When Merrisol met Betta, a Begman noble, the intrigue began when she misconstrued his reason for avoiding her. Determined to clear his name of one sort of nefarious misdeed, he owned up to another, and she learned of his past as a pirate who allegedly murdered a Begman engineer and stole his submarine. In order to confirm the details of the crime, and so either clear him or bring him up on charges, she returned to her homeland to search for news and evidence.
It's not so unusual to go missing in any given locality of Begma, especially if one is an inventor possessed of any amount of scientific drive and curiosity. Often in these cases it turns out they were in the basement the entire time and have been the reason why the home systems work so much better (or in some cases worse) now. For others it was an understandable matter of heading out to lunch, meeting an old school mate, and then going off to their house to inspect a new experimental model.. usually in the basement. There is the recent case of one such lady engineer coming home bedraggled from a particularly long lunch hour to find and attend a search party meeting in her parlor, and helping out for some days before discovering she was the one being sought. Similar stories are numerous and therefore shared as mild curiosities. The police likely have a special Missing Persons division devoted to a dry line of questioning which features the step: "Have you checked the basement an/or attic? And the closets therein?", and its follow-up: "Did you leave a well-stocked tea tray in the middle of the basement/attic as suggested, and was anything missing when you returned the next day?"
The point above illustrates how cluttered and whimsical the search for information can be in the dear old homeland. And it does take a return visit or two before something really pertinent comes up from a friend's recollection or a library article. About two months before the end of the previous calendar year, an engineer named Hugo Fflere unveiled his life's work, a new submersible vessel design which boasted the need for only minimal crew complement with its elegance and self-contained, self-checking framework of operating systems. After the moderate fanfare that generated over it not immediately exploding and capsizing in the harbour, Hugo and a skeleton crew christened the vessel Solar Flare, and took it out on a longer test-run than ever before. It failed to return. The exact origin of the news that the Solar Flare had been hijacked by a Minosian pirate crew is rather obscured, but it has become the definitive word on the matter: the ship name associated with the crime was a lesser known scourge, Eclipse, and follow-ups through Minoan sources had yielded the name Captain Merrisol.
A desultory kind of public outrage followed, but in true detached Begman fashion, the wild vows to build an even better submarine to locate and capture the pirate scum have thus far amounted to nothing. In a similar vein, the tacit understanding that many of the complicated inventions have not tended to hold-up over time, was a sort of consolation in that, knowing sooner or later the sub would self-destruct, hopefully taking the pirates with it. That left only a few really distraught parties, namely the families of the handful of missing men. Some further digging would turn up one or two back-page sort of interviews with various households.
Betta picked up the clue of the missing engineer and searched records for information on Hugo Fflere.
As a general point of interest, in all the Begman provincial directories, the name Fflere is uniquely attributed to a single miniscule family line. It has existed in the realm for a single generation, stemming from a Begman marriage to a foreign interloper. Hugo was the sole product of that union, born Hugo Carlisle but for unknown reasons took his mother's family name Fflere once he gained the age of majority. He would have counted this year his 67th birthday. Missing and presumed dead as of two months past, he was not greatly mourned by the general public, despite having earned the rank of Engineer and being officially acknowledged as a true Begman inventor. He simply lacked the family connections to flourish publicly and accumulate patrons to fund his achievements. If there had been the opportunity to marry his way into society, Hugo Fflere gave it up when he followed in his father's footsteps and took a wife from another realm, thereby confining himself to the Fringes, and with the exception of a couple of more visionary sponsors, advanced on his own merits and undiluted ideas.
Nothing unusual is noted in the media as occurring for Fflere in the weeks and days leading up to the unveiling. According to media and city offices, he reserved show space at the harbour almost three months in advance. Three days before the event, he alerted the media. This only suggests that he was confident and deliberate in his calculations to the end. Within days of the unveiling, the Solar Flare and its operators were gone.
A good lithograph picture found in a reliable engineering journal shows Hugo to be an amiable-looking gentleman firmly within his middle ages; with flaxen hair and a light eye shade; his suit neat but not indicating a build of any particular note. He is vaguely familiar of feature, but most especially in the attentive directness of his gaze.
Betta expanded her research to include the missing crew members, but also sought information about Hugo's surviving family, starting with one Lady Petra Fflere (of House Morfilod).
Without actually venturing to or corresponding with Rebma, only the following details are gained through public archive research in Begma, where she went simply by Mrs. Hugo Fflere or Petra Fflere. A low-key wedding ceremony was conducted roughly 32 years ago, in a Begman civil courthouse, suggesting an elopement may have taken place from Rebma. Her maiden name was Lady Petra Muriel ap Morfilod, and Lord Vernon ap Morfilod was in attendance, the relation unclear. The wedding announcement was published in the society columns of various circulars but once again, for obvious reasons no picture of the happy couple was included. Nevertheless, not all editors are prejudicial all the time, and the occasional glimpse of the woman was let through, mostly in group shots of one charitable committee or other. She was/is a striking stand-out amongst quirky, inquisitive, and lady-like Begman women, her own robust health and vibrancy barely restrained by corset, bobbypins, bonnet, and prim tailoring. All the mystery of the sea guarded safely within her eyes and smile. It is visually unclear whether she treated the tint in her hair and skin to better fit in with society, but there is still a strong hint of olives in both. There is the distinct air of something... unmanageable... about her. Why would a gentlemanly inventor be interested in that.. and vice versa?
Further evidence of a possible mismatch: A couple of citations (read: friendly reminders (read: warnings)) filed with authorities by the Neighbourhood League of Forward Progress. Apparently it had been noticed that the Fflere household had been acquiring a rather interesting amount of quality large mirrors, and knowing the origins of the gentlewoman of the household, there were -concerns- that they were not being used in a practical or properly scientific function. There are no further records found to show if anything came of the complaints.
Crossreferencing with Hugo Fflere's activities 32-35 years ago, expeditionary funding council records show the then 30-something Technician-aspiring-Engineer to have applied for permission and resources to conduct aquanautics research far afield, in Rebma. His interest had been in Rebma's specialized building materials and the pressure dynamics at work in the realm. Funding had been grudgingly approved and continued for 6 separate visits. It can be assumed during one such trip, he had made the acquaintance of Lady Petra.
Information about Morfilod itself is not readily available in Begma, but with some minimal research in Amber it is easy enough to learn that Morfilod is a minor House in Rebma that specializes in whale products, pearls, rare/exotic small treasures, and rare fish. There might even be a joke or two about how rough, rustic, and randy they are.
Petra herself was no longer living in Begma, and was assumed to have gone back to Rebma within a month after search and rescue efforts had failed her and her son, Sorensen.
She continued along the family thread, and looked for Sorensen Fflere next.
Sorensen Fflere has left a steady enough data trail over various public records that a life story can be summarized as follows: Approximately thirty years ago, he was born to Hugo Fflere of Begma and Lady Petra of the Rebman House Morfilod, by midwife in the couple's home in the Begman capital, Glycerene Row, a street off the harbourfront. A modest announcement was put into the circulars, but understandably there was no space spared for an infant picture. There are no particular stand-out instances of difficulty for the only quarter-Begman child (quarter-Kite, half-Rebman, for the record) being accepted in a proudly xenophobic society. Hugo was evidently an unusually involved father by Begman Inventor standards, in that he did not leave his wife and boy to dwell in isolation with no connections, but made every effort to give them a comfortable existence, even if they only ever gained acceptance on the fringes of society. This devotion may explain why it took Hugo every bit of forty years to work his way towards his breakthrough moment of engineering design in aquanautics, the Solar Flare.
He may have gained some relief to concentrate fully on his work when starting around age 8, Lady Petra and Sorensen would disappear from all public record every second summer for three months each time, until the age of 14. Scant visual evidence gathered from school class litho depicts Sorensen as a tow-headed, exotic, and mostly unsmiling kid amongst his classmates, his interests spread out over various branches of study. Library records curiously show that for as many academic texts signed-out, there was an equal amount of novels borrowed, speculative fiction, but also adventure and detective mysteries. This quirky diversity continued into post secondary and university studies, as he didn't pour the majority of his focus into mechanical principles and Begman technical labs, but devoted significant time and effort to archaeology, anthropology, and marine biology. As previously discovered, he became friendly with an older peer named Sasha Niven, through his biological studies.
Active in sports, more recent images of him can be viewed from a variety of team pictures, now a tall (about 6'2"), well-built adult male with white-blond hair and an intense focus to his light-eyed gaze, like his father's but less kindly. In many ways, Sorensen looks a lot like Kerf/Merrisol of Amber, but essentially? It's not him. He's not tall enough in height nor broad enough across, and his hair is the wrong shade, and facial features are strong but not strong enough.. and the look in his eyes is just not as.. interesting?
Inexplicably, almost immediately after graduating university, he disappeared from Begma record for almost five years, during which time Hugo Fflere achieved his magnum opus and then vanished, hijacked. The next record of Sorensen appears mere days after the disappearance, in a public plea by himself, Lady Petra, and what family there was for the four other crew members. They called for efforts by the Government of Begma and the Minos Guild Council to work together on a search and rescue, and a condemnation of the main suspect, Captain Merrisol of the Pirate Ship Eclipse. Societal response being tepid and fast-losing steam, the government matched the family's funds for posting a bounty with the Guild and left it at that. After that, the data trail in Begma cuts off, cold.
Betta, feeling the trail warming up to something significant to Merrisol, made the mistake of pushing further into Sorensen's records.
Obsessive lead-chasing turns up the very brief investigation into the possible involvement with an underground revolutionary (read: foul anti-Begman-ideals terrorist!) element, in the latter half of his university days. From vague references in an otherwise military-sealed file, it is suggested that leniency was granted in the form of sending Sorensen away as part of a personnel contribution quota to Amber's military defense.
There are no significant findings on the name Sorensen, which is a variation of the more popular Kitezh name Sorenson, meaning Son of Soren, naturally. There might be a few informal references in which he is affectionately called the diminutive form: Sorry.
Soon after that, she was targeted by a much less bureaucratic element of Begman society...
It is a fine, blustery evening in the dear old homeland. The sky is tinged that lovely purple-blue that heralds night but has not yet made the committment to be dark. Stars hint in the vault of the sky, glittering like scattered promises not yet declined. Betta has spent, perhaps more time than she intended at the Ministry of Meritime Matters looking for records of one Captain Merrisol of the allitterative name. Now, she bustles out of the building in a bit of a dash heading who knows where on who knows what errand.
If someone is supposed to know the where and what of the young lady's itinerary, it ain't the two blokes loitering in the shadow of the wall that borders the tall staircase leading up to The Bureau of the Preservation of Progress building a few doors down from Maritime Matters. They've been trading a battered clove back and forth while watching the entrance to their building, when the one facing left coughs spiced smoke and nods Betta's way to alert his friend. Jeeves, what's she doin' comin' outter tha'one? Most be last!
In fact, the thing which had been lost was a lump of time. Had Merrisol's data been filed under C for Captain, or M for Merrisol? No? Then it might have been collected into a general case file, so check H for Hijacking or P for Piracy. Oh, might also be found in L for Lost Files, or rather F for Found Files Requiring Re-Filing. Finally, the head clerk with her spider spectacles (Wonderful invention really, eight stems instead of two, anchoring to more fleshy parts than just two unreliable ears? And each tuned to a different embedded lens to adjust magnification 4x per frame? Brilliant!) drew over the ponderous activity log to leaf through and.. ah! The data you seek, Miss, has been removed as of last week, by one... oh. By an officer from the Court of Extraterritorial Jurisdiction located within the Ministry of Justice. The clerk can file a request to expedite the data back to its source, although the approvals process at the Expedition Requests Office has been more backlogged than usual, but once notified of the approval the C. of E.J. will be notified. Sorry dear, best she can do.
The daily protesters have taken their number off to a pub, probably to meet the off-duty protest police for a round of beer and darts. Two gents who look like left-overs from that dusty lot now stub their clove in a small pile of stubbed cloves, then stalk out of the shadows. They split from each other to spread out wide across the center to flank Betta's heading, just unobtrusively walking in the same general direction for now. With the onset of evening, though, they anticipate that general direction to be towards one of the throughways leading back to the city center. But they've anticipated wrongly before, so.. just a little bit more on the wary side now.
While spending the day in research can be thrilling, rewarding and entertaining, researching a person? Less fun. Especially when the research takes one through the entire data alphabet futilly. Still, it is not the clerk's fault and her spider glasses are wonderful. Deciding that she really must make a pair for herself on returning, she thanks the clerk, then spends the next while filling out the forms requesting the return of the missing files.
Stepping out into the near night, Betta did pause long enough to draw in a clean breath, then release it. Bustling is a good way to cover ground, so it is the method she employs. Besides being more rapid than mere walking it lets her bleed off some of her irritation and stress. Still, she is not really known for paying attention to her surroundings when her mind is wrapped around the particulars of a problem. That is why she uses a small device that beeps at her when she gets too close to something in her path when back home. She did not feel it was necessary today as she expected to be able to get what she wants easily enough. Silly Begman... Research always goes this way, doesn't it? Yes.
As evening deepens, she turns toward one of those throughways that lead back to the city center. Might as well stop somewhere and grab a bite to eat, right? Right. And send a message home. It is best not to worry Gil. Which sends her off on a mental tangent as she considers her brother and his current predicament. Does she notice the two protesters? Well, sort of. One gets a faint nod as she lets her gaze float over him all unseeing. The other? He passes behind her and she does not really notice him.
The gone-unnoticed man, outfitted all shabby middle-lower-class hobo chic, ambles along in the gutter, idly searching his pockets for another clove. The nodded-at man is more like firmly lower-middle-class in dress and demeanor, and tips the brim of his cap at the polite gesture from the young lady. He increases his stride as though equally in a hurry and actually pulls ahead of her bustling, making some distance down the narrower street which, in another block or so, will intersect a broader city avenue where the wheel and foot traffic is denser. Abruptly, his right leg wobbles on him, and his pace decreases until it is Betta going to pull ahead of his increasingly pronounced limp. "Oy, this trick knee.." he laments, looking over his shoulder as he presently goes down on his good knee, the other leg sprawl forward and out like a man stretching for a timed dash. "'Ere Miss, 'ave yew gotta toolkit on yew wivva three-anna-quarter star-'ead driver?" he wonders of her, completely rationally, given the culture.
Betta does not seem to really notice that the fellow is in a hurry. It happens. She is also in a hurry, right? Still, when the fellow ahead then begins to wobble, she lifts both brows and slows. She does almost pull ahead of the fellow as his wobbly gait makes him slower though a look of concern rises in her gaze. "Are you okay?" The query leaves her lips just as he goes down on his good knee. Turning a bit to face him more directly, she nods. "I should." This is Begma, after all. Her hands move to the pockets of her lab coat. Why did she wear it? Because, that's why. A badge of legitimacy, perhaps. "Oh, wait." One hand shifts to an inner pocket and she pulls out a compact, but fairly complete, tool kit. Flipping it open, she takes out the requested tool. "Ta da!" Moving closer, she offers it to him, handle first, "It is sort of small. The handle, I mean. So, if you need me to, I can...?"
"Nah, that's just wha' I was 'opin' fer, luv," smiles the man, taking the handle in his clovey mitt, just as the hobo-chic fellow blindsides Betta from the direction of the gutter. Moving his weight rapidly forward in order to knock her off-balance and keep her stumbling along before him, hustles her bustle towards the alleyway behind the non-descript grey block building that might belong to the Ministry of Sinistery for all anyone knows. This one's hand is well-calloused with dirt forever worked into the grooves and whorls of his skin, but also smelling of cloves, as he clamps it over her nose and mouth. "Just down 'ere, my fine Miss, not a sound an' yew won't come to no 'arm," he whispers hot into her ear.
Betta smiles at the first fellow, her eyes bright with delight at being so able to assist another Begman. "Oh, good..." But the smile turns to annoyance as the hobo-chic fellow bumps into her. It is so sudden and unexpected that she almost goes sprawling into the lane. "Hey." At first it is only an annoyed exclaimation, not really intended to carry. She does not expect the fellow to bump her again, or to hustle her toward the alleyway there. Digging her heels into the road, she tries to stop. Looking wildly around for the fellow with the bum knee, she means to call for help. The shout she had all poised to release is lost as his hand presses into her nose and mouth, cutting off both sound and air. Really is is a terrible thing to have a cry stifled by grime and cloves. Cloves. The look she intended to dart to the first fellow, silently asking for help, dies with the recognition of that scent mingled with dirt. They were working together. Just as the mouth of the alleyway is reached, a shudder races through her that culminates in a nod that could be an agreement to keep still.
The first man appears to catch her intent as she tries to turn to him even while being hurried off the street, and he grins sourly. "Ah, issit yew now requirin' my assistance, luv? An' me wif my trick knee.." Then he draws the bad leg back under himself and springs up, fit as a fiddle. A... /trick/ trick knee?? What a wonderful invention. Depositing Betta's 3 1/4 starhead screwdriver into his pocket, he stoops to gather up the toolkit if she had dropped it in the attack... and if she had not, he moves a bit quicker to catch up to the pair now packed through the mouth of the alleyway and back into shadow. "Mind the kit she's got, Boffo.. fulla sharpish."
The second man likes the feel of that nod that tips his hand up and down along with it, but seems immune to the shudder. "Boffo? I'm Bumble. You're Boffo. Ah, what's a fine Miss like 'erself gonna do.. fix'oos to deaf?" Still, he steers Betta to the left and then smack into the wall, only his hand between her face and certain bruising against the solid cement block. Technically then, she hasn't come to harm.. just a bit of a winding. This is one stand-up fellow, Bumble is. Or is he Boffo? He empties her hands if she's still clutching anything, then searches her labcoat pockets for documents or cards. Some ID would be nice.
Although she cannot now see the man jump up, she can hear the sounds and, for an instant, she closes her eyes. She stumbles a little as the alleyway's darkness closes in on her. As a Begman's kit is more important than the first mug of coffee on a cold winter's day, Betta had kept it with her. With a kit, a good engineer can arrange for anything, right? Of course, right. Although now she will have to replace the 3 1/4 and those are... If she could have, she would have given Boffo or Bumble a glare but she is not facing the right way.
Another stumble and she fetched sharply up against the wall, the air she had drawn in to scream forced out past the man's hand in a huffle of sound that ends in a faintly high pitched whine. Drawing more air into her lungs is problemmatic with the man's hand there so Betta whimpers. The sound is not conscious, but hints at her need for air. At least she did not have her face smashed against the stone, right? Things are going to be okay. Right?
Then the man takes her kit and begins to pat her down for information. She does have an ID stating her full name and house designation and address in Amber. Does he have a chance to find it? When he takes the kit, she stiftens then tries to push from the wall to smack into him, her hand reaching to try and reclaim her tools.
She pushes from the wall, smacks into him, bounces off the other way, and he chuckles perhaps because that's adorable. Her trying to grab her toolkit back from him is not, and as she takes possession of it once more he transfers his hold from it to her wrist, then wrenches her arm behind her, and painfully -upward- in a hammerlock. From that point of leverage he pushes her forward into the wall again, this time pulling slightly back with his scream-muffling mitt so that her body from chest to pelvis slams solid, but her forehead doesn't. See? He's nice. He even loosens the clamp over her mouth and nose so she can laboriously inhale just enough to keep from being rendered unconscious. "This is no friendly neighbou'ood muggin', Miss," he reassures her with utmost civility. "You're bound for behuh fings than a stab inna dark."
While the hold leaves one of her hands free, it is almost a mockingly mild oversight on their parts. She could try to do something with it, one supposes. They could get rougher, one also supposes. The hands that now plunge rudely into her pockets, inside and out, are of course the other fellow's.. Boffo then? He rifles about pulling things out, putting them back, finally closing on the ID and looking through it briefly before pocketing it. "She's our girlie," he says briskly, and a cloth of some sort falls over her head and face, a sack of some sort perhaps, exchanging the dimness of the alley for inky darkness. The hand over her mouth disappears, and one of them then attempts to stuff something bulky past her lips through the sack cloth.
Adorable? Well, she is a tiny thing, really, but indignation at having her toolkit taken gave her strength. One does not take a Begman's toolkit. She's an artificer, more skilled even than an engineer, for goodness sake. The toolkit is an extension of her body and to have it taken... Ah, for an instant she is encouraged despite the bouncing. She has her toolkit. For an instant she feels as though maybe she has a chance. Then, of course, he catches her wrist and twists. Her cry is stifled against his mit and the toolkit falls to the alley floor as he wrenches her arm around and painfully up into that hammerlock. The inhallation allowed is taken gratefully, the air chasing speckles of black away from her eyes. Somehow the reassurances that she is not going to be summarily eliminated fails to reassure as it should.
Her free hand moves up the wall, fingers seeking something that is not going to be found. A loose brick or a chip or... But the idea that they could get rougher with her is unsettling and they did say that she was not going to be killed. And her tools are lost. She does try to jerk her head away from the sack, but it is almost a token resistance. They are bigger than she is and stronger. Still when the man's hand leaves she does take in a deep breath in order to scream which allows the thing to be stuffed into her mouth through the cloth and all she can manage is a muffled huff and grumble. It might have been intended to be 'what do you want?' but it comes out as four terrified and angry sounding noises and that is all.
Whatever it is, it pries her jaws apart enough for speech to be completely inarticulate and shrieking with any adequate force impossible. Her wrists are crossed behind her back and bound with something that scratches and bites into the skin while he checks the tightness. "Let's be outta 'ere 'fore a slapper decides to come in 'ere an' drain 'is whizzer," says Bumble, unceremoniously frog-marching his captive deeper into the twists of the alley as it travels between various municipal buildings, all closed up and quiet for the evening. Behind them, faint clinks and scrapes are heard, then the plodding steps of Boffo, catching up. "Dunno why yew bothered," scoffs Bumble. "Finkin' o' gettin' a golden gear pin o' yer own, Boffo?"
"Aahh shuttit," mutters Boffo. His partner just chuckles that same chuckle again because people. The curious things they do. He makes Betta walk another minute, the cobblestone alleyway seems to encounter a shallow dip, and the march pauses. A somewhat familiar, reeky aroma like industry gone wrong pervades the area now, and the sound of heavy iron creaking and scraping across cement provides the clue. Steps seem to ring and echo hollowly before her, then the slight woman is grabbed, hoisted into a fireman's carry, then manhandled bodily into a closed-feeling space. "Mind y'don't flop about an' crack yer brainy skull open," cautions Bumble, voice bouncing, right before they both drop.... a good seven or eight feet down, before hitting wet, but solid, ground. The smell hinted at above is full-force down here, heady enough to make one gag, even while already gagged.
Betta tries to jerk her head back to avoid having the thing stuffed into her mouth but the move is futile, the defiance a show only. With her other wrist caught and brought behind her, she tries to keep her posture straight rather then arching her back, even though the arch might put her arms in a more comfortable position. Or not. It is hard to say what will be easier when one has not been bound and gagged before. Somehow, it lacks charm and appeal. Hardly the thing for the young up and coming Artificer on the go. The forced march through the alley is difficult and she stumbles a time or two as they walk its twists and turns. At first she tries to keep track of where they are, trying to feel the alley's flooring and sense the changes in light that might indicate the side of a building or a cross alley. Soon, however, she is utterly lost and thoughts of all the things she has left behind play merry hell with her attempts to figure a way out of this predicament. Preferably alive with her virtue intact.
The cobblestones are rounded and slightly slippery, causing her stumbles to become more frequent. She sniffs as that particular aroma grows richer, more prevelant. The iron creaking does in fact clue her in and she presses back, trying to avoid the inevidable. Shaking her head, the gag stifles a shriek as she is grabbed and lifted. Her breathing is harsh with fear and easily heard as she is slung over the man's shoulders. One low sob sounds before they drop. She cuts it off, though grunts in pain when they land and she is pressed into his shoulder. The smell fills her nose when she sucks in air and the gagging is not enough to prevent gagging as the reality of where they have to be washes over her.
"Jeeves, where are they? They were supposeta wait." Boffo hisses unevenly, and his voice, like the rest of the shuffles and grunts, fades into stirring echoes. After the impossible reek begins to become a little less impossible, but not yet merely improbable, the other thing to note about the sewers is.. it's rather cold. Clammy would be the best word for it, hopelessly, bone-penetratingly clammy.
"Our fine Miss hadda take 'er sweet time in this 'r that firetrap now, didn't she?" says Bumble with the same uneven tone and cadence, like they're both suffering from head colds. Most likely they have wisely applied nasal stoppers. "Pushin' parchments about in triplicate's ever so much wheee, ain't it?" With a brusque sweep, he sets Betta back on her feet, and the cold of the stone beneath her immediately invades the soles of her shoes. "S'ppose we slog it, then?"
Boffo swears roundly at the prospect, then... "'Ear that?" Slosh.. splosh. Sounds ghastly magnified by the the endless acoustic stretches of the environment. "They're comin' 'round again.. Charon, what's it take to gedda bloody ride 'round 'ere? Already crossed yer palm wif enough silver.
"Was there... trouble?" asks a new voice, thin and somewhat gurgly.
"No trubbo.. more like.. inconvenience," Boffo explains while Bumble lifts Betta by the waist to lever her over some edge and onto something broad and mostly flat, that shifts and wobbles. Cruelly, he lets go of her for a moment to find her own balance, while the platform heaves more violently as the two men board. A hand closes around her arm before anything truly regrettable occurs, and keeps her standing upright as the thing underfoot lurches into motion. The trip might take five minutes, or it might take thirty, but either way, it is too long, as the smell doesn't abate, but takes on awful new vistas of olfactory discovery every block or so, depending on what facility is currently dumping which chemical byproducts into the storm drains. "Progress.. failure.. it all smells the same in the end," gurgles Charon in parting, when the destination, apparently, is reached. The light quality inside the dark cloth bag never changes much, but the smell has at least become something more or less of what one might come to expect from a sewer.
A shiver runs through her, for Betta's clothing was not intended to keep out the clammy cold of the perpetually dark, perpetually dank sewers. Her breathing hitches with the shivers and she imagines that she can see the fog of it hanging within the bag over her head. Hearing how her adherance to protocol has inconvenienced them might have made her apologize if the situation was different. These men? Apologizing for the inconvenience is just not happening. For all she cares, they can go hang. She grunts a bit when she is hoisted to stand once more though the grunt turns to a violent shiver as the cold seeps up through her shoes to wind slow horror up her legs.
The prospect of walking through the muck and mire of the sewers with their chemical mixtures adding to the uncertainty of what the skin is absorbing is such a gloriously bad idea that the sound of the approaching conveyance is actually almost welcome. Almost. The new voice sends a stab of fear through her spine and Betta stifles her shivers as well as she can to keep from being as noticable. The horror of that gurgly sound rising from...
Her thoughts are interrupted as her mind's eye tries to decide which throat apparatus would give just that resonant whispery gurgle when she is lifted and set onto the wobbly thing. When she is released she stumbles forward then back, trying to get stabilized on the rocky surface. The heaving that results from the other two joining her on the rocking platform almost sends her tumbling off the edge when someone catches her arm and resettles her. The rocking, the grab then the lurching motion sparks a short, sharp shriek that splashes against the gag and dies a sad, futile death. The trip is then taken in a shivery sort of silence that stems either from the smells, the cold or simple fear.
Maybe ten more minutes hiking through dank, echoing chambers, an iron gate croaking in protest as the rusty hinges are forced to twist, and up some shallow steps that wind around perhaps twice. One of them, Boffo probably, runs up ahead, and distant voices murmur. Then Betta's shoes hit flooring that feels... carpeted? Only slightly, low pile if anything, but still. Finally, something civilized. A few dozen steps more through a silent room, there's the slapping sound of something light thrown down, and then:
The chamber is fair sized at 15 by 20 feet, but lacking in city refinements. Stone-based, both wood and stucco rise to a height of 15 feet, wooden rafters and roof beams all in evidence. A sturdy chain hangs halfway down from the center beam, perhaps once supporting a heavy chandelier. The floor is oak wood, but mostly covered up by a threadbare area rug, once wine red. A large stone fireplace in the far wall lies cold and ashy, the chimney half-exposed as it rises high and disappears up through the peaked ceiling. The only other decorative feature in the room is a boarded-up window in the wall to the left of the hearth - the decorative part would be the glimpses of coloured glass seen through gaps between in the dusty old planks. A large rectangular area of the wall to the chimney's right is conspicuously cleaner, showing the original cream colour of the stucco and suggestive of a formerly hung tapestry; a picture frame of that size would be less likely. The only door is opposite the fireplace, oak with iron and old brass fittings, with a rather archaic-looking keyhole.
There are two matching wooden chairs here, with high backs and no padded accents. An 8 foot long dark wood bench sits against the wall underneath the boarded window, the kind with hinges in the seat for storage. 3 brass hooks for coat-hanging are affixed to the wall beside it. A simple wooden work table separates the two chairs, newer-looking and not similar in construction. An oil lamp sits on the table along with a loose ID. A labcoat hangs on one wall hook. A cloth sack lies empty on the floor.
"Untie her. There. And take the lady's coat, there's a good chap." The normal, decent, and educated voice, deep but with a feminine lilt, calling for nicer treatment after all the gutter slang is quite a reversal of fortunes, or at least it might seem that way at first. Respectful mutters of agreement herald the freeing of Betta's hands, the tug and divestment of her lab coat. She is steered into and made to sit down upon a stiff-backed, solid-seated chair. Fingers work to wiggle and prize the obstruction from her mouth, the section of dental-marked cloth coming out along with it. Then the bag is slipped off her head, and tossed to the floor beside the chair, just as an ominous reminder that it hasn't outlived its usefulness just yet.
The chamber is fair sized but lacking in city refinements. Stone-based, both wood and stucco rise to a height of fifteen feet, wooden rafters and roof beams all in evidence. The floor is oak wood, but mostly covered up by a threadbare area rug. A prominent fireplace in the far wall lies cold and ashy. The only other decorative feature in the room is a boarded-up window - the decorative part would be the glimpses of coloured glass seen through gaps between in the old planks.
Aside from Betta's chair, there is one similar chair standing empty, as well as a long dark wood bench against the wall, the kind with hinges in the seat for storage. A wooden work table separates the two chairs.. Betta's ID lays open upon the surface.
As for people.. there are Boffo and Bumble, as usual. The former is hanging the labcoat on a hook beside the wall bench. He's slipping something compact into the hip pocket. The latter is merely standing by, twining a length of rough hemp rope around his grimy knuckles, either idly or in threat.. it's difficult to tell. There is also a woman, shortish, somewhere in her prime. Her thick dark hair is cropped short and smoothed back, and she wears a heavy fawn duster over casual, non-patterned clothing. She pulls the extra chair closer to the table, starting to sink into it. "If you've any feeble threats or demands stewing in your head for the past hour, Miss Mordecai, best relieve yourself and let them all come out now. Then it'll be my turn to ask the questions and make the threats.. Is that understood?"
It might be the longest ten minutes of Betta's life for it seems to stretch on forever and a day with each moment piling fear onto fear as her mind conjures all manner of eventuality. This is Begma, after all and while the four laws exist, there are any number of inventors who might bend the rules just a little. After all, a construct is only as intelligent as the brain it is given and if an artificer were to vanish at some point, well who is to say that her brain was not simply rescued from the oblivion of death by a well-meaning passer by? One of them must have bidden her to stop or stopped her before they opened that creeking, groaning gate. Moving forward again, she walks up that double twist, for of course it is a double twist for a helix or caduceus. The construction is fairly typical in Begma, isn't it? Especially in areas of a certain age. Still, she almost stumbles when her shoes find carpeting or something else faintly squishy. She tests it with a prodding toe before moving forward onto it. The initial reaction to her mental picture detailing options that include the skin of some giant creature is maddeningly aweful and a shudder slips through her. Again.
With the smells fading and the gradual acceptance of carpeting, she begins to wind down from panic a bit. Until that slapping sound is heard and the person speaks. Relief begins as the orders are given to releave her of her bonds. When her hands are released her first impulse is to reach for the gag and rip it from her mouth but by this point her hands have gone quietly to sleep. Waking them takes precidence and someone draws the whatever it is from her mouth, then takes the bag off of her head. She winces at the change in light, turning her head to one side. Her hair, once neat and controlled, is wild where static and the sweat of fear have ruined the look. When she notes the way the bag falls next to the chair she has been placed in, she winces and looks away. Slowly, she folds her hands into her lap and takes in the room she is in.
The size of the room suggests one sort of building but the stained glass just visible between the cracks of the boards another. The bench is given a sweeping glance as is her labcoat that the man is hanging up. She takes special care to note the two men, though the look is seemingly brief. Then she turns her attention to the woman, watching the way she moves, her form and features. It takes a few moments to work enough moisture back into her mouth in order to speak. When she gets there, Betta shakes her head, "Since I do not know what you want, Miss, I have no way to know what threats or imprications might be effective. So let's just skip to the interesting part of the conversation, if it's all the same to you. What do you want from me?"
The man going by the name Boffo looks to be comfortably stuck in a rut between prime and middle-age. His long face has a bit of loose flesh that results in extra-mournful bloodhound expressions under the right lighting, but when pleased his smile looks genuinely friendly. Of course the only evidence of that was back when he had a 'trick knee' so, whatever! He is wearing a tweedy newsboy-style cap on his noggin of short dark hair, and his clothing is something out of the lower-middle-class catalogue, dull browns and off-whites, and workman's shoes.
The man going by the name Bumble is a little shorter at 5'9" or so but thicker all around, the bulldog to Boffo's bloodhound. His lantern jaw is covered with hobo-grizzle to darken a perpetually grimy-looking complexion. His grey eyes are disturbingly placid at all times. His clothing is shabby, almost fashionably so. Definitely an outfit to take note of if one ever wanted to hobnob with the folks who live under railway bridges.
The woman has bronzed flesh that sticks well to her prominent bone structure, the flavourful mix of heritages evident making her rather well-suited for representing the Fringe society of Begma, if not outright revolution. Her dark bob is not unattractive to her shape and height, but there is little doubt she chose it more for practicality than appearance matters. Her dark eyes are limpid pools of intellectual passion.
How these three elements form any sort of working team seems to be just another of today's mysteries.
"Hm. The lack of blubbering hysterics is not exactly a surprise, but remember I did invite you to indulge while you had the opportunity - very well, however." The woman, now seated, nods towards the door behind Betta, and Boffo is heard departing the room, while Bumble moves closer to stand a foot or so behind her chair. "You may call me Ms. Bristol, Miss Mordecai, if you wish to keep talks civil. Here is what I want - first, to know why you are looking into the records of Sorensen Fflere. Second, his whereabouts. There is a third, but it depends on how well you answer the first two... begin." She folds her hands at the table's edge, watching Betta.
After looking at the room, Betta's attention focuses on each of the three people who share this delightful little hideaway with her. First she examines Boffo, taking in his eyes, his face, then offering a faint smile. The expression is intended to seem uncertain and a bit disarming. It is certainly something that works on a certain mindset for she is a small thing and a bit of shyness is generally expected. One can tell a lot about a person based on their reactions to a smile after all. The examination and smile is offered to each in turn. Her gaze flickers over feature and form, measuring their mettle and guaging, perhaps, their nature as much as possible. Or perhaps simply attempting to memorize each of them. When she has fixed their faces in her mind's eye, Betta turns to other cues. Dirt under the fingernails, frayed hems at cuffs, elbows and hems, type and price of shoes. General wear and tear that betrays the type of work someone does and whether the clothing word belongs to the person wearing it. Does the type of clothing worn match the evidence of physical activity and; this being Begma and the Four Laws notwithstanding, is there evidence that any of these people might have been surgically constructed.
Looking at last to the woman, Betta inclines her head just slightly. Fear affects different people in different ways, naturally. In Betta's case it seems to produce a silent calm that allows for thought and observation but not necessarily speach. On the other hand, she is the Duke's little sister and it is possible that she has been trained on how to behave should someone decide to try to use her to leverage a quick buck out of her brother.
When the first two of the three topics are broached, Betta tilts her head to one side, startled. Off in the distance, as though obligingly punctuating her confusion, the low gurgling of the sewer makes its way into the room. The sound is immediately followed by a series of faint splashing plops as some noxious denizen makes its presence known. Betta parts her lips but does not or can not speak immediately. Part of the problem could well be that the scent of her recent passage through that hellscape of olfactory torment lingers still. Clearing her throat, she attempts a swallow, lifting one shaking hand to her throat. Turning her head, she looks down and to the side, mouth working to form saliva. This is swallowed and she looks back up, "Excuse me." Her voice is still a bit raspy, still a bit dry, "Sorry. You want to know why I am looking into Sorensen Fflere, Ms. Bristol?" Clearly this is not the topic she expected, the surprise evident in her voice and clear in her eyes. Her hands fold again in her lap and she sighs as though relieved, "We can clear this up quickly, then. To answer your second question first? I have no idea. To the first, then... I came across his name while looking into something entirely else and started reading about him sort of on a whim."
If a judicious applications of make-up is creating these distinct classes of people, or indeed cosmetic surgery, it's a damn fine job. That there is some authentic dirt and grime on natural-looking callouses and wrinkles on faces and hands that have never crossed paths with proper aesthetician or hygienist services. Their mode of speech is as jarring and offensive to the elite ear as Ms. Bristol's educated tone is civilized and therefore reassuring. Does their clothing, as previously described, belong to them? When one is dealing with off-the-rack and mix-and-match and second-hand markets, who even knows? Given that Betta is somewhat unusually humanitarian for a Begman, at least she can look at these two without looking right through them, enough to conclude that what she sees is what they appear to be. People. People who, in her own words, could go hang for all she cares. Kindness is for the deserving, right? And the deserving know their place.
Boffo doesn't return her smile, only frowns worriedly as though he doesn't think she ought to be the least bit friendly to him so that smile is rather odd, isn't it! He casts his eyes meaningfully Bristol-wards to indicate Betta ought to be attending to her interviewer, not mooning about, c'man, girlie, Jeeves! After he leaves, he goes to carefully investigate those loud creature-y sounds.. noise from the cellar and cistern rarely penetrates through all those layers of stone.
Bumble observes Betta's close observation and absorption of details, and meets her eyes when smiled at, his expression mildly curious, while his eyes remain calm. He chuckles to himself, starts to say something about their fine Miss to Bristol, but she frowns sharply to silence his interruption, and he merely shrugs. When things are amusing to him, he feels compelled to share, is all. If only that dispassionate mind had been born to a family that could afford higher education.. he'd be sticking all sorts of interesting things into animals and people today, just to see if the results made sense, which would be boring, or became unexpectedly interesting.
Ms. Bristol is silent a moment after the full reply, then shakes her head as she frames her counter: "A whim doesn't get you deep enough to be setting off flags in the Ministry of Safety's anti-terrorism division. You should count yourself lucky those flags were quietly removed from the system or it would be a cold sterile cell you'd be receiving questions from, and not by caring people such as ourselves," she smiles frankly. "Who understand mistakes, and mistaken whims. No, Miss Mordecai. Yours was a 'sort of' whim, and Sort Of is used to disguise all sorts of guilty intention. Would you try that first question again, please? Nevermind the second. I now think the first holds all the answers of interest."
<OOC> Merrisol says, "Forgive the injections of political rhetoric. They aren't meant to be putting thoughts in Betta's head that don't necessarily belong there."
<OOC> Betta says, "It's fine. For all she knows they could be, and probably are, lying about the Ministry of Safety."
<OOC> Merrisol says, "Wellll. I meant the first paragraph. That seems to project Betta's thought process at the end."
<OOC> Betta says, "Ah, that. Yeah... I'm going to take the last as their opinion of her rather than her own thoughts. The 'they' who can hang are these three in particular. She does not feel that way about the class in general."
<OOC> Merrisol nods, is wanting to bring the class struggle into sharper focus. The mindset is bitter and angry. A noble handing out soup to the poor is a contemptible empty gesture, if that noble is not fighting for the rights of the people to get out of that dehumanizing classist structure.
<OOC> Betta nods, "Yup. That is how it would be seen. She's just ignorant of that fact."
<OOC> Merrisol noddles, cool. :)
<OOC> Betta says, "She has led a fairly sheltered life. Noble birth, university education. Living at the family estate in Begma, then moving to Amber to live with her Duke brother. She believes she is open minded and without class prejudice. Is she /really/? Impossible to know without exposure, right?"
<OOC> Merrisol says, "Exactly right."
RPG: Betta declares that she owns this token:
-------------------------------------------------------------------[ dga ]----
Author: Betta Held By: Betta
Date: Sun Feb 3 18:47:54 2013 Focus: 0
Title: Memory Imager
Created via Begman Craftsman (BEG-CR): power-token special token-3 token-6 type-magic
Secondary gift used: Begman Artificer (BEG-AR): power-token rechargeable special token-0 token-3 token-6
Secondary gift used: Cross-Shadow Science (CSA-SC): token-0
This device is comprised of one long cylander about two feet long and six inches around. It has a threaded center showing where it compresses and extends during operation. This makes a slurping sort of sound as suction is provided through a long hose to a plunger shaped unit that fits over the crown of the head. There is a small square opening in the other end that can be fitted with a circular object.
OOC: This machine makes a copy of an image the subject holds clearly in thought. It transfers the image to a pendent affixed to the curcular slot in the base. A maximum of two images can be held by each pendant.
RPG: Betta used the following +declare targets: Why Is No One Ever Glad To See Us - Begma
Is there a muffled thump from below followed by the slither-slurp of suction? Is the smell of the sewer getting stronger still? Betta seems very calm about it, if so, though she does pat her skirt pockets in search of a kerchief. The smell does draw the sparkle of moisture to her eyes. Or, is that simply the first real signs of the stress she is under? Drawing the kerchif from her pocket she holds it up so they can see that it is a plain white square of linen edged in tiny bits of lace. There is an 'E' embroidered in one corner. Other than that it is unadorned. Lifting it, she daubs at the corners of her eyes, but does not yet blow her nose.
"Miss Bristol, please believe me. I stumbled onto Mr. Fflere's name while researching something utterly else. I... I started the research into him because..." She frowns and her gaze slips toward the stairs down or in that general direction anyway. "Well. Now, why did I start looking into him? Really, I am not sure." The kerchief is employed once more and the tremble in her hand might betray fear or some other stress. "He... looked like a nice guy."
Is there..? Boffo's gone to look, after all! He's probably creeping down the spiraling stone steps at the very moment, and due to arrive at the iron gate.
Ms. Bristol listens to something other than Betta for a moment. She knows precisely where they are and how the place is laid out, from tower to cellar. Suffice to say, she is suspicious of the acoustics at work here. Bumble is frowning between the door and her chair, questioning. She is watching Betta, starting to scowl. "You are stalling, Miss Mordecai, and it leads me to believe you not only have deliberate reason behind the examination of a missing person, presumed dead.. but also are aware that that person is neither as missing nor dead as one might have presumed." She stands up, pushing her chair back. "I see you take me for a complete idiot.. Bumble, the hood." The man behind Betta crouches down to retrieve the sack cloth.
Is there? Is it nothing? Or is it the sound made by a creature congealed from the leavings in the sewer? Perhaps begun when a small pellet fell out of one Artificer's kit back in the alley and grown through the trudge through the sewers. Of course it was almost lost when the boat ride was taken but it was grown to follow a particular person, wasn't it? Sure, it stinks to high heaven, but what can one do? One is what one eats, they say. On the other hand, it could just be that the dear old building is... settling, couldn't it? Surely even a Begman Artificer of Betta's skill would not have a golem-on-tap, right? Surely.
Betta tilts her head a bit to listen to something and almost misses Bristol's rising. When she hears the woman speak she refocuses her attention on her and jumps up, knocking her chair over, "No. Please, don't. I'm telling you the truth. I don't know who Mr. Fflere is or why you care about him. I don't know anything about him other than who his father was." She whirls and darts toward the only exit she is sure of in the hope that she can evade them all and escape.
Questions, always questions. The only thing Bristol knows for sure is they are blowing this popsicle stand. She hasn't lived this long with her neck on the outside of the hangman's noose by sitting around while the Powers That Be used their superior means, bought with the people's sweat, to play tricks on her, repress her, or destroy her, whatever the case may be now. She looks grimly at Betta while the other woman's reaction is to jump up, knocking her chair back into Bumble, who had been picking up the cloth bag. He bowls over, for a wonder, taken unawares by the tipping chair. If he lives long enough, the man will likely replay the moment over and over for a week, and get a small chuckle out of it every time.
Bristol sets her jaw and starts after Betta as soon as the flight begins, then stops, her hand closing around the other woman's... ID card. "Lady Elizabetta Mordecai of House Karm!" she roars at Betta's retreating back, "Do not force our hand by leaving this room! If you know nothing, let it stay that way! Once you step from this room you WILL know too much for me to protect you!"
The roar startles Betta enough that she jumps, feet still going in the air like one of those rediculous cartoons. How did... Oh. Of course. Her ID. She knew she forgot something and that was a big one. That ID states clearly who she is and who her family is. They could pick her up again at anytime. Assuming she could even get home without it. So, while it is less critical than... say... her toolkit which is in her coat over there... it is really vital. So she stops and turns, though she backs up far enough to put her back against the wall next to the door. "I do not know anything. Please just... Give me my stuff and let me leave. I won't cause you any trouble."
Sadly, the assertion is a bit too late really as the slime golem oozes its way through the holes in the gate, splorps and schlorches to the path inside the compound and begins to splash-splosh its way up toward the entry. While it is not exactly solid yet, the stench it brings alone might kill a man at 15 paces. Boffo? Well, when the golem becomes aware of him it turns from its course to attempt to deal with the poor man.
Bristol's strident yell resonates to the rafters, but no bats go flying.. they're all up in the belfry, or rather, flapping around harassing highwaymen, since it's nighttime. The woman breathes heavily as she sees that Betta hasn't still wrenched the door open despite everything and run pell-mell into the... ahem. The wherever they are.. okay okay, it's an old church, of course. Old relic of Begma City Past, probably. Anyway. "You can't just leave, don't you understand? We will deposit you in a place from which you can make your way." Bumble is up by this time, clutching the coat, and she makes him go get the labcoat from its hook, too. "For the record, I don't believe you know nothing, but if you will not or cannot tell me, so be it. I believe our brother Sorry is alive; if you see him, tell him - we need him."
And then, screaming. Boffo, edging cautiously down the steps towards the source of the nauseous blorping... steps in it. "JEEVES CRICKET! AAAAHHH WHAT ISSIT??" It's got him! And those shoes cost him a pretty penny over at the Cast-off Cobbler, too.
Bristol stares at the door from whence emanates the cries of terror, and mutely directs Bumble to the bench. He tosses the labcoat and sack to her while he pulls up the bench seat, grabbing for rifles with his usual mildly bored expression. Bristol adds, "Miss Mordecai, step away from the..."
BAM, the door flies open at that point, and Boffo staggers in, in his sizzlin' stocking feet. He's a nimble fellow, turns out.. chimney sweeps gotsta be. "Ms. Bristol... WE - ARE - FOOKED," he announces. Oh hello.. he glances to the side of the door, where Betta is.
That yell might not send bats off in a tizzy but it does startle Betta who almost cowers. Almost. Instead, she is almost forced to stare at the other woman as she speaks, "How can I trust that you would? You had your men..." Did she almost say 'minions'? Probably. "Men... snatch me out of the street and brought here to ask me questions about... a man I don't know. Your... brother?" That strikes a chord and she softens, "I... did not realize you were family. He does not look like you in the picture I saw." Clasping her hands in front of her, she tries, "Tell me what he looks like and I'll see if I can find him for you. I might as well since I've a request in with the Ministry for information on another missing person as it is. They could send his along at the same time. Um... Need him? For...?"
The screaming is as startling as the shout was a moment ago and Betta's eyes go round as saucers and jumps about ten feet in the air, or so it seems to her. Both hands lift to clasp just below her throat and she whirls to look out the door as it flies open and Boffo enters. "Uh." Out of the corner of her eye she sees her coat and that sack change hands but she does not see the newly unburdeoned Bumble open the locker and retrieve the rifles.
Behind Boffo the stinking golem schlorps its way up toward the door. Betta closes her eyes, possibly against the fumes though possibly in relief. Stalling can work, especially when you are telling the truth. It will make it to the door in only moments. Turning, Betta smiles, calm once more, "Now. Please tell me what this is all about? it is possible... just... that I can help you."
Bristol doesn't seem to quite comprehend anything Betta says after Sorensen is mentioned, that's when Bristol heard Boffo yelling anyway. After that, it was all gesturing impatiently for Bumble to toss a rifle over, and yelling for Boffo to get out of the way. He turns and tries to haul Betta away from the door along with him, but when he sees how cool and pleasant she looks about the situation, he pales and backs away on his own.
"What are you talking about?" Bristol snarls, while checking the load on her bolt-action rifle, snapping the stock back into place, and drawing it up to her shoulder. "This is yours, is it? Boffo, lock and load." Her sights are set on the doorway, waiting for the hideous noxious beast to appear.
Bumble stoops to get another rifle from the bench.
While Betta might be fine with talking to these people about the situation, she is certainly not willing to stand near a doorway when three people whose aim is unknown at best and shakey at worst are aiming toward it. Her preference would be to duck out the door and be away, but that takes her too clearly across their line of sight so she ducks and begins running to one side, aiming to angle behind them where bullets should be few and far between, "Of course it's mine."
The golem is apparently not terribly bright. When Boffo got stuck, it did reach for him but was confused when all it caught was a pair of shoes. Its shoulders slumped a bit in befuddled dismay but then it caught the call again, that pull of golem toward its creator, and it began moving again. As it is closer, the draw is stronger and the schlorping of before becomes a shlick-clump. Perhaps it is becoming more solid. Certainly the smell is getting worse.
The labcoat is laying across the table, the ID placed on top of it. All three anarchists are between the table and door, Bristol standing roughly where Betta used to be sitting, Boffo close by on her left, and Bumble farther to the right near the weapons stash.
A rifle shies through the air and Boffo catches it, then looks at it blankly. "Jeeves 'ave mercy, can't kill it wif rifles! What we -need- are soup-strainers.. lots of 'em!" he argues.
Listening to her man who's seen it, Bristol frowns and lowers her rifle. She turns, looks at Betta half over her shoulder. "Will you call it off? We'll go our separate ways.
Racing around the three, Betta grabs her labcoat and ID. She slips the coat on and tucks the ID away in the same moton. When she is addressed, Betta smiles at Bristol, "Of course I will. Absolutely. I will be more than glad to be away from here, as I am sure you will be. After you tell me what I want to know. Who is Sorenson Fflere. Who are you and what is actually going on?" Folding her arms, she glances at the door just as a wash of putressence announces the golem's arrival. Nodding once, she lifts a hand and the creature hoves to in the middle of the doorway, its vile excuse for eyes looking stupidly from Betta to the three and back again.
Bristol's dark eyes fill with outrage. "WHAT," she bursts out, "You're telling me you snooped your way deep enough to set off flags at the Ministry of Safety, and you never once figured it was about the resistance?" Boffo's swearing an unprintable blue streak as the creature appears in the doorway, and against her better judgement, Bristol looks. Her shoulders sag forward with the depth of her gasp, and she puts the rifle aside on the table behind her, wrenching her gaze away from the door to concentrate on the floor, trying to keep from emptying her stomach onto the floor then and there.
And Bumble? He looks, looks, looks... then nonchalantly swings his own rifle to bear on Betta. "Now me fine Miss, iffat fing comes one more inch in'is room, yew'r gettin' me bullet."
<OOC> Betta says, "Always figured Bumble for the smart one."
<OOC> Merrisol says, "Yes, I will miss his endearing chuckle."
<OOC> Betta grins.
"I told you." Betta's tone is almost gentle. "I researched Mr. Fflere on a whim while I was looking into his..." She pauses then half smiles, "Something else. So if you will please fill me in? We can..." She notes the other woman's distress and shakes her head, "I am sorry. Really. If you had not sent your friends to just snatch me off the street, you would not be in this predicament." Why is Betta not gagging to beat the band? Surely she has not been exposed to the stench as these three must have been? Well, there were the small nasal filters hidden in the kerchief in her pocket. They do a wonderful job of neutralizing stink. For a while.
Boffo can be more or less ignored, poor soul. It is Bumble who represents the greatest threat at the moment. Betta glances at her creature, then back to the man. She nods once, as though in agreement, then drops to the floor.
The creature at the door does not need to move. The mass of sewage it has soaked up gives it stuff to spare. A hand is extended toward Bumble. It continues to extend as matter from the body is added to give it reach. The creature's hand wraps around Bumble's head and torso and begins to squeeze.
There's never a really good point to explain their peculiar and clandestine methodology to Betta. Always something else happening that requires her attention. "Bumble..." Forgetting her nausea, Bristol twists around one-eighty degrees with the table as support, to tell her more unruffled cohort something, which becomes simply: "...NO!" either referring to the rifle pointing at their former captive, or the pseudo-arm stretching out for Bumble.
He doesn't even look at her this time.. leader or no leader, he's made his decision. Out of the corner of his eye he sees the gelatinous paw looming close, tries to bob away, but it's no use. He barely has the time to let loose one last surprised chuckle before he's silenced forever, half his body encased like a fly in amber, only this amber is toxic sludge.. not as pretty. When the pressure is applied, there is a single second of turgid resistance offered by the body's structural framework, then blood, soft tissues, brain matter, all pour from the available orifices. And so exits Bumble.
Boffo may have been underestimated, however. He's excitable, but recall how he leaped from death's embrace a minute or so ago. While the golem is busy encasing Bumble, he tries it again. "Ms.Bris, we gotta move!" he yelps, grabbing her arm. With a solid shove, he punts Betta's previously toppled chair at the part of the creature still in the doorway. Then he swipes up the oil lamp from the table, holding it right before Bristol's face so she understands. Whether she does or not is debatable; she'd just witnessed one of her own summarily squeezed out of his own body like toothpaste from a tube. But she nods to it all the same.
<OOC> Betta says, "Poor Bumble."
<OOC> Merrisol says, "I think he was really Boffo all along."
<OOC> Betta says, "Hehee."
And that is really a shame, isn't it? Betta's on the floor, crawling away from the golem's attack on Bumble. Or is he Boffo? Either way. When he is squeezed like toothpaste out of a tube, Betta's stomach does a flip-flop. Still, what is grist for the sewars is grist for the golem, and when the mit is reabsorbed, Bumble's mass is retained adding to the mess floating and seething within. The golem stands there then, waiting for new orders.
Sitting up, Betta peers over the top of the wooden gun storage chest-thing. She might not hear Boffo, or is it Bumble, but she can see the lamp and can guess where he is going with that idea, "Oh, no. Nonono... Don't do that. That would be a very bad idea. I'll just send it away..." Really, the horror of her creation's efficiency has not hit yet. Either that or it has and she really just wants it to be gone.
Boffo is rearing back to make the overhand pitch that will dash the lamp to the ground, splashing oil and trails of fire. Bristol is undone with horror still, useless, so he holds her up in his other arm. The whole tableau at this moment is a picture perfect postcard for the resistance movement.. the brave freedom fighters defying the monstrosity compiled from industrial run-off, which has just absorbed his compatriot in much the same way as the demonic Begman government has absorbed the individual in favour of social order. See how the evil aristocrat slinks away in horror.. er. Well, Betta -could- work on her evil sneer a bit, if this is going to be the perfect moment. Oh. And Boffo is not wearing any shoes. Well, nevermind then.
He looks at Betta incredulously over his bent arm, hesitating, because he -is- Boffo and not Bumble. When people say surprising things, he is surprised, not amused. "Do that," he urges, not daring to think of his lamp as an actual threat. Something in her voice suggests it is not. "Send it away now!"
Betta winces as she sees the man rearing back, "Nonono!" She looks at the creature and flickers her gaze back toward the sewers. It kind of wuffles wetly at her. She repeats the eye gesture and it moans softly like a monstrocity that believes it has failed to follow orders and won't get that cookie. Slinking out of the doorway it looks back at her with a mournful mrowl, low and gurgly. Betta slips out from behind the weapons cache and moves closer to the creature. She even offers it a smile, "It's okay. You did just fine for your first adventure. Maybe next time, restrain rather than end, okay? For now, go get some rest. I'll be just fine." She glances at the two humans, "Won't I..." There is a hardness in her tone and her eyes that promises further exposure to her infant golem if anything untoward were to happen. The golem burbles once more, the sound happier but also holding a touch of excitement and anticipation. It will do better next time. With a lighter manner and an easier squelch the golem passes over Boffo's shoes once more, filling them with 'gifts' before splorching through the gate.
Boffo watches the back and forth between monster and mistress until he's had his fill of 'cute'. That is fairly early, actually. Bits of his friend are still shifting around in the soup. 'Friend' might be stretching it, really.. creepy comrade, more like. But did he deserve /that/? Boffo keeps hold of the lamp but his arm is already at rest, passively dangling the light before him. The look he gives Betta at her questioning glance is as mistrustful as her own. "Now why would we wanna bring the wraff offa bloody Karms down on our 'eads by 'armin' yew, eh girlie? We only wanned to 'ear if our bruvver-in-harms was all right, an' if 'e was comin' back. Only we 'eard 'e /died/ affer 'e went frew the mirror, that's all."
Bristol looks to be stirring now that the sewer stench is receding with the golem, her head lifting and looking about slowly with half-lidded dark eyes, as one in a dream.
Finally, Betta looks horrified at what her creation has done. "But..." If she was not actually in physical danger, the golem's actions were over the top. And so were hers for allowing it. She takes a step or two back, one hand lifting to cover her mouth, "Why didn't you just ask? I... I don't know. Mirror?" That pricks her interest, however, "What mirror?" If she can but salvage something, maybe... "I will look for him for you."
"Hask?" Boffo echoes.. sort of. WHY can't the Begmans teach their children how to speak? "What.. yew mean like, pop 'round for tea one foine day, 'r eggs-tend howr most gracioos invite to howr fanciest 'ideout, by post?" Huh. Now why didn't they do that in the first place.. oh yes.. that's right. They're the revolution and she's the enemy! "Issa bloomin' mystery," he sighs, perking an eyebrow as he notices her conscience-stricken hand. "Whuh.. well I dunno h'wich mirror in particular.. a magic one, I should fink? So yew don't h'actually know ivat pirate killed 'im 'r not?"
"What're you..." Bristol pulls away from her comrade and takes quicker stock of those present, the residue on the floor. Yes, it did really happen. "Stop talking, Boffo. We have got to go, /now/." She looks at Betta warily. "He shouldn't have drawn his sight on you," is all she says by way of comfort. Not, they shouldn't have kidnapped her.. that part's still a-okay in her books. "This site is compromised," she decides dolefully. "It will have to burn. Boffo, get the arms out. There's more in the sacristy."
Betta continues to look stricken, her gaze flickering from one to the other, "Well... Yes. I mean, ask. Yes. You could have just... talked to me." Falling silent, she listens to him speaking, wading through the accent, "Well. Maybe not inviting me to the hideout, but... " Suddenly she hears just how silly that sounds. She blushes and lowers her gaze. When he comes to the final bit, she shakes here head slowly, looking up again, "No... No, I don't. What private?" She lowers her hand, clasping both together in front of her.
Looking to Bristol, Betta nods, eyes widening. Her mouth parts to speak, but then closes, "Burn? You aren't really going to burn it are you?" A shudder ripples through her and she turns to the door, "If you are going to burn the place, I am leaving." There is a moment when she considers telling them to 'have a nice day'. It must be the horror of it settling in.
Boffo casts her a strange look.. private?.. but there's no more talking from him. He bundles the half a dozen rifles in this room under his arm, then considers the one jammed up with slime, like, seriously considers taking it. They must really need this precious stockpile for something. He looks at Betta one more time, then... ugh... tiptoes out through the door. His feet feel tingly, and not the good kind of tingle, either. There's Progress Lung, of course.. but has anyone ever turned up with a case of Progress Feet?
Bristol agrees, "We are all leaving," and picks up the lamp Boffo had discarded. She lifts it higher to illuminate the space, her gaze tracing the walls slowly, no doubt gathering the memories of secret meetings past. "We can.." Err, no, they can't give her a lift. Imagine burning a perfectly good horse and wagon! Her eyes fall on the cloth sack that has huddled back to the ground at some point, and after Betta has left the room for the other rooms of the rundown old church, Bristol goes to gather it up. Hey, it's what they do!
Message 100 Date Received: Tue Apr 16 23:41:43 2013
To: Shao, Merrisol
Subject: A note...
... is delivered when a steam powered, clockwork ball with one eye, two legs and two arms marches up to you and offers you an envelope.
Sir, (it says)
I have returned from Begma and wish to speak with you both in private. Please either come to House Karm or... Please come to House Karm. No harm will come to you despite the rhyme inherant in those two phrases.
-Lady Elizabetta Mordecai (Lady Karm)
Shaken by her ordeal, Betta only conveyed one key notion to Merrisol and Shao, and left the rest in the notes and file copies she brought back from Begma. There was a moratorium on the divulging of his real name, but once she spoke the name 'Hugo Fflere', Merrisol knew two things beyond a doubt: First, that was the name of the Engineer he believes he has killed. Second, that is his father's name. Two separate thoughts that, while both true, did not go well together.
Truth was about to become so much stranger than fiction.