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Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 5:01 pm
Unknown Location, Kerlile
1st December 2019
“I can’t believe you blindfolded me before bringing me here,” complained Councillor Jennifer Hale. “Aren’t you the one who has insisted that people of our rank should be treated with dignity at all times?”
“Jennifer, you and I both know that you are not fully trustworthy,” replied Councillor Pauline Pierre. “I cannot guarantee you will not tell Lauchenoiria.”
“I mean… fair,” she shrugged and then turned back to the Aurora Programme staff who were sitting at computers. They were in an underground room – apparently Jennifer was not allowed to see the outside – which was full of computers, and a number of staff members responsible for communicating with deployed Auroras. “So, how long will it take to contact all of them with the warning? We’ve been here for hours now.”
“Approximately 4 hours total, Councillor,” one of the women said, bowing her head deferentially in the presence of the two Councillors. “So, about another half hour.”
“Thank you,” Jennifer smiled at her and turned to Pauline. “I bet you were angry when President Arnott and Councillor Chiu insisted I work with you on this,” she smirked.
“I would rather work with you than Councillor Robinson, but being forced to work with you and the Kvaskm is, well, not what I had in mind. Especially since we do not know when this crisis will end and you seem to insist on following me around,” she rolled her eyes, and then turned back to the same member of staff Jennifer had spoken to. “Why is it taking so long?”
“We cannot use the same method of communication or the same code for all Auroras for security reasons your grandmother insisted on, Councillor,” said the woman. “It is important that we maintain the security of the Programme.”
Jennifer Hale snorted with laughter at the idea that the Programme had remained secure, earning herself a glare from Pauline. The other women in the room did not react, fearing Jennifer’s position, but internally they were upset to see a Councillor laugh at them.
Suddenly, a phone rang and the entire room jumped.
“What is that?” Pauline asked.
“Ma’am, it seems an Aurora is… well, calling us,” stammered the woman. “This is… highly unusual.”
“Answer it!” demanded Pauline.
Omapācatl was extremely nervous. She did not regret the decision she made, but she felt guilt over the lack of regret and over her betrayal of the Matriarchy. She was a Xiomeran now, truly, like her ancestors had been. And yet, she had been born in Kerlile and still had ties there – ties she needed to sever once and for all. So, she took out her phone – her real one, there was no need for further pretence – and dialled a number.
As it rang, her nerves increased. She was about to do something no Aurora had ever done, something she expected no Aurora would do again. And she didn’t know how the Matriarchy would react. She…
“Sunrise Holidays, how may I help you?” came a voice on the line. Omapācatl froze. The code phrase was correct, there was nothing wrong, and yet she was suddenly overcome with a great fear over what she was about to do.
“I…” she began.
“Yes?” said the voice, which had a worried tinge to it.
“I wish to resign my position as a member of the Aurora Programme,” she said. It was a strange way to phrase what she was doing, but it was technically true – she was quitting her job as an agent of the Matriarchy.
There was a pause from the line. It lasted so long that Omapācatl had to glance at her phone multiple times to check she was still on the call. At first there was only silence but after a while she could hear voices in the background, getting louder and louder – an argument.
“You want to what!?” came a different voice, one Omapācatl recognised and which shocked her to hear. “Confirm your identification number because this has to be a trick. None of my agents would ever do such a thing, nor would they mention things one should not mention on insecure lines. This is a prank, yes?”
“My Kerlian citizen ID number is 28921824,” she replied. There was conferring on the other end of the line.
“Request denied. In fact, you are going to come home immediately where you will spend the rest of your life in a cell and if you do not, I will send someone to drag you there and I will make sure your life is very painful in… what is it Jennifer!?”
There was sounds of another argument on the end of the line, as Omapācatl listened to the voice of Councillor Pierre, someone she hadn’t expected to hear. There was a crash and a shriek on the phone and then a new voice appeared.
“Hello, this is Councillor Hale. To whom am I speaking? I don’t want to call you by your ID number, that seems rude.”
“My name is Omapācatl, Councillor,” she said hesitantly.
“Okay, Omapācatl. May I ask why you want to resign your position, and why you have chosen to contact the Matriarchy in this method? Surely you know it is dangerous.”
“I do, Councillor. But the Xiomerans already know of me.”
“I see,” said Hale, who then whispered to someone off the screen. “Have you seen any blue… blue whales recently? Seriously? I can’t… oh, never mind.”
“Yes,” she replied. The code phrase someone had told Hale to say asked her if she was being coerced. A response of ‘no’ would have meant ‘yes’.
“Okay…” Hale conferred with someone again. “How are you contacting us, if you were discovered as you claim?”
“Well, here’s the thing,” she began, launching into the story of her capture, the day in her hotel-like cell and the offer she had been made. Councillor Hale listened silently to the whole story, not interrupting or yelling at her even as she told the Councillor she had sworn loyalty to Xiomera. When she finished, the Councillor was silent for a few moments.
“I see,” she said eventually. “Well… this is rather unexpected. I… am not sure what to say to you, Omapācatl.”
“Councillor, my ancestors were Xiomeran, as are my own family. To be blunt, why should I support the Matriarchy who stole my childhood over the country that gave me a life I could be happy and enjoy?”
“I can… no, Pauline, you can’t speak to her…” Hale grunted as there was another struggle on the end of the phone line. “Goddess, you’re such a child, Pauline…”
“Kerlian Citizen 29821824. You are to remain where you are. A team will be sent to return you to the Matriarchy where you will stand trial,” came Councillor Pierre’s voice. “Failure to obey this order will result in action being taken against your family.”
“My family and I are Xiomeran citizens, under the protection of the Xiomeran Empire,” replied Omapācatl. “If you try to hurt us, there will be consequences for you.”
“Are you threatening me, you disgusting slimy little traitor!? I swear to the Goddess, when I get my hands on you, you will feel more pain than anyone on this planet has ever felt before… no, Jennifer…”
“Omapācatl,” came Jennifer’s voice. “Given the circumstances, I believe the Council will agree with me and not with Councillor Pierre on the best course of action to take relating to your case. As I understand it, there is nothing under Kerlian law that prevents you from resigning… shut up Pauline! As I was saying, there is nothing which prevents you from resigning your position. The fact you have clearly, well, committed treason on the other hand, is somewhat different. I would recommend you never set foot in the Matriarchy again, in my personal opinion.”
“I don’t intend to, Councillor,” Omapācatl said.
“Good. Now… no, Pauline… you should probably get off the line before Councillor Pierre steals the phone from me again. We’ll be in touch,” Hale said and then the line went dead.
Omapācatl stared at the phone for some time. The conversation had not gone at all as she expected. For one thing, she hadn’t thought Councillors would be in the communications centre. Never mind Councillors fighting with each other, and telling her entirely contradictory things. When she reported this to Zalpalatli, she wondered if he would find it amusing. She, on the other hand, was very confused. She had no idea if she was in danger or not, or if her resignation had been accepted or not. Well, she imagined she would find out.
Unknown Location, Kerlile
Councillor Pierre glared at Councillor Hale, who was standing with an old landline in her hand, which she had pulled out of its wall socket. Pierre growled at the other Councillor, and then lunged at her. She shoved Hale into a wall and punched her in the face. Hale gasped, struggling.
“You would allow an Aurora to defect to another country!? You would let a traitor go free!? You deserve nothing but death yourself!” Pauline screamed, grabbing Jennifer’s throat. Jennifer gasped for breath, struggling and clawing at Pauline’s hands.
“C… Councillor,” one of the staff members piped up. “You… you shouldn’t kill her.”
“I will kill you as well!” Pauline snapped, but she let Jennifer go. The other Councillor slid onto the floor, gasping for breath and looking up at Pauline with fear in her eyes.
“Pauline,” she gasped out in between breaths. “You… know… you… can’t… risk… our… alliance.”
“The Xiomerans can go to hell,” spat Pauline. “Everyone can! LONG LIVE THE MATRIARCHY!”
“Long live the Matriarchy,” chorused the room, except Hale, who was still gathering her breath.
“Pauline… listen to me,” Hale said. “If Omapācatl speaks the truth, then Xiomera is not killing our Auroras or hurting them. This is good news. It means the revelation of the Programme doesn’t threaten our alliance. Which is something I know we’ve all been worried about.”
“That is not her name. It is fake, like her loyalty to Xiomera was supposed to be!” Pauline screamed, knocking a stack of paperwork off a table in anger. The assorted staff members had retreated to the edges of the room, watching the two Councillors like they were fighting animals.
“Does it matter? We have never activated an Aurora in Xiomera, and given the alliance we aren’t going to. We don’t need them there any longer. We could order them all home today, and it would probably be better.”
“Councillor Hale, I understand why you would sympathise with a traitor who has become loyal to a foreign country, given your infatuation with Lauchenoiria and their Prime Minister. But we simply cannot allow people with this much information to defect!”
“Information on a Programme which is fast becoming defunct. Pauline… this is not as bad as you are making it out to be. I’m not saying what Omapācatl is doing is right, but what I am saying is that there is nothing we can do about it. Now, either you can fight me, or we can wait until the warning is sent and then go report what Omapācatl said to the rest of the Council.”
“As much as I want to kill you, that would probably end badly,” Pauline conceded, having calmed down a little. She spoke as if she was joking, but Hale could sense that at least part of the other Councillor meant it.
“Um… Councillors?” one of the other women piped up hesitantly.
“Yes?” asked Hale.
“The warning has been sent to all Auroras. They have been told that they may be hunted, and that if they fear they are in danger of being discovered, that they should contact us to request evacuation. We have asked them to check in at some point over the next week, so that we know if any have disappeared.”
“Good,” Pierre said. “I would rather all of them came back here than allowed themselves to be brainwashed by Xiomera or anyone else. Come, Jennifer. We need to speak to the rest of the Council.”
Jennifer nodded, following Pauline who had turned on her heels and stalked out the door at an alarming pace. They would return to the capital, and pass on the information they knew. In spite of what she had said to Omapācatl, however, Jennifer was a lot more taken aback and slightly annoyed with the new Xiomeran than she had let on. Yet, she was glad the warning had been sent. She hoped she would have names to give the Union of Merchants soon – lest they think Kerlile had not accepted their deal.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:40 pm
(Jointly written with Shen)
Heavenly Palace, Shen
1st December 2019
The recording automatically stopped as it reached its end. The new Grandmaster closed the laptop and turned his attention to the rest of the people assembled at the table. Agent Nemo. President Greenwood. The Empress herself.
“This is the information that we have been able to get so far. President Greenwood, I'm interested to hear what you have to say about this. Your perspective can be most enlightening.”
"Well, first of all I must say, I am surprised to see that one would talk so quickly," she said, sounding slightly annoyed. "It seems Councillor Pierre lied to me about the quality of their training. And her mother before her: perhaps an attempt to gain funding. As for what she is saying, it sounds accurate to me. The training she describes is about what I was told, and I gave you the identity of one of the same Auroras she did, so we know she was not lying about that one in LOM."
“Yes. The fact that she confirmed information that we already knew makes me believe that she's telling the truth on everything,” Nemo said speaking up in an accent that the President instantly recognized.
“With this information I think we should move onto stage 2,” the male said.
“Are you sure you're ready Agent Nemo?"
“Yes... the agents we have within the Matriarchy need to begin to look for that facility. I will ask the Aurora if she knows where she was trained.”
"You are Kerlian?" President Greenwood asked Nemo, sounding surprised.
“I was born there yes." He said turning his attention to the former head of state of his birthplace.
“But I have been a Shen subject for many years.”
"Interesting," she replied. She bit her tongue. She had more questions for the man, but it was not her place to ask them right now. "Do I understand you right, that you want to know the location of the Aurora training facility?"
“That will be our next goal. Once we know a general location, we can use satellite images to find potential locations. From there all we have to do is have our agents sneak by and gather intelligence,” Nemo said.
The Grandmaster and the Empress both nodded.
"I'll leave that to you director Nemo. Good luck,” the Empress said standing up and walking out of the room.
"Happy hunting,” the Grandmaster said as well starting to follow his empress.
Nemo turned to the president before he himself began to walk out.
“Do you know the location of the training facility?"
"No, only the Pierre family knows," she replied. "I do not know if the Auroras themselves know the location, or if it is hidden from even them. The Pierres are very secretive about the Programme."
Nemo nodded, gathering up his papers and standing up. “If I have any questions I'll contact you later."
The Kerlian man turned around and began to walk towards the door.
"Wait," she said, standing. "May I ask how you came to Shen? I gather it was illegally, since you do not seem old enough to have left before the emigration ban."
"..." he sighed and turned around.
"I grew up in an orphanage in Kerlile. As you know boys are not exactly sought-after when couples are looking to adopt. At fifteen I already realized I would have no life in the Matriarchy, so I figured out how to get across the border into Lauchenoiria. The communist regime had no interest in taking me and told me, rather dismissively to try my luck in Shen... so I moved here"
"That is understandable," she nodded. "I do not blame you in the slightest, if I had been born a man, my life would have been terrible, I will admit that. You made the right choice."
"... I never thought I would have heard the president of Kerlile say that. But it has been an interesting few weeks, hasn’t it?"
He turned back towards the door and walked out of it.
She stood, tapping her fingers against the table for a few moments. "Yes," she murmured to herself. "It really has."
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 2:22 am
Unknown IntSec Facility
Alina woke with the noise of her cell door scraping open, as it had done so for the last week. Just as every other day last week, she was dragged out of her bed and to the interrogation cell she spent hours in, before being strapped into the chair.
She had trouble sleeping the last two days, and static white noise still droned in her mind. She noticed in her slightly-addled state, a man in a white labcoat standing inside of the room, alongside the usual interrogator.
"Good morning," she said sarcastically. "Here we go again."
The interrogator didn't respond, instead turning to the man in the labcoat. "I want an injection of Compound 1 - low dosage at first, we can scale it up if need be." Turning to her, he spoke. "We're going to be doing something different today."
"Oh are we?" She asked, her tone light although she was concerned about what they meant.
"Mhm." The man in the labcoat approached her, pulling out a bottle filled with a strange liquid and a syringe. Drawing some of it into the syringe, he rolled up the sleeve of her orange jumpsuit and stuck the needle in her, depressing the syringe. "It won't take long to start working."
She glanced at her arm, but didn't bother trying to struggle. In fact, she kept her facial expression looking bored, as if it didn't bother her in the slightest.
"Let's start with some basic questions. What year was the ISS founded?" He pulled out a sheet of paper and read from it.
"1973," she answered, sighing with boredom.
"Who founded the Kingdom of Shuell?"
"A male," she said, then laughed. "Sorry, bad joke."
"Yes. Give me the name of this man."
"Ludwig Stieler," she responded, still giggling a little.
The interrogator turned to look at the doctor, who nodded. "Right. What can you tell me you know about the Auroras?"
"I'm not an Aurora," she said automatically, then giggled a little.
"That's not what I was asking. What do you know about the Auroras?"
"Nothing," she said giggling. "I know nothing, and I won't tell you any of it."
He paused, looking annoyed under his thin facade of professionalism. "What do you know about Kerlile?"
"The Matriarchy... long live the Matriarchy," she mumbled a little.
"What was that?"
"Long live the Matriarchy!" She said louder.
"I see. Now, what do you know about the Aurora Program?"
"I was so young, you know. I can even remember it a little, the time before. Though the memories are like a dream, kind of messed up and wrong."
"I remember the first time I heard them mention the Aurora Programme. I was only three, they made it sound so exciting. But it wasn't really. It was bad," she stopped. "No, what have you done? I'm not meant to say that!"
"Sure you are, Ms. Kaufer. Keep talking."
"No..." she said. "This is wrong. I was taught not to..." she paused and then began to sing. “One male ran down the road one day, road one day, road one day. One male ran down the road one day somewhere far away.”
The interrogator gestured for the man to come closer to him. "How much did you inject her with?" He muttered. "The lowest possible dosage for it to be effective."
"What are you talking about? Don't you want to listen to my songs?" She smirked at them. "I know so many, enough to go for many hours."
"Nothing, Ms. Kaufer. Now, what were you telling us about the Auroras?"
"I'm not allowed to talk about that," she said stubbornly. "When I'm asked to talk about that, I sing. Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream..."
"Can you say you aren't an Aurora?"
"No," she said. "I'm proud of what I am."
"I see." For a split second, a look of triumph flashes across his face. "So you are an Aurora?"
"Come on, you already knew that," she laughed.
"Congratulations. You just confirmed it for us."
"... shit," she said suddenly. "I'm not going to say anything else. It will be Christmas soon, yes? I met a Lauchenoirian kid on the street yelling about it. Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..."
"I think this has been a productive day, don't you?" He pressed a button and called in the guards.
"... oh what fun it is to ride... what is it? I forget, I don't celebrate Christmas."
As like last time, she was dragged back to her cell - the compound wore off shortly after.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:12 am
Department of Internal Security Center for Data Analysis
November 28th, 2019 - 8:00 AM
Janet Ashton knew something was wrong the minute she stepped out of the elevator on her floor. There was a certain tension in the air that she had been taught to read back in Kerlie. Something was about to go down and Ashton was 99% sure it was bad news for her. A bead of sweat rolled down her cheek as she walked over to her desk and took off her jacket.
In truth, Janet knew she was in a bad place. The Department of Internal Security had records on how often the President of Libertas Omnium Maximus brushed his teeth (after every meal). Janet was pretty sure that an organization that had that kind of information could weed out a mole pretty easily. For nearly a week now, Janet was biding her time in hopes of finding a solution to the mess that the Aurora hunt was becoming.
Janet was analyzing a satellite image of a drug den when she got called into her supervisor's office. Although she saw something like this coming all day, she was still shocked by the suddenness of the order. Knowing that if she made a run for it now, she would blow any remaining vestiges of her cover identity, Janet begrudgingly walked to the supervisor's office with her head held high. She was going to have to talk her way out of this.
The door opened with a groan as Janet walked inside and took a seat in front of her supervisor's desk. Janet confidently looked her supervisor, a small, plump man, in the eye before asking innocently, "Sir, may I inquire as to why I have been summoned?"
"Why, of course, Mrs. Ashton." the man replied before fumbling with a control panel on his desk and continuing. "I have been told to have you review some footage of the mugging of a high value individual. It is of greatest interest to us that you analyze the entirety of the event and give us your input."
Janet let out an internal sigh of relief. Perhaps she had been wrong. Perhaps there was nothing to worry about after all. Janet smiled as a screen flickered to life on the side wall of the supervisors office, revealing a highly grainy video feed of a back alleyway. Just like that, Janet's heart sank. It was the same dark alley that she had been cornered in the night before. Things were looking very bad. Janet decided that her best bet was to play it cool and "play along" with whatever mind game the DIS had cooked up for her.
On the screen, a man suddenly appeared. He walked down the alley and put a ski mask over his head. He then cracked his knuckles and fell into a fighting stance. A moment passed before a young woman, clearly Ashton herself, appeared on the screen. Janet watched in horror as her former self took down the thug, clearly a DIS agent in disguise, in a manner that could be only be done by someone with a considerable amount of professional training.
Janet turned to face her supervisor who looked entirely unmoved by the video clip.
"Miss Ashton, kindly analyze the clip for me."
Ashton's supervisor said it so kindly that she almost believed that all he wanted was for her to tell him what she saw in the clip. His kind face was so different than most of the stone faced killers she encountered in her line of work. She had even grown to like him. She had even called him Bob a couple of times, his first name being Robert. Janet understood quite fully now why Libertas Omnium Maximus deserved to be destroyed. Even the most genuine among them would have her killed in a moment. They believed more in their pathetic country than in anything else. They were the archetypal patriarchy and Janet was now more resolved than ever to watch the country burn. She began her analysis regardless of this sudden burst of anti-maximusian sentiment.
"Well, sir, this woman is clearly on the younger side. She's in her 20s probably, maybe early 30s, based on her stance. I could confirm an age if I could see her face better. She looks to be working a desk job, looking at her cloths and purse, but she clearly isn't rich since that jacket looks pretty cheap. Based on her movements during the fight, she looks professionally trained. That sidestep is almost certainly straight out of a military handbook. That jab to the back of the head also would indicate a military or paramilitary background since neck jabs aren't often taught in self defense classes as they can result in the recipient of the blow dying or being paralyzed from spinal injury. She isn't unsteady on her feet despite being in high heels. This indicates that she has trained to fight in high heels. A rather odd thing to do."
Ashton slowly looked into the eyes of Robert and drummed her fingers on the table innocently.
"Miss Ashton, may I inquire as to what type of of person the woman is?"
Janet saw Bob's face grow cold. Suddenly his smile turned to a sneer. He was enjoying this little act.
"Um, this woman is a mid level office worker who has a background in a paramilitary organization."
"Ok, let's add in a little wrinkle: This woman claims to have no military or paramilitary experience. She claims to work out for about 30 minutes a day but has no experience with any fighting techniques"
"The woman is lying. She clearly has the training. She took out a man who was six inches taller and at least 30 kilograms heavier in five seconds flat. She has the training."
"Ergo? What is she?"
"She is a lier."
"New wrinkle: She works for a national security organization and is privy to sensitive information daily."
"She must be a mole. Maybe for an organized crime syndicate, maybe for a foreign nation, it's hard to tell."
"Another wrinkle: Most of the information that passes under her nose is of little interest to any mob."
"She is the agent of another government then."
"She must be. Any idea where?"
"No. I couldn't tell you. She is probably not Zamastanian since the type of information she has access is largely known to them as a close ally to LOM. Laeral doesn't have much of a history with moles, I can rule them out."
"Could she be a Bjeorgite spy?"
"I doubt it. She would have to have been deployed before 1991 based on how closely we monitor them and she doesn't look like she was even born in 1991."
"So, who could she be a citizen of?"
"Maybe Shen, Xiomera, probably not Lauchenoiria, I doubt they have the money to keep her connected. She isn't Gardavasque, they have no stomach for this type of thing. She isn't Shuellian, if she was Shuellian, we never would have caught her. In fact, this looks staged to me since the building this camera is attached to looks abandoned and, therefore, wouldn't have a working CCTV camera."
"I'm curious, why did you think this was in LOM? I never explicitly stated that. This could be any back alley in any nation. What made you think that this was in LOM and that, therefore, it was the Maximusian government she had infiltrated?"
"Because... that video recording is of me."
"So, put the pieces together. She is a woman who has infiltrated the Maximusian Department of Internal Security. She has this event staged for her by the DIS so that they can determine whether or not she is a mole. The DIS is actively looking for Kerlian Auroras. What is she?"
"I don't know."
"What is she!"
"I don't know!"
"What is she!"
Janet stared speechlessly at her supervisor. He began to cackle before pressing a button on her desk. Two well dressed men immediately bursted through the office door and grabbed Ashton by the arm. They silently lifted her from her chair and dragged her to the back corner of the office. Knowing that their was no use resisting, Janet made no effort to fight them off as one of the agents injected her arm with a serum of some kind.
Analysts on Janet's floor looked on in shock as their fellow office worker was dragged out of the room convulsing violently and vomiting. Robert, her supervisor, ran out of his office behind her shouting "Help! Help! Miss Ashton needs medical attention now. Call the ambulance now... someone!"
The "paramedics" arrived in record time and quickly loaded Janet, who had since fallen unconscious, onto a stretcher before ferrying her out of the building. They tossed her in the back of an ambulance where a DIS agents injected her with the antidote to the poison she had been injected with earlier. The ambulance drove not to the hospital but to a desolate street. There, Ashton was moved into a black SUV and taken back to the DIS headquarters.
According to the records at Litudinem Metropolitan General Hospital, Janet Ashton died at 11:47 PM that same day of a perforated small intestine, likely the result of a medicine she was taking at the time. In reality, Janet was uninjured in a holding cell 30 meters under the lobby of the DIS headquarters. LOM had caught its first Aurora.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 7:21 pm
Palace of Flowers/President Arnott's office
December 2nd - 11:00 am Xiomeran time
Imperial Attendant Tlalli hummed softly to herself as she dialed the number to the office of the Kerlian President. Many people thought that being an Attendant was a menial job, serving the high and mighty. But being Attendant to the Empress of Xiomera had its perks. One of them was that she, just by dialing a number, could either make powerful peoples' day or ruin it, depending on the nature of the call. Tlalli wasn't sure which category this call would fall into yet.
When the other end of the line answered, Tlalli informed them that the Empress was requesting to speak with President Arnott.
In her office, President Arnott had been drinking tea and watching a Lauchenoirian TV show that was technically illegal in an attempt to distract herself from the stresses of running Kerlile, when her own assistant informed her she had a call from the Empress of Xiomera. She quickly swallowed her tea and turned off the TV, asking her assistant to put her through immediately.
"Good morning, President Arnott. Thank you for taking my call. I trust that your day is going well?" Yauhmi said in a calm voice. She was seated in the gardens outside her private chambers, enjoying an unseasonably cool day in Montelin. The gardens were empty except for the pair of Shorn Ones standing nearby. The Empress had next to her a cup of coffee with chocolate, and a tablet with the latest report from the Security Secretariat on the screen.
"Reasonably so, Empress Yauhmi," she replied. "Things here have been stressful since I took office, of course, but today is no worse than any other. What can I do for you?" she asked, sounding lighthearted and calm herself.
On the other end of the phone, Yauhmi smiled slowly. I suppose I'll have to break the ice, she thought. "I wanted to touch base with you, since I will be traveling to Kerlile in a few days for my state visit. An.....interesting series of events has come to my attention," the Empress said. "An individual by the name of Omapācatl is at the center of these events. Does the name sound familiar?" Yauhmi asked in a questioning tone that was naturally false. The Empress knew that either Arnott knew fully well what she was talking about, or she was a dunce.
Arnott sighed. She had been expecting this to come at some point, ever since Councillors Pierre and Hale had come into her office yelling at each other.
"Yes, I recognise the name. She contacted us the other day, though Councillor Hale and Pierre could not seem to agree on exactly what they thought had happened to her."
"Ah, yes. Councillor Hale and Councillor Pierre's disagreement on the subject must have been quite vocal - we heard it all the way over here in Xiomera," Yauhmi replied in a dry tone of voice. "But just out of curiosity, what did they think happened to her?"
"Councillor Pierre believes she was brainwashed, though she did not specify how. Councillor Hale, on the other hand, believes that she enjoyed her life in Xiomera, and loved her family enough that she overcame her earlier loyalties to forge new ones," Arnott shrugged.
"The second interpretation is closer to the truth," Yauhmi said. "Incidentally, since you mentioned Councillor Pierre....it was brought to my attention that she made certain threats to the person who decided to remain in Xiomera. As that individual is now under my personal protection, it would be rather unwise for anyone to attempt to harm her. Or anyone else similar to her who may decide to avail themselves of my protection in the future. I would be most grateful if you could convey that message to Councillor Pierre, or anyone else on the Council who may feel as she does." While the words made it sound like a request, the tone of voice used begged to differ.
"I assure you, I have already made it clear to Councillor Pierre that any action taken against any individual in Xiomera is strictly forbidden," Arnott assured Yauhmi. She didn't much like Pierre herself, which meant she took great pleasure in what she said next. "If she chooses to disobey my orders... I assure you, I will consider any extradition requests your government may send."
"That's very good to hear," the Empress replied. "It is important that we are on the same page in regards to this matter. As for others like Omapācatl in Xiomera who may, shall we say, shine like the northern lights....the Xiomeran government would appreciate any cooperation you can provide in locating them and either repatriating them, or in allowing them to remain here in a more open fashion." Again, while the request was made in a pleasant enough way, there was a definite undertone of we are not amused underneath.
"Yes, I understand your position on the matter," President Arnott said, then added reluctantly, "but there is a problem. To give you my personal opinion, I would dearly like to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, and we have no reason to deny your request. Alas, Councillor Pierre is proving... reluctant in divulging the necessary information, and I do not actually have the ability to access it myself. I assure you, I am working on convincing her it is in her best interests to cooperate."
"I see," Yauhmi replied softly. "Do you require assistance in convincing her? We have people who are quite skilled at being convincing."
"That should not be necessary," President Arnott tried to reassure Yauhmi, slightly alarmed. "If I can just have a little more time, I am sure I can get her to change her mind. If not... well. Perhaps other avenues will need to be considered."
"I am nothing if not patient. I do not mind if you seek to convince Councillor Pierre of the wisdom of cooperating with us. In the meantime, we will do our own searching, I suppose." Yauhmi's voice shifted slightly. "I should let you know that we intend to extend the same offer that was made to Omapācatl to any of her fellow companions that may become known to us. If they decide to return home....they can do so with our blessing. However, if they decide to remain here....that is probably not desirable from your perspective, but I am sure you can see my point that it's a small price to pay to smooth over what most nations would treat as a grievous breach of their sovereignty - especially for an ally."
"Of course," Arnott nodded. "Councillor Hale was correct when she said there was no basis in Kerlian law to deny Omapācatl's request to resign. The others may do the same if they wish, and all involved have been granted indefinite exit permits from Kerlile in the past. In my view, these individuals have every right to make whatever choice they deem necessary, and I give my assurance that they will meet no negative consequences from the Matriarchy of Kerlile."
"I am very pleased to hear that, and that this whole unfortunate incident will not result in negative consequences for the relationship between our nations as well. I am very much looking forward to my visit. There is much we have to discuss; my hope is that we can now strengthen the alliance between us," Yauhmi replied.
"I look forward to your visit also. I hope it will be productive, and I deeply regret this unfortunate incident," Arnott said truthfully. "I assure you, as soon as I have more information that may be of use, I will have it sent over immediately."
"I am quite pleased to hear that," Yauhmi replied in a warmer tone. "I thank you for taking my call as well. I had nothing else to discuss at this time, but if you have anything, please feel free to mention it."
"I am truly sorry this was necessary," Arnott said. "It was an oversight on my part that these individuals remained in Xiomera after I took power and I can only apologise. I have nothing else to mention urgently, I look forward to speaking in person."
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 8:25 pm
Sunday 1st December
Nelichē was at a party when she got the message. She was with her friends, and was already fairly drunk when she received the email. She had just finished dancing and had settled down onto a chair to finish her drink. Her friend had gone off with some man, so she sat alone, checking her messages and recovering from the dancing for a second.
When she read the email she sobered up - or, at least, she thought she had. For all intents and purposes, it looked like spam. Anyone glancing at it would think it was spam. It was a very common scam: emails that were sent all over the world every day and were deleted by 99.9% of the people it was sent to. But to Nelichē’s eyes, it was a warning, and one that terrified her in her slightly addled state.
Suddenly, she was looking around the party much more nervously. The man who had lured away her friend - had he been trying to isolate her? What was the purpose of this party? She’d been invited by someone she knew from work, it was a birthday or something. She hadn’t really asked, she’d become sloppy. Those men in suits by the door, they didn’t seem very drunk. Were they watching her?
She stood up and tried to rush to the bathroom. She moved too quickly and felt dizzy, which only increased her paranoia. Had they drugged her? She grabbed ahold of the wall and began to pull herself along towards the corridor where she knew the bathrooms - and a side door - were.
“Nelichē? Are you okay?” someone asked, causing her to jump and spin around to face the newcomer. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I just had too much to drink,” she replied, trying to get past the woman she worked with who had invited her.
“Here, let me help you to the bathroom,” the woman said, taking her arm and leading her to the toilets. Uncertain what else to do, Nelichē smiled gratefully and allowed herself to be guided. Once inside, however, she locked the door and started thinking.
The window was small, but she could probably climb through it. The issue was it overlooked the front of the house, and there would probably be cameras. And if the place had been surrounded, she wouldn’t stand a chance, and it would have been very obvious she was trying to flee. No, she couldn’t get out that way. She would have to go back to the party. Perhaps she could cause a distraction and slip away.
She exited the bathroom. Her friend had wandered off, much to her relief (she was beginning to suspect that the woman who had invited her was actually an ASI agent). She made her way back to the main rooms of the party, and spotted the kitchen on the other side. She made a beeline towards it, making sure to stay out of sight of anyone she knew. She passed one man who tried to ask her to dance and flirted with her, but she turned him down with a sharp rejection - much sharper than she normally used.
Once in the kitchen, she looked around for the drunkest people she could see. It was a young couple, the woman sitting on the counter and practically holding up the man, kissing each other. Nelichē opened cupboards and fridges until she found something that could work, a packet of sausages.
“I’m really hungry,” she complained loudly, making sure the drunk couple were within hearing distance, and then ‘accidentally’ bumped into the man. They stopped kissing.
“I could do with some food too,” the woman said, her words slurring slightly, and she giggled.
“Well, I’ll make some food for you, sweetheart,” the man said, then glanced around him dizzily. His eyes fell on the packet of sausages. He picked them up and walked over to the cooker. Nelichē left the room, wandering back to the party.
She joined the dancing once more, picking a group of men near some patio doors and the back and batting her eyelashes at them. They seemed interested, so she danced with them for a couple of minutes until, suddenly a piercing alarm was heard over the sound of the music. Not long after, a chorus of shrieks echoed around the room as sprinklers came on and people surged towards the nearest exits.
Nelichē allowed herself to be carried out the back by the crowd, then slipped away into the bushes in the huge garden. She pulled herself further into the darkness and glanced around nervously. She slipped the knife she had acquired in the kitchen out of her pocket and made her way further from the house into the gardens, keeping to the thick line of trees which stretched along the side of the garden. She moved nervously, looking around. She found nobody.
By the time she reached the end of the garden, she was reasonably sure that the house had not been surrounded by ASI personnel, and that the distraction she had caused had done nothing but ruin the party. She groaned and sat down on the ground. She had chosen to assume the personality of a party girl because she thought it would make people more open around her. She regretted that choice now - alcohol clearly impaired her judgement, and she was fed up of men flirting with her.
Still… she couldn’t be entirely sure she wasn’t just paranoid. There was a chance, also, that her actions at the party itself would have raised suspicions. In an attempt to save herself, she may just have doomed her chances. She took out her phone and read through the ‘spam’ email again. This time, she ignored the warning and focused on the offer. If you believe you are in danger, she translated from the code, you may request extraction.
She left the party, walking home. Upon arrival, she went through the motions of getting ready for bed, and switched all her lights off. When she was in darkness, she reached below her bed and pulled a second phone which was attached to the bottom of the bed out. She dialled the number she had memorised long ago.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:04 pm
December 4th, 2019
*In the office of the Chancellor of Essena Secretary Bane Stiles and Chancellor William Calaway discuss the Aurora agents*
Secretary Stiles: Mr. Chancellor unfortunately the news about Aurora agents from Kerlile was not known to us when we joined the International Democratic Union. The only thing we know is that there are Aurora agents out in the world.
Chancellor Calaway: It is very unfortunate, especially now that I am leaving office. Poor Romero, Defense Secretary do you think there could be Auroras in Essena, seeing as we joined the IDU early?
Secretary Stiles: Our intelligence forces say that yes there are agents in our country. I suspect that the reason we joined the IDU was because of their persuasion.
Chancellor Calaway: Goodness! Please Secretary, tell me you’re joking.
Secretary Stiles: Unfortunately not sir.
Chancellor Calaway: By God! I cannot believe that our own citizens could be spying against us. Traitors the lot of them. Before I leave office officially we need to set up a meeting with Chancellor Romero immediately to brief him on the Auroras. I would like to do something about it but my time in office is short and nothing substantial can be done. It's all in the hands of the next Chancellor and his cabinet to deal with.
Secretary Stiles: Understood but is there anything you could do right now sir? Any action would be better than doing nothing. This is after all a matter of national security.
Chancellor Calaway: Sigh, I’m getting too old for this but you’re right Secretary Stiles. I suppose we can start an inquiry initiative to start identifying Auroras in our nation. Work with the Secretary of the National Interior Jose Castro as well. Also make sure you inform the new Secretaries of Defense and the National Interior about the situation.
*Secretary Stiles hurries out of the office of the Chancellor*
Chancellor Calaway: *With a melancholy look, Chancellor Calaway looks out the window as raindrops hit the window* “Spies, Agents, and Espionage. May God protect Essena.” *Chancellor Calaway closes his eyes*
*At the victory party for the next Chancellor and President held by the Democracy Party, Lily and Alexander Doll sit with Joseph Oliver the next president of the Essena.*
Lily Doll: *Sipping wine* Oh it is a nice evening for a party. I congratulate you Mr. President on your victory in the polls.
Joseph Oliver: Thank you Mrs. Doll. It is not everyday that two political party members attain the top seats in government.
Alexander Doll: *Drunk for drinking too much wine* Right you are Ollie! A great win for the Democracy Party! Oh man I need to piss. *Goes to find the bathroom*
Joseph Oliver: Your husband is quite the character isn’t he?
Lily Doll: He is but he is very dedicated to the party. Remember his influence helped you get elected.
Joseph Oliver: Oh I know Mrs. Doll. And between you and me and away from the ears of the media you can expect that your husband is going to get a spot in the Chancellor’s Administration.
Lily Doll: Oh, do please call me Lily. With all the campaigning together I’m sure pleasantries are no longer required. And that is wonderful to hear. Alexander will be thrilled to hear the news when he gets his senses back.
Joseph Oliver: Well Lily I’m sure he will be happy when he hears the news. You did help a lot in my campaign Lily and I know you’re pretty well-versed in policy so much so Alexander called you his #1 adviser. What made you not become a politician? I’m sure you might’ve been elected to the Assembly, maybe even the President or the Chancellor.
Lily Doll: Oh Joseph, you do know how to flatter someone. But I didn’t get into politics because of my two children. One parent in politics seems okay but having two would mean no one would take care of them. Though I still want to try my hand in politics, it's a shame that my talent is going to waste but I do it for the children and the future of our family.
Joseph Oliver: Of course family comes first. But I know your two kids they both have grown. What one is 12 and the other is 17. I think that’s old enough for you to go into politics. If you don’t want to run you don’t have to. I could talk with Chancellor Romero about a position in his administration. I know that you and your husband helped him with his election too by convincing members of the Assembly to vote for him.
Lily Doll: I just did what I could do for the party and for the good of the nation. I mean I’ve been head of a philanthropic organization, head of a museum, head of the security forces for my husband. Its not well-known but I used to be a police officer and I also served on the armed forces as well.
Joseph Oliver: Wow! You sound more qualified than your husband. Well I’ll take that as your resume then. I could persuade Romero to give you the position of Secretary of the National Interior or maybe the Secretary of Essenian Culture. I think those would suit you well.
Lily Doll: I mean if you insist Mr. President. I’ll consider any offer the Chancellor gives me.
*Waiter comes to the table and informs Mrs. Doll that her husband has fallen into the pool outside.*
Lily Doll: Well it looks like I must go and help my husband. It’s been a pleasure Mr. President.
Joseph Oliver: *With a chuckle* It has. Hopefully the next time I see you it’s on the Chancellor’s cabinet in a Secretary position. Have a good night Lily.
Lily Doll: And a good night to you too Mr. President.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:12 pm
4th December 2019 - 3am local time
Nelichē had been told to await further instructions upon calling for extraction by a stressed-sounding employee of the Aurora Programme. She had complied, because she had been raised to follow orders, but she was not happy about it. It was her life and her freedom that was on the line! Nevertheless, she’d sat tight, behaving as normal - except for the fact she couldn’t stop glancing over her shoulder.
Eventually, while she was sleeping, her second phone rang, and she almost fell out of bed trying to answer it quickly enough.
“It gets dark early in winter!” she said upon picking up, giving a code phrase.
“Good evening, Nelichē,” came a voice she recognised but hadn’t expected to hear. The accent was upper class Kerlian… but with a hint of Lauchenoirian underneath. Councillor Hale.
“C… it snows on the mountains?” Nelichē said confused. She should address the Councillor using her proper form, but that would also be risky. And also, Councillor Hale had nothing to do with the Programme.
“You needn’t worry, Nelichē,” came Hale’s voice, calm. “You’re perfectly safe. I understand that it must be confusing for you to hear from me, rather than your superiors or Councillor Pierre, but I want to reassure you that you are okay, and you can speak freely.”
“But… Councillor… how?” she asked, baffled.
“President Arnott and Empress Yauhmi have discussed the situation regarding your position and that of the others. Councillor Pierre has proven… reluctant to follow through with our arrangement, so I have taken over control of the Aurora situation in Xiomera. I am calling to offer you a choice.”
“A… choice, Councillor?” Nelichē asked, struggling to process what was happening.
“Yes, a choice. You may return home, as you have asked. You will be able to get on a flight back to Kerlile without bother, and we can handle any further complications upon your return. Or… you can remain in Xiomera, living the life you have built for yourself. If you choose this, however, you will need to swear loyalty to Xiomera. President Arnott and I guarantee that you will face no repercussions from Kerlile if you choose this route.”
“Councillor, I would never betray Kerlile!” Nelichē said, shocked at such a suggestion. “Even if, as you say, there would be no consequences. My loyalty is not through fear of consequences but through love of the Matriarchy. If my work here is done, then let me return and find a new way to serve my country.”
“I see you made your decision easily enough then, Nelichē,” chuckled Hale. “Very well, if you feel strongly enough, buy a ticket for tomorrow and return. Once you’re in the air, we will inform the Xiomerans. You may need to confirm your identity and your return with them, but we’d like you safely back.”
“Thank you, Councillor,” Nelichē said. “I hope my service to the Matriarchy has been satisfactory.”
“Of course,” said Hale, though she sighed when she said it. “I will greet you on your return.”
“You do not need to do that, Councillor,” Nelichē said, surprised. Being greeted by a Councillor would be a great honour for her.
“Ah, I’m afraid I do. You’ll need to fill out some paperwork. Nevertheless, I just realised how late it is in your time zone. Get some sleep, Nelichē. I will see you tomorrow.”
The line went dead, and Nelichē started at the phone in shock. She glanced around her dark room, surprised at this turn of events. She was safe… Xiomera and Kerlile had a deal. She felt even more silly over how she’d acted at the party. She was getting to go home!
She was incredibly relieved. Her outgoing, party girl persona was growing tiresome. At first, her cover had almost been fun, and the flirting certainly made people open up to her. But it also meant she often felt objectified. She was still a Kerlian at heart, and though she was more than willing to play with the minds of men, she often wished she didn’t have to worry about such things at all.
She took out her laptop, and booked a flight to Kerlile that would leave in the afternoon. She would fly business class, a little luxury before discovering what life in Kerlile would have in store for her. She knew of the sanctions, of course. Her life would be a lot less luxurious in the future, but she remained loyal to the Matriarchy, and all she really needed in life was to serve her nation, and its cause.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:30 pm
Unknown Location, Lauchenoiria
3rd December 2019
Gabriel Fleming leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands as he listened to Jae Chung's report. He did not face the woman as she spoke, instead staring at a painting on the wall of his office depicting a flock of butterflies.
"... and I think that these are very promising avenues of exploration. While we do not yet have any positive identifications of Auroras, we are making strong progress," finished Chung.
"Very well," Fleming said, turning to face her. "I propose you continue..."
He paused as the pair heard a sharp knock at the door.
"Enter!" He called.
A man entered the room, dressed in a black suit and wearing sunglasses. “Good evening. We believe we have a lead on one of the Auroras in your country.”
"Oh?" Fleming asked, perking up and leaning forward, curious. "Do tell. And close the door, please."
The man shut the door and took the other seat next to Chung.
“We have reason to believe that the person responsible for the death of one of our… associates in Buttercity is an Aurora,” he said.
“What reason?” asked Chung, earning her a sharp look from Fleming. She shut up.
“Do elaborate,” he said to the man.
“Our associate discovered a discrepancy in the documents of this individual, which he then reported to us. It is a minor discrepancy, and there are possible explanations for it… however, shortly afterwards he was found dead in his apartment. We have camera footage showing this individual injecting him with an unknown substance in his bedroom while he slept.”
“Very damning indeed,” mused Fleming. “What is the name of this probable Aurora?”
“The journalist?” asked Chung.
“You know who she is?” Fleming raised an eyebrow, surprised.
“She works for the Lauchenoirian Guardian,” explained Chung. “When I was working with Alvarez, before she became Prime Minister, Tobin interviewed her about the war. It didn’t go very well, she asked about Hale and Alvarez got a little upset.”
“Do you believe she could be an Aurora?” Fleming asked.
“I do,” nodded Chung. “She seemed perfectly normal, which I would expect Auroras to appear, and not at all like a murderer… which, given that she is one, as our Shuellian friend here has evidence of, means she’s a liar. And a well trained one at that.”
Fleming nodded, then shuffled some papers together and turned to the Shuellian.
“Provide us with the information you have on her, please. We will organise a team to apprehend this individual as soon as possible. She will be turned over to your custody after that. And Ms Chung here will provide you with a summary of her team’s investigative work this week. Thank you both,” he said, then stood.
Both Chung and the Shuellian, the latter of whom seemed rather irritated to be given orders by a Lauchenoirian, stood also and exited the room. Chung frowned as she walked, hiding her facial expression. They were about to catch an Aurora… it was about to become real.
Maricela Tobin’s Residence, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
4th December 2019
Maricela Tobin relaxed on her couch, watching the TV. It had been a long and stressful week for her, and she was looking forward to settling down with a single glass of wine (she never drank more than that) and watching a movie with her husband, Carson. The couple were snuggled together on the couch, watching a rom-com when it happened. When she first heard movement, she thought it was on the TV. Then the door to their apartment burst open.
“Everyone on the ground!” yelled a voice as men with guns burst into the room. Carson, shocked, screamed.
Maricela herself moved extremely quickly, reaching under the couch and grabbing a small pistol she kept stored there. She spun, and shot at the first man who had entered the room, and then leapt across to the kitchen, taking shelter behind the counters. From the grunt of pain, she had clearly hit someone.
In the kitchen, she pulled out a larger gun hidden underneath a cupboard. Using the reflections she could see in the oven, she judged where the men were positioning themselves. She could also see Carson, sobbing, and getting down on the ground, his arms held above his head. She ignored him. Only seconds had passed since they entered the room, but it was long enough for Maricela to note that they hadn’t fired on her. They wanted her alive.
Using that to her advantage, she poked her head out and fired. She was an excellent shot - she took one man down immediately, hitting him right in the face. He fell. Someone started yelling and there was a commotion. This time they shot back. She fought with them for a number of minutes, killing two others and managing to avoid wounds. It worked, until the gun ran out of ammunition. She had more, and quickly tried to reload, but one man had managed to get close enough that upon hearing the telltale signs, he leapt over the counter on top of her and wrestled the gun from her hands.
The two wrestled for a moment, and she managed to hit his head off the counter and get free… only to be overcome by two more men who grabbed her arms and forced her to the floor, face down. She struggled against them, but felt the prick of a needle and suddenly exhaustion washed over her. She looked up to see Carson, who was staring at her with a look of fear and horror on his face, before falling into unconsciousness.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:29 am
(Joint post with Lauchenoiria)
November 4th, 2019 - 5 pm Kerlian time
When Nelichē had first arrived home in Kerlile, she was met as promised by Councillor Hale. She had been honoured by the presence of a Councillor, and had made it well known. Hale, for her part, seemed almost embarrassed by the way the Aurora respected her.
She had joined Hale in her car, driving away from the airport towards the city. Nelichē had expected to be taken back to the Aurora Centre, or to the intelligence agency's building, or at the very least a bureaucratic office. So she was rather surprised when they pulled up outside the Xiomeran Embassy.
"You need to inform the Ambassador that you have decided to return to Kerlile," Hale explained. "Go in alone, so they can be sure you aren't being coerced. And please feel free to be honest. You may admit who you were to them, I promise you will be safe. They will be expecting you."
So Nelichē entered the embassy, somewhat nervously and went up to the reception, asking to speak with the Ambassador, and that she was expected.
The receptionist at the desk smiled politely and asked Nelichē to follow one of the embassy guards. The guard led her up a grand set of stairs to the second level of the embassy. From there, they took an elevator that required keycard access from the guard.
When the elevator doors opened, another guard led Nelichē to an interior office. Inside, an older Xiomeran woman with a grandmotherly demeanor stood up from her desk. "You must be Nelichē. I am Yauhto, the Xiomeran ambassador to Kerlile. Please, have a seat," she said. "Would you like something to drink? Tea or coffee perhaps?"
"Tea would be lovely, thank you," she said, taking the seat. Though she was worried, and this entire situation seemed surreal to her, a Councillor herself
had told Nelichē not to worry, and that she was safe, so Nelichē had no choice but to believe it.
When the tea had been delivered by a staffer, and polite pleasantries exchanged, Yauhto finally got to the point. "So, Nelichē, the reason we asked to speak with you is simply to make sure you have decided to return to Kerlile of your own free will, and were not coerced into doing so. I imagine you've been briefed already by my Kerlian counterparts, but we have come to an....understanding with the Council concerning the Auroras sent to Xiomera. That understanding requires us to ensure that any Auroras returning to Kerlile are doing so voluntarily. You may be surprised that we are concerned for your welfare, since you were sent to Xiomera essentially as spies." Yauhto chuckled slightly. "But Xiomera and Kerlile have formed a close partnership after the Aurora program was initiated. Xiomera and Kerlile are not enemies. And, well, you are
Xiomeran by ethnicity, even if not by nationality. So...we want to ensure your safety. You may speak freely here."
Nelichē nodded. "Councillor Hale told me the same thing. It is of course... difficult
for me to speak freely after a lifetime of secrets and lies. But I shall try my best," she smiled weakly. "I have indeed returned to Kerlile of my own free will. It's not that I didn't like Xiomera," she added quickly, "in fact, it is a wonderful country. I had a good life there. But, well... I wasn't myself. The personality I adopted was false, the things I claimed to like I found mediocre and my passions were suppressed. I know these things were the result of my... job... but nevertheless, I couldn't be me
. I am, at heart, a Kerlian. I believe in the Matriarchy, and in what we are doing here. I enjoyed living in Xiomera, but I do not feel like I belonged
"I am saddened to hear that you did not feel like you belonged in Xiomera. It is the land of your ancestors, after all. But....you were born and raised here in Kerlile. It is only natural that you would feel a stronger connection to the place you grew up in." Yauhto paused for a moment. "As for the mission of the Matriarchy....we do believe that Xiomera is one of the friendliest countries to women in the IDU, but also recognize that we still have a lot of improvement we can make in that regard. We're a bit more sympathetic to the mission of Kerlile than most nations, so I can hardly blame you for wanting to return to further that mission."
Yauhto smiled again. "At any rate, since you have confirmed that you are freely returning to Kerlile, that is all we needed." The ambassador slid a tablet across her desk to Nelichē. "If you could just sign this electronic document to record your confirmation, that will satisfy us."
Nelichē reached for the tablet and then paused. She felt a pang, a small piece of regret over what she was about to do. She looked up at Yauhto.
"Perhaps if I'd been in Xiomera under different circumstances, I would have belonged more. I like to think so," she said. "I will miss it. But I want to devote my life to furthering the Kerlian mission, and... well, Xiomera doesn't need me. It's not perfect but it is a good place for women. But elsewhere, our work is not finished, and it is that work I want to devote myself to. I hope, perhaps, that one day - if your government will allow me - I might visit Xiomera again."
With that, she signed the document and slid the tablet back, taking a deep breath and nodding. This was the right choice for her.
Yauhto took the tablet back, making a quick note on it. "I can't blame you for having a dream to pursue. That is what we should all have." The ambassador put the tablet away. "And yes, you would be able to visit Xiomera at any time. It may not be home for you, but you're still connected to us in a very real way." Yauhto stood up, extending her hand for a handshake. "We wish you the best of luck."
Nelichē shook the ambassadors hand, and smiled. "Thank you," she said. "For so many things."
When she left the building and returned to find Councillor Hale waiting, she felt free. Her time as an Aurora was over, and she was just a normal human again, able to make her life how she wanted it.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:37 am
(Joint Post With the Great Shen
798 Geneva Street, Elderai, Outside New Riga
December 4th, 9:36 PM,
John Santel sat in his home in a suburb of New Riga, reading Pride and Prejudice
and sipping tea. He had an exhausting day at work, and reading with tea always helped him relax. He loves reading the classics. He sipped again, and got a call. His cell phone read Unknown Number
. He frowned. Who could that be at this time of night?
. He answered. "Hello?".
There was silence for a moment. Like it had been a wrong number. But just before John was about to hang up a voice with a thin foreign accent spoke up.
" Guard General John Santel? Poseidon?"
He froze. "Yes? Who is this?". He replied in a calm voice, but he was startled inside. His cover could be blown!
" who I am is irrelevant to this conversation General. But what I know could be very useful to you. Are you alone Guard General?"
"I'm not sure I should answer that question without knowing who is asking". He paused. "I am alone, but I am armed. And you must know my reputation if you know I am a Guard General".
" your reputation precedes you. It's why I'm making contact now. I have information that I'm sure you would find very interesting. I'm willing to give it to you..." the accented voice started very calm but suddenly got a lot harsher as it continued to speak " if you agree to some ground rules..."
"I'm intrigued. Go on".
" I'm going to tell you where I will be and at what time I will be there. You are to come alone. You can be armed if you wish but I assure you if you try and attack me no one will ever find your body. I will give you the information I have and then you will allow me to leave. Are these terms agreeable?"
"Sounds Reasonable. I'm in".
" ill be On the docks of the Sixteenth District of New Riga from midnight too 12:15. Once you arrive at the Docks text me and I will tell you the exact Dock I'm on."
John Paused for a moment. "Okay, I'll be there".
Midnight. The docks of New Riga.
It was almost completely dark during this moonless night there is not a single Speck of brilliant Starlight pierce the clouds. The light shower poured down onto the already gloomy City.
It was here but John was supposed to meet his mark
John walked down Seaside Boulevard, the one road going along New Riga's shores. The Sixteenth District wasn't the best part of town, to say the least. New Riga was Generally nice, but the Sixteenth District is the one sore spot on its record. He crossed the Boulevard, pulled out his phone, and texted the Mysterious caller letting him know he was at the docks.
the mysterious number texted back
'On dock 3. Park your car outside of the docks and walk'
Well, that shouldn't be hard, since I took the subway.
He thought, quietly sneaking down to dock three.
When the man finally walked under a large Crane and out of the rain a pair of flashing lights illuminated. A black car blinded him with its headlights. Slowly a figure in a brown raincoat and matching fedora walked out of the car.
He spoke the same as the man on the phone. Clearly they were the same person
" thank you for meeting me here General"
He nodded. "So, why did you call me? You must be of the Shingzi Ren, with your Accent and your knowledge of my General Status. Probably decently high up. Why contact me?".
There was a small chuckle from the man in the brown raincoat
" your clever general. That cleverness is exactly why I chose you"
The man sat down the briefcase he was holding and popped it open pulling out a manila folder.
" I thought you would like to take a look at this"
The folder had the image of a rat in a green Talisman on the front. The symbol of the Shingzi Ren.
John opened it, eyes widening more and more as he read. "We already had some of this Information, but a good chunk is new. Who is your source?".
" now General a gentleman never kisses and tells. You should know that. " he said with a smirk as he picked up his briefcase.
"... it's all genuine by the way. I'm sure when you performed your own investigation You can conclude that. Consider this information a gift from the empress. We only ask that you remember who your friends are... this is a turbulent World General. It's always good to have friends".
"Thank you, and please thank your empress for me. I didn't know what to expect, coming out here. After all, the last General Poseidon who trusted someone too much got blown up". He gestured at the folder. "But it was worth my while. Thank you again". He held out his hand.
" of course General. And I'm sure I don't have to say it but I'm going to anyway. If you find out anything that could be useful to us that number will remain active until this affair is put behind us. This could be the start to a very fruitful relationship between our two intelligence communities. I do hope we get a chance to meet again"
"Of Course. Farewell, Sir. Safe Travels!". He nodded, and left the dock, heading home".
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:59 am
(Written jointly with the Shen Empire)
Oak St, Litudinem
December 4th, 2019 - 8:21 PM
David Hopkins found himself walking down a lonely street. The bleak shadows only broken by the dim glow of lamp lights offering the analyst tiny glimmer to guide him back home for the DIS headquarters. The light pollution drowned out the stars in the new moon robbed him of any other source of light in the sky.
As he was walking down the street a man stepped out of an alleyway.
He was tall. Dressed in a brown raincoat and a matching hat. Although the raincoat obscured his features it was clear that he was a skinny man. The dim flicker of light as he illuminated a cigarette with his right hand revealed his asian features
In his left hand he held a briefcase.
"Mr. Hopkins, I have been expecting you."
His accent was distinctive. Coming from right across the sea
Hopkins, just as he had been trained, wearily took stock of the man. David analyzed his every feature, from the dimly illuminated lines of the man's face to the sleek, steel briefcase in his left hand. He clearly wasn't armed but that didn't mean he couldn't be a dangerous individual. Hopkins decided that he would precede with extreme caution. Something about the man with the cigarette unnerved him. David hesitantly approached the man and responded.
"Good evening sir, how may I help you?"
The dim tip of thr cigarette lit up as the man sucked in a deep breath. Showing his face twisty into a smirk before exhaling the toxic fumes through his nose.
"Oh this isn't a question about how you can help me. It's a matter of how I can help you. I have something rather important that I need to discuss with you Mr. Hopkins."
The sound of a car slowly moving down the street came from behind the man.
"... but this is such a poor place to have that conversation"
The man reached up and took out the cigarette motioning towards the car as it pulled up next to him.
"... how about you and me take a little ride"(edited)
Following the strange man's request was, of course, against all training David had received from the Department of Internal Security. Yet, something seemed so incredibly abnormal about the man that Hopkins felt he couldn't possibly not heed the man's request. He had trained for this type of thing and could handle himself if a fight was to ensue.
"Fine. Where are you taking me?"
Hopkins straitened his body, revealing his full 6 foot, 2 inch frame. Hopkins cracked his knuckles, preparing for the worst, as he. awaited the smoker's response.
"Oh, just around the corner" he said flicking is cigarettes into the street. One of the doors of the van opened up by itself. There were two people sitting in the front seat and another to directly behind the two open seats in the middle.
"Don't worry Mr. Hopkins, I just want to discuss an issue of mutual importance."
Weighing his options, David Hopkins decided enough was enough. A one versus one was one thing, this was now a one versus five and David didn't like his odds.
"Please, Sir, you'll have to elaborate before I enter this vehicle with you and your compatriots. What is your purpose?"
An unamused grimace passed on the face of the smoker, as he began to reach for his rain jacket. Undoing the buttons.
"... We have a mutual enemy. Kerille... that's all I'll say for now. I really must insist that you get in the car."
The man reached into his right pocket, pulling back the jacket enough to reveal a straps of a holster but not the gun itself.
David saw this coming a mile away. He knew he should have been horrified. He was outmanned and outgunned, after all, but this didn't keep him from suddenly becoming very interested in the man's proposition. Kerlile wasn't a word tossed about lightly within the intelligence community. If you said Kerlile was your enemy, they were your mutual enemy.
Letting curiosity get the better of him, David said nothing but stepped up into the back of the van, now committed to his fate, whatever it might be.
As soon as he had sat himself down and been reminded to put his seatbelt on by the man driving a black bag was placed over his head. He heard the man what's the suitcase get in the car and sit next to him.
the sound of metal as he rested a suitcase in between
"There... that wasn't too hard" he said as the car began to drive down the street and take numerous turns, many more than would be necessary than traveling in this part of town.
"... just remain calm. We will be there soon enough"
David was actually shocked by how calm he had managed to remain. He should have been in a full on panic, yet, David felt no fear, only apprehension.
"Good sir, would you mind introducing yourself.
"I don't have a name but for this purpose of this interaction. You can call me Lu." he responded.
Eventually the car came to a stop. The doors opened up and the sent of fish rushed into David's nose.
He was lead through doors and up a pair of stairs.
When the bag was finally taken off his head he was in a small room. In front of him was a table with a manila envelope and a half filled ashtray.
The man known as lu sat across from him
"You smoke?" He said as he began to take off the plastic from another pack of cigarettes
David's apprehension was rapidly turning to confusion. Why on earth was this man exchanging all of the pleasantries? Nothing made sense about his Hopkins' predicament.
"It's rude to smoke without offering a cigarette someone else. At least... where I come from."
He placed the cigarette in his mouth and held it between his lips as he ignited it. Pushing the file across the table.
"Here, take a look at that."
David instantly jumped on the one clue of the origin of his abductors. The man was from a culture where it was exceedingly rude to smoke without offering someone else a cigarette. That eliminated at least two dozen nations and moved a couple to the top of Hopkins' mental list of potential captors. Taking one look at the folder presented to him, David pushed the evidence he had just been given to the back of his mind. This folder he was handed was the real deal.
Hopkins opened the folder and was immediately presented with a whirlwind of names, photographs, places and dates. It took him at least a minute to piece things together but when he did grasp the full repercussions of his "present" he realized the implications of this meeting.
He had acquired the Aurora holy grail. With a million thoughts rushing through his head, David desperately attempted to piece things together. This folder and the information it contained could be the single most important item he ever held.
"I... this.... everything on them? Since 2007? How?"
While David was reading the file, the smoking man continued to suck down his cigarette smoke, adding another butt to the ashtray by the time David spoke again.
"Let's just say that we've come into a wealth of new knowledge. And I've been instructed by my superiors to share it. We don't know who we can trust the moment so we've been selective on how we passed the information on."
David blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't drugged and hallucinating the entire event. Nothing had ever seemed more surreal to Hopkins. There had to be some kind of a caveat, a catch, something.
"So, what's the catch? What do you want in return for these documents?"
He only heard a small chuckle from the man across from him, who stood up and picked up the ashtray.
"There's no catch. Consider it a gift from the empress...to our old friends"
On of the other men set David's cell phone down on the table. It had somehow been picked from his pocket while he was still in the van.
"I suspect you'll be needing to make a call after we leave."
David Hopkins took the phone from the man's hand silently and placed it on the table next to his folder. He looked at the smoking man and nodded, conveying his thanks for the plethora of information that had suddenly been dropped into his lap.
"I suppose I am free to leave with the files?"
"I suppose you are. But you're a rather long way from your house. And it'll be awhile before a rideshare can make it out here. Why don't you just sit down and keep reading those files?"
The smoking man then buttoned his jacket back up and motioned for the rest of his group to leave.
"Happy hunting, Mr. Hopkins."
Hopkins watched in silence as the smoking man's men left the room. David glanced over his folder once more before picking up his encrypted phone and dialing #257. This might prove to be one of the most significant calls of his life.
"Listen, you gotta put me on the line with Director Maguire. I have just acquired the information that may lead to the eradication of all Auroras. I have also made contact with the intelligence service of Shen. Yes, it's urgent!"
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 1:09 pm
(written with lauch)
The glaring lights projected a harsh yellow glow down onto the table Illuminating the tablet that the Aurora was used to cycle through satellite images. Two guards were standing behind her and an analyst was sitting across the table from her. A plate of food have been just brought in to be warm room. The peeling orange paint and the drywall reflected the harsh light making the already bright room even brighter.
She was wearing the standard orange jumpsuit that all prisoners were required to wear
Her face was blank as she flicked through the images, though the slight redness in her eyes betrayed the fact she had been crying sometime recently. She cried every time she woke up, in fact, devastated that she had lost the life and the family she had grown to love so much.
Suddenly she stopped as one image came on the screen.
"There. That looks like what I remember. The woods are to the east and that circular building reminds me of where we used to play team games when we were allowed outside. Only for exercise, never for fun," she added bitterly.
The analysts who had been staring at the trave lunch that pet just brought in for her to wait snapped his attention to her as soon as she began to speak
" you found it? Did you find the Aurora compound? Show me"
Sun Yafang turned the tablet around to show the analyst the photo and pointed.
"This one. I'm almost certain, unless they literally have two identical facilities."
the analyst took the tablet and walked over to a larget screen. he plugged in a few quadinate into the screen, and the same image came up on it.
he scrlled back, showing the location relative to a larget map
"....we have it....the GPS quaradents to the facility"
Yafang sat, nervously tapping her fingers for a few moments as she considered whether or not to say what she planned. Eventually, she made her decision.
"Also... I would be willing to draw you a map of the interior, as far as I can remember it. Of course, it has been decades and I don't know what will have changed. Unfortunately everyone who worked there when I was a child will have long since retired."
She paused and then closed her eyes as tears came to them. "I hate the Matriarchy. They raised me to be loyal but they stole my childhood. And now they've stolen my life and my family and everything from me!" She cried, tears beginning to run down her cheeks. She looked at the analyst. "I hope you destroy them, I really do. I hope you destroy all of them."
He had just finished contacting his superiors would he had heard her speak. Curious eyes twinkling behind thick glasses turns towards her. A sweets smile falslet twisting across his lips.
"..yafang... if you can really give me all of that information that would be so kind. I'm liable to return such a kindness if the information proves to be useful..."
"If you give me paper and a pencil I can draw the map for you. I, uh, might need quite a lot of paper - it's a large facility," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
The man looked up at the guard " get her paper and pencils. now."
He pushed up his glasses as the man left the room.
" I'm surprised you never told us who you really were. We could have avoided this whole unfortunate affair"
"Really?" she said, startled. "I always assumed that if my identity was known I'd be, well, imprisoned or killed."
" I suppose that's what the matriarchy told you but that's never been our policy towards spies that willingly come to us. Oh well it's too late now. You lied and you were caught and now your prisoner"
The guard came back in with a stack of paper and 5 sharpened pencils setting them down in front of the Aurora
She nodded and looked down, sniffing and wiping another tear that had fallen as she realised the missed opportunity she'd had. Silently, she picked up a pencil and began to draw.
"... when you finish drawing I'll report everything you've given me to my Superior. Maybe she will let you visit your children..." he said dangling a carrot in front of her that she couldn't resist
She looked up and gasped, meeting his eyes. Her own were wide as if she couldn't quite believe it.
"Please... I would be so grateful," she said, her voice shaking. "I will make my drawing as detailed as I can remember it."
" I'm sure that will sway her decision. Like I said it's ultimately up to her if you get to see them or not. Now I'll just leave you here to get your work done."
The man took the plate of food that was meant for her and began to eat it motioning for her to get to drawing
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 11, 2019 1:49 am
Veiled Questioning, Part One
(Written With Lauchenoira
December 5th, 9:39 PM
The woman stood in the hall of the "Hospital", Stretching in her new doctor scrubs. Anyone who didn't know her reputation would look past her, anyone who did would plead for mercy. She was in her late 50s, but she looked 30, and was in peak physical shape. An agent in uniform, obviously nervous of her, approached her and handed her a manila envelope. "Your new Identity, ma'am". He said, handing her the package. "Thank you. Is everything ready?". She asked, Opening the envelope and putting on her fake doctor badge. "Yes, Ma'am. Your partner is eager to begin". She rolled her eyes. Of course he is.
"Could you bring him in here, please?". The agent nodded, relieved, and walked back down the hall. A moment later, a man in matching doctor scrubs joined her in the "Waiting Room". He sat down on the couch and gestured to his outfit. "So? What do you think?". She rolled her eyes. "Better than nothing. And please, don't blow it. Poseidon has been waiting for this opportunity to use the SIR for forever, and even though I haven't seen him angry yet, I don't want to". Just then, their pockets buzzed. "She's awake. It's showtime!" The man said, grinning.
Marie Ducette woke, confused. Her head was spinning like she had been drunk and she was uncertain where she was.
"Hello?" She mumbled.
A woman came into her vision. "Hey. Welcome back. Please calm down, your heart rate is through the roof. You're okay. You're safe".
"Where am I?" She asked, confused and a little panicked.
"South Borean Hospital. You passed out in the Immigration Bureau, and Compassion had a rush of flu patients, so they took you to us. I'm Doctor Wilson, but you can call me Brooklyn".
"I feel hungover... was I drinking?" She asked.
The woman looked up from her notes, confused. "You don't remember? Apparently, you passed out after a meeting, while at work, around ten-thirty. An intern caught you and called 911. Caused a big stall at the Bureau".
"Oh... that is slightly embarrassing," she cringed.
The doctor laughed softly. "No problem, Madame. It wasn't that bad. When you get a few patients per month that have things stuck in awkward places, your definition of Embarrassing gets a little looser".
"I can imagine so. Do you know what happened to me?"
The Doctor turned serious. "We are trying to figure that out. We don't know if it's a condition, or a sickness.... Or something else. We are running tests, and we will let you know if we find something". Two men, one in scrubs and one in a police uniform, entered the room. "Doctor Wilson? We need to discuss something", the man in scrubs asked. She turned back to Marie. "I'll be right back". She left, and went into the next room over. Fortunately, the walls were thin. The man in scrub's voice was muffled, but still legible. "We found a Heavy tranquilizer in her bloodstream. It is an intelligence operative strength drug. I think there is more to her story than her fainting". The other man spoke. "We'll keep her under watch. She could be either dangerous, or in danger". Dr. Wilson replied. "I don't know if she's dangerous, but if she's in danger, do everything you can to protect her. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do her vitals". The voices disappeared, and Dr. Wilson came back. "Sorry about that. Anyway, let's check your vitals". She busied herself with the monitor.
She remained silent, worrying. She didn't know what has happened. Had someone found her out?
Dr. Wilson took notes on her clipboard. "Are you having any flashes of Pain or headaches?".
"Little bit of a headache. Feels like I'm hungover," she said.
She wrote that down. "We'll get you something for that. I'll be right back". She left, leaving her alone.
She was concerned. She didn't know what was going on, but she knew that if someone had tried to kill her, they might come back. She pondered whether or not she was strong enough to run, and thought she should wait a little longer. But the first opportunity she had, she would be out of here, and would contact her handlers back home for orders.
Dr. Wilson returned with some water and a pill. "Here, take this. It should help. You might want to get some more rest. With luck, you will be better tomorrow".
"Yes, but what precisely is
it? I'm quite particular about what I put in my body," she said.
She smiled. "Just a variation of Aspirin. Don't worry, it's not poison or anything. Just aspirin".
"Why would you even mention
poison?" She said, half alarmed and half amused.
Dr. Wilson laughed a bit. "I've had a few patients that act like it is poison. Refuse to even consider vaccines, treat disease with "Home-made medicine...". She sighed. "It's a mess. I'm just reassuring you. No need to be alarmed".
"Very well," she shrugged, swallowing the pill. If they were going to kill her, at least her secrets would die with her. What was the worst that could happen?
"Thank you. Also, My Shift Partner, Dr. Carson, and our Chief Biochemist, Dr. Percy, will be here in a few minutes to run some tests. Is that okay?".
"Sure," she said. She was uncertain what was happening, and sceptical, but her best bet at the moment was to play along and wait until she had the opportunity to contact home.
"I'm okay," she said. "Forgive me for asking, but how did you get that scar?"
She put down her clipboard. "I was a resistance medic during the civil war. Darrin's forces turned their tanks on the field hospital. I barely made it out alive".
"I... I'm sorry," she said, ashamed. "I shouldn't have asked."
She turned. "Oh, no, don't apologise. Curiosity is natural. Also, Doctor Carson was the only other one of our medic group that survived. We knew the risks. After the war, I got hired here, and I helped him get a job here too. Many people want to forget what happened, in the war, both of us included". She sighed. "Well, that was cheerful. How are you feeling? Have you regained your memory of the day?".
"I'm feeling okay. And yes, I was in a meeting. Funny, I didn't feel unwell before I got there," she frowned.
Dr. Wilson wrote a few things. "Well, at least it's coming back. Now that I think about it, we should wait with those tests for tomorrow. You need rest. I'll leave so you can get some sleep". She hung up her clipboard and walked to the door. "Goodnight, Madame Ducette".
"Goodnight?" She said, confused. This entire situation seemed a little surreal to her. But despite being unconscious for a while she was very tired.
She chuckled. "Yeah, it's 9:50. Goodnight!". She closed the door.
Ducette frowned and lay back on her bed, thinking over what had happened. She was uncertain and a little worried. But she was tired, and she resolved to think of a plan tomorrow.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 11, 2019 1:58 am
(( written with lauch))
****** shen December 9th.
" sir!sir! Director memo sir!" An analyst shouted as he shot up from his desk and ran towards the front of the room where his Superior officer was talking with another analyst.
" sir... I think I have one"
Nemo turned his head towards the officer and knotted speaking in his Kirlian accented mandarin "....lead the way"
The analyst took the director to his desk. On his screen was a military personnel file
" Fu Hao. a lieutenant in the Imperial Armada. her profile was Flags by the algorithm for manual review. It has everything that we're looking for with Aurora's. Parents files that are functionally empty. And I just got off the phone with the primary school and secondary school she claimed to attend. They have no records of her. Same thing with the hospital she claims to be born in"
" sounds like we have a potential Aurora. We should take her in. Where is she?"
" she station on the River Corvette Rising Moon. Looks like she's the Second Officer and serves as the officer of the watch on the third command during the night."
Director Nemo nodded looking over the file as he stroked his chin. " have these sent over to the admiralty. I will call them and formulate a plan."
ISS Rising Moon. 12:30 p.m. December 10th, 7 km off the coast of shen.
The order said to come in a few hours before. Lieutenant Commander Xi, the commanding officer of the rising Corvette had been on the bridge when she had to receive them. They were simple enough and not out of the ordinary. Rather than continuing their Shore patrols, they were to head out to a specific location and join a small task force. No other orders were given but it didn't seem like anything she had to immediately briefed her staff on. She allowed her Second Officer to sleep and just informed her first officer.
It was 10 minutes past noon when the other three ships in the task force appeared on the horizon. They were slowly moving towards the Rising Moon. 3 is her sister ships of the same class of corvettes that made up much of the Shore Patrol and River navigable Fleet of the Navy.
The task force of 4 ships finally we're close by when the commanding officer received another order. It was encrypted and from the admiralty in the celestial Palace. She took a moment to step into her ready room to receive it.
" Lieutenant Commander your ship is about to be boarded and searched by a aquaf Imperial Marines, and shingzi ren. We have reason to believe that lieutenant fu, is guilty of the crime of high treason and we are taking her into custody. Urg instructor security Personnel to head to the upper deck and to not hamper the efforts of our search team."
The Lieutenant Commander was shocked after she got the news. She acknowledged the orders and radioed for her head of security to get all security Personnel to the back of the ship
As soon as they were there the other ships docked alongside her own ship and their Marines jumped from their ship on to hers.
All this commotion stirred the Aurora sleeping in her quarters to wake. Her training kicked in and she instantly try to book it from her room to the deck. She had made it into the Galley when the doors to the Jack burst open as well as the door from the engine room. Two groups of three Marines as well as two other individuals in black uniforms blocked her exits.
Fu reach for her gun and fired blast in one of the Marines in the face. The woman she hit fell to the ground, dead.
In response the other Marines fired with their tasers. The Aurora cell. And all the remaining soldiers and agents jumped on her. She desperately wriggled and fought. Slamming her head into the table trying to kill herself. Desperately kicking and screaming and fighting. Trying to wiggle out of the grip as her head was pushed into the ground. As her arms were bound behind her back. As her legs were find it together. She tried to fight and squirm. Squeal and slip. Slither away from the soldiers pinning her tightly to the ground. She felt one of them start to apply a bandage to her head to stop the bleeding. Caused by slamming her head into one of these legs of the table. Finally they were pinning her down so totally that she couldn't fight at all. She felt the slight sting of a needle piercing her flesh. And then nothing.
"... we captured the target subject. But get us a medic! We have a casualty!" One of the Marines radiod
****** shen ******
The naval officer woke up in a pitch-black room. She was still in the t-shirts and shorts should want to bed the night before. Her mind was Dazed and Confused. But as she slowly was able to pull her thoughts together she realized there was the sound of breathing coming from right across the table. A small light illuminated the end of a cigarette and then the clicking of a button.
The sound of a compartment opening up and something rising out of it was heard. Metal saintly reflecting the glow of the cigarettes. The silhouette across the table reached over to let it come out and clicked on it causing a beam of light to come out of it shining down on the table showing a manila file.
"....you smoke, lieutenant?"
Slowly, she began to remember. They'd come for her. She shot someone, saw them falling to the ground, and then she had struggled so hard to get free, if only to end it before they could take her. Evidently, she'd failed. She panicked, trying to jump up and feeling her restraints digging into her as she struggled.
" oh you really are quite a fighter aren't you?" He said ashing his cigarette onto the floor.
" shame what you did on the Rising Moon. Killed a promising young woman there. Oh well it's not like she was a citizen of your country"
She remained silent, ending her futile struggling and staring defiantly at the man.
" so lieutenant Fu Hao... which you and I both know isn't your real name but I'll continue calling you it, since we both know the matriarchy didn't give you the privilege of real names... I'm not going to ask you again. Do you want a cigarette?" The man in the brown trench coat said as he slowly opened the file in front of him
She did not answer, instead leaning back in her seat and staring. Truthfully, she would have liked one, but she had the feeling the man would not follow through on his offer, and did not want to give him the satisfaction of speaking.
"... you know I was hoping we could talk. I could waste your time pointing out all the inconsistencies in your records. Explaining to you all the information we already have about the auroras from the ones we've already captured and broken and president Greenwood. Oh yes she's helping us now. Nice lady. Alcoholic" he closed the file and leans forward taking the cigarette out of his mouth and forcing it between her lips
" but that wouldn't get you to say anything useful. No we have other ways of making you compliant. But I would really like to talk to you agent to agent. You fascinate me"
She took a drag of the cigarette, and then smirked at the man.
"I will not comply."
The cigarette smoking man reached over and took a cigarette from her allowing her to Exhale before putting it back in her mouth. His own lips smirking
" oh I would be disappointed if you did. So, shall I call for the guards? If you're not in the mood to chat?"
"Unless you want to talk about the lovely weather we've been having?" she said.
" its raining..."
He pushed the button and the doors opened up. Guards walked over and began to rip her clothes from her. She was unhooked from the table and dragged through the facility.
It got colder and colder she was marched on and on. Eventually they arrived in front of large concrete slabs which was removed. The chains were finally taken off of her and she was tossed inside. The door was slammed shut locking her in
She felt her way around the small cube, feeling for anything that she could use, then eventually sighed and sat down against the wall, considering how she would try and kill herself.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Sat Dec 14, 2019 4:26 pm
Veiled Questioning, Part 2
December 5th, 2019
"Madame Ducette? Madame Ducette? Are you awake?".
She woke immediately, opening her eyes and kind of half-glaring at the person who stood over her.
"I am now," she groaned.
Doctor Wilson stood by her bed, checking her vitals. "Sorry. You slept like a rock. I was starting to worry. It's ten thirty. Would you like me to get you breakfast?".
"Sure, but what I'd really like is to go home," she said hopefully. "I feel fine, I probably just hadn't eaten enough and passed out. I forget sometimes, when I'm focused on something."
She shook her head. "You probably should keep track of that. And your blood sugar looks fine. We need to make sure you are all right first. Pancakes or Scrambled Eggs?".
"Ooh pancakes sounds lovely," she said, hiding her disappointment. She had been hoping they would tell her more about what she'd overheard the other day.
"I'll be right back with that!". She said, smiling as she left.
Ducette sat up as soon as the Doctor left. She glanced around the room. She wondered what hospital she was in, whether or not they would get annoyed if she just walked out.
The Door opened, and the doctor she had seen yesterday, Doctor Carson, came in. "Finally awake?". He smiled. "How are you feeling today?".
"Good, I feel fine," she replied. "I was wondering if I could go for a walk? I feel like I could do with some fresh air."
"I feel fine," she insisted. "Staying in bed is only going to make me feel worse."
"Well, even if you feel fine, we don't know if it's viral. We have immunocompromised patients here, and that could put them in serious danger".
"Oh," she said, disappointed. "But I really do feel fine. If it was a virus, surely I would still be presenting symptoms?"
"Well, we'll run some tests today, and if you're clean, you can go outside all you'd like. I'll talk to Dr. Percy on doing the tests after you eat breakfast".
"Okay, sure, sounds good," she nodded, glancing around again. She was a little confused. What she'd overheard did not match with what they were suggesting. It was suspicious, but she wasn't going to let on that she found it so.
Dr. Wilson came back, holding a tray with pancakes, Bacon, and a milk carton. "Here you go". Then she turned to Dr. Carson. "I assume Percy's getting everything ready ten minutes early, as usual?". He laughed. "You assume correctly. He always jumps the gun a bit".
"She took the tray and ate some of the pancakes, knowing she needed to keep her strength up if something was going to go wrong. She watched the pair closely, searching for anything suspicious looking.
Dr. Carson picked up his clipboard. "I'll see you in there!". He said, leaving. Dr. Wilson did the same. "When you finish, buzz me with the remote, and we'll begin the tests".
"Of course," she said through a mouthful of pancake, pretending she was distracted by her meal. She was thinking. She wondered what these tests would be. She could try and run for it, something was telling her to do so... but she was curious, and she wanted to know. So after she finished eating when buzzed the remote as asked.
Dr. Wilson came back in. "All done? Well, follow me, then!". She lead her to a room, where Doctor Carson and A new doctor, who she presumed to be Doctor Percy, stood by an MRI machine. Doctor Percy came up to her, hand out to shake. "You must be Marie. I'm Doctor Percy, Nice to meet you!".
"And you," she replied, nodding, looking around the room and taking everything in.
He Gestured to the Machine. "We'll be viewing your brain, and doing some Psychological tests and evaluations, just to make sure your brain is Intact, and that you fainting wasn't caused by a something serious. Do you suffer from Claustrophobia?".
"No I don't," she said, though she narrowed her eyes at the machine.
"Good. The MRI machine is a bit tight, and it can give some people panic attacks. Just making sure. Shall we begin?".
"Sure," she said lightheartedly. She still didn't know what was going on, and her suspicions only grew, but she was determined not to let it show.
"Okay, you can hop on this bed here, and we'll get started".
She got onto the bed, after pausing for a second to consider whether or not she should knock the doctors unconscious and make a run for it. She decided against that.
The bed was drawn back into the machine, and a buzzer beeped a few times. It beeped a few more times over a couple minutes, and then the bed extended again, and Doctor Wilson gave her a thumbs up. "That's done, now we can begin the psychological evaluation". She gestured to a table with two chairs in the corner. "You can take a seat".
She walked over to the table and sat down. She had a very bad feeling about this. Suddenly, she wished she had run.
Dr. Wilson noticed her tension. "Relax, everything's fine. Just some questions to check your mental health. We don't have a record of a Childhood assessment, so let's just do one now, and get it over with".
"Of course," she smiled though her heart had sunk. "I guess I must've been more claustrophobic than I thought."
"Ah. Anyway, first question. Any major fears or traumatic events we should be aware of?".
"No," she said, speaking truthfully. Nobody who was easily traumatised would be as stable as she was after the childhood she'd had.
"Okay, Next question. Who was your greatest role model growing up?".
"Célia Peliēt," she answered. "I wanted to be an athlete when I was a child, and seeing her successes when I was a little girl was inspirational. Of course, I changed my mind about my career in the end."
"Célia Peliēt, the Swimmer? She was awesome. Next Question. What is a Big Motivating Factor for you to pursue your current career?".
"I have always had a talent for organisational skills... this isn't a job interview, I can be honest right?" she asked and then lowered her voice slightly. "To be honest, it pays well, and I like the money."
She laughed a little. "I get you. Next Question. Do you or did you once have depression or Anxiety?".
"I have never been diagnosed with either," Ducette replied carefully.
"Do you have Suicidal thoughts?"
"No I do not," she replied.
Dr. Wilson took some notes."Okay. Do you often get Migraines?". While she was taking notes, the Security officer from yesterday snuck in and was talking to Doctor Carson in a whispered tone.
"No I don't," Ducette said. She strained to hear what they were discussing. Her urge to run was becoming increasingly strong.
"Okay. Next Questio-". The Officer Tapped her on the Shoulder. "Yes?". His voice was low and soft. "I have something to show you quick". She put down her notes. "Sure. I'll be right back, Madame". She went over there, and after a few seconds, the doctor's face showed confusion, and anger. She whispered angrily, but only parts of her sentences were legible. "Not possible..... How would that...... Forgery?! You're lying....".
"Excuse me," said Ducette all of a sudden, her urges to run becoming uncontrollable. "I desperately need the bathroom. Can you show me where it is?"
Dr. Wilson looked up, slightly panicked, edging away from officer Vaughn. "Of course, I'll show you". Officer Vaughn tried to grab the doctor's arm, but she dodged. "Follow me". After they got out, she frantically locked the door. "Quickly, we don't have much time. He will get the door unlocked soon. My car is in the parking garage, that way!". She pointed Down the hall.
"What's going on?" Ducette asked, confused and slightly alarmed.
"Officer Vaughn must be working with an intelligence agency of some sort. He's gone rouge, and now he's accusing you of crimes, and threatening me if I don't let him have you. Now, follow me!". She started walking briskly down the hall, dodging other doctors and nurses in the hall.
Ducette hesitated. She wasn't sure she trusted the doctor any more than the officer locked in the room. Yet, she hadn't seen a single window and didn't know where she was going, so she followed the doctor regardless.
She opened a closet door before they passed it and got a doctor's coat. "Here, put this on as we walk. You'll be warmer and less conspicuous". She then led her to the end of the hall, and opened it. It was a parking garage, and she passed a few cars before unlocking hers and opening the back door. "Quickly, get in on the floor! We can't let anyone see you!".
"Why are you helping me?" she asked, confused.
"You're my patient. If you're under threat, it's my duty to protect you. 'Above All Else, Do No Harm', remember? And I am breaking Several Laws to do so, so I need to know the truth. Why is he chasing you?".
"I don't know," she lied.
"Please don't lie. I'm getting sick of being lied to. If you're a mass murderer, at this point, I won't be surprised. Just tell me how big of a crime I am committing by helping you. Are you a thief? Killer? Spy? Hostage Taker?".
"Okay," she said, pretending to look around to give her time to think. Why had they discovered her? What had she done recently? Documents, she'd altered documents. Well, she had a cover for that, and everything else. "I was paid to alter some documents at work by a woman. I like money, and it was a good deal, if a bit illegal."
"Okay, but why would Vaughn act like that? He acted like you were working for the devil, and he even claimed you were a Kerlian agent like they were talking about on the news. What were they called?". She kept frantically driving and looking over her shoulder. "Auoras, was it?".
"Kerlian?" she said then shook her head. She could play her part well. "I knew there was something funny about that deal. I wouldn't have taken it, but, well, I enjoy a little gambling and I had a debt I needed to pay off. The person who paid me asked me to change the records for a Kerlian immigrant. Maybe she was an Aurora!"
She pulled into a parking lot of an apartment building. "My apartment's on the second floor". She opened the door, and started walking up the stairs. "Just out of curiosity, what did she pay you to edit?".
"You don't need to shelter me, I can hide myself," Ducette said, pausing at the bottom of the stairwell and ignoring the question. "I've hidden from the people I... people I owed money to before."
She stopped. "Maybe so, but if you are being pursued, they have your house under watch now. You'll be safe here".
Ducette stepped backwards, testing the other woman's reaction.
Dr. Wilson took a moment, waiting. "Look, id you want to go, fine. You'll be caught and arrested. Can't you just stay one night, so we can make arrangements, and you can be on your way?".
"What arrangements? Have you done this before?" Ducette asked, surprised.
She bit her lip. "Once". She said quietly. "My best friend was a spy. We were practically sisters. I helped her escape. Haven't seen her in years, since she left. Nobody knows besides me, and now you".
Ducette was startled. She wanted to ask more. She was curious, but... it seemed too good to be true. Still, if there was a chance she could get help, she'd have to consider it.
"One night," she agreed, then started up the stairs. She needed to discover if she could trust the doctor.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Sun Dec 15, 2019 9:02 am
(Written with the consultation of Lauchenoiria
Route 177 North, Littidinem
December 8th, 2019 - 6:45 PM
Although it was designated as a highway, Route 177 was hardly ever busy. People living in the city would never need the road taking them just beyond downtown and into the suburbs. Likewise, commuters could take Route 18 West to leave the city in a much easier fashion. The two lane road was so poorly designed that it only serviced about 700 people in a city of 1.8 million.
Until today, Annie Strousberg, loved Route 177 because of its utter lack of other drivers. She could get back to her humble abode in half the time it took any of her co-workers to get home. Additionally, the road was built in 1978, back when the Maximusian Department of Transportation was making their highways out of concrete instead of asphalt. This meant that the road never had a single pot-hole or crack to damage Annie's suspension and brakes with.
Usually a chipper woman, Annie Strousberg, employee of the Maximusian Federal Revenue Service, was looking down today. Everything was going down hill now that the advisory had been sent out to all Auroras. The DIS were fast, smart, and efficient. Annie knew that full well that if she slipped up even once it would spell doom for her entire operation. Now, more than ever before, she would have to rely on her training to survive.
As was her custom, once or twice a drive Annie would visually check to see if she had picked up a tail. On a highway these were difficult to spot but on backroads they stuck out like a sore thumb. Annie had never been tailed before but knew generally what to look for. As such, when Annie noticed a car that had been following her the whole ride also exit on the same ramp as her, she became suspicious.
Assuming it was nothing, Annie took a right turn without turning on her blinkers just to check. To her dismay, the small sedan that had been behind her suddenly swung to the right as well. Breathing heavily, Annie made another right hand turn at the next intersection. Like a mosquito on a summer night, the sedan also made a right turn. This was almost certainly a tail.
A million thoughts suddenly popped into her head. If this was the Maximusian government then her cover was blown and she would have to try to escape back to Kerlile. If it wasn't the Maximusian government then who was it? Using her training, Annie pushed these thoughts to the back of her mind. She would need to be completely in the moment to escape her pursuers.
Annie violently wrenched the car's wheel to the right one last time, sending it on its third right turn. Sure enough, the sedan followed doggedly behind. Annie's mind went into flight mode and she suddenly found herself flooring the car. Its engine moaned under the stress of suddenly accelerating from 50 km/h to well over 140. The sedan behind Annie accelerated as well.
Knowing that her best bet was to get back onto the highway, Annie floored her car onto a side road that merged with an entrance ramp after about 600 meters. She just had to make it there. Unfortunately for Annie, the sedan behind her was gaining speed faster than she was. It was a much newer model than her 2006 sedan. To make matters worse, another car suddenly rounded a corner in front of her and changed over into her lane, heading straight for her.
In a split second decision, Annie through her car over to the left, narrowly avoiding the oncoming car, which flew past her before turning around. The sedan originally behind her took Annie's split second of distraction to close the gap between the two cars. It violently slammed into her rear, causing Annie to loose control of the car. It spun out wildly, tires screeching, before going off the road and into a ditch.
Slamming her head hard against the steering wheel, Annie screamed in pain as the sudden shock of going from 150 km/h to 0 hit her. Dazed and confused, she realized she was going to have to escape on foot. Her best bet would be to make it to a nearby neighborhood, only a kilometer away if she cut through some wooded areas.
Thinking quickly, Annie reached into her car's central console and retrieved a combat knife, her only weapon, which she then used to cut her seatbelt off. Upon cutting herself free and climbing out of her vehicle, she realized that two men had exited their vehicle (the head-on sedan) and were rushing towards her. Head pounding, Annie began to sprint away as fast as her legs would carry her. She knew that if she didn't make it to the neighborhood, she was as good as dead.
The two agents were moving fast though. Although they both had large builds, they were already starting to close the gap. Meanwhile, Annie was wearing tight jeans which were seriously limiting her range of motion, forcing her strides to be far shorter than she would have liked. Additionally, after only 200 meters, Annie started to feel winded, she was running faster than she ever had and it was starting to take its toll on her cardiovascular system. Annie began to panic as she looked back and saw the agents closing the gap. Clenching her knife tightly, she realized that this was going to end in a fight.
The first man overtook her suddenly, throwing his massive body at her in an all out lunge. She easily dodged the attack and rounded on the second agent. He managed to dive out of her way just in time as she slashed at him with her knife. Undeterred, the two men regrouped and faced her down again in a split second. Again, the duo lunged at her, prompting Annie to jump back a few steps. This time Annie attacked, plunging her knife into a startled looking agent's arm just below the shoulder. He screamed in pain before stumbling backwards, giving his partner an opportunity to slam his fist hard into Annie's face. She stumbled backwards before a few steps before loosing her footing and falling to the ground. Thankfully, Annie recovered quickly and hoisted herself onto her feet just in time to intercept the uninjured agent, who slammed into her with full force, knocking her to the ground. In desperation, she slashed at his torso with her knife but was stopped by the man's broad shoulder colliding with her wrist. The injured man then dove at the poor Aurora as well, reaching wildly for her knife.
After a brief tussle on the ground. Annie was easily disarmed and overpowered. The shock of loosing really hit her as a needle was injected into her left arm, causing her sight to begin to fail. In one desperate burst of energy, she punched at the uninjured agent. Her vision suddenly began to go totally dark. Annie felt her fist lightly connect with flesh before loosing conciseness.
Back at the scene of the car wreck, two DIS agents began loading a cadaver into the driver's seat of the car. The body wouldn't fool a DNA test but it would certainly fool any first responder. After situating the body properly, the agents placed a large sack of ammonium nitrate in the passenger seat. Without emotion, the sack was rigged to detonate.
The next morning's paper would record that a young government employee was killed the night before when she lost control of her vehicle and ruptured the car's gas tank during after it crashed. Her body would be reportedly burned beyond recognition, and in more than a dozen pieces. To make a long story short, Annie Strousberg was dead.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 5:19 pm
Unknown Facility, Lauchenoiria
17th December 2019
Maricela Tobin had expected better treatment. This was Lauchenoiria, after all. Yet since her capture, she had been fed nothing but bread and water, allowed to sleep no more than six hours a night and interrogated for 12 hours straight with no breaks every day. Her cell was so bitterly cold she shivered at night, though it did not seem cold enough to kill her. Her bed was hard and uncomfortable, her only blanket thin enough that she could see through it. She was thoroughly miserable.
The first night, almost two weeks ago now, she had been rather amused. She had woken strapped to a chair. They’d asked her questions, and she had given sweetly sarcastic answers – which had prompted her interrogator to slap her across the face. She had reacted to this violence by bursting into laughter, finding the weakness of his slap hilarious. He hadn’t even managed to draw blood.
“If you’re going to torture me, you should be less incompetent at it,” she had remarked. “And I would also like to point out that torture is unconstitutional, so I demand you release me right now because any evidence you do gather would not stand up in a Lauchenoirian court.”
Her interrogator had spat at her for that comment – and had ordered her beaten. As beatings went, it was not the worst she could imagine. She had managed to bear it well, avoiding both screaming or crying. Eventually they had stopped, afraid of knocking her unconscious before they were finished for the day. By the time she was sent back to her cell, she couldn’t move without pain, but she still managed to grin at the thought of how frustrated her interrogators had looked.
Almost two weeks later, she no longer found it remotely amusing. She was covered in cuts and bruises, and when she was in her cell, she just slumped on her bed, unable to move because of the pain. She sometimes felt tears of despair begin to form, and had to blink them away quickly, lest her captors see. She no longer managed to avoid screaming completely when they hurt her. Yet the physical pain was not the worst part – it was her sheer, utter hopelessness.
The facility she was in had no natural light at all. She figured it was likely underground. She had seen other cells, but no other prisoners. Everything was grey, there was no colour, and every day was the same miserable schedule. The moment they had first beaten her, she knew for certain that she was screwed. They were operating outside of Lauchenoirian law, which meant she had very little chance of rescue. There was also the chance they would kill her, down here, and she would never see daylight again.
“Get up,” a voice commanded as she lay in her cell, shivering under her thin blanket and contemplating the hopelessness of her situation. She didn’t move. “Take her.”
Two guards came forward and grabbed her by the arms, pulling her up roughly and causing her to wince as they squeezed on one of her many bruises. She was dragged through the corridors, not bothering to fight, too weak from the relative starvation and the pain. If she had been going to attempt escape, she would have had to do it earlier, before the torture had weakened her. Now, it would have been pointless, she could barely stand without assistance, never mind run.
She was taken to the interrogation room and strapped to a chair as usual. She sat there for a few minutes, staring at the ceiling and trying not to think about how hungry she was. They didn’t feed her until after the interrogation session. One of her interrogators – there were three, who seemed to work in shifts – entered and sat down across from her at the table.
“Good morning, Ms Tobin. Are you planning on being more cooperative today?” he asked pleasantly.
“No,” she replied dully, in a monotone. The first week, she had answered with a variety of sarcastic responses, but by this point her hunger and exhaustion and the pain took the fun out of winding them up.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, I guess that is it,” he sighed, and shuffled his papers together and stood up, turning as if to leave.
“What? You’re not going to ask me more?” she said. That was what always happened, hours of questioning. Her interrogator had never tried to leave so early before.
“No, it seems you have made your decision. You will not even answer the simplest of questions, so we are wasting our time and resources keeping you alive.”
Tobin looked alarmed. She couldn’t help it. Her physical weakness was impacting upon her ability to suppress outward displays of her stronger emotions. And, in spite of everything, Maricela Tobin still feared death.
“Since you will not even confirm if you are an Aurora, I see no point in continuing. We shall schedule your execution for a couple days from now,” he said, shrugging.
“Wait, you can’t kill me!” Tobin replied desperately.
“Oh? And why not?” the interrogator asked, eyebrow raised.
“It’s… it’s against Lauchenoirian law,” said Tobin weakly.
“Ms. Tobin, I do not think you are foolish enough to believe that we are operating here entirely within the confines of Lauchenoirian law. That will not be enough to save you. Now, if we knew you were definitely an Aurora, perhaps it would be worth feeding you a little longer. Perhaps even giving you something different for a change, more filling. You do look ever so hungry.”
“I…” Tobin said, hesitating then biting her lip and looking down.
“Execution it is,” shrugged the interrogator, beginning to open the door.
“Wait, I confess! I’m an Aurora!” Tobin blurted out. The interrogator paused and turned around, a wide smile on his face.
“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” he asked. “Would you like to provide us with any further information at this point?”
Maricela Tobin was frozen to the spot. She was horrified at her own weakness, that she had been so unwilling to die, even for her country. She felt water on her cheek, and realised she was crying silent tears, afraid for herself and ashamed of her betrayal.
“Ms. Tobin?” asked the interrogator.
“No,” she said quietly. “I will not tell you more.”
“Not yet, anyway,” he replied cheerily. “Well, you have done enough to earn yourself a break for the day. I’ll have the guards take you back to your cell, and you will be given a meal. Your first proper one in a couple of weeks, I imagine. Enjoy your day, Ms. Tobin.”
The interrogator left. The Aurora sat, the tears still running down her cheeks as the guards came and led her back to her cell. She was still in shock that she had confessed to what she was, and let herself be led very easily through the corridors. But when she got to her cell, her eyes opened up wide. Sitting on a tray on her bed was a bowl of spaghetti Bolognese, one of her favourite dishes. She eagerly leapt forward, picking up the fork and stuffing some in her mouth.
The flavours! It was beautiful. She didn’t even notice them lock the cell door behind her, she was just too focused on the taste. She sat back, not even noticing the discomfort of the bed as she savoured the flavour and satisfied her hunger. She forgot about her betrayal as she ate, feeling full for the first time since her capture. When she was finished, she lay back on her bed, some of her strength returned. Her confession had brought a great reward.
Oh dear, she thought. This can’t end well.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:29 pm
Veiled Questioning, Part 3
December 5th, 2019
Borean, Outside Geminus, Eiria
When they got to her apartment, Doctor Wilson unlocked it and let Ducette in. "Welcome to my home. Guest room is on the right, I'll get some towels and sheets prepared".
"I really do need the bathroom," she said. "Where is it?"
"Right through the Guest room, on your right".
"Thank you," Ducette nodded gratefully and made a beeline for the bathroom. Once inside, she locked the door and immediately began to search the place as quietly as she could.
Moving as quietly as she could, she began to search through the bathroom, looking at all the bottles and behind the shower curtain. She opened some of the drawers and began to flick through them... until she saw something that made her blood run cold. She picked up the pin and stared at the symbol on it. Her eyes wide, she flushed the toilet and then washed her hands. Before she left the room she blinked and composed herself.
"Sorry about that," she said cheerfully, and then yawned. "I seem to be a little tired after all this excitement."
Doctor Wilson was sitting on the couch, watching the news. "No problem. Would you like me to make Lunch, or would you like to rest?"
"I think I need to rest, if that's okay," Ducette said, rubbing her eyes a little.
"Of Course. The Bedroom is prepped, and when you're up, I'll make dinner. Would a shrimp dish be okay?".
"That sounds lovely," she smiled gratefully. "Uh, where is the bedroom?"
She pointed to the door next to the bathroom. "There. Can I get you anything before you rest?".
"Okay, Have a nice rest!". She turned back to the TV.
Ducette went into the guest bedroom and closed the door. Quickly, she looked around for things to stuff under the covers and then went over to the window and looked down. It was only a single story; she could do it.
She tried to open the window, but it was locked. She expected it, and pulled the pin she had stolen from the bathroom out of her pocket, using it to begin to try and pick the lock.
It took her some time, but eventually she heard the telltale click. She moved quickly, opening the window and taking a deep breath. Then she moved to climb out and drop to the ground.
She fell from the window, landing on her feet and jumped up to run.
Immeadiately, two people in Blue Uniforms rounded the corner, both holding rifles. A voice came from above. "Oh, Miss Ducette. It's impolite to leave your host without saying goodbye!". The Doctor was sitting on the Fire escape. She dropped down, and pointed a sleek silver Ciel model handgun at Her.
"It's also impolite to lie to your guest," Ducette said, and then ran. She didn't care if they shot her, it was better than being taken alive.
'Doctor Wilson' and the two agents chased after her, over through the parking lot. She lined up her gun. "Gotcha". She fired.
Ducette felt something hit her, and fell to the ground. Shit, she thought before she fell unconscious.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 18, 2019 2:16 pm
Unknown Location, Shen
18th December 2019
Fu Hao sat in the corner of her cube, curled up in a ball. She had her eyes closed, not that it mattered in the absolute darkness. Though she was still cold, she didn’t shiver, or even move perceptibly. Though she sat in the uncomfortable, cold cube, her mind was thousands of miles and many years away, remembering her childhood. It had not been a pleasant childhood, filled with Aurora training, but she remembered it fondly nevertheless…
Aurora Centre, Kerlile
25th January 2005
Kiera sat on her chair nervously, looking around the room at her fellow trainees. They all knew what this new class would entail, and their expressions ranged from mild nervousness all the way to abject terror. Not a single one of them looked forward to what was to come. Next to Kiera, Kayley sat rocking back and forth nervously.
“How bad do you think it will be?” Kara, who was seated behind the pair leaned forward to ask. Of the three of them, she was the least nervous looking.
“I heard from Jacqueline,” whispered Kayley, naming one of the girls in the year above, “that on the first day they beat you all to see how long it takes you to cry.”
“Jacqueline always makes things sound worse than they are,” scoffed Kara. “She’s a Shuell-assigned. That’s probably what they do in the advanced class.”
“You and I need to take the advanced class,” pointed out Kiera. “So, I really hope not.”
“Well, I heard Janet say that actually…”
“Silence!” a woman called, walking into the room, and immediately every Aurora trainee in the room fell silent and faced the front. “Good. Now, I imagine you are all nervous, and the older girls probably told you all kinds of stories about what would happen to you today. They are most likely untrue. Kiera, come up to the front, please.”
Nervously, Kiera stood, feeling the eyes of the other girls watching her as she walked shakily to the front, bracing herself for whatever pain was about to come.
“Hold this, Kiera,” their teacher said, handing her what appeared to be a golf ball.
Kiera reached out, nervously, expecting it to be burning hot, or covered in something itchy. It was not, it was an ordinary golf ball. She looked up at the teacher, confused.
“Thank you, Kiera, take your seat,” said the teacher, motioning to Kiera to sit down. She obeyed. “Now, do you all see how Kiera reacted, there? She expected something painful, something torturous. So, she flinched, and shook, and hesitated, and worried. I didn’t need to do anything to her. How are you feeling Kiera?”
“I feel… afraid, ma’am,” confessed Kiera. “I keep expecting something terrible to happen.”
“Do you feel strong?” asked her teacher.
“No, ma’am,” she said, looking down at her desk.
“I doubt any of you feel strong right now. Which is a problem. You all came here, listening to the tales of the older girls which they were told to tell you, expecting to be tortured. And in anticipation of that pain, you abandoned your strength in favour of fear and worry. It made you weaker. And, as a result – less able to cope if you had been tortured. Lesson one – do not let fear rule you. Welcome to Basic Interrogation Resistance, please take out your notebooks. You are not ready for any practical exercises yet.”
Nearby, in another room in the facility, the 12-year-olds were practising martial arts. Jacqueline faced off against Janet, while nearby Jane and Jade fought. Jacqueline was focused on her own fight, however. She was neither the best nor the worst in this area – she was far better with weapons than in hand-to-hand combat. Janet, however, was easily the weakest in their class.
Jacqueline saw the look in Janet’s eye that the girl always made before she was about to attack, and as soon as Janet moved, she quickly countered, managing to knock the other girl to the ground.
“¡Mierda!” Janet shouted as she fell.
“¡Necesitas practicar más!” called Jane from where she was still in a very evenly-matched fight with Jade.
“I don’t know what either of you are saying,” shrugged Jacqueline, walking over to the side and grabbing her water bottle. She sat down on a bench, watching the two other girls fight. Janet, grumbling, sat down beside her.
The pair sat silently, watching the other two. Jade and Jane were exceptionally well-matched, by the time it was finished, the pair were both exhausted. In the end, Jade emerged victorious.
“I can’t imagine you’ll find much occasion to do this when you’re sent to LOM,” remarked Jacqueline to Jade.
“I can’t imagine you’ll make it out of Shuell alive,” muttered Janet, causing Jacqueline to turn around and glare at her.
“The younger ones will be starting resistance class today,” interrupted Jane, changing the subject.
“Oh yeah, so they will,” laughed Jacqueline. “They’ll all be terrified. I’m telling you, I bet a good half of our class would still break if they were tortured for real. You would, Janet, I’m almost positive.”
“Hey! That’s… probably true,” Janet said, blushing a little.
“Not me, though. They said I was the best they’d trained in a long time,” boasted Jacqueline. “I’ll never break, not ever.”
Unknown Location, Shuell
18th December 2019
Alina Kaufer lay in her cell, eyes closed, tears staining her cheeks, remembering her childhood. It was so hard… so hard to focus. She knew she had to remain strong, she couldn’t talk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t talk. There had been so much. Humiliation, pain, confusion, hurt, hopelessness. She was tired, exhausted, fed up. She just wanted to go home but she never could. Never, ever, ever.
It was over, she was as good as dead. But they wouldn’t let it end. She was so strong, once. She couldn’t remember how that felt. It was over. Over, over, over, over. She wouldn’t break, she couldn’t. But why? Why not? Why not end the suffering, what did it matter? She was as good as dead, so why was she fighting? No, she had to fight. Had to, had to, had to.
Alina Kaufer let out a scream of anguish as her mind continued to spin.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:00 am
Unknown Location, Shuell
18th December 2019
Alina Kaufer was incredibly restless, which given she was in a tiny cell, was not very convenient. She couldn’t help but fidget, tossing and turning. She was sweating, and her fever was getting worse. She was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t stop herself. This had been happening all day. She could no longer focus on the childhood memories she had been dreaming about in the morning, and she was crying. They didn’t let her sleep longer than four hours these days - they had permitted less and less sleep as time went on.
After they had given her a substance which made her talkative, and she had confessed to being an Aurora, rather inadvertently, things had only gotten worse. They had stopped restraining her to her bed, much to her relief, but they had placed a hood over her head, cuffing her hands behind her back for extended periods of time after that. She had been fed something that made her sick, something rotting and expired. She had thrown up in the hood, and they’d left her like that for several hours, the stench overwhelming. That was the first time she cried.
Of course, she almost missed the rotting food when they started giving her some disgusting ration which tasted like iron and chalk. They made sure her cell was freezing, and gave her very little water, so she was always thirsty. It had been a very uncomfortable period, and she had begun to question how much longer she could take it. She contemplated attempting to kill herself, but she figured they wouldn’t allow it, and she was afraid any attempt would just make them treat her worse. So she kept the thought to herself.
At that point, though, the worst was yet to come. They had locked her in an extremely small room, silent and dark, nothing to touch or smell. When she had learned of sensory deprivation during training, she had scoffed, but it was much worse. She’d become incredibly anxious, and had even had a very realistic hallucination of being yelled at and called a traitor to the Matriarchy. After that came the classic, waterboarding. While she had experienced it before during training, it didn’t make it any less unpleasant. There were other things, too, that they’d done to her, so many things...
She couldn’t bear it any longer. She felt so incredibly weak. Everything she had told herself, everything she had spent her life believing, she struggled to even remember. She just wanted it to stop. She wanted relief for the terrible things they were making her feel. They had injected her with something that caused this, and it was just the latest in a long line of ways they had tormented her. She no longer cared about her mission, her loyalty, or proving herself - she just wanted it to stop.
“Please!” she yelled out finally. “I… I want to talk, I’ll tell you what you want to know, I just want this to end, please. Please, please, please…” she trailed off, sobbing and continuing to shake.
It was only five minutes before they opened her cell door, but it seemed like a lifetime to her. When she heard them unlock it, she sighed in relief, and allowed them to handcuff her and take her to the interrogation room. She was shaking the whole time, until they deposited her in her chair in the now-familiar interrogation room.
“I hear you are willing to talk,” her interrogator said.
“Please, make it stop,” she said, continuing to shake.
“If you provide us with information, then we can provide you with relief for your current… condition,” he informed her.
“I’m an Aurora,” she said, though she’d admitted it before. “I was trained in Kerlile to infiltrate Shuell, and given orders to attempt to find employment within IntSec at some point in my life in order to gather intelligence and feed it back to the Matriarchy. Is that what you want to know? I communicate with the Matriarchy through coded emails that are designed to look like enquiries into online shopping. Of the people I trained with, I know others who were sent to Lauchenoiria, Iustos and Libertas Omnium Maximus. I can give you their names if you want. What else would you like to know?”
The interrogator smiled, pleased. Clearly, Kaufer was ready to provide information. He looked down at his list of questions for the Aurora, and began to talk.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Sat Dec 21, 2019 9:02 pm
Pierre Residence, Lunalea Region, Kerlile
21st December 2019 - sunset
“Eva, I find myself in a difficult position,” Councillor Pauline Pierre said to her second daughter, sighing and leaning back in her armchair, nursing a glass of whisky she had yet to drink out of. “We have three options, all of which are terrible for our family, our position and our future.”
“Tell me them, Mother,” replied Eva, who was standing by the window, looking out over the gardens as the sun set in the distance. “Perhaps I can help you make a decision.”
The Councillor sighed, and stood, joining her daughter at the window. The pair stood in silence for a moment, watching the sunset, before Pauline took her daughter’s hand and led her out of the sitting room they were in and down the corridor to the library. The Pierre family library looked to an outsider to be just like any other Councillor’s library, but it had been built to be one of the most secure rooms in the house, and contained the entrance to the family’s safe room to be used in the event of attack. They sat down among the bookshelves.
“Option one is what the Council agreed. We work with Kvask in order to extract any Aurora who wishes extraction, giving them names of those in their country in exchange for those they send home safely from elsewhere. This means they will continue their black-market operations in the country which we need in order to maintain security given the current economic climate in the country.”
“I do not like that option,” Eva said darkly. “We cannot trust the Kvaskm – our family cannot, and our country should not either. I fear for the future if that is the decision the Council made.”
“Option two is what I would like to do, but it would be risky. Ignore the Council’s decision, refuse to work with Kvask and see what happens. If we go down this route, then chances are, the smuggling will stop, people will be unable to acquire any luxury goods, and we risk riots and revolution. Aside from that aspect, there is a chance the Council will punish me, especially if Robinson has her way. It would be a risk.”
“As much as I loathe the idea of working with Kvask, I do not think this is a risk worth taking,” replied Eva.
“Nor do I. Which brings me to option three – we can just send Kvask a list of the Auroras within their country, and tell them not to contact us again on this matter. They get what they want, and we do not need to work with them. I would hate to betray our people like that, but I do not believe they will be harmed and I just cannot bear the thought of having to work with the anarchists. I would rather we get it over with quickly than have a long, drawn-out cooperation which gives them the chance to… remember certain things.”
“That makes sense,” mused Eva. “You are right, none of the options are particularly good. I think the third one, though, might make the most sense. Can I suggest one alteration, however?”
“Please do,” urged the Councillor.
“We give them the names, but we also issue a general order to all Kvask-assigned Auroras to return home immediately. Whatever happens, their cover will be blown and they cannot continue on their mission. We might as well get them out of the country.”
“I agree,” sighed Pauline. “We are going to have to face it – these leaks have destroyed the Programme. The Council will issue an evacuation order at some point, I can tell. Our family’s greatest triumph, destroyed. Robinson’s revenge, finally.”
“You needn’t be so dramatic, mother,” Eva said, shaking her head.
“They already know Pavlina’s identity, and I fear it will be difficult to convince her to leave. She has not followed orders of late. Well, I guess she is their problem now. There’s also the other one… the one who vanished. Still, we can extract those we can.”
“This is not a terrible plan, given the situation,” nodded Eva. “I imagine Olivia will be returning from Shuell soon. Hopefully the situation with Kvask will be handled before my sister returns. Goddess knows what trouble she could cause here!”
“Yes, your sister does tend to destroy everything she touches. I shall have to deal with her sometime,” sighed Pauline, standing. “For now, though, I need to make a call. We will send the evacuation order to the Kvask-assigned Auroras and give the anarchists the names a few days later. Give them time to return.”
“Excellent. Well, one of the Chiu cousins is hosting a party tonight, I said I would attend so I ought to get ready,” Eva said, heading for the doorway. “Good luck, Mother.”
“I rather think we shall all need it,” said Pauline grimly, as her daughter left the library.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Tue Dec 24, 2019 11:31 am
December 24th, 2019. 9PM. Saint Antoine Estate, Loyal Valley, Gardavasque
Dawn Marcourt-DeFarge was living very comfortably for the first time in her life. At fifty, she had finally come into her own as a C-level business executive and political insider. She was one half - the better half, to be sure - of one of the most envied younger power couples in the Gardavascan city of Loyalty. Thanks to her ambitious HILIT workouts and her strict nootropic diet, she was in peak physical shape. As CTO and Chief Ops at Saint Antoine Cellars, a family-owned winery with a reputation for quality and production, she graced the covers of a handful magazines such as Biz and AgWeek. Thanks to her savvy negotiation skills and bold risk-taking, she had been able to move Saint Antoine beyond their wheelhouse of fine cabernet and merlot into extensive agricultural real estate and vast water rights holdings, years ahead of the devastating droughts and wildfires that would decimate other wineries in the Loyal Valley.
These days Dawn never wanted for anything in terms of wealth or power. She had successfully leveraged her connections to secure an influential and lucrative position chairing the finance committee of the Gardavasque’s reigning political party, the Conservative Christian Capitalist, or C3 Party. As much as this was a powerful position, it was also an extremely tough job few people wanted. She was in charge of the agenda for raising funds to re-elect a notorious conman who had fallen into office due to a perfect storm of voter apathy, clandestine foreign influence, and an unfortunate swing of the pendulum in a nationalist direction after decades of progressive gains in Gardavasque. The C3s were elitist and thoroughly corrupt, but had somehow managed to fool, cheat, and connive their way into office by exploiting the uncertainty of a slowing global economy and by huffing one last lingering gasp of the false promise of colonialism that in fact never existed in Gardavasque, save for a few poorly-acted Telenovelas.
But none of this bothered Dawn; she was an unfailing pragmatist, and it had gotten her far in life. Even her husband Jordan DeFarge, the heir apparent to Saint Antoine, respected her enough to attempt to keep his affairs brief and discreet. He didn’t know she knew, of course; she knew he needed his distractions to keep him occupied. Because he had grown up surrounded by wealth and power, he took everything for granted. Not Dawn. She was used to having to set traps for opportunities and then snatch them at precisely the right moment. By all outward measures, she had arrived at what seemed to be her personal zenith. Yet, deep in the unspoken confines of her heart, she knew her decades of careful plotting and adroit management of egomaniacs, all she had worked for, might one day be sacrificed on a moment’s notice.
“Merry Christmas, Darling.” Sensing the just right moment had arrived, Dawn took her husband’s delicate glass of port and set it aside. She found him handsome and sweet and perhaps a tad sophomoric, in that way that someone’s maturity was limited by never having to overcome any sort of adversity. She loved him passionately, if not wholeheartedly, as one might love a labradoodle, if they weren’t tasked with cleaning up its shit on a daily basis. She reached behind the sofa to retrieve an exquisitely wrapped gift as he peered into her eyes, the firelight dancing around them with an intimate glow.
“Oh, are we doing this now?” Jordan smiled. Well, in that case, I have something for you too. He reached up to the mantle next to the antique clock to retrieve a her classic solid blue paper gift bag with glittery silver colored handles, tips of white tissue peeking out of the top.
“Open yours first.” Dawn said.
He gingerly unwrapped the box and then refolded the gilt paper, allowing it to lay flat on the coffee table even though it would only be thrown into the recycler later. Inside the medium-sized box was a small clear glass case with a bottle.
“What is it?” He asked. Rather than answer with words, she simply grinned a devilish grin they both recognized as her foreplay face and looked at the box with anticipation or apprehension or both. Jordan examined the glass case first. It appeared to contain an antique smokey amber bottle roughly the size of his thumb filled slightly more than half way with a dark thick liquid and cork stopper at the top. The label on the front read “Introducing: Laudanum. Each Fluid Ounce Contains 40% Alcohol, 47% Grain Opium, Tincture. 10¢. Beware: POISON!” He looked at her, wondering what motivated such a fascinating yet darkly peculiar idea for a gift. She raised her eyebrows and looked back at him.
Dawn could not contain her exuberance any longer. “Laudanum,” she purred. “It’s an elixir from a bygone era. Many artists and poets would get high on this and create amazing works of art or write award-winning novels. It was like a secret ingredient that unlocks your inner genius.”
“Oh wow!” Jordan said, genuinely impressed, but still unsure as to why this gift. “Laudanum.”
“It’s such a beautiful name for a drug,” Dawn grinned.
“Did you want me to…”
“Oh good God, no! It’s an antique. And by the way, it’s technically illegal, so be careful where you show it off. No, Babe, I wanted you to have it for inspiration. For your poetry. I wanted you to have something you could have at your desk to unlock your inner genius,” Dawn meant this genuinely, but from the look on his face, she could tell she was more enthusiastic about the idea for the gift than he was.
“I love it.” He kissed her. “Now yours.” Jordan reached for the blue paper gift bag. Inside the gift bag was a box wrapped in plain white tissue paper. At first she supposed it was a box of chocolates because it was about the same size and weight, and rattled in a similar way. As she unwrapped the tissue, she was stunned speechless. “It’s Geno-Mix. Your DNA test kit.” She continued unwrapping, trying to form a plausible lie about how to get out of sending in a specimen of her spit to some lab.
“Oh wow. Look. It’s… Well, isn’t that something.” She knew she couldn’t pretend to be happy about it, but she was careful to keep a lid on her anger. By this point she had begun to wish it were a box of chocolates.
“You don’t like it.” Jordan may have been obtuse, but even he could sense this was not having the desired effect. Dawn just kept staring at the brightly colored box with cartoonish chromosomes smiling ridiculously at her. Jordan began to sell it. “Babe, I know your background is something you are sensitive about. I know there is a part of you that is so determined to make a name for yourself. This amazing ambition, this drive you have, it’s one of the qualities I love most about you. Don’t you ever wonder where it comes from? I can tell some part of you is striving to make someone proud somewhere, somehow. And no matter how much I tell you and my family tells you how accepted you are, we can see that it just doesn’t seem to be enough. I just wanted you to feel connected to, well, whomever your people are.”
Dawn took a breath, aware that her voice tended to raise with the combination of port and agitation. “Oh, Babe. I know you are proud of me. And I know who my people are. Well good enough anyway. I don’t need some dumb spit test to tell me who my people are.”
Jordan wasn’t going to give up easily. “But think about the medical side of it. You know, like like cancer and stuff.”
“Cancer? What does cancer have to do with anything?” Dawn was incredulous. It was a ridiculous argument, and she thought Jordan should know better.
“Yeah. Since you’re adopted, you don’t know what your risks for certain conditions might be.” He knew she disliked it when he brought up her being adopted, he believed it was because it offended her sense of egalitarianism and being an equal partner in the marriage. In truth, there was much he did not know, and Dawn intended to keep it that way.
“Jordan, there are just so many security risks with this kind of thing. And there is no way to guarantee Geno-Mix won’t release my private information without my consent. We have political enemies, both inside the party and outside C3. Didn’t you ever think of that? I don’t want my genetic material being put into some database somewhere and then some ridiculous story leaked all over Slugline or Gossip.Com.
“Look,” Jordan countered, “We are both getting older. Don’t you think it’s important to be proactive about any kind of preventative care we should be getting? I’ll do it too if you want. I got myself a kit. Come on, it’ll be fun.
“Fun! Jesus, Jordan. You haven’t given this a hot minute of consideration at all.” Dawn could hear her voice getting louder. She found herself mentally plotting how to get out of the room, a habit she had when she felt anxious. Never mind she was in the safety of her own home. “I’m not comfortable with doing the test. I’m sorry… and that’s all there is.” She set the box on the sofa and crossed towards the door leading to the kitchen.
“All right! I don’t want to fight you about a Fucking Christmas gift. Fine! I just. Come here.” He held out his arms, offering an embrace either as a peace offering or a temporary distraction, she wasn’t sure which. Dawn stopped her exit and turned back to face Jordan, without accepting his arms. “I’m sorry. I didn’t anticipate you would react so strongly.” Their tension began to dissipate surprisingly quickly. “I just want something for you that all our money can’t give you.” The words hung in the air like a fog. Jordan could sense a rare tearful moment between them coming on. “Family.”
Dawn, realizing she had gotten touchy with this raw spot being rubbed, finally relented and embraced her husband of ten years. “I appreciate the thought, but no thank you. I have all the family I need.” For just a moment, they shared a warm and genuine sense of oneness.
Just then her PearPhone lit up as an email, apparently spam, had been received. But it made a vibration that Dawn recognized as definitely not spam. She checked her email over Jordan’s shoulder. This particular message was one Dawn was not eager to get. It contained bits of coded text embedded in what, to an untrained eye, would appear to be a fairly cheesy and forgettable sales pitch. The ad copy had a slightly awkward fluency, as if it were composed by someone whose first language was not Romanx, the language spoken in Gardavasque and neighboring countries. “Congratulations You Won Complimentary Juice Extractor. To Request Special Timeshare Offer, Call Sunrise Holidays Today. This Offer Only Good For 48 Hours.”
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Wed Dec 25, 2019 11:12 pm
Room 1402, Elenta Luxury Apartments, Central Geminus
3:34 PM, December 24th, 2019
"Alright. Gamma Delta Theta Team, Our Operative name is Team Horus. Team Horus, Call In".
Commander Edward Gralení radioed his team from the loft six of them were perched on.
His Lieutenant, Lisha Yin, radioed back from her position above the stairs, while adjusting her scope. "Horus One, Calling in". Lisha was one of the best snipers in Eiria, and her skills have saved many a mission.
The rest of the team quickly followed suit.
"Horus Two, Calling in".
"Horus Three, Calling in"
"Horus Four, Calling in".
"Horus Five, Calling in".
Gralení, Yin, and Horus Two through Five were in the second floor of the target's apartment, so it didn't take long to radio in. Six and Seven, however, were in a van outside, waiting for the target, so there was a pause before a response.
"Horus Six, Calling in".
"Horus Seven, Calling in".
Gralení nodded to Yin. "Horus Command, Acknowledged. The tracker for the Target's car is showing she is here. Six and Seven, pursue at a safe distance, and guard the door when she's inside. We'll get her when she's inside. Good Luck, Team Horus. Gralení out". He pulled out a monitor connected to a hidden camera allowing him to see the first floor. A few minutes passed with no activity.
Then the door clicked open, and the target entered, coat and workbag slung over her shoulder. Gralení exhaled slowly. She paused, put her workbag down, and dug through a cabinet, pulling out a handgun. Gralení's Eyes widened. "Horus Two through six, Target is armed, fire at will". The target tiptoed, glancing around, at the edge of the kitchen. Gralení's knuckles turned white on the monitor. Just a little more....
She took a few more steps, into the living room, and right into Yin's sights. A whoosh of air sounded, and a dart sprouted from the Target's shoulder. She collapsed, unconscious.
Gralení smiled and turned off the monitor. "Nice Shot, Lieutenant". He opened the radio channel. "Target Down, mission complete. Horus Six and Seven, prepare the exit vehicle. Two Through Five, Get her down to the exit. Lieutenant, follow me to the other Escape vehicle. We're going to do the hard job of explaining this to her husband and young son, and we need to prepare".
Yin glanced at the target's unconscious body. "She's an Aurora, huh? Can't believe they got someone so high up in government".
Gralení nodded. "Me neither. We should be on our guard. Let's go".
They left the apartment, as Two, Three, Four, and Five carried Senatorial Aide Sarah Elset-Duffy out of her own apartment.
Re: The Hunt for Auroras
Posted: Thu Dec 26, 2019 4:51 pm
Beside Pine Lake, near Kerlian-Kvaskm Border
26th December 2019 – 1am
Nora Vlkana sat, shivering a little in the cold as she waited for the others to arrive. She had been the first to reach the appointed location after Kerlile had sent out the compulsory evacuation order to the Kvask-assigned Auroras. According to the team of four Kerlian intelligence agents who had been sent with a boat, they were expecting “three or four” Auroras to turn up – apparently, it was uncertain whether or not one would obey the order. This was extremely confusing for Nora, the concept of an Aurora disobeying an order. She would never have considered it herself.
“Would you like a blanket, Orla?” one of the agents said, and it took Nora a moment to realise the agent was addressing her, using her childhood name.
“Yes please,” she said gratefully, taking the blanket and smiling at the agent a little.
“You’ve developed a slight Kvaskm accent, you know,” one of the others remarked, standing a little downwind of them, smoking a cigarette. They were hard to come by in Kerlile, and evidently the agent was enjoying her trip to Kvask a little too much. Nora, or Orla, was about to make a teasing comment back when the group heard approaching footsteps and all spun, pointing weapons at the newcomer.
“19966899,” the newcomer said, almost spitting out the words. She glared at the senior agent in the extraction team, who wordlessly checked the list of Kerlian citizen ID numbers. Satisfied that it matched, she smiled and held out her hand.
“Welcome, Lucy,” said the agent. “You will soon be safe. We are just waiting on one or two others, and then we can set off back to Kerlile. We have some food and blankets while you wait. For security, my team and I will not tell you our names, however this is Orla, she was also part of the Programme.”
“My name is Luska Krnkova, not Lucy,” the woman said, folding her arms without shaking the agent’s hand. “Neither are the name of my birth, but it fits better than the name they called me.”
The agent glanced uncertainly at the others, including Orla, who herself looked alarmed and confused. She stood, and addressed the newcomer in Kvaskm.
“They’re here to help us, Luska, I promise you, we’re not in any danger,” Orla tried to soothe the woman.
“I enjoyed it, you know?” Luska said, stepping up to Orla, her arms still folded. “My life here, it was much better than my childhood. People actually cared about me, you know? I was loved, and now I have to leave, so that sucks.”
“We all knew our missions would end one day,” Orla replied, confused. “Surely you must have prepared yourself for that?”
“I… oh never mind,” Luska sighed, then snatched Orla’s blanket off her and wandered over to the edge of the water away from the others, turning her back to them. Startled, Orla walked back to where the four agents had gathered and were whispering.
“What was that about?” one of them asked Orla.
“I don’t know, she seems unhappy to leave. I think she became too enamoured with her cover identity,” shrugged Orla. “We were warned about the possibility in training, it is why we are to avoid relationships and entanglements unless it is necessary to maintain an average persona within the culture we find ourselves.”
“Difficult order to follow,” one of them remarked, nodding.
“Is it? I never had any trouble,” Orla shrugged, surprised.
“Oh honey,” the agent said, coming over to take Orla’s hand. “Councillor Hale was right, you lot really do have horrible lives. It’s okay, though, it’s over now.”
“Horrible? I don’t…”
“Our lives really are quite horrible, I do agree. The worst part is, sometimes they’re good. And then you have to live with the knowledge that it will end,” came a voice from behind the group, causing them all to jump. “KCID 19206135,” the woman added.
“Daniela… or do you prefer Slavjena Kvapolina?” the agent with the list said.
“Well, nobody has called me Daniela in decades, but I imagine it is easier for you to pronounce, so, well, call me whatever you like, I’m not bothered,” she smiled, laughing a little. She turned to Orla. “So, you’re a young one, if you haven’t uncovered the fundamental truth about being an Aurora yet.”
“I… don’t understand,” Orla said. She was becoming increasingly confused as time went on; none of this made the least bit sense to her.
“It took me a long time. I was in denial about how awful this was my whole life until last year. And then I heard it on the news. Charissa Clarke… she was my friend, you know, in training. Now she’s rotting in a cell. That was going to be my destiny one day, I thought then. It was the only way. We would all end up imprisoned or dead if we were asked to carry out our missions. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to get an extraction order.”
“We serve the Matriarchy, whatever the risks!” Orla argued. She was beginning to get angry. Who were these people, who seemed to think it was okay to abandon their mission and complain of it?
“We’re not doing anything! We’re just living false lives in fear for no reason! Some of us will suffer and die and we won’t even do anything! Our whole lives, pain and suffering out of some duty and loyalty when it’s all for nothing! I’m glad to be leaving, I’ve spent the last year in terror.”
“I have to say, I agree with her,” Luska said, wandering back over. “I wish I had never been chosen for the Aurora Programme.”
“Traitors! Both of you are traitors!” yelled Orla. “We should just leave them here!” she turned to one of the agents, who shared a look with the others.
“We need to leave, all of us,” the agent said. “Now.”
“Aren’t we waiting for another?” Orla said. “You said there might be a fourth.”
“She’s not coming,” the agent said. “Given the attitude of those two, I guarantee it. Come on.”
“Why are we allowing them to return? They hold no loyalty to the Matriarchy! They are ashamed of what they are, they hate being Auroras. Leave them to ‘suffer and die’ if that’s what they think their lives are!”
“Orla, we have our orders,” the agent said eventually. It worked, Orla fell silent and nodded.
In continued silence, the group made their way to a boat by the shore – an ordinary rowboat, large enough for all of them but no larger. They boarded in silence: Luska looking longingly back at the Kvaskm forests, Slavjena looking with anticipation over the lake towards Kerlile, and Orla glaring at the other two Auroras as they set off back to the Matriarchy.