Lindsey Sawyer, former General of NEMA has been… living at the Academy. Aiden and Slaine don’t really have the resources to support someone indefinitely and Lindsey isn’t the kind to ask them to in any case. She quickly realized that her skills suited her to only a few lines of work but her perspectives on history might well be worth something. She’s currently working quite closely with a small team of professors headed by Ingerhast who are, unsurprisingly, writing a book.
The general is quite well compensated for her time and insights. One can’t get this knowledge just anywhere after all.
Though perhaps it would be more accurate to say that one can’t get the knowledge anywhere at all.
Aiden and Slaine had been admitted to the grounds and shown to the suite where the former General is staying. It’s spacious and Slaine can see right away she’s just been devouring books. Figuratively. Doing so literally would have gone over poorly.
“Mister Frost. Miss McClellan. To what do I owe the – Mister Frost are you aware that you’re gloing?”
He is. Red. The lines haven’t gone out since St. Louis was mentioned.
Slaine hadn’t had time to corner Aiden … yet … and ask why he’s having such a strong reaction. But reaction it is, she’s knows enough about that damn eyelarch to know that and she //will// get to the bottom of it, sooner or later.
Shown into Lindseys suite, the Mystic is still wearing that Crown that Aiden is coming to dislike so much. “It’s jus’ Slaine, General.” she says quietly, giving Aiden the side eye “He does that when he’s upset … Which is sort of why we’re here.”
Aiden would consider taking it from her by force but he saw what happened when he did. She seemed like a ghost of herself. He doesn’t like this in any way but that’s not what he’s thinking on right now.
“We’ve found a record of one of your officers, General. The short version is that he thought the best way to beat the World Slayers was to try to find something counter to their nature, something he was convinced would be found in Saint Louis.”
Lindsey sucks in a breath. “We were desperate then. Saint Louis was very, very dangerous in my time.”
“It still is.” Aiden says shortly, earning him a look from the general. “I need to know where he might have looked.”
Lindsey rises from her chair and walks over to the window, looking out over the Academy grounds.
“I… might have some ideas. Let me think. I’ve… been reading some disturbing things. There’s not much in the way of histories here but a lot of what there is speaks of a nation called the Coalition States centered on… Chicago.”
Old Chicago, now known as Chi-Town.
“Can you… tell me what became of my people? What… we became?”
And well Aiden shouldn’t be thinking on it. They’ve bigger fish to fry, so to speak.
“Everywhere is dangerous …” Slaine mutters quietly, watching Lindsey but she knows there’s something about St Louis that Aiden likes even less. Perhaps even less than Splynn. “And the Coalition States aren’ the least of them.”
That’s not entirely true but for people like Slaine, Aiden and Lindsey the CS are just trouble through and through.
“What ye became?” Slaine casts a look at Aiden not knowing how to answer that. “We … don’ really know, to be honest. NEMA. It’s no’ something I really knew abou’ till we came lookin’ for yer base in Dinosaur Swamp. But the CS claim to have created all this technology. I … don’ think they created it…”
Lindsey walks back to the desk and turns a book to face the other two. It’s a picture of a Coalition SAMAS. Familiar to Aiden and even a sight that Slaine knows if a rare one out this far. She saw them up close within the last couple of months though.
“These… Coalition weapons. They were created in the golden age. A lot of what I’ve read of these people using seems like our old equipment… or small evolution on it. But…”
She’s shaking now, almost… angry. “I’ve read of them torching cities in addtion to warring with these… demons. If they’re not the descendents of my people then they took their technology. I… need to know which it is. Did we… become what we fought?”
Aiden sighs and glances at Slaine. “No one really knows where the CS came from. The human settlements that became that seem to date back to the fall but…” He shrugs. Who were they? He’s not sure.
“I was told that they’ve an embassy in the city. Staying at an in called ‘Grans…’ I’d… like to speak to them.”
Is that reallly a a good idea?
“The CS ain’ demons…” Slaine says slowly, looking at the image in the book and blowing out a long slow breath. “They don’ like people like us – those that have powers but … they were scared and seem to have decided that anythin’, anyone with powers is threat to their continued existence.”
Glancing up at Lindsey, back down to the book and then back up “Why do ye need to which it is? The world is differen’ now, General. It’s changed since the time of yer people and there ain’ no goin’ back. We jus’ have to play the hand that the universe has dealt…”
She’s sure that at least some of Lindseys descendants formed NEMA. And she’s equally as sure that their vision became warped as things became darker and more perilious.
“They are. They ain’ nice people, though General an’ they migh’ decide they don’ particularly like ye being free. That ye should be … workin’ for them or … jus’ dead.”
She’ll wait till she gets Lindsey’s answer to her question before offering to take her over there. Or admitting that Grans is her place. Well, her grandmothers.
“General.” Aiden finally prompts. “Saint Louis.”
Lindsey takes a deep breath. “If it’s something to do with the demons it won’t be any of the government facilities. Some of the civillians in our time were starting to exhibit… unnatural powers. Magic, I guess you could call it. They… thought that there must be something near some place called the Joplin house. Some place they had resonated with occult energy before the rifts.”
Aiden has no idea where that is but…
“I can show you, I think. But on one condition. I want your help talking to these… Coalition people.”
Aiden sighs. There’s Slaine’s answer. She wants to do it anyway.
“Two stubborn women, lovely.”
The gem in the Crown blinking faintly. It’s quickly extinguished though – whether that’s because Slaine puts a clamp on her emotions or it decides not to react, no one is likely to know.
“I wondered abou’ tha’, actually. The powers. Did people jus’ get them or was it the next generation …” Aidens pointed comment though, has Slaine trailing off and frowning at Lindsey.
“I’m fairly certain ye don’ wan’ our help.” the Mystic mutters “Bu’ Gran’s is owned by my … Gran and we can take ye to talk to them. Don’ be surprised if they reject ye though.”
Of course, Half Pint is morbidly curious how the CS will take being confronted by someone from NEMA. A part of her is almost excited to find out. Aiden is likely to ‘scruff’ her again if he knew that.
“Will ye show us before ye talk to the CS?”
“An’ I’m no’ stubborn, Aiden. Jus’ practical.”
“I guess that’d only be fair. But Saint Louis is a long way from here. Are we taking your flying boat again? The one with the… mind cannons?”
Aiden nods. “It’s the only way to get there in a reasonable time and it’s still going to be a trip.”
“Great. When d-” Boom. The sound is muted but the whole room shakes.
“What was that?”
Is that smoke outside the windows? Coming from the main campus tower complex?
“We’re only goin’ to take the Fairwind if ye dress appropriately, Aiden.” Slaine teases a bit. “I’ve seen the puffy shirt that Varos has worked up for ye. It will show off that chest of yers ….” She blushes and trails off. It’s so unlike Slaine to blush about something like that.
The boom when it comes causes the gem in the Crown to glow brightly as the Mystic turns to the window and frowns. “Either a student has messed up a spell again or the Academy is under attack …” beat “Either way, I’m goin’ to check it out.” These two can come or stay, as they like.
Aiden opens the door to go check as well and then frowns and grabs Slaine’s shoulder. “Something’s wrong. That smoke and dust. It looks more like a high explosive than a spell gone wrong.”
Something emerges onto the green a quarter mile away. Three figures, running. Running VERY fast. The psychic catches a hint of a strap crossing the chist of one under his armored coat.
“Juicers!” Aiden yanks Slaine back in and slams the door shut as an ion bolt passes through where his head was a moment ago.
“What?” Lindsey ducks as the bolt blasts a divot out of the ceiling.
“Assassins. We need another exit. Now.”
Slaine is almost through the door as Aiden’s hand lands on her shoulder. She doesn’t snap, but immediately allows him to pull her back. She trusts him, implicitly it seems to let him do that. And jumps as the ion bolt comes through the door.
“Wha’ the everlivin’ hell?” she yelps “Wha’ on earth do ye mean Assassins.” Her brains slowly catching up, though the gem in the crown is blinking angrily now.
“The window. It’s the only way … I can give the General a blessin’ to float her down. Ye’ve got yer tk to rely on.” Which leaves her. Aiden might be able to lower both of them, but not if they’re not looking like swiss cheese.
Blue energy forms around Slaines hands as she mutters the words of a spell. Arcane symbols form and land on Lindsey … conferring the blessing that Slaine just spoke of.
“Out the back General.” Aiden looks at the door. The windows. They could come through either of those. Or the wall if they have more bombs.
Bombs. That’s exactly what he would do. “Duck, Half Pint!”
Lindsey is halfway out the window and already wide eyed (and floating) when Aiden throws up a half dome shaped shield and the wall to the left of the door explodes inward in a shower of splinters. Three juicers bolt in, vibro blades in hand. Aiden’s eyelarch blazes to life at the same time as his psy blades.
Tellingly they don’t go for Lindsey. They go for Aiden. All three of them. He’s good. But he’s in close quarters with three highly augmented killers.
“Get out the damn window…” Slaine nearly screams at Aiden as he insists on thowing up that shield. A shield that, if she was honest, saves them. She doesn’t duck nearly quickly enough and takes some shrapnel across the cheek.
The gem in the crown shines brightly as the Mystics eyes blaze as well. Hoping that Lindsey can look after herself, the redhead turns to the Juicers as blue energy crackles across the backs of her hands. She’s intoning the words of a spell that forms the energy into more arcane symbols. Symbols that blast out and hit one of the Juicers //hard//. Hopefully hard enough to knock to him back at least and give Aiden some room.
“STOP NOW!!” There’s a psychic imperative behind those words, directed at all three of their assassins.
Two of the assassins seem to freeze. One of them is the one that Slaine hit with that blast. The last one tries to get inside Aiden’s guard. The hacker twists his blade and disarms him, figureatively not literally, but the Juicer manages to grab his wrist and punch out at his throat lighting quick.
Aiden’s head rocks back and he gags. That hurt and suddenly he can’t breathe. The juicer gets his blade again and stabs right down at Aiden’s unprotected back.
“I said STOP!” There’s a tone to Slaines voice as she speaks and Aiden can feel the psychic pressure that accompanies it. The Mystic doesn’t hesitate as the last Juicer launches another attack. The words to her spell spill easily from her lips and the blast of the blue energy lances right at the assasin where the augmentation is.
“Ye will no’ hurt my friends …” She says. Eyes blazing right along with the gem in the Crown.
The man staggers back dropping a small cylender in the middle of the room. Aiden’s eyes widen and he grabs Slaine to throw the both of them out of the window, following Lindsey who is only halfway down.
They’re not followed. In fact when Slaine looks up there’s two things. First, thick colored smoke billowing out of the window and second, an enormous orb spider sitting astride the roof of the building, fishing out the assassins and wrapping them in thick silky cord.
“Slaine! Aiden! Are you hurt?” That’s Lindsey. On the ground now.
“Aiden!” Slaine normally calls him Vargr when they’re in ‘public’ but she had thought they would be safe enough here. She was wrong. Clearly. They fly out the window as she says that, the gem in the crown still blazing angrily but the blue energy fades from around her hands.
When they hit the ground, the small redhead is still gazing up watching Ingerhast do her thing. “We’ll be by, Professor …” she says loud enough, she hopes, for the spider to hear her. Her tone … it’s going to worry to Aiden. He’s heard that before.
“I’m … fine. But Aiden …” she turns to look at the psychic “Next time ye leave when I tell ye …” There’s a pallour to her – and not because of the crown. Aiden just gave her a hell of a scare.
“Are ye well, Lindsey?”
“I’m sure you will Slaine.” The orb spider calls back down. “I’ll have these three… hanging around.”
She’ll probably have questioned them by then too.
“And let you handle three juicers? Three veteran juicers I daresay. You’re good half pint but you’re not that good.” Aiden folds his arms… and then rubs at his throat and coughs. A bit harder and he might have choked.
Lindsey coughs. “I’m fine but… why were they trying to kill you. Us. You?”
“Me, probably. And there’s a price on my head.”
Lindsey looks between Slaine and Aiden. “Do I want to know why?”
“I may have lost a war…” Aiden mutters darkly.
“Don’ be stupid, Aiden. I needed ye to get me down. I would have come with ye and blocked the window behind us. We could have found more defensible ground…” Slaine just //stares// at Aiden for thinking she would have tried to fight them. Where on earth would he get such an idea from.
Certainly not because she’s tried to do that before … *cough*
“Do ye need to go to the Restorium?” she finally asks, the gem in Crown slowly fading. She’s concerned. That had been close and if the other two look, she’s shaking slightly. That had scared her, more than it should have.
“The Tolkeen War.” she adds to the Lindsey. “The CS declared war on Tolkeen an’ Aiden fough’ agains’ them. He killed a lot of them, from what I understan’ there’s still a price on his head. The CS at Grans weren’ happy to see him, that’s fer sure. Speakin’ of which, I mean to have to words with them for that. We had their word ye’d be safe. An’ don’ tell me they’ll disavow this because they were assassins…”
Oh goodie. Kailastia is going to love this.
Aiden swallows and rubs at his throat a bit. “Maybe I should…” Not right away, but perhaps soon. That punch nearly killed him. Or… would it have. Slaine has seen him nearly killed – or perhaps actually killed – before.
“Tolkeen? The… these people declared war on a set of books?”
“A city. Named Tolkeen. It was one of the jewels of the great lakes. Three hundred thousand souls, laid waste by their army for daring to include non humans and use magic.”
Of course the dark side of that is the magic unleashed on the CS by Tolkeen which was fully the equal of anything the Federation of Magic has been able to accomplish in their long feud. Magic is wild and dangerous… and some of it is quite evil.
“It might be difficult to connect them back to the CS mission.” Aiden sighs. “In fact it probably will be. Deniability is key in operations like that.”
“Then I’ll take ye next …” Slaine says quietly, watching Aiden rubbing his throat with concern. She had seen him killed, she knows he was dead and that damn eyelarch had … done something. It’s not something she wants to see again, preferably – though an alive Aiden is better than a dead one.
“Books? I didn’ say anythin’ abou’ books, General. I said Tolkeen, a city as Aiden says…” Slaine truly is ‘uneducated’ when it comes down to it. “The CS don’ like magic or anythin’ ‘non-human’. They’ll attack it and try to destroy it if they can. The detachment here worries me, greatly. They could turn on us at any time…”
She doesn’t mention about magical backlash. She’s certain Tolkeen wouldn’t have responded if they hadn’t been pushed too.
At Aidens last words, the gem in the Crown blinks angrily “I don’ care, Aiden.” Slaine growls. Uncharacteristically “I’ll pin their ears to wall and tell them how it is here.” It doesn’t //sound// Slaine, not at all.
“Tolkien… nevermind.” Lindsey waves it off. “I want to talk to them a lot more now but… I wonder if this Embassy is the right one to talk to.”
Aiden doesn’t think it’s ever especially productive to TALK to the Coalition States but he doesn’t say that. Instead he says…
“You’ll make life very difficult for Gran and Kailastia if you do. They’re under diplomatic protection right now whether we like it or not.”
Certianly it’s occured to Aiden to just… off them. But he can’t see a way in which it doesn’t make things much worse for all concerned.
“An’ they can’ go aroun’ hurtin’ my friends.” Slaine shoots back, blinking a bit as she realises what she’s doing. The Gem ‘quiets’ a little and she looks over to Lindsey.
“It’s the only Embassy they have an’ I doubt ye’ll find another.” She doesn’t offer that they could probably find more CS in the mountains outside Vesper. “So have yer chat with them as ye can. I think we should speak to them before we go to St Louis.”
After they take Aiden to the Restorium.
Well, unless she wants to go hunt them down in DC but Aiden might actually not help her with that. He’s not eager to encounter them in large numbers up close again, at least not without sizeable backup… and artilelry on standby.
“Come back soon Slaine.” Ingerhast chitters down at them. She’ll probably not kill the assassins.
Though they may wish she had.
Aiden follows without any protest which may be an indication of just how close this call was. Barring anything terrible though… he’ll be out and making trouble for everyone in short order.
Ingerhast. Slaine had forgetten her and the Mystic turns a cold green stare in the Professors direction. “Oh, I will Professor. I’ll have questions for them. Keep them … warm for me.” she says icily as she turns to follow Aiden and Lindsey to Grans.
Aiden and Slaine go to Lindsay who's staying at the Academy to find out more about St Louis. That's when Aiden is attacked by Juicers.
September 08, 2411
The Academy - Vesper