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Episode 3: Rouge Tower [ON HOLD]

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Bleak Wood Storyteller:
Episode 3: Rouge Tower

Approaching Rouge Tower
The party had been traveling for over a day, their VTOL hovercraft floating at several thousand meters altitude.

Riv and Kiph had, tired of the cloudy vista, discovered the liquid treasures of a densely packed liquor cabinet, and was sleeping off the hangover when suddenly Helena and Cormac burst half naked into the OP center salon.

Embarrassedly covering up a partially revealed nipple,  Helena was gasping for air. Not because she had run very far, they had been in the room next door, but Cormac and Helena had been practicing paired athletics vigorously, and loudly, for several hours.

“We are closing in on Rouge Tower! Before you hide, I have to show you something!”, Helena was gasping, an exhausted blush in her cheeks, her hair in ruffles down her face. And with that she ran out of the room, leading Cormac by the hand, Kiph and Riv stumbling in a daze behind.

The cockpit was freezing cold, the glass having been penetrated by a projectile and frost spreading from the hole in an icy web pattern.
“Defrost”, she said, and in seconds the ice on the glass had melted and revealed a stunning vista.

Cloaked in the twilight of dusk a mountain rose, on whose slopes was built an impressive city. Clusters of futuristic buildings encircled by concrete and steel walls speckled the mountainside, high tech pueblos with tapering towers. It was a beacon of electric light in the desert wasteland.

Cormac marveled at how the small pueblo clusters clung to the face of the mountain, all the way to the spire, where a single, crimson tower stood. Its walls were covered in tinted glass panels, mirroring and enhancing the crimson glow of dusk.

“It is the red tower itself, the seat of the Scientist”, Helena whispered, as if she was afraid someone would hear them.

“You see, the city is named after the tower as it appears at dusk and dawn. Older legends tell another tale: that the city was named after the legends of old. You see, this was an important city of a mighty faction of the ancients, and against our walls unbelievers died in thousands, soaking the defensive walls in permanent crimson”, Helena pointed at the lower clusters, those not too high up the face of the mountain. "When you stand at the foot of the mountain, you need only dig for a short time before you start finding human bones"

As she spoke, the shuttle circled the mountain, approaching one of the uppermost sectors from the opposite side*.

“Military One, you are cleared for automated landing”, a male voice said. A second later a button lamp began to flash, and Helena approached it.

“When I press this button we will dock at the airport”

She glanced out the window, and outside the landscape had changed notably. They were on the opposite side of the mountain, and on the slopes stood charred ruins of metal wire frames and tumbled concrete walls. Here and there small bonfires could be seen.

“Blastside. It is where the nuke hit, the mountain shielding the rest of the town”, her voice was cold, not emotional, for she told it like she had heard it a thousand times before. “They say the Scientist stood in his tower, 150 years ago, despairing as divine fire scorched the majority of Rouge Tower. The nuclear blast could not destroy the tower of the Scientist, and it is the only building not shielded by the mountain that still stand”.

But that is just legend, right? His age I mean. No one can be that old, can they? 150 years ago and he was in charge, eldest of the council. No..."

Then she pressed the button, and the party went into hiding in the cargo.



* The shuttle will land at the airport, which is inside the mountain. The sector itself is on the side of the mountain that was shielded, while the airport entrance is in the face of the mountain, blastside - a circular opening ringed by blue navigational lights.

Bleak Wood Storyteller:
They hid inside each their wooden crate, “BW SALVAGE” being printed in large letters across each. From the darkness within they glimpsed the world through the cracks of the crates. Minute amounts of light combined with the hissing sound of hydraulics followed by the clanking of chains and mechanical whirring of machinery.  Then movement, as the crates were transported, before being put down.

Then the alarm sounded, and Kiph heard Riv swear. Then gunfire.

When Cormac and Kiph escaped their crates, into the dark realm of a warehouse, Riv was gone. Blood was on the floor, empty casings everywhere. They had heard voices, male, rough. They had heard Riv scream and curse. They were pretty sure he had killed someone. Judging by the amount of blood, more than one man had died here tonight.

Alone and scared, Kiph and Cormac made their way out of the warehouse, they stole some brushed steel suitcases on their way out, then followed hours of stalking down alleys, peeking around corners to make sure no one was there.

In the end they saw Helena. She looked pretty messed up and was followed by a couple of Gambit officers in their black commando uniforms.
 
Following at safe distance,  the unlikely duo saw them guide her into one of the steel and glass towers of the Gambit enclave.
 
Kiph froze. He was studying Helena and her captors when suddenly his brain seemed to meld into one with that of one of the guards. It was a nauseating experience, the world turning, a churning feeling in his stomach. Then he felt how aroused the Gambit Officer was. He wanted someone. Kiph sensed the man squeeze his left palm, meeting fleshy resistance… He was fondling Helena’s buttocks. Then he saw what the man saw, his right hand punching some kind of code into a panel on the wall. 1-4-9-4-9-1.

Cormac cursed as he noticed that the door was locked, and a passcode was needed. Then he jumped as Kiph walked right up to it and punched a six digit code, the door instantly opening.

They were outside her door. Kiph heard her cry inside, and he saw Cormac reach for his rifle. But the connection had not ceased, and Kiph as much felt as saw the man unbutton his pants. Sensing disaster, envisioning another crisis as Cormac would murder both men, he probed deep into the subconscious of the needy officer, and he found vivid childhood images of an abuse, drunken mother. Pulling and prodding, he pushed the images to the surface of the officer’s conscious mind. He felt his manhood wither and fade, felt everything as the man folded over and regurgitated on the floor.

Cormac had been ready to kill them both, when suddenly the doors burst open and a man half ran out, another in tow.

“Aros, what the @!#$ happened in there? I thought we were gonna do her good, and then you freak out on me? d**n… AROS! Wait”.
The confused shouting of the other officer, and the rancid smell of vomit was the last they saw of those two.

Cormac’s reunion with Helena was a sugar glaced one, but the woman had been placed in house arrest for three years for her dubious role in the incident at Bleak Wood and the discovery of a renowned murderer and madman in the salvaged cargo.

They later learnt that Riv had been sentenced to lifetime in a maximum security prison facility within the mountain. Helena simply called it “The Cyst of Hell” or “Hellcyst” for short, as was the name the denizens of Rouge Tower had given it. Officially it was called “Penance”, but the name wasn’t even used by those who worked there.

****************************************

Riv was alone in his cell. He had killed his two former cellmates, and the guards had roughed him up pretty good each time, putting him in the pit a month each time. But now he was alone, at least for now.

The days went by, one by one, until, in the end he lost count. He woke up, ate a grueling breakfast then was herded down into the mines where he navigated crawl space tunnels and dug through stone. It was all an exercise in futility, for the minerals they found where few, barely enough to finance their miniscule meals. In the end he had convinced himself the whole operation was focused solely on punishment and deterring the citizens, more than any financial value in itself.

Then, after a long, long time, there was an explosion in the mines, killing his fellow inmates, leaving only him behind. The tunnel had collapsed, burying some poor souls alive, killing even more, but the guards merely shrugged their shoulders and left those caught in the tunnel screaming behind. The mines were not part of the prison complex, but in a separate section of the mountain, and when they believed all the prisoner of their tunnel were dead, they simply left. No one thought to look for a sole survivor hidden in a crevice in the ceiling. No one saw the shadowy figure as he made his way outside, raiding the prisoner gear storage as he went along.

****************************************

Kiph met Curie in an alley. He liked to sneak through the enclave's alleys at night, listening in to people's thoughts, planting suggestions or diving into their subconscious. It was hard, but he was getting better.

Then one night he met Curie.

There was a particularly beautiful woman who lived alone in a one story building with lots of windows. Kiph knew her kind, woman for hire, a peddler of the flesh. But she was beautiful, and she had so many windows.

It was in one of these windows he found Curie. Not inside, but in the reflection of the glass he saw a ghastly figure as it studied him from behind, myriad eyes glittering strangely in the night.

There was confusion, and nearly a fight, but Curie removed her mask and in the end they bonded in some peculiar fashion, for Kiph discovered their shared origins: experimented upon by the Gambit, then escape into freedom.

But Curie, or 13 as she sometimes called herself venomously in her alien thoughts, was even more broke than him, her brilliant mind sometimes reminding him of a prodigious child. It felt so confusing when he melded with her mind. Her thoughts like bullets in the dark, fast and elusive, nearly impossible to follow. But there was an unmistakable kindness to her, and a vulnerability he had not felt in anyone. Not since his rite of manhood under his master Fatebringer, Abak Loett.

He brought Curie home a week before Riv re-entered their lives. Helena was less than pleased, and somewhat freaked out by the strange creature.

That happened last week.

Murometz:
[ooc]Riv in Bleak Max Security prison, reminds me of a quote from the Watchers movie. Specifically, Rorshach. When jailed, and faced with adveristy from fellow inmates, before kicking all of their respective asses, he explains to all present, "None of you seem to understand! I am not stuck in here with YOU. You are stuck in here with ME!". Sorry, had to share that.  :P[/ooc]

Bleak Wood Storyteller:
”Who the @!#$ do you think you are? Filling MY house with those smelling, rancid losers? This used to be a LUXURY apartment once, NOT a pigsty!”, Helena’s voice cut through the thin walls between the kitchen and the living room, and Riv poured himself another glass of whisky, rubbing his stubble growth with the other hand.  A second later he heard Helena scream, and the sound of breaking glass.

Again.
 
And again.

Cormac rushed out of the kitchen, his cheeks red, muttering under his breath. Helena rushed after him, grabbing his sleeve. “You no good son of a dog! However did I get pregnant with YOU? You worthless ball of slime, wastelander mongrel dog!”.

Cormac tore loose and ran into the bathroom, quickly locking the door. Helena curled into a ball, screaming at the top of her lungs. “I hate you, I HATE YOU!”

Riv shifted uncomfortably, pulling the crystal glass protectively closer, guarding the content, sipping carefully. Helena had changed, no doubt of that. She was fat with child, five months pregnant. He could not miss the cookie crumbles in the cleavage of her night gown, nor the plush of her cheeks. Where she five months ago was the embodiment of man’s desire, she was now a fat, angry cow.
 
Helena turned to walk when she noticed Riv looking disdainfully at her. She glared at him, her eyes dark and foreboding. Riv felt the urge to enter the bathroom as well. A short sprint was followed by rapid knocking. Cormac was quick to let him in, shutting the door with considerable strength, multiple times, to truly demonstrate his frustration.

****************************************

LaForge sat unseen in a corner of the corridor outside. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Focus was important.

The argument within the apartment did not escape her attention, but it mattered little. In the time she had lived here, the last of her neighbors had moved out. They were respectable citizens, and tolerating the pleasure slave in the luxury apartment was bad enough. Having rabble of questionable origin stalk the hallways and scream like madmen was intolerable. When continuous raids by security forces failed to unveil any illegal activities in the woman’s apartment, they could do nothing. Unfortunately for them, Colonel Anderson, Helena’s former owner and sponsor, had built a secret room in his favorite concubine’s room. It came in handy, she had to confess that. The other tenants had tried to remove her once, but then it turned out she was pregnant, and with an important member of the Compound council as the father apparent. Their request was quickly disregarded, and champagne and chocolate had been bountiful since that. Helena was price breeding material, or so it seemed.

She listened in to the song of the ether, the voices on the wind. There were so many, their messages seemingly important by the sound of their voices. Slavers, merchants, prostitutes, families and friends talking merged into one with encrypted messages and streams of data being exchanged. But there was a continuous discord, an undercurrent she could not quite place. It made the hair on her semi-translucent skin stand up.
[ooc]13 can sense wireless / radio traffic with her sensory organs. She views them differently, for it seems like a song to her. The voices of the ether, singing in harmony (and sometimes in a chaotic cacophony)[/ooc]

Then she heard footsteps, and, like a quiet whisper, Experiment 13 melded into the shadows; faded from view.

****************************************

Kiph sat on the sill, dangling his feet. Thirty floors below him, he saw the ground, people moving about like little ants. He touched their minds with his, then he froze. Someone down there was studying him. Through the eyes of the spectator he saw a crossbow being raised, steadily aiming at him.

He rolled back, bounced over the bed and landed on his feet in a crouch. There was a heavy thud, chalk dust falling like snow. Looking up, Kiph saw the bolt in the ceiling. It had crushed through a plasterboard ceiling tile and was stuck in an air duct.

The fatebringer inhaled sharply. On the bolt someone had written tiny letters. Fatescript. An assassination target. He put an armchair on the bed, climbed atop the wobbling chair and yanked at the bolt until it came loose.


--- Quote ---Client withheld by order of Master Loett
Target Information:
Ardakaus Serosh
Male
Spymaster of Rouge Tower
Resides in the Tower of the Scientist
Note: Wears Armashield Corp. Personal Shield Mark IV
Note: Hidden miniature flamethrowers in his sleeves
--- End quote ---


“I hate you! I hate you!”, Helena was screaming down below.

****************************************

Wesknife was in character. He wore a Cantonese rich red robe, in the style currently in fashion among the rich of Rouge Tower. Down his left side was golden embroidery of the scorching of Blastside, the Scientist in his tower, his hands up, shielding the rest of town. In his left hand was a single long stemmed rose, in his right a bottle of exclusive champagne. His taken identity liked pregnant women. Liked to have them, liked to slap them around. But that was not his objective here. No, he was here to get help. The visit to the expensive prostitute was just a cover up. He was here to recruit allies.

Three rapid knocks on the door. Feverish activity inside. Seconds of waiting, then he was led inside by the pregnant prostitute. He smiled at her, she held his hands, accepted the rose and the bottle. He sat down in the sofa. There were something wet next to him. He touched it, sniffed it. Whisky. Someone had just spilled a few drops of whisky in the sofa. Not the prostitute, she was sober and her breath fresh. There were more people here.
Then Helena came out of the kitchen again, quickly closing the door behind her. She had objected heavily at first, said she was pregnant, but the credits he offered were too good to pass up, and so she had accepted in the end.

He looked at the woman. She was pretty in spite of her weight, though she looked somewhat ashamed of her condition.

[ooc]Dark_dragon, valadaar, Murometz and EchoMirage. You are all present. Kiph is upstairs, but he knows someone is with Helena downstairs. 13 is in the corridor outside, or he could have snuck in after Wesknife. Riv, you are with Cormac in the bathroom, but he door is thin and you can easily listen in on the conversation.[/ooc]

dark_dragon:
Helena walked towards the sofa on which he was sat. The warmth, happiness, and sexual attraction emanating from him as she approached could be felt in the same way as the summer sun on your skin. He seemed to visibly relax as she sat down.

His voice filled with tenderness as he spoke. "My dearest Helena, business has kept me away from your beauty for far too long." Edging closer to her, he gently caressed her swollen belly while placing his other hand on the nape of her neck. He gently massaged the tense muscles he found there until he felt the tension vanish.

Bending down, he kissed her belly. "You are more beautiful than ever." he said softly as he rose back.

He edged closer, caressing her hair out of the way so that his lips approached her ear. His was hand now holding her head, and pulling her closer.

Ice had drenched his tone as he whispered: "Now, dearest Helena. Please invite the men who are currently hiding in your apartment to reveal themselves."

He felt the woman recoil, but his arm was now holding her still. She felt trapped, alone and afraid.

He moved back slowly, the motion now predatory, and void of any tenderness, until he faced her and their noses were almost touching.

"Now."

The imperative was given in the voice of a murderer, chilling Helena to her bones. His tone alone enough to suggest the unspeakable horrors that would occur to her and her unborn child should he be disobeyed.

And then, as if nothing had happened, he released her and relaxed back into the sofa, the picture of contented power, a beaming smile on his lips radiating warmth.

Helena, however, was still shivering.

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