VOID

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VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Sat 7 Jul 2012 - 23:19

Opening Theme

Spoiler:
[Guitars]

[Drums]

Say!


Hey!

Hear the sound of the falling rain
Coming down like an Ar- ma- ged- don flame (Hey!)
The shame,
The ones who died without a name….

Hear the dogs howling out of key!
To a hymn called "Faith and Mi- se- ry" (Hey!)
And bleed, the company lost the war today….

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies,
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives!
On holiday…!

Hear the drum pounding out of time!
Another protester has crossed the line, (Hey!)
To find, the money's on the other side!

Can I get another Amen?! (A- men!)
There's a flag wrapped around a score of men, (Hey!)
A gag, a plastic bag on a monument….

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies,
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives!
On holiday…!

(Hey!)

[guitars, drums]

(Wait for it!)


"The representative from North Italia has the floor…."

“Sieg Heil to the President Gasman,
Bombs away is your punishment!”

“Pulverize the Eiffel towers
Who criticize your gov- ern- ment!”

“Bang bang goes the broken glass and,
Kill all the fags that don't agree!”

“Trials by fire, setting fire
Is not a way that's meant for me!”

“Just cause...
Just cause, because we're outlaws yeah!”

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies,
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives!

I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies,
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives…

This is our lives on holiday….!!



Opening Number: “Holiday”, by Green Day

---slight lyric modification to fit setting-


Last edited by El Conservatore on Sat 23 Mar 2013 - 9:46; edited 6 times in total
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Il Direttore

Male

Forum Posts : 1003

Location : Chicago, Illinois, United States

Fan of : Henrietta, Triela

Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


Registration date : 2012-07-03

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Episode 0: In Which Two Original Characters are Introduced

Post by Il Direttore on Sat 7 Jul 2012 - 23:34

“It’s getting pretty bad,” said Abramo, the Social Welfare Agency’s head accountant. “We need to cut back expenses.”

“I understand that, Abramo, but cyborgs aren’t cheap,” replied Lorenzo, SWA Section 2’s director. He oversaw the Fratello Corps. The Social Welfare Agency, commonly shortened to “the Agency” or “the SWA” by those in the know, “recruited” young girls, generally no more than eleven or twelve, who were on the brink of death or were doomed to a meaningless existence, gave them new bodies in the form of cyborgs, and put them to work fighting for the government against the Republican Faction, a nationalistic terrorist group that sought to undermine the current government and create a revolution. Each girl was paired with a handler, usually male and older by several years. The girls were “conditioned” to be utterly devoted to their handlers and be capable of immense feats of combat prowess. However, this had the side effect of drastically shortening their life span and severe brain damage, eventually leading to complete amnesia and brain death.

“The easiest way to cut costs is to cut salaries, of course, but I that would cause a corresponding reduction in the ability of each handler to dote on his girl, which would mess with the dynamics within each fratello,” continued Lorenzo. “I can’t do that, or we risk losing the entire Corps.” Each Fratello Unit had its own unique dynamic, but the one constant, save for Jean and Rico, was a multitude of fairly expensive gifts for a job well done, a good day at the training grounds, or simply for the hell of it. “What are the areas of greatest expense?”

Abramo flipped through his ledger. The two of them were talking in Lorenzo’s office at SWA Headquarters. The room was neatly furnished with a multitude of bookshelves, an impressive but not overly large desk, and a table with a decanter of burgundy. It was rather late at night, so all the lights were off except for a single desk lamp. It leant a rather sinister air to a completely routine discussion.

Frankly, both men like the atmosphere. It made them feel mysterious and dangerous, feelings they hadn’t had a chance to experience for several years or had never experienced at all.

“Other than conditioning, which is a fixed expense,” said Abramo. “There’s a lot of money going into training.” Each Fratello Unit’s girl was trained in a wide variety of combat skills. Hand-to-hand, assassination, trap-laying, assault, infiltration, sniping, and swimming were just a small sampling of their capacities. “The Generations Ones get full training in all aspects, as you know, so the cost of training even a single cyborg runs into the millions of euros each year. Development of the Generation Twos aren’t cheap either, but so far the Technology Department is only worrying about the technical details, we won’t need a girl yet.”

“Hmm,” hrmed Lorenzo, leaning back in his chair to think. “Do you have a list of everything the girls train in?”

“Yes.”

“What’s the largest subset?”

“Armed Assault and Hostage Rescue,” replied Abramo promptly. “The original plan was to run the Fratellos in direct operations, we didn’t make the shift to full-spectrum combat until after Triela got into that situation in Vienna.”

“That was a bad one,” reminisced Lorenzo. “What was it, a bar?”

“A brothel disguised as a bar,” said Abramo. “God, we had to actually recondition the poor girl after all that trauma.”

“Nobody should have to listen to fat old men get it on while hiding in a closet,” agreed Lorenzo. “But in any case, I think I have an idea.

Dial back the full spectrum training for the Generation Ones and concentrate on Armed Assault and Hostage Rescue. They still need to be able to infil- and exfiltrate smoothly with their covers intact, but if we can concentrate on their key areas, we can reduce cost by increasing efficiency.

As for the other aspects, push back Gen. Two down to Generation Three. Generation Two, and the associated personnel, will be reorganized into the Department of Work and Labour. We can apply the same logic of upped efficiency to gain decreased cost by splitting the jobs covered in the Full Spectrum Training and having each Fratello operate in their exclusive area of expertise, with some overlap to cover our bases.”

Abramo did some rapid calculations. He wasn’t head accountant for nothing.

“That should reduce our operational costs by 30%,” he said excitedly. “I’ll send the memo to the Tech Group immediately.”

-----

HUMINT - Intel gathered from ground forces
SIGINT - Intel gathered from signal interception

In the area of battlefield intelligence, these are arguably the two most important sources of information for a commander. Fancy satellites and drones all have their place as eyes in the sky, but only a really great field agent can convey the subtle nuances of everything he sees.

Lieutenant James “Jimmy” Spettro, United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Operative, former CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer, and veteran of multiple international anti-terrorist takedown operations, was generally considered to be one of the best at HUMINT and SIGINT operations.

He was also, unfortunately, considered one of the most off-the-wall, possibly dangerously malevolent, and overall terrifying individuals to go up against to ever enter the profession. Not only was he famed for his sheer capacity for “direct action”, but he was infamous for supposedly having a massive and highly questionable chain of contacts ranging from hookers to gunrunners to schoolchildren to old ladies. He was charming and affable. He was cold and ruthless. He was the kindest man you’d ever meet. He was the most terrifying man you’d ever meet.

He was fired.

The last job he’d pulled had really gone up shit’s creek. Not for lack of success, mind you, but for the way Lieutenant Spettro had pulled it off. It had involved a ten year old pretending to be a hooker who was actually an assassin and had gone down somewhere in East Asia. The plan had gone off without a hitch, seeing as the ten year old really had been a hooker and was learning martial arts to get out of the business. The target had been taken down and interrogated, then shot and dumped.

But by sheer luck, the target hadn’t died. The story broke within a week with Spettro’s general description and the Agency’s activities plastered across the news, the marks gone to ground, and Spettro cast out of the industry. Despite his background, people who made such amateur mistakes were people you couldn’t trust, or so the CIA believed. Fortunately, his ability wasn’t overlooked and, despite the understandable demand for near-perfection required from the Suits Up Top, quite a few of those suits appreciated the accuracy and consistency of information Spettro was able to deliver time and again. A few phone calls to Italy were made and, a mere two weeks after Spettro’s career got shot to hell, Rome, and the SWA, beckoned.

As was standard operating procedure, Jean Croce, dressed in his usual white shirt and olive suit, met with Lieutenant Spettro to give him the initial rundown and a discrete evaluation.

When Jean arrived, his first impression was not positive. He had agreed to Spettro in a cafe twenty minutes from the airport. When Jean arrive, he spent ten minutes watching from across the street. The Lieutenant was sitting at a table in essentially the middle of the cafe, sporting a white polo shirt trimmed in navy, sunglasses, navy slacks, a dark tan, and reading a newspaper. He was completely unarmed and apparently hadn’t even bothered to continue checking for enemies.

Jean had a bad feeling about this.

“Lieutenant Spettro,” greeted Jean, walking up and sitting down. “Welcome to Italy.”

“Mr. Croce,” said Spettro, looking up from the newspaper but not putting it down. “How are you?”

“Better than yourself, I gather,” said Jean. He put up an excellent stoic facade, but Spettro picked up on a hint of condescending humor in Jean’s voice regardless. “How have you been?”

“Oh, come good and some bad,” said Spettro ambiguously. “Saw an interesting story on the TV a few months back.”

“What was that?” asked Jean blandly.

“Something about an operation in Bern, Switzerland.” Spettro turned a page. “It was very interesting. Apparently, one of the hostages was surprisingly valiant and helped take down the terrorists.”

“Well that’s good news,” said Jean.

“The question is, how did she get an SMG to do it?” asked Spettro, smiling over the top of his newspaper.

“That wasn’t in the news I heard,” said Jean with outward calm. Internally, he was already planning for multiple security breaches.

“Well, it’s just that I happen to know a man who deals with a very colorful group,” said Spettro, feigning disinterest in the topic. “So I may have heard a little something that the news groups didn’t?”

“What’s he like, this friend of yours?” asked Jean politely.

“Oh, you know how those types are,” said Spettro. “Always talking about how this is classified and how that is need to know. I think he let the fact that Rainbow- oops.”

Aha, thought Jean. “Rainbow?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” said Spettro. “It’s a counter-terror thing, nothing more.”

“I’ve heard of them,” said Jean. “Rather important, no?”

“How very impolite of you, Mr. Croce,” teased Spettro. “Looking into other people’s business, tsk tsk.”

“Well you know how us types are,” said Jean sarcastically. “Always poking our noses where they don’t belong.”

“Very true. I almost got my own nose bit off in Rome once.”

Jean became very still.

“I was on my computer and was looking around for some information about this job opportunity you’ve offered me,” continued Spettro. “Man, it was a little scary when my computer started crashing for some reason, but I managed to get away safely, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” said Jean slowly, brushing back his hair in, apparently, a somewhat flustered state. “I just remembered, I haven’t been feeling well lately. I hope I don’t get you sick.”

“It’s fine, I have a strong immune system,” replied Spettro folding his newspaper and placing one hand on his arm rest and the resting his chin on the other. “I’m reasonably sure that I could at least kill off any virus with my golden bullet, if it came down to a battle between the interloping cells in my system.”

“You’re not saying you’d shoot yourself?”

“No, I just have a panacea I picked up in China that works pretty well,” laughed Spettro, moving the hand on the armrest so that it was under the table. “Though I have to say, I’m not a bad shot with a gun.”

“USMC Force Recon, right?” asked Jean rhetorically. “Must have been exciting. I only ever worked for the police.”

“Oh, it had its moments,” replied Spettro.

“You like excitement?”

“For a sensible cause, yes. Terrorism is exciting, after all, but it’s more senseless violence than it is any sort of directed ideological action.”

“That’s good to hear,” said Jean. “I feel the same way. But enough small talk, I called you to give you a job offer. Why don’t we go to a more discrete location, I’ll need to discuss some slightly sensitive company information and don’t want to be overheard.”

“Ah capitalism,” laughed Spettro, putting his gun away discretely and laying a few euros on the table. “Do you have a car with you?”

“I do. It’s parked down the street.”

“Well then, let’s get going.”

-----

“Very impressive Mr. Spettro,” said Jean as they drove towards the outskirts of Rome. “I will admit that you had me a bit frightened there.”

“I figured you becoming ill was a warning,” said James. “Who’s the kid?”

“This is Rico,” said Jean, gesturing over his shoulder toward the blonde, female child sitting alertly in the back, one hand on her pistol. “She is a cyborg.”

“Cyborg, eh?” James asked rhetorically. “Carbon fiber skeleton, electrorheological fluid infused artificial muscles? Pretty advanced stuff.”

“You’re info is a bit outdated,” Jean said. “We abandoned the electrorheological fluid infusion for the second generation models to improve the compatibility of the muscles with the nervous system.”

“Second generation?” James asked in surprise. “Well well, your servers are more secure than I thought they were. I haven’t heard of these.”

“We wouldn’t be a very good organization if you could hack into them so easily,” said Jean derisively. “You do know why I’m here.”

“Of course,” said James, rolling his eyes. “I may have been fired for a botched job, but keep in mind I was in Force Recon for a decade and in the CIA for two.”

“Thirty years, really? You don’t look over forty, Mr. Spettro.”

“Thanks, but I’m fifty-eight. Judging that you’re here with Rico, I assume the girls need a handler?”

“That’s correct. The cyborgs become emotionally unstable if they don’t have someone as a grounding force. Each cyborg gets a handler to provide that force.”

“You want me to be a handler,” said James, making the connection handily. “And what if I say no?”

“You won’t,” said Jean. “You’re one of those people who can’t leave the business without going crazy. You could go into information brokering or running heists, but judging by what you said today, that wouldn’t have happened. We could have hired you as a consultant, but the Section Chief thought you’d be more useful as a handler.”

“That’s all well and good, but you should always have a contingency plan.”

“We did.”

“What was it?”

“Rico.”

“Her? What can she do?”

“Rico is an impeccable shot,” said Jean. “We always strive for perfection, but she is still capable of killing a man with a single shot at 600 yards with a Dragunov.”

James’ eyebrows climbed very high on his brow. “That’s… impressive.”

“Quite,” said Jean with a hint of pride. “So it really would have been pretty simple to kill you and prevent any information leaks.”

“Blunt, but effective,” said James. “But you’re right, I do accept the job. What do you have in mind for me?”

“There’s a girl that we recently recovered from Germany and flew in,” said Jean. “I’m taking you to her now.”

---

“This is Jane Doe number 4417,” said Jean with clinical detachment, introducing Spettro to his future cyborg as Spettro looked at the data sheet attached at the foot of her bed. “She was found in a ditch forty miles outside Berlin with barely a heartbeat remaining. The investigation is ongoing, but it is believed she is the victim of at least a dozen rapes and, of course, attempted murder.”

“She’s thirteen,” Spettro said quietly, “What bastard would…?”

“There are many bastards in the world, Mr. Spettro,” said Jean. “You should know that.”

“I do,” sighed Spettro. “One of the reasons I stayed in the profession, despite being given the opportunity to retire.”

Jean made noncommittal noises. "Back to the topic on hand. We know very little about Jane’s past life. No missing person’s files even remotely resemble her appearance and neither her prints or DNA are on file anywhere in the area. It appears that she quite literally appeared out of nowhere.”

“Have you looked into different areas of Germany? What about surrounding nations?”

“We have literally scoured all of Europe, Mr. Spettro. Section One is very thorough about this sort of thing.”

“Dark brown hair, blue eyes, - there’s no way she’s from Russia or Asia. What about the US?”

“Your friends at the CIA are unwilling to assist in this endeavor and we can’t just go requesting patient profiles,” said Jean with quiet disapproval. “To be frank, I dislike the situation. It is unwise to begin converting a cyborg while knowing nothing of her previous life.”

“I agree, her family needs to at least be told we recovered a body and be sent the ashes.”

“You misunderstand,” said Jean. “We don’t want any scandals that could blow this agency open. If she gets seen on the street and word gets back to her birth parents….”

“I’m tempted to punch you,” said Spettro scowling, “but you’re right, we can’t let her be recognized. We can worry about that later. What’s the situation with her treatment?”

“We’re working on that; you don’t need to worry about it,” handwaved Jean. “What’s more important is that you be here when she wakes up, that you give her a name, and that you begin training her as soon as she’s able.”

“Name?”

“Cyborgs get their memories wiped of their past. This helps… ingratiate them to the Agency.”

“Crude, but effective,” sighed Spettro. “These things don’t come with a user manual do they?”

“I’ve written a few pointers for first-time handlers,” said Jean, ignoring the insult towards their methods, “and we have hardwired some skills into them, but otherwise we’ve left the conditioning and training fully to the discretion of the handlers. There are several different publications that give a general overview of the cyborgs, but that’s it for reading material.”

“Excellent. Can you send that to me?”

“No need, you’re coming with me,” said Jean. “All handlers live on campus for the first few months until their cyborgs are capable of operating on their own. After that, we leave the choice to stay or leave up to the handler. We’ll also need to get you a new identity.”

“I understand. I assume that this is only relevant for missions and such?”

“No, the identity we will create is for use when you’re off-duty, such as when shopping for your charge. You will be given the opportunity to create your own alternate identity before missions. You may still go by James when on the Agency Campus and are interacting with Agency personnel.”

“Oh. Alright then. Thank you for the help then. JD-4417 will be transferred over later, I presume,” said Spettro, following Jean out of the building.

“We need to finish stabilizing her condition to where the cybernetics can fuse properly, but yes, she will come when she’s ready.”

-----

Jane Doe 4417 had a name once.

Her name was Emily. Emily Cross.

Spettro had been right, she had indeed been American. A tourist, traveling with her mother and father in Poland. She was abducted two months before the Lieutenant visited her in that Italian hospital. Similar to the Lambs sold in Copenhagen slave markets, Emily had been a Dove sold in the black markets of Macedon. Only there was no Victor Hilshire and Mario Bossi to save her. After being abducted, she had been thrown into an unlit cell with a dozen other terrified girls, ages seven to twelve. There had been a wide pipe, leading to the sewers, for them to relieve themselves in and food and water once every four hours.

These would later be called the “good times”.

Following the closure of a deal with an underground auction house, the whole group, along with ten other cells of girls, was packed up and transported to Macedon. Glimmers of her future could be seen during the trip. Emily defined herself as a leader among the girls, keeping up morale and hope the entire trip and keeping the heat off of them in terms of violence. A few of their keepers even had a quiet word with the auctioneer and paid him off to make sure the younger kids went to the nicer customers. Their relative safety was a direct result of Emily’s strength in the face of danger. The older kids didn’t get off as well.

Words cannot describe the horror that followed their transfer to the auctioneer. Suffice to say that at the end of it, despite the fact that their bodies were unblemished, none of the girls had the will to fight anymore.

Emily was sold into a very discreet and very horrifying brothel for those into little girls and extreme violence. The brothel even had a body disposal service. It was this service that had dumped her body into the ditch outside of Berlin, the victim of a horrifying corruption of sexual intercourse.

By that point, her parents had given up hope of finding their daughter ever again. Whoever had abducted her hadn’t sent a ransom note, and the Polish investigator very realistically informed the distraught couple that their daughter had probably been taken to be sold in the international slave trade and, unless they found her in the next week, would disappear. In this time of violence and hedonism, there were few people who actually made an honest living. The probability of there being a good Samaritan who would notify the police if they found the slaver’s living cargo was depressingly small. The parents grieved but moved on, returning to America childless and holding a small funeral for their daughter, who was as good as dead at that point.

Of course, the investigator didn’t try very hard to find Emily either. He wasn’t exactly honest himself, after all. The Mafia paid him one thousand euros a month to keep his mouth shut.

This was the price paid for Emily to go through hell.

-------

By the time Emily was ready to wake up, the first steps of conditioning had already taken effect. Her mind was mercifully wiped of the memories of her experience, but had also lost most of its ability to react emotionally. She would gain that back eventually, but for now….

“What is your unit designation?” asked Dr. Bianchi with James standing behind him in a pinstriped black suit with white shirt and red tie.

“I am unit number 020100,” replied the girl mechanically. “Designation: Caterina.”

“What is your serial registration number?”

“My serial registration number is IA0451RA7862.”

“What is your purpose?”

“My purpose is to serve the Social Welfare Agency to combat terrorism directed against the current Italian government.”

“What is your handler’s name?”

“Lieutenant James Spettro.”

“What is your favorite color?” asked James.

“Blue.”

James was surprised. “Wait, seriously? Doc, I thought you said that the conditioning wiped their personality.”

“Partially, Mr. Spettro, but the baseline personality is still there,” replied Dr. Bianchi. “Their personality redevelops as you interact with them, but many the mundane emotional ties towards food, colors, places, and things are left as they were to prevent total personality collapse. It’s easier to build a relationship based on a somewhat existing personality rather than no personality at all.”

“I guess that makes sense. When does she get released?”

“We usually keep the newcomers in an isolation ward to allow them to bond with their handlers better,” said Bianchi. “She’s free to go immediately.”

“Excellent, let’s get going then,” said James, rubbing his hands together enthusiastically. “Thanks for all the help, Dr. Bianchi. Caterina, follow me.”

The newly-formed fratello walked in silence. James considered the girl walking beside him. She was dressed in the standard uniform for Section Two: white shirt, black skirt, stockings, black shoes. On their way out, they had picked up several sets of these uniforms. Caterina stared impassively forward. It struck James suddenly that the girl was otherwise normal in every respect. On the one hand, this was a testament to her tactical value and the skill of Dr. Bianchi and his team. On the other, it was extremely disconcerting that what essentially amounted to a super weapon could look so mundane.

“Is there something wrong, sir?” asked Caterina.

“No,” said James thoughtfully. “I was just thinking that you’re very normal looking.”

“I am built to facilitate infiltration, sir,” said Caterina. “This is to be expected.”

“Well yeah,” said James, shrugging. “That doesn’t mean it’s not striking.”

“I fail to see how it is unusual, sir.”

“Nevermind.”

The fratello lapsed into silence.

“Sir, may I call you James when we aren’t on a mission?” asked Caterina.

“You can call me James whenever you want, Caterina,” said James, smiling encouragingly at her. “I’m not big on formality.”

“Thank you… James. I appreciate the privilege.”

“Caterina, look at me.” James stopped in the middle of the hallway, which was deserted, and placed both hands on Caterina’s shoulders. “You must understand that I do not think of you as a machine. You may be a weapon, but you are still MY weapon.

I used to be a soldier before I came here. My weapons were my life, and that still holds true today.Things like calling my by my name or asking me for help are things that you have a right to because, not a privilege, because you are mine and you deserve it. Do you understand?”

Caterina blushed involuntarily. All cyborgs were conditioned to unconditionally love their handlers, after all, and such a declaration of possession was, to her, absolutely mind blowing. To some extent, it snapped her out of the conditioning-induced unfeeling due to the sheer weight of the declaration to Caterina.

“S-sir, er, James, I-,” she stammered. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” said James, folding her into a hug. “Just do your best, okay?”

“I promise!” said Caterina with determination. “I’ll never let you down, sir!”

“Good. Now come on, we need to get to your room. I want to get started on your training as soon as possible.”

-----

The days passed without much event. Other than frequent checkups by the doctors to ensure that Caterina’s muscles and nerves were all functioning, there was little disturbance in the isolation ward of the hospital, where Caterina was staying until she could transfer to the dorms. James visited as often as he could between meetings with Jean about the rules and customs surrounding Section Two. James found most of these meetings extremely boring and preferred spending time with Caterina, who was much more entertaining once the drugs wore off.

Caterina turned out to be a very intelligent girl, having a talent for deductive and inductive forms of reasoning. James didn’t want to take her to the shooting range yet, safety with firearms was paramount and he couldn’t risk the range with the possibility Caterina’s motor functions could fail. Instead, he supplied her with textbooks in math, history, and science and mind puzzles based on famous heists pulled by such great criminals as John Dillinger, Ken Leishman, Neal Caffrey, and Danny Ocean.

“Shooting is extremely important,” James had said, “but our primary mission profiles are infiltration, information burglary, and signals management and interception. You’re shooting will need to be good, but your mental faculties will need to be top notch. If I learned anything when I worked for the CIA, it was that an educated infiltrator is a living infiltrator.”

And so Caterina read and read and read. Then she practiced some of the math and science questions, then read some more. It got a little boring sometimes, but Caterina didn’t want to fail her handler. It helped James swung by as often as possible to help and give her something fun to do that was simultaneously educational.

“What do you have for me today?” asked Caterina brightly as James walked in, putting aside a book on algebra and looking eagerly toward him.

“One of Caffrey’s classics: The Caffrey Bond Heist,” replied James. “But first, how’s the algebra coming?”

“I’ve been working on some of the problems and they all seem pretty simple,” replied Caterina. “Factoring is the easiest, I just need to watch out for problems that hide the obvious.”

“That’s pretty much math in a nutshell,” said James, shrugging. He had never actually like math as an art form, but greatly appreciated its power as an analytical tool. “Now, about that bond heist.

The Caffrey Bond Heist was Neal Caffrey’s first big con. Evidence shows that before this, Caffrey’s experience had been limited to primarily small time cons like Find The Lady and the Fiddle Game. The Bond Heist was fairly basic in execution, proving that…” James paused for Caterina to fill in the blank.

“...that the simpler the heist, the more likely it is to go according to plan,” finished Caterina promptly.

“Good. Now the tricky thing with bond heists is perfecting the forgery, which requires paper, ink, and a deft hand….” And so on. James would walk Caterina through the heist, pausing now and again for her to infer or deduce a point and explaining it if she missed. She learned quickly and, given two similar heists, could easily determine how the second one worked if she had already learned from the first one. Granted, it wasn’t particularly difficult, given the relative simplicity of the plots being presented, but it was a good baseline to reference too for later lessons.

There was, however, the small issue of her puppy-like devotion towards his person and general welfare to overcome. On the second to last day of Caterina’s stay at the hospital, James obtained a bloody nose.

Caterina freaked out, flying into a semi-panic as she leapt from the bed to get a box of tissues. Fortunately for her, the muscles had recovered well and, coupled with the sheer adrenaline rush, allowed her to run at near top speed, skidding to a stop in front of the tissue box and dashing back, ripping the cover off and tearing several sheets out which she pressed to James’ nose to stem the bleeding. Overall, this had taken about thirty seconds, during which James watched with confusion and slight amusement.

“Er, it’s just a slight bloody nose, Caterina,” said James nasally as he sat her down. “I am fifty-three, you know. I can handle it.”

“But you’re BLEEDING,” Caterina wailed, curling her fists in the sheets. “There’s BLOOD.”

“It’s just a little blood,” said James. “I’ve been shot before you know.”

“By who?!” growled his cyborg. “I’ll KILL them.”

“They’re already dead, I shot them back,” deadpanned James. “What’s with the protectiveness?”

“You’re my handler! You can’t get hurt!”

“Of course I can get hurt, we’ll be getting shot at!” protested James. “Caterina, calm down. You have to accept that I’m going to be attacked and possibly injured when we’re on the job. This is a fact of life for every soldier. You can’t let a fear of your buddies getting injured get in the way of completing the mission.”

“We’re not just ‘buddies’,” Caterina argued back. “We’re handler and cyborg! Fratello! I- you- the bond between us-!”

“What about it?”

“I don’t know how to explain it!” snapped Caterina, crossing her arms and looking away in distress. “I just hate seeing you get hurt in any way. Even if its just a nosebleed, I still can’t stand it. I’m supposed to protect you, but you’re still bleeding and I can’t do anything about it! I-!”

“Hey,” said James, putting a hand on hers. “I love you too, ‘kay?”

There was a long moment of silence.

“...what?” asked Caterina quietly.

“I said I love you too,” said James, ruffling Caterina’s hair. “Being concerned for my safety that much, it’s obvious you love me and care for me, right? I feel the same way.”

“I.. I didn’t want to presume anything.”

“Hey, we’re fratello, right? Brother and sister? Well, I’m a bit old for that, but father and daughter works just as well. I gave you my last name for more than just romanticism, you know.”

“Th-thank you,” said Caterina, her mood going from distraught to gloriously happy. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Bah, there’s nothing to be said,” replied James. “And look, my nosebleed is stopped already.” He held out the tissue to Caterina for her inspection. She examined it carefully.

“Mm, it’s clotting quickly,” she said before throwing it into the trash. “Do you have a lot of nosebleeds?”

“Yup,” sighed James, sitting back in his chair with an air of reservation. “Every year around this time. I blame the heat.”

-----

Caterina was released to the main dorms the next day. It turned out that her room lacked a room mate, so she would still be alone for awhile until a new fratello got recruited. Caterina was okay with this. James insisted on escorting Caterina there. When asked why, he jokingly said that he’d never been in the dorms and wouldn’t be able to find her if he didn’t go there personally. But before they could leave, Dr. Bianchi had to give them a rundown on Caterina’s specs.

“Now, Caterina, you are a Second Generation model,” Bianchi began. He placed a large stack of documents on the table as he spoke. “These are your full specifications. They detail your maximum theoretical pull strength, sensory upgrades, and organ replacements, among other things. The most important, however, is the 4G capable, six way cellular transmitter/receiver that’s been implanted into your skull.”

James and Caterina both raised an eyebrow.

“Yes, yes, I know it’s rather unusual, but it’s important for your mission profile. The transmitter is broken up into two sections, one behind each ear, and operated synchronously. They transmit to a jawbone speaker system that transmits sound from your jaw directly into your inner ear, so you don’t need a headset. Additionally, you can easily synch a throat mike to your transmitters, making it possible to speak without making any audible noise. Note, however, that the transmitters had to be dispersed across your cranium, whereas they’re normally packaged into a smaller device. This has thinned the bone in your skull and, despite the nano-fibers that are woven into every cyborg, you’re still more vulnerable to gunfire to the head than any of your sister-cyborgs.”

“That’s good to know,” said James. “Caterina, in the future, you’ll need to keep your head down if we’re attacked. We’ll work out tactics later, but the point is to stay in cover. You understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“Moving along,” continued Bianchi, “you may have noticed that there are ridges at the base of your ears. To open them, you have to push in and slide up. This will expose a USB port that you can use with a computer to transmit data to any system within range of a cellular tower. Each channel operates independently and can link to the combat radios we use in the field. Every transmission is scrambled with a five million character random number generator that rearranges the data stream to secure it.”

“Is there an operating system that goes with this?” asked James, having Caterina hold still as he popped open one of the slots. Exactly as advertised, it popped out and slid up, exposing the USB port.

“Sort of,” said Bianchi. “There’s some firmware and a small scale hacking and data suite loaded with a data suite packaged with the transmitters. The data suite allows your cyborg to monitor transmissions, listen in on phone or radio conversations, and perform other low to moderate level signals intelligence work. However, it needs a computer to work. We can’t be putting electronics in your body willy-nilly.”

“Speaking of which, what’s the power supply for these things?” asked James, sitting back down besides Caterina.

“Things,” said Bianchi cryptically. “Classified things that I really don’t want to risk getting out. I’m sure you understand.”

“Perfectly.”

“We’ve also upgraded Caterina’s olfactory, auditory, and visual systems to a standard beyond that of most Generation One cyborgs,” continued Bianchi. “All units get upgraded, but due to nature of your operations, we figure that these three senses would be most important.”

“That’ll be useful. Is there anything else?”

“Nothing that you can’t read later. The stack is indexed, so you only need consult the table of contents.”

“I’ll take that to my office later then,” said James. “Caterina, do you have any questions?”

“Mm, no,” said Caterina. “As long as there’s nothing that will effect my ability to perform on a mission, it’s fine.”

--

The walk to the dorms was uneventful in the extreme. As luck would have it, all the girls were either on a mission or doing a group exercise somewhere in the training grounds. The dorms were completely empty when James and Caterina went to drop off her clothes, the only possessions she had at the moment. James went to change while Caterina put the clothes away. He came back in a dark blue polo shirt with white collar and a pair of white jeans. The two left immediately for the shooting range.

“One of the most important things you will need to have is hand-eye coordination,” stated James matter of factly. “Shooting is the most obvious example, but we’ll also be climbing buildings and natural structures, breaking into buildings, and hacking into signal transmitters. You need to be able to see and react instantly without spending more than a millisecond analyzing the situation. But all things need to be taken a step at a time, so we’ll start off slow.”

James led Caterina to the gun locker.

“We’ll begin with a pistol. I always used the M45 MEU(SOC), but the M9, a militarized version of the Beretta 92F, is more common among the US armed services. I think we should start you on the Beretta 92, as the recoil will be significantly less than larger calibers.” He picked out two of the said handguns and a box of ammo, made sure both were unloaded, and handed one to Caterina to get familiar with. He led her to a stall and continued his lecture.

“Now, when firing any weapon, safety is always paramount. Combat is different, but for range shooting you’re going to need hearing and vision protection-” he produced two pairs of safety glasses and earmuffs with a flourish “-and keep your finger off the trigger and the safety mechanism constantly on.” He gave her a look.

Caterina looked up from where she was fiddling with the safety catch. “Oh, sorry.” She flipped the safety back on and pulled her finger out of the trigger guard, letting it rest along side the gun.

“Good. Now, to fire a pistol is to essentially point at the target and pull the trigger. Load your weapon by first sliding a magazine into the bottom of the grip.” James demonstrated with an empty magazine. “Next, pull the slide back with your other hand. This readies the weapon by putting a round into the chamber and cocking back the hammer. Are you following so far?”

Caterina nodded. The initial indoctrination allowed her to recognize what the referenced components were and have a theoretical understanding of how to shoot a gun. Understanding the theory and actually doing it were completely different things, however, and she paid close attention to make sure she didn’t mess up despite her instinctual grasp of the basics.

“Alright, now we’re ready to fire. Point your weapon towards your target, release the safety, then squeeze the trigger.” The pistol clicked. “Now, practice that sequence while I load two magazines. I know your conditioning provides a lot of this as instinct, but I want you to be able to literally do this in your sleep. You never know when you might be ambushed. When I’m finished loading, we’ll try a run with live ammo.”

“What do I do after I’m done with one run?” asked Caterina, “loading” her weapon.

“Unload by pushing the button on the side. Catch the magazine as it falls, pull back on the slide twice, turn on the safety, then put the gun on the board in front of you,” said James, loading a bullet into the first magazine. Caterina nodded, then squeezed the trigger.

The click was somehow significant.

-----

The shooting ended up going well. As was typical for most cyborgs, Caterina picked up the general mechanics of shooting quickly. Soon, the only thing that needed work was aim.

“Well, you’re shooting nine hits out of fifteen rounds,” said James as they walked back to the dorms. “I call that a result. Our first step is to increase that number to fifteen out of fifteen, then we can work on getting a good grouping. How do you like the M9?”

“It’s a good gun,” said Caterina. “But it feels kind of big.”

“Really? Hm, The Px4 is a pretty good gun… we’ll have to see how you do with that tomorrow.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Caterina immediately. “Really, it’s no trouble. I can probably handle bigger.”

“Hm, we should get you an automatic grenade launcher then,” joked James. “That weighs something like forty kilograms. Might actually pose a challenge.”

“Nah, I think a Minigun would be better,” said Caterina, pushing the joke along. “It shoots more bullets.”

“More bullets always good,” affirmed James. “But regardless, I still want you to try the Px4 tomorrow. Now, tonight is apparently meatloaf night at the dining hall, and I hear that it’s actually pretty good….”

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully. The fratello arrived at the dining hall near the end of the First Wave, allowing them to get through the line quickly, although there was a disappointing lack of alcohol for James.

“Someday, I’m introducing you to single-malt whiskey,” James declared with finality as the two of them moved to a table. “It is quite possibly the greatest thing ever.”

Dinner went well, the two of them having a conversation about maths while eating. Caterina had asked for them to sit alone, saying that she wanted to get to know her handler better.

“Well, I’m one of those old men who used to shoot things,” summarized James with a sad smile. “I’m nothing terribly special.”

Caterina privately disagreed. To her, James seemed like the coolest, most intelligent person ever. She didn’t vocalize this, however, understanding that old soldiers like James kept their skeletons firmly in their closets.

They had inevitably drawn attention, however. New people were easy to spot in closely knit communities like Section Two of the SWA. Over the course of the evening, Rico made an appearance, pulling her roommate Henrietta along with. The usual pleasantries were exchanged, during which James and Caterina endeavored to make a positive impression. Rico turned out to be much more gregarious than James originally thought. Like many covert operatives, Rico had a very different work persona than her “civilian” persona. Henrietta was a brown haired and brown eyed girl, shorter than Rico and Caterina by more than a head and apparently rather shy. This only made her all the more endearing to others and James said so when Rico and Henrietta had left.

“You know, Henrietta could have been a good candidate for our missions as well,” he said.

“Why do you say that?” asked Caterina, trying to ignore the hot lance of jealousy that she could feel.

“Well you have to admit, she’s got the ‘I’m cute and harmless don’t shoot me!’ look down pat,” said James, looking amusedly over his drinking glass at Caterina. “Don’t be jealous, Caterina; it’s a little kid thing.”

“I’m not a little kid!”

“I meant the cute-and-harmless bit, not your jealousy,” said James. “Although that’s a bit immature as well. Everyone has different talents, Caterina. Know what ones are your and how to use the talents of others instead of wishing to be ‘better’. You’ll live a happier life and get more done.”

“Yes, sir,” said Caterina, abashed. “I’m sorry for-”

“I understand, and expected it to happen,” said James, waving it off. “Conditioning is a double edged sword; it helps you do your best, it’s true, but it also can cause conflict between operatives. It’s our job as handlers to make sure it doesn’t become an issue on the battlefield. Now eat your vegetables.”

Caterina finished eating her vegetables and, after James finished, the fratello went back to their quarters. James walked Caterina back, the two walking in companionable silence. It seemed that neither of the two were big conversationalists and preferred to keep quiet.

“We’ll go shooting again tomorrow morning,” said James when they reached Caterina’s room. “But in the afternoon, I’ll give you a crash course on hacking. There’s also some curricula the Agency wants you to learn, so we’ll have to plan around that. When do you plan on being up?”

“I’ll be ready whenever you come for me, James,” said Caterina, nodding deferentially.

“You need to set a morning routine, Caterina,” said James. “It’s dangerous, but it has to happen in order to actually do anything in life.”

“Mm, okay then,” mused Caterina. “If we’re going shooting then to the computer lab, we’ll need to get up early so we can have enough time for lunch before getting in a good chunk of time for learning afterwards. Do you think you can come at eight AM before we go shooting?”

“Very good,” said James. “That’s a very complete thinking out of the next day. I’m surprised, to tell you the truth.”

“I dunno, it just popped into my head,” said Caterina. “It was like I’d done it all before….”

“Probably the conditioning,” said James. “That solves so many of our problems, doesn’t it?”

“It’s useful.”

“Well, have a good night’s sleep. Good night.”

“Good night.”

After Caterina shut the door, James’ face turned grim. That wasn’t conditioning talking, that was bleed through from Caterina’s past life. She had probably been a pretty good student, judging by the level of forethought that just happened. James would gladly call himself a murdering son of a bitch, but he took pains to avoid those who had a future to look forward too and try to help those whose future he could provide through his meddling. This girl… she’d been brutally ripped from whatever home she once had, a home where she could have gone to much greater things, then thrust into this world of death and intrigue without a memory of her past and trained to follow like a dog on a leash.

Call him hypocritical, but this was just cruel.

“Ah well,” he muttered to himself as he walked away. “There’s nothing I can do to change the past. Better to push ahead as best I can.”

Meanwhile, Caterina prepared for bed. As she changed her clothes, she sang a little tune to herself.

“Our romance won’t end on a sorrowful note.

Though by tomorrow you’re gone, the song is ended but, as the song writer wrote:

The melody lingers on.

Now they may take you from me, I’ll miss your fond caress.

Though they make take you from me I’ll still possess...”

...The way you wear your hat,
The way you sip your tea,
The mem'ry of all that…
No, no, they can't take that away from me!

The way your smile just beams,
The way you sing off key,
The way you haunt my dreams….
No, no, they can't take that away from me!

We may never, never meet again
On the bumpy road to love,
Still I'll always, always keep
The mem'ry of…

The way you hold your knife,
The way we danced 'til three.
The way you changed my life!
No, no, they can't take that away from me, no…

They can't take that a…

way…

from…

me…...



Closing Credits: “The Way You Look Tonight”, composed by George and Ira Gershwin, feat. Fred Astaire.

[Author's Notes: Re-edited based on a list of suggestions from John_(numbers). Thanks for the help!]


Last edited by El Conservatore on Wed 13 Feb 2013 - 23:37; edited 8 times in total
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Il Direttore

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Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


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Re: VOID

Post by Alfisti on Sun 8 Jul 2012 - 6:07

Had a skim, and will take a more in-depth look at a later date. Liking
what I see so far, and got a kick out of the mention of Caffery (which
reminds me, I really need to catch up with the last season of that
before jumping into the next), as he was one of the inspirations for
Jethro.

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Sun 8 Jul 2012 - 9:12

Thanks for the nice words, Alfisti. Let's hope you don't notice something completely stupid on my part when you read through again. What did you think of the cellular implants?
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Re: VOID

Post by Alfisti on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 5:52

El Conservatore wrote:Thanks for the nice words, Alfisti. Let's hope you don't notice something completely stupid on my part when you read through again. What did you think of the cellular implants?
Certainly an interesting idea, I guess as long as they can power them and not nuke her brain in the process... does that mean she has to go to sleep if she ever winds up on an aeroplane to turn it off though? Razz

Honestly, it depends on how you handle it, and I'll probably wait to see how that goes before passing full judgement. In some ways I could see it being very useful, particularly if Caterina only needs to listen in, or during multi-fratello/person operations. In others... well lets just say gadget-averse Jethro + Monty would probably consider having a transmitter/receiver welded into your skull as a liability; but their view is tempered by their own role, experiences, personal biases; and a distinct lack of team-player-ness.

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 8:47

Well, I'm doing a bit of a editing job at the moment, but one of the things I added was that the receiver makes it possible for Caterina to be hurt from a non-ocular headshot (Q-branch had to disperse its components across her skull in order to not have a module sticking out of her head). Not killed flat out, but injured pretty seriously nonetheless. Thoughts?
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Re: VOID

Post by ElfenMagix on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 16:59

I think I failed someone for posting their stories on the wrong place.
With that said, this is more of less the right place to put such stories, but it has to be labeled as such! I thought I would walk in here and discuss cyborg and mission groupings and compared notes.

So... ARGH!!!

I'll read it later and see what I say about it.

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 17:23

@ElfenMagix wrote:I think I failed someone for posting their stories on the wrong place.
With that said, this is more of less the right place to put such stories, but it has to be labeled as such! I thought I would walk in here and discuss cyborg and mission groupings and compared notes.

So... ARGH!!!

I'll read it later and see what I say about it.

Well, it IS in the Library. The Library is where all the fanfics go....
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Re: VOID

Post by John_234 on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 18:22

El Conservatore wrote:Well, I'm doing a bit of a editing job at the moment, but one of the things I added was that the receiver makes it possible for Caterina to be hurt from a non-ocular headshot (Q-branch had to disperse its components across her skull in order to not have a module sticking out of her head). Not killed flat out, but injured pretty seriously nonetheless. Thoughts?

The brain bucket is always a sensitive part of a cyborg. For example, even if a shotgun slug doesn't penetrate an armored skull, it would probably mess up the brain and CNS with a massive concussion. Rifle rounds would probably blow through it in short order as well, depending.

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Episode 1: In Which We Skip Several Weeks Into the Future and Observe our OCs on the Job

Post by Il Direttore on Mon 9 Jul 2012 - 18:37

“Caterina, status update,” whispered James from his position atop a roof in Verona.

“I’m on the roof,” replied Caterina, coming through as if she was standing right behind James due to the high sensitivity throat mike she was wearing. Both were in full combat gear. James was sporting black with an MP5 and a Beretta 92FS strapped to his body, while Caterina was also in black but using an Beretta Px4 Storm. “Popping the window now.”

“Don’t forget, the mark’s residence is rigged with a silent alarm system that we can’t block without being obvious that we were here. You’ll have to open the window without tripping off the detector imbedded in the window frame.”

“Understood, stand by for break-in,” replied Caterina, lowering herself down to a second floor window overlooking a back street. The mark was being rather obvious in this case, having new, modern windows installed with aluminum frames to prevent wear. The security system was pretty advanced too, capable of sending an extremely discreet silent alarm signal to the relevant security personnel that could only be blocked by inserting code into the system or cutting the wires for the alarm, both of which would be obvious upon closer inspection.

The door locks were incredibly basic, however.

Caterina shook her brown hair, tied back into a pony-tail, off her shoulder as she gently picked at the lever holding the window shut.

“Fairly shoddy for a Padania operative with such sensitive intel in his house,” Caterina thought to herself. “Step one to being a competent terrorist: have actual locks on your windows.”

The lever was fixed with a spring and a pressure switch. The spring was easy enough, the pressure switch less so. This was Caterina’s fifth job of such kind, and despite all the practice she had back at SWA Headquarters, it still was a little tricky in the middle of the night with the added pressure of a possibly massive source of information going dark.

Still, they could always send Henrietta in with the P90 if things went to hell. She and Jose were across the street in an alley with the SWA Standard Issue Utility Van.

But all things considered, it would be highly preferable to do this quietly.

The mission was fairly simple on paper. Break in, use 4G to transmit data to James, break out, leave. The complicating factor was that the mark would be at home while this happened and they didn’t know where he kept his laptop. For all they knew, the mark slept with the thing.

Then again, the Agency’s practice apartments were getting very boring. Caterina could use a challenge.

Flicking out a palette knife, Caterina slid it into the space between frame and window, then pressed tightly down on the button, applying enough pressure to simulate closure. She then used a second, smaller knife to turn the catch, opening the window. This she eased open while maintaining pressure, a slightly tricky but overall simple, maneuver when hanging from the roof. Caterina wedged herself on the edge of her shoes inside the frame, then fished out a roll of duct tape and fixed the palette knife in place with the handle facing inwards. With this done, she could breathe easier. Barring something stupid like accidentally kicking the thing, the alarm was adequately fooled into staying off. The screen came off next, popping off easily and, with some quick action by Caterina, sliding quietly down to rest on the carpet. Caterina tentatively poked her head in and looked around the room she’d chosen to pop in at.

It was the living room, which Caterina already knew from her initial surveillance. She also knew that there was a passive infrared scanner in the corner across from the window. While normally this would be rather difficult to bypass without, again, being obvious, the techies at the Agency were not just making fake humans all day.

“Behold, plebians,” she whispered. “For I have an app for that.” She pulled a roll up LCD touchscreen and battery, with hardwired USB cable, out of her equipment pouch, then reached behind her ear and opened the slot that allowed her implants to connect to the world. Into this she plugged the USB cable, then powered up the screen. This activated SigSweep, a program that used her 4G transmitters to find and isolate signals associated with a certain type of product. Among the very long list were wireless motion detectors which, as was typical for most consumers, were used in this mark’s house.

“Signal isolated… and... jammed,” whispered Caterina triumphantly. “Control, all motion detectors have been jammed in the building.”

“Copy that, green light on entry,” replied James, giving her the go ahead on entering the house. Working quickly, Caterina detached herself from her climb rope and hopped into the building, landing lightly on the balls of her feet. Before she left, Caterina turned and closed the window, put away her palette knife and duct tape, replaced the screen, and secured it with the latch. Unless you were expecting a break in, the window appeared to be the exact same as it was before Caterina had entered through it. With that business taken care of, Caterina moved towards the hallway, peaking around the corner before stepping into the hallway.

“Hallway clear, preparing snake-cam.” The snake-cam was a high quality fiber scope used to conduct inspections of small areas and, at the Agency, to perform tricky surgeries on injured operatives. James and Caterina had repurposed one of them for their missions, allowing them to scope out areas before going in. Now Caterina pushed the snake-cam underneath the door and used it to look around inside.

“Jackpot. This is the office,” she whispered. “Preparing to enter.”

“Negative!” hissed James. “Check for pressure plates!”

“Negative on that, sir,” replied Caterina, looking around the edge of the door. “There’s a ridge on the jamb that the door braces against, I can’t get any tools in. With all due respect, sir, it’s unlikely that the mark would rig his office door. There’s too much risk of forgetting to shut it at night and tripping the alarm accidentally.”

“We can’t say that for certain.”

“But on balance, sir.”

“...confirmed, it doesn’t make very much sense. Green light on entry.”

“Going.”

Caterina gently eased the door knob open and pushed. The door swung slowly and quietly open, leaving just enough space for Caterina to edge in before shutting the door. Her small frame helped here, as she only needed a few inches of space to get in.

“I’m in. Looks like the mark uses a router. Plugging you in now.” Caterina placed a small scanning device into the router. This would allow James to perform a low profile ping of the network without triggering any digital security systems.

The bug worked by searching for any latent wifi connections. Most computers maintained a low-power connection to the last saved network while they were in sleep mode. If the mark’s laptop was in the house, it would be visible if you had the skills to find it. Fortunately for James, he was one of those people.

“Two possibles,” said James. “Also a DVR and something called a ‘SlingBox’.”

“Aren’t those the things that allow you to watch TV from anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection?” asked Caterina.

“I guess,” shrugged James. “You would know better than me. Now on to the job. Your first possible is a server. It should be in the office.”

“Understood. Any idea what model?”

“Mogitech LX4. Pretty classy.”

“You would know.”

“Why thank you.”

“...And there it is,” Caterina whispered triumphantly as she removed the ping device. “Alright! It’s even got a USB port for convenient access! Let me just plug myself in….”

“I’ll never get used to hearing you say that,” muttered James. “Although I wouldn’t be surprised if we see ‘Etta with a low caliber gatling gun attached to her arm.”

“She does favor the suppression tactic over all others,” whispered Caterina wryly as she connected the server to signal two via her roll up LCD. “Go on the server.”

“Searching… and we got nothing,” sighed James. “Lots of porn and pirated movies, but otherwise nothing we need.”

“Anything good in there?” asked Caterina.

“Caterina, you’re not stealing porn from the mark.”

“I meant movies, but if you want…”

“Get back to work, I’ll see if I can try and download you one of the James Bond films he has.”

“I saw Casino Royale once. It was alright,” whispered Caterina as she unplugged herself and let James work through the wifi. The USB connection allowed for a faster search, but downloading a 2 GB movie or two could work off the wifi without a hitch.

“He’s got a pretty high quality version here. Try and find the mark’s bedroom, the laptop is probably in there.”

“That’s going to be troublesome,” sighed Caterina. “This guy is officially an asshole for doing that.”

“Language, Caterina.”

“But it’s true!”

“Regardless,” said James, rolling his eyes. “You can’t get in the habit. Normal people don’t call others assholes because they’re an inconvenience.”

“Fine,” Caterina whispered in exasperation. “The guy is officially an in-con-ve-nience for sleeping with his laptop.”

“Thank you,” said James as Caterina moved to the next door over.

“Don’t mention it. Snaking now… just the bathroom, nothing of interest.”

“Copy that, move on.”

“Moving… snaking… there we go. Bedroom located. Mark is asleep, laptop is on table across the room. Permission to enter?”

“Granted. Do it quietly.”

“Of course.” Caterina eased the door open, turning to knob so slowly that the latch didn’t click as it passed the frame. Opening it just a fraction, she slid inside noiselessly and cat-stepped to the computer. She fished a pair of headphones out of her belt and plugged them into the laptop’s headphone jack, effectively muffling any boot-up noises, then turned the laptop to face away from the mark and opened the lid, draping a black cloth across the screen as she did so to block out the light. The cloth was thin enough that it was translucent to her enhanced eyes when it was backlit, but thick enough that it blocked the vast majority of the screen’s brightness, preventing it from waking up the mark.

The laptop had been on sleep mode, so it opened to the log in screen immediately.

“Preparing to hack,” breathed Caterina, opening her second USB port and plugging a small PDA into it, then plugging the PDA into the mark’s laptop. “Looks like a standard MS-DOS system. Running script… passcode found.” Caterina smiled to herself as she typed in the mark’s password and opened her transmitters to James’ laptop. A selection screen popped up on the PDA, giving her a list of check-boxes to choose which files to download. She unchecked all boxes except for the mark’s emails, photos, web messenger logs, and personal documents, all of which would provide the best clues as to what the Padania were up to. “Okay, ready to download.”

“Green light on download,” answered James, signaling that his computer was reading a strong connection and was ready to receive any files Caterina sent over. Caterina tapped the send button.

Now came the tensest part of the operation. While tethered to the laptop, Caterina was completely immobile. If the mark woke up, pretty much the only thing she could do was shoot him, which would make all of the data downloaded relatively useless.

Fortunately, this was not one of those missions where things went straight to hell. Instead, the download finished smoothly and Caterina quickly put the computer back into sleep mode, removed everything plugged in, and returned the laptop to its original position. She then exited the room, shut the door, and exited through the front, locking the door as she went.

The street was deserted. Caterina quickly went into the nearest alleyway, climbed a building, and retrieved her harness and rope gear before making for the van. As she worked her way over, hopping from one roof to the next with relative silence and ease, she could see James gathering his equipment and making his way over as well. The two of them met up in front of the van’s back door and exchanged a fist bump before knocking. Henrietta opened the door with P90 ready, but quickly pulled the gun away and safed it before letting them in.

“How’d it go?” she asked as Jose started the car.

“Flawless,” replied Caterina with pride. “Textbook operation. In, out, and nobody will ever know.”

“You know we could hear you over the radio,” said Jose with a smile. “You don’t really think Henrietta would mount a gatling gun on her arm, do you?”

“Eh, sorry Henrietta,” said Caterina with some regret. “I know you do good work. I was just poking some fun.”

“It’s fine,” said Henrietta, smiling and laughing a little as Jose pulled away and the two fratelli drove home. “You didn’t say it to be mean. Besides, I DO use the most ammo out of all of us on missions. But don’t you find it kind of disappointing that you never get to fire you weapon?”

“With our mission profile, firing a single round can be grounds for failure,” said James with a sigh. “It’s actually very stressful.”

“Still, we do good,” said Caterina. “As good as we can, anyway.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, the analysts are crying with joy back at headquarters,” said Jose. “You two are becoming instrumental for our fight against the Padania.”

Caterina blushed, pleased but embarrassed at the praise. “Ah, well, thanks for the complement, but I’m sure there are others who are just as useful. Jethro and Monty do a lot more hunting down leads than we do.”

“Whatever you say,” said Jose, rolling his eyes with a smile. “Henrietta, do you want to sit in front?”

“Yes, thank you Jose!” Henrietta said happily, putting her P90 away and climbing over the seats to ride shotgun. In the back, James leaned back against the wall of the van, letting himself drop into sleep like so many other times during exfiltration after a mission. Caterina began to pack her gear, seeing as she wasn’t quite ready to sleep. As she did so, she sang quietly to herself.

“Some... day,
when I’m awfully low,
when the world is cold,
I will feel a glow, just thinking of… you…
and the way you look tonight….”

...yes your love… ly,
with your smile so warm.
And your cheeks so soft.
There is nothing for me, but to
love… you. And the way you look
to-night.

With each word,
your tender-ness grows,
Tearing my fear... a-part….
And that laugh,
that wrinkles your nose,
It touches my foolish heart.

Love… ly,
never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
Cause I love you!

Just the way you look... tonight.

Mm, mm, mm, mm,
Just the way you look…

to…

night…..



Closing Number: “The Way You Look Tonight”, written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, feat. Frank Sinatra

[Author's Notes: As you can see, Caterina on the job is extremely different from Caterina off the job.]


Last edited by El Conservatore on Tue 10 Jul 2012 - 17:27; edited 1 time in total
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Il Direttore

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Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


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Re: VOID

Post by Alfisti on Tue 10 Jul 2012 - 5:38

Is this the bit where I point out that there are no vehicles allowed in Venice that don't float or fly? As in, not even a bicycle?

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Tue 10 Jul 2012 - 10:04

Yes. Yes it is.


Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit.


Okay, how about a Standard Issue SWA Utility Gondola?
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Il Direttore

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Re: VOID

Post by Alfisti on Wed 11 Jul 2012 - 5:04

I think a small powerboat or cabin cruiser might be appropriate...



...Just, you know; close the curtains. The SWA has been known to use them before.

Alternately Jose and 'Etta could set up in a house or hotel room nearby. Venice is a tourist town so there's plenty of easy accomodation.

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Wed 11 Jul 2012 - 8:50

That boat is ridiculously cool.

I decided that the setting for this fic wasn't important enough to warrant a detailed description of transportation, so I just switched cities. However, this information will be extremely useful, as I intend to visit Venice at another time.
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Il Direttore

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Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


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Episode 2: In Which Caterina Participates in a Small Tea Party

Post by Il Direttore on Mon 16 Jul 2012 - 1:48

-------

“How do you like life at the dormitories?” asked James as he and Caterina hung in the dark from the rafters below an elevator car. Both were dressed in black Nomex and wore Nappa Leather gloves for this job.

“It’s pretty good,” said Caterina, fiddling with a glow stick. “A little bit lonely, since there’s an odd number of cyborgs and I have my own room, but that’s also kind of nice since I can organize my things the way I want.”

“You know, I hear that some of the first generation girls meet up after training and missions for tea,” remarked James. “You should consider joining them. Ah, here comes our window. Ready?”

“Of course,” said Caterina. “Cracking glow stick.”

James and Caterina cracked their glow sticks as the power went *fwoooooooooooo*.

“Drop.”

James and Caterina dropped their glow sticks, then let go of the rafters. Caterina dropped first. James counted to three, then let go as well. Air whipped past James as he fell feet first. Below him, he could see Caterina’s demeanor shift from conversant thirteen year old to professional. Due to her enhanced physiology, she could withstand a four story drop, although it wouldn’t be the most comfortable experience. However, James couldn’t. The plan, therefore, was for Caterina to land first, then turn and catch James. This was a much more difficult proposition in practice than it was in theory, however, so it was a very good thing that Caterina had enhanced instincts from the conditioning.

Caterina landed with a thud, then whirled and braced herself before James, having twisted in midair to face the ground with his back.

For a brief moment, Caterina felt a shot of nervousness jet through her body. If she missed, James would break his back.

She set herself. She just wouldn’t miss.

*thud*

“Good catch,” said James, rolling off of Caterina as the power flicked back on with a *szwooooooo*. Caterina coughed and sat up.

“Thanks,” she said, brushing the dust off her clothes and hair. “So. About those servers.”

“Right.” The two of them were stealing a large cache of financial data from a black-market money launderer and investor known as Anthony Carrolio. Said information was stored on a large bank of servers mixed in with Carrolio’s legitimate business deals, which also happened to be investments.

James and Caterina wheeled apart the doors of the elevator. That is to say, Caterina pried them open, then James engaged the manual override from the other side.

“But seriously, you should try and meet the others later,” said James.

“Maybe,” Caterina said absent-mindedly, concentrating more on the hack than on the conversation.

The servers had their own GUI and access terminals; the difficulty was bypassing the Linux-based operating system and integrated security. With one USB Port occupied by the tether cable that linked her to the console, Caterina plugged a flash drive behind her remaining free ear, one of many in her tool belt, that automatically began running a script to shave away bits of the security for analysis, then did the actual analysis and determined the base code that could be used to peel back the security. The flash drive’s data was saved onto another drive that Caterina plugged into the port behind her other ear, which then used it to penetrate the security via another program that systematically deconstructed the code, pushed its way forward, then patched the code together again seamlessly, reaching the log-in page and automatically logging Caterina in as an administrator.

“Excellent,” she said to herself. She exchanged her flash drive for a third one, this time a powerful data mining program that could rapidly find any and all data related to their objective, then sent it to the safehouse.

“Should be a few minutes for a server of this size,” Caterina said, turning around and leaning back against the console, crossing her arms. James was watching her expectantly about something. “What?”

“The tea party?”

“Er,” Caterina said intelligently with a blush, suffering from attitude whiplash as she was suddenly snapped back to thirteen year old girl. “I, uh, well... it’s just that....”

James cocked an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“It’s just that they’re all First Generation, and I’m a Second Generation,” said Caterina awkwardly, scratching her head while scuffing at the ground with her shoe. “It’s kind of... weird, I guess.”

“You’re all cyborgs.”

“Yeah, but they’re better at fighting and stuff, you know? I can’t really kill people that well, so it’s difficult to talk with them.”

“Sure you can kill people. We just haven’t done a very covert assassination yet, but you have the training and the knowledge to do it.”

“Theory is all well and good, but practice is a different animal entirely,” said Caterina, giving James a look and a raised eyebrow. “Didn’t you tell me that the day we broke into Chief Lorenzo’s office?”

“Yes, well,” hedged James. “I suppose that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join in the conversation.”

“How though?” asked Caterina with a sigh. “I don’t want to disrupt their conversation by being new and not knowing anything. That’s really irritating for everyone and I don’t want to be a bother.”

“You’ll always be a bother if you’re the new guy,” said James wisely. “You have to either work your way into the group slowly or impress them with some sort of accomplishment right off the bat. If you don’t feel like you can do the latter, then you’ll have to settle with the former, grit your teeth, and work through the awkwardness.”

Caterina sighed. “Okay. I’ll see about going to tea after we get back. Where are they anyway?”

“They’ll be back the same day we’ll get back,” said James, noting that the program might be getting close to finished and pulling out a bug to plant. It would send an update to Headquarters via encrypted email, piggy-backed on data packets accessed during daily use, whenever anything Padania related was entered into the server. As he planted it, he said: “Jean has a tendency to synchronize our work-train cycles. I think it’s the control freak in him.”

Caterina slipped back into mission mode as the flash drive beeped at her. “Che. More like the stick up his arse.”

----

The plane ride back to Rome was uneventful, the drive up to Headquarters even more so. This just gave Caterina more time to work herself into something closely resembling a “tizzy” over the oncoming miniaturized tea party.

“Don’t be nervous,” said James as they drove up the long path that appeared to stretch off into the countryside without an end. “Think of it as a mission in subterfuge, if it helps.”

“We haven’t done any of those either,” said Caterina, twisting the hem of her Agency issue skirt, it had turned out that neither of the two liked shopping all that much, into knots while staring fixedly at their car’s logo on the dashboard.

“Eh, then it’s a training mission,” said James, shrugging as he turned their car into the parking lot outside the dormitory. “I don’t hold your hand through those, just keep the same sort of mindset for this.”

The two fell silent as they went through the process of checking in and progressing back to their rooms to fetch toiletries and a change of clothes for a refreshing shower before getting to the work of play. For his part, James intended to relax with a Sinatra album, a bottle of red wine, and silk pajamas inside one of the quieter staff lounges. As he went about the process of getting clean, he considered the strange fact that he had just advised what was essentially a child to treat a social affair as a clandestine mission. Most girls her age were nervous about being the “new girl” in a group, but most also ended up being told to just be themselves and it would all work out. But that wasn’t productive for missions, now was it?

James sighed as he rinsed his hair. Part of the reason they hadn’t been doing deep undercover work was because he wanted Caterina to develop better social skills around people her age, but her instinctive desire to stay away from others and find nooks to hide in hindered that growth. True, it had resulted in several spectacularly successful hacking scripts and search algorithms, but that only got you so far in this line of work. Even if he’d subtly tricked her into doing it, Caterina needed to get used to interacting with others before they could get real work.

James snorted with derisive laughter. It was really messed up the way he treated his cyborg, wasn’t it? Oh well. Weapons did need to be sharpened, after all, even if the whetstone shaved away tiny bits of their base material.

----

Caterina took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, just like she did before a difficult burglary challenge. She could do this. It was exactly like breaking into a house, right? You had to analyze the scene, bypass security, and tread gently to avoid breaking the fine china. The only difference was that breaking the china in here could result in fourteen different reactions, none of which she had any idea how to counter without resorting to running or violence.

Okay, so it really wasn’t like breaking into a house at all. But James wanted her to do this, so she would do so with flying colors.

Probably.

Hopefully.

Maybe?

Caterina gulped, then rapped thrice on the door leading into Triela and Claes’ dorm room, behind which she could hear cheerful conversation. Following her knocks, the conversation ceased, followed by foot steps that clicked on the wood paneled floor. Triela then. She was the only cyborg here with clicky dress shoes.

“Oh, hello,” said Triela as she opened the door, dressed in a white shirt, slacks, and the afore-mentioned clicky dress shoes. “You’re Caterina, right? Can I help you?”

“Well, I heard that some of the Generation One girls have tea after missions when everyone can get together?” said Caterina with a hopeful air. Privately, she thanked the science division for conditioning a talent for social interactions into her. “I was wondering if I could join you? It’s a little lonely being alone since there’s an odd number of cyborgs and I’m the only Generation Two and-”

Triela laughed and patted her on the shoulder, opening the door wider to let her in. “Relax, Caterina, you’re welcome to join us. Come on in and I’ll introduce you.”

Caterina followed Triela into the dorm room, trying not to appear like a total flake. From the perspective of the other girls, she accomplished this admirably; they detected no excessive nervousness from her.

“Hey guys. This is Caterina,” said Triela, her hand still on Caterina’s shoulder as she introduced the new girl. “Say hi.”

The assemblage quietly greeted, chirped, and said hello depending on the voice’s owner.

“Alright, Caterina, names. The one on the bed is Claes-” Claes, a girl with dark brown hair, glasses, and wearing a brown dress over an off-white shirt, waved, looking over the edge of the bed at Caterina with a smile “-the blonde one is Rico-” Rico, dressed in a more utilitarian pair of pants and shirt, also waved, albeit with much more exuberance than Claes had “-and the last one is Henrietta.” Henrietta, another brunette who was actually wearing much the same clothing as Caterina was, waved with a sort of happy medium between Rico’s energy and Claes’ lack thereof.

“We were just discussing Rico’s last mission,” said Triela, guiding Caterina into a chair and pouring her a cup of tea.

“What was it about?” asked Caterina politely, accepting the tea and sipping it without additives first, as was customary in Italy.

“Medium range assassination!” said Rico with enthusiasm. “Jean and I were in Florence and we had to shoot this guy named Salvador Marcone, apparently he’s some big hotshot from Spain, so we were on the roof of this church and he was walking down the street to Mass, right? So Jean spotted for me and I had my SVD and we were lining up the shot when this big bird landed on my rifle because we’d been sitting there so long....”

And so the minutes passed. Caterina found that she preferred the tea without sugar or cream and listened attentively as Rico espoused with vigor the difficulties of shooing away pigeons without giving away your position.

“So finally, Jean got angry and pulled out his pistol and put a silencer on, then shot the bird in the chest. I got a clear shot and pulled the trigger and BOOM-” Rico punched the air “-that bastardo Salvador was missing a head!”

“Calm down Rico,” said Claes, who was apparently capable of reading and listening simultaneously. She peered teasingly over the rims of her glasses at Rico. “You’re putting Caterina off her tea.”

“On the contrary, I find that Rico’s story has caused me to drink more tea than I’ve ever had before,” said Caterina, lifting the teapot’s lid and peering inside. “Oops. I think I accidentally finished off the pot. Sorry about that.”

“It’s no problem, let me get some hot water,” said Claes, getting up and hopping down to the ground. “We’ll probably need new leaves too, the Earl Grey Darjeeling tends to lose it’s flavor very rapidly...” Claes walked off with the tea pot and a tin of leaves, leaving Henrietta, Rico, Triela, and Caterina alone.

“So, Caterina, you’re coming off a mission too, I suppose?” asked Triela, breaking the rapidly becoming awkward silence.

“Oh, yes,” said Caterina with a nod. “We were breaking into the company servers of a man named Anthony Carrolio. He’s been laundering and investing money for a large number of criminals, including the Padania. We needed to find information on his activities, then send it to headquarters to find any leads that will let us take out more Padania.”

“Did you get to kill anyone?” asked Henrietta.

“No,” said Caterina with shrug. “It sounds strange, but I don’t really like killing people.”

“But didn’t your handler get unhappy?” asked Rico. “Whenever I don’t make a clean kill, Jean gets angry.”

“James says that our mission isn’t to kill people, it’s to make sure that they’re where they’re supposed to be when you go out to kill them,” said Caterina with conviction. “You might get to make the killing blow, but if you have bad intel you’ll never get the chance. So if I never get to kill a Padania, it’s okay because I know I’ve given you all the information you need to kill more than I could over my entire service life.” Sitting back with a sigh, she laughed slightly. “Besides, it’s not as if I could ever be as good you three with a weapon. I’m not designed for it.”

“Psh, it’s just practice, really,” said Triela, crossing her arms. “Don’t be so defeatist, I’m sure you’re capable of being just as accurate as Rico is with her Dragunov as long as you spent some time at the range.”

“Heh, maybe,” said Caterina. “It’d be a good hobby, if nothing else.”

“You should try it,” said Henrietta quietly, but with a quiet conviction that seemed to pierce straight to the heart of the matter. “You’ll never know if you don’t try. That’s what Jose says.”

Caterina sighed again, looking off into the distance. She did have enhanced fine motor abilities.... “Perhaps.”

The three fell into silence again, each with their own thoughts, until Claes walked back in again.

“Jeez, what is this, a funeral?” she asked, putting the tea down on the table along with a rather delicious looking cake. “Well, whatever it is, this cake will cheer you up.”

The tea and cake was distributed again, and the sweetness of the cake coupled with the floral and citrusy sent of the tea soon had the girls back into a cheerful mood.

“So Claes, what are you reading this week?” asked Henrietta as she stirred sugar into her tea.

“Book on classical weaponry,” said Claes. “Swords, specifically. The chapter I’m on is about rapiers. It’s quite intriguing, especially the parallels between them and the cyborgs.”

“How’s that work?” asked Triela skeptically.

Claes pushed her glasses up. “Well, for example, you use a shotgun and do well in CQC, right? That’s a rather good parallel with the cinquedea, an Italian dagger from the Renaissance. It was primarily a weapon you used to stab people with, paralleling your CQC ability, and it’s large size and weight means that it can inflict a large and deadly wound, much like your shotgun.”

Claes paused momentarily, before giving Triela a mischievious grin. “It’s large size and weight also parallels that of your-”

Triela gave her a flat look as the assembled girls smothered giggles to avoid Triela’s wrath. “Do not finish that sentence, Claes, or I will punch you.” The threat was utterly defanged by Triela’s grin. The joke had been funny, even if it had been to her disadvantage.

“Anyway,” said Claes airily, changing the topic with a small smile. “Caterina, how have you settled into the Agency?”

“Pretty well, I guess,” said Caterina, “though I get a bit lonely sometimes. There’s only the one Gen. 2 cyborg around, after all.”

“The others are on a bit more conditioning than we are, I think,” said Triela. “Although Beatrice is at the standard level, isn’t she?”

“Probably less, considering how often she misses breakfast,” said Claes.

“I ran into her at the hospital yesterday, actually,” commented Rico. “She punched me really hard for that....”

“Were you jumping down the stairs again, Rico?” asked Triela exhasperatedly. “You shouldn’t do that, you know. You might not get hurt, but if one of the doctors is coming up the stairs...”

Rico smiled sheepishly. “Ehe, sorry Triela. It’s really fun though.”

“Actually, this does provide some insight on Beatrice’s conditioning,” said Claes. “The heavily conditionined members of our little dormitory usually react impassively to such things. Her violent response suggests a low level of conditioning.”

“But Henrietta wouldn’t punch anyone for running into them,” countered Triela. “So your point doesn’t really work.”

“But if Beatrice can be violent, and Beatrice is normally really quiet, does that mean that maybe her conditioning is messed up?” asked Henrietta. “Oh, maybe she really needs to go see the doctors!”

“I doubt it’s anything that serious,” interjected Caterina. “Really, the easiest thing would be to ask her. She’s just down the hall, after all.”

There was a moment of silence.

“I second this motion,” declared Claes, standing up. “Who will come with us?”

“Wait, what?” asked Caterina.

“I will!” volunteered Rico, bouncing to her feet.

“It seems like fun,” agreed Henrietta. “And besides, if she IS on bad conditioning, we can get her to the hospital quickly before anything bad happens.”

Triela heaved an amused sigh. “Well, I guess I better come along too, so you all don’t cause havoc and chaos.” Claes, Rico, and Henrietta strongly protested this notion, but Triela ignored them. “Caterina, you coming?”

The room fell silent again, awaiting Caterina’s response.

“I, uh. Well. That is...”

“You did propose this plan, Caterina,” said Claes. “You’re not backing out?”

Caterina was currently in a state of befuddled shock. She’d prepared herself for something of a tea party where she could stay quietly in the corner and sip tea. Of course, the Generation One girls had been wonderfully kind and she’d had a much easier time opening up and talking, but tramping down the hall to ask another cyborg about her personal details was, for Caterina, a bit much.

Then again, James HAD told her to get better at her social skills.

“Er... alright,” said Caterina quietly.

“Excellent,” said Claes briskly. “Come, sisters of carbon fiber. Let us depart!”

---

It eventually turned out that Beatrice was just a rather serious girl who enjoyed employing flat sarcasm as humor. Afterwards, the five girls had returned to finish off the tea and cake, before spliting off to do various things. Triela and Claes had nothing scheduled, and were probably going to just relax for the afternoon. Rico wanted to go run through the obstacle course for nothing more than the thrill of running at full tilt. Henrietta had to practice her violin.

“Where are you headed then, Caterina?” asked Triela as the other two girls departed.

“I’m not sure,” replyed Caterina. “Might go to the library.”

“Try Where the Red Fern Grows,” said Claes. “It’s fiction and it’s language is a little basic for us, but it has a really good plot and excellent characters.”

“I might do that, thanks,” said Caterina, standing to leave. “Have fun doing nothing, Triela, Claes.”

Caterina began to hum to herself as she walked to the library, a building distinct from Claes’ private collection. Soon, the humming evolved into song that had Caterina unconsciously doing a light dance step to.

“I’ve got the world on a string..!” she began, snapping her fingers, “Sitting on a rainbow...
Got the string around my fin... ger.
What a world!
What a life!
I’m in love..!”

I’ve got a song that I sing!
I can make the rain go,
Any time I move my finger.
Lucky me,
Can't you see I’m in love?

Life is a beautiful thing...
As long as I hold the string.
Id be a silly so-and-so,
If I should ever let it go.

I’ve got the world on a string!
Sitting on a rainbow...
Got the string around my fin-ger.
What a world!
Yeah, this is the life!
Hey now!
I’m,
so in love!


Closing number: “I've Got the World on a String”, by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, feat. Frank Sinatra.


Last edited by El Conservatore on Wed 8 Aug 2012 - 10:37; edited 1 time in total

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"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

- President John F. Kennedy
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Episodlet 1: In Which The First of A Series of Events Involving Beverages Occur

Post by Il Direttore on Wed 8 Aug 2012 - 10:00

----

All fratelli had their own unique “niche”. Rico and Jean, for example, consistently were tasked with overwatch duty. Henrietta and Jose also tended to get placed into the “act-cute-then-kick-ass” roles. It went without saying that Caterina, tailor made to play the role of “cat burglar”, was regularly made to sneak in and out of houses to steal information or smooth the way for a later assault.

What this required, however, was a certain capacity to stay awake and alert throughout the night. To train for this, the James/Caterina Fratello speant every Friday evening watching movies, starting after dinner and going until five o’clock the next morning. None of the movies could be of the thrilling action-adventure type, and were all chosen by some other member of the staff, so there was a high probability that they would be of only passing interest to both members of the fratello. Following their late night vigil, each would go to bed, then write a series of essays analyzing the movies watched and turn them in to Jose, the goal being to have retained enough information about the movies, either in notes or in memories, to write a coherent and high quality essay. This simulated their missions, where being able to pick up on small details that had large ramifications to the whole, while discarding the rest, was critically important.

Unfortunately, this also inevitably made the act of watching movies somewhat more than unpleasant, and it was always a relief when the alarm rang and the two could go to bed. Mornings were, as a consequence, always late and always after the dining hall served lunch and sometimes before dinner. Because of the necessity of food, these all-nighters were always done at James’ apartment in Rome, where food and drink could readily be had.

The Rome Safehouse, as James labeled it, was a single-bedroom affair with a kitchen and a living room. The bedroom was quite large and fit a king-sized bed, a full size wardrobe, a sofa, and a coffee table, all of which was decorated or upholstered in dark, soothing colors.

A substantial bathroom lay across the hall. It was decorated in yellow and porcelain-white, had fleur-de-lise patterened wallpaper, and was offset by blue ceramics on the sink top. It had a full size tub, massaging shower head, and had a window over the tub that opened to a fairly decent view of the city.

The living room, meanwhile, was almost entirely a very clean white with wooden floor boards and dark, leather furniture that faced a large, plasma screen hooked up to a receiver, which was in turn hooked up to a DVD player and a surround sound system. Screen, receiver, and DVD player all rested on an entertainment stand made of white-painted wood and various chromed surfaces.

The kitchen was painted a dark forest green. Eveything that wasn’t wall was also white, sans the burners on the range, but the silverware all had blue handles. The floor was the same wood as the living room. A small table, flush with the wall, possessing three chairs, and a topped by a very life-like artifical potted plant.

On this particular day, James woke before Caterina did. He was awakened, in fact, by a small fist bumping into his chin. Since the apartment had only the one king-sized bed, it had been decided that sharing was the most efficient way for them both to be well rested the next day.

James, wearing a light t-shirt and boxers, rubbed his eyes and turned onto his side to see what Caterina wanted, but she was still asleep and had only bumped into him when she’d rolled over to face him. James was tempted to get up, years of tight timetables training into him the instinctual desire to get up get ready get going.

But he resisted. They had all of Saturday to finish their assignment, really, and while he had slept for ten hours by this point, more sleep couldn’t hurt. For the moment, however, the niggling need to move was keeping him from sleep, so he decided to watch Caterina. Call it creepy if you wanted, but James was a man who didn’t bat an eye at using child prostitutes to get at marks. Sleeping, and only that, with his underage ward and watching her doze was hardly odd in comparison.

Caterina was wearing one of James’ old, coffee stained button down shirts over her underwear, given to her at the end of a Vigil one day and kept ever since. Being fit for a tall, broad shouldered man, the shirt reached down past her fingers and was essentially a dress. A dress with really long arms, seeing as Caterina had to roll the sleeves up five times in order to brush her teeth. Her hair was let loose, splayed across the pillow and tangled in knots and whorls that would need to be brushed out later. The arm that had awakened James had curled back upon his movement, folding to the space between them. Caterina’s lips were slightly parted, her jaw relaxed in sleep. Listening carefully, James could make out the gentle whisper of each breath as she breathed, her chest rising and falling with each one. Beneath her eyelids, James could see the cornea of her artificial eyes flickering back and forth in REM sleep.

Caterina’s eyebrows twitched downwards, her mouth pulling back into a frown. The arm between her and James suddenly pulled back, protectively shielding her chest as Caterina began to whimper quietly in her sleep. First one, then another tear soon traced down her face, sinking softly into the fabric of the pillow.

James’ arm twitched, instinctively reaching to wipe away the tears as they increased in rate and flow. Again, however, he resisted the urge, forcing himself to watch and do nothing as his cyborg cried to herself in her sleep.

Humans they may appear to be, but cyborgs were still weapons in his mind. Not automatons that had to be directed, certainly, and he felt a certain attachment to Caterina that, admittedly, he’d never felt with his guns. But it was important to make the distinction between weapon and human, and Caterina was a weapon, to be treated as such.

James turned away and slipped out of bed. That niggling feeling from before had returned. Time for some coffee before getting started on those essays. The need to get down to business, James told himself, really was a habit that never went away.

-----

The Coffee Cabinet was the third from the right and fifth from the left. On the mornings after a Vigil, this cabinet became the centerpiece of the kitchen. Within stood a ceramic jar with a pound of high quality coffee, roasted in the Italian manner and therefore dark and caramelly sweet on the palette. Beside this jar was an eight-cup French Press, which James preferred because it allowed the oils of the bean to come through clearly, and a granite mortar and pestle, which James found to be a suitable substitute to a burr grinder and had never bothered to replace.

For Caterina, it was the heavy clunk of the jar hitting the counter that pulled her out of REM sleep. The sound of coffee beans being measured into the mortar stirred her to semi-wakefulness, and the smell of freshly crushed coffee as James ground the beans to the right consistency finally managed to wake her.

Sitting up, Caterina wiped at her face with her shirt sleeves. By now, she had grown accustomed to waking up with tears on her cheeks and dismissed it as routine. Whatever had happened that made her cry couldn’t be changed, so it was better to move on. James had taught her that.

Sleepily, Caterina pulled back the covers and made her way out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, following her nose and ears to the smell and sound of coffee.

“H’lo,” Caterina yawned, scrubbing the last trace of tears from her eyes. “How’d you sleep?”

“Well,” said James, nodding to her as he poured the ground beans into the French Press. A kettle on the range was boiling water noisly, but it had yet to reach the proper temperature. “How about you?”

“Okay,” replied Caterina. She stretched, leaning backwards and pulling herself taut all over before relaxing and slouching over, then pulling herself back up to proper posture. “How long ‘till the coffee’s done?”

“The water’s just come ready,” said James, pulling the kettle off the stove and turning off the gas flame. He carefully poured the hot water along the edge of the press, taking care not to pour it directly over the grounds and so scorch them. Filling the press part of the way, he stopped to swirl the contents together, wetting the grounds and allowing him to pour straight down the center, quickly filling the press to the line. He gave the grounds a stir with a small spoon, then put the cover on with the press-rod up.

Caterina glanced at the clock. It was nearing on three in the afternoon. This revelation brought a growl from her stomach. James glanced at her in amusement and reached under the counter for a frying pan.

“Go brush your teeth, then come back and help me fry up some omelets,” he directed, pulling out a cutting board as he did. Caterina, still somewhat groggy, only nodded and padded off, rolling up her shirt-sleeves as she went. Reaching the bathroom, Caterina idly noted that James’ toothbrush and handtowel still damp before going about her business. As she scrubbed, the smell of frying pork belly, probably being rendered into grease for the fry-up, wafted into the bathroom. Caterina’s stomach growled again, and she sped up her rate of brushing. The faster she got done brushing her teeth and, she realized, went to the bathroom, the faster she could eat something.

---

((Author's Note: No closing number this time. The episodlet is mainly here to explore James' thoughts and feelings on the matter.))

((Comment: Paranoid old spies always sleep with a gun))

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"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

- President John F. Kennedy
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Il Direttore

Male

Forum Posts : 1003

Location : Chicago, Illinois, United States

Fan of : Henrietta, Triela

Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


Registration date : 2012-07-03

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Re: VOID

Post by Il Direttore on Wed 8 Aug 2012 - 10:38

Also worth mentioning that I've edited Episode Two.

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"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

- President John F. Kennedy
avatar
Il Direttore

Male

Forum Posts : 1003

Location : Chicago, Illinois, United States

Fan of : Henrietta, Triela

Original Characters : Lieutenant James Spettro/Caterina

Comments : In yon strait path a thousand may well be stopped by three. Now who will stand on either hand, and keep the bridge with me?’ -Horatius


Registration date : 2012-07-03

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Re: VOID

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