To Save a Child - the RP

Part 3

Sticks stepped into the room just as Jess started her playback of Daren's last recording. "Excellent!" he thought, "The woman has true skill with the matrix. I will wait until I hear what she and the mage have discovered before I speak of our opposition or of the data chip." As he watched the playback of the child's space fantasy he smiled at first, but as he saw the child fill his backpack, he became furious with himself. "How could you miss that, you fool!" he thought, "You know every little one has some bag for his little treasures. Maria had the carry case with the ponies on it. MORON! You should have realized there was no carry case or bag for treasures! But no! You are so sure, so clever. You tell the others, people with more experience in this type of thing, 'Oh, he was taken. Yes I am so sure'. How could you be so stupid?" In answer he remembered an incident when he was 14 and his delight in his mastery of Sinwahli had resulted in a concussion at the hands of an ork named Chuckles." 'Your pride makes you act foolishly boy'," he heard his father say softly while winding bandage around Sticks fractured skull, "'and then you pay the price.' Only this time it is a small child who you have sworn to recover who pays for your ego. Keep quiet while those with true skill do their work. You are a fool!" Sticks waited to see which of his mistakes the others would reveal next. Jess looked at Sticks as she replayed the entry for him. As he watched, she noticed the swelling that had started around his eye. Immediately she clicked into medic mode, but something in his expression made her stop. The expression was so much like her brother Andy's when he was hurt and the last thing he wanted was his big sister fussing over him.

As the entry stopped for a second time, Jess took the bottle of Aspirin and tossed them to Sticks.

"Looks like you could use a few of these too," she stated softly.

When he looked at her, Jess shrugged. "Just take some and then we'll talk."

Sticks looked from the bottle of aspirins to Jess and back again. "How does this woman know I have a headache?" he thought "Is it so obvious that I am seeing how foolish I am?" With a small sigh he said "Thank you Jess, No. I do not use these." He returned the bottle, resolving to learn more before he opened his big mouth.

Tal focused as much as he could on the "how" of Darren's levitation out of his room. As he watched Darren rise, it seemed to be like he was being cradled in someone's arms. Possibly an Invisibility spell designed to spoof electronics, Tal thought to himself. But he thought that it still could be some kind of spirit... There were just too many variables for his liking, but the enigmatic situation still perked his interest.

He noticed with a greater interest, the child's face when he turned to shut off the computer with his voice...No fear, no fear at all.

Jess caught the bottle Sticks had tossed back and looked at it a minute. Shrugging she opened it and took another pill out. She dry swallowed it and then looked back at the screen. As it finished replaying she looked over at Tal.

"If you want I can slow it down some, probably focus in on anything if you can tell me where and when," she offered as her gaze went from Tal to Sticks.

She waited in silence as the images played through again. It wasn't any easier to watch then it had been the first time.

Tal watched Jess with slight concern showing in his eyes. "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked, noting the quantity of aspirin she was downing and wondering if she had encountered more than she was revealing in the Matrix.

Jess looked at Tal when he spoke. For a brief moment he could almost see the pain in her eyes, then the laughter took over.

"If you're asking 'have I had enough', the answer is no. If you're asking 'if I've had as much as I should, the answer is probably."

Jess looked away from him for a minute then turned back. Again, there was pain, but it was hidden just as quickly. "I haven't even taken this job and it's already rated at three margaritas," she smiled half heartedly, but then he noticed the worry in her eyes.

Tal's gaze lingered on her for another moment. He wanted to inquire further, but felt that now was not the time. He suspected that if Jess wanted to share the source of her pain with them, she would do so in her own time. "Perhaps," he suggested, "we all might adjourn to another location where we can compare notes and decide on our next step."

Jess nodded. "That may be our best bet," she answered with a nod. "There are some things that happened, after I found the file," she added disjointedly, then shook her head. "We should probably discuss them away from here."

She looked from Tal to Sticks, then back at the computer. "I don't think the Gillians should see that vid just yet. I hate it when people keep me in the dark for my own good, but we really don't know what any of this means. And I don't think they need to see that."

She looked at them unsure if she was suggesting the right course of action, but very very sure that she wanted to be away from that node.

Sticks noticed the intensity of the elf's study of Jess. Curbing both his emotional response and his intellectual analysis, the teenager gave a single nod to signify his intent to follow his teammates. "BE PROFESSIONAL!" He mentally shouted at himself.

Jess took Sticks' nod to mean that they were all in agreement, but when she tried to stand, it was as if her legs had other plans. The headache had stopped growing, but her balance was off. She caught herself and pushed herself to a standing position.

"There's still a lot we need to do," she admitted as she looked at them. "But we need to pull our resources. If you're all agreeable, my brothers' place should be quiet enough for us to figure out what we have to go on. We also won' t have to worry about ... things."

She paused as her experience in the matrix replayed in her mind, and the voice that spoke to her, even after the connection had been broken.

The trio gathered their things and returned to the Gillians downstairs. The couple looked tired, the emotions bleeding off of them like open gunshot wounds. All three of them could feel the anguish, the frustration, and it did little for their own mental states. Sahara glided into the kitchen upon hearing that the group was leaving. Moments later she returned with a plastic box full with sandwiches of all types. Handing them over to Sticks, she brushed a lock of blonde hair out of her eyes. "Sorry, I don't have anything to give you to drink, unless you want some coffee. I'm sure I can put some into a large thermos for you..."

Her voice was cut off by the ringing of the comm unit near the door.

Thomas rose from his place on the couch and went to answer. "Yes?"

"It's Dan, Mr. Gillian. I've got a pair of gentlemen here to see you, sir." The Welsh security guard paused over the intercom. "Shall I send them up?"

Thomas stepped back from the unit, looking at the display. "I've never seen those two before..." he whispered to himself, seemingly trying to remember as he spoke.

Jess tensed as Mr. Gillian reached for the Intercom button. "Wait," she urged. If he didn't know these people, Jess wanted to keep as much security between the Gillians and these strangers.

"Is there any other way out of here, other then the elevator," she asked. "Or does the elevator stop anywhere other than here or the lobby?"

Jess looked the others as an idea started to form.

"I'll take a look at them," Tal said. Sitting down in the nearest chair, he left his body and sent his astral form down to get a look at the newcomers before they arrived.

Jess looked from Tal to Sticks as the reports came in. As much as she hated leaving the relative safety of the apartment it was beginning to seem like the best alternative.

She scanned the area for security cameras, and then came up with an idea.

"I'll be right back," she stated as she ran up the stairs and back into Darren's room. Reactivating the computer she told it to record, then hooked it to the matrix so that she could access the video later. She moved the camera so that it had a view of the hallway and then turned the audio up as high as she could.

That done, she headed back downstairs.

Tal shifted himself into the astral plane, being mindful to check for enemy presences in the area. Satisfied that there were none, he moved down the elevator shaft towards the lobby.

There we are... he thought to himself as he approached a pair of individuals standing next to the somewhat recognizable aura of Dan the head of security. Taking a moment to view the vast amounts of black in the ork, Tal noticed with growing dread the amounts in the two newcomers.

One was the size of a large Troll, the other human sized. It wasn't the fact that they both contained enough vat-wear to make them nearly insane that bothered the elf, it was how there auras read nearly no emotion. They were utterly calm. To make sure he hadn't missed something completely, he read the security guards aura.

Very controlled agitation, but readable. Tal looked back to other two. They seemed to be waiting patiently for the elevator, every so often the human would take a glance about the area. The troll seemed to be holding some type of case, while the human held nothing.

Tal went over what he'd seen, then...

Tal's astral form rejoined with this body and he sat up, looking somewhat grim. "I don't like the look of those two," he reported. "It might be paranoia, but anyone with that much cyberware makes me a bit nervous to start with...couple that with the fact that their auras are flat--totally without emotion--and it makes me think that we'd best be well prepared for their arrival. One of them looks like a troll, and the other's a human. The troll is carrying some sort of case. They were waiting for the elevator, but I expect that they'll be along in short order."

He looked questioningly at his two teammates for ideas.

Nodding at the actions of his teammates, Sticks quickly moved to the skylight. He climbed through without a word to anyone to make sure an attack through the backdoor was not in progress.

Sticks pulled himself through the skylight with ease. Once outside he was assaulted by the cold Seattle wind washing over the roof of the 1500 ft building. To his left were several maintenance structures and a pair of roof access doors. To his right was a helipad.

Moving with silence as a friend, the Escrimador moved to one of the maintenance structures to secure a good watching position. It didn't take more than a moment for him to melt into the shadows of the one story structure (the size of a tool shed) and begin observing. The young Filipino opened his senses, having learned how important it was to listen to all that they could provide. The wind was biting, even with the mist that continued to fall on the Seattle cityscape. In the distance, he heard the rumble of a Sub-orbital lifting off from Sea-Tac...

Part 4
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