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Full Version: The Found Arcana – Chapter 6 [IC]
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Administrator September 7, 2020 at 1:25 pm
The wireboy laughed again: “I’m neither crazy nor that good. Have you seen his personal deck? That thing is killer – tricked out through the wazoo too. Wonder Plum surived as a White Hat against some pretty nasty Black Hats. I said he was crazy, not that he was stupid.”

Brad smiled ruefully: “Let me tell you, whatever you have heard about that broad, it doesn’t do her justice. I think she must have been a runner herself or some other kind of operative before she met the Duchess. I think she might be able to break even you in half. And she’s silent like a ghost if she wants to. And fast. I saw her catch a grey hound in full sprint.
The Cunning Man and she have some kind of rivalry going on – a bit like over protective godparents. It’s going to be interesting who Pike and the Duchess keep after the wedding, because sure as hell, keeping both would end in something going up in flames.”

Jawsey soon was joined by McElroy:

“Ah good, you have found our primary working place. In an hour or so, we can do a bit of sparring – not moving all day is a sure fire way of wasting your body. For now though let me take you on an astral tour through the grounds and the mansion.

Are you ready, or would you like to know something about what we encounter beforehand?”

McElroy had a soothing, voice that made you want to listen and remember what he said – a perfect tutoring voice.

Member September 7, 2020 at 7:51 pm
“Obviously it is better to know about dangers or off-limits areas before we head out. But I suspect that most descriptions will make more sense to me after having ‘seen’ it all. I guess I’m more of an applied learner? Then again, my only magic education is what trids I could find online, and I think those are mostly from the hermetic viewpoint? Certainly their language didn’t really match up well with how I experience the astral. I learned some things, but usually I had to go astral and experience things for myself to make much sense out of what they were trying to say in words. Likely you are much better at describing things, but my instinct will likely always be experience it first and try to find the words that match it later.”

Perhaps he was saying too much? But he didn’t actually need to impress this man in the long term, so perhaps it was better just to be honest?

Member September 7, 2020 at 9:10 pm
Mato nods along to Brad’s description of Katya.

“I’ve met with and trained with plenty of people who could mop the floor with me. Some of those elite special forces guys…” He shakes his head. “They’ve forgotten more than I’ve ever known. Tricks upon tricks up their sleeves. I guess that’s why they’re still around and alive enough to show them off. And I’m sure they didn’t share everything, just in case we found ourselves at odds with each other.

“C’mon, let’s get to the 10am.”

Administrator September 8, 2020 at 1:28 pm
McElroy nodded: “Each to their strengths. Come on then, there is lots to see.”

And indeed, the Courier proved to be a very good guide as well. Visiting the mansion from top to bottom, excluding the family quarters and the safe rooms, Jawsey was shown the entire area. He even allowed himself some fun by passing through Hamington a few times, who always started to shiver, looking around annoyed while trying to hold his briefing.

‘As you see, we have three layers of magical defenses: The watchers on the perimeters – those are meant to be spotted and act as an early warning system when anyone sneaks through. Then there are the homunculi – they blend in well with the rocks of the ground, being made from rock. They aren’t as astute, but they pack a punch as they have been created with a Greater Ritual.

Next line are the hounds – they roam free at night and are well trained to act as a pack.

Finally, there are the bound spirits. Those I keep in reserve on their own plane.

We will practice joint summoning and ritual casting and – if your philosophy allows – binding together. There are certain advanced techniques I’m developing and this place is as good as any to test them.

Most important for our defense is, that we couriers do not engage anyone directly. Taking us out would imperil the whole magical defense of the place.

But before we come to that – why don’t you tell me, why Cunningham did bring you here. I can see it in your aura. You are trying to hide an ulterior motive…”

Mato found himself with the three other Chasseurs and Master of the Hunt Hammington. The old man seemed curiously twichy, looking around and shivering like a drug addict one moment, then being calm and entirely rational the other.

“I assume you have met our new arrivals. Mr. …” He evidently had already forgotten Mato’s assumed name “will have the code name Red on internal comms. As he has passed his certifications, he will accompany Sgt. Burns on the rounds until he knows them. Lt. Fines and Corporal Varison, you can deside among you who does gate duty and who takes up armory.”

From the distinct lack of enthusiasm on Corporal Kilian Varison’s face, that meant he would be stuck again outside at the gate.

“We have Christmas Eve’s dinner tonight with a few additional guests at 1900h. I expect you to represent in dress uniform from 1830h until 0300h – so get some rest beforehand. Christmas day, there is a hunt on in the afternoon, so briefing will be at 1100h.


Member September 8, 2020 at 2:38 pm
“Ignacio Severo,” Mato says to anyone who asks after the briefing. “But Red serves just as well.”

This could be a racial thing because of his skin tone, but if so it’s mild and (at this point) still tolerable. Plus, Mato’s favorite color when he was five years old was red, so that helps.

Mato is surprised / not surprised to hear that ranks are being used. He supposes that means he is the Private. That’s fine. It probably also means that he’ll be on gate duty as soon as Corporal Varison can delegate it. That’s fine too. He gets paid either way.

The fact that there’s only eight hours between the end of dinner and the morning briefing seems brutal – and when do shifts even start? – but he’ll figure that out later. His sleep regulator will give him an edge, but it’s possible that he’ll have to start commuting separately from AM and Jawsey. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for eating and bathing – let alone laundry or other housekeeping – that’s for sure.

“Rounds,” he says to Brad when the briefing is complete. “Lead the way.”

Administrator September 8, 2020 at 2:49 pm
Brad nodds, but as soon as they have left the briefing room, he nods towards the stairs: “Not so fast, you haven’t seen your room yet, do you?”

He leads Mato upwards into the fourth floor. There is a row of rooms that look like very tiny hotel rooms, but are still of high quality.

“You should receive a keycode to your commlink now. The corridor is under camera surveillance, so be careful who you take to your room after hours. Not that it is forbidden, you just have to live with the gossip afterwards. If you want snacks, you can grab them in the kitchen – as long as you don’t get on the wrong side of the cooking staff. Doing that is worse than a sin – because sins can be forgiven.”

Member September 8, 2020 at 8:05 pm
Taking an astral tour together with someone else wasn’t entirely outside of Jawsey’s experience, he’d done some with Lieutenant Peters prior to joining CIS. But taking an astral tour with his boss just seemed weird. Not that the guy didn’t have good control of his astral form, but still it felt an awful lot like being nude with him.

The question about binding made him pause. “I’ve heard of it of course, but as I said it is only fairly recently that I even realized what I was doing was summoning, so up until now I’ve focused solely on that and have not yet investigated the related skills. I don’t suppose that I have a code that forbids it, but I admit the thought makes me uneasy — many of the spirits that I now consciously summon were originally the companions on my night time ‘dream walks.’ What I’ve learned of spirits suggests that binding does not have to be an awful thing, but it certainly seems like it can be unpleasant for the spirit.” After a few more moments of thought he said “I suppose that I’m not opposed to binding, but I am not fond of disrespectful treatment of spirits.”

He was still thinking through the binding issue when McElroy suddenly indeed made him feel naked, with his observation of ulterior motives. Could this be what the man had meant by sparring? Jawsey left the contemplation of the ethics of binding for a another time, and turned his thoughts towards this more aggressive question.

“Ulterior motives? I suppose so. Doesn’t everyone, to some degree or other? I would think that it is not hard to guess that Cunningham wanted his own people on staff, ones who would keep him in the loop of issues before they became obvious. The next part is speculation, but I think he does not have as close a relationship with the on-site staff as he would want, given the prestige of the guests and events. That he is worried of things starting to spin out of control before he’d even know there is an issue. As I said, all speculation. But for whatever reason, he both wanted to beef up the staff, and have his own line of communications.”

“Of course there are layers beyond that. This is a short term job for me, and I’ll need to be thinking about the next contracts, so contacts are good to develop. I’d like to do a good job so that I could possibly get decent references, but I know that my training is irregular and my experience an imperfect match to this job so I’m thinking about how I can compensate for that. I’m hoping to learn something, without seeming impossibly ignorant.” He shrugged, then added “I think I’m realistic enough to accept that I don’t harbor great hidden depths, my desires are mostly the same petty ones of survival and advancement that one sees all around.”

Member September 9, 2020 at 2:32 am
AM responds to the wireboy “I am sort of good, but lack the machinery to do real damage. Where did you study?”

Member September 9, 2020 at 3:32 am
Mato nods about the advice regarding the kitchen staff.

“Are there ‘badge bunnies’?” he asks about the room guests. “I know there are some people who can’t resist a uniform. And these do look very fine…

“And what is the rhythm of the day anyway? What with dinner ending at 0300 and the morning briefing a mere eight hours later. When do we start and stop manning the gate, or going on rounds?”

Administrator September 10, 2020 at 1:36 pm
McElroy smiled: “You are good at dissimulation. You said the truth while still concealing your core.
Now, I keep out of petty office politics, but I do care about everone under my responsibility. So all I’m asking of you is, that you are not here to hurt someone under my protection – which includes social or emotional hurt as well as physical. And of course that you work with me to the best of your abilities and not sabotage my work.

In turn I’ll keep silent and also teach you some tricks to unlock that vast potential that you haven’t yet fully developed.”

The wireboy snorted: “I’m Wesley by the way. That Tosser over there is William and this book reading nerd over there is Winona. I studied at Seattle University – until I got this job here. What’s your background? You look like some kind of wild hacker out of the plex – or at least your deck looks like it.”

Brad smiled: “I wouldn’t call them that, but yeah, fit young girls like fit young boys. And staying here weeks at a time does somewhat limit going clubbing.

Which brings us to the rhythm around here: There is none. It’s utter madness. These rich guys don’t care about what the servants want – if there is a problem, they throw money at it to pay for overtime.
Hamington – for all his faults – does take care to shield us from the worst, but even he can’t prevent them from arranging surprise parties at the spur of the moment. I’m mightily glad that you hired on. As you already noticed, we are far from enough to provide comprehensive security to everyone here – at least if you expect us to get some sleep at all. Sometimes I’m not sure that the lords and ladies grasp that fact. After all we can’t just take Longhaul for weeks on end. Hamington has a sleep regulator as well as Fines. And I’m scheduled for one as soon as I can get three days of consecutive leave – which might just be possible now that you are here.

But then just remember: We are here more for representation and maybe catching a bullet before someone else does. The heavy lifting will come from the reinforcements.”

He paused to order his thoughts: “Anyway – if there aren’t any surprise parties going on we usually are on duty until midnight. After that it’s the sensor net, hounds and spirits that take care of security. One of us gets to sleep in the gatehouse, the others up here. Getting up sometime at six or seven, free time until briefing at ten – that’s when the guests usually get active again. After that we are doing our shifts, walking around with a two hour break – preferably at a random time everyday – unless we are needed somewhere. At 2000h we are expected to represent at dinner. After that it’s again rounds and then an early night. So basically 12h shifts like any other job in the service industry – but much better pay and health benefits.”

Member September 10, 2020 at 5:24 pm
Mato considered this. He hadn’t known that there were going to be rooms for the staff; he thought this was a commuting gig.

“Yes, I suppose that such a secluded environment would result in almost monastic isolation.”

Is Mato a ‘young fit boy’? It’s hard to say. By ork standards, no. Redlining his limbs has helped, and his recent sojourn across Sioux Nation had brought with it some additional muscle mass and even – dare he say it – virility. But the truth is that as an ork aged 25 years, he’d been physically mature for 10 or more years now. And, to be thoroughly transparent with himself, his massive loss of metahumanity had resulted in a severely diminished libido. Not zero, mind you, but more akin to what a senior citizen might expect rather than an ork in his physical prime. His arms and legs look sexy, but they are hardly appealing to the touch. They are cold and hard and not at all comforting unless you’re like Greta, the post-humanist that Mato met at The Hostel back in mid-October.

“Understood,” he says to Brad about the pacing of the day. “Catch a bullet, catch some Zs. That’s the job.”

Member September 10, 2020 at 10:16 pm
“I think I said right at the beginning that my language skills are my strong suit currently? Feel free to use me to deal with guests who are positive that their room is haunted or whatever. Or for translation, I can waltz words around in a few useful languages. “

“But no worries about my motives, I’m not looking to cause harm to anyone. Get paid, get some good references, and hopefully learn a bit, that is honestly my motivations” jawsey tried to keep his aura as open as possible. “Fortunately I don’t think that is in conflict at all with doing this job for you, since getting paid and getting good references both require keeping people safe and satisfied, and keeping you and Cunningham happy. Fair?”

Administrator September 11, 2020 at 9:16 am
Brad nodded: “Alright. Since you already got your code name, let me fill you in on the rest of the code: I’m Brown, Varis is Violet, Fines is Grey and Hammington is Black. We refer to Pike as Gold, the Duchess as Silver. Guests are Copper. The couriers are Octarine, other staff are Tin.”

Perception test on Mato’s part

The two Chasseurs went outside and found two fully charged Segways to go on rounds.

McElroy smiled: “Alright, let’s beginn with our work then. Start by calling up a spirit – I’ll try assist you, but mainly I’ll be studying your technique. We’ll need to be able to teamwork that at an instant’s notice.”

Member September 11, 2020 at 12:46 pm
“Are the codes just for the comms?” Mato confirms. “I presume I’m not supposed to call you Mr. Brown in front of the guests.”

Mato wonders what happened to bronze in the sequence. He also wonders what octarine is, as he’s never heard of it.

On the Segways, Mato soaks up the surroundings. Everything is just so wildly different from his personal experience that he finds himself picking out every little detail, from the sights to the sounds to the scents.

Mato grew up privileged… but that was corper privilege. A nice condo, tech toys and a bit of ‘ware, a part-time cook and cleaner. It was not this aristocratic privilege, with sprawling estates and huge retinues. If someone dropped a billion nuyen on him, he would never have thought to spend it this way. The possibility of it wouldn’t even have crossed his imagination.

“How long have you served here, Mr. Brown?” he asks with a bit of a smirk at the code. “Where were you before this?”

Member September 11, 2020 at 2:46 pm
“Emma” AM comments and then says Home schooling, mainly. I worked as a private detective hacking made the job easier. Erika was very difficult to buy and has plenty of compromises in its design. It is very useful if you respect the limitations and manage the risks wisely. Pointing at the black cat near her leg she says and this is Trouble, my baby. she says fondly.

Administrator September 12, 2020 at 9:26 am
Brad nods: “Yeah, it’s mainly for comm communications, but of course among us Chasseurs we use them anyways. Just remember not to call anyone important by their callsign to their face.”

As Brad beginns to answer, Mato suddenly is aware of someone hiding behind the bushes to their right – and by his radar sensor it’s not a dear, presumably, because woodland critters seldomly carry long metal objects.

Wesley smiled at the cat: “What a cute little fluffball. But keep her better out of sight. The Wuxing Dragon hates cats.

At that moment van der Bloom sounded in AM’s ear: “Time to earn your keep. Someone wrecked the terminal on the second floor in the private library. I’m getting a lot of error messages. Be discreet though, the Duchess is currently there, reading.”
Mato raises his hand up in a closed fist for the tactical signal for 'hold'. "Sgt. Burns, I have a ping," he says, slipping into military formality.

He stops and steps off his Segway to investigate. At this point he's going to trust the sensor net and whatever magical security is in place, which means it probably isn't an intruder or a threat. Plus, an assassin in the bushes would not likely choose 10am as their time to strike. It's much more likely for it to be an eccentric uncle... or even a test for Mato.

"Good morning!" he calls out to the bushes. "May we be of any assistance?"

Once he's within fifteen meters, he'll try to use the cyberware scanner (a.k.a. millimeter wave detection system) in his left leg to identify the long metal object.
Jawsey is momentarily at a loss on who to summon? Granny Iron-Teeth is impressive in her way, but not a nice sort of spirit. Red Jacket Boy is his oldest friend, but might seem a little underwhelming? He discards several others before settling on one of the Hunter Brothers. They are generally patient and willing to wait, but quick to act when directed. They don't have the best initiative at figuring out how to approach problems sometimes, but that might be just as well currently.

"Certainly. Um, all the spirits that I know are what some call kin spirits, representatives of ancestors and folklore. I know some shamans of my people have learned how to summon spirits of beasts, or even the wind, sea, or mountain. But I've yet to study with any of them, so people is what I work with for now. I'll call one of the Hunter Brothers, they are a good general purpose spirit."

Jawsey tries to pay attention to what the boss is doing in the astral while also making the summoning, and nearly fumbles the whole thing. Had it been Granny Iron-Teeth she would likely have drained his energy then refused to show up, but the Hunter Brother slides into the astral, ready to briefly bring his endless hunt to this world.

After giving a nod of respect to the spirit, he admits "Not my smoothest ever summoning, but sometimes that is the way of things."
A girl in her mid twenties came out from behind the bushes with a golf club.
Smiling she said: "Have you seen my ball? I managed a great drive, but unfortunately in the wrong direction."

McElroy nodded appreciatively at Jawseys effort.
"Good. And now we try again, only this time I'll assist you and share the backlash."

[ Spoiler ]
"Wuxing Dragon?" she asks knowing that it is a callsign for someone.
AM apologizes and goes inspect Kurt's call.

Jawsey dutifully releases the Hunter Brother, then calls for a slightly stronger spirit of that same tribe. The extra nudge sends a powerful call and the spirit comes promptly and ready to serve. It gives so little struggle that the help resisting the spirit's energy demands was really not needed.

"I could definitely feel the extra push in the summoning. The spirits that I feel confident in calling up don't usually tax me too heavily -- usually, there are of course exceptions. For more powerful spirits I suppose I'd need to learn how to support you, and to share the drain from your own calling."

"Certainly, miss," Mato agrees with a professional nod.

His millimeter wave detection system is no good for this, so he'll have to do it the old-fashioned way. He wonders if an attention co-processor would help with something like this. He makes a mental note to investigate the possibility.

"Ah, here we are," he says, noting the location of the stray ball. "Do you wish to play it where it lies?" Lays? Lies? I have no idea. Damnit, English!

He hesitates to offer further assistance, as he is concerned about undue interference. Golf has the strangest rules, and an even stranger set of honor or morality built up around the rules. He doesn't know if this is a friendly game or something more competitive, but a woman golfing in December is likely to be rather more serious about the game if she's willing to endure the elements to play.

Once the woman is satisfied with the outcome, Mato expresses his pleasure to be of assistance, then returns to the Segway to resume his rounds with Brown.
McElroy nodded: "Indeed - but you have grasped the basics quickly enough. For now leave your ally on stand by. There is work to do. Next we'll do some ritual magic to refresh one of the Watchers - I'll do the brunt work for that - and luckily my reagents budget is generous. Still, it will take us a few hours, so I'd ask you to go to the kitchen and organize some refreshments. Ask for Tamara, she knows what I prefer."

Wesley replied to AM before she had to run: "Chan Wu, take care not to cross her."
Following the AROs towards the family quarters, AM reached the door to the library. Inside, massive shelfs of leatherbound books alternated with slightly more modern, colerful book spines. The Persian rugs combined with the covered walls sucked away any sound, making the room almost disconcertingly quiet. The terminal Van der Bloom had mentioned was at the far end on a massive desk. A few different upholstered comfort seats invited to sit and read. As AM moved through the book filled room, she suddenly got a jolt of adrenaline: A woman with long black hair hanging in front of her face, with a white dress had suddenly come into view.
It took AM half a second to recogniize her as a real person and not a ghost from a cheap horror trid. Only then she realized, that the woman had the whitest skin she'd ever seen and that her hair hanging in front of her face was due her reading a book really close to her chest.
She took no notice of AM, but stood there, silently reading.

The woman smiled a toothy smile at Mato. Now he noted the slanted eyes and the hard, calculating eyes, taxing him.
"Thank you. I'll play the ball where it lies. You must be new here. I haven't seen your kind around here before."
She extended the grip end of her club to ding it against Mato's metal shoulder: "Nice chrome. Are you by any chance an Urban War player? I need a sparring partner. Tell your boss I'll await you at 1600h sharp at the gymn."
Jawsey liked McElroy's attitude towards the essentials, like refreshments. He happily enough headed down to the kitchen, mostly just carrying his cane. Hopefully the ritual wouldn't entail hours of standing; well, he could always explain to McElroy if needed.

Down in the kitchen he asked after Tamara, to explain the request. While there he took the opportunity to asense any of the staff that he saw, to get a feel for their morale.
Urban War? Mato presumes she means Urban Brawl. Maybe it has different names in different languages, like the Cantonese of Hong Kong.

"Yes, miss, just as you say, I am new here. Ignacio Severo, at your service."

He gives a formal bow.

He's not aware of Urban Brawl typically having a hand-to-hand component, nor is he aware of it being played by amateurs. But he recalls from the dossiers that Chan Wu (daughter of motherfragging Wuxing CEO Xi Wu!!!) is an amateur player... and a 2nd-level initiate.

"I have not played Urban War myself but it would be my pleasure to spar with you at 1600, Miss Wu. I look forward to it."

Let's see, what else did he remember? Oh yes, that there were several charged of sexual assault raised against her, plus an allegation that she turned a rival Urban War team into ghouls. Creative, he must admit, if a bit excessive. He must stay on her good side. That probably means earning her respect... while still letting her win.
AM cautiously assenses the woman, curious despite herself. This entire place is about appearances and she reads a physical book - but actually read it. Why? Isn' it nicer to just read the book digitally? *** What do you think Trouble?** she thinks at her cat.

[ Spoiler ]

Jawsey found his way down to the kitchen - mercyfully the elevator worked, sparing him the excruciating way down the stairs with his bad knee.
The kitchen was busy preparing food with the chef moving around, supervising and in some instances correcting what he saw. To Jawsey's surprise the chef was a very collected and even reasonable specimen and the overall atmosphere was busy but happy. Apparently Armand Croix was either not as the report indicated a problem drinker, or he was at the very least a happy, functional drunk.
Tamara was busy cutting vegetables when Jawsey came in. She was a slight girl with brunette hair in a tight bun under a white, semitranslucent cap.
She smiled when she noticed Jawsey:
"Oh, is it already snack time? Sorry, time gets away from you, doesn't it. Follow me."
She guided Jawsey to a walk in fridge. From inside she took out a perfectly packed picknick basket.
"Here you are. I've packed a bit of extra Pâté, so you two can keep up your strength. How's your first day going so far?"

Chan Wu nodded appreciatively and immediately seemed to forget about Mato as she positioned herself to hit the ball again. Despite being in a wooded area, she didn't seem to have any trouble getting the ball back out on the green. With self secure strides that involuntarily drew Mato's gaze towards her very shapely backside she moved away. When she was out of earshot, Brad said:
"That was a close one. Seems like she is in a good mood - and you are in for a pounding. Depends on you what kind though. Alright, let's get it over with so we can get back for a little break. You'll need your strength, believe me."

Am found that there had to be some truth to the story of the assassination. The woman had been the recipient of quite a lot of cloned skin tissue, there was just the slightest essence loss perceptible. Over all there was a slight aura of sadness around her as well as some lingering damage to her health. No magic on or around her aura.
"So far, so pleasant. Honestly it seems to good to be true, so I assume it will change in due course." But he says it with a bit of an ironic chuckle rather than gloomy complaint. "Thank you so much for this, I don't know about my boss but I'll certainly appreciate it!"
Mato exhales a bit forcefully through his nose.

"Can't she get a joy toy?" he asks once they're out of earshot. "Even if it's just a power play you'd think she could afford someone more attractive. Only the fetishists really enjoy the cyberlimbs."

He shoots a message to AM and Jawsey when he's back on the Segway.

<<Hey, remember that 2nd-level initiate who's also the daughter of a triple-A CEO? I have a sparing session with her this afternoon at 1600. AM, I might need you to put me back together again so that I can wait at table tonight.>>

"Know anything about her?" he asks Brad. "Martials arts? Wing chun? Any tips?"
AM makes her way to the terminal and observes it with caution trying to pinpoint what happened to it. She feels puzzled by the mysterious duchess seating alone at the library and reading perhaps with extreme short sight. She does not feel to blend with the hyper-confident I-own-the-world vibe AM receives from the rest of the people there. For the time she stays quiet and does not disturb the strange woman.
Tamara smiled again: "Oh, I'm sure he will. It's his favorite. Oh, I almost forget - here are your pies. Carefull, they are still hot." With that she took out two delicious smelling meat pies from a nearby oven and put them into an insulated box for Jawsey to carry.
"I've got to get back to work - lot's to prepare for tonights big dinner. At least that means that we don't have to prepare a lunch buffet and the lords and ladies just eat in their suites."
[ Spoiler ]

Brad shrugged: "I think she can get anything - which is kinda the point. You are new and not yet conquered - or rather subjugated. As far as I know she is a rather vicious muay thai boxer and likes to play with knives and shortswords in that Philipino style. I've seen one of the Urban Brawl games she was in. She definitely has that wuxing style going - running up and along walls. Made for a hell of a show when her bike used gecko tires and she suddenly got off and ran alongside it.
And for a tipp: Try to look pathetic - she'll lose interest in you real quick then."

Anna took a close look at the terminal. It appeared to be a mix of outdated tech as well as very modern enhancements. A weird design all in all: Wired to the house network and with an old fashioned holoprojection for a display, it obviously had a lot of raw processing power - not unlike a rigger console.
[ Spoiler ]
AM feels the pressure when she sees the new and old technologies intertwined together. She decides to take a breather and think clearer.
AM pretends to be examining the books making sure she is out of sight from the Duchess and then silently asks Iktomi for blessing. Erasing the astral signature of the spell afterwards. She returns to the terminal and examines it with attention.

[ Spoiler ]
Mato nods at the advice, even though he isn't sure that he's going to follow it. Probably against his better judgement, he's quite curious how well he would hold up against a 2nd-level initiate.

He's lost plenty of fights before; he doesn't have a lot of ego tied up in that. Back when he was rich and spendthrift, he hired Sioux Wildcats to teach him close quarters combat. Even with his physical advantages... their training was just on a whole other level, and they kicked his hoop regularly. He learned a lot - as much as his patience would allow for - and could even be called 'skilled', perhaps even 'professional', but he's no expert.

He starts to think about the implications. He'll need not to hurt her, and his metal feet and fists - by default - hurt. Boxing gloves or the like can help alleviate some of that. Or he could just pull his punches, which could put him at a disadvantage, but his goal here isn't to win anyway. He just wants to emerge in one piece, preferably with dignity intact but that might have to be sacrificed. Something always has to be abandoned in retreat.

"Alright, thanks," he tells Brad. "I'll do my best. Actually, no, I won't."
AM took a close look and found a program carrier modul soldered into the terminal. One of the wire connections was bad, causing the connection to be intermittend. Nothing she couldn't fix with just a little bit of pressure. A quick diagnostic later showed the program carrier now was correctly working although AM had to look explicitly for it as it had switched to silent running as soon as the connection was fixed.

The rest of the rounds were uneventful and Brad made sure to show "Red" exactly what he had to look out for.
1600h was coming closer a lot faster and ist seemed to Mato the time spend at tea and sandwiches went by in a flash.
"You better go up to your room and fetch your training gear - wouldn't do you any good to let her wait."
Being curious about a running silent program, AM tries to figure out what kind of program the program carrier carries, and why would it run silent.
Knowing where to loo, AM found the registry entry: The program carrier contained the smoke and mirrors program and an inert agent program. The agent was still zipped, but the signature said it was an R6 model.
Mato nods.

"Alright, let Black know where I am, if you please."

He has a piece of fruit - a rare luxury in itself - for a quick shot of energy, then dons his training gear and heads to the gym. The gear is basically a jump suit and a padded helmet. Hopefully that will save his neck if she goes full wushu on him and kicks him in the head after running along the ceiling.

Warming up is a quick affair. Beyond a few torso twists and neck rolls, he doesn't really need to stretch or limber up.

He's reasonably sure he won't embarrass himself - and if he does, that might even be for the best - but this type of fighting isn't his specialty. He's best when fighting with his cyber implants, like his cyberspur, but that should definitely not come into play today. He looks around for training mitts or something else that might help him not strike so lethally with his titanium hands.
jawsey sticks his cane under one arm and gathers up the packages. Next time he'll know not to bring it on this chore. He walks back carefully, both to make sure he doesn't drop anything but also to focus on his posture and limit later fatigue.

[ Spoiler ]
Switching out of uniform into the training suit felt like getting into a padded glove - in addition to the padded gloves. Mato noted that the suit was peppered with sensors, allowing precise recording of movement as well as hits from an opponent. The padded face protection looked funny, but was probably a good idea as well.

When he arrived in the training room, he found the ambience of the AR and trid projectors has been set to dojo and Chan was already waiting - wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts and a sports bra. Fading bruises along her arms and legs showed that she didn't care much about getting hurt.

"Ah, on the dot. I like it. What's your weapon of choice? I prefer the baton." She said and took two bats from the wall and twirled them around, showing practice and skill.

Jawsey meanwhile had entered the elevator and watched the doors closing, when a small hand reached between the sensor and made it open again.
A brunette woman in her late thirties entered, seeing Jawsey she smiled, but the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. By her uniform she had to be a maid, albeit with the lenght of her skirt, a senior one.
Jawsey also noticed a slight mark like a hickey just visible under the high collar of her blouse. A single strand of hair was loose as well and she smelled slightly of sweat.
"Ah, the new Courier. I hope you are finding everything to your liking. If there is anything amiss with your room, let me know, I'll talk to the girls."
AM finds it very strange to have a silent running agent when you play the security side rather than the hacker. She doesn't say much, and instead, she braves talking to the duchess "I wouldn't like to intrude but are you alright your grace?"
The woman looked up, almost shocked that the silence of the library was broken. Her large brown eyes had a haunted look, but she smiled a genuine smile when she realized what AM had asked.
"Thank you, yes I'm fine. I hope I didn't startle you, but reading Camilo Jose Cela is always so engrossing for me, that I forget everything around me.
Do you like to read?"
"Fists and feet," Mato says. "Knees and elbows.

"But I like batons too." He grabs a couple, trying to get a feel for their weight and balance.

The fact that he's wearing a training uniform while Chan doesn't is curious. He's tempted to take his robe off, but he remembers Brad's warning about a pounding. Plus, if he wears it, it gives her some cover, in the sense of allowing her to save face in case Mato gets lucky. She could point to it as an unfair advantage.

He doesn't do anything fancier with the batons that a simple little twirl, twisting them around his wrists before returning them to an upright position. He settles into a stance which he thinks is from Okichitaw, but he doesn't really know. His instructors had shown him a mish-mash of fighting styles and stances, never really differentiating one from another. One of these days he might want to iron out which is which, but for now his immediate goal is to keep all his teeth.
AM responds truthfully. "I used to read a lot of fiction when I was younger and imagine all the places I couldn't see. I like thrillers, and detective stories. It kept me sane growing up as we could not afford much activities. I read a lot nowadays, but I mostly do professional and research oriented scripts rather than fiction. What is Camilo Jose Cela's writing like?"
The woman smiled again: "Gross, brutal, disgusting and yet witty and endearing. He supported a fascist regime and was yet one of the authors of a new democratic government. He writes about what it is to be human like few others. Here."
She reached into a different section of the library and produced a paper book - this time in English: The Hive.
"Keep it. Maybe you can find your love for other books again."

At that moment AM became aware of a second presence in the room. It was as if the large woman was stepping from thin air - but more likely that her RP-cloak around her shoulders had kept her hidden until now.
She was tall, broad shouldered and cybered to the nines - even a novice could have seen, that the chrome on her was of the highest quality, replacing both legs and arms. Her dark eyes were entirely artificial, but her gaze spoke volumes. Most to the effect of: "Go away, go away fast or I'll crush you for getting near my charge."
Mato got only a nod from her as Chan moved gracefully as a dancer onto the matt and took a ready stance.
"On three. One, two," She exploded into movement barely that the syllable three had passed her lips.

[ Spoiler ]
AM responds "This is very kind of you, thank you." she says, and places the book in the case of her Erika. I am looking forward to reading it. she responds.

When the bodyguard steps out of thin air, she is not entirely surprised as it was very likely that the duchess would have some security - being well a duchess. Yet, knowing that she was there and actually seeing the menacing woman are different things. She shivers for a moment, despite herself, but maintains her inner peace - the woman is not there to harm her, and AM definitely means no harm to the duchess. She glances at the woman, and then at the duchess saying "Oh, I did not mean to make your bodyguard uncomfortable, I am Emma by the way. I'll be off to my day-job now... Got to keep this place at top condition for your wedding. She said grinning at the duchess, and avoiding the ice cold look of the woman. AM leaves the library, and does not let her guard down until she is out of the library and away from that terrible lady.

[ Spoiler ]
Chan feints, but Mato doesn't fall for it. He's amped up and his adrenaline is flowing. His footwork dances around in a circle, avoiding the feint and putting him in the perfect position for a counterattack.

THERE!! he thinks, spotting the perfect opening, one that would surely be a knockout blow if only he were using his fists. But, alas, the batons are ultimately clumsy weapons, and by the time the baton arrives at its destination the opening has closed. Chan deflects the blow and resumes her assault.

One two three one two three! The batons CLACK CLACK CLACK against each other as Mato backpedals away from her furious counterattack. He didn't expect her to be shy, but nor had he expected her to be fighting so closely in. He presumed she would circle the perimeter and use her speed to strike, but instead she's pushing the pace.

Spying a break in the action, Mato swings, but it's at an awkward awkward angle and unlikely to hit. It would likely connect with a ganger or street punk, but a trained adept should avoid it with ease.
"Thank you." Jawsey puts some genuine warmth into his voice, not just pro forma politeness. Then he confides "I've not actually been to my room yet, but I presume someone will tell me where it is eventually? Judging by the rest of this place I imagine it will be more than fine, but thank you, I'll reach out to you if anything is amiss."

Dropping his voice a bit, he adds "And if I understand things properly, part of my job is to be looking for things that are amiss. If anything, or anyone, seems amiss to you, please let me know. I'm no mighty mage striking fear into all before me, but I can make a pretty effective guardian a--" He is interrupted by the door opening for their next stop. More briskly he concludes "Please call me Johnny."
[ Spoiler ]

He thinks Well, that could have gone better. I'm not used to having to do Elevator Pitches!
An attack so clumsy, that even a novice could have done better...
The funny thing was: Master of martial arts often feared the novice more than other masters, because other professionals are predictable, while novices running on pure instinct can at times do something totally stupid and succeed.

Mato's move was just that: Deceptively slow and clumsy. But his shiny chrome limbs not only looked totally rad but also packed the approximate force of jack hammers on nitroxide. The tip of the baton did just a bit more than graze her upper arm... and with an ugly crack the arm just broke.
Blood spurted and bone showed.
Chan went white from one second to the other and stumbled backward. She kept upright though - barely. Instinctively she wanted to bring both her weapons forward, but only one of her arms followed and she almost lost her footing.

"M...Medic..." She croaked, while her eyes threatened to turn up into her skull.

Jawsey meanwhile found himself at the receiving end of a piercing stare and a brittle smile:
"You can call me Miss Nassau while we are at work. Don't let me keep you from your duties."
Jawsey wasn't quite sure what he had said, but he must have inadvertently triggered something with his attempt at small talk.

AM received a faint smile from the Duchess and another withering stare from the bodyguard.
"Thomas hasn't yet proposed to me, so it's a bit early to plan for the wedding..."
Outside the library, everything is silent in the family quarters. On cue, van der Bloom sent her a message:
<<Nothing else to do at the moment, you can go to your room or the kitchen for a snack. I'll call on you when I need you, but be ready to represent at dinner time.>>

AM returns a smile and shakes her heads in a "silly me", gesture. That bodyguard sure is stressing, but it made her feel less of a threat anyow, and that was good for now. She leaves and texts back >> any objection to exploring a bit, I mean there would probably be few opportunities as the days progress.
Mato's eyes are rolling in exasperation at the same time Chan's are rolling in shock. He watches her fall in slow motion.

Perhaps he should feel scared, or worried. Mostly he's annoyed. This is a damnable inconvenience, entirely her fault for being to sloppy to parry a routine strike. But, still, the mess was made and now needed to be cleaned.

Step one, find a medkit. Step two, alert the chain of command. Step three, inquire what AM is doing right now.

Step One: Mato quickly scans the surroundings, trying to find a medkit. He knows he needs to stop the bleeding, perhaps apply a splint. A professional should reset the broken bone.

Step Two: He comms Brad, <<Brown, Copper down.>> Copper doesn't distinguish which guest, precisely, but Brad seems smart enough to put two and two together. He knew that Mato would be sparring at this time. <<She needs medical attention.>> Hopefully Brad - or Hamington - would have a sense about how to handle this quietly. He supposes that 'throw Mato under the bus' might be one viable approach, but this was consensual sparring, not an attack. On that note...

Step Three: <<AM and Jawsey, I'm not sure what's available for magical healing, but we need some in the gym, stat. AM, if you have access, can you pull any video records of the sparring session that just ended? It would be helpful to have an unaltered copy in case someone tries to claim malfeasance.>>

Mato sighs. He doubts that Chan will turn this into a political squabble - although others might do that on her behalf - but she might not forgive him either, which will undoubtedly complicate life. Still, he has a hard time feeling bad for her. Learning defense improves the attack.
>> I'll go help. with that she runs to the Gym.

[ Spoiler ]

[ Spoiler ]

Brad replied at once: <<Oh shit. Copy that, I'm on my way, do what you can in the meantime with the medkit there. Brown out.>>

AM arrived at the gymn before Brad. Chan was still conscious, but looked like she'd have preferred not to be...
By the time AM arrives, Mato has found the medkit and is kneeling next to Chan on the mat on the floor. He's typing the situation into the medkit while attaching various sensors and needles to her. He seems to be debating his options for the next step. He wasn't planning on doing anything major but Brad suggested that he should do what he can.

"We can just attach it to her and let it do its job," he says to AM. "It will stop the bleeding and ease her pain, but certainly won't do anything about the broken bone. It needs a pair of hands for that.

"I know the basics of what to do, and the medkit can provide instructions. Her Awakened physiology will complicate things. Can you give me a mental boost before I apply the splints?"
AM manifests her cat, as she runs to the scene. "Ofcourse, I'll also help."she responds
When she arrives, she places her hand on Mato's cyberarm. "Iktomi, give my friend wisdom" she says quietly and augments Mato's logical mind aided by Trouble. Her next approach is to help him treat the wounded woman, another pair of eyes and pair of hands to follow the medical instructions and Mato's orders.

[ Spoiler ]

AM's spell works like magic (ba dum tss). Mato's feels his mind opening - almost expanding - like it's no longer confined by his skull.

Everything seems so crisp and clear. "Is this what it's like...?" he wonders aloud looking around the room, almost distracted by the mental horsepower he now wields. Words rush into his mind, words that he would never think to use otherwise.

Chan groans, which brings his attention back to the present.

"Ah, it's so easy!" Mato says, seeing the situation and the medkit's recommendation with fresh eyes. "Diagnosis: open fracture. Fracture reduction is necessary." He types a few commands into the medkit to administer anesthetic to ensure the patient gets the appropriate relief. "Generally we would go with a hematoma block to deliver a local anesthetic directly to the area surrounding the fracture, but we won't in this case because it's an open fracture."

He continues to narrate what he's doing. Whether this is for Chan's benefit or whether he's just celebrating his newfound intelligence is unknown. He pulls on nitrile medical gloves.

"Next, we sterilize of the skin is performed with alcohol. This prevents bacteria from entering any breaks on the skin which may not only lead to infection but to complications such as septicemia.

"Performing the fracture reduction involves manipulating the ends of the broken bone so that they are realigned into their original position."
He looks down at Chan. "You may feel pressure or a crunching sensation but patients will usually not experience any significant pain."

CRUNCH! His strong hands reset the bone in short order.

"Immobilizing the bone ensures the broken ends are held firmly in place. Now that we've reduced the fracture, we will apply a splint. The most common types are plaster and fiberglass, but I don't want to do anything like that until magical healing has been applied. Plus, we should keep it exposed so that it can receive x-rays to better ensure that the reduced fracture is correctly aligned. We'll go with a simple wooden splint for now."

He leans back, admiring his handiwork. He turns to AM.

"Thank you for Iktomi's blessing. I am sure Iktomi is enjoying my predicament, and I appreciate Iktomi's willingness to mitigate some of the circumstances. Do you wish to apply magical healing or would you prefer to wait for medical professionals?"
You couldn't do much wrong with the moder medkits and all their step by step instructions - still Mato had good reason to be impressed with himself. The calm an clarity that AM's touch brought into his mind let him follow everything with absolute crystal clarity. Every movement economic and perfect, every touch as careful and sure as if he had done them a 100 times before.
Before he even knew it, he had - with the help of AM applied a tourniquet, set the bone, applied the wound seal and used the imobilizing foam. The topical anesthetic in both worked and Chan's vitals that had been close to a shock normalized.
Now she had her eyes half closed as the high of the pain relieve flooded through her: "Ah, it's always so nice when the pain goes away", before she relaxed and laid back to close her eyes.

McElroy was the next to arrive with Jawsey in tow.
"Foolish woman. That's the third time I've had to come down here in a rush. Maybe this time she'll stop doing this stupid drek."
The mage's gaze moved away from Chan and to Mato, nodding:
"You did an amazing job there - barely anything left to do for me. Still, our employer likely would want us to leave a guest wounded."
The tall man moved over to Chan and laid a hand on her wounded arm.
"Chauncey, I'll need your help with this."
At his words a Mist appeared that took on vaguely humanoid shape.
"On two. One, Two." Both AM and Jawsey felt how a high force healing spell took shape, aided by the bound spirit. Bones moved back in position and fused while torn flesh knitted back together, leaving not even a trace of its effects.
Almost as an afterthought, McElroy cast another spell that Jawsey knew to be the Detox incantation.
Chan's eyes flew open and with a sineous motion she went from lying down to standing up. A vexing grin on her lips she said: "Damn that was intense - and I had just such a nice high going too. Alright metal boy, time for round two..."

Before she could finish the sentence, McElroy stepped in: "No, absolutely not. You might feel fine, but before this spell hasn't become permanent you could go down as a vegetable. You had your fun and as your physician I absolutely forbid you anymore physical activity for the next few hours. Be happy you didn't bleed out. That was an artery you nicked there. And these people have work to do."
McElroy got up and indicated for the three investigators to follow him outside.

AM helps as much as she can, and following the instructions and trying to learn the basics. When McElroy arrives she is impressed by the healing spell, and the bound spirit but does not say much. Instead, she strokes her spirit-like Troubles, proud of her little boy. Thinking "you did good sweetie" and she thanks Iktomi for his generosity.

When McElroy asks them to follow him outside she feels a bit worried - have they done anything wrong? The Trickster sure has a sense of humor. "That was impressive work both of you." she comments to Mato and McElroy, and follows the man outside of the gym wondering what he has in mind.
Mato gives a bow to Chan. "Pugil sticks, perhaps?"

He then turns to follow McElroy out of the gym. It's curious to hear that it's the third time he's had to patch her up. Who else would she spar with? Perhaps Katya Komarova is the one who broke Chan the first two times.

"Thank you for your assistance," he says rather formally to AM. He's unsure if their private connection is known among the staff. For now he'll keep up the façade that they're independent of each other. "I appreciate your prompt and professional response."
Jawsey had been hurrying toward the gym when McElroy had caught up to him. Jawsey hadn't been quite sure what he'd be able to offer in the situation before McElroy turned up, and after he was content to sit back and watch. Maybe someday I'll toss around magic like that. Maybe.

When McElroy called them outside Jawsey traded glances with the others, wishing he could communicate what he'd told his boss about their presence. Then he realizes that he somewhat can. Following McElroy out he used Sioux Sign Language to tell the others "He knows about us." Which was something of an exaggeration, but it was better than the others trying to provide a song and dance about how random it was that Mato had called them here.
Outside the gym, McElroy put his finger to his lips and indicated to the team to follow him outside. One staircase later, he had them outside in a small gazebo.
"Mrs. Miller, Mr. Severo, I had a talk with Mr. Newton just a few hours ago that I do not condone anyone under my care to get hurt. From Mrs. Wu's utterance I gather that this foolishness was her own fault - entering a sparring with an unknown opponent and without the right protective gear.
Nevertheless, fools and children should not come to harm. From what I saw in her aura, she very nearly met a fatal fate. And even though it would have been her own damn fault, you'd still carry responsibility.
I'll bring this up with Cunningham and he hopefully with Master Pike, but for the moment I ask you as part of my deal with "Mr. Newton" to not let such an occurance happen again. Unless your own life is in danger, I expect you to withdraw or submit rather than find refuge in force. There are few things I can't fix, though death is unfortunately one of them.
Am I understood?"
Who is McElroy? Is he within Mato's chain of command? Does Mato have to listen to him?

Perhaps, perhaps not, but for now Mato will agree to make things easier on AM and Jawsey and anyone else who has to deal with McElroy regularly, especially since - as Jawsey covertly noted - he knows about the relationship between the three.

"Understood, sir."

After all, McElroy wasn't exactly wrong. Mato could have taken Chan's head off - perhaps quite literally - if he hadn't been using the batons. And even with the batons he was perhaps fortunate that his lazy blow had struck her arm as opposed to, say, her temple.

Still... once his back is turned, a little smile creeps into the corner of Mato's face. There had been a test of his skills - not a life or death one, but a test nonetheless - and he had passed.

He looks around and studies everything with new eyes, reveling in his new intelligence and the perspective it provides for a few minutes before AM drops the spell.

AM moves uncomfortably when McElroy speaks because she cannot believe that Mato just nearly killed the second grade initiate martial artist by accident. Perhaps magic is no match for chrome after all.
"Very definitely understood, Mr. McElroy." Jawsey almost pointed out that he hadn't really had time to talk to the others today, but in hindsight he could have perhaps sent a spirit, or risked a matrix message? Well, too late now.

"I am very glad that she healed up well, but most definitely we don't wish to hurt anyone here, nor frankly to attract as much attention as something like this could have drawn."
McElroy nodded: "Good. In that case I'll speak up for you, should this become an issue. It may eben be wholesome for Mrs. Wu in the long run to come up against an opponent that isn't awed by her wealth and connections and her ability to end carreers, health and life of a man.

Alrght Newton, time to get back to work. There is a lot more to cover before we can attempt a joint ritual casting."

The mage nodded to the other two detectives and turned to go.

Brad came on over the com to Mato: <<Damn, you really don't frag around, do you? I just saw the tape. Such a little tap and you nearly took her arm off. Better make yourself scarce until dinner. I'll cover for you. Unless the Dragon Lady complains that should be the end of it. Just don't mention it in front of Hamington.>>

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