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 Post subject: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:50 am 
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Genii
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Central to the Genii Capital bunker was the Hydro-electric plant. It was a feat of Genii engineering, one of the jewels of the bunker. Under the direction of Commander Rejick, the plant had been built on on one of the upper levels where it harnessed the full potential of a large underground river. Huge amounts of water churned through the turbines and out the spilway to fall several hundred feet to the reservior below. The thundering sound was as much a part of Genii life as the timing bells.

Several levels below, a non-descript door was set into rock wall and the end of an ill-lit hallway carved from the stone of the bunker. A fading handpainted sign beside the door read only 'Sluice.'
Hanging below that was a closed sign, but the door was unlocked. Anyone who entered was immediately struck by the massive windows on the far side of the open room. The full fury of the Hydroplant spillway roared past floor to ceiling tempered glass. Despite being insulated againt the noise, the entire room thrummed with a low pitch.

There were very few people within, three all told. Svi was behind the bar, keeping an eye on the door, prepared to bounce any unwanted visitors. Having worked several years in the Petruk mines, Svi could have bounced an entire unit of unwelcomes. She was also a decent bartender. However she had stopped serving the other two years ago. An incident involving a very upset Navia, a very tipsy Zev, and a large glass bottle had resulted in a white cresent of scar tissue and loss of vision in Svi's right eye.

Navia stared out the window, not seeing the water barrelling past. She had come early, hoping to talk to Zev about what he was planning. There had been a time when they would have had the table piled with floorplans, debating amount of time it would take to disarm a J45 firesafe. Zev had recognized in Navia a unique mind, and had used it to his advange more than once. In return, the young girl found a place she felt welcome and accepted. That had changed when Zev had started his mandatory service. He never asked for her advice after that, though he would often talk about his ongoing capers. Not today, today he was charming and funny and completely evasive. She had gotten nothing, and Ladon would be here any moment.

Half a nuirf shell ricocheted off her cheek and skittered across the table. Across from her, Zev said nothing, just prepared the remaining half for launch. There was more grey in his wild hair, and lately he had adopted a scruffy beard that hid the scarring on his neck. Even with the obvious signs of age, his grin was that of a young man. His teasing gaze flicked between Navia, the shell, and back. With a waggle of his brows, he sent the shell winging through the air with his usual accuracy. Navia caught it after it bounced of her forehead and threw it back at him, a small laugh escaping her.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:16 am 
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Stepping off the last rung of the plain metal ladder that had brought him down from the level above, Ladon paused in the middle of the tunnel junction to consider his options. Three corridors radiated off more or less equidistant from each other, each with a designation carved above it, but otherwise no clear way to tell them apart unless you frequented this area.

Ladon didn’t frequent the area or anywhere like it. It was the sort of place a man of his station simply didn’t go, at least not without some compelling need too illicit to be satisfied anywhere else. Although, he reflected fatalistically, that certainly described his situation, albeit not in the normal perverted sense.

Still, he did have one advantage over his slumming counterparts in that he could, in the dim yellow light that dominated these tunnels, blend in. His hair was long enough to brush his collar and he wore a full beard, both considered marks of a man lacking the time or wherewithal to show himself properly barbered. Even so, a closer look would show that for all their non-conformity, his hair and beard were clean and neatly combed and trimmed.

Sparing not even a single backward glance up the ladder, he strode toward the tunnel that matched the designation from the instructions he’d received. It was narrow and very basic, and he judged it was a natural seam in the rock that had been widened and smoothed enough underfoot to provide access.

At the corridor’s end was a door, unremarkable in appearance until a closer look showed him it was actually so solid and closely-fitted into its frame as to qualify as a hatch. ‘Sluice,’ was written in faded and flaking paint on the sign beside it, and as he put his hand on the wheel-like handle to open it, he could feel vibrations in the metal.

Dahlia, he reminded himself, the name strengthening his nerve and straightening his spine. Spinning the wheel to the unlocked position, he gave the door a tug. It swung open smoothly on well-oiled casters and he stepped over the sill and inside.

His gaze was drawn inexorably first to the spectacular view that gave the bar within its name, and it was by an act of will that Ladon wrenched it away to take in his more immediate surroundings. There was a woman behind the bar, a scar over one milky eye, giving him a hard, assessing look with the other. And seated at a table were the only other people in the room, Navia and a scruffily-bearded stranger, who appeared to be engaged in a food fight.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:10 pm 
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Zev deftly caught the in flight shell with one hand. With surprising dexterity, he twiddled the shell around until it was balanced on the pad of his thumb. His index finger curled behind it, ready to flick it airborne again. Catching Navia's dark gaze, he smirked. She knew she couldn't look away, as soon as she did the shell would ping off her head. She was out gunned, having nothing to counter with than her disapproval. "Don't..." It seemed that constituted a blink in Zev's book. With a muffled squeak, she ducked to avoid the incoming shard. That's when she noticed Ladon...

"Sir!" She said, straightening in her seat. It seemed he had decided to dress down, just as she had. Not that she had expected him to make his way here in uniform, he wasn't an idiot. Somewhere he had gotten his hands on a set of faded blue coveralls, similar in color to his eyes. That and his atypical grooming made him look like he belonged on this level. He still carried himself like Ladon Radim though.

Zev looked up at Navia's change in demeanor, his smirk becoming a welcoming smile. "I would guess from Navi's reaction you must be the man we are waiting for. Please, have a seat." Glancing over Ladon's shoulder, he nodded and Svi went back to reading her paper.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:29 am 
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Ladon's mind moved with its customary speed, absorbing and processing data. This was clearly a bar, yet there were no other customers in sight. Nor was there a single drink on the table between Navia and the stranger, who he preliminarily identified as Zev. The ammo dump for the food fight appeared to be a pile of empty nuirf shells, probably the remains of a plate of nu-nu, a popular bar snack made by steaming the bivalves in a specially-designed pot.

Zev himself was a man a little older and a little taller than either Ladon or Navia, with a mop of curling, flyaway hair and beard of his own going grey around the edges. He also had quick reflexes and good aim, and was clearly winning the impromptu missile war. Whether it was being on the losing side or the fact that she was playing at all that led to the faint color that rose up her neck was impossible to tell, but Ladon returned her greeting with a murmured "Navia" and an almost imperceptible twitch of an eyebrow.

Meanwhile, Zev positively beamed at him. "I would guess from Navi's reaction you must be the man we are waiting for. Please, have a seat."

Nodding that he was, Ladon walked around behind Navia's chair to claim the one on the other side of the table. It put his back to the impressive view, but that was better than to the door. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me," the Chief Scientist said. "Navia speaks very highly of you."

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2015 1:19 am 
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For the second time today, Navia got the brow. Early this morning she had been far too embarrassed to see the humor in the situation. It was rather disconcerting to find someone had watched you wake up, and to have woken up in such a state. This time, while there was an element of chagrin, she could see the whimsy. Sitting up straight, Navia folded her hands on the table. She was the picture of decorum, except for the small smile curling her lips. So wrapped in her own thoughts, she didn't notice Zev watching the interaction intently.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me," the Chief Scientist said. "Navia speaks very highly of you."

The look of surprise on Zev's face bordered on genuine, but didn't quite make it. Perhaps it was the smirk lingering under the beard. "Really? She never says things like that to my face." He left hand came up to cover his heart. "It can really wound a man's ego. I'm not sure how I manage..."

"Two fingers of Grimmley's in a clean glass?" Navia suggested, already rising to fill the order. She swept the remaining shells into her hand, seeming to miss one, and headed for the bar. She didn't bother Svi, rather she let herself behind the counter and began preparing the drinks herself.

Zev chuckled as she walked away, his hand falling to the table. "I've yet to figure out just how she does that. Knows exactly what you want before you do." A glance at the table showed he had abstractedly began fidget with the shell. One rough brow arched as he held up the husk to prove his point.

"But I am sure you already know all about our Navia. Just as I am sure you have questions about who I am and why you should trust me."

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:35 pm 
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"Two fingers of Grimmley's in a clean glass?"

Navia stood and moved with the easy confidence that comes with familiar places -- no stumbling on the short step up behind the bar, no searching about for glasses or the correct bottle. The stocky bartender spared her barely a glance, making no attempt to stop her raiding the expensive whiskey. Clearly, not only was Navia familiar with the Sluice, but it was familiar with her.

"I've yet to figure out just how she does that. Knows exactly what you want before you do."

Ladon's gaze tracked his assistant for a few more seconds before returning to the man seated at his elbow. Unconsciously, a faint smile had graced his lips while he watched her, fading away again when he shifted his attention back to Zev. The 'retrieval specialist' had already acquired the nuirf shell 'accidentally' left behind, but simply held it up, not seeming inclined to flick it at anyone. At least not at the moment, the scientist thought, suspecting there was a story behind the ordinary bit of calcium carbonate.

"But I am sure you already know all about our Navia. Just as I am sure you have questions about who I am and why you should trust me."

"I don't think anyone knows all about Navia," Ladon said thoughtfully. "But you're quite correct about the rest."

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Last edited by Ladon Radim on Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:31 am 
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Zev's gaze never left Ladon's face. He saw the look, even the infinitesimal smile, and filed it away.

"A wise man admits to what he does not know." He quoted, relaxing back in his chair. His left hand remained on the table, spinning the shell in his fingers and tapping it lightly on the table. "I've always had trouble with that. Not the not knowing what I don't know bit, but the admitting to it. Honesty is not a strong genii trait. Is it? So I am going tell you why you can trust me, you can decide if I am being honest."

"I was part of the Intelligence Division, off-world recon is what they called it. Basically, I stole what ever the Diplomatic Division couldn't talk the target out of. I was very good at it, until I lost my usefulness." Zev pulled his right hand out of the coat pocket it had been in all night, and waggled two and two halved fingers. The ring and pinky fingers looked almost melted down to the middle knuckles, and the molten looking scarring continued into his coat sleeve. "It is hard to remain inconspicuous this way. The only reason my retirement from Intelligence Division isn't markedly permanent is I took precautions."

"Now, You need access to information in a government restricted area. Information that you, as a rather prominent part of said government, can't get to. You haven't even tried going through regular channels, I checked. Which means what ever it is you are after, it is going to be bad for someone very high up. The higher the better, in my eyes. I have no love for a government that treats it's people as disposable" By the end of Zev's narrative, all charm and levity had left his expression. The man facing Ladon could certainly have done everything he claimed, and probably more he would not admit too.

Then Navia arrived with a tray of drinks, and the amiable Zev returned. She placed the tumbler of amber liquid within reach of his good hand. For Ladon, she brought a mix of fortified wine and distilled spirits. The clear liquid echoed her own glass of water, but was a bit more potent. She slipped quietly into her seat, not wanting to disturb the conversation more than she already had.

"So," Zev continued after an appreciative sip. "Now you know why you can trust me, why should I trust you?"

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Fri Oct 02, 2015 4:55 am 
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Ladon took a sip of his perfectly-made vehr'kel, savoring the taste. He wasn't a devotee of alcohol, preferring to keep his wits about him, but there were times when it was required. So he compromised on the mixed drink, which was comparatively mild and actually had a pleasant flavor. Setting the glass down, he folded his hands on the table before him, half-lacing his fingers.

"His name was Tannen," he said. "He was six years old, from the Jarlon bunker. It was during that last big outbreak of red-spot fever, and he'd been brought to one of the wards. Nobody knew where his parents were, and he was refusing to take the medicine." Red-spot was a familiar disease to the Genii. Caused by bacteria that bred in the water in poorer areas suffering from inadequate hygiene and sanitation, the formula for the cure had been discovered centuries before. "He had a Tenga King," Ladon continued, holding up one hand shaped as if it held a small stuffed animal. "So I put the pill in the doll's hand and told him the King swore if he took it he would get better, and everybody knows the Tenga King keeps his promises to children. So Tannen took the medicine."

Lowering his hand again, Ladon picked up his drink again and took another, longer pull on it. "The next morning, he was dead." The Chief Scientist's voice was flat and dispassionate, but there was a glitter in his eyes Navia knew well, for having seen it only very rarely. "As were well over half the children in that ward. The Medical Overseer claimed they'd received the treatment too late, and it was over his objections that I initiated an investigation."

Translated from Ladon-speak, 'initiated an investigation' meant 'sent a terrier named Navia down the bureaucratic rat hole to see what she could dig out.'

"The main ingredient of the red-spot medicine is derived from the bark of the p'hol tree. We keep stocks of it on hand for just such an occurrence, but it only remains viable for about a year, so careful records are kept of when each batch is harvested. Even an apprentice apothecary knows to check the date before making the pills. Apparently, however, the Chief Apothecary was too blinded by the light from the news camera filming his 'personal contribution to the effort' to glance at the label."

Ladon's mouth became a thin, hard line. "A man of such high station cannot, of course, be publicly called to account for egregious levels of incompetence and malpractice. That would 'engender doubt and unrest.'" The quote marks were clearly audible, though instead of crooking his fingers he simply laced them together again. "He can, however, be so devastated by grief at the deaths of all those children that he throws himself from the balcony of his Ninth Level penthouse."

Ladon Radim was neither a sentimental man nor a foolish one. He'd kept neither trophy nor weapon from that night, even breaking the stun stick back down into its component parts and scattering them far and wide. The Tenga King, though, crouched on one of the top shelves in his office, dirty and worn and watching him with its one remaining black button eye.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Sun Oct 04, 2015 1:15 am 
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Navia clearly remembered that morning. She had not read the news sheet, so knew nothing of the Chief Apothecary's death at first. When Ladon arrived it was immediately clear to her something was off. He had gone straight into his office, with only a cursory greeting. Following the usual routine, she brought his charo in to him and prepared to take down the day’s business. She hadn’t even sat on the couch when he said in an unusually quiet voice. “That will be all.” He hadn’t touched his mug, hadn’t even acknowledged it. He didn’t call for her all day.

The only other time she had seen him, she walked into his office with the lunch delivery. He sat at his desk, looking down at his hands, deep in some thought. There had been a glint in his eyes she had never seen before. By then, she had heard the news. She assumed then he was wrestling with his part in driving a man to suicide. Seeing that expression now, and recognizing it for what it was, Navia was stunned. He had been more than a part, he had been the cause.

The only outward reactions to her world tilting off axis was a widening of her eyes, and one hand flattening against the table, as if trying to regain her balance. In her mind though, there was chaos. Slowly, she began to reconcile her understanding of this man. He was an Elite. Though she never knew of any specifics, it would not have been as shocking to find he had given the orders that lead to collateral deaths. That is what the Elite did when they wanted something. But Ladon was better than most elite, he was conscious of the cost of his actions and tried to keep the damage to a minimum. Over the years she had seen it, time and time again.

She also understood how important his word was to him. He had made a promise, one that he had expected would have been easily kept. The Chief Apothecary’s actions had made a liar out of him, to a point his anger was justifiable. This was something more. This was him ...caring. Caring for someone he had met only days earlier. Caring enough to take a personal role in reaping vengeance for their death. She had no doubt that all those factors played a part in his actions, but it was the last that made her heart ache for him. Now she understood why the Tenga King doll took a place of honor on his shelves.

Her hand came off the table, instinct wanting to lay it on his arm in comfort. Instead, she folded her fingers around her glass and holding his gaze, nodded her acceptance.

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 Post subject: Re: Slippery Slope
PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2015 5:29 am 
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As far as Ladon knew, no one had ever suspected what he had done. No one who looked at Ladon Radim saw a killer, or a least not a man who would kill up close and personal. While he'd undergone the same basic military training all Genii did, he wasn't tall or heavily-built, but even more than that was the fact he wasn't physically aggressive. When he fought, he did so with his mind, not his fists. That had been true for so long that it had become an immutable part of reality, something people simply took for granted.

Ladon had never told anyone, even -- especially -- Navia the full story of that incident or his true involvement in the outcome. She'd known he had the doll, but not why. She'd known he'd been out of sorts the following day, but not why. He hadn't wanted her to know. Not because he feared she would turn him in, as he trusted her implicitly. He told himself it was because he didn't want to burden her with the knowledge, and that was certainly true. But what he had never so much as contemplated let alone admitted to himself was that it might be because he didn't want her to know that he was a man capable of cold-blooded murder.

Navia shifted slightly and the movement drew his eyes to her. She gave him a small, brief nod and a cold knot somewhere deep inside melted away before he was even aware that it existed.

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