10/10/06 09:56 am - evil_lord_zog
Koschei: Building Blocks
fiction by Mister Andersen
Koschei isn't surprised the find Equinox waiting for her, or that he's booked out the entire enclosed upper terrace of the El Makarechi for the occasion. Someone else would have salted support amongst the other diners. Of course this means she can't pull a similar trick, but she doesn't think that was behind it; he's just habitually ostentatious.
"Ah, Ash. I took the liberty of ordering something for us to start with," he beams, getting to his feet politely as she comes towards the table. His white leisure suit is impeccable, the gold handle of his cane matched by the gold-lensed Lennon-style glasses poking out of his jacket pocket.
"Yes, the fellow is behind me." She sits as the lanky servitor places two cups of hot sweet mint tea on the table between them, along with strips of thin bread and several small bowls of dips before departing with a bow.
"I don't believe I've seen you dressed quite so colourfully," he observes, watching Koschei drop her scarf onto her shoulders of her brightly woven dress. "You normally seem to favour the sombre."
"I wasn't aware my sartorial habits were an interest of yours," she remarks, taking one of the cups and inhaling the aroma. It wasn't green ginger, but it'd do.
"You've been off the radar - and presumed dead by many - for close to a year following that... trouble... with the Guardians," he explains in a leisurely manner, sipping his own tea thoughtfully. "Everything about you has become an interest of mine."
"Fine. Where's Tina?"
"She's in a holding facility," Equinox shrugs. "After you and Caitlyn vanished, she just walked out of that charnel house and gave in. My people arrived far too late."
"I know Pitfall have her," Koschei answers calmly, taking some of the bread and dipping it in something purple. "My attempts to find out where have been... unsuccessful."
"What makes you think I know where she is?"
"You're Equinox, and she's bonded to Mjolinor. You not knowing about something that powerful is against all the laws of reality, and if you don't know for certain then you have a fairly good idea."
He smiles playfully. "You flatter me. I'm not that good."
"Yes, you are - and you know it. Please don't dissemble,"
"Alright," the elegant mastermind concedes. "I'll get you her location, but I need something in return."
Koschei's eyebrow shoots up. "A golem."
"Yes. I have something in the planning stages for which I need a smart weapon."
"Alright. You can give me the specifics when you give me Tina's location."
Taking a sip of his tea, Equinox studies her for a moment, expression thoughtful. "How's Caitlyn, by the way?"
"In rude health," she smiles. "A bit of a handful at times."
"She must be walking by now?"
"Running all over the place." She samples another dip and ends up making a face.
"It must be difficult raising a young child on your own. Especially in our line of work."
"It's not easy, Nox; Tina made it easier. I need her back in Caitlyn's life. And mine."
Equinox's features become sombre. "Now I need your help with my daughter."
"You have a daughter?"
"And a son. Don't look so surprised."
Koschei chuckles ruefully. "I guess I always pictured you being more careful than to give people an opportunity for leverage over you."
"Would you chose not to have Caitlyn, given what happened?"
"Then you know how I feel," he stresses, smearing a green dip on his bread. "But unlike you, circumstance has meant I've been something of a distant figure in their lives from conception onwards, my love expressed in what I do for them, not how I do it."
"You manipulate them for their own good."
"You could say that, though it sounds a little uncharitable put that way."
"I'm not judging you, Brandon. I've done things as a mother for the benefit of my child I never thought I would... or could. We do what we must to ensure they prosper. What do you need?"
"Rowena, my daughter, is looking for information she needs to prepared for; it's too dangerous for her to be given it all at once. I'm sure you understand the principle involved."
* * *
>>DATA DOWNLOAD COMPLETE<<
The screen displays an overhead night vision view of a suburb of Vladivostok, identified as such by the Cyrillic lettering in the bottom left of the image next to the timestamp placing the footage at a little after 1 in the morning. The buildings are mostly apartment blocks, one or two free standing structures, a number of dilapidated and ill lit roads and scrubby open areas.
A man loses his footing twice in a mad scramble across an ancient parking lot; once on a spider-web of broken concrete pushed up by a tree root, then again in a patch of engine grease. After the second fall, he glances over his shoulder.
In the direction he glances, a figure with longish hair can be seen bounding across the top of the buildings. As the man regains his footing, the figure makes an impossible leap from the top of one building across a four lane street onto another one, tumbling straight back onto its feet to continue running.
The man exits the parking lot and rounds a corner, then stops a few metres in front of a third person, a woman, that had not been there scant seconds before. They talk for a few moments, the woman throwing the man two small objects moments later revealed to be a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
The figure on the roof tops comes to ground via the tree in the parking lot and joins the other two. They converse a little more before the man staggers and collapses to the ground. The woman lifts him over her shoulder before she and the other person walk across the street and disappear into one of the buildings.
The scene rewinds and changes from night vision to the chromatic explosion of thermal imaging data, revealing some of the people inside the buildings living their plebeian lives afraid of the dark. This time, the thermal signature of the woman is instantly visible, though heavily attenuated until the point she showed up on the original footage where it flares into normality. The rest of the scene plays out as normal until they enter the building, at which point all three thermal images vanish utterly.
In the corner, the timestamp accelerates some ten minutes until a number of cars arrive, all of them full of armed men that flood into the building. Nearly half an hour later the same number of armed men return to their cars and leave.
* * *
"That's an interesting home video," Koschei remarks as she slips the PDA into her satchel, scarf once again in place, her purple Lennons matching Equinox's gold ones. "Why show it to me?"
"Given our mutual friend, I just thought you might be interested in someone kidnapping the surviving architect of the Iron Seed program mere minutes before the extraction team sent to bring him in arrived," he explains easily.
"You mean 'Koschei, why did you kidnap the surviving architect of the Iron Seed program?' I think," she rolls her eyes slightly at the habitual subtlety.
"If you like."
"Shortly before we dropped off the radar, Caitlyn and I were badly injured. Tina had to give her a blood transfusion until I'd recovered enough to properly heal her."
"It took?" he asks, slightly aghast.
"She's surprisingly large for her age, and I need some expert advice."
"And when you're done with him?"
"He'll be retired somewhere out of harm's way where he won't pose a threat to any of our kids. Now I really must go. Thank you for the meal." Embracing him a little stiffly, Koschei departs.
He waits a minute before pilling out a slim comms unit from his jacket pocket. "Trinity, is the drone on station?"
"Yes, but the reflected heat is making a complete mess of the thermal data; we only have visual."
"Damn. Where's she going?"
"Looks like she's heading back to the riad she was at this morning. It also looks like she's picked up a tail."
"Keep me apprised, but if it looks like there's going to be trouble send the team in."
* * *
She'd taken a lot of precautions with the entrance hall, spent a lot of stolen money and stolen energy ensuring it was protected against electronic, supernatural or physical invasion. The Monolith is her family bastion now, paid for with so much blood, and no one is going to gain unauthorised access without a lot of pain on their behalf if she can help it.
And she can.
Cathayan is there waiting for her, sitting on a deck chair and reading the latest Temperance Brennen. The androgyne is male again after months in a female form, probably indicating some new object of affection, and wearing what looks for all the world to be a red and slightly less expensive version of Equinox's suit; even their skin tone seems to match. Half moon reading glasses perch on the end of his nose in an obvious affectation.
"Welcome back," he smiles, marking his place. "How was it?"
"He's on-board," she answers, hurriedly beginning to undress. "But after this I'll need to spend some time in Australia so I can be contacted."
"Sweetie, I think you're insane for doing this," he shakes his head, getting to his feat and picking up the satchel next to the chair.
"You're always saying that," she answers, hugging him tightly wearing only her roman sandals then gesturing to the nearest golem. It approaches, offering the ornately decorated robe draped over its arm.
"Because you're always doing crazy things. But this is the craziest."
"That's not stopping you coming with me, is it?" Koschei asks, throwing her clothes through the door to Marrakesh onto the bed along with a metal object the size of a hockey puck. Once she sees herself stretched out asleep, she closes the door and starts pulling on the robe and associated undergarments.
"No. I love you and the care bear too much to let you do this on your own. Are you sure it's not going to be pissed that you killed it."
"Not in the least," she shakes her head, pulling the Ancient key out of an inner pocket and inserting it into the lock of the door across from the one she entered through. "Though technically it was Caitlyn who killed it. But we'll never get Olympus going without the energy it can provide."
The first attempt lets in a gust of icy air and a swirl of snow. The second is successful, and after chocking the door open they walk through onto Thule.