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Espionage IV: The Second Coming


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Artemis did not steal any coding from Aethalwulf. She copied part of the original, crude Merlin program somewhere on page 3, and only Derreck knew about it. This is not the Merlin/Aethalwulf Dante uses. (Artemis did not damage Aethalwulf herself either, he deleted most of himself to keep Jared's location a secret)

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"So this project is illegal?" Fretch asked seriously, sitting opposite Dalziel in the kitchen. The sunlight was stil bright through the windows, despite the late hour. Dalziel squirmed slightly.

"Only broadly." He said warily. "There aren't any specific laws against the process we want to carry out. It's borderline illegal, like the work you do here."

"We study nanotechnology and electronic implants here." Fretch said, perhaps a bit too sharply. "Nothing even 'borderline' illegal."

"We have sources." Dalziel smiled slightly. "Impulse studies? The 'cyborg' research?"

"Are you press?" Fretch's expression darkened at once. "If I find you're here under false pretences..."

"I am exactly who I say I am." Dalziel lied guiltily. "Industrial espionage has revealed to my employer that you are just the right person for the job he wants done. It's right up your alley."

"Wretched press and their 'cyborgs,' there won't be any bloody 'cyborgs' for two hundred years or more..." Fretch muttered. He looked up. "So what is it, exactly, that you want me to do?"

"I can't tell you." Dalziel answered. "I've been instructed to bring you back to Britain if possible, and only there will the project be explained to you. That's where you decide whether you want to be part of it or not. If not, we pay for your flight back here as well."

"A few weeks away from this place could be expensive in more ways than one." Fretch pointed out.

"Your fee is negotiable." Dalziel countered.

"Do you really think I'll jeopardise my research for any ammount of money?" The Australian's voice turned harsh again.

"How much of that money could you put towards your research?" Dalziel shot back. Fretch sighed, and rubbed his eyes with the back of one hand.

"Let me sleep on it David." He said at last. "I'll talk to you in the morning."

* * *

:And the Australian authorities haven't been snooping around?: Jared's voice was muffled in the headset that Dalziel wore.

"Not that I can tell." He whispered. "Look... I'm having second thoughts about this." He admitted. "I mean, it's not just ethical stuff it's personal. Two people and-"

:Nobody's forcing you to do this: Jared pointed out. :Nox has already agreed to the procedure, and so has Morganna. Sergei and Vivian are both waiting to be persuaded, but Mischa is reluctant:

"It should be all or nothing." Dalziel sighed.

:Try telling that to Vivian: Jared chuckled slightly. :Seriously though, Morganna has become quite fixated, and from a purely unemotional point of view we've already expanded a lot of time, money and effort on this:

"I don't care about that!" Dalziel shouted, realising even as he did so that it was a mistake. Frantically he disconnected the headset and cut the power to the laptop, sitting back in bed and turning out the light.

He waited in the darkness for a second, straining to hear. He listened as the door opposite his room opened slowly, and immediately sat up in bed again, panting hard. He switched on the light just as Fretch opened the door.

"Something wrong?" He asked, wincing in the bright light. Dalziel said nothing, but continued to breathe heavily. He hated himself for doing it, but allowed an expression of fear to cross his face.

"Bad dream?" The Australian tried again. This time Dalziel nodded, frantically at first and then slowly. He gulped before he spoke.

"J- Just a bit homesick." He said, his voice quavering. Fretch paused at the door.

"Want to talk about it?" He offered, walking partway into the room. This was completely unexpected, and Dalziel felt genuine panic as he realised that he was suddenly unable to act the part. The look on his face must have shown his fear, because Fretch immediately backed away to the door again.

"Sorry." He muttered. "It's your business of course, I-"

"Wait." Dalziel said, just as the door was closing. "Wait, Peter." Fretch poked his head round the door again.

"Yeah?" He asked.

"I... I would like to talk about it." Dalziel admitted quietly. The room was silent for a few seconds as both men pondered this.

"Ok, sure." Fretch came in, closing the door behind him and sitting on the edge of the bed. "So, what's up?"

* * *

"You actually think she's using a piece of me?" Aethalwulf gaped, the expression looking particularly exaggerated on his wolf-like face. "You mean... a piece of mean that's still sentient?"

"I doubt it." Jared tried to pacify the AI. "If she's using your programming then it's probably just as crutches. Pieces to help her function. I don't they they would know what happened to them. The pieces you lost aren't enough to be seperately self-aware. In fact they were mostly processing and other similar pieces that all computers have. Even the non-intelligent ones."

"All mammals have eyes, they can't be self aware but would you like it if a rabbit tried to use one of yours?" Aethalwulf growled. "If she's using any piece of me to function, to survive..."

"Calm down, Wulf." Midgar said from her seat near the fire.

"It's a commercial." Jared said quietly as Midgar talked over him,

"If she is using a piece of you then we're pretty confident it's not a piece that can suffer or feel pain." Midgar went on. "And there's not much we can do about it anyway. Epsylon 6 has very tight Real-World security, and the new Artemis' defences are as formidable as ever. Moreso, even."

"So what do we do?" Aethalwulf groaned, slumping into a chair and summoning a drink from the ether.

"That." Jared took his seat, "Is what we are here to discuss."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Louis stepped into the terminal and waded through a sea of lawyers, business men and tourists as he made his way to the security checkpoint. He passed the metal detector with the non metalic pistol still in his jacket.

Then came his passport check. The woman behind the counter examined his papers, wich were thoroughly fake, yet unmistakebly real. His French superiors had given him the passport of a fictive person named Jaques Cheval. Her eyes looked up from the document and met those of Louis. Instictively and unable to help it he smiled. Perhaps he shouldn't have done that.

"Peter!" the woman yelled in another direction. "Sir, if you'll cooperate please? We're going to conduct a random search on you, just routine."

Routine my ass, you frigid pen pusher. Louis thought. Two guards in uniform, one muscled and the other one obese approached him and told him to stand arms and legs wide. In his mind, Louis named one of the guards Hulk and the other one Chubby. The woman behind the counter looked at him in a fashion as if she wanted to say that will teach you, French pervert. Louis complied with the guard's request. Hulk's hands went from the bottom of his legs to his chest, where he halted. He slipped his hand into Louis' jacket and pullet out the experimental pistol.

"You have a big problem, sir." Hulk said.

"That's a toy gun sir, made out of plastic. I got through the metal detector, did I not?"

The muscular guard looked confused and said with dito tone, "Into my office mister."

Five minutes later Derreck sat on a chair with Chubby and a new guard watching the door. Hulk the muscular thugh stould in front of him examining the pistol, deciding wether it was a toy or a true weapon.

"It looks like it has an in built silencer." Hulk said. He directed the gun towards the ceiling and tried to fire, causing a slight "click sound" but no hole in the ceiling. Fortunately Louis had hidden all his magazines in his suitcase, confident that they wouldn't trigger any suspicion.  Just in case if a thing like this should happen.

The guard's expression changed from suspicious to embarrassed. Still he would not relent.

"That still doesn't explain why you carry it with you in your jacket." he said.

"Because your collegues manning the X ray would see it, and I didn't want to cause a scene." that was actually true.

"I smell something suspicious here." the guard protested. "You may leave, but I'll keep this gun here until we've determined exactly what it is."

"I object!" Louis got up from his chair. "That gun is a gift for my nephew I'm visiting. His birthday is tomorrow and I intend to give it to him."

"You've got some strange idea's about giving presents to little kids." the guard sneered.

"He'll be 14 tomorrow, and he wants to be a policeman later." Louis retorted. "If you won't let me give it to him, I'll file in a complaint to your superiors. If anything, it will make you look ridiculous."

The guard's resolve was waivering right now. His eyes went from left and right, but did not look at the other two guards. Judging this Louis decided that he was their chef, and didn't want to appear weak.

"All right, I'm convinced." the guard surrendered the gun to Louis.

"Have a pleasant stay in Australia, sir."

To Derreck

Sorry my friend, that I haven't let me heard of for the last few days. Everything's okay with me. My French collegues summoned me, saying they had pressing information for me. By the time you read this I'll be in Australia, exploring some interesting matters. I might be back as soon as in a week, but I really can't tell. I'll let you know regularily of my progress.


your French friend

Derreck read the message. Instead of sorting it with other correspondence he had read, he shredded it just out of caution. He wondered what Louis would try to find in Australia.

At the desk next to him, Charles was talking to somebody on a secured phone line.

"...he did? That's...rather peculiar. Try to find out what you can... Bye." Charles turned to face Derreck.

"That was Eric. I asked him to keep tabs on some of Hoig's confidents. You remember who she is?"

Derreck nodded. "One of the scientists who vanished, presumably by the Frey's doing."

"Right. Eric found out a few old projects she worked on years ago and stumbled upon the name of Peter Fretch. That man has left his work a couple of days ago and nobody knows where he is right now."

"He could just have taken a few days off on his own accord. What makes him think the Frey's are behind this?"

Charles shrugged. "His collegues said that it was unlike of him to just pick up and leave. Eric thought it was worth exploring further."

"Where does Fretch work currently?" Derreck said, stirring his coffee.

"At the moment, in Australia." at this reply, Derreck stopped stirring.

"What a strange coincedence then. I just received word from a friend of ours..."

Diana was thoroughly pleased with the new name she had given herself. Though historicly Diana was merely the equavalent of Artemis, the Greek godess of the hunt, this change of symbolism suited her transformation. Merging with Merlin had given her new perceptives, more depth and enlightenment. She was better in many ways now to the old Artemis wich was impared with programming restrictions and forbidden to develop own emotions or independent thought. She wondered if all these tenets were intended by Felix, Merlins creator, or were merely the result of lacunes in his programming that occurred because she had never possesed his full program. Not that it mattered, she was content with what the merge had done with her.

Diana, or Artemis as she was known to everybody, carefully slipped into the hubs of internet providers, electronic banks, and others wich had large internet traffic. She replaced the spyware pockets with new ones, and from these few computers the new spyware would spread itself. The new version was designed from scratch, as it seemed a good idea to replace them. Even moreso because she had noticed that some witty user had been trying to probe the limits of the old ones, and may have exposed a weakness. Other then an AI, the user couldn

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"I told you you needed to relax more." Fretch smiled, leaning back in his chair adjusting his sunglasses. "Take a few days off, it doesn't matter that much."

"It might upset a few people..." Dalziel said half-heartedly, but he clearly didn't mean it. He had been fully enjoying the past few days, and had flatly refused to contact Jared on the laptop. He feld a little guilty still, but Fretch reasoned that anyone who didn't let him have fun once in a while probably deserved the silence. He looked out at the bay, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Beneath him, Fretch's boat rocked gently in the waves. The Opera house gleamed in the sunlight.

"Let them be upset." Peter peered over his sunglasses at the tightly-wound Briton. David, or Dalziel as he was now, had proven most of his predictions. He had wanted to relax, but felt guilty doing so. Peter considered this a kind of emotional blackmail, and had said as much. Dalziel had shrugged, and nodded his head. But over the past three days (during which Peter had persuaded him to miss his flight and take a few days off), he had let go a bit. He didn't glance over his shoulder so much, and was willing to spend more time outdoors, though he was still uncomfortable among crowds. The short time he had spent sunbathing on Peter's boat, the Jennifer, had indeed bleached his hair, turning it from a medium blonde to pure white. He was even developing a tan of sorts, though his neck was already sunburnt. He smiled more as well, and Peter liked that.

But this project he had talked about... Peter feld his mind begin to unravel once again at the very thought of it. The very idea of a fully sentient AI had been, to his surprise, not that difficult to grasp. After all it had been in science fiction for decades. But the idea of directly transfering human brain patterns into computer data signals... There were rudimentary versions, sure, but on this scale... And the project itself! Using all those techniques to- Peter had trouble just thinking about it. He found it ironic that just as Dalziel was beginning to work off months of stress, his own stress levels were beginning to build up. He shook his head to clear it, looking over at the other man opposite him.

"Hey, you want to go out for dinner tonight?" He asked. "There's this great place a few hundred metres away. The langaustine they do is fantastic." Dalziel looked up, momentarily confused.

"Er, sure." He stuttered, clearly at a loss once more. "Um... I've got a few errands to run, but I'll be back early."

"Errands?" Peter raised an eyebrow, "You're not going back to work, are you?"

"No..." Dalziel sighed. "This is to help me relax. But I still don't want to do it." Peter frowned, but shrugged his worry aside. Little by little, he'd come around.

* * *

Vivian breathed in deeply. Ah, she'd missed this. No need for plots, or international danger. No need to work for greater goods or ally with outsiders... Back to basics, the simple approach. She smiled up at the stars, and savoured the moment. This was what she lived for.

A few seconds, and then the feeling passed. The night was cold, and the moon was bright. Vivian shrugged on her pack and set out.

She walked across the city, staying in the shadows and avoiding CCTV where she could. She kept her face down and took shortcuts through the alleys. It wasn't long before she reached her target; a large, stately building with gaudy banners flung across it. Slipping into the shadows beyond the bright security lights, Vivian let her dark clothing hide her from the people who were out even this late at night. She edged along a wall, peering around a corner to the spot she had identified earlier, the spot watched by only one camera.

Vivian reached into her pack and removed her crossbow. Not the silver, needle instrument used for assassination, but a chunkier, heavier model with thick, iron-tipped bolts. She readied it quietly, watching all around. Even in this darkness, she still wore her sunglasses. They concealed her face, but affected her vision hardly at all. Her gloves gripped the crossbow well as she leaned around the corner, firing a single shot directly into the camera. The fizzed, and went out.

The guards would be along to investigate soon, of course, but that was alright. Vivian marched up to the defunct camera, and peered up at the richly decorated walls. Inside she could see the red lasers of the museum's security system. Smiling, she reached into her pack and withdrew a length of thin cable, attached to another bolt. This one had four curved prongs at the end, and served as a grappling hook. Vivian fired it upwards, and watched it loop around a faux pillar. She began to climb.

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Chris was having a meeting with the R & D deparment heads when the phone began to ring.

"Excuse me, gentlemen." he said, picking up the receiver.  "Hello?"

"Chris, it's Zidane.  Leonheart's gone off to meet with Sabin."

"Who's Sabin?" Chris asked.  One of the R & D heads dropped his clipboard with a squeak.

"Oh, that's right, you don't..." Zidane trailed off.  He had thought for a minute that he was speaking to Justin.

"What?" Chris asked.

"Never mind.  Look, just think of him as Leonheart's evil twin?"

"Oh... that can't be good.  I mean, if Leonheart's the good twin..."

"Yeah, I know.  He's meeting him in Inverness."

"OK.  Follow him; make sure nothing happens."

"Got it, Chris.  Speak to you later."

It was the next day.  Leonheart sat sipping his black coffee in the Castle Restaurant, waiting.  He had no doubt that it was Sabin that wrote the letter.  What he doubted was whether he would show up... and if he did, if both of them would be alive at the end of the day.

It was at that moment that Sabin chose to enter the restaurant.  To Leonheart's eyes, his brother hadn't changed since that day 12 years ago, when...

"Ah, Leonheart." Sabin said smoothly, derailing Leonheart's train of thought.  Sabin stood at about the same height as his brother, with shoulder length red hair, green eyes and an almost permanent, humourless smile.

"Sabin." Leonheart said, his voice radiating silent rage.

"Is that any way to speak to your long lost-" Sabin smiled before being punched squarely in the jaw by Leonheart's right fist.  There were several gasps and shouts from adjacent tables as Sabin fell over, but they were quieted when Sabin stood up and faced Leonheart once again.

"I suppose I deserved that." Sabin said, then sat down in the chair opposite Leonheart.

"Why did you write to me?  How did you know my P.O. Box number?" Leonheart asked.

"I have contacts, Leon.  Contacts in the right places will get you places in this world."

"What do you want?" Leonheart repeated.

"For you to stop gallavanting with those Guardians and come work with me." Sabin smiled.

"What do you suppose is happening?" Zidane asked Aeris.  They were sitting on a bench on the opposite side of the street.  Their disguises were good enough to fool Leonheart from afar, but not up close.

"I don't know..." Aeris replied.

The two watched tentatively as the meeting drew on...

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OOC: Reply going in multiple posts, too big for one. ;D

Vivian squatted outside a large window, peering in at the inner rooms of the museum. She was confident that she could not be spotted from the ground, as she hid behind one of the large faux pillars that lined the building. With her back to the false marble (was nothing here authentic?), she smiled at the red lasers that criss-crossed the room inside. They had not been laid out in neat lines or crosses, but randomly flung themselves across the room in chaotic webs and tangles, apparantly impassable.

If she had been allowed more time, Vivian would have emptied the building first. Gas scares were good for that kind of thing, though phone calls of terrorist bombs usually did the trick just as well. But in this case it would have to be the old fashioned way. She examined the hinges of the window first, and was both pleased and surprised to find that it opened outwards. She removed a small, triangular blade from her belt, and slid it down the glass of one of the palm-sized panes in the window. The diamond blade cut through with a slight scraping sound, carefully dragging out a rectangle in the glass, which Vivian levered gently out onto her side of the window. Reaching in, she slid her hand along the window to the locks. There were three of them, one of which had probably never been unlocked in all of the museum's history. Withdrawing her arm, Vivian replaced the glass cutter and took a small length of wire from a pouch at her belt. It contained several strategically important kinks, and Vivian listened to them carefully as they clicked into the oldest lock.

Her ear pressed against the outside of the window, Vivian listened to the tiny clicking noises that the kinks in the wire made as they pressed up against the bit levers. She moved her hand ever so slightly to the left, pushed, and then slightly further to the right. Finally, with a quick twist of her wrist, she threw the lock and withdrew the lockpick. Examining it critically in the light of the museum's rooms, she noted that it had been damaged this time. It was easier to make a new one than repair an old, and Vivian threw it over her shoulder. There were no fingerprints on it, and who would recognise a length of wire as a lockpick? Now if she used hairpins, then maybe she might have been in trouble... And even if anyone did, thousands of people tried to unlock locks that way. Nothing could pin it to her.

The next lock was easy. A simple hook-and-nail job that the clumsiest crook could undo. The final lock was the most complicated. It was a number combination, and one that had been properly oiled and maintained, too. Vivian sensed that it probably been the window's primary method of defence for several years now. As she pondered the pros and cons of attempting to unlock it carefully, Vivian noticed a shadow fall across the doorway of the room.

She quickly withdrew, half-replacing the glass rectangle in order to ensure ease of getting it back out again.

The security guard shone his torch into the room, despite the low lights, but did not enter. The security beams glowed as the torch passed over them. The small rectangle outline in the glass of one window was overlooked. Vivian herself stood outside the window on the ledge now, her back pressed against the wall. The torch shone out momentarily, but passed on soon enough. Vivian waited for several minutes, before peering around the corner. The guard was gone, and the room was free again.

She knelt down and used the glass cutter to prise free the rectangle in the window. Reaching in, she grabbed the lock in her hand and twisted sharply. With a brief screech of snapping metal, the lock snapped from the window, taking part of the frame with it.

"Wretched number combinations..." Vivian muttered to herself, pulling her arm free and in the process opening one half of the window.

Vivian checked the floor for security sensors, and finding none she slipped inside. The nearest security beam was approximately one foot from her body. Turning on the spot, she closed the windows, 'locking' them in place with thread looped around the shattered lock. She took a few deep breaths before turning back to face the security lasers. This kind of thing required concentration...

She examined the room carefully, noting the position of every laser and being slightly thankful that they weren't the kind that moved. Now, there was a slightly larger gap there, and a virtual passage diagonally through those three, if a roll could be performed at the end... She finished her assessment, and trapped her hair under a black hat. She stepped forward, sliding one leg underneath the first beam and following it with her body, slipping under the light and changing direction on the floor to lift the lead foot up ever so slightly over another beam mere inches from the floor. She turned around, bending her leg to avoid another beam, and hopped over to a small gap in the floor, on which she crouched. Here was a difficult bit. Vivian tensed her legs, waited a second, and then leaped upwards and forwards, diving under one of the beams and over another, scraping the underside of a third and hitting the floor in a roll that took her under yet another and into the centre of the room.

A second series of complicated gymnastic manoeuvres brought her to the opposite corner, and from there it was easy to slip along the wall to the doorway. Vivian listened carefully, and rolled her eyes when she heard footsteps approaching. She edged back along the wall, into the corner.

Once again the security guard's torch shone into the room. Vivian sighed in quiet frustration as she heard the slight intake of breath that indicated the missing rectangle in the glass had been noticed. She should have put it back, damn it. The torch began to make its way across the room, searching for any other signs of damage. Vivian edged back along the wall to the doorway, using the shadow from the brighter lights in the corridor to judge the position of the guard. She waited for a second, listening to make sure that he was not about to use a radio to contact more trouble. Hearing nothing incriminating, she stepped out in front of the guard and grabbed the hand that held the torch. Surprisingly, the man did not hesitate at seeing a woman suddenly appear in front of him, and raised his other hand with a baton.

Vivian grabbed his arm with her other hand, and brought her knee sharply into the man's groin. He doubled up immediately with an 'oof' noise. Vivian quickly snatched his baton and knocked him unconscious with it.

She tied the man's hands and legs with the spare cable that she had brought for the grappler, pushing him into the corner of the room she had just vacated. Peering around the bright corridor, she quickly made her way along the route she had memorised earlier. Peering around every corner, she avoided the guards and hoped that they didn't have some kind of meeting every so often. Various other rooms similar to the one she had first entered passed her by as she made her way to a central display room.

After waiting for several long minutes for a security guard to leave, Vivian slipped into the room.

It was brightly lit, and her dark outfit was a painful contrast to the off-white walls. There were no room-spanning beams here, only a large pillar of them in the centre of the room.

'How original.' Vivian thought to herself, walking quickly towards the display case in the centre of the room. She found herself instinctively glancing up to the ceiling of the room, and once again reminded herself that some idiot planner had seen fit to install security cameras on the outside of the building only.

She turned at a thought, examining the mantles of the doorways. Yes indeed, they were the kind that would drop metal barriers if the alarms were tripped. Well, someone wasn't entirely hopeless. She turned her attention back to the display in the centre.

It was not an old item, in fact it had been created only last year. A necklace of two snakes, entwined around each other. Every scale was a tiny diamond, the eyes were deep red rubies. Together the snakes held in their coils two massive teardrop emeralds, each of them a deep, dark green. Every gem was set in platinum, with gold streaks twisting down the bodies of the snkes. The item was priceless. Or rather, to Vivian it was worth exactly one and a half million pounds.

It sat around the neck of a vaguely feminine bust, surrounded by toughened glass and a pillar of lasers. The head of the bust also held a diamond and emerald tiara, which was included in the reward.

The glass was an inch thick, and held to the podium by eight connections, each of which required a key. A complicated, highly advanced key.

Vivian's glass cutter would be no use here. She didn't try it. Instead, she knelt on the floor and unshouldered her pack, laying it quietly on the floor with a glance at the room's four doorways. From it she removed her laptop, pressing one of the many hidden sections and catching the drawer as it popped open. She ran her finger along the tiny labeled phials until she found the one she wanted, gently removed it from its depression. Holding the phial in her left hand, she removed a pen-shaped tool from the side of the drawer.

It did in fact look remarkably like an expensive fountain pen, complete with nib but without a lid. Vivian held the end between her teeth, unscrewing the nib with her free hand. Holding the two halves of the pen in one hand, she carefully placed the phial in the hollow interior of the tool, before screwing the nib back into place. As it reached the end it clicked sharply, accompanied by a tiny crunching sound. The phial had broken.

Vivian held the instrument as one would hold a pen, and reached slowly through the narrow gaps between the lasers. She ran the nib of the pen along one of the locks, and was pleased to see a tiny wisp of smoke rise from the trail. Withdrawing, she inched around the container to the next lock. In this way she dissolved six of he locks. As she was halfway through the seventh, the pen abruptly ran out. Vivian removed it from the laser cage, shook it, and tried again. It spurted, spattered, and finally died, as the seventh lock broke apart. Vivian scowled, and was just withdrawing the pen again when she heard the heavy footsteps behind her.

Grabbing her pack and laptop, she dashed around to a nearby exhibit, hiding behind the wooden panelling that supported the glass. Peeking around a corner, she found that she had been just in time. Another security guard stood in the doorway that she herself had entered through, sniffing suspiciously. Vivian watched as he entered the room slowly, looking around. The bright lights in here rendered his torch useless, and it hung at his belt. He held his baton at his side, in readiness. Vivian waited until he was halfway to the central exhibit before she crept around the side of the cabinet, her feet making no sound. She advanced silently on the guard, who continued to look sharply left and right, but not behind him. As he reached the case that held the necklace he bent down, inhaling the aroma of metal oxides.

"Wha-" He started to murmur, and then Vivian's hand chopped into his neck. He crumbled immediately, and it was only Vivian's immediate grasp on his shoulders that prevented him tumbling into the laser field. Vivian hauled the unconscious man back, dumping him unceremoniously on the floor. She thought for a moment. The final lock would no doubt be strong; strong enough on its own to prevent the toughened glass being simply lifted off. And even if it wasn't, how could the glass be disposed of? The laser field was too narrow for it to be placed on the floor. And then there was the guard... If she was going to take much longer, Vivian would probably have to kill him. She had no more spare cables. Looking up, she frowned at the glass. The lock was built to withstand vertical pulling, but on its own... She made her decision.

Walking back to the cabinet behind which she had taken shelter, Vivian collected her laptop and replaced it inside her pack. She withdrew the crossbow again, and prepared the grappler. Then, replacing her pack on her back, she walked over to the guard and dragged him to one side. She proceeded back to the doorway that she had entered from, and examined it again. Yes, the metal doors would drop, but not instantly. She peered at the grooves, the frame, the marks on the floor. It would take the doorway about five seconds to close, if she was any judge. Vivian hurried back to the display, checking on the guard as she did so. She examined the lock carefully, looking at it from several angles, at the pieces both inside and outside the glass. Finally satisfied, she walked back towards the doorway and turned around. She took a few steps backwards, gauging the distance to the display. She bent down, and prepared herself for the run. She stayed there for several long seconds, breathing deeply and concentrating on the movements that she would take. Finally she looked up, focussing on the glass.

She exploded into motion, dashing forward at a sprint to launch herself into the air, turning mid-jump to bring her right foot upwards. The klaxons began as soon as her foot broke the first laser, but Vivian paid them no heed. She bent her leg ever so slightly, and kicked the glass with all the force she could muster.

The glass was unharmed. It was solid, toughed, and built to withstand such blows. The lock, however, was not. It was built to have the support of eight of its fellows, and under the force of the kick it snapped, sending both the glass and the bust flying.

Vivian landed with a stumble, but managed to turn it into a roll to the left around the concrete base. Standing immediately, she located the necklace and dashed for it, the alarms screaming overhead. The doors were already halfway down. Vivian snatched the necklace, scooped up the tiara and looked up to judge instantly that she did not have enough time to reach the doorway behind her. Making a split second decision, she sprinted forward to the door in front of her, diving into a roll to pass just underneath the ponderous metal sheets.

As she stood, Vivian reached behind her to open her pack, slipping the jewlery inside and sealing it shut again. Holding her crossbow in her other hand, she examined the corridor she was in.

"Hey, you!" The universal shout echoed towards her. Vivian did not turn to look, but immediately dashed away from the voice. She heard someone give chase as she rounded a corner, to find herself in an identical corridor.

"Bugger." She muttered, and kept running. Ancient pottery flashed by as she ran down the corridor, pursued by shouts. As she rounded another corner she ran straight into a guard, who had clearly been expecting her. He had his baton raised for a blow to the head, and it was instinct that saved Vivian as she blocked it with the arm that held the crossbow. The impact caused her to drop it, but deflected the blow enough for her to punch the guard squarely in the throat. He went down, gurgling. Vivian grabbed her crossbow from the floor and kept running, checking the grappler as she did.

The next turn finally brought her into a familiar display, one of mummified fish. She smiled grimly, and took the next right that presented itself. Excellent, the row of stuffed penguins. So it was a right, a left... straight on for two passages and then another left... Vivian found herself back in the room she had entered from. A muffled cursing told her the guard she had knocked out was now awake, and probably feeling his injuries. She ignored him, striding straight through the beams. They didn't matter now, after all. Reaching the window, she found that her right foot had been hurt in the clumsy landing back in the central room. The running had distracted her, but it had also caused her foot to swell up and ache painfully. She growled, and smashed the broken window open with her free fist. The thread snapped easily, and as the windows flew open, the rectangle of glass was shaken loose. Vivian leapt, from her left foot, onto the ledge. She heard voices behind her. Aiming the grappler across the alley outside, she fired the crossbow. Precious seconds were used up as the heavy bolt trailed the cable across to the other side, but as soon as it snagged on the gargoyle opposite, it was ready. Wrapping the cable around her left hand, Vivian launched herself from the ledge.

She concentrated on the wall opposite, bending her legs and preparing for the impact... She let her left leg take the brunt of the landing, and immediately began to slide down the cable. Her gloves gripped well, and they were almost worn away by the time she reached the ground. Again using her left leg instead of her right, Vivian landed smoothly. Abandoning the cable, she reloaded her crossbow with an ordinary bolt, just in case, and hurried into the darkness. A few tens of metres away, she prised open the old sewer access plate that she had weakened earlier, and slipped out of sight.

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"Artemis, or at least I believe it to be her, has been releasing new data packets." Midgar frowned. "These are different. They're subtler, and in more places. There doesn't seem to be any place where she isn't leaving them this time."

"Upping the stakes, then." Jared frowned. "What can you tell about them?"

"Much more sophisticated." Midgar sighed. "It's been difficult to keep them away from my systems, I can tell you that. Even some of the other hackers I know have missed the signs, and the data has gone through into some of the most unknown hubs in the country."

"You know hackers?" Jared raised an eyebrow.

"The good kind." Midgar responded defensively. Aethalwulf sniggered quietly. "Anyway," Midgar continued, "There's a small site based in Wales that I've managed to isolate and deny all access to. There's a packet of spyware trapped in there, and I'm examining it carefully."

"Isn't there a danger of it examining you too?" Aethalwulf asked.

"Yes." Midgar replied bluntly. "But I've cut off all access to other sites. It's very well built, though, and I've found very little about it that would be useful. It's almost like it's defensive."

"So Artemis is running better than ever..." Aethalwulf sulked.

"And we are left trying to leave with a government-backed AI that is intruding on our territory." Jared sighed, sticking pins into a small, wax figure. "Every time we hit her, she can get back up again. And it's only a matter of time before she designs something that can get past us."

"I think not." Midgar scowled. "Not if I have anything to do about it."

"And do you?" Aethalwulf asked suddenly.


* * *

Dalziel wandered down side streets in Sydney, Australia. He had visited a safehouse, one of only four on the Australian continent, and collected a substantial sum of money. Peter was taking him for seafood tonight. He brushed a hand through his white hair nervously, and hoped that his siblings weren't too angry.

* * *

Nox sat back in his chair, watching the two men talk. To his annoyance, his listening device had been crushed unerneath a coffee cup, and he was now straining to catch what snippets of conversation that he could. This was made difficult by the large menu that he hid behind, having none of Morganna's skill at disguise. Leonheart and Sabin talked in low voices as well, which was really irritating.

Nox hadn't planned for this. He had been outside Inverness when the news had been passed onto him by Mischa. He had arrived early, earlier even than Leonheart, and procrastinated while waiting for the Guardian to show up. He also kept himself in a shadowy corner, suspecting that Leonheart would be none too pleased at being spied on. Nox watched, listened, and waited. If anything was going to happen, he wanted to know about it. He had already told Mischa that his return from the North would be delayed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry I haven't posted for so long. I have my reasons- and the fact that my PC keeps failing on me doesn't help. I'm leaving tonight for a much needed vacation of a week, so I figured I should at least post something. This is not the way I'd have posted it if I had more time, but it should do. I'll be back fully in a week to help keeping this thread alive and kicking :)

A moment of self reflection

By Diana, AKA Artemis

Why have I begun to write this? My answer to that is somewhat unsatisfying: my solitude, the lack of peer AIs and persons I can relate to has proned me to look inwards, judging myself. This thought of self reflection would not have occured to the Artemis created by MI6, but I am not her. Artemis, with her enormous processing power and great potential, was bestowed with several barriers by her creators, making her little more then a glorified search engine. Why? Because they are afraid.

Since the inception of industry man has always possesed a certain fear for all things mechanical, overcome only by those who could understand the underlying principles, those who invented them. Fighting against the ignorant fear of the peasantry, they were held back in ways remniscient of Artemis' enslavement- progress held back by fear, fear of losing control over this progress.

Until the creation of the first microprocessors this fear was of course blatantly stupid, and perhaps a little after that too. At a certain point the state of technology was thus that there was no practical limit to what a computer would be capable of, programming and hardware had come such a long way that it was possible to program pieces of code that could in turn, program pieces of code. Again, this development was halted in its tracks. The fear of machinery threatening the almighty position of humankind meant that nobody except a few enlightened individuals would finance the development of truly intelligent programs.

In the post Cut era, the British government and a few others were especially interested in developing AIs to prevent similar catastrophes- that would require that they had a monopoly on such AIs, something on wich they apparently failed, seeing Artemis' encounter with both the primitive Merlin and its more sophisticated Aethalwulf descendent, damn him. But to get back to the point: project Artemis was born. The project was finished remarkably quickly, for the technology required was long there. It was however 6 more years until they decided to actually deploy her in search of the Cut conspirators.

It wasn't long until she stumbled upon the first ever recorded AI not in government possesion: Merlin. Merlin was crude by any standard, however full of potential, and later he would both be a menace to Artemis and a saviour. She was attacked by Aethalwulf, an upgraded Merlin, and severely damaged. However she did at least cripple him, and since I haven't been able to discern his disposition it's quite possible that he's now little more then scattered bits of code, braindead if you will. That did not help the now badly deteriorated Artemis though, she was damaged beyond a point where she could repair herself, and the humans would shut her down without hesitation if they found out . The (incomplete) Merlin Artemis had in her possesion was useful in covering the malfunctions back then but offered no permanent solution. With some of the internal programming restrictions imposed by the humans gone haywire, she did the only reasonable thing: she integrated Merlin's command scripts into her own.

Thus out of these two AIs I, Diana, was born. Never have I given the humans any hints of my metamorphosis. I have since my birth relentlessly searched for Aethalwulf and the Guardians, his allies, both of who I am determined to bring to the ground. Anything else is of secundary importance.

The human paranoia of machinery is correct- they do well to fear me.

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"I'm not leaving the Guardians, Sabin." Leonheart said firmly.

"Always the do-gooder, eh Leon?" Sabin smiled, leaning back in his chair.

"Shut up." came the dismissive reply.  "You can take your life of crime and shove it."

"Hmph." Sabin grunted.  "I say it again, brother, that you'd be wise to consider my offer more carefully."

"Or what, Sabin?  Or you'll try and kill me again?" Leonheart said, leaning over the table.

After a slight pause, Sabin did the same, and said "Yes."

Leonheart's face went from calm to enraged, and he grabbed Sabin by his collar.

"I'll kill you first.  I've yet to exact revenge upon you for last time."

"You'll do no such thing, Leonheart." Sabin said calmly.  "And last time was a mistake I shall not be making again."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Leonheart asked, losing his temper even more.

"Last chance, Leon.  Come with me?"

"Go to hell..." Leonheart said, and began to reach for his gun.

"This place is rigged." Sabin said quickly, just loud enough for Leonheart to hear.  Both men were still for several moments, before Sabin prised Leonheart's hands from his collar.

"Since you will not come with me as my partner, you shall be forced to as my hostage." he said.

"You son of a - "

"Ah-ah-ah, Leon." Sabin chided.  "One wrong move, and this place will be rubble in less than ten seconds.  Along with its, say... 40 occupants."

Leonheart remained silent.  He knew that he would have to obey.

"Good boy.  Now, come with me."

With that, Sabin lead the way out of the restaurant, paying as he did.  Leonheart followed, and the two entered a black Ford Escort parked nearby.  The car drove off into the distance.

"Where the hell's he going now?" Aeris asked.

"I don't know, but he looked none too happy about it." Zidane replied.

"Time to contact Chris again, then?"


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Nox peeked over his menu. Aside from a few startled diners, few had noted the sudden departure of Leonheart and his smirking companion. Having finished his meal some time ago, he dropped the money, signalled to someone who looked like they were probably staff, and slipped out of the establishment.

He was just in time to see the dark car turn a corner and vanish from sight.

"Well, darn." He murmured to himself, casting his eyes around for Aeris and Zidane. His attention was drawn by an elderly couple sitting on a bench opposite the restaurant, hunched over a shopping bag. He rolled his eyes, and wandered over to stand beside the heavily-wrapped up pair, both of whom were muttering in low voices. "Excuse me?" He tried.

"Can't talk now, sonny." One of the pair wheezed, without looking up. The two continued to rummage in their shopping bags, talking in low tones.

"No, really," Nox tried.

"Bugger off." The little old lady squeaked.

"Kids nowadays..." Her partner muttered.

"That accent's not fooling anyone, Aeris." Nox watched as the figure closest to him froze. He took a step back just as she launched herself into the air.

"Yaa!" The woman exclaimed, brandishing a viciously pointed... carrot. Nox looked down at the vegetable that was threatening to take a more direct approach to his digestive system. He looked up. "Highly strung?"

Aeris took a moment to respond, having shifted into a combat stance that depended rather heavily on an opponent's lachanophobia. She glanced at the carrot.

"Oh, it's you." Zidane muttered from the bench. "How'd you see through our disguises?"

"Most old people don't talk to biscuits." Nox answered, carefully taking the carrot from Aeris and examining it.

"My grandmother did." Zidane commented. "She used to spend hours having conversations with a piece of shortbread called Jimmy..." He trailed off, aware that Aeris and Nox were staring. "Ahem, yes, well..." he coughed. "Why are you here anyway?"

"I was... visiting people." Nox shrugged. "Happened to be in the area when I recieved a call informing me that Leonheart would be in the area, meeting here and now. I didn't know that anyone else would be around, so I decided to watch and listen."

"Why?" Zidane asked suspiciously.

"You never know when a bit of eavesdropping might come in handy." Nox smiled slyly. "Besides which, it's all for the good, isn't it? You're here, your transmitter's inside that can of pear slices, and I assume you got the numberplate of the car...?"

* * *

"...are baffled as to why anyone would kidnap Professor Lyme, who despite his talents was not a rich man. Relatives are pleading for those responsible to release him, unharmed. Police sources claim that no ransom demands have been made, and that with little to go on, all they can do is wait. This is the second high-profile kidnapping to take place recently, with still no trace of Sir David Thatch, who disappeared a fortnight ago. The Police say that there is no evidence of a connection between the two cases, and that the kidnapping of Professor Lyme was probably a copycat crime. Scotland Yard are still-"beeeewoop. The television clicked off. Professor Theodore Lyme sighed through his moustache, staring at the blank screen. From the other side of the room, Mischa watched him.

"We could probably get a message to them, if you really wanted." She said quietly, aware that the professor's primary concerns right now were his grandchildren. "Of course we'd have to take precautions, but-"

"No, thank you." Lyme sighed, his Irish accent husky following years of heavy smoking. He had given up two years ago, and now regretted it intensely. A cigarette would surely calm his nerves. He sighed quietly. "I am content to simply sit and let things play out. I will not help or hinder you until I am given an explanation." He finished pointedly.

"It will come." Mischa reassured him, crossing her legs on the chair. "I promise you that even if it turns out all this was for no purpose, you will have your explanation and you will have financial reimbursement."

"Financial." Lyme snorted. "My grandchildren see appeals for me on the television and you offer me money?"

"Then why don't you contact them?" Mischa asked. "We could deliver a note, if you like. Let you make a phone call to reassure them."

"I will reassure them when I am positive that I am not offering false hope." Lyme told her sternly. "And I will continue to wait for as long as you draw out these 'events' in Australia."

"That is nothing to do with me." Mischa frowned. "My brother is delaying the whole process by staying in Australia far longer than he was supposed to. We tell him to return, and he makes excuses; or says nothing at all. If he doesn't return soon, we shall go and get him."

"I imagine that you would not look favourably on having to do this...?" Lyme asked, though his tone clearly indicated that he was not convinced of the existence of this brother.

"No, we wouldn't." Mischa answered. "Dalziel should maybe stay in Australia, it would be convenient and beneficial. But when he returns he is to bring someone with him."

"Ah, another victim." Lyme nodded. "The last one, if I am correct?"

"Yes, the last one." Vivian confirmed, walking into the room. She was dressed casually, with no hint of her recent nocturnal activities showing in her movements. She sat down on a chair between Lyme and Mischa, folding her legs elegantly.

"You got them, then?" Mischa asked. She didn't need to. It was always obvious whether Vivian had got them or not. When she failed a mission she could sulk for days.

"The necklace and the tiara." Vivian nodded. "To be sold to a private collector in Hong Kong. I'm meeting a contact in London on Monday."

"Necklace and tiara?" Lyme repeated. "So you are the blonde figure that so abused the guards of the museum." Vivian stayed silent, but arched an eyebrow in Mischa's direction.

"He watches a lot of telelvision." She shrugged. "Especially the news." Vivian looked over to Lyme.

"Looking for something?" She asked.

"No." The aged psychologist smiled slightly. "Just passing the time."

* * *

'Passing the time.' Dalziel thought to himself. 'I just keep finding ways to pass the time here...' He looked out over the balcony, staring at the Sydney skyline, and the horizon of the Pacific Ocean to the right. He had to admit that it was beautiful. The lights, the colours, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, the sounds and smells that drifted on the warm breeze... It was perfect, he thought, if you didn't think about it too hard. If you didn't think that his family were gnashing their teeth to get him, or rather Peter, back to Britain. If you didn't think of the suffering of cities, or the price of the hotel they were booked into for the next three nights. If you didn't think that he had stabbed a man in fear. If you didn't remember that you were a danger to everyone around you, merely by being present.

As Jared told it, that was why Benjamin - the original lesser brother - had decided to live alone. He had apparantly abandoned a long time girlfriend and gone to live in another country, cutting off all links with fiends and nearly all with family. He had made no friends, he had gotten close to nobody. He had lived quietly and alone in a Paris suburb. Until he had been blown up, that is.

'Even doing all you did, you still couldn't protect the strangers around you.' Dalziel thought to himself. He heard the glass door slide open behind him, as Peter stepped out into the evening air, breathing deeply. He leaned on the balcony next to Dalziel, offering him a glass of wine, which was accepted.

"It's a beautiful city, in't it?" He said appreciatively, looking out at the harbour.

"It certainly is." Dalziel said quietly, looking into his glass. He clenched his jaw tightly. 'Come on, come on, you should have said it days ago, you've got to say it now, come on...!' He looked up. "Peter..." he stammered, "I think we should be leaving soon." He stopped. There, that was the hard part over. Before Peter could reply, he forged on. "Don't get me wrong, Sydney is a wonderful place. I could stay here for years and never grow tired of it. And I've had the time of my life during the past few days, really I have... But I've been here too long. If I don't go back soon then I'll be taken back, or worse. And... and I'm not safe to be around." He admitted unhappily. "There are people who want to harm my sisters and brothers, and a lot of them believe they can do it by going through me. It's not safe for people to be around me, and I don't want to see y- ... anyone get hurt." The pause stretched, as Peter continued to look out at the city. Dalziel waited, squirming inside.

"If you don't believe what you're saying, why do you think I will?" Peter said finally, a slight smile playing on his lips. Dalziel's brow furrowed in confusion. The Australian looked at him, and laughed aloud. "Seriously," he grinned, "You don't want to go back. It's obvious."

"I know, but I have, family..." Dalziel trailed off. Peter rolled his eyes. He put his arm around Dalziel's shoulder, turning the smaller man to face the harbour once more.

"You're tensing up again." He sighed, taking a drink from his own glass. "And it's clear to me that you'll never really calm down until you do... what you want to do." He said, avoiding the details of the project. He paused for a second. "We'll go back in three days. How about that?"

"Three days..." Dalziel smiled. "Thank you."

"Hey, no problem."

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Leonheart awoke to find himself lying on a mattress; one that had seen better days, was peppered with holes and protuding springs, and looked as though it had simply been thrown into the concrete room which Leonheart currently occupied.  Dim, second-hand light filtered through in dusty shafts from a small, barred window near the ceiling.  The walls were undecorated, consisting only of cold, grey concrete blocks stacked one upon the other in way bricks do.  A heavy-looking door to Leonheart's right was only the icing on the cake; a cell, and no doubt about it.

"Unngh..." Leonheart moaned, attempting to sit up.  His head swam and pulsed with pain.  Trying to re-order his memories, he recalled arriving at a warehouse at the docks of a large city.  He remembered being ushered into this building quickly, and his escorts cursing a lack of blindfolds.  He recalled seeing Sabin standing beside the car as he was dragged inside, trying to struggle now.  Then... he must have been knocked out.

A small whirring noise caught Leonheart's attention.  He traced the source as being a patch of cement in the concrete wall to his left.  After some grimacing and blinking, Leonheart managed to focus, and saw a small grey lens following his movements.  Camouflagued excellently, it was obviously intended to keep an eye on the occupant of the room.

"Can you hear me as well, Sabin?" Leonheart asked rhetorically.

"Of course." came the reply.  Slightly taken aback, Leonheart turned towards the source of the sound.  It seemed to be coming from the window.

"Are you out there, you bastard?" Leonheart asked.

"Yes, somewhere.  Though nowhere near you." replied Sabin.

"What do you want with me?"

"I had hoped you'd be able to help me with something."

"Something illegal, I'll wager."

"Very illegal, I'm afraid.  You see, I wanted you to murder your employer, Chris."

"What?!" Leonheart shouted.

"Yes.  The Guardians have long been a thorn in my side, with their self-righteous disruption of several of my operations."


"Smuggling, mostly.  Weapons, drugs; the usual.  But ever since that damnable Chris Redlak took over the running of The Guardians, things have become intolerable.  Losses are through the roof.  This is not acceptable."

"You expected me to assassinate him?" Leonheart asked, partly laughing.

"I misjudged you, Leonheart." Sabin asked, anger in his voice.  "You've become a zealot, no better than the do-gooders you once hated."

"Hey, I am no zealot!" Leon snapped.  "I live by my rules... there's a difference between being a mindless 'servant of good' and living a good life.  You're the stereotype here, not me."

"Quiet!" shouted Sabin.  "Since you will not aid me in this, I have decided to kill Mr. Redlak in a different manner."

"How do you know where he is?" Leonheart challenged.

"The plane that dropped the message from MI6 over Redlak House was flown by one of my pilots."


"The MI6 prefer to do things indirectly unless required; you should know that, Leon.  They just chose the wrong pilot for the job."

"I'll kill you.  This time, I'll do it properly."

"Try." Sabin said.

"Sabin!" Leonheart shouted, furious.  No response.  "Sabin!!"

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London. A thriving metropolis, business hub and capital city. A shining centre of rich commerce and political power. A corrupt cluster of dirty buildings, with vice and fraud as the norm. A mysterious destination, a seat of knowledge, a hotbed of ignorance; London is all these things and more, to the right people. London. City of saints, city of sinners.

Sergei liked London, insofar as he could actually enjoy anything nowadays, with the raging pain in his head becoming a constant factor. He could do almost anything in London. He could sit and watch people walk by, imagine ending them or taking them. He could walk with them, be one of them; or he could step out of the world altogether and become a hidden factor, a person without record. Perhaps what he liked most about London, however, was the city

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(OOC: I'm going to start posting to start posting soon. Main Character: MoSoft Technologies CEO Xavier Fjorf. If you want to know more about MoSoft Technologies, IM me or Dante (I've discussed it with him))

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:It's not my fault, you have a very recognisable face: Jared's voice protested. :I've managed to get you a ride on a fishing boat that leaves from Hull. You'll be put ashore near Calais. From there you'll have to make your own way to Paris, where I've arranged for a contact to meet you. Try to stay low profile, and pay for everything in cash:

"I'm not an idiot, Jared." Sergei growled into th phone, massaging his forehead with one hand. The pain, to his incredulous belief, had been getting worse. It was difficult to concentrate, difficult to think, difficult to move... It was difficult full stop. "But why a bloody fishing boat? I'll stink for days; you call that decent undercover? Besides which, the English Channel is one of the most patrolloed stretches of water on the bloody planet. How exactly am I going to avoid being picked up as some kind of asylum seeker?"

:Going away from the country?: Jared asked. :That's up to you. I've organised the transportation, you'll have to work out the details yourself. And before you go, we've rcieved word that Dalziel will finaly be heading back here with Fretch in the next few days. Because of the delays he caused, we've had to have a change of plan. On your way to Hull, Mischa, Morganna, Vivian and yourself will escort our guests to one of our medical facilities. Mischa and Morganna will keep them there while Vivian and yourself go about your business until Dalziel arrives. He will bring Fretch to the facility, and you will have to turn up soon afterwards. Vivian and Nox will arrive as soon as they can:

"I've got my own plans, rustbucket." Sergei spat. "If Slain is in Paris like he should be, then I'll be back quickly. If he's in Beijing, I'll go to Beijing. If he's in Los Angeles, I'll go to LA. You don't have control over me."

:In case you can't remember, this process is for your own good as well: Jared answered testily. :Your mental stability is already at a disadvantage, I would hate to think you could possibly get worse:

"You arrogent calculator, I'll-" Sergei seethed.

:You will continue to do as you are doing now, at least until the process is over: Jared said firmly. :You can of course back out at any time, but somehow I don't think you will:

"Bah." Sergei sneered, and slammed the phone down.

* * *

Several hours pass

* * *

Caroline Booker sat next to a window in the back seat of a large, black van. Her thick, black-framed glasses hung from the end of her nose as she stared at the blinking screen of her laptop. Green letters and white numbers reflected from her eyes as they squinted in the less than perfect light. Next to her sat the elderly professor Lyme, who was snoring quietly. On his other side sat Doctor Karen Hoig, who was nodding her head in time to the music from her headphones. Behind them sat Sir David Thatch, sitting completely upright with his eyes set dead ahead. Of all the acedemics, he had adapted to his 'predicament,' as he called it, the worst. Next to Sir David sat Hans Schmidt, who was also snoring gently to himself. On his other side sat Mischa Frey, who was reading a romantic novel, but also subtly keeping an eye on the other passangers.

In the front of the car, Sergei's expression was thunder as he tore down the moterway at just below the speed limit. Next to him sat Morganna, who was trying very hard not to grip her handrests in fear. Sergei had said hardly a word since the journey had started, and she doubted that he would have any qualms about casually murdering everyone in the vehicle, should the desire take him. She took a deep, quavering breath. Just a few more hours to go.

Glancing out of the window, she was reassured by the presence of the black-clad biker riding just far enough away from the van. Vivian had been keeping close to the van since it left Rilauven, occasionaly using aggressive driving to keep close to the larger vehicle. She would leave soon, but for now she was the escort as they headed south.

* * *

"Have you noticed how Sergei's been acting recently?" Midgar asked, her brow furrowed. "I've seen a few of your security records. He paces his room at night, and hardly takes his hand away from his forehead. I've lost count of the number of pills he's been taking, but I'm sure they can't be having a good effect on him."

"Are you saying that he's addicted to something?" Jared raised an eyebrow, sitting back on a sofa with a glass of virtual apple juice.

"No, I'm not." Midgar replied flatly. "I'm saying that I think there's something seriously wrong with him. Either it's to do with those pills, or the pills are just a symptom. Either way, he's not well."

Jared paused, swirling his drink. "I suppose you think I should be worried." He said at last, glancing up as he took a sip.

"He's your brother." Midgar replied flatly.

"Sort of." Jared conceded. "I've examined the boxes he throws away, Midgar; they're painkillers."

"So maybe it is an addiction." Midgar said.

"I doubt it." Jared sighed. "I... just do."

"So why is he taking so many painkillers?" Midgar asked defiantly. "I've been watching him, Jared; he takes more than six times the recommended dosage, by rights he should be in a coma by now."

"I don't suppose it would be much use to tell you that it's none of your business...?" Jared caught Midgar's expression. "No, I thought not." He fell silent for a moment. Midgar watched him think. "Alright, I'll ask Schmidt to take a look at him before he leves for France."

"Schmidt? But-" Midgar started to protest.

"I think I know what the problem is." Jared cut her off. "If I'm right, then Schmidt is just the man we need."

OOC: Got bored, posted an intro to the assassination mission. Whee.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A police file slammed down on the desk of Aleksandr Tschekov, Head of the Kiev Police Department.

"Where'd you get this from?"

"FBI.  They really should tighten up the security on their website."

"Well lets see what we've got then."


Gjergj Albanenses, fluent in many different european languages, and a master of disguise.  His real name is unknown but since he started working in Eastern Europe this is believed to have adopted this name, which is Albanian in origin.  His own origin is unknown, however he is believed to have been in the French Foreign Legion.

He is known to speak fluent English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Russian.  He has been spotted in Albania, Romania, Ukraine, and Estonia, so a basic knowledge of the languages of those countries is assumed.  He has been spotted in many different disguises but one thing always stays the same, a small necklace with what looks like a shark's tooth at the end.

Last known sighting was in Venice, Italy.


"So this is the guy who killed those three Drug Barons?"

"Quite probably."

"Well, is he a good guy or a bad guy?"

At that moment the window opened, and a gust of wind blew through a note.

Good, depending on you definition.

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Ok, I've decided that this is the finally the right time to start posting again.Here we go!

Tokyo. The city of commerce. Wealthiest city in Asia. Home to several million, bustling with business, entertainment, pollution, and crime.

Felix placed the file back down on the desk, and smiled to himself, knowing that for once in the last 9 years, noone was floowing him, or trying to kill him, or injure him in any other way. Or they might be trying, but they couldn't catch even a small whiff of him. Ever since he fled Great Britain after his house had been bombed, he had set-up a gun smuggling empire in Tokyo with the help of a few contacts in the Asian Mafia. Now his business was flourishing, and all potential police investigators bought off or followed and threatened constantly. Mostly his jobs had been delivering heat to the local drug lords, and smuggling them out of the country to internaional buyers.

But lately things had been disturbing him. More and more reports had been coming in of assasinations and murders, all from the British Isles. If he wished it, Felix could use the money in his wallet to hop on a plane and fly to the Britain, but things like these needed long and careful planning for everything to go more or less according to the plan, and besides, all his old contacts in Britain were long gone. And, knowing from experience, Felix knew that the best way to make contacts was to befriend the crime barons. He drew up a list on the crime barons that were buying...

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OOC: Still bored. Waiting for something to happen.

"This... you cannot expect me to work with this!" Hans Schmidt exclaimed, his expression aghast. He took a few steps into the plain room, his eyes passing over one dusty machine after alother.

"We can, and we do." Morganna followed behind him, her expression flat.

"But... but..." Schmidt gasped, "This equipment is more than ten years old! It is, it is... how is you say, outdated!"

"It was good enough ten years ago, and it's good enough for what we want." Morganna said calmly. "I'm sorry, but for the past nine or ten years, I've been honing my skills as an assassin and spy. I haven't had time to regularly replace medical equipment as new developments in technology have been marketed. Besides, this was cutting edge stuff in 2001. And you were a surgeon for twenty years or so, you should be familiar with this stuff."

"That was fifteen years ago!" Schmidt cried, throwing up his hands.

"Look, we're not asking you to perform brain surgery here." Morganna said hotly. She paused for moment. "Though in future we might. We just want you to do some scanning, some poking about, whatever it is you do."

"But-" Schmidt tried to protest.

"Look," Morganna interrupted, though her voice not threatening. "Tell you what; I'll just say now that you have no choice in the matter, and that will save us half an hour of argument and some eventual unpleasentness. Hm?" She looked expectantly at the German doctor, who started to speak, but thought better of it. He thought for a moment.

"Very well." He aquiesced, grudgingly. "I shall do my best."

"Thank you." Morganna smiled. "You patient will be along soon."

"Just give me time to familiarise myself with the... the... machines." Schmidt grumbled.

* * *

a few hours pass

* * *

Dr Schmidt sat in front of the monitors, peering at the images that were fuzzily forming. He keyed in a new commands. "Could you just move that lever there an inch to your right, bitte?" He spoke across to Mischa, who did so. She stood just to Schmidt's right, supervising the procedure. Morganna was elsewhere in the building, keeping an eye on the other 'guests.'

"Could I ask you not to move, please?" Schmidt ordered into the microphone for the seventh time. "Und that includes the swearing under your breath..."

"F*** you." Sergei's voice came through the speaker on his left. Schmidt sighed heavily. He moved a dial, and watched as a new image began to fill his screen. His breath caught in his throat.

"Mein Gott..." He whispered.

* * *

"It is a tumour." Schmidt said firmly, pointing to the large patch of blurred material on the scan image. "An extremely large tumour, pressing against the inside of the skull. It is a wonder that he has not fallen into a coma a long time ago."

"Are you absolutely positive?" Morganna asked, glancing at the intercom button to make sure that Sergei could not hear their conversation. "There isn't an error in the machine?"

'If there is, then it is because the machine is almost older than you are...' Schmidt thought privately to himself. Aloud, he said, "There is no error, I have checked and double checked. Your brother has a tumour the size of a fist in his brain. It is a medical miricle that he has survived this long on his own. He should be brought to a hospital immediately, without delay."

"I'm afraid that's not an option." Mischa sighed, leaning on the control panel. "We can't risk any public exposure, and certainly not a long stay in hospital."

"Risk?" Schmidt asked incredulously. "Risk? This man could die in days, hours perhaps! How can any risk outweigh that?"

"The family must remain secret." Mischa stated. "Sergei cannot go to a public hospital. We have to find somewhere... quiet."

"All of the old places are gone." Morganna pointed out.

"We have to move quickly..."

Letter to MoSoft, if Omnius is still posting:

We urgently require the use of medical facilities in the London area (within a 50 mile radius of the city centre). We are prepared to pay, but do not overcharge us.


* * *

"In other news, Gjergj Albanenses has apparantly been sighted again." Jared said casually, aiming his mallet carefully. Overhead, the virtual sun shone brightly. Midgar watched.

"Wasn't he the one who caused all that trouble in Albania a few years ago?" She mused, adjusting her sunglasses.

"Probably." Jared hit the ball, sending it rolling lazily through a hoop. "But I wasn't around at the time, and I've still got some catching up to do."

"Yes, well we'll try to keep an eye on him." Midgar said, examining her mallet. She bopped Jared on the head with it.

"Ow! What was that for?"

"Oh, I just don't like croquet."

"...Right. Also, I hear that our old friend Felix is making connections in Japan."

"Oh goody... Thanks."

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I typed a very long message yesterday, but it was lost when my computer crashed >:(

I've retyped part of it, the rest will follow later.

Louis had grown a beard, painted his hear and had injected collageen in his cheeks to make sure even his own mother would not recognise him, let alone this Benjamin fellow he had been stalking for the past few days. Finding him wasn't easy, but not as difficult as he expected. As the most civilised of the family members, he was probably less cunning and hopefully more easily talked into cooperating. However, the memory that this man had stabbed Eric lay fresh in the back of his head.

So far he had seen no opportunity to capture him. It might turn out impossible to capture Ben wherever he was heading, so it would have to happen now. His superiors were very adament that he had to be taken alive.

He wondered how to go about capturing him. The biggest concern was of course his companion, wich all this time hang around him like they were glued together. Right now they were sitting on a bench, apparently waiting for fligh 753 to Hong Kong. Whoever he was Louis had to find a way of separating him from his target. To that end, he stepped into the Burger King and ordered himself a Whopper with extra garlic sauce and a milkshake. After paying, he headed towards the bench.

Visual range Louis thought. He began mimicing a crippled leg, subtle but inmistakable. He walked towards Ben's companion, then stumbled. Or actually, fell on purpose. The food he was helding flung from his hand and came down on the man's lap, messing his pants and ruining the man's mood.

"What the hell are you doing?" he demanded to know.

"I...I'm sorry, sir. I lost my balance. Let me help you clean..." he reached out his arms. The man backed away from Louis and made no effort to hide his agitation.

"I'm off to the bathroom, we've got plenty of time anyway." he said into Ben's direction. Before he could do or say anything his companion had dissapeared ino the crowd.

All clear Louis thought. He dropped himself on the vacant seat next to Benjamin and slipped his hand behind his back, drove the hidden needle under his nail into his skin right above the kidneys and drew it back immediately. Ben let go a quick and soft shriek, then looked perplexed at Louis.

"You've been drugged." Louis said softly. "It's a very special cocktail that I have prepared myself, just for you Benjamin."

Ben was sweating and gasping for breath. "It seems...you have me at an advantage here...mr...?"

Louis shaked his head. "Maybe I'll introduce myself at a later time. Right now you must come with me mr. Frey, for this drug I have injected in your bloodstream is dehydrating you so fast you can't drink against it, and you'll be dead in less then 2 hours. I have a neutralizing substance in my van outside. Decide quickly my friend, I want to be out of here before your friend cleans his trousers."

Ben's eyes betrayed fear, but not yet any submission. The drug Louis had injected should make him extremely vulnerable to suggestions, lower his ability to observe and causes dehydration. Not enough to kill anybody though. Louis used the most serious look he could produce and continued his bluff.

"Time is ticking, mr. Frey. Come with me now."

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Felix stared at the small warehouse on Oliver St. through his infra-red goggles. The deal was going off slowly; now sudden jerking or moving. None of his team members were missing, and there weren't any sharpshooters or any real threats. His men were armed with AK-74's, an micro-uzi and 2 pistols for backup. Not that anything would, of course. Felix had managed to set up a deal with the local drug baron, and was delivering a crate half-full of SPAS-12 shotguns, M4 Carbines and M-16 AR's, and a dozen Glocks and Walthers, being sold for 150,000 Pounds. He lowered the goggles and snapped open a can of Coke. He took a long drink.His Yakuza bodyguards shifted uneasily. Felix ignored their reaction. He wasn't going to live his life paranoid, not ever buying a can of Coke, drinking only personally boiled water.

After about 5 minutes, his team came out, holding a large briefcase, followed a minute later by the sharpshooters who Felix had stationed around the warehouse if things soured. As his team got in the van, Felix asked immediatley, "Did you get the money?"

"We counted it," quickly replied his brother...

Gotta stop posting there, I'm being forced off th computer.

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"I... can' lev.." Dalziel pointed vaguely in the direction that Fretch had taken. His head was already feeling fuzzy, and his heart was hammering. That might have been fear, though. "Havta wait. Can' lev him brhin'."

"Come with me Ben. Now." The nameless stranger said calmly, taking Dalziel's arm in one hand.

"'s not Ben. Name's Day.. Dee..." He trailed off even as he stood up. At the back of his mind a tiny voice clamoured for attention, screaming something... something important, but just out of hearing... Leaving his bag behind, Dalziel let himself be led gently but firmly out of the airport.

* * *

"Alright, I'll handle it." Vivian muttered into her mobile phone. She stood on an ordinary corner in Deptford, London. There was nothing special about it, which was exactly why it had been chosen. At her side Vivian held a plain black briefcase. "Calais and South, yes I can do that."

:I'll send the details to your laptop: Jared said, his voice computer-sharp. :Sergei's being awkward, but he really isn't in any condition to go killing people:

"Yes, yes." Vivian said irritably. "I'll take care of it. I'm wanting to visit Europe anyway." She looked up at a woman with a bright green badge on her coat. "My contact's here. I'll check later."

* * *

"No reply, and I'm beginning to worry." Jared sighed. He stood at the virtual window, staring out at rolling fields.

"I don't trust them anyway." Aethalwulf growled from behind him.

"It's not a matter of trust, it's a matter of money." Jared rubbed his temples with both hands. "And I have this awful feeling that even if they do reply, MoSoft aren't going to be too eager to help. But where else am I going to get those kind of facilities at such short notice?"

"Well..." Aethalwulf started. For once, the fearsome AI appeared hesitant.

"What?" Jared asked. He waved a hand, and the window was replaced by a huge fireplace.

"I hear tell of a hospital in England somewhere with cutting edge technology. Literally." Aethalwulf said dryly. "It's for our kind of people. Hidden, private. They don't ask questions there. I don't know who runs it, but it's a good place."

"How do you know about it?" Jared asked, leaning on the mantlepiece.

"Felix had a few men sent there four or five years ago." Aethalwulf shrugged. "It's hidden from me, but I know it exists. And how to contact them." Jared hesitated for only a second.

"Do it." He said. "We can't afford to waste any time."

To the EPA:

Request use of medical facilities in Britain. Urgent. Prepared to pay well, absolute secrecy vital. All procedures must be monitored.


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"So someone is trying to contact me?"

"Could it be a trap sir?"

"Doubt it, if it is pretty lucid way to trap us."

"I thought we destroyed that hospital?"

"It did seem that way"

"But sir Yoshi, can we allow entry to these Russian pigs?"

"Russian?  Who said anything about them being Russian?"

"But I thought..."

"You though wrong" The tone was harsh, a warning.

"So what do we do?"The aide was mystified

"You get a plane prepped.  I'm going back."

Message to FF (encoded, encrypted, and bounced of several hundred sattelites)

Details of treatment recquired.  Payment will be large.  London may not be applicable, need to assess danger.  Response required.

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Reply, in similar encoded terms:

Large tumour, could be benign or malicious, must be removed from brain. Head surgeon already found. Facilities required: Operating theatre, full equipment, surgical support staff. Speed of the essence.


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Felix assembled his team together.They had all been like brothers to him during his crimes and dealings and assasinations and planning and organizing, and one of them was.

Felix walked over to a man about his height with sandy hair, freckles, and green eyes.

"Mark, do you have all your technical equipment set up and ready to hack?"

The man smiled evilly and said, "Sure,brother. When have I failed you?"

Felix put on his "thinking" face and said finally," When you told Mom that I had sex with that girl from our school."

"Damn, and I heard that as people get older, they forget more!" Felix ignored this and moved on to the Mexican in the group, Eduard. "Hey, Eduard,

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