Tightbeam The Maze

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

  1. Claudia Volpe

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    It was lighter than what she was used to. Made her wonder how it would feel to actually fire. Hopefully she would not have to find out.

    "Spare plastic mag?" she asked. If she didn't want to use it she definitely didn't want to end up in a situation where she needed more than ten rounds.

    It was tempting to ask how tiring it was to keep up that facade. His demeanour had been a strange mix that was as endearing as it seemed rediculous.

    "No other questions," she added, turning to place the weapon out of sight in a small cupboard.
     
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  2. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    He hummed, retrieving the spare from his inside pocket while he cast one last look about the room.

    “I’ll come pick you up an hour early. Long drive.” Not to mention he’d be getting his hands on the last of the event intel tomorrow. Nothing like speed-reviewing target information in the back of a cab.

    For all the flair of his arrival, the agent disappeared like a puff of smoke.



    Tomorrow found him knocking on her door while the sun was still up. He’d abandoned his winning smile for something more genteel and restrained. His suit, on the other hand, suggested he’d been enjoying Lucrezia’s hefty paycheck for a while, from the glimmering cufflinks to the satin lapels.

    Mostly he appreciated it for the holster fit, though.

    “It’s Jean. Ready for our date?”

    Best get into the game early. They’d had precious little prep time, and the rats they were hunting always did have a nose for a tightening noose.
     
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  3. Claudia Volpe

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    "All ready. How's my figure?" She asked as she stepped out. Claudia held her arms slightly out to the sides as she gave a spin. The last few minutes before his knock had been trying to determine if the line of the suit gave away the holster.

    She would have to be careful how she adjusted her jacket. It wasn't the first time she'd worn a hidden weapon. It was the first time that having it spotted could lead to serious trouble. There was a difference between 'kept out of sight to look professional in public' and 'kept of sight so a mobster doesn't drop you into a wood chipper'.

    Turning to lock the door she decided that her look was positively understated compared to Jean's. She hoped he could talk art as well as he dressed. Another reason not to split up.
     
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  4. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    His appraisal was all business this time. The quality of his stare would shift like water once they were in the public eye again, but for the few minutes they still had, the pretense was free to fall away.

    Insomuch as any spy was ever free to drop the act.

    “As good as it gets with two days’ notice and a store-bought.” His nose wrinkled as he stepped to the side for another look. It was the frontal silhouette that gave you away. “Pop the top buttons and nobody will pay enough attention to notice,” he finally offered with a shrug, turning to lead them to the cab.

    As soon as the door closed behind her and the voice input registered, Jean brought out his terminal. Or a terminal, at any rate – it looked different to the one he’d been using yesterday. Notably the glass was darker, and the image on it was only properly readable once he’d put it right in front of her.

    “Layout of the auction house. In case we get lucky with their chatter and get to track down their goods.” That wry quality in his voice was back, his mouth twisting into a wistful smile. “Worst case we strike out and spend the evening stuffing our faces with actual food.”

    Worst case they both ended facedown in the alley with a hole in the back of the skull, but the buffet was a much nicer image to think about.
     
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  5. Claudia Volpe

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    She appraised the layout with a profession eye. She'd spent many nervous hours watching a real time feed of one of the CT teams breaching a building. Buttons stayed as they had been. There were not many routes in or out of the building. She suspected that the narrow side alley would be a bad place to attempt to leave through if there was trouble.

    The automated vehicle beeped softly to let them know it was pulling over. As they stepped inside someone checked their false digital identities. They were handed a glass of bubbly just to bide the time as they waited to pass through the scanners. Claudia couldn't help but clench as they stepped through. Either they had been passed clean or someone had silently registered their weapons. Impossible to know which.

    The area away from the auction house had been arranged to display some of the art. Claudia tried to make it seem as if she was looking at it as she tried to spot familiar faces. At least until she saw a plain canvas on the wall.

    "Malevich..." she read. She fought the urge to ask how much this could possible be worth with every fibre of her being.
     
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  6. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Of all the things they’d decided to preserve… Jean shook his head at the white square of canvas, as disappointing in real life as it had been in the catalogue.

    He clicked his tongue and moved on to a particularly lively hologram. “The Spiral Jetty,” he ducked his head to murmur to Alina. “Flooded and eroded three centuries ago when the ice caps finally went the way of the dodo. Now that’s a real shame.”

    It was easy to play into the stereotype of the Frenchman. Easy – because good food and real wine weren’t exactly a burden to bear – and easy because it made his job a breeze. When people thought they knew you, they became terribly predictable themselves.

    And those, in turn, were the precious lifeblood of anyone working humint. Easy marks.

    Because challenge was the last thing you wanted in their line of work. The thugs masquerading as bodyguards were doing a paint-thin job, and Jean did his very best not to look worried at the number of sidearm outlines under bulging jackets.
     
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  7. Claudia Volpe

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    By contrast, she didn't shy away from the subject.

    "You know that bottle you bought me. I think I might save it for different company," Claudia bemoaned.

    She still couldn't spy the interesting faces. Each one that she saw was useful. Someone in this crowd would have a weak spot that could be exploited. If they were really going to get to the heart of the matter they needed an insider. They didn't have one, so that meant making one. That was assuming that they didn't pick up any truly marvelous leads once the auction started.

    Maybe they would get lucky. Maybe the goods were even in Paris. She suspected they could be out of the city, out of the country, perhaps even already lifted off world.

    "Anything really taking your fancy?" she asked. There were small crowds gathered around the pieces for auction. Even the most honest was probably here for some small tax evasion, but they might overhear something that might start to paint a picture.
     
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  8. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    “Too early to say,” he replied with a small shake of his head. They wandered about at the edges of the milling crowd for long minutes, feigning interest in the exhibits while they kept their eyes peeled for their persons of interest.

    Jean pilfered a few tempting canapés off a passing plate, offering one to Alina as they made their third round of the evening. Conversations in many languages filled the room with the sort of white noise that stumped technology to this day. Human operatives, luckily, had the advantageous capability for selective attention.

    And nothing tickled him like hearing like those smooth syllables of ‘Dassault’ drip from the grinning mouth of some asshole in a suit that probably cost his yearly salary. He supplemented the finger food with a pair of champagne flutes, thrusting one to Alina as he steered her to a nearby painting.

    “Now, this one, I could see on my wall. Not somewhere you’d see it right away, mind you. I’m thinking something more… subtle. Walk in, chat, then when you turn around… bam, behind you. An explosion in abstract by,” he leaned in closer to inspect the information screen, “Antoine Dassault.”
     
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  9. Claudia Volpe

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    They had their lot to watch closely. Though she would likely watch just in horror at the vaguely white canvas vanishing into someone's collection for more money than would pass through her hands in ten lifetimes.

    "I'm sure that will attract some attention," she said, taking a step back to admire the piece.

    So far she hadn't seen anyone paying them any attention. That was either a good thing or a sign that she was out of her depth. Within a few seconds of stopping before the painting she did notice a few glances their way. With as much casual grace as she could muster, which was not much, she idled towards the next painting along.
     
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  10. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    They milled at the nearby lots with varying amounts of stealth, trading snippets of art conversation – or art monologue, as it was – while doing their damnedest to eavesdrop on the group where the key name had been mentioned.

    Another glass of bubbly deeper and no closer to discovering the code of the conversation, the first call of the auctioneer cut through the chatter. For all their glamour and status, the lot quieted down almost immediately.

    Jean peered at the dispersing group with a faint frown, trying to commit each face to memory as they drifted to their seats in front of the hall.

    “Fuck.” His smile remained as jovial as ever, though, as if they were just sharing a joke at some dead painter’s expense. With a hand on the small of her back Jean steered her from the lobby once the bigwigs had settled. Their place was further in the back, but it was just as well – easier to keep an eye on the crowd. It didn’t hurt either that the shadows obscured his attentive gaze as he scanned the shuffling attendees.

    “I’ll take the left,” he murmured in her ear as he feigned adjusting his chair. There’d be work enough for the both of them, considering just how many besuited thugs lined the walls with dark glares and crossed arms.
     
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  11. Claudia Volpe

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    The location truly hammered home the danger of the situation. This was the crucible, the boundary guarded by dangerous people. One wrong move and the noose would tighten around them. In hindsight, deniability from not carrying a weapon might have been safer.

    The exhausting cadence of the auctioneers gabble drove the passage of time. There were many dynamics visible in the room, but initially it seemed quite benign. A smartly dressed man with a bright pink face marched out of the room in anger when he was beaten to a sculpture.

    Claudia sat upright as if she cared about one of the hopefully benign lots, making a token bid when it was rapidly accelerating.

    Then came one of interest. She tried to pretend that wasn't the case. The big fish she had seen before was turned to observe each of the bidders quite openly. If he wasn't bidding then he was facilitating. Then who was bidding.
     
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  12. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Jean noticed quite clearly at the edge of his vision when Alina went from casually observing to attentive. It would hardly be obvious to anybody else in the room, but with the woman sitting right next to him, he could feel her body draw taut with concentration.

    Flicking his terminal from sleep, the man pretended to browse the lot catalogue to familiarize himself with the opulent painting currently being auctioned. With his features bathed in the faint blue light, Jean angled his screen just so; enough for his accomplice to spy the words he’d surreptitiously typed out.

    Person of interest?

    Because nothing got you busted quite as quickly as staring openly at a skittish mark.
     
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  13. Claudia Volpe

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    Claudia gave a subtle nod. She looked back briefly before instantly letting her gaze glide past him. Dalton - or whatever his name currently was - sat in front of the Soubrey brothers. Rather than bidding he had turned to watch the crowd attentively.

    He was a facilitator then. Someone, Dassault, was selling weapons through his arms smuggling operations. Perhaps he was even responsible for getting them off-world.

    She dared not type back when Dalton was watching the crowd to see who was bidding. What she sorely wanted to know now was who was bidding.
     
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  14. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    They remained stuck in that particular limbo until the lot was sold to ‘the gentleman in the back for a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, thank you very much’.

    In the brief break afforded to him by the introduction of a new piece, Jean excused himself to the privy. The two glasses of bubbly earlier now proved themselves a convenient pretext to get another good look at the room as he picked his way back among the seats. It was easier to sneak glances in-between maneuvering through the sea of crossed legs and offended hissing.

    When he finally lowered himself back into his seat, Jean used the motion to murmur quietly to Alina, “The boys in the back have serious toys.” If hell broke loose, their best bet was gunning it for the decorative pond in the atrium garden. Wasn’t a single wall in here that would stop the rounds they were packing.

    “Ex-military by stance.” And haircuts, but that went without saying. “Ring any bells?”
     
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  15. Claudia Volpe

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    "Unfortunately," Claudia replied. Unless Licrezia had made arrangements they didn't have any backup here. There was no cowardice in knowing when a situation called for a squad of GIGN rather than an ex-CT officer and a spy.

    There hadn't been that many wasted rounds at the scene in Tunisia. Both sides had been shoot tight groups with heavy weaponry. One side had underestimated the other, leading to a blood bath. Was one side Dassault or was it a buyer?

    "Maybe we should step out and enjoy watching the cars go by?" She offered. If the buyer took his car they could track it. If he took a taxi it was a call and a few minutes before the taxi company would provide the destination. Regardless, she wanted to know where the buyer was going next.

    Unfortunately they were not the only ones. Just a few miles in an underground parking block was an unmarked white van. Survivors of the OPA cell who had been attacked in Tunisia with assault weaponry and an axe to grind.
     
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  16. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    “I have been hankering for a smoke, now that you mention it.” He made sure to fidget with the convenient cigarette case in his inner pocket a few minutes before the end of the current lot. Even checked his watch once or twice for good effect.

    As soon as the overpriced vase was sold to its giddy new owner, Jean rose and made for the exit. Not to swiftly, not too slowly, but rather with the pace of a purposeful man. Despite his many years on the job – official or otherwise – his heart still hammered against his Adam’s apple as he passed through the noose of burly guards and to the freedom of smog-clogged air of Parisian downtown.

    He’d just sparked his cigarette when Alina joined him with the assured click of rubber soles on concrete. The first drag of smoke into his lungs was as much for show as it was for relief.

    He offered the tall woman beside him a smoke without a word as they crossed the street to wait for their mark to emerge. Sirens blared in the distance as nightlife passed them by. The occasional couple emerged from the auction, chattering in rapid French about new acquisitions for their penthouse bedroom as the valet fetched their Rolls or Bugatti or Lotus.

    Jean waited, and counted the minutes in his head. He counted the cigarettes too, savoring the silence (if not the ache in his shoulder from leaning on the wall).

    He was on three and a quarter when the shooting started.

    Just as well. Smoking was bad for you.
     
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  17. Claudia Volpe

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    Her terminal hadn't even buzzed to confirm that someone was tracing the ID on the suspect's vehicle. She suspected that if they followed the gunfire they would find it quickly.

    Volpe stepped out into the street in the way of a car. Nothing as fancy as the sports coupes or blacked out trucks the bidders had been driving away. It was a basic family hatchback. On the narrow Paris streets it could drive just as quickly as a Ferrari F950. Claudia actually knew her cars quite well and had been trying to avoid staring too much as they pulled up.

    "Police! Sortez! Sortez!" she shouted at the driver until they got out. She flashed a gun and shoved the man away, ignoring his questions. He kept following the car shouting, swearing and gesticulating as Volpe pulled away. She opened the window the listen for the sounds of gunfire, so she caught the air turning a French shade of blue as they accelerated away.

    "How many rounds have you got?" She asked. She turned onto a wider road and squeezed between two other cars. She had to mount the pavement to go around several crashed vehicles. In the distance she caught a flare of gunfire. There was a large white van chasing after several black four by fours. She suspected the mess she had witness in Tunisia hadn't been the end of some unpleasantness. She hadn't expected to spill out into the streets of such a secure city.
     
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  18. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    Happy enough to let Alina take point, Jean threw himself into the passenger’s seat and just managed to snap in the belt before the other agent slammed the gas. They peeled off the asphalt and after the blaring report of gunfire several streets over.

    “Not enough for this merde.” He kept one eye on the road as he drew his sidearm from the shoulder holster. “But seventeen, if we’re being ex— turn right at the end there, we’ll catch up faster.”

    Home turf, at least, accounted for something.

    “You think these are your mystery friends from Tunisia?” Not that it mattered in the grand scheme of things who exactly had decided to open fire in broad – well, nightlight. If the SUVs bristling with security wouldn’t mow them down, the police would show up soon enough to finish the job.

    Revenge is a hell of a drug.

    “Take a left up ahead, we should come up behind the van,” Jean added after a few moments of tense silence. Not that it was quiet – the gunshots were getting louder, in fact, and so was the screaming.

    Fucking amateurs.

    “How are you with pit maneuvers?”

    Because ideally, the more of these bastards that survived, the easier they’d get the information they needed. Holey corpses weren’t particularly talkative, in Jean’s experience.
     
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  19. Claudia Volpe

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    "We're going back a long time, but I can try," she replied through gritted teeth. As short as it was, the wind was whipping her jet black hair around. She tapped a button and the window hissed close. Claudia missed bright colours in her hair. It was one of the first things she would do once she got out of this mess.

    If she got out of this mess.

    The white van was veering wildly across the carriageway. The back doors were wide open to reveal a group of tattooed belters carrying some seriously weaponry. At least one of them was wearing a strength augmentation harness to take the weight of a heavy machine gun.

    The black SUVs were trying to keep ahead of the van to avoid being torn apart by the big guns. Their security guards peppered the sides of the van ineffectually with light arms.

    "We might be a bit light to be giving anyone a love tap here," she said. They were quite exposed with most other vehicles slowing to a halt in the wake of the gunbattle.
     
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  20. Lucrezia Dionisi

    Lucrezia Dionisi Hell in High Heels

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    “Yeeeeah, no shit.”

    He wiped his hands dry on the upholstery and wished, not for the first time, that they’d been serving something stronger than champagne at the auction. Then he could’ve cited incompetence and stayed behind while the fucking Belters hauled out the fucking machine guns.

    “Fuck this, pull left in here. We’ll just follow the damn noise.” And hope they could recover what was left of the smoldering bodies before the police arrived. Jean had waded through plenty of shit for money and country, but a hail of hot lead from the barrel of an honest-to-dieu minigun wasn’t on his list.

    As they skidded into another narrow sidealley, Jean fished out his terminal and switched to staccato French as soon as the call connected. By the time they reached the end of the street he’d wrapped up a conversation that would’ve taken five minutes in English.

    “We’ll have to get out before they cordon everything off but if any evidence goes missing…” he trailed off, grinning for the first time since this crazy chase had begun. “Let’s just say they won’t be looking too hard at two dark suits in the crowd.”
     
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