or movement. They see none. After Sakagi accesses the cameras, Wendy (Claire) blips the pair into one of the (hopefully empty) target offices. A few seconds after the two appear in the room, Sakagi sees a security guard come out of a door roughly 10 meters down the corridor where they are. The two intruders hide, but the guard is merely walking his rounds. The security man just checks the locked doors and walks away towards the nursing station.
The two place the tap on a hardwired terminal in the room of the hospital and let Sakagi work her magic. The NET runner easily enters the restricted system and uploads the virus that will give the Chinese access to Zion’s military communications. Once the virus is uploaded the two remove the radio tap and Sakagi moves the grid bug off the hospital roof to the corner of a building about 50 meters away where it can be retrieved. The intruders blip to the corner of that building, pick up the grid bug and jump back to the consulate. With the mission completed the three teleport back to the dorm and head off to bed.
Monday, February 1, 2094:
Ben’s lawyer Jagoda Jaworski calls him and explains what is happening. Apparently the regular licensing clerk was out sick when his license was approved and the application was marked “Expedite”. Jagoda says that when a license is challenged there must be an investigation. She suggests that the regular clerk be asked to come and do an inspection, which Ben agrees to. The inspection is scheduled for this Thursday. The Team decides to wire the place with cameras tomorrow to make sure no one breaks in and puts religious icons up or anything like that.
Anouk Shiriki calls Claire to inform her that “what she requested” has arrived. In this case it is a shipment of C-6 and detonators that can be traced back to the UN Peacekeepers. This ‘shipment’ is not as large as she wanted but it will do. She picks it up and takes it back to the dorm where she delivers it to the Baratarian Consulate (by teleport).
After classes Kajori calls and is curious what Claire is up to. When she tells her she is about to jump in the shower, the singer asks to join her. Claire is more than happy to say yes.
Tuesday, February 2, 2094:
At Khan’s Meditation class, Ooljee, Leila and Satu also show up. There is a new student there too. A Chinese woman who appears to be in her late thirties named Jin Daiyu. Both Claire and A.J. scan Leila and the new student. Leila is cheerful and Daiyu is happy. Leila is looking forward to seeing Ben and the new student is hoping there is no problem here because that would mean a lot of paperwork. Claire and A.J. both feel this new student is probably connected to the licensing department. When class is over Ooljee and Jin Daiyu leave together talking. Satu wants to talk with Ben. She wonders if he has been able to talk to his ‘friends’ that can help with her problem. Professor Chang tells her yes, his ‘friends’ are trying to free up time to come to town. Ben then asks if her mother has a regular time that she is at the hotel. Yes, both times Satu saw her mother; it was 4:30 pm on a Thursday afternoon at the Lakadee Mahal (Wood Castle) Hotel. Satu thanks him for his help and leaves.
Leila is waiting around with a hopeful look on her face. Ben thinks she has several conflicting emotions going on, so Claire reads Leila again. Claire reads self-doubt and a goal-directed determination. Leila asks Ben if he would like to get together sometime this week. As Ben has the mind link open, Claire enthusiastically tells him to accept. They make a date to go out this Friday night.
After all the other students leave, the Team sets up a surveillance system in the Meditation Center before heading back to the dorm.
A.J. heads out to the Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club and sees Consul Alex Marshall there.
That evening the new robotics students show up for the party that Sakagi and her friends have arranged. Ben Chang, (Stepka) and (Mason) attend. Claire is busy reading Jody Greene’s Path of the Panther.
One of the new robotics students introduces himself as Hao Duyi. Sakagi can’t help herself and asks him, “I just have to get this out of my system, How do yi?”
The young man does seem to have a sense of humor and replies, “I do fine.”
Hao Duyi has heard about the Battlebots competition and is eager to join. Sakagi turns him on to Professor Gao Vinh. This new student seems much taken by Nikou. Hao Duyi is hesitant to talk about his robotic specialty and the two throw ‘friendly’ barbs at each other over the coming competition. When asked about the fire in New Shanghai, the new masters student appears not to be telling everything he knows. Sakagi begins not to trust him and decides to research both him and the fire, later.
Wednesday, February 3, 2094:
After classes, Claire heads over to the Meditation Center to spend the night in the dark there and catch anyone who might plant something to indicate that Professor Ben Chang is running an illegal temple. Sakagi researches the new student, Hao Duyi.
Hao Duyi came to de Kamp with his parents 17 years ago. The family settled in New Shanghai. His father is employed in the garbage collection industry there; he started out in a menial position, but has risen to a minor management post. (This is the “business” equivalent of a sergeant.) His mother is employed as a seamstress. Duyi enrolled in New Shanghai University in 2087, and was an honors student all the way through. As a graduate student in robotics, he has won awards these past 2 years. Duyi is 24 yo, single. He has a twin sister, Biyu.
Duyi is a member of the “Mathletes” Club at New Shanghai University. Their competitions involve creating math puzzles to challenge other members. Duyi has won all of the competitions over the last four years.
Three years ago (his senior year as an undergrad), Duyi organized a feminist rally that was reported in the New Shanghai University student newspaper. He was quoted as saying, “Equal opportunity for women is an issue of fairness. Any society that fails women in this regard does not deserve respect in this day and age.”
Thursday, February 4, 2094:
In the morning, Jin Daiyu shows up again and indeed she is the temple licensing clerk. Ben Chang gives her a full tour of the Center and the clerk goes through the place thoroughly. She has a short list of questions such as –
“Do you have any statues or other icons as representative of any gods?”
“What is your personal religion?”
“Do you perform any rites or prayers with respect to a god or gods?”
“Do you discuss religion with your students?”
“May I have a copy of all your marketing materials?”
Professor Chang answers all of her questions satisfactorily and hands her his brochures. She is also curious why his license application was marked as a priority. He explains that his appointment to his teaching post was a bit rushed and he wanted his Meditation Center to be opened when the school year begun. Jin Daiyu also informs Ben that the previous two enterprises in this building were most recently a clothing store and before that some kind of paranormal research center. When she is done, the clerk is satisfied that this is just a Meditation Center and not a Temple so she signs his permit and tells him he will no longer have any trouble here.
Sakagi finishes her research on Shao Peng, the Triad ‘Red Pole’:
Peng is believed to be Jiang Lijun’s “Red Pole” or military commander—the man who enforces Jiang’s will throughout the Triad and supervises the Triad’s members who use violence. He is officially employed as a guard for the Naiasa Chinese Benevolent Association.
Peng is 38 yo, married, with one son aged 10. Peng was an orphan in China and arrived on the Sleeper ship in 2069 at the age of 13. Numerous arrests for petty theft followed; sentences to the “stocks” had little effect. At the age of 18, his arrests changed to assaults linked to gambling operations. This first arrest led to 6 months in a work camp, the next to 9 months, the third to 18 months.
When released after this last incarceration, Peng moved to Naiasa which had recently been folded into the Chinese colony. Peng was 23. One more arrest for assault led to 3 years in a work camp. Released in 2083, Peng has been arrested twice since then but not convicted. Evidence was circumstantial, and not especially strong. In both of these cases, Peng was defended by Wu Shin.
It is not clear at what point in his criminal career Peng joined the Triad.
That night A.J. again goes out to the Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club, but this time he brings Claire, who dresses up nicely. He believes it will help him to be seen with a beautiful girl on his arm. That night they see Hiru Bezawada, who is the Mayor’s twin brother and the Hindu godfather there. Claire reads his mood which is cheerful and A.J. reads his surface thoughts which are mostly centered on the assets of the beautiful employees.
Friday, February 5, 2094:
Leila and Ben go out for dinner. Her family was from Outer Bengal and strict Shia Muslims. Leila went to art school but that didn’t work out. Ben knows she is lying about working in a restaurant after that, but she appears not to be really pumping him for information. Ben gives her his well-rehearsed back story. They have a wonderful night together.
Back at the dorm, Sakagi finishes her research on Tyr Jensen, a man listed in Leila’s phone’s speed dial and shows it to the Team who is at the dorm. When they see his picture they immediately recognize him from the secular New Year’s Eve celebration as the street person who tried to sell them ‘role-play’ chips.
Criminal database info:
Tyr is 25 yo, single. Six years ago, he was arrested for dealing drugs (mild hallucinogen, not addictive). He pled guilty and paid a fine of 4,000 solars. He is thought to have ties to local street people involved in “info dealing” and “finding things”, but there is no hard evidence to support this.
Tyr grew up first in a small town in the Family, then in the Fellowship of Zion. He came into China 7 years ago as a refugee. His parents are dead, victims of the “disappearing” of Zionese citizens.
A photo in an academic research report about “kids on the streets” shows Tyr in a group of youngsters playing stickball. It does not say where the photo was taken. In that photo, watching the kids’ activities is another face: Ottar Thorsen, who might or might not be a “person of interest” in the shipment of assault rifles that was delivered to the Wotan capital’s Post Office.
Tyr’s name appears in the Acknowledgements section of an academic research report on whether or not behavior chips are addictive. The report’s abstract states its conclusion that some—but not all—chips are addictive for some—but not all—of the people who use them. Whether a particular chip is addictive for a particular individual cannot be known in advance. However, certain personality traits appear to raise an individual’s vulnerability to addiction. Also, specific precautions that manufacturers can take can either raise or lower a particular chip’s potential for triggering an addiction in its user.
Claire immediately homes in on the name Ottar Thorsen. She makes a note that we have to talk to Tyr, whether he wants to or not.
At the smokers club, A.J. sees Max Kimball, the local Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Christ.
Saturday, February 6, 2094:
Claire spends the next two days hanging out with (and sleeping with) both Tavio and Kajori. Kajori is calling a lot, but Claire doesn’t really care. She has had to be the upright ship captain for too many years now.
A.J. heads to the Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club and is surprised to see Mahaj Bannerjee, one of the grad students in their dorm and the son of Tariq Bannerjee, the police chief.
Sunday, February 7, 2094:
Except for Claire, who is at Tavio’s working on the new play (among other things); everyone is in the dorm getting ready for classes tomorrow.
Monday, February 8, 2094:
Everyone attends classes. Sakagi works on her battlebot for the upcoming competition. Claire researches the maids at the Lakadee Mahal (Wood Castle) Hotel where Satu’s mother has her mysterious meetings. She selects a maid who is closest to Claire in height and build, and works on impersonating her for Thursday, which is a day that her target maid isn’t working.
Tuesday, February 9, 2094:
Again it is classes as usual, except this evening Sakagi finishes her research on Cedric Miller, the UN Consul in Naiasa, whom Owen saw at the Smokers’ Club. She presents her report to the Team.
Cedric is a 39 year old, divorced father of two boys. His wife remarried soon after the divorce (11 years ago) and lives in London. He attended the University College London and earned a degree in international politics. After college, he worked in a variety of posts for the British Foreign Service where his work was categorized as “brilliant.” In 2084, he left the British Foreign Service and began working for the UN, where his first posting was as an Attaché in the UN embassy on Mars. While he has moved steadily “up the ranks” since, his postings have been to continually more obscure locales. He has been the Consul in Naiasa for 3 years.
Cedric was quoted eight years ago in the Journal of Interstellar Political Relations: “The UN is the best and brightest hope for humanity in its outward journey to the stars. Conflicts are inevitable among such a diverse set of national and colonial agendas. The only means of settling such conflicts in a fair manner for all parties is negotiation that can be enforced by an impartial and objective force—the UN.”
Wednesday, February 10, 2094:
It is classes as usual in the day except that A.J. is beginning to believe that maybe Vanika is avoiding him. After classes Claire makes sure she has a maid’s uniform for the Lakadee Mahal (Wood Castle) Hotel to use on the operation tomorrow.
Sakagi researches the fire at the Robots Lab in New Shanghai. It was a clear case of arson. One room in particular seemed targeted. It was devoted to robotic programming. The arsonist used a common accelerant. There were no foot prints or any forensics left. The accelerant was poured on specific computers and all the paperwork there. From that room this accelerant was poured down the hall to engulf the whole building. All the security recordings were lost. It was a small building containing a library and robotics museum. Both these were deliberately destroyed.
That night A.J. is at the Smoker’s Club and sees Feng Osa, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff there.
Thursday, February 11, 2094:
In the morning Hamal Dewanji, the Hindu priest calls Claire and asks if she will be attending the Mahashivaratri, the Night of Shiva, this coming Saturday. She says yes.
The Team positions themselves at about 2 pm near the Lakadee Mahal (Wood Castle) Hotel. Claire takes on the face of her target maid and gets in her maid’s uniform. She keeps a Grid Bug in her pocket. Sakagi watches the security cameras and waits for Satu’s mother, Cheng Mei-hua. Sakagi gives Claire the signal when the woman shows up and the biogen gets in the elevator with their target. Mei-hua enters room 526 on the fifth floor. Claire walks on by, but heads back to that door and releases the Grid Bug. There is a man inside the room and the two have a short, friendly conversation before making warm, affectionate love. This man’s name is Jing. He is an architect and is not her husband. It is clear these people care for each other deeply. The couple gets done, shower and leave. Claire then picks up the bug and leaves. They decide to tell Cheng Quon first about this, since he is their contact and this is his sister. Besides, Claire is starting to like the man (as a friend). Sakagi will do some research on Cheng Mei-hua’s lover and Satu’s parents.
Friday, February 12, 2094:
Sakagi finishes her research in the morning and shows the Team her results.
Lin Qiao Satu’s Family
Satu is a 21 year old undergrad student (in senior year) of University, studying theater arts. Her parents are Lin Chun (father, 48 yo) and Cheng Mei-hua (mother, 42 yo), who came to de Kamp as immigrants 22 years ago before Satu was born. They lived in New Zhengzhou, and moved to Naiasa 11 years ago.
Lin Chun is now a mid-level bureaucrat in the provincial government, and a Party member. Cheng Mei-hua is a fashion designer. Their son Rong is 13 and is in his last year at the Hu Zai (Tiger Cub) “private” lower school that is open mostly to party officials’ children and especially smart other kids.
They live in an upscale apartment building on the iceward side of N. Ring Boulevard and not far from the leftward corner of N. Main Boulevard. Cheng Mei-hua rents an office suite for Mei Shishang Sheji (Plum Fashion Design) in Building C. Mei-hua is Cheng Quon’s sister. The Wood Castle Hotel is across the street from Building C.
Lin Chun is occasionally quoted in news articles reporting on issues about upkeep of the railroad system in Naiasa Province. He seems to be a stickler for following rules and procedures.
While they were living in New Zhengzhou, Cheng Mei-hua’s designs were “hot”—they were popular and sold a lot. But since moving to Naiasa, the popularity of her designs has declined.
Four years ago, Mei-hua took a three-month “leave of absence” for “health reasons” from her business.
The architect / lover is easily identified (and researched) as:
Sze Jing is a 40 year old architect who got his architectural degree at New Beijing University. He immigrated here with his parents in the colony’s second year. He is one of three main architects at Zaoxing Youya De Gao Ta Jianzhu (Graceful Towers Architecture). Their offices are in Building E, facing onto Central Plaza (most prestigious and expensive side of the building). He is moderately famous in the colony for his innovative and graceful designs.
Jing came to Naiasa when it was folded into China 15 years ago. He joined the architectural firm of Shan Liang De Shili Jiagou (Shining Strength Architecture), and then founded the Zaoxing Youya De Gao Ta Jianzhu firm 7 years ago with two partners.
Jing was divorced from his wife Wang Min five years ago. The reason cited was the “incorrigible gambling habit” of the wife. They have no children.
Claire contacts Cheng Quon and they meet at Ari’s Sarchimocca Kaifee coffee shop. They sit in a private booth which her contact sweeps for bugs. After they are sure they can’t be heard, Claire gives him the news of his sister’s affair and who it is with. The man turns out to be Chen Quon’s best friend. The biogen explains that Satu asked Ben for help on this and they will have to say something eventually to Satu. Quon asks for some time to deal with it and she agrees.
Saturday, February 13, 2094:
Claire arrives early in the morning, at what would be before dawn if the sun actually rose here, to the Hindu Temple for the Mahashivaratri, the Night of Shiva, when he married Pavarti and they performed the dance of creation. Ekram Hebbar is there and is delighted to see Claire. He asks, “I didn’t know you were Hindu?”
The biogen explains she didn’t have a religious background growing up, but met a priest of Shiva, Fanish Gudi, who was a war refugee on Lippincott and who settled near Maitland in the Scar (true). He awakened her interest in Shiva and she has been speaking with Hamal Dewanji here and is considering converting. Claire joins the worshippers and helps bathe the Shiva Lignum and sings the chants. For her it is a very moving experience.
Sunday, February 14, 2094:
This evening is beginning of Chinese New Year and tradition calls for it to be spent honoring and feasting with family. Claire suggests the Team get together and go out to eat. She says to Ben Chang that he should invite Leila and to A.J. that he should invite Vanika. Leila enthusiastically accepts. Vanika says yes, but seems ambivalent about it. Claire uses her Emotional Manipulation to coax the girl into having a good time. Everyone has a wonderful evening and goes to the fireworks afterward.
Monday, February 15, 2094:
The Chinese New Year Celebrations continue today with the official Dragon Dance Parade around the Ring Blvd. Everyone will be there. The crowd is huge as the Dragon Dancers weave down the street with their complex athletic movements. There are also Lion Dancers which represent the various Dojos. One even represents the Chinese Benevolent Association. Even criminals got to have fun! Claire looks for the Lion Dancers from the Dojos she visited and cheers them on.
At one point in the parade it is just Ben, Leila, Claire, A.J. and Sakagi in the crowd watching the parade. Behind them a plate glass window smashes and a mass of drunken brawlers pour into the crowd. Ben tries to break up the fighting and uses his various martial arts to subdue the fighters. Claire just uses her grapple throw combination to send her opponents to the ground with stun damage. She finally lets one guy hit her, but he does no damage. Then she flips him and knocks him out. Sakagi begins by kicking her first attacker in “the jimmies”. He goes down (mercifully) unconscious. She then punches out a few drunks with stun damage and drops a couple. A.J. tones down his skill and keeps it to stun damage. He drops his attackers quickly. Ben hears Leila scream as a drunk tries to pull her away. He knocks out the assailant and the group decides to move away from the fighting before the police arrive. Leila is impressed by Ben’s fighting skill. A good time is had by all.
Tuesday, February 16, 2094:
The Spring Festival continues, but the Team gets ready for their trip to New Jerusalem for First Lady Amy Waterford Jones’s Birthday Gala.
Wednesday, February 17, 2094:
At 6pm – Baratarian Diplomatic Security Agents John Marshall (Owen) and Wendy Barrows (Natty) take the train to New Jerusalem.
Sakagi gets an invitation to an Eid al-Fitr Feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan by her friends Dilruba and Nikou. The NET Runner goes and has a good time.
Thursday, February 18, 2094:
At 6am – Baratarian Diplomatic Security Agents John Marshall and Wendy Barrows arrive in New Jerusalem. They speak with Ambassador Carlos Delgado and request a permanent operations room at the Embassy. No one must ever enter this room, not even the cleaning staff. The ambassador agrees. Wendy decorates this office with one of her and Stepka’s teleport crystals mounted on a display stand.
Also at 6am – Chinese cultural attaché Quan Po-sin (Khan) and his wife, the half Japanese Miyoko (Nip), take the train to New Jerusalem.
By 6pm – Chinese cultural attaché Quan Po-sin and his wife, the half Japanese Miyoko, arrive in New Jerusalem.
Friday, February 19, 2094:
That evening Natty and Owen come to the First Lady Amy Waterford Jones’ Birthday Ball in their identities of Baratarian Diplomatic Security Officers Wendy Barrows and John Marshall. They are with their Ambassador Carlos Delgado. Khan and Nip are there in their guise as Chinese cultural attaché Quan Po-sin (Khan) and his wife, the half Japanese Miyoko (Nip). They mingle in the crowd a bit before joining the reception line for the First Lady.
The four principal people we are here to see (and scan) are present. Amy Waterford Jones is manning her birthday reception line with her husband President Lew Jones standing behind her, but not in the line. General Irwin Prescott is wandering through the crowd. Minister of Special Projects (head of the secret police) Perry Stanton is standing against a wall. There seems to be about a 2 meter clear zone around him as he glowers at the crowd. Also in attendance is the UN ambassador to Zion Ambassador, Phinian Corcoran. He wanders the room and talks with various people. To the Team’s surprise they also see Ambassador Marty Truman, the Zion ambassador to China, who is usually in New Beijing. He is with his wife, and glad-handing anyone he meets.
Wendy and John remain at Ambassador Delgado’s side in the reception line. As they wait to shake hands and congratulate Amy they study President Lew Jones. It certainly looks like Lew Jones; though younger than 105, yeah. It must be good genes and youth treatments. As they get closer the two operatives realize that this Lew Jones is a Gemini borg! Through the mind link the two inform Quan Po-sin (Khan) and his Earth Sense confirms this. Wendy checks his scent and he has a human one. She knows that can be faked with cyberware. The biogen reads his mood and the man / cyborg is nervous. John reads the faux President at a distance and he is thinking about: 1. The sermon he has to deliver Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 2. Tracing his route to the pulpit and rehearsing the words in his mind.
Ambassador Delgado and his two bodyguards finally reach Amy. Wendy scans her mood and she is, of course, very happy. When John scans her mind, she is thinking about: 1 – Her dress, and what she’s going to wear Sunday to Church; 2 – Her jewels, her maid servant, and whether the woman is stealing from her; 3 – Perry’s advice yesterday about prepping “the double” for Lew at the party today; 4 – Tonight’s planned rendezvous with Irwin Prescott. John tries to follow some of these thoughts, but the handshake is too short in duration for any more information. All four operatives notice that Amy stays on (pseudo) Lew’s arm or right next to him all evening. She is playing the loving and attentive wife.
Next Ambassador Delgado and his two shadows walk up to Perry Stanton. Wendy notices he is stern and aloof. Both she and John Marshall pick up that there is an empty circle around him. People avoid coming closer than 2 meters, and turn to avoid coming closer rather than continue in a straight line. His attention wanders between Lew, Amy, Irwin, and anyone who comes close to the 2-meter edge of the circle. As Carlos says hello to the secret police chief, John scans his surface thoughts and reads: 1 – That idiot (the borg) better not fuck up; 2 – That bitch (Amy) better not stray from his side; 3 – That fucker (Irwin) better not screw Amy in public; 4 – My money damn well better be safe in that bank.
As the three walk away, John is intrigued about the money, so he whispers to Wendy just loud enough for Perry to hear, “Remind me I have to get to the bank tomorrow and check my money.”
Marshall hopes this will trigger another thought by Perry on the subject and he is rewarded with: “I wonder if I can trust those people who are managing our money?”
Next, Delgado, Wendy and John come up to General Irwin Prescott. Wendy reads his mood and the man is quite cheerful and friendly. John reads his surface thoughts and finds: 1 – God I hope that idiot (the borg) doesn’t screw up the sermon on Sunday; 2 – Wow she (Amy) looks hot tonight; 3 – I am going to have such fun taking that dress off her tonight; 4 – What I’m going to do with her once that dress is off. Since Irwin also shakes Marshall’s hand, the telepath is able to access a random stream of thoughts: Divorcing his first wife back on Earth. Meeting Lew for the first time—at a political rally in support of an evangelical candidate Irwin thought would make a good Representative—and being impressed. “Wow, this guy’s got hutzpah!” There are also memories about coming to de Kamp with Lew and struggling in those first years.
About this time, Colonel Duarte Garrido enters. This man commands the military forces in New Nazareth, the smallest main city in Zion. He is also a person of interest as the Chinese think he could be a possible new leader of the Fellowship of Zion, if we are successful in collapsing the current regime. John scans his mind and hears: 1 –Patience, patience, I must be patient with these people; 2 – We need better and more equipment in New Nazareth. Can I believe Prescott’s assurances that we’ll get it? 3 –We need to put an end to all this corruption, but how? Once Lew dies, there will be a power vacuum, but I betcha dollars to doughnuts, Stanton and Prescott will jump in to fill it. Thing is, neither of them are all that popular with the people; especially not Stanton. Everybody knows he’s head of the Secret Police. Prescott—he might be able to pull it off. But would we want him?
As John shakes hands with the Colonel he delves into Lew’s succession. All he can find is that President Lew Jones hasn’t been making many public appearances lately. Garrido wonders if the President is ill. Some other memories pass through Garrido’s mind: The two incidents where he was disciplined for interfering: 1 – He stepped into a fight between two soldiers to stop it. They were fighting over which of them was a woman’s boyfriend. One of the men was higher rank than Duarte and insisted that he be punished; 2 – An interrogator was questioning a suspect using excessive tactics that Duarte considered torture. Duarte stopped him, but the interrogator protested and Duarte was disciplined.
Colonel Garrido greets his commander General Prescott. As the operatives watch the two officers, it is clear both Prescott and Garrido are uncomfortable with one another. Prescott seems contemptuous of Garrido. Garrido seems unusually calm—the kind of calm one uses to deal with obstreperous children. Wendy and John aren’t sure what that might mean.
Next, Ambassador Marty Truman, Zion ambassador to China, who is usually in New Beijing, comes up with his wife to Ambassador Delgado. He seems totally relaxed, having fun. John scans him and he is thinking: 1 – Amy looks fabulous, as always; 2 – His oldest granddaughter is rehearsing for a biblical play coming up next week; 3 – His youngest grandson who wants to play soccer, but his mom, Marty’s daughter, thinks he’s too young to start; 4 – Lew looks uncomfortable tonight. I wonder what’s bothering him? As John Marshall shakes Marty’s hand, the few more memories that stream by are mostly family moments with his second wife, three children, and five grandchildren. There is a trace of his recent meeting with a Chinese diplomat where they discussed “the trade embargo and the railroad” once again.
Of course Ambassador Delgado goes up and talks with the UN Ambassador to Zion, Phinian Corcoran. Corcoran seems aloof and the only person of substance he talks with is Ambassador Marty Truman. John reads his surface thoughts: 1 – God I hope this party is over soon; 2 –These people are disgusting. It’s a damn shame we have to Play Nice with them; 3 – Will my transfer request be approved? And soon, I hope? When Marshall shakes his hand he sees memories involving having resolved a union-management dispute [back on Earth] by assisting each side to understand the other and find common ground. He is very proud of that. Wishes there were more opportunities to do that in the diplomatic realm. Also, Phinian has been on de Kamp for six years.
The ball ends eventually and all return home. Quan Po-sin and Miyoko go to the Chinese Embassy. Wendy Barrows and John Marshall escort their Ambassador Carlos Delgado back to the Baratarian Embassy.
Saturday, February 20, 2094:
At 6am – Chinese cultural attaché Quan Po-sin (Khan) and his wife, the half Japanese Miyoko (Nip) take train to Naiasa.
At 6pm – Chinese cultural attaché Quan Po-sin (Khan) and his wife, the half Japanese Miyoko (Nip) arrive in Naiasa.
Also at 6pm – Baratarian Diplomatic Security Agents John Marshall and Wendy Barrows take the train back to Naiasa.
Sunday, February 21, 2094:
By 6am – Baratarian Diplomatic Security Agents John Marshall and Wendy Barrows arrive in Naiasa. They return to the Baratarian Consulate to change identities and blip back to the dorm.
Episode 31 – Boom Goes the Statue
Monday, February 22, 2094:
In the morning, Claire (Natty) gets a message to call Cheng Quon. She uses her cyberdeck to place a secure call to her contact. He tells the biogen that he has talked to his sister and she and her husband will be getting a divorce. Claire suggests Satu’s mother talk to her and explain what will be happening. Hopefully then Satu will ask Ben Chang (Khan) NOT to have his ‘friends’ look into the situation. Quon will have his sister do that.
The Chinese contact has the information on the principals behind the Provident National Bank of Zion. These people who might be involved in the investments of the rulers of Zion are Richard Chambers, the current President of the bank and Jonathan Talman, the Managing Director of that institution. Claire has decided to make a trip to Mountain Springs the first weekend in March to look into the death of Floyd Osbourne, the investigator involved in the original Sons of Woton Report. She arranges with Cheng Quon to have the Team take a train south to the next major city on Thursday, March 4th to allow (Stepka), Rusty (Mason), A.J. and Sakagi (Nip) to collect local fauna samples for their classes in the country in a place that will be out of cell range. Claire will accompany them as a friend “helping out”. Ben Chang will be going there as their faculty ‘chaperone’. They will return from the countryside and take the train back to Naiasa on Sunday, March 7th and arrive in time for classes on Monday, March 8th. (Stepka) and Rusty will remain in the countryside and actually collect some samples and the Chinese will provide other samples. Claire thanks Quon and drops out of the NET.
The biogen then goes to Sakagi and gives her some research assignments. The top ones are, of course, Richard Chambers and Jonathan Talman. Over the next few days Sakagi needs to study the NET of New Jerusalem and in particular the video boards of the Arena of Sinners and how to connect them to the main news feed. She also wants the NET runner to take Ottar Thorsen’s picture, age it and run both it and the original through the Chinese Criminal database. As to those in Naiasa, she is to research Hiru Bezawada, the Mayor’s twin brother. Hiru is the reputed godfather of the local Indian crime family and was seen at Zeng Meifen’s Flower Bud Gentlemen’s Social Club on February 4, 2094 by A.J. and Claire. Also, she is to look into his relationship with Zeng Meifen and Leila Shahzad (who has him in her speed dial).
Afterwards all head off to their morning classes.
At lunchtime there is an announcement:
22 FEBRUARY 2094—MURSHIDABAD, OUTER BENGAL
Head of Wotan Leader Delivered to Emir Ali Kahn
A “pyramid” of fourteen pickled heads was delivered in a box to the palace of Emir Ali Nasiri Kahn this morning. Facial recognition has identified the head on top of the pyramid as belonging to Lenart Sandorsen of the outlawed Sons of Wotan.
An accompanying note claimed that Mr. Sandorsen was the leader responsible for the raid on Madaripur four months ago where 7 people were killed and another 53 were injured. The note further apologized on behalf of the Sons, and stated, “There will be no more attacks on the people or communities of Outer Bengal or Biafra.” It was signed Damien Ingersen—which happens to be the name of the infant son of former Sons of Wotan leader, Inger Rolfsen.
Emir Kahn told Net News, “Marauders from the Sons of Wotan have been plundering our villages and assaulting Bengali citizens for nearly twenty years, and the UN has apparently been powerless to stop it. I will believe these cowardly attacks have stopped when our citizens have stopped bleeding from their wounds.”
Prime Minister Kamani Chakarabasi of the Royal Republic of Biafra welcomed the promise of no more raids, but added, “Mr. Sandersen’s death is unfortunate. It prevents us from discovering whether he was, in fact, responsible for the atrocity last November.”
Net News has been unable to contact Mr. Ingersen for comment.
After lunch, Claire contacts Alex Marshall, the Consul from Barataria in Naiasa to arrange a diplomatic shuttle mission from Naiasa to Mountain Springs in the Commonwealth of Liberty. The Team will use their ship that is in orbit to come down to Naiasa and pick them up on Friday, March 5th and bring them back on Sunday, March 7th. The biogen then makes a NET call to Raymond Hardy, the Director General of the Commonwealth of Liberty (and another one of her lovers) to make sure that all the principals they want to interview (including Damien Ingersen and his mother, Maren Gaiadottir) will be available. In actuality, Claire has an ulterior motive for this trip at this time. She is going into her annual Heat Cycle and wants to be with Ray-ray. Although the biogen would never tell him, she cares for him deeply. When they finish their conversation he tells her, “I’ll keep your side of the bed warm.”
People attend their afternoon classes. Kajori calls Claire and asks what she’s doing. It is clear the girl is looking for some ‘personal’ time with the biogen, who is more than happy to have her come over. Meanwhile Sakagi finishes her research on the two principals of the Provident Bank of Zion:
President of the Provident National Bank of Zion in New Jerusalem:
Richard came to Zion with the original colony in 2069 as a newlywed. When the bank was founded that same year, Richard was hired as the VP of Investments, and handled all the “significant” investment portfolios (the rulers). He became the bank president when his predecessor, Vern Aldeman, retired 9 years ago.
Richard is now 54 yo, and has one son, age 23 yo. He and his wife are separated and estranged. Richard’s wife, Phoebe, is 49 yo and devotes her life to philanthropic charities. Vern died last year of gall bladder cancer. He was 82.
De Kamp Investment Monthly described Richard as “a financial wizard who can take a dime and, in just five years, turn it into a quarter—giving a return on investment between 20 and 25 percent. Some critics have wondered if he was running a Ponzi scheme, but investigations have shown this is not the case.”
Managing Director of the Provident National Bank of Zion in New Jerusalem:
Jonathan came to Zion in 2079 and was immediately hired as a senior teller. Over the next 8 years, he was promoted several times, becoming the bank’s Managing Director 7 years ago. He handles the financial investment portfolios of all “significant” investors (namely the rulers). He is now 45 yo, and married with four kids, ages 13, 10, 7 and 4. His wife, Sherri, is a close friend of Amy’s (the First Lady). They are often seen together at high-end restaurants for lunch, or shopping together, or Sherri visiting the Presidential mansion.
De Kamp Investment Monthly describes Jonathan as a “reliable financial investment banker who uses solid analytical techniques to maximize the profits on his clients’ investments.”
After Sakagi finishes her research, Nikou calls her. It seems she is sweet on the new student, Hao Duyi, and is at a loss on how to get closer to him. Sakagi replies incredulously, “You’re asking me for advice on guys?”
The two girls talk over the various methods of attracting boys and mull over the whether it is better to go fast or slow about this. Nikou suggests maybe asking Hao Duyi on a double date with Sakagi and a friend of hers. Sakagi asks Ben to go out with her as her ‘date’, but since he is her ‘advisor’ that is frowned upon. She asks A.J., but he is starting to see Vanika. Finally she asks Rusty, and he (very) reluctantly says yes, he’ll fake it and go out on a date with her. The Meat Wall adds, “You owe me for this, big time!”
Tuesday, February 23, 2094:
At meditation class in the afternoon Satu comes to Ben Chang and tells him she no longer needs his “friends” to look into her mother’s doings. Her parents are getting a divorce. She thanks her meditation master for his help, but admits that her parents are very different. She tells Ben that 3 or 4 years ago her mother went into a hospital for a “rest”. The two have tea and a friendly chat.
That evening Sakagi ages Ottar Thorsen’s picture and runs it through the Chinese criminal database. No match appears. While she is working on this Jyu Tai-shu calls and asks if they can talk tomorrow. They agree to meet at the coffee shop next to the meditation center tomorrow. The NET runner then researches Alex Marshall, the Baratarian Consul to Naiasa.
Alex is the Consul from Barataria to Naiasa. He is a 32 yo Star Runner and graduate of [prestigious university], having majored in political science. He came to de Kamp soon thereafter, and has been Barataria’s Consul to Naiasa for two years. Alex is single.
Alex served under Jack Stefanich’s command [in dog soldier military unit] for two years after arriving on de Kamp. He continued in the military, while Jack moved into political office.
Alex is listed as a mourner at the funeral of a young woman in Barataria’s capital three years ago. Jack also attended that funeral. The article mentions her cause of death: she had eaten some indigenous plant life that was supposedly safe for consumption—and apparently had a violent allergic reaction. Alex is reported to be both her ex-boyfriend, and intoxicated at that funeral.
Alex is listed on the Board of Advisors of a Community Outreach program that serves the economically poorer sections of Naiasa.
Claire spends the evening studying the design of Lew Jones’ statue in New Jerusalem and calculates how to blow up the statue with a minimum of casualties (and no deaths). While studying the plans, Kajori calls and the two make plans to meet in the garden after classes and play some music together.
Wednesday, February 24, 2094:
Around midday, Sakagi and Jyu Tai-shu meet to talk. It seems her brother, the mob enforcer, wants her stop playing music with those Hindus and start acting like a proper Chinese woman. Sakagi is perhaps not the best person to ask, but the young NET runner does give some good advice in the end.
Claire and Kajori play music in the garden at the Graduate Dorm. Kajori starts questioning whether she is really any good at her music. Claire is very supportive and uses her Empathic Projection to reinforce Kajori’s confidence. They also retire upstairs for some physical “pursuits”.
That evening, Sakagi ages the other kids’ faces (where they found Tyr Jensen) and one appears in the Chinese criminal database. His name is Lars Blout. He was arrested in New Shanghai eight years ago for shoplifting. She also runs a search on Feng Osa, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.
Osa is the Mayor’s Chief of Staff and originally came from New Beijing. He arrived in Naiasa 15 years ago at the age of 27 and is now 42 yo. He is a prominent Party member, and is married with two children: a girl 12 yo, and a boy 9 yo.
His rare public speeches are mostly defenses of Premier Tsou’s “business licensing” approach, countering other Party members who characterize these as “blatant capitalism.” He joined the Naiasa Council on Economic Growth soon after arriving in Naiasa. Newspaper reports credit him with negotiating more than a dozen significant deals between the Chinese government in New Beijing and local Naiasa businessmen.
Osa has served as Ahbi’s Chief of Staff for four years, following the retirement of the previous holder of that office (who became enmeshed in an embezzlement scandal, for which he was convicted and fined 100,000 solars, which he is still attempting to pay off, having finally gotten employment as a bookkeeper in a massage parlor).
When asked about his future political ambitions, Osa ducks the question by answering a different question and redirecting the subject of the discussion.
Thursday, February 25, 2094:
Everyone goes to class. After meditation class Leila remains and she and Ben again get “intimate”.
After class, Sakagi runs a search on Hiru Bezawada, the Mayor’s twin brother and reputed Hindu Mob godfather.
Hiru came to de Kamp with The Family in the original colony. He (and his identical twin brother, Abhi) were 23 then, are 48 now. Their parents are now elderly. They have a younger sister, Bakuli. She married another Telugu Indian who arrived 5 years later to the Family, Kandalika Kanuri. Kandalika is a licensed bakery owner. Abhi is the older of the twins. Hiru is not married.
Hiru is thought to run a large fraction of the prostitution “industry” in Naiasa. He was arrested a few times between 2075 and 2080 for pimping. He pled guilty; sentences in earlier arrests (during the Family) were community service; for arrest in 2080, a fine of 5,000 solars. He has had no arrests in the past 14 years. [The police] speculate there could be a connection to his brother having joined the Party and become politically active at this time. It is also not known what connection, if any, Hiru has with the criminal organization thought to be run by Qadim Lakhanpal.
Several NET “gossip columns” has photos of Hiru coming out of showings of movies that are . . . Disney-like in character and flavor. In each, he is escorting a beautiful young woman (different in each picture).
That evening Claire and A.J. teleport to the Baratarian Embassy in New Jerusalem and build the bomb to blow up Lew Jones’ statue. They study the city to look for places where Lily (Claire) can tap into the NET to act as a diversion to account on who hacked the system during the Festival of Sinners.
Friday, February 26, 2094:
Lily and (A.J. in his Zion identity) walk around New Jerusalem. They find a place in the industrial/commercial sector to tap into the NET. They next go the parkland around the Arena of Sinners and find a place with cover where Lily places one of her teleport crystals. After that the two leave the parkland, and out of sight of any cameras, the two teleport back to the embassy. There, Lily puts on a Blackjack stealth suit, teleports to her crystal, picks it up and then makes a visual teleport jump inside the giant statue of Lew Jones. Once inside she sets her demolition charge along with a radio detonator on a timer. The timer will activate the radio about five minutes before the scheduled bomb detonation.
Saturday, February 27, 2094:
The day of the Festival of Sinners arrives. Lily teleports out of the embassy goes to her place she scouted out where she drops into the NET and takes up position waiting for Sakagi. At the right moment, Sakagi takes over the transmission from the Arena of Sinners (on a roll of 40!) and runs the ZIFF program. The “Voice of the Revolution” announces that President Lew Jones is dead and Perry Stanton has the First Lady, Amy, under his coercion. The “Voice” denounces the secret police chief’s crimes against the people of Zion and calls for the nation to rise up and restore righteousness to the country. Lily is waiting under an invisibility program in the NET. Three government NET runners appear simultaneously running from a mainframe. Lily unleashes Sakagi’s custom program, Super Awesome Energy Blast, which is a highly modified Asp. Lily blows the interface of the mainframe and drops all three out of the NET. A.J. detonates Lew’s statue as the supposedly final visual of the transmission. However, Sakagi and Lily are still in control of the transmission. The two roll the raw footage of the recently liberated prisoners’ description of the torture they were subjected to by Perry Stanton’s secret police nationwide across Zion. They get a good fifteen to twenty additional seconds of broadcast before Zion cuts the power to the whole transmission grid and government NET runners start to re-appear in the NET. The two drop out. Lily teleports back to the embassy. She and A.J. then teleport back to Naiasa.
The Team is ecstatic! This has worked better than they had hoped. Claire (Lily) has a message from Tavio wondering what she is up to tonight. The biogen is in the mood to party! Claire can’t help herself. She makes a NET call to Cheng Quon and tells him to check the Zion news feed. The whole group goes out to celebrate!
The NET News explodes!
27 FEBRUARY 2094—NEW JERUSALEM
Terrorists Hijack Broadcast, Blow Up Statue
At New Jerusalem’s semi-annual Chastening of Sinners Ceremony at their Atonement Arena, terrorists seized control of Zion’s national broadcast. They announced that Lew was dead, replaced by a cyborg, and called for citizens to rescue his wife, Amy, from a power-mad Perry Stanton. Their 10-second rant was followed by an explosion that shattered a statue of Lew only 40 meters away from the Arena. Miraculously, no one was killed and only a dozen were injured by the explosion. The outlaw group ZIFF claimed responsibility for the attack.
First Lady Denies the Charge
“Lew is alive—and I can prove it,” Amy stated. “We will hold a press conference tomorrow at noon. Lew and I will answer any questions you have at that time.”
Stanton Calls Broadcast “Absurd”
In a rare public appearance, Perry Stanton, Minister of State Security, said, “That broadcast was absurd. Who are you going to believe? A bunch of criminal terrorists? Or the wife of our beloved leader?”
In light of the security risks, the Chastening Ceremony was postponed a week until the arena can be swept by State Security teams. The crowd of spectators was guided out of the arena through the leftward gates, farthest from the destroyed statue.
Sunday, February 28, 2094:
Leila Shahzad calls Ben Chang and wants to come over. Of course he says yes. While they talk, she mentions that she is beginning to question some of the choices she has made in her life. Her work with Ben has opened her mind to possibilities. Leila is wondering if she should go back to school and study art again. She is worried that her “boss” might not like her doing that.
Sakagi continues to work on her robot. Claire receives the information she requested on the three post office employees whose fingerprints appeared on the signature card for the weapons shipment that was used in the “inciting incident” that led to the Sons of Wotan being crushed by the UN.
Wotan Post Office Employees
The signature card had three people’s fingerprints on it: Frodi Mikkelsen, Harald Nikolsen, and Jora Vigdisdottir. Frodi and Jora were clerks, Harald was a supervisor. They do not appear in the Chinese database. They were living in the Wotan capital city, which is now in UN Territory.
Frodi is living as Freddie Michaelson in the UN city of New Brussels. He is 45 years old.
Jora is living as Jori Vestergard in the Baratarian city of Port Royale. She is 55 years old.
Harald is living as Harold Nichols in Naiasa. He is 52 years old.
Claire decides that she and A.J. will deal with Harold Nichols (i.e. Harald Nikolsen) tomorrow. He is working at the Post Office here in Naiasa.
The destruction of Lew Jones’ statue continues to dominate the news.
Baratarian Broadcast News
28 FEBRUARY 2094—NEW JERUSALEM
Lew Jones Meets the Press
“Of course I’m not a cyborg,” Lew Jones stated at the outset of today’s press conference, which was broadcast around the world from the garden courtyard of the Presidential Palace. He rolled up his sleeves and allowed a doctor to take a blood sample from both arms. “It’s completely absurd that anyone would think I am either dead or a cyborg. Of course I use a double during some of my public appearances. While my people love me—and demonstrate that every day—clearly some terrorists do not. Blowing up my statue was the cowardly act of a few desperate hoodlums. I cannot afford to take chances with my personal safety.”
Amy took the podium next, saying, “As you can see, my husband is alive and well and I do not need ‘rescuing’. Anyone who thinks so is obviously delusional.”
The President then gestured to Perry Stanton, the Minister of State Security, to come forward, and embraced him. Stanton read a short statement: “We are pursuing all avenues to determine the identity of persons responsible for this outrageous desecration of our Chastening Ceremony. We shall not rest until the perpetrators are found and punished.”
Stanton then left the microphones and Lew Jones stepped forward to answer questions.
About his health, Jones admitted that he has recently suffered a few setbacks and his doctors have ordered him to ‘take things easy’ for a while.
About the state of the Fellowship, Jones expressed optimism, saying, “Our mining industry is strong and we are exploring new markets. We hope to make an announcement on that front very soon.”
About finding the terrorists, Jones echoed Stanton’s remarks. “We are determined to find whoever is responsible. Believe me, they will be brought to justice.”
About the postponed Chastening Ceremony, Jones said, “I have every confidence in Perry’s ability to ensure both my personal safety—along with that of my beloved wife Amy—as well as the safety of our citizens when we return next Saturday to the Atonement Arena. Indeed, I look forward to the day when we all can watch these miscreants atone for their sins and be sent to our Almighty Father for judgment.”
Still, the controversy continues:
Experts Disagree if Jones was Genuine
Some experts present at the scene felt sure this was the real Lew Jones, but a few were reluctant to confirm his identity.
Dr. Hank Rush said, “It could have been either a clone or a borg. If it was a double, he’s done well at copying Jones’ intonation and speech patterns. And there are ways of faking that blood donation, even though Dr. Messurt is a renowned hematologist from Barataria who presumably has no reason to lie. Certainly, the President and First Lady would not risk having Lew’s blood drawn unless they were confident of the outcome.”
Dr. Jacob Fairchild stated, “Lew wouldn’t use a double. I don’t care what he said at the conference. The people of Zion wouldn’t stand for it. It’s against God.”
Dr. Rachel Weston disagreed. “God understands the need to protect the physical body of the man who inspires and protects us, and as God understands, so do the people of our great Fellowship.”
“We just have to wait for the DNA results,” Dr. Rush said. “That should settle all the questions.”
“DNA can be faked,” Dr. Murray Fellows observed.
“Yes,” Dr. Rush agreed, “But that would be against God, and Lew would never allow that.”
“And if it’s not Lew in the Presidential Palace?” asked Dr. Jane Fellows.
“Then all bets are off,” Dr. Fairchild said, “and chaos would devour us. May God’s grace guide our actions for the betterment of all.”
On that note, the conclave of experts dispersed. Dr. Messurt is expected to announce the results of the DNA test at noon on Tuesday, 2 March.
Monday, March 1, 2094:
The Team attends classes in the day. Afterwards Claire and A.J. have an assignment.
Claire looks up Harold’s route from his workplace to his home and selects an ambush point with an alley containing no security cameras. A.J. forges two sets of credentials of the Ministry of State Security officers. The two head out and when they reach a place where they can’t be seen, the two activate their Disguise Feature cyberware and take on the look of the two Chinese officials they have made up. Harold goes with them quietly into the alley where A.J. puts him out with his psionic ability. Claire leaves a crystal hidden nearby and teleports all of them to their room at the Baratarian Consulate that has been prepared to look like an interrogation room. There Claire takes on the visage of Thora (with her disfigured face). Harold wakes up with his hands cuffed to the table facing “Thora” and denies being Harold Nichols. Thora responds, “No one who appears in my interrogation room is here by accident.”
Harold finally admits his true identity. Thora interrogates the man thoroughly with A.J. scanning his mind. It is clear that Harold wasn’t involved with the plot to discredit the Sons. He does supply one crucial piece of information. After Floyd Osbourne, the UN appointed investigator talked to them, Harold checked the post office security cameras. Unfortunately, the tapes were recorded over so the record no longer exists, but he does remember that the tape “glitched” that night. One minute the crate was there and the next it was gone. To Claire the meaning is clear; someone hacked the security feed, but she can never prove it. A.J. then knocks Harold out again and gives him a pleasant memory of answering some question from the two Chinese operatives in an alley. Claire and A.J. become the Chinese operatives and teleport back to the alley. They thank Harold and send him on his way, none the wiser except for the fact that he has wet his pants.
Later in the evening Claire calls Kajori and the two head out to the Lantern Festival and have a good time.
Sakagi continues her research on A.J.’s interest targets. This time it is Max Kimball, the pastor of a local congregation and member of the Cigar Smokers Club.
Max is a 67 year old widower who came to Naiasa 7 years ago. His wife died of brain cancer 8 years ago. He has four grown and married daughters back on Earth, and twelve grandchildren ages 4 through 22. He returns to Earth once a year in early May for a week-long family reunion. He has a younger brother, James.
Max is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Christ in Naiasa. Roughly twice a month, he invites a visiting minister or priest of some other Christian denomination (including Catholics) to come to his church and offer a sermon about that faith to his congregation. A discussion group on Monday evenings talks about how the principles of that faith might or might not be of personal value to members of the discussion group. He also leads a spiritual counseling group on Thursday nights and a marriage counseling group on Saturday mornings.
Max gives several talks a year in the schools about how pedophiles approach their victims and how to protect oneself from them.
His brother died in prison in 2072, stabbed to death by a fellow inmate. James had been a teacher and a pedophile.
Tuesday, March 2, 2094:
In history class Ekram Hebbar asks Claire if she is going to the final bonfire of the Hindu Holi Festival at the temple. The two decide to go together.
Nikou calls Sakagi and asks if she wants to do her double date this Wednesday night with her and Hao Duyi. Sakagi says yes, she has a faux boyfriend for the occasion.
Still the news on the ZIFF’s destruction of Lew Jones’ statute and their claim of his demise clings to the front pages.
Baratarian Broadcast News
2 MARCH 2094—[Port Royale, Barataria]
DNA Confirms Lew Jones is Genuine
Dr. Adam Messurt of Port Royale Hospital today announced that DNA tests on the blood taken from both arms of the person claiming to be Lew Jones was indeed a match for the sample submitted 24 years ago when he signed the Compact.
“This blood is from the real Lewellyn Jones,” Dr. Messurt said at the press conference held at noon. “DNA does not lie.”
“But can it be faked?” he was asked.
“Yes, but getting fake DNA into a man’s veins—you’ve got to use cyberware, which Lew Jones himself has declared to be ‘anathema’ unless used by soldiers to protect the nation.”
“Wouldn’t Lew Jones think of himself as a soldier?” asked another reporter. “And therefore consider himself free to use cyberware?”
“The real Lew Jones would not need to use cyberware to have his own DNA put into his veins,” Dr. Messurt replied.
“But if he is an impersonator,” another reporter said, “he wouldn’t be bound by anything Jones had declared.”
“True,” Dr. Messurt conceded.
Another question, “Could it be a clone?”
“Of course,” Dr. Messurt replied. “But he wouldn’t have Jones’s memories or be able to answer questions the same way Jones would. If this man is a fake, he’s an awfully good fake.”
“What about the President’s health?” another reporter asked. “What can you tell us from the blood sample?”
“Well, he is taking quite a cocktail of various drugs and his CBC count showed a few problems: heart disease and a liver condition. He is truly well advised to ‘take it easy’ and not do a lot of public appearances.”
Dr. Messurt’s final statement: “All I can tell you is that these samples matched both each other and the original sample. This blood is from the man who signed the Compact in 2070 on behalf of the Fellowship of Zion—and that man was Lewellyn Jones.”
Claire goes with Ekram to the festival and gets introduced to his sister. It is clear the young man is getting very attached to the biogen.
Wednesday, March 3, 2094:
Everyone attends classes during the day and all is well. The Team receives a secret diplomatic report from Ambassador Carlos Delgado about the happenings in New Jerusalem since the bombing of Lew Jones’ statue:
Saturday, 27 February: Immediately after the event, the military began patrolling the main streets in New Jerusalem in fire-teams of four. Units of the Mobile Strike Force are guarding each of the major intersections and the Arena. Martial law and a 10:00 pm curfew were declared. Anyone found on the streets after that hour “will be detained.”
Sunday, 28 February: A news conference was held by Lew and Amy Jones. They and Perry Stanton made statements to reporters. From Private sources the ambassador learned: Raids were conducted in the early morning hours. Dozens of people were arrested. Carlos fears the worst.
Monday, 1 March: Private sources: Carlos gets a report about tortured prisoners.
Tuesday, 2 March: Baratarian doctor confirmed DNA of blood is Lew Jones. Carlos called Dr. Messurt and asked if the evidence could be faked. Messurt said it was possible. Cyberware exists that could put Lew’s blood into a clone or a borg, but even so, it would have to be Lew’s blood. And there were no indications of preservatives, so the blood had to be fresh. Which means Lew is alive. No guarantees on his condition. The liver disease is pretty advanced and the heart medication indicates issues with atrial fibrillation, which can be quite serious. Asked if Lew could have walked to the news conference podium as he did with this liver disease and heart condition, Messurt said yes, especially if he has had rejuvenation treatments, which it certainly looks like he has had.
Later that evening, Sakagi and Rusty (Mason) go out on a double date with Nikou and Duyi. Rusty tries to be on his best behavior and succeeds for the most part. Sakagi tries to pick the best time to leave the other two alone to “get to know” each other. Her timing is great, but her execution leaves a little bit to be desired. Still, the date works out well for Nikou.
Thursday, March 4, 2094:
In the morning, Anouk delivers a sealed communication to Claire from Jack Stefanich. It contains the information she requested on the Panther Claws: The Star Runners have heard—via “shadowy” connections in the world of smuggling and edge runners—that the Panther Claws were the “grey and black ops” component of the Elemental Force, an openly-for-hire organization of mercenary soldiers that one could hire either to augment one’s own meager forces or to train them. Elemental Force is no longer in business.
After classes Claire, Sakagi, A.J., Rusty, (Stepka) and Ben Chang take the train south to the next major city on the coast. Sakagi, A.J., Rusty and (Stepka) will be heading off into the countryside to collect native plant samples for their classes. Claire will be going with her pod mates to help. Ben is heading to the city on a meditative quest to a number of temples there.
Friday, March 5, 2094:
The Team arrives in the coastal city and Ben visits a few temples in the early morning for some photo ops. Everybody but Ben and Claire drive out to the countryside carrying one of her teleport crystals to collect samples out of cell range of the city. When Ben has enough pictures he hands off his phone so it will read he is in that city. Claire and he then teleport back to the rest of the Team. By now the Star Runner shuttle has landed at Naiasa. They leave Rusty to set up the camp and (Stepka) teleports them all to the spacecraft before returning to Rusty. Claire teleports herself, Sakagi and A.J. to the Baratarian Consulate, and there they take on their identities as members of the Baratarian Diplomatic Security Service. The three pick up the ‘diplomatic package’ and then drive out to the landing field to board the shuttle. The shuttle departs for Mountain Springs, the capital of the Commonwealth of Liberty.
Once in the capital they deliver the ‘package’ to Director-General Raymond Hardy. Wendy (Claire) has a private interview with Ray-ray and “jumps his bones”. She is in her annual Heat Cycle. Ray-ray is very happy to see her. Once in private she takes on the appearance of Natty again. Her ability to change like that fascinates her lover. The two find that their attraction to each other has just grown stronger.
Saturday, March 6, 2094:
After the two lovers get “reacquainted” Ray-ray tells her that everyone she wanted to see is waiting and available. He also has the information she requested on the Panther Claws. They can be bought, for an exorbitant price, to do pretty much anything a head of state could wish done. This information came to him through an “advisor” who briefed him about dirty tricks when he inherited his office after grandma died. This advisor has since died, and the information is dated. Natty (Claire) thanks him, and tells him that her Thora persona will do the interviews along with A.J. (in a new identity). They interview Nancy Osbourne first. Floyd’s sister doesn’t believe that her brother died in an accident, but has not been able to prove it. She says that the autopsy revealed that Floyd had beer in his system, but she adds, “Our mom was a drinker. Floyd hated that. He never touched the stuff. So however it got into his blood, he didn’t drink it.”
Thora assures Nancy that she will get to the bottom of this. (A.J.) says she was telling the truth as she knows it.
Next Thora and (A.J.) interview Paul Macintyre, the detective who investigated death of Floyd Osbourne. He is now 62 years old and retired. At the time he was 40, and an experienced homicide detective.
Macintyre says, “There just wasn’t any evidence that said it wasn’t accidental. The autopsy—all his injuries were consistent with an accident. His blood alcohol—not so much he was drunk, but he’d had a couple o’ beers. I figure it must’ve affected his reflexes. That curve where he slid out—it’s a nasty one. The only strange thing—no skid marks. And you’d expect to see some where he went over the embankment. That’s why I think those couple o’ beers must’ve done it.
“As for forensics—we went over that bike with a fine tooth comb; absolutely nothing. Brakes were clean, gears okay, motor no problemo. Purred like a kitten.”
He tells Thora that Margarita Hardy insisted that he investigate, despite the coroner’s opinion that Floyd’s death was accidental. “Miz Hardy—she didn’t want to believe it—but I told her—there’s just nothing there.”
Thora has Macintyre’s records of the investigation pulled. Next she speaks to Grady Farmer, the coroner who did the autopsy of Floyd Osbourne. Grady is now 54 years old. At the time he was 32, and had been doing autopsies for 4 years. Thora goes over the forensics report. It looks thorough. When she finishes the report Farmer adds, “Well, there was one odd thing about it. No defensive wounds. That is, when someone is heading for a crash, you generally see some attempt to protect their face—but here there was nothing. And the tox screen came back negative, so we ruled out poisons. But that might have been premature. There’s all kinds of things in the environment we didn’t know about back then. Including neurotoxins, and those can be downright nasty. You know about pufferfish back on Earth, right?
“We did find a meal in his stomach, an exotic local fish and some “chips”, plus some beer. His blood alcohol showed he’d had a couple—but he was nowhere near intoxicated.
“Anyway, his wounds were all consistent with the fall down the embankment. His death was caused by a snapped neck—broke the spinal column—and we had nothing to indicate it was homicide. Or suicide, for that matter.”
Thora asks if he saved any samples of the stomach contents from the autopsy, and yes he has. Thora takes the samples and divides them up. One will be sent for analysis and the rest saved for future use. She warns Grady to be careful and the two decide to leave it at “they never met”.
After Grady leaves, they go out with Nancy Osbourne and examine where Floyd’s accident occurred. Thora takes some pictures.
That evening Natty interviews Damien Ingersen again. The Team is kept away, but A.J. is close enough to read him. The rest of the Team is in the mind link. She begins by assuring him that they are now sure the Sons of Wotan didn’t commit the massacre in New Biafra. Damien says his mother is here and Natty tells him that Thora will interview her. Damien tells her that the late Lenart Sandorsen killed Ronal and not him. A.J. confirms this is the truth. They next discuss the pictures of the biker “cuts” in the massacre video.
Damien points out what’s wrong about the cuts: bottom rocker says Roskilde (which was the left-most town in the Wotan colony), but flag on the front shoulder is Swedish instead of Danish. Also, the “earned” patches on the front are in the wrong order and contradictory, as if someone who didn’t know their meaning put them on randomly. One of the patches is unique to Kopingsvik, which is the iceward-most town closest to the original UN island colony (and “Swedish” in flavor).
What’s right about the cuts: the top rocker, center Wotan symbol, MC cube, name and position patches. Natty asks him to look into anyone who went missing from the two towns (Roskilde and Kopingsvik) just before the massacre or anyone who disappeared. Damien will do that.
Finally, Natty puts on Thora’s face to interview Damien’s mother, Maren Gaiadottir. Thora’s emotional reading of Maren reveals that she is tough as nails. When her dead husband is mentioned, it is Inger Rolfsen that comes to her mind and a flicker of grief. She tells Thora that Inger and her went and spoke to Prahbal Khan, the senior investigator. She mentions that Prahbal Khan asked a lot of probing questions. She felt that the more they told him about the Sons, the more he showed distain for their (biker) culture. Maren comments, “It seemed that he wanted us to be guilty.”
After the Sons of Wotan was outlawed, Ronal led the group into more criminal enterprises. A.J. notices the thought that Ronal murdered Inger flashes through her mind, but she doesn’t want to believe it. Thora thanks Maren and warns her to be careful as this investigation might trigger a backlash. As Maren and the biogen part, A.J. catches a thought from the mother that Thora might make a good mate for Damien.
It has been a long day and the Team gets its rest; except for Natty and Ray-ray.
Sunday, March 7, 2094:
It is a quiet morning for the Team. Natty and Ray-ray remain together with just each other. The biogen really doesn’t want to leave, but she knows she must. The two enjoy the catnip liquor that Ray-ray has had made for her. By noon, the Baratarian diplomatic group heads to the spaceport and boards their armed shuttle for the trip back to Naiasa. Once back in the Chinese colony, the three security agents take a car back to the consulate. From there they call Rusty on their satellite phone and (Stepka) picks up all four. They head back to the countryside where the other two have collected some samples. There they take some more photos and head to the city on the coast to catch the train back to Naiasa. As arranged, the Ministry of State Security has acquired more botanical samples for the group. All hop on the rail for the night long trip to Naiasa.
Monday, March 8, 2094:
In the early morning the train arrives in Naiasa and all head to class after an exhausting weekend. It is a quiet day. From New Jerusalem comes the announcement that Curfew and martial law are lifted in New Jerusalem. The people seem relieved.
Episode 32 – New Tyre Bridge Is Falling Down
Tuesday, March 9, 2094:
After Ben Chang’s Meditation class both Leila and Satu stay after class and are eyeing each other. Claire (Natty) can’t help herself and scans both their moods. The two young women appear annoyed at each other.
Satu speaks to Ben and invites him to the opera. Ben thanks her but tells her he is busy. She then asks, “How about Saturday?”
The meditation master is a little taken aback and says he’ll have to get back to her. Claire is in his mind, but appears to be just meditating. Ben hears in his head the biogen say, “Meow…”
Chang responds by asking her how to let someone down easy. She tells him that is a skill she never learned.
Ben then talks to Leila and she asks him to dinner tonight. They go out and have a lovely time. Ben asks her out for Friday night and they decide on dinner and a movie.
That evening there is a news report:
Baratarian Broadcast News
9 MARCH 2094—NEW JERUSALEM
ZIFF Terrorists Executed
Lew Jones today announced that ten people responsible for blowing up his statue on the 27th of February had been identified and would be executed at noon today on the pavilion where his statue once stood.
Crowds gathered in the park to witness the execution. All stayed well back from the line where a dozen military police officers stood with rifles.
At 11:45 am, a secret service bus pulled up to the park. Ten individuals emerged from the bus, escorted by additional military policemen, and were marched across the grass to the pavilion. Several were staggering, and had to be assisted to their place. All were handcuffed and fitted with leg chains.
At noon precisely, Lew told the officers with rifles to “ready, aim, fire!” All ten of the prisoners dropped immediately. The corpses were wrapped in body bags and removed from the scene in the same bus that brought them to the park.
Addressing the crowd, Lew said, “Justice has been served. These sinners are now on their way to hell.”
Claire feels bad but consoles herself by spending the last night of her Heat Cycle with Kajori.
Wednesday, March 10, 2094:
This is a quiet day of going to classes and being just students. That evening Ambassador Carlos Delgado’s reports on the goings on in New Jerusalem get to the Team:
On Friday, 5 March: From private sources: Jails are getting crowded. A convoy of several secret police blue vans was seen leaving town at 1:00 am Saturday, 6 March. The postponed Chastisement Ceremony was held today with record attendance. It looks like the only people who stayed home are the ill and infirm.
On Sunday, 7 March: Three “prison bus” vehicles left New Jerusalem this morning at 9:45 am for an undisclosed location. (These “busses” have a 20-prisoner capacity, along with 2 drivers and 4 guards each.) From private sources: These were the survivors of recent arrests and torture, being transported to New Eden for the next Chastisement Ceremony in 3 weeks.
Thursday, March 11, 2094:
Leila doesn’t attend mediation class, but Satu is there. She waits to speak with Ben. Satu asks Ben out on a date Saturday, but the meditation master takes the high road and informs her that he is seeing someone. Satu asks if that would be Leila and he says yes. Ben wants to let Satu down easy, and tries to talk with her. In the mind link, Ben asks Claire to see if she could help. Claire is meditating in the other room as Satu walks by and the biogen tweaks her mind just ever so slightly.
Sakagi spends her evening researching the last of the people of interest that A.J. gave her. This is Vaskar Mitra.
Vaskar is the consul from Outer Bengal to Naiasa, also cousin to Emir Ali Nasiri Kahn. (He is one of Leila’s quick-dial numbers on her phone.) Vaskar is 26 years old, and engaged to be married. He is the Emir’s father’s brother’s daughter’s son. He came here with the Emir’s family in 2068 (as an infant). He studied Islamic Literature at Oxford University in England, and received a Master’s Degree in 2091. He has served as the Outer Bengali Consul in Naiasa for two years.
Last year, a long-time employee of the Consulate became embroiled in a messy divorce and custody dispute. The wife (and employee) was Bengali and Muslim, whereas the husband was Indian and Hindu. Vaskar personally hired and paid for a lawyer to negotiate a settlement with the husband—and was criticized for involving a lawyer rather than the imam in a Bengali newspaper—which was quoted in the Naiasa Chronicle. Vaskar replied to this by saying, “Sharia Law is suitable for settling matters among Muslims, but can be short-sighted when it comes to matters of inter-faith conflicts.”
Friday, March 12, 2094:
Claire heads out to meet Tavio for the weekend. Furud, the playwright, is there and the three discuss the new work in progress. They discuss all sorts of plot twists for the play. Claire suggests, “Hey, have you seen the news out of New Jerusalem? What if the “Lew” character was some kind of wind-up clockwork robot?”
The two like the idea. Tavio adds, “It’s nice to satirize a government you don’t live under. You can really take off the gloves.”
Ben and Leila have a wonderful dinner. Afterwards they try out some new “meditative positions”.
Leila mentions to Ben she has two younger brothers back in Outer Bengal. One brother is studying to become an Imam. The other is interested in tech stuff and is getting ready for university. He is considering going to school in Naiasa, but Leila isn’t sure that she wants her brother living in the same town as her. Leila has also looked into going back to school. Ben is very supportive of this, but the woman admits she hasn’t told her boss about this. During their conversation, Leila ‘dances around’ what she really does for a living.
Saturday, March 13, 2094:
Sakagi puts her considerable NET skills into action and interrupts the official Zion News Service with a Voice of Revolution newscast and accuses the Power Trio of murder and monopolizing the economic lifeblood of New Zion: “The corrupt administration ruling from the Presidential Palace in New Jerusalem has killed ten innocent civilians to bolster their pride and vanity. No member of ZIFF was caught by Stanton’s thugs. In retaliation we will strike at the economic heart blood that fuels the corrupt Perry Stanton dictatorship and his puppet: Robo – Lew! All Hail the Righteous Revolution!”
Claire helps Tavio with the new play and he gives her a tour of his theatre.
Sunday, March 14, 2094:
Claire has collected information on the structure of the New Tyre Railroad Bridge, and calculates the explosives necessary to take down the two center spans. That should totally cripple rail transportation from the mines for months.
As for yesterday’s Voice of the Revolution broadcast, First Lady Amy Jones announces, “What a bunch of hogwash. I feel sure that our security forces have caught the real culprits.”
Monday, March 15, 2094 & Tuesday, March 16, 2094:
The Team attends classes and lives the lives of normal students. Claire studies the terrain around the New Tyre Bridge and finds a high point about a half a kilometer away that has a good view of the target structure. She buys a super accurate compass and calculates a blind teleport jump to just south of the target structure. She uses her excellent navigation skills to pinpoint the spot.
Across the city preparations are made for the Hindu New Year on Wednesday. Houses are given a thorough wash. Shopping for new clothes and buying other items that go with the requirements of the festival are done with a lot of excitement. This year, the Hindu New Year occurs on the same day the Chinese Zounghe Festival is being held. This festival is a reflection of the ancient agrarian Chinese culture. In the tradition of Chinese culture, dragon is believed to be the king of all insects and at same time, it is also believed to be in charge of bringing rains, and both of these are important factors in ancient agricultural society. It is called “Dragon rising its head” because the dragon was traditionally regarded in China as the deity in charge of rain, an important factor in ancient agriculture. The Chinese citizens of Naiasa are preparing for that.
Wednesday, March 17, 2094:
After classes Claire gets ready for the Hindi New Year celebration at the temple. As she heads to the trolley stop just outside her dorm, there are two groups arguing vociferously. The dispute is getting ugly. The Chinese and the Indian Hindus are fighting over whose holiday this is. Claire uses her Empathic Projection to calm the crowd (at the cost of 175 power points) and says, “Hey, this day belongs to both of you, enjoy it!”
This calms the crowd down a bit, but two have personal issues and continue to throw a few punches. The two leaders try to break it up. Claire recognizes the Hindu leader as the one who helped break up the small riot outside the Hindu Temple at the beginning of the Holi Festival. One stops fighting but the other wants to continue. Claire tells the remaining combatant, “You should leave!”
It costs her another 8 power points, and the last thug stops fighting. She then heads to the Temple for the New Year Festival. The Chinese Zounghe Festival also goes off well.
Thursday, March 18, 2094:
After classes Claire teleports to the Baratarian Consulate where she puts on her Blackjack Stealth suit, picks up a video camera and a satellite uplink. She also packs away her compass and puts together her explosives packages. The biogen does a blind teleport jump to the location outside New Tyre that she has studied. She comes in a little high, but otherwise hits her mark. Claire scans the bridge area and it is completely unguarded. It takes a sight teleport to each of the bridge piers and the biogen places the charges before jumping back to the hill where she sets up her video camera and uplink.
Sakagi interrupts the Zion News feed for another brief Voice of the Revolution broadcast:
“Stanton and his Robo – Lew have been bleeding the wealth of the country! NO MORE! This is retaliation for the murder of ten innocent civilians shot at the ruined statue last week. All hail the Righteous Revolution!”
The camera goes live and the Tyre Railroad Bridge is blown off its piers.
Claire quickly packs up the camera and uplink. She teleports to the consulate drops off her gear and teleports back to her dorm. She comes out to the common area and puts on the vid. About ten minutes later. “We interrupt this broadcast with breaking news!”
(Includes video of the bridge destruction)
18 MARCH 2094—NEW TYRE, FELLOWSHIP OF ZION
Bridge Destroyed Across Pearl River
ZIFF terrorists today hijacked the national broadcast of Zion. A short speech claimed that ten citizens executed last Tuesday were not responsible for blowing up Lew’s statue. The rogue broadcast culminated in live shots of an explosion that destroyed two pillars in the middle of a railroad bridge across the Pearl River.
The arched span between the two pillars dropped 28 meters (92 feet) into the water in two and a half seconds. The toppling pillars dragged sections of the adjoining spans into the water as well. In total, four of the pillars and five of the dozen archways supporting the bridge were either damaged or destroyed. Repair cost is estimated at 8 million solars.
On the news channel the talking heads start yacking about unrest in Zion and what this all means.
Friday, March 19, 2094:
In the morning there is more news from Zion.
Baratarian Broadcast News
19 MARCH 2094—NEW JERUSALEM
Martial Law Reinstated
Today, martial law has been reinstated across the entire Fellowship of Zion following ZIFF’s newest broadcast and destruction of the railroad bridge to New Nazareth.
Lew Jones held a press conference and stated, “Just as we identified and executed the terrorists who blew up my statue, we will also hunt down and eliminate this new threat to our Fellowship’s peace and prosperity. I thank Perry Stanton, Minister of State Security, for having found the cowards responsible for destroying my statue. I have every confidence in his ability to locate these new criminals and bring them to justice. I also thank General Irwin Prescott, whose troops are patrolling our streets and ensuring the safety of all our citizens.
“As for the minerals from our mines in New Nazareth, we shall transport them in trucks as we did before the railroad line was built. The terrorists’ efforts to disrupt our economy are in vain.”
That evening Sakagi is hard at work on her combat robot for the Jeekies competition. Ben and A.J. are working on their papers which they have yet to turn in. Claire has already turned hers in so she heads out for a fun evening with Tavio after meditating for six hours. The theatre professor to quite taken aback by the news of the destruction of the Tyre railroad bridge. He worries about setting his play in a Zion-like country if there is a terrorist group about as they might strike at his theatre. Claire points out, since the show will be a humiliation of the current regime they are fighting, the ZIFF group probably won’t bother him. Tavio is relieved. Of course, she fails to mention that Perry Stanton might do something!
Saturday, March 20, 2094:
Cheng Quon leaves a message. He wants to meet. The two have lunch at the coffee shop next to the Meditation Center after Claire’s morning Meditation Center. He begins with, “This is sort of a delicate question, but why is my niece trying to get into the Gentlemen’s Club?”
Claire realizes that Satu is probably looking into Leila Shahzad so she checks with Ben in the mind link to see if he is all right with Cheng Quon knowing about their relationship. Professor Chang has no problem with it so Claire tells Quon about Ben’s relationship with Leila and that he turned down his niece since dating both wouldn’t be a “noble” thing. Quon is impressed by Ben’s actions. In the spirit of full disclosure, Claire tells the operative that Leila came to the Meditation Center as a “honey pot” for Zeng Meifen. When Quon shows interest in recruiting her, Claire downplays her skills, “We picked up on her instantly.”
Actually Claire does think Leila is talented, but also likes her. Working for Cheng Quon would probably affect her relationship with Ben Chang. The biogen doesn’t want to endanger that relationship. She is very fond of Ben and wants him to be happy. The biogen does, however, reveal all they have learned about her. In return, Quon gives her a piece of information that the Team didn’t have regarding Kim Mi-sun. It seems she is actually Zeng Meifen’s cousin and only her adopted sister. Kim Mi-sun’s mother killed herself; the orphan was then raised by her aunt and uncle as their daughter. Kim Mi-sun spent part of her youth in a Buddhist Nunnery, but it didn’t seem to take. Mi-sun has converted to the Falun Gong philosophy. It becomes clear to the biogen that this is the connection that Tse Wei-Shan, the Falun Gong master used to harass Ben Chang about his suspected temple.
They discuss some future plans and Claire warns him that they will need a few transport hover craft. She assures Quon that the Chinese government will be getting them back. She intends to use the training ZIFF troops to overrun a Chastisement Festival and make off with the prisoners. This operation will take place in the future.
The Chinese operative has a wealth of information about the Secret Police’s prison in New Jerusalem. He has aerial photos of the excavation and construction of the complex. It is a good start to begin planning an operation against the headquarters.
Claire asks if he been able to get any information on the Panther Claws. Cheng Quon immediately recognizes the name ‘Panther Claws’ and asks with a frown, “Are you thinking we should hire them?”
Once Claire assures him she has no such plans, he tells her, “The Panther Claws was the ‘dirty tricks’ section of a group called the Elemental Force—an NGO military force available for hire by pretty much anyone who could afford their price. The Elemental Force mostly contracted for helping third world countries conduct wars with their neighbors, but also for major powers whose forces were stretched thin in some particular war zone, or to serve as civilian contractors so a government would have plausible deniability about specific operations they wanted to carry out that might violate the rules of various conduct-of-war conventions. Also, the Elemental Force did not end. It simply morphed into a new organization called the Prime Solution, which has a variety of HQ’s on several planets. There is a small HQ here on de Kamp in the UN’s capital city.
Claire’s question about the Panther Claws sparks Cheng Quon’s curiosity, so she explains that her history project will be about the outlawing of the Sons of Wotan. He asks how this project helps the mission to change the government of New Zion. The biogen explains that the UN will support President Lew Jones and his administration so they have to be neutralized. She tells him that she has uncovered evidence that the UN is involved in framing the Sons of Wotan. If she can prove this, or blow enough smoke up about it, then the UN will be too busy defending itself to interfere with the destabilization of the current government of Zion. The Chinese operative sees the value in this approach.
Sunday, March 21, 2094:
It is a quiet day as the Team studies for their final exams for this semester. They do get covert diplomatic reports from Ambassador Carlos Delgado regarding New Jerusalem:
Thursday, 18 March: After the broadcast and the bridge was blown up, a convoy of several military vehicles was seen leaving town heading iceward towards New Tyre. Martial law and curfew were activated again. Citizenry seems uneasy.
Friday, 19 March: Military continues to patrol the streets. Citizen presence in the churches is close to 100%. At the site of the former statue of Lew, debris from the explosion has been cleaned up; the semi-destroyed remains of the pedestal are still in place and today were “dedicated” as a new monument to the eradication of all ZIFF terrorist cells in the nation.
Saturday, 20 March: Military continues to patrol the streets. Citizen presence on the streets is about 50% of the usual “peacetime” presence.
Monday, March 22, 2094:
After class the Team gets the toxicology report on the contents of Floyd Osbourne’s stomach. The samples from Floyd’s body showed he had consumed a local fish that has a neurotoxin; similar to pufferfish. Also, there was beer in his stomach; equivalent of one bottle. Claire makes a secure NET call to Ray-ray. He also has some interesting information. They checked where Floyd had his last meal, the Fork Corners Cafe. It still has the same owner who told them back then his Chef didn’t show up 3 days just before the ‘accident’. He just left, and a new guy applied. They were under the gun and desperate, so they hired him. The new guy was good. And then that afternoon (after the “accident”), he just up and quit. The owner said, “The new guy had a ‘special sauce’ he made with some kind of liqueur; tasted sweet, and Floyd sure loved his fish; terrible, that accident. Sure, I remember it. My (older) sister’s kid was sweet on the guy (Floyd). And yeah, some cop came by and asked me about his last meal. I looked up the receipt—it was the fried fish with sauce and chips and two beers. Seemed a bit odd to me ’cause Floyd never drank beer—but heck, receipts don’t lie.”
Ray-ray adds that the old cook was found dead years later in the desert. He had a broken neck. It was hard to say if it was murder since all they found was a skeleton. Claire asks if the coroner could compare the records of the two broken necks and look for any similarities. She asks that Ray-ray try to find a picture of the replacement cook entering the spaceport since the rail line wasn’t built yet.
Tuesday, March 23, 2094:
After history class, Claire talks to her Professor Sung Gan about her Master’s Thesis concept. He is fascinated that she would pick such a subject and approves her idea. She asks for his help and he agrees to help open doors for her with officials that she will have to deal with. Professor Sung expresses his surprise on how the UN could NOT manage to capture the Scavengers after 25 years. They decide, however, that the announced theme of the paper will be “How did a biker gang get a colony and why have they not been hunted down.” It will have a very pro-UN flavor, at first. Claire realizes that he is very interested in her topic. This encourages the biogen very much.
After Mediation class Leila comes and talks with Ben. She is very happy. Her boss, Zeng Meifen, approves of her going back to school. She feels it will only make her more valuable. Ben and Leila go out and celebrate that night.
Wednesday, March 24 & Thursday, March 25, 2094:
The Team takes their Final examinations over these two days.
Another secret diplomatic report from Ambassador Carlos Delgado arrives:
Saturday, 20 March through Thursday, 25 March: Continuing martial law. Citizen presence on the streets has gradually increased, but is still less than the former “peacetime” presence. People are not lingering anywhere outside their homes. Leisure-type businesses (e.g., coffee shops) are seeing decreased business. Thru private sources the Ambassador learns: Military officers are somewhat on edge. Several have been arrested and interrogated. One has been shot as a traitor.
That evening Claire heads to the Hindu Temple to celebrate Hindu Rama Navami celebrating the birth of the god Rama to King Dasharatha and Queen Kausalya in Ayodhya. Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is one of the oldest avatars of Lord Vishnu having a human form. The holy day falls in the Shukla Paksha on the Navami, the ninth day of the month of Chaitra in the Hindu calendar. Thus it is also known as Chaitra Masa Suklapaksha Navami, and marks the end of the nine-day Chaitra-Navaratri (Vasanta Navaratri) celebrations.
Next: Episode 33 – Vacation Investigations