Time for a Race?

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Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya glanced at the clock as she finished up her lecture on the Edwinian civil war. "Now, while you are all on this upcoming break, I want you to be thinking about how this event impacted the rest of the world with what had been a superpower now absorbed in it's own conflicts, and so shortly after the 30 year war." She smiled a grin filled with sharp teeth. "there will be a research paper after the break."
She shook her head at the few groans that accompanied the announcement, she could have given the assignment for them to do during the break. She instead called out "have fun." as the students filed out of the classroom. She spent some time gathering her things together, before leaving the classroom herself.

With her last class of the day finished, she headed to her office. She set a few things down on her desk, and noticed a package sitting there. "I wasn't expecting any packages..." she mused to herself as she picked the small box up, and verified that it was indeed addressed to her, though it had come from a P.O. box, and didn't have an actual name on the return address. "probably some sort of scam....come listen to our high pressure sales pitch and get this great free gift." she continued to muse as she opened the package. What she found inside the box had her looking a bit puzzled, a chunk of stone with part of an inscription, and some pictures of what looked like a mausoleum that had been broken into, though there was something off about it that she couldn't quite put a finger on at the moment. As she pulled the pictures out, a piece of paper fell out with a telephone number on it, and the brief instructions of 'call me' written underneath. "this is just a little weird" she muttered to herself as she picked up the phone number and stuffed it into her pocket. She checked the address label again, and found it post marked same day delivery. She finally shook her head, stuffed the pictures into her bag, locked up her office, and left for the day.

She put the stone in her pocket, and headed home. She thought about the strange package, and the stone inside as she walked into her house. She pulled the stone out of her pocket, looked at it again for a long moment before shaking her head, and setting it down on the counter. She resolved that she would look at it again after she had showered and relaxed a bit. She headed into the bathroom, undressed and got into the shower. She cleaned herself, and was just enjoying the warm water when a memory clicked into place. Her eyes widened. "uh-oh" She said as she shut off the water and rushed into the other room, and picked the stone up off the counter. She looked at the bit of inscription on the stone again and remembered where it was from. She rifled through the pockets of her discarded clothing till she found the scrap of paper, and picked up the phone. She dialed the number, and waited for someone to answer.

"hello" came the voice on the other end of the line
"tell me what the hell is going on" was Freya's reply
"ah, took you long enough"
"a few pictures, and a piece of stone. Do you have any idea..." Freya was yelling into the phone as finished the last word, and had to pause to calm herself a bit
A chuckle from the phone. "what do you think is going on, somebody is after a very dangerous old relic. it's original resting place was ransacked."
Freya sighed, and was about to say something, but was cut off.
"They've got the first point on the trail to find the final resting place. Meet me at Sticks in an hour, I'll tell you what I know."
"Sure..." Freya replied, and before she could ask who she was supposed to meet, the connection was closed.
Freya shook her head again as she headed into the bathroom to get a towel, and then into her bedroom to dress. She put on a pair of jeans and a halter top, ran a brush through her hair, and headed out the door.

Sticks was a decent sized pool hall not too far from her home, it would be loud enough inside that a conversation wasn't likely to be overheard, but not so loud that the participants would have a hard time hearing. She headed for the bar first, and ordered herself a glass of whiskey before she turned around to survey the establishment. As her eyes roamed the room, she caught sight of a cat with what were probably tuxedo markings. He was waving her over to a table at one end of the building. She headed over and sat down. "So, what's going on?" She asked as she sat down
"There's a group that's after that ancient magicapacitor...only reason someone would be after that thing is if they knew more about it than it being an artifact, and from the way they ransacked it's first resting place I'd bet they don't want to use it for it's intended purpose."
Freya shook her head. "why'd you contact me?"
"you know at least part of the trail to where it truly lies."
"What do you expect me to do?" She asked "Do you know anything about whoever is after it?"
The cat shook his head. "I don't, and you're more likely to be able to get to it first than anybody else...hire a crew to help you if you think you'll need it, I'll foot the bill." He said as he pulled a wrapped stack of cash from a pocket in his jacket.
Freya groaned. "alright, but you're going to owe me, and don't think I can't find you to collect."
The cat nodded. "understood...they only found the trail maybe a day or two ago, so you're probably on an even playing field at this point if not a day or two ahead in that regard, though you probably don't want to dawdle."
"yeah yeah...I need some time to think..." Freya replied as she got up to get herself another drink.

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

Elsewhere, in Gawain, a similar discussion was taking place, this time over an encrypted voice communication.

A female ferret-wolf hybrid was seated at a desk in an unassuming office building in Bayreuth. The door was behind multiple layers of security, but that was not unusual in a capital city where many government ministries and contractors had outbuildings. Her particular organization, however, was somewhat different, in that it was a nominally politically-neutral PMC. All kinds of conspiracies as to its true purpose and command were spread throughout the country, but certain facts were made publicly available:

First, the Dresden Free Military Corporation was one of the oldest of its kind, actually possessing a medieval charter for its existence, although certain experts alleged it a forgery.
Second, it's current commander was one Mia Rackenhammer, an officer who had been discharged from the Gawainian army under clouded circumstances, but had risen to prominence by successfully preventing a genocide in a civil war in the Arctic Islands as a Corporation member.
Third, it had never in its entire history taken a side harmful to the interests of Gawain.

Mia sat at the desk, looking at the same photographs that had been sent to Freya, along with a different fragment of stone. She spoke to the other end of the line using the codename this repeat client had requested. "Zed, what am I looking at?"
'Zed' replied, in a calm, professorial tone, "Evidence of a break-in. Fortunately, the desired object was not there, but many of the clues to its actual location would have been found there."
"And this object would be...?"
"An artifact of power; an arcane battery, of sorts."

Mia nodded. So, this was going to be another one of those jobs. Zed accounted for most of them, save for times when Mia found out about such objects before him. He paid well for their retrieval, and that was all a mercenary was expected to care about. "So, do you want me to retrieve the object, or the vandals?"
"Preferably both, but the artifact has priority."
"Can you give me any other information? It seems that most of the clues have been stolen."
A chuckle came through the computer. "A crude job, and unnecessary. I had already had... associates working to gather imagery from the site without leaving traces. Whatever they would see, we would see. The only difficulty is if certain things were important in their physical presence, but I have enough notes to replicate them if absolutely necessary."

Mia ran a quick calculation in her head about how much that meant Zed would be willing to pay for a job well done. "Alpha plus rate, then; not negotiable."
"Agreed, paid upon success; you may cover expenses on my credit, but profit is saved until the artifact is in my claws, personally."

The usual electronic contract forms were sent and signed. "Have I access to your analysts?"
"I've sent their reports, but I think your own circle of experts should be consulted; an independent view will help."
"One last thing; who else would be motivated enough to race me for this, besides the actual thieves?"
There was a pause. "Edwin, for one. There are multiple departments and ministries with an stake in such power, and not all of them get along. I suspect 'The Firm' will ultimately be in charge, with what I know of their personnel. I'm sending you the files of their top agent."

A picture of Freya appeared on the screen, and Mia smiled. "So... this is definitely her?"
"Oh, yes. If you want to prove yourself to be in your ancestor's league, this is your best opportunity."

Mia barked a short laugh, and cut the connection. A flurry of orders were sent out as she gathered her team. Analysts first, before retrieval squads; who they took would depend very much upon where they were going.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya stood at the bar with another drink as he contact got up from his table, and headed for the exit. He waved as he passed, and Freya raised her glass in response. She ended up drinking several more drinks while she sat back and thought about the relic that someone was now after. The magicapacitor an alchemical battery for storing massive amounts of arcane energy. It had originally been designed to power a construct, but with the right knowledge and ingredients, it could easily power a weapon. Even activating it without it powering something could lead to a massive explosion if it were left to fill past capacity. She shook her head as she remembered the destruction that had led to it being hidden away.

She sat at the bar for some time as she thought about her next move. She didn't need the clues in the ransacked mausoleum, they had been her clues to begin with. She knew the next site, but didn't know the clues that had been left in the site to lead to the next, which meant she needed to get to the site first. "Need to find out who is after it too.." she muttered to herself before she downed the drink she had, and headed home to start making arrangements.

She picked up her phone and dialed a number she hadn't called in some time. "hello boys" she said as her call was answered
There was a long pause before a reply came "...Freya...What do you want?" the voice on the other end didn't seem too happy to be hearing from her.
"you don't sound all that pleased to hear me.." Freya replied, just a little indigence in her voice.
"well, last time you called, we ended up nearly getting blown up....forgive us if we're not all happy flowers and enthusiasm"
Freya sighed "look...I'm sorry about what happened last time, I wasn't happy about it either."
Silence replied loudly
"Shouldn't be any danger this time." She continued. "I need you to look into a sacked site, see if you can track down who did it...they're already long gone."
She could here quiet conference on the other end of the line
"one of those Kahunian coins in it for you." Freya said to entice the wolf brothers she was talking to. "Pre Mazan Civil war."
There was a moment of silence. "alright." was the eventual reply
"Great." Freya replied "Give me a call as soon as you have any information."
"You got it" and the line went dead.

Freya made another call, this time to a contact in the country of Kahun. "Salem...I need the safe house prepped...full stock" Was all that was said before she made her final call for the night. This time she called in a favor to get herself a flight. She eventually headed into her room to pack a small suitcase with clothing and supplies any traveler on a weekend trip would carry with them.
With arrangements made, Freya went to bed to catch a few hours of sleep before she flew out early in the morning.

She was up with the dawn and on her way to a smaller regional airport. She hated flying in planes, but time was important, and planes were the most inconspicuous way of getting there in a hurry. She folded her own wings tight against her back as she stepped up into well appointed business jet. She sank into a seat as the plane started to taxi, and her thoughts were full of the lack of control as the plane took off. She calmed down some once they had hit cruising altitude, but she still worried that she had no control over anything involved in this plane's flight.....

~~~

Meanwhile, in Kahun....

"We need to pinpoint that tomb" A Polar bear rumbled to his companions
"we're working on it, the clue is nearly 800 years old, some things have changed since then"

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

Once the analysts had gotten started on whatever problem and data she fed them, Mia generally didn't interfere until they put the results before her. It generally didn't pay for a non-specialist to hang around a group of working boffins; they tended to resent it, and that resentment easily got in the way of their mission.

Instead, she was working on logistics, plotting out routes of attack depending upon where the next site might be. Obviously, time was of the essence, and she would have to be ready to move at the first hint. the flight would take a few hours, at which point she would get more specific results. This required mapping each country in terms of travel time, in order to get to the most centrally-located airports and minimize travel time. She may not be able to interpret mystic clues, but military planning, the commander could do well.

The first call came in. "Kahun," The Dresden analyst knew to put the most important words first. "From the star charts, we've determined that the closest modern political approximate is Kahun. Exact position is unknown, we're still working out the changed position of stars and planets since the building of the shrine."
"Shouldn't have changed too much in only 1,000 years." Mia muttered as she called up her transport team.
"Ja, but it could be anywhere, and being off by one minute of one degree of latitude would mean you wouldn't find it in the desert."
"Be sure to have our satellite people look at the imagery of the area, put an independent line of investigation. I'm not relying completely on the ancients for this." Anything to get an edge.


Being a PMC commander meant not having to deal with commercial air travel, or reluctant team members. In less than no time, she got a squadron together, and was headed for Luxor airport, near the middle of the Nile. It was the most central location she had found, and by the time she got there, more information would be gotten.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya spent the entire flight to Kahun on edge, and had to resist the urge to jump out of the plane as soon as they were flying over the Djoser Mountains. She had learned a long time ago though that pilots generally didn't appreciate someone opening the doors of the aircraft they were flying while they were still in flight. Freya sat and fidgeted while she waited for her flight to land in Luxor.

Once her flight was on the ground, she quickly moved through customs and was out into the desert air. She didn't bother with trying to get a cab, choosing instead to fly. She moved to a clear enough area, spread her wings, and took to the air. He headed for her safe house on the edge of the city. It was a quick flight, and she landed in the small central courtyard of the house. Salem, a monitor, was there to meet her. "Good afternoon ma'am" he said as he opened the door for her to enter. "Fully stocked as requested." He continued as he followed her inside, and to her room.
"Thank you Salem" She replied as she pulled out a prepaid credit card, and handed it to him. "this should cover your trouble...I'm not sure how long I will be here, but it's doubtful to be longer than a week." She continued as she entered her room, and set her bag down.
Salem nodded "thank you." he replied as he took the card. "Certainly, I will come back in a week to check in and close up if you are gone" With that, the monitor bowed slightly, and left the house.
Freya sighed as she opened up the closet in her room, and started going through the supplies. She packed a bag with rations, some rope, lights, and other supplies, grabbed a small popup tent, and a pistol and ammunition.

She made her way into the kitchen of the house, and sat down at the table with a map, and a large sheet of blank paper. She quickly roughed out her own map of the region of the next site the way she remembered it, then began comparing it to the modern day map. "let's see, it was at the edge of the mountains..." she muttered to herself as she compared the two maps. "East, and just South of Narmer..." she continued as she traced a claw along the map. "here." She finally decided, punctuating her statement with the tap of a claw. She looked at her watch, and sighed. "not going to be able to make it all the way there tonight." she grumbled to herself, flying at night was dangerous and not something she wanted to do in the mountains if she didn't have to.

She eventually grabbed her supplies, and headed back out into the courtyard, and was up in the air. She headed east and south until sundown, following the ancient contours of the mountains. She touched down in a small valley to make camp for the night.

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

Osborn Thatcher glanced over at his young protege as the two walked briskly across the tarmac at Sheringham International. The young canine was still sulking. Thatcher resolved to cheer him up. "Don't look so glum, Etienne. If it makes you feel any better I'm not the oldest one making this journey, not by a long shot!"

Etienne frowned. "That's different. And I'm not convinced it's true." People did not live for thousands of years. The first people who would are alive today, but they will have access to the technology making it possible. Everyone born more than one hundred and twenty years ago was dead and in the ground. Or so he had to tell himself. The possible influence such long-lived beings could exert frightened him. It was the stuff of nightmares.

Contrary to what Osborn thought, the young canine was not sulking over the danger to his mentor any longer. He was sulking because of his ill-thought words and actions earlier in the day. Upon reaching Thatcher's home and discovering the old man preparing for this pursuit, this dangerous trek into Kahun, he had tried to dissuade him from going. "Why can't you send one of your teams?" He'd said, to which Thatcher had answered, "this is not business, Etienne. This is a personal matter. I can't squander company resources on a personal hobby."

"Not even on a venture with potential applications?" Etienne countered. The object Thatcher had described to him probably couldn't be real, but if it was… "'Fraid not," the older man replied, and put a hand on Etienne's shoulder, "an opportunity presents itself, Etienne. I can't leave this to a less capable man."

"Send me then!"

"You are going… and so am I."

"But you're so…"

The tycoon took the canine's eyes into his own, but he was not angry. "What? Old? " He chuckled, "I'm not getting any younger, Etienne." With a reassuring smile he turned back to his preparations. Etienne relented.

Now, as they moved towards Thatcher's plane, the canine regretted his impudence. Osborn Thatcher was determined to keep on living. Hiding amongst old relics in the safety of a mansion was not enough, nor was managing a business empire from the safety of ivory towers. Life was out here. Opportunity blew on the wind, it did not radiate from industrial cooling plants.

The waiting aircraft was Osborn Thatcher's private jet. It was much larger than the typical corporate jets he used for common business matters. This vehicle looked as if it had begun life as a 757 commercial airliner and then was heavily modified after the fact. It's nose was pointier, it had a pair of canards a short distance behind the cockpit, its wings were further back on the fuselage and more steeply swept, it had four engines instead of two, and its tail surfaces were more aggressively swept as well.

The interior was divided into cargo space centered over the wing roots, additional storage behind it in the tail section, what appeared to be a research lab ahead of the cargo bay, a section resembling a corporate jet interior with living accommodations and the addition of sleeping births between the lab and the cockpit. A tunnel led from the passenger area to the cockpit through an unusually thick section of dead space. Something must be stored there, though perhaps it was merely where the bases of the canards were anchored.

"Nice," Etienne commented as he took the copilot seat next to Thatcher. They were the only two aboard.

"The finest money can buy," the tabby cat replied; then with a smile, "…in 1982."

Etienne fought down a grin, rocking his head back and forth a little. He looked around the cockpit, "well, I guess that would explain the audio cassette deck." He picked a tape at random and read the label on it's spine, but didn't recognize the artist, "Billy Joel?"

"No thanks," Osborn murmured, engrossed by pre-flight checks. Then he grinned happily and put his hand on the throttles, "ready?"

Etienne opened his mouth to speak, but Osborn immediately ratchetted the engines up to full thrust. The canine was pressed back into his seat by the thrust of the four Odell TH3750-B turbofan engines far astern. After a quick taxi the aircraft lurched into the sky, as if it had been held only tenuously- begrudgingly- by gravity to the ground below.



"I don't understand," Etienne asked later, after they'd reached cruising altitude and speed, "what are we going after, exactly? And why not take longer to prepare?" Thatcher passed him a tablet computer displaying a text document. The canine scanned it, "what is it?"

"A translation from old edwinish," Thatcher explained. "I am not sure of the source, but I'm confident in its age. So, not a new forgery," he paused, watched Etienne's eyebrows twitch upward slightly as the canine read. "Pretty fantastic stuff, the parts I could make out. Is it a real account? Is it an early form of fiction? It's hard to say. I had the text in my collection for a while now, or at least an incomplete copy of the original."

"And now we are chasing a story?"

"I have reason to believe the artifact is real." He grinned again, excitement showing in his eyes, "if it was not real, why would Gawain and Edwin chase after it?"

"That explains the hurry… So where is it?"

"We don't have to know where it is," Osborn turned back to a small, much newer screen bolted to the 80's era dashboard. It was showing a realtime satellite feed, as well as airport departure and arrival data. Osborn Automation- now Osborn Industries- had a large presence in airport operations worldwide. "All we have to do is follow them."

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

The analysts weren't the only furs Mia was talking to before landing in Kahun. She'd also brought Manuel Consuelo, head of her legal department, along with the squad of soldiers that would constitute the retrieval team. The lawyer had been on the phone with his own contacts in the capital, negotiating agreements for what they were going to do. Sort of.

"The Department of Antiquities may be the only part of the Kahunian government that isn't wholly corrupt." The weasel explained to his commander as the plan circled in for a landing. "Not saying that everyone there is unbribable, but in the end, there will be enough honest officials to thwart the effects of one. Of course, that means that the Department is constantly underfunded, so..." He grinned. "It was actually very easy for me to get a provisionary contract to act as a proxy enforcement agents; with license to act to prevent any antiquary from looting ancient Kahunian artifacts, and to be able to call in local bureaucracy to back us up."

Mia frowned. "Ja, but where does that leave us? And do you think that Freya would neglect the paperwork side of the thing?"

Manny kept smiling. "Oh, remember the wording. Kahunian artifacts; legally, we don't have to tell them the magicapacitor exists, and if they find out, well, it's not actually theirs. If they want to go up against Zed's lawyers, let them. I wouldn't." He sniggered. "If Freya's come out this quick, she probably hasn't. I'm pretty certain that there are others used to the conveniences of ignoring authority that are after it as well. Mostly, this is to spike their guns; if we have a legal justification for being where we are, doing what we're doing, it will be a lot harder for our rivals to use local authorities to trip us up."

This time, Mia returned his grin. "Well done. Keep up the good fight on your front."



After landing, she and her squad procured some desert vehicles, while the analysts sent maps of the most likely locations. Inquiries came up cold on Freya, but that was probably more due to contacts keeping mum than the Gawainians being faster.
In the meantime, water and equipment was being readied. For these jobs, Mia preferred keeping the vehicles as simple as possible. Anything a good mechanic couldn't repair with tools and oil was bound to go wrong. Mia even knew how to navigate without using a GPS, though she would check her work against one of her private's own units. The less money they shelled out, the less others would be able to track them.

They set out near sunset, driving in shifts with the non-working squad members resting in the back seat. It was a bumpy ride, but soldiers were good at sleeping where they could. They needed to build up all the time they could, because the mountains would be coming in the morning.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

During the night.....

"We've found it, about a hundred feet up the side of a cliff" A finger pointed at a map spread over a table. "Right here. We're going to need the climbing gear."
"well, get to it." Came a rumble reply from the polar bear. "just take the spotlights, photograph everything and take what you can."
A small team of furs made a night ascent of the cliff, with a little assistance, and started into the tomb. They worked with the air of practiced professionals...on an extremely short timeline. The entire tomb was photographed, and artifacts light enough to take were pulled out of the tomb. The team worked through the night, and by morning's first light, they were packing up their camp in preparation to leave the area, and work on finding the next site.

~~

Freya was awake before the sun was up, and had her things packed and ready to go by the time the first rays began to light the valley she was in. She pulled out her maps, and got her bearings quickly. A few moments later, she spread her wings, and took to the air again. Mia's lawyer had been right, Freya hadn't bothered with a scrap of paperwork where antiquities were involved. She hadn't had the time, nor had she been worried about it to any kind of major extent. She knew enough people in the ministries to get away with all but the most grievous of indiscretions. Of course that also meant she couldn't get any authorities involved to attempt to stop any rivals. She continued to fly through the mountains in as direct a route as possible. It wasn't until nearly midday that Freya started seeing evidence of the group that had originally started the race. Unfortunately the only evidence was some trash, and tire tracks.

Looks like I've missed them...hopefully there's enough left to figure out the next site. She thought to herself as she flew along. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she nearly missed the opening to the tomb. She caught a glimpse of the opening out of the corner of her eye, and spread and shifted her wings to bring herself to a near halt. She dropped to the ground beneath the opening to the tomb, and inspected the area. Climbing anchors, and ropes were left in the walls. "they left in a hurry, couldn't have been more than an hour or two ago." She muttered to herself as she looked up at the small natural shelf high up a cliff that was home to the opening to the tomb. "better go survey the scene, and see what they left." She said as she mad her way up onto the shelf.

Inside the tomb much of what wasn't too large or heavy to remove was gone. "Oh I hope nobody left any keys in here." She grumbled as she began to search the tomb. She used a small LED flashlight for light, and a digital camera to take picture. To an untrained eye the tomb would have been like any of the other tombs from the times of the ancient pharaohs, but the reality was that it was a hoax, an 800 year old hoax, but a hoax none the less. the hieroglyphics on the walls described someone that never existed, and whoever had written the tale took quite a few artistic liberties. On the sarcophagus was the first real clue, a passage that didn't fit with anything else written in the room. "May my feet ever lead me down the paths to my glass mountain home..." Freya pondered the passage for a few minutes before she looked along the sarcophagus to where it's feet pointed, and noticed a nearly hidden narrow passage. She followed the passage into a small room that was bare of anything but a painting on the wall that could have been a map of some mountainous region. An inlay of black volcanic glass marked an 'X' on the map. Freya looked at the map for a long time, taking a few pictures as she did before the clues clicked into place. "The Black Mountains..." She whispered to herself excitedly.

She didn't waste any time waiting around to see if her competitors were going to come back. She quickly headed back out of the tomb and prepared to leave....

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

"I trust you heard from my colleague?… Of course, my pleasure… We look forward to doing business with you very soon, yes… Correct… From Edwin and Gawain, I don't know who the third is, probably unimportant… The governments of Edwin and Gawain, yes… Department of Antiquities?… Look, yes, your land is rich in history and the landmarks are quite impressive, but how many of those are likely to be found in the arid interior?… Precisely… Well, I can think of something one might find in the interior, yes, and it's something you probably don't want the governments of Edwin and Gawain knowing about. What is more likely; their lapdogs are headed into the desert in search of a relic; or they're looking for-… yes, of course… We're passing over the region right this moment, and we're equipped to intercept them for you if it means opening up more lucrative business opportunities… well, we'll be listening to this frequency for any news. In the meantime I suggest you do something about those intruders. As I said, some may be heavily armed- unusual again for sight-seers- so you might want to send something bigger, like tanks… sure thing." Osborn returned the telephone-style radio handset to its place on the instrument panel.

"I only wished we had a bigger radar," Etienne exclaimed, "I was not suggesting you bring the Kahunian military into this!"

Thatcher chuckled, "nobody cares about relic-hunters, but everyone knows the lizards are stockpiling VX, even if they don't have proof yet. I simply reminded the lizards that they have something to hide, something which nosy 'relic-hunters' employed by foreign powers might find."

Etienne nodded. VX was an extraordinarily dangerous chemical weapon. It was also extraordinarily illegal to manufacture, having only one possible use.

"And," Osborn continued, "this will give us more radars and more eyes in the sky."

"Radars and eyes which may not talk to us."

"Tracking jets and an armored column is much easier than tracking a dragon or a few jeeps in the desert. They can keep as quiet as they want, doesn't matter. In the meantime keep on with our radar. Who knows, we may get lucky." He took the control column and began turning the jet towards the mountains. "We should have another satellite over the area soon as well. Keep an eye out for telling dust clouds."



A few uneventful hours passed, until they were coming over the mountains and moving into desert. Etienne was awake in the cockpit to see the obvious dust-trail moving across the sand- a convoy of vehicles, rather smaller than the roundup convey the Kahunian military had in the area. He took the yoke and turned the modded airliner towards it, and called Osborn in the sleeping area.

When he arrived and saw the instrument panel, he immediately frowned, "we've turned."

"Yes," the hairless canine replied, "to get a closer look…"

Osborn took his seat, "we may be at cruising altitude but our contrails are will be clearly visible. Anyone below will know they've been spotted."

"Oh…" Etienne frowned. He hadn't thought of that. "Also, we aren't at cruising altitude. I brought us down to two thousand feet."

"What!?"

"I wanted to know for sure who they were…"

Osborn sighed and took over control, "well, we're down here, we might as well see what there is to see. Head back to the lab. There's a video feed from some surveillance hardware in the belly."

The old tabby cat thought for a few moments, stroking his chin. He had two choices. He could alert the military; this may take one party out of the hunt, but it would also deprive him of one of only two sources of information. Or he could do nothing; but if they'd seen him already- and they surely would at this altitude- they may purposely change course. Deceptive folks become deceptive when they have an audience. Then there was the third choice, but he rather preferred saving the third choice until the most opportune moment.

He picked up the radio handset and worked the controls on the dashboard, going through the usual jargon and procedure, then; "Yes, please connect me to the general. I have information for him."

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

"Hmm..." It was daylight now, and the Dresden were close on the trail. Being the experienced commander that she was, Mia suspected that this would be the exact time that some monkey wrench was thrown into her strategy. It was inevitable, and a good commander factored it in.

At least this time it didn't sneak up on her. A Boeing jet at 2,000 feet is just about as far from stealthy as aircraft get. One of her officers shouted at her above the noise. "One of our rivals, you think?"

The wolf-ferret pursed her lips. "Airplanes are recon tools; if he was here for the relic, he'd have come in a chopper. Friends on the ground, I expect." She pulled up Manny on her communication device, to see if his information network had picked up on any mobilization. It was a terse conversation, and she thought in silence for a minute, or at least she didn't speak over the noise of engines.
*Money has changed hands in the capital, and the desert patrol is moving. Still, I wonder how much our friend in the air knows about military logistics in desert campaigns? Without paths of transport, you have to trade off between mobility and force. They've taken the measure of us, thanks to the bird in the air, but it will take some time to catch up. When they catch us, they will do so with enough force to take us... militarily.*

When you find yourself outnumbered and outgunned, the thing you want to do most is recruit allies and acquire weapons. "Keep a look out for our Edwinian number. It is vital that we reach her before the lizards reach us."
"Ma'am, what about the relics?"
"Oh, she'll lead us to them. She won't like it, but it is better than the alternative. We don't want to get caught up in the VX question." Some of her soldiers had firsthand experience with facing home-brewed chemical weapons. The fear of dealing with industrial-grade stuff was enough to motivate them.

Mia knew that their political cover with the Department of Antiquities only covered so much, and that the military was no doubt more suspicious. But what many civilians tended to overlook was just how political the military was, especially in this continent, where both the rodents and the lizards trusted their armies because they were the rare well-run institutions. Political unrest had been fomenting for the past few years, mostly due to economic conditions. And when a commanding portion of one's economy is due to tourists coming to see antiquities, the military knows that it can't jeopardize that, and the officer responsible for any such actions has no career prospects, especially if he can be used as a 'public example' in international incident placations.

In order to take advantage of this, however, it was necessary to have proof that she and her furs were here from antiquities, and not VX hunting. For that, they needed an archaeology site.


Finding one dragonness in the mountains was no easy task. Fortunately, Freya had just begun to hit the plains when the Dresden spotted her. Mia could only hope that she wouldn't start running, because then she might have to shoot. Having her killed or wounded would have seriously limited her strategic options.
As soon as she was close enough, Mia hailed Freya. She spoke fast, not letting anyone else have a word in edgewise. A lot of information needed to be put forward in a hurry, and putting a sense of urgency in the situation made the other party more likely to agree. "Ha! Lucky for you we showed up. Do you have any idea what sort of mess is happening in the capital? You've covered your tracks badly, and now the Kahunian army's breathing down your neck for fear you've discovered their secret cache. Now, I know that you're just an antiquary in a hurry, and I'm from the Department of the same," He she put an electronic reader with the copy of her contract into Freya's claws, "But if you want to convince the General that's coming of that, we'll need some antiquities to show him!"

She spoke loud and clear, so that even if Freya were to take off, she would at least hear enough to make her pause. "Also, if you run, you leave behind a Kahun convinced of your guilt, and unlikely to let you into any airport. You might fly home yourself, but that's dicey if they're looking out for you. In any case, it would cause enough of a political stink with Edwin to seriously wreck your reputation with their authorities." It was important not to betray too much knowledge on her part. If she played it right, she might convince Freya to pool their resources long enough to steal a march on all competitors. Issues of betrayal... would be dealt with later.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Fortunately for Mia, the boeing's pass overhead had caused Freya to drop her own altitude enough to catch Mia hailing her down. This isn't going to end well... She thought to herself. She flew down just above Mia's vehicle to hear what she had to say. Freya nearly burst out laughing when she was accused of not covering her tracks well enough. Finding a single flyer in the desert would have been like finding a needle in a haystack, it was much more likely that someone was on Mia's tail, and she wanted help. She briefly looked at the contract handed to her before handing it back. She had been about to tell Mia she was on her own when the hybrid said something to give her pause. Mia hadn't said she would make Freya into a scapegoat, but she may as well have.

Freya briefly entertained the idea of asking what made Mia think she was going to be headed for Edwin anytime soon, but quickly thought better of it. She wasn't entirely convinced that Mia was just from the Ministry of Antiquities, especially being in this area. Freya decided not to tip that much of her hand and eventually, heaved a sigh. "You need something to show them, fine, but I'm in a bit of a hurry so I'm leaving as soon as they're convinced." She replied. "and you better hope they don't have any real experts with them." She finished as she tipped her wings, and turned back the direction she had come, assuming Mia knew enough to follow.

It wasn't long before Freya touched down near the only 'archaeological site' close enough to make a good excuse. Unfortunately it was the one she had just left, and showing it's whereabouts to yet another group made her a bit uncomfortable. The site itself wouldn't hold up to any kind of expert scrutiny, it would eventually be found out that it didn't fit into the time frame of Kahun's major landmarks and tombs by a long shot. "well, here you go....may want to start looking legit." she said to Mia when she arrived.

~~

Meanwhile...

Another convoy of vehicles were heading toward Heliopolis, one of the trucks weighed down with most of the contents of the tomb Freya and Mia were at. The artifacts would be loaded onto a research vessel for analysis while the polar bear and his team would head for the nearest airport to wait on word of their next destination.

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

Finding the dragon and the Dresden had proved easier than Osborn had thought it would, but now that they had them, he wondered how he would extract useful information from them. He could ask the Kahunian military about it. Etienne could probably squirm his way into their computer networks as well, as unsophisticated as they were in this land. Both would be pointless if the soldiers weren't sufficiently thorough in their investigation.

"Divide and conquer," Etienne said abruptly.

"What?"

"This is like divide and conquer. But the opposite."

Osborn barked a humorless laugh. Yes, this was just like that. He'd driven both of his rivals together. In doing so he'd also driven the Gawainian convoy deeper into the mountains, which meant the intercept time for the military was pushed back, and back, and back. The soldiers were constrained by the rigors of desert action, he had realized only after the fact. What did this all mean? Well, he and Etienne could only stay airborne so long.

He tugged at his bristly chin again, thinking. He still had the third option… but could he be sure the relic was even here? He doubted Gawain and Edwin would cooperate so near the finish line. "We'll have to turn back soon."

"What? Why!?"

"We'll need fuel. And you need rest. It's been thirty hours!"

"But…" the canine floundered for something, anything. This was a race, wasn't it!? It was, and he wanted to win. Whether the artifact was functional or not no longer mattered. "…we could hit them from above."

Osborn just looked at him.

"With missiles, or bombs," the hairless canine clarified.

The old tycoon's gaze hardened. "We can't do that, Etienne."

"But surely you can!" The dog persisted. "From all I've seen, you've packed this jet with everything you could ever need! It must be armed, it must have weapons, there are too many possible situations where they might be useful or necessary! I know you well, sir. This plane is armed. If we kill them now, the race ends. We'll lose our main leads, but we'll have time to investigate the ruin ourselves, find the clues ourselves." His hairless tail with that white tuft of fur at the end lilted slowly back and forth against his seat.

Osborn was silent a few moments, during which time his glare turned withering. "You are wrong, Etienne. We can't do that. I can't do that. I'm no murderer, Etienne, and I sure as hell hope you aren't either. This is not a game, this is not a movie or one of your books. Those are people down there. Would you be so quick to suggest killing them if you were down there face to face with them? They're people, Etienne. And apparently you don't know me all that well, and maybe I don't know you as well as I'd thought either. And, finally, you've completely forgotten that there's a third group out there besides us! How quickly you'd waste those lives for nothing."

The canine stared at his feet, thoroughly chastised, the wind taken quite thoroughly out of his sails. He'd only been joking… mostly. They sat in silence for a while, Etienne deep in thought while his mentor turned the jet back towards the nearest airport capable of servicing it. He was certain he knew Osborn… and he refused to back down on what he knew must be true, "there are weapons though… aren't there."

Thatcher fought down a smile, "…yes there are. I've got plenty of firepower. You never know when you'll need it! I spared no expense in building this plane. We've got the best money can buy."

Etienne perked up a little bit, his lips curling with the hint of a grin, "…in 1982?-"

"Yes in 1982," Thatcher cut in with mock-exasperation. Now he did smile. He'd known Etienne was joking, even if it was in poor taste. He knew Etienne, and apparently Etienne knew him just as well. "Don't worry so much. We aren't out of the race yet, not by a long shot! They're going to have to deal with the military, and that could take hours, even days. They have friends Etienne, but I have powerful friends, everywhere." He gazed out over the billowing cloud banks, his mind on the move again, "and I hate to lose."

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Rackenhammer »

Well, perhaps it didn't entirely convince Freya, but the speech did its job, in that it bought Mia access to the site. She tramped up the road the dragonness indicated, trailing a guard and a technician, both of whom had done some studying on Kahunian antiquities. Meanwhile, the rest of her convoy were securing the base of the mountain, and radioing the nearest Kahunian unit. The best way to look legitimate is to have no fear of the authorities finding out what one was doing; calling them over was the best evidence that they were really on the same side.

On the other hand, it cut down on the time for inspection. Mia was no expert, but if this was the second site on the trail of a medieval artifact, it was a safe deduction that it wasn't genuinely Kahunian. She betrayed no knowledge of that, however, merely remarking, "Didn't see this on any of the maps. The Department will probably be thankful for the discovery, though," And she pointed out some of the signs of ransacking, "No doubt they will be dismayed at the grave robbing. It is a pity that we did not get here in time to prevent that." The technician brought out a camera, recording all the evidence he could. "At least we can help bring them to justice."

Dust was everywhere, meaning that pawprints could be seen. One, on the wall, was that of a bear. Polar, if Mia knew the type, and being experienced in Arctic matters, she did. Her lips curled up in a smile as she saw it. "They were certainly in a hurry. They left enough evidence for Lestrade, let alone Holmes, ach?" She was smiling, and not even worried when her ground team radioed her to announce the arrival of the Kahunian military. She had relevant information to give them, and they might actually prove to be a help, rather than a hindrance, to her efforts.
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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Asyriel »

Freya had followed Mia into the tomb, mostly to keep an eye on the hybrid, and what she learned...if anything. "well, I'm not surprised....all things considered." She replied about the tomb not being on any maps "though sending the military for one tomb seems a bit much if you ask me." She commented. She tried to stay out of the way, and didn't say much else choosing not to respond to the comments about the ransacking. Her interest was piqued when Mia found the polar bear's print, the look Mia wore told Freya she knew something about that pawprint...that information could be helpful.

It wasn't long before the Kahunian military made their appearance. They arrived with a surprising amount of force for a small PMC team, and an archaeological site. Several gun-trucks arrived on the site as well as a pair light tanks. Soldiers poured out of the trucks to secure the area while the officer in charge, a large monitor, headed for Mia's soldiers. "I will speak with your commanding officer." He told the soldier, waiting to be taken to her or for her to be summoned. The Kahunian soldiers were professional, though they were currently under orders not to stir up any unnecessary trouble with Mia's team.

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Re: Time for a Race?

Post by Sade »

Etienne spent the next three hours alone in the cockpit as Osborn made some satellite calls from the lounge, which was sort of amusing because he didn't actually have a pilots license. The old tabby cat had remarked earlier that he really should get one if he's going to be flying his jet. This of course led to the obvious question of whether Osborn would be going on any of these dangerous adventures again. The answer to which was merely a smile, before he retired to make his calls. This left the hairless canine to ponder, alone, surrounded by the ultra-high-tech marvels of 1982. He tried listening to one of the rock-and-roll cassettes but for the life of him he couldn't see how this music warranted the label. So he watched the clouds instead.

In the lounge Osborn connected with his close friends and associates. His was a multi-national corporation. Though it was headquartered and had much of its assets in Edwin the Odell Group of companies was active throughout Feila. Osborn Industries had been one of the first major corporations to enter and invest in the newly democratic East Gawain after the fall of it's communist government. Business dealings always involved interpersonal relationships, meeting with people, shaking their hands or bowing. So many deals hanging in the balance could be won simply by connecting with the other side's leadership more closely than the rival interest. And so, over the years, Osborn had made many, many connections in high places. And he now used those connections, calling in personal favors earned, oh, years and years ago. And, he played the "I'm an old man, humor me this one last time" card as needed.

One of his targets were the funding streams leading to certain individuals and organizations down there in the desert. These he systematically disrupted, preventing the purchase of materiel, plane tickets or fuel for personal aircraft. How long they would remain disrupted depended a lot on how much risk his associates would take to humor their old friend, but it was likely they would stay down for quite a while. Osborn did not actually tamper with the money itself, of course. That would be crossing a line.



The hairless canine did not remain idle for long. He'd been to the lounge and back a few times and had heard what Osborn was doing, and he did not think it went far enough. So he had retrieved his notebook computer and connected to the internet via satellite. He hadn't told Osborn about his botnet. He doubted his mentor would approve. But he felt that DDoS'ing the web portals of major financial institutions was probably warranted in this situation. He wanted to win. He would have just crashed the few government-controlled ISP's in Kahun, but he doubted the other contestants in this race would operate without direct satellite uplinks available to them. Eventually the security firms would begin to track down and knock the botnet controllers out, but he figured he'd manage to foment financial chaos for a few days.

By the time Osborn returned to the cockpit he'd stashed his computer away again. He felt no need to tell his mentor what he'd done. He might tell him later, if they ended up reaching the artifact first and winning this race.

They landed at a small regional airport a short time later. Osborn Thatcher had his own backchannels to draw from, so the mysterious banking outage did not directly effect him. He only eyed his canine companion now and then, noting that the Domusian dog was unusually silent.

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