Monday, December 17, 2018

Aftermath, Chapter Five: It is a crime to lie to a federal law enforcement officer

The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul.
~ John Calvin
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My conversation with my captors was remarkably short.  I left them in Pepper's backyard, three meters beneath the surface.  I suspect that they remain there to this day.


February 4th, 2061

1119 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Alexia drove while I rode in the back seat.  I held her heavy pistol pressed against the back of her seat as she surrendered control to the vehicle's autonomous navigation system.  We rode in heady silence until we reached Madison street.

"You really aren't going to shoot me?" Alexia asked.

"No. I don't have a reason to." I replied. "But I would recommend that you not come after me. If you ever point a gun at me again, I may just take it personally."  Fey's voice still sounded odd coming from my mouth.

"No worries about that." she muttered.

When the car stopped for a traffic light I removed the heavy pistol's magazine, ejected the round from the chamber and dropped the empty weapon on the floorboard.  "Good.  Go hang out in Redmond somewhere for the rest of the day. I don't want to see you again."  I said as I swung open my door and stepped out into the street.  I gained the sidewalk and didn't look back.


1153 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

The coffee shop was almost full when I walked in.  Fey's commlink queued up the menu, highlighting Fey's favorites for me.  I ordered her usual, my stomach growling at me as I never did get to eat the pastry I had bought just a few hours earlier.  The line moved smoothly and I soon had my flavored coffee and a sandwich.

I turned and very nearly collided with Special Agent Anthony Johnson.

"Glad to see you." He smiled at me. "I have to admit, I was wondering if you were going to show up."

"Why?  I told you I would be here, didn't I?" I didn't try to smile back. "I got called away from the office though.  I admit, I wondered if I was going to make it on time."  If I were being watched by the FBI, it was prudent to cover my sudden departure from the usual routine.

"I'm glad you could make it. Hey, I've got a table.  Agent Williams is joining us, I'm afraid.  She was hungry."  He turned and lead the way back to a small circular table occupied by a troll woman in a grey business suit.  Her outfit showed off her curves while her sculpted horns and long curly hair lent her a gentle femininity.

The troll woman stood as we approached, towering over Agent Johnson and myself and extending her huge hand to me.  I shook it, her grip carefully gentle as if she were afraid of breaking my hand.  "Ms. O'Faery," she smiled at me over polished white tusks. "so good of you to join us today.  I'm Special Agent Susanna Morgan."

"You can both call me 'Fey'." I said as I slid into my seat.  The feds sat down and Agent Johnson lifted his own coffee and took a drink.

"Ok, thank you Fey. This is just an informal talk.  Seems the man you worked with, the one they called "Machine", may not have been who he said he was."  Agent Susanna Morgan's words snaked their way into the dark corners of my mind where old fears lay sleeping.

I took a bite of my sandwich, found it lacking in anything like flavor, and chewed slowly as I considered the agents.  "Machine's 'real' name, is that of an elf who went missing about ten years ago.  He was presumed dead.  Just another runaway teenager with a chip problem."  Agent Johnson offered. "That's one thing, Machine didn't appear to have a chip habit.  That he was suddenly awakened, and from all accounts a capable magician, is surprising as he had been tested as a child and hadn't been magically active."

"He was definitely a magician." I offered.  "I can't go into details, but I've seen him use magic to levitate things."

"Did you ever see Machine use spells that you would consider 'offensive' in nature?" Agent Morgan asked.

"No. Nothing inappropriate to the office." I smiled at her in what I hoped was a knowing way. "It's not like he was using magic to send pics or anything."

Agent Johnson cleared his throat as if covering a laugh. "No, I think Agent Morgan means did he ever demonstrate any spell casting ability of the combative variety?"

"No." I replied. "We don't engage in combat in the office."  I did my best to feign a confused look and was certain that I didn't fool the agents. "What do you think we do, anyway?"

Agent Johnson leaned back and spread his hands in a placating way.  Agent Morgan leaned in slightly and lowered her voice as she spoke softly to me. "Fey, we think Machine is a terrorist. A wizard who has assumed the identity of some forgotten runaway boy and hidden behind that mask while he used his gifts to murder and maim.  If you know anything, we can protect you, both from him and the corp."

Good cop, better cop?  This was a new one to me.  "I am not aware of any acts of terrorism.  You may have overestimated my level of contact with Machine."  I sipped at my coffee.

"How do you know Mr. Bruce Parker-Kent?" Agent Johnson asked.

"He worked with Machine." I replied.

"I see.  Did you know he was a magician?" Agent Morgan asked.

"Oh, yes.  That creep kept promising me a 'magical experience' if I would go on a date with him. The nerve of some people."  I replied.  "Honestly, if Machine hadn't told me to check on him I would be just as happy if I never saw him again."

"So, Bruce made romantic advances?" Agent Johnson asked.

"I wouldn't call them 'romantic'.  He has as much charm as a moldy taco."  I took another bite of my bland sandwich, chewed and contemplated the agents.

"Fey," Agent Morgan had a pained expression on her face as she spoke. "If we ask your co-workers about your relationship to Machine, what do you expect they'll say?"

I shrugged. "Half of them probably think I was sleeping with him, but that would be from the half of them who wish I were sleeping with them.  The other half probably won't have an opinion one way or another."

"Were you?" Agent Johnson asked.  His eyes were cast down into his coffee. "Were you sleeping with Machine?"

"No." I replied as I stood, my jaw set. "Just because we worked together, that doesn't mean I was having sex with him.  He was professional with me, far more than Bruce ever was. This talk is over, agents. Have a great afternoon."  With that I did my best impression of Angel storming off in a fit of pique.

I left the coffee shop and approached the office.  My plan for penetrating security that morning had blown up when I got kidnapped by Alexia and her runner buddies.  The meeting with the Feds would, hopefully, keep them guessing long enough for me to accomplish my own infiltration without them tripping me up.

I took my place in line at the security check point and sent a text to Angel. "Delayed. I'm going to work now."

Her reply came through less than a minute later. "Understood. Don't be late getting home."

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February 4th, 2061

1300 hours, Seattle Metroplex local time

Two large men in security uniforms met me when I got off the elevator on the 87th Floor.  "Fey, come with us please. Danny wants to see you."

'Just perfect' I thought.  To the security officers I said, "Good, I was hoping to talk to him today."

We road down to the 85th floor and marched past the ruins of Samantha Goode's office.  Crime scene tape marked the warped door and the smell of char and fire retardant lingered nearby.  The desk where Samantha's secretary had worked sat empty.

An unmarked door swung open as we approached.

"Fey, come on in.  Officers, you are excused." Danny's voice was clear, calm and professional.

I stepped into the office, mindful to keep my stride short, and heard the door close behind me.  Danny was typing commands into his terminal while his AR glasses glowed with residual light.

"Thanks for seeing me." I started.

"One tic, Fey." Danny said.  He punched in a series of commands, then pulled off his AR glass and rubbed his eyes.  "I need to get my implants upgraded so I don't have to wear these damn things.  My autofocus has trouble when I pan between the screens and it's giving me a headache."

"Surely you can get that done in an afternoon." I replied.

"Yeah, but with Control dead and Machine running around free I don't have time.  Speaking of which, you're late.  What the hell happened?" Danny asked.

"Feds wanted to talk." I held up my hand as Danny's eyebrows tried to climb into his hair. "Don't worry, I didn't give them anything.  Seems they believe Machine isn't who he claimed to be.  They asked about Creep too."

"Troubling. What did they want to know about Creep and what did you tell them?" he asked.

I shrugged. "They just wanted to know how I knew him and if I knew he was a magician.  I told him he had claimed to be a magician when he made a pass at me and played the part of the harassed co-worker. " I straightened myself into a rigid posture and added, "I stormed out when they asked if I was sleeping with Machine."

Danny nodded.  "Okay.  Next time remember that you aren't authorized to speak to outside law enforcement agencies on this.  It's a corporate law matter. That said, well done Fey."

"Certainly." I replied.

"Now.  Jazz is coming back tomorrow.  He'll be taking over team lead. Nothing personal Fey, he just has more time in the field and seniority. I'm sure you understand."  Danny stared at me, his cybereyes looked almost real.  I opened myself to view the astral and took in the telling story of his aura.  Danny was tired and feeling a lot of stress.

I focused my will and mentally recited the formula for a spell I rarely used, infusing the construct with magical energy and sending it snaking through the space between Danny and I.  The mana energy flowed into his mind, rippling around the cybernetic implants that marred his aura.  "Danny, I want the file on Machine.  Give it to me please." I asked as nicely as I knew how.

At his desk Danny smiled at me. "Of course." He replied, as he stood and strode over to a blank space on the wall.  "Authorization:  Daniel Lopez. Open."   A section of the wall recessed and slid away to reveal a safe.  Danny placed his hand on the biometric scanner.

"State your password" A feminine synthetic voice commanded.

"Daisies." Danny replied.  There was a soft click as the safe swung open.  Danny reached into the safe and paused.  His aura swirling as his sub-conscious warred with his actions.  The mana energy began to crack as the spell unraveled.

"Wait, what did you want?" Danny turned to me, shaking his head as if to clear it.

"Sorry Danny." My little sleep spell wrapped itself around Danny's mind and squeezed.  I put the full weight of my magic behind it, and felt Danny's will resist like a drowning man grabbing for a life vest.  He staggered, his hand reaching into his jacket.

"What the 'ell!?!?" He muttered as he produced a heavy pistol from under his jacket.

"Somnum." I said as my second casting invaded his mind and knocked him into blissfully dreamless sleep. "Damn, Danny, you've got a hard head chummer."

I collected Danny's emergency alert bracelet and set it on his charging pad.  I left him lying on the floor, gun in hand.  From the safe I gathered three printed file folders, a chip case that held three unmarked data chips, a stack of UCAS $100 bills and three credsticks.  I placed the cash, credsticks and chip case in Fey's purse.  The files went into a briefcase I found sitting behind Danny's desk.

My astral signature lingered in the office from my spell casting.  I took a couple of minutes to wipe their stain away from the local mana field before I walked out of Danny's office.  I took the elevator to the helipad level and stopped by the women's restroom.  The door had only just closed behind me as I finished weaving the invisibility spell around myself.  I stepped aside, holding the spell in place and waited until a lady washed up and left the restroom.  I followed close behind, slipping into the corridor and heading out onto the landing pad.

*****

I met Angel at our safe house.

"Oi, chummer." I smiled at her. "A little something to soothe your worries." I handed over two of the credsticks.

Angel looked them over skeptically, then ran them through a verification app.  "Damn, Tommy.  Is your conscious bothering you or something?"

"I figure I should pay you now.  You know, before things get fragged up." I broke the self-sustaining look that held my shape changing spell in place and felt my body revert back to my true self.  Fey's clothes shifted around my body, suddenly not fitting at all.

"Ghost preserve us.  Go put some clothes on Tommy before you ruin that nice suit."  Angel shook her head at me, hiding her smile as she tried not to laugh.

I popped open the briefcase and pulled out the files.  "Later, first thing we do is go over these."

"You got the files on you?" she asked.

"I don't know.  They were in Danny's safe. I didn't have much time to get them and get out so I just took them all." I told her.  "Any word on corp security, the FBI and Fey?"

"Not sure about the FBI.  Corp security issued an arrest warrant for Fey about five minutes ago.  They are on their way to her doss now."  Angel replied.  "Want me to feed them a false address?"

"No, let them pick her up.  She doesn't know anything important and it will keep them focused on her until they figure out it wasn't her at the office today."  The files were stamped on the cover and tied shut with a thin nylon string.  I laid them on the small table in the kitchen and read the stamps on each.  "Creep, Machine, Jazz, seems I may have actually gotten lucky."

I opened my file and soon realized that I was wrong.  If I was anything at all, 'lucky' wasn't it.

******

Thank you for reading my fan fiction. Tommy's stories are derived from game play and fictionalized for better reading (I hope).  If you have enjoyed these tales please do share them with others.

I also create other role playing game material under open game licenses and I am currently developing my own tabletop role playing game.  On my Drip page,  subscribers have early access to material such as sneak peeks at art, access to play test material, behind the scenes "how-to" information as well as monthly PDF releases.  In 2019, Drip subscribers will have access to my new web comic strip "D'FAQ!"  which is 'Dystopian Fantasy Adventure Quest' a comic strip about role playing in fantastic, near future settings.












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I hope you'll join me next time for Chapter Six!

~ W.S. Quinton








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