Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

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Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sat 31 May 2014 - 21:43

I finally got around to writing, provided with some help, of course, but I can finally get this series off the ground. It may be a while before I can write on my own, but for now, I'll settle for the planning and execution practice. Now, here come the first three chapters of "Roundabout Life"; the story of the Loeb fratello, from Frédéric's viewpoint.


Chapter 1

The French Lieutenant and his second-in-command had arrived in the meeting room with Jean Croce, commenting on the soldiers cooperation with the cyborgs on the field. Keeping the conversation short, he finally said, "I want you to join our agency." 


"You want me to do what?!" the blond aspirant exclaimed, confused on what Jean was saying. "Why would I do something like that?" 


"I think it would be very much in your best interest to join us," Jean said. 


"Best interest? I barely worked with them, and you ask me to join?" 


"And by acknowledging that they exist in the first place, you do realize that you place yourself in a dangerous quandary, right?" Jean slid down into the chair and leaned in close with a stare. "What would you rather have me do, if you were in my place?" 


Frédéric leaned to within inches of Jean’s face, showing a bit of foolishness, and yet some bravery. "I speak no secrets, Mr. Croce. If I let it slip, then shoot me.”


"Shoot you, you say? You underestimate the agency in a very dangerous way." 


"I underestimate no one. I merely speak my mind as is. And I’m telling you, the agency you work with is incredible. I cannot leave my post in France, however." 


"I would not worry about that if I were you. Depending on how I think of you and what you show me, you may not be needing to head back to France." 


"Hm. Smart words. Lieutenant, what are your suggestions?" 


"Well, it would seem that you would be very good to listen very carefully to what Mr. Croce is telling you, aspirant." The Lieutenant gave the man a very slow nod after he finished speaking. 


"Indeed, your Lieutenant seems to understand what is going on here," Jean said, leaning away and turning to the superior officer. "The question is, do you?" 


Leaning back into his chair, Frédéric replied calmly, "My superiors have never guided me wrong. I follow what they say; so if they approve of me working for you, then I shall work with you." 


"A smart decision," Jean said. "Don't think that you won't be continuously evaluated, especially in your early stages as a handler, but if you learn how to follow directions here as you do as a military officer, then you should do well enough." 


"Very well. My name is Frédéric Loeb, if you haven’t caught wind of it, Mr. Croce. I shall depart for Italy first thing in the morning."


"As I said, Mr. Loeb, you are being evaluated." Jean rose from his chair and walked toward the door, Frédéric and his superior officer in tow. "In that light, I would strongly suggest shelving that attitude of yours." 


"Very well." 

*Aspirant = two ranks below lieutenant in the French army.
----------------------------
Chapter 2

After Frédéric announced his departure for the SWA to his fellow soldiers, he headed to somewhere outside Rome, where he met Jean again. 


"Buon giorno, Signore Croce," Frédéric greeted. 


"Mr. Loeb," Jean said with a simple nod, but otherwise no real indication that he acknowledged Frédéric's presence. 


"I understand that I shall be a handler of two, is that correct?" 


"Well, I'm not even certain of your skills in handling a single cyborg. However, given our peculiar situation, that does seem to be the case." 


"Hm. Did you happen to read their biographies?" 


Jean looked up from the stack of documents he was examining. "Are you questioning my preparation for this meeting?" 


"No, sir. I merely am curious to who I will be assigned," Frédéric simply said.

He looked back down at the papers for a moment. "Two cyborgs, as I'm sure you know by now. What I haven't told you is the details of their history." He handed the documents to Frédéric. "One is named Jim Eligino, the other Jamiebel Angkahan, unless you want to change them." He gave Frédéric a cool stare. 


"No, thank you. I wish to know them by their actual names, not a pseudonym," Frédéric responded. He looked though their history. 


"I strongly recommend changing their names, as we do not want to risk them having any unfortunate recognition of their previous lives. But, that is your decision as a handler." 


"Assign them pseudonyms on missions. That way, a compromise can be reached between us.” 


"Hm. very well."


“Also, tell me more about their history." 


“He shook his head. "I'm sure you can read well enough. There is nothing hidden from you there." 


"Touche."


Frédéric looked through some more in Jim and Jamiebel’s files, seeing how they nearly died at the hands of a gunfight, along with seven others, all of whom were picked up by the Agency as well. "Indeed, a bizarre situation, Mr. Croce." 


"Well, it represents the growing problem that Italy has been facing from the terrorist threat lately. Which is why you need to ensure that you train your cyborgs well enough to deal with it." 


Frédéric nodded. "I know this threat; the Padania Republic Faction. Dangerous group, they are. If Jim, Jamiebel and I are to face them, we will need to train hard to be on level with some of the fratello here." 


"Well, then do so. You have my permission to do whatever you feel best, so long as they are effective in the field."


“Understood.” 
-------------
Chapter 3

They finally arrived at the infirmary, where they had the same people from the shooting. Jean and Frédéric arrived at Jim and Jamiebel’s cots. 


"So, what exactly have you done to them?" Frédéric asked. 


"Nothing that particularly differs from the second-generation program we have been running for a while now." Jean said. 


"Second-generation program?" 


"I see you haven't been paying too much attention to the documentation we have provided you earlier, or was your mind on something else." He grumbled under his breath. "In short, the cyborgs are still stronger than the adversaries you will be facing, but not nearly as strong as our original set of cyborgs. Nor are they as durable, which means you will want to ensure they don't get into situations that get them killed, do you understand?" 


Frédéric nodded. "Understood. I will try to push their limits, but nothing beyond that."


"The cyborgs are ready, Mr. Croce, Mr. Loeb," replied one of the doctors. 


The black-haired boy, Jim, was the first to awaken. 


"Wh-where am I?" he grumbled, turning his head to the sides. 


"Hello, Jim," replied the Frenchman, coming into Jim’s line of vision. "I’m Frédéric Loeb, your adopted handler." 


"Hand...ler?" the boy woozily asked.


"Think of me as a father to you and someone else." 


Jim nodded slightly but slowly. "How do you know my name? And who did you come with?" 


Turning his head slightly again, he saw another blond man in a business suit. 


Jean merely nods at the pair while maintaining an attentive stare. 


"Not to worry about that now, man. Right now, do you think you can stand?" 


"Mm...maybe. I’m not sure." 


"I’ll help you. C’mon, lets do it." 


At the count of three, Frédéric helps Jim prop himself up on his legs again. Jim wobbles a bit, but finds his balance. 


"Thanks, Frédéric." 


"No problem, Jim." 


Just then, the girl next to his cot, Jamiebel, slowly woke up. Jim felt a little lump in his throat. 


"Jamiebel..." 


Frédéric then glanced at Jamiebel’s cot, seeing the raven-haired girl wake up. He glanced back at Jim. "Is there something wrong?" 


"Huh? No, no, it’s just that...I never saw Jamiebel like this before." 


"You know her?" 


"My best friend. We had ups and downs, but we made it through it all..." 


The girl rubbed her eyes, not believing what she is seeing. 


"Jim?" she muttered, "Is that you?" 


Jim walked with Frédéric to see Jamiebel, in all her sleepy self. 


"Yep, its me. I can hardly believe whats happening." 


Frédéric walked up to Jamiebel. "Hello, Jamiebel. My name’s Frédéric Loeb." 


"Hi, nice to meet you," she replied. "Do you wish to tell me where I am?" 


"The Social Welfare Agency," Jean says, somewhat curtly interrupting Frédéric. "I'm certain you two understand your roles here." 


Jim nodded, albeit uncertain of his actual role. "We happen to be agents for this agency, is that correct?" 


Not quite agents, but the subordinates of your handler. You are to follow his instructions and any given by the agency." 


"Ahh. I understand now. Thank you very much, Mr...um..." 


"Croce. Jean Croce." He turned to Frédéric. "Now, your cyborgs should be well enough to at least be transferred to the cyborg warehouse, is that right, Frédéric?" 


"Affirmative, Jean. But first, I have to get Jamiebel up first." 


Lifting an arm on each side, they helped Jamiebel stand up again, and she began walking to try her new legs out, wobbling a little. 


"Nice to meet you, Mr. Frédéric Loeb, Mr. Jean Croce. My name is Jamiebel Angkahan," she greeted, bowing a little. "If you don’t mind, may I please get dressed before being transferred?" 


"Yeah, I need to get dressed too." 


Jean sighed. "That much was assumed, naturally." 


"Thank you, sir!" they replied in unison, before taking a pack of clothes and walking to the restrooms. 


"Huh, that’s something you never see every day." Frédéric responded. 


"That sort of behavior may be something I'll need to refer to Dr. Bianchi." Jean said. 


"Talking in unison?" 


"The fact that they have more of a connection than maybe we would prefer." 


"Leave it be. Jim and Jamiebel, from what I see, seem to be good friends, and I hate to be the one breaking the bond." 


"Hmph. If you think you can deal with it, then so be it. But, you had better be sure you can control them well enough and handle any issues this anomaly might bring you." 


"Alright. I'll let you know of any potential internal problems that may seem to threaten our fratello." 


"Very well." Jean turned and walked toward the door. Stopping halfway through the threshold he turned to Frédéric. "Training begins tomorrow, as I'm sure you're ready for it." 


Frédéric nodded, and saluted Jean. 


Jean shook his head as he turned back around and walked to his office. 


"Alright, Frédéric, I’m ready!" Jim said from inside the bathroom. 


"Jim, wait up! I still have to get my jeans on!" warned Jamiebel. 


As Frédéric waited for Jim and Jamiebel to finally get dressed, he smirked and  thought one thing. 


"I’m gonna have one hell of a life from now on."

topgearbrzgt86

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Forum Posts : 452

Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by Pax on Mon 23 Jun 2014 - 9:44

interesting start, cool premise, though more description would definitely help.

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Pax

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Fan of : Rico, Triela

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Thu 31 Jul 2014 - 18:58

Next two chapters! Enjoy, guys.


Chapter 4: New Life, New Home, New Friends - Same Old Jamiebel
 
"Alright, I'm ready, Frédéric!"
 
"Almost done, just wait for me, you two!"
 
It had been about half an hour before Jim and Jamiebel finally came out of the respective bathrooms, Jim the first to come out.
 
"So, what do you think?"
 
Jim was dressed in typical jeans and sneakers, but after that, it was all different to him; he had a shirt emblazened with a Formula 1 car on the center, with the initials "RG" on top of the car; in between the initials and the car, was the name of the man who had the initials: Formula 1 racing driver Romain Grosjean. As for his jacket, it was a clean white with the Martini Racing logo on the right side of his chest; on the arm sleeves were the famous dark blue, sky blue and red of Martini Racing.
 
"I think it suits you, Jim. You certainly look fitting to wear the Martini Racing colors," Frédéric complimented.
 
"Really, now? Flattery will get you somewhere, heh."
 
Jamiebel walked out a few minutes later; her clothes consisted of again, jeans and sneakers, but above, a grey shirt with the Citroen Total Racing team logo, with sponsors Oakley and Playstation also on the same side of the Citroen logo. The back was filled with signatures of a famous rally driver: 9-time World Rally Championship champion Sebastien Loeb (whom Frédéric has no relation to, sadly). For her jacket, Jamiebel's was also a Martini Racing one, but hers was a lot cleaner and devoid of logos, bar the one Martini Racing Team patch on the right side.
 
Jim wolf-whistled. "Very nice, Jay-bee."
 
"You think? I never thought grey and white was my style, but then again, Im not one for fashion, am I?"
 
"Well, you certainly make the jacket fit well for you, Jamiebel. Kinda keeps the flow going, too."
 
Jamiebel curtsied. "Thanks, Frédéric!"
 
"Now, come on, we gotta head to some place called the "cyborg warehouse", so we can get you guys to your rooms."
 
Jim and Jamiebel nodded, and walked with their handler a fairly short distance to the cyborg warehouse; a building that looked almost at home at the Vatican City, once an old monastery, in fact.
 
"Woof, the Italians know how to make a building like art, indeed," the Frenchman remarked, noting the front of the warehouse. At the front of the building, standing in front is Jean. 
 
"It's hardly as impressive as you're making it seem. It merely serves a purpose, which for today it is to house the agency's cyborgs."
 
Standing by Jean was his cyborg, a young blond girl with blue eyes, barely about the height where Jamiebel’s chin is.
 
"I believe this little lady here is your cyborg, Mr. Croce?"
 
Jean nodded ever so slightly. "Rico here will be joining us at the range. As advanced as they may seem, the cyborgs absolutely require constant training in the use of their firearms in order to maintain their proficiency."
 
Frédéric nodded in response. "Indeed, it is true. Technology can never become perfect, unless sharpened by repeated practice."
 
"In some cases, I would argue it's never perfect, but that we just have to live with the results." He looked upward and sighed, a hint of frustration carried on his breath, before turning back to Frédéric. "But, that doesn't mean we can't improve on occasional ineptitude. Hence, the reason Rico is here this morning."
 
"True. So, who will show Jim and Jamiebel to their bunks?"
 
Jean turned toward his charge, his stern gaze showing no obvious emotion. "Rico, show the pair where they will be staying for the forseeable future. But, don't mess about for too long. I expect it shouldn't take any longer than a few minutes."
 
"Yes, signore Jean," Rico replied.
 
And so, the pair went their separate ways, noting that they will meet at the firing range later on. Jim and Jamiebel walked together with Rico leading the pair.
 
"So, you're Rico? My name's Jim," the boy greeted.
 
"I'm Jamiebel," added the taller girl. "I understand that signore Croce is your handler?"
 
Rico nodded, then turned to them with a small smile shrouded by her larger sense of confusion. "And Mr. Loeb is both of your handlers as well? That's strange."
 
Jim chuckled. "Apparently, he liked the challenge of taking two cyborgs at once; but indeed, he is our handler. Jamiebel seems to take quite a liking to him, isn’t that right, Jay-bee?"
 
Jamiebel’s face flushed, a little pinker than usual. "Yes, I do, but only as an adult, though."
 
"I think Mr. Loeb is really nice," Rico said, her smile gradually growing larger. "You two are really lucky to have a person like him as a handler." Her smile soon faltered. "I mean, Jean is nice to me too, sometimes. But, sometimes I make him mad at me, like yesterday." She paused for a moment, as though in deep thought, before beaming ever so brightly. "But, it's okay, and I don't really mind going out to shoot."
 
Jim nodded. "In Mr. Croce's defense though, he does seem to be a nice person; assertive, but nice nonetheless. And you have quite the bright smile; one to light up even the whole of Belgium!"
 
Rico turned that very same bright smile toward Jim and nodded. "Thanks!" She then stopped walking rather abruptly next to a door on her left. "Oh, by the way, here's the room."
 
"Oh, thanks! We'll see you out on the firing range!"
 
"Do you know what you'll be shooting? I'm going to be shooting my CZ75. Signore Jean says I need to get much better with it so that I don't miss like I did yesterday."
 
"Not yet; we might choose our guns when we get there, Rico."
 
Whatever remained of her smile vaporized in an instant. She regarded the pair with utter confusion while tilting her head to one side. "Mr. Loeb didn't give you one when you woke up?"
 
Jamiebel shook her head. "Probably better to wait until we get to the range, so that way we get more accustomed to what we should be doing."
 
"Huh. That's... strange, I guess?" Her eyes found the ceiling with ease. "But, not all the cyborgs got a gun for their gift. I somewhat remember some of the others received different things from their handlers. I might want to ask Triela about that."
 
"Did anyone happen to get a car?"
 
"Um... not that I know." She shrugged. "Did Mr. Loeb give you a car?"
 
"I dont think so. I have a feeling he may give Jim a car. I know how much he loves the things." Jim nodded in response.
 
"Well, I think it would be really cool if Mr. Loeb gave you a car. I only know of one of us who has her own car, but we don't get to ride around in it all that much."
 
Jim raised his left eyebrow. "Interesting; who might that be?"
 
"Allison, Mr. McDonnell's cyborg. She's a second generation cyborg, so we don't see her all that often in our part of the dorm."
 
Jim nodded. "I'll make a note to self to see her, and it seems very interesting that she's a second-gen, much like me and Jamiebel."
 
"Anyway, I think we should go back soon before signore Jean gets angry at me again."
 
"Will do."
 
Entering the room, Jim quickly looked around the room, before he found the closet and hung his jacket up. Jamiebel followed suit, hanging her jacket up as well.
 
Jamiebel sighed a breath of relief. "Now then," she replied, "shall we head over to the range?"
 
---------------------------------------------------
Chapter 5: A Day in the Life of Frédéric the Soldier
 
"So, how well has Rico been of service for you, Jean?"
 
Jean stole a quick glance at the far smaller blonde walking alongside him. Only then did he acknowledge Frédéric and his question. "Generally she has done well. Though, as I said earlier, there is the occasional mistake. Practice will help to eliminate them."
 
"I agree. To be honest, the practice regiment does remind me of my first days back in the French Army, also known as the Armée de Terre." *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Army*
 
"I would caution you to not think in quite the same terms as what we had to experience in our respective military careers. We are dealing with cyborgs, and we must ensure that the level to which we train them surpasses any normal regimen, lest we fail to use them at their full capabilities."
 
"I know, I know. But it must be a little interesting to wonder what it was like for me to go through back in Lille."
 
Jean shrugged ever slightly before shifting around to look out over the range that still seemed to loom far in the distance even as they steadily approached it. "Not really. There will be plenty of time for reminiscing later, if you wish to use it that way. Right now, though, I suggest doing what you can to get your cyborgs up to speed as quickly as possible. Do you even have firearms picked out for them yet?"
 
Frédéric shook his hand a little. "Somewhat not; I do suppose a .357 Magnum revolver will do for Jim, while a Desert 9 Eagle will suffice for Jamiebel, for the time being. I want them to get comfortable with their handguns before I move them up to the FAMAS."
 
An eyebrow peaked behind the darkness of Jean's sunglasses as he ground to a halt and cocked his gaze once again in Frédéric's direction. It took him a few moments before he further revealed the source of his consternation. "A revolver?"
 
"I was never renown for being orthodox in my choices, Jean; rather, being more of a risk-taker. The knockback from the .357 is only comparable to that of the FAMAS; if Jim or Jamiebel is to use the G2, they need to learn the effects of the recoil and how not to affect their aim."
 
Jean started walking again. Meanwhile, his eyebrow sank back down so that it could play its role in forming the frosty glare he directed at his subordinate. "I understand recoil perfectly well, Mr. Loeb. I also understand that there are plenty of other handguns out there with just as much recoil that also can fire more than six rounds at a time. Unless, of course, you think you can train Jim well enough so that he'd only need six shots."
 
"I'm confident. And besides, it teaches a lesson in moderation; using your ammo wisely and efficently, instead of shooting damn near everything in sight. Hell also have a pack of bullets, just in case."
 
"So, you're telling me that if he's engaging more than six terrorists at a time--which is not an exceptional situation, I might add--that he'd need to reload more often, and far more slowly, than good sense would expect? Is that right?"
 
Frédéric glared at his superior. "What did I tell you about me being orthodox?"
 
"Hm. It's your cyborg and your training regimen. Just remember what I told you earlier about getting them into situations that would get your cyborgs killed."
 
"Not to worry; I should teach them in how to disarm a terrorist, and that if they run short on ammo, when the coast is clear, take one of the downed enemy’s guns and ammo."
 
"That's really standard fare, though I'll admit it's a good idea you're thinking about it. Just don't rely on it too much."
 
"I won’t. I was trained to do it, after all."
 
"Around the time I was first drafted when I was 19 years old, finished with boot camp, finally at the compound, and generally larking about. I was assigned to the Corps de Réaction Rapide - Rapid Reaction Corps - and was trained to sharpen my senses to predict any incoming attacks from the enemy. 
 
"Amongst that time, I made a few friends in the Corps; Guillaume Bellamy, Viggo Ogier, François Marchand, and Luc Perreault. The five of us were an inseparable team; Luc usually leading the pack, Guillaume and I holding the wings for Luc, and François and Viggo covering all of us from behind. My lieutenant, the person you met when you spotted me, Henri Biasion, usually was the one giving us the mission briefing, giving the orders to Luc, etc. 
 
"However, time passed, missions completed, and the team had to split - Luc going on to the Brigade Franco-Allemande, Guillaume honorably discharging from the army itself, Viggo transferred to the Bataljon Bevrijding, and François heading back to my hometown of Marseille to serve the État-major de force.
 
"My team and I did happen to work with some of the handlers, before they came here, in fact. One handler, in fact, does burn quite the memory in my mind."
 
"Really." It wasn't much of a question than a statement.
 
"I believe you have heard of a woman named Nyromi Lautani?" Frédéric asked. Jean merely nodded in reply.
 
"Thats her. Nyromi and I didnt really get along well, her calling me a "frog", me calling her a "gypsy", giving attitude to each other, and generally trying to one-up each other. However, when we were put on missions together, I tolerated her as my superior, and we worked well together. 
 
"Other than that, we were fire and ice. Although, when I caught wind of her death, I did visit her grave and pay respect to her. She was one of the people who, despite what we went through, I still respected."
 
"A coincidence, to be sure. But, given that we search all over the world for suitable handlers it probably was bound to happen at some point." He slid his hands into his pockets and grumbled under his breath. "Anyway, I have this sneaking suspicion that you're going to continue with this story of yours whether or not I'm interested in hearing it, so you might as well take advantage of the fact we have a few minutes of walking so that you can at least properly focus on training your cyborgs once we arrive." 
 
"Very well. May as well tell you what happened on a usual day for me in the army."
 
-------------------------
"Hey, Luc, get up! The trumpet;s a-sounding and it;s time to head to the mess hall!"
 
The 26-year-old blond Frenchman was already in uniform, waiting for his "leader" to get out of his cot.
 
"Come on, Luc, you stone! No ones gonna wake you up if you miss breakfast!"
 
Still no response from the brunette.
 
"Let me handle this, Frédéric," replied Viggo. He walked over to Lucs cot, cracked his knuckles and amazingly, lifted the guy straight out of bed. Frédéric began laughing to no end over Luc being forcibly awakened.
 
"What the hell, man?! Why did you drag me to the damned floor like that?"
 
"You had another late night last night with Adele, didnt you?" Viggo asked jokingly.
 
"What does that have to do with anything, huh? Can't you let a guy sleep after a night like that? Besides, don't think for a sec that you wouldn't want to trade places with me."
 
"Luc, Frédéric and I are looking for long-term relationships, not one-night stands; and besides, the trumpet sounded. Guillaume gets pretty irritated without his coffee, and you know that firsthand."
 
Luc rolled over and grabbed his trousers. "Relationships are overrated and often lead to a lot of pain," he said while sliding his feet through the pant legs. "You'll figure that out yourself once you get more experience with women." On slipped the thick cotton fabric of his blouse, over which he slipped his body armor vest. "Might as well just have as much fun as you can, knowing you don't have to keep them around. Anyway, you guy's better get yourselves ready before I get any more irritated."
 
Viggo burst out laughing. "Whatever, man. Whatever. C’mon, Frédéric, breakfast awaits us."
 
"And hopefully not a lot of pain," added Frédéric, failing to stifile a laugh.
 
With Luc finally dressed up, the trio found Guillaume in front of the mess hall, arms crossed, tapping his boots on the floor impatiently, and a rather indignant expression towards the trio.
 
"I certainly hope you guys finally done with your messing about, goodness knows what reason for I can't possibly fathom it." Guillaume sighs with irritation. "Don't you know how late you are?"
 
"Blame the James Hunt-lifestyle man here," noted Frédéric, referring to Luc. "He wanted to stay in after another night of "the breakfast of champions." God knows why he's our leader." 
 
He snorted. "Someone in high command figured he had the chops for leadership. What our dear senior commander was smoking at the time I have no idea, but I have no choice but to trust his judgment."
 
"Amen to that, brother," Viggo agreed. "Come on, you guys, let's get some grub, I'm hungry."
 
Just as they were about to head for breakfast, they find François already leaving the mess hall, and heading out the door.
 
"Oi, what the hell, François?" Frédéric scowled. "How come you didnt wait for us?"
 
"The early bird gets the worm, Freddie," François simply remarked, patting his head. 
 
Frédéric growled. "Don't call me Freddie, François."
 
"Alright. See you at the training field, mates!"
 
François jogged off in a hurry, getting another worm, as he says. Viggo sighed.
 
"Sometimes that guy is too energetic," he noted, shaking his head.
 
At the mess hall, after getting their food and drink, the remaining four people sat down at a nearby table...and Luc began bragging how his night with one of his subordinates was a wonderful night.
 
"Oh, you guys wouldn't possibly believe the wild night I had." A huge grin spread across Luc's lips, one that exhibited as much latent lustfulness as it did joy. "You unlucky chaps never met a woman quite as, ahem, talented as Adele."
 
"Oh, was she," Viggo sarcastically replied, proceeding to mock the playboy. "I hope I would find as someone as curvaceous as Adele. She’s so beautiful and so strong that I want to leave her after one night."
 
"Hey, she's really good at what she does, I'll give her that and then some, and I've not completely given up on visiting her again, but there're other beautiful fish in that sea as well, and I intend to catch as many as possible."
 
"Hmph, I'll bet you my next 7 breakfasts that you can;t stay with Adele for one week. You really can't do as much as keep a relationship for a day, can you, Perreault?"
 
A look of incredulity swept over Luc's face. "Huh? You're wagering breakfast on my infidelity? Isn't the whole point of betting that you don't go for something that's an absolute win? I might as well just feed you all seven breakfasts now." Just then the grin returned, a very sly grin at that. "Unless..."
 
"Oh, this is getting interesting," Frédéric chuckled to Guillaume.
 
"Unless...?" Viggo asked, interested.
 
Luc shifted in his seat so he could lean in a little closer to the group, and particularly so he could better eye Viggo. "Ok, well, as I was saying, I haven't ever met a girl quite like Adele--well, not very many like her. She might be one I might want to hang onto for a few nights, just so I can enjoy the full experience. Maybe, oh, I dunno, eight days ought to be enough for that."
 
"Why don't we raise the stakes? Two weeks."
 
"Woah. Now hold on, you're practically asking me to marry the girl. I like her in bed and all, but not for two weeks worth, unless I get something especially good from you in return."
 
"Name your price, I'll make it happen."
 
Luc leaned back, seemingly intent on scanning the ceiling for a good several seconds before a spark of inspiration struck. He lowered his gaze again upon Viggo and chuckled mischievously.
 
"If I have to stay two weeks with Adele, you have to be my personal servant for just as long. Any errands I need run, clothing cleaned, boots shined, weapons cleaned, the works. If I manage that, that's what you have to do for me. Deal?"
 
Viggo nodded. "One question; what if you fail to go the full two weeks?"
 
"I dunno, for I darn sure don't plan on failing my greatest test ever. But, if I fail, you get the opportunity to lead the group for the two weeks--but only that much. I'm already suffering enough as it is."  
 
Viggo stroked his chin. "Quite an on-par bet, as expected of you, Luc." He extended his hand. "Deal. The two weeks start the next day."
 
Luc took Viggo's hand with a strong grip and shook. "You're on. Anyway, now that I have a major task ahead of me, I need some breakfast." He smirked. "Adele requires a bit more energy than the standard girl, if you know what I mean."
 
Just then, François ran back into the mess hall, sweat dripping on his face, finding his fellow teammates' table, and slammed his hands on the table.
 
"Mon dieu, François, you look as though you ran a marathon," Frédéric commented.
 
"No time for witty remarks, Frédéric - I've got big news from Lt. Henri: he's putting our group under new leadership for the next month, by someone away from this branch of work," François panted.
 
"What do you mean, under new leadership?" Confusion swiftly overtook Luc, as it did the others.
 
"More to the point," Guillaume added, "what do you mean by someone away from our branch? I can't possibly imagine our unit being commanded by anyone else while still maintaining a sensible command structure. So, who supposedly is commanding us now?"
 
François, running short on breath, seized Luc's drink, wolfed it down in one go, sighed, and said, "You're gonna have to come with me. You have no idea what we're going to be in for."
 
"You're telling me," Luc said, rising from his seat. "And you owe me for that drink by the way."
 
"I'll pay you back with intrest later, Luc. Right now, let's just head out."
 
-----
 
Arriving at Lieutenant Biasion's quarters, Frédéric and the squad walked in, with more of an air of confusion around them.
 
"Well, men, I'm sure each of you here wonders just why I've summoned you with such short notice." He stood from his perch behind his desk and walked around to the front of it, carrying a short stack of papers in his hand and a rather despondent look upon his face. "I was informed only a few minutes ago that I will no longer be your superior officer for the next month, effective immediately. Instead, Staff Sergeant Nyromi Lautani of the British SAS is now the commander of your unit."
 
"Staff Sergeant? How old is she, anyway?" Frédéric asked.
 
"Does that really matter to you?" Biasion said, though not with any malice in his tone. "She is very competent at her job, I have been assured, and regardless it is your duty as subordinate officers to follow her orders."
 
"In all honesty, I do trust your word; I am wondering how fast she had become a Staff Sergeant; hence the age question - and where you are heading, sir."
 
Biasion sighed. "That is a question you'll have to address Staff Sergeant Lautani herself, though I would not be surprised if she exercised her prerogative to not answer you. As for me, it will be an administrative command for a short while. I'll confess to not being particularly thrilled at the assignment, but my orders are set. I will, however, reuinite with you all in one month's time once the current situation ends."
 
Frédéric nodded. "Best of luck, Lieutenant Biasion. We'll see you in a month's time."
 
"Right. Anyway, while I clean this area of my belongings, it would be a good idea for you all to become well acquainted with Staff Sergeant Lautani."
 
"Wait, you're telling me--" 
 
“I do apologize for the deception gentlemen, but I do enjoy hearing what others have to say of me."
 
Stepping out from behind the curtains by the window, Frédéric and the squad are greeted by the site of a slender woman of no more than 170 cm dressed in the garb of a British soldier.
 
"Suffice it to say I am glad to make your respective acquaintences," Nyromi added with a bit of a smirk.
 
"The feeling is mutual, Staff Sergeant," Frédéric responded with a nod and a small scowl. "My name is Frédéric Loeb, and these are my teammates, Guillaume Bellamy, Viggo Ogier, François Marchand, and Luc Perreault." The rest of the squad followed suit with a short bow and a salute.
 
"At ease gentlmen," Nyromi said returning the salute. "Charmed I'm sure, but there will be enough time for formalities later. If it pleases you, I would prefer to get to know you lot over a pint or four."
 
Viggo nodded. "Gladly, ma'am. When, exactly?"
 
"Well there is certainly no time like the present. Considering that your Commanding Officer has transfered you over to my jurisprudence, I suspect it is in my authority to grant you all a brief leave."
 
The squad nodded, but their faces betrayed no change in expression, even with Nyromi in command.
 
"Right, quick now, you frogs, posthaste!" Nyromi commanded. "Nobody wants to live forever!"
 
"Understood!" replied the five privates, heading out the door...bar Frédéric.
 
"Bee in your bonnet, Mister Loeb?"
 
"Why would I have to answer to that, Miss Lautani? Nothing wrong with a last goodbye to someone for the time being."
 
Taking a few slow steps toward Frédéric, Nyromi stopped abruptly clicking her heels together.
 
"Interesting, and pray tell, exactly what last goodbye would that be?"
 
Frédéric smirked. "Merely business between Biasion and myself. Nothing else."
 
"I see, very well then. Shall we be off?"
 
"Gladly."
-------------------------------
 
After speaking with Lt. Biasion on his opinion on Nyromi (which were balanced, mind you), the squad and Nyromi went down to the local pub.
 
"Mind if I sit with you, Mr. Loeb?" Nyromi requested while holding two mugs of fine ale.
 
"I don't see why not, Ms. Lautani," Frédéric responded rather calmly. "I don't usually drink, let alone with other people, per se."
 
"Understood," Nyromi said as she sat down at the table with Frédéric. "Well your boys seem to be in high spirits, on the other hand. Do you lot get out much?"
 
"Yep. But when it involves something like beer, I'm usually dragged along - mostly by the lone Belgian in our squad," he replied, referring to Viggo.
 
"I see. Would that be the lad leading the 'choir'?"
 
"Nope; that person happens to be Luc - perennial playboy, but a damn good leader. Viggo's the second-in-command."
 
"By chance, who would you reccomend as my second?"
 
"Probably Viggo - a bit rebellious at times, but he gets things done. He's protective, responsible, and has a sense of fun and humor."
 
"And why not yourself, if I may ask?"
 
"First off, I'm not that conceited, of course; second, I've never led the team during my stint; and third, I feel as though there are people who are better than me at it - I just strive to do my best, and brace myself for the worst."
 
"Admirable traits, I must say."
 
"Thank you, Ms. Lautani, but I leave the contemplation during curfew. So, what about you? What brings you here to this corner of France?"
 
"Orders, if you’ll believe that. Left to my own account, I would rather be with my own back in Credenhill. However, I would like to be honest with you. Should it remain between us and these drinks, of course."
 
Frédéric let out a little chuckle. "Fair enough, Ms. Lautani, you have me in the corner. I'll drink. But I speak no secrets, by the way."
 
"You have my thanks," Nyromi said before finishing her ale in one pull. 
 
Raising her hand, she snapped her fingers loudly calling for the waitress to bring her another. A minute later, the drink arrived and Nyromi leaned in close to Frédéric.
 
"Take a good look at me...and tell me what you see," Nyromi spoke softly. So quietly did she speak that it could have almost been a whisper.
 
Frédéric did as told, and his eyes almost locked together with Nyromi's - but finally observing her, he said:
 
"I see a once-troubled girl, now battle-hardened, yet she hasn't lost her old sparkle. I also see...a beautiful girl with a sharp edge."
 
Blushing slightly, Nyromi took a breath before taking a long drink from her glass.
 
"Now I ask this of you; what do you see of me?" he asked.
 
"I see a man who is dutiful to a fault, but his loyalty knows no bounds. A man who will go so far as to even compromise his morals if he knows what he is doing is right. A man who is just as admirable as he is handsome."
 
Also blushing slightly, Frédéric nodded, exhaled, and drank halfway in his mug.
 
"To be direct, Mr. Loeb, I am not as my superiors on the hill would prefer me to be."
 
Frédéric nodded. "By your permission, I prefer you address me by my first name outside the compound, and I the same to you."
 
"Of course...Frédéric. Hmm...I rather like how that rolls off of my tongue."
 
"The feeling is the same...Nyromi. I personally like the exotic theme to that name of yours - is it Eastern European?"
 
"You could say that. It was my father who named me, and coincidentally it goes with what I've been trying to say. When you look at me...do you see a Brit before you?"
 
"By the voice, yes. But by the looks, I do sometimes question the fact of a Brit in you. You look very charming, British or not."
 
"I thank you, but to be blunt, I am only half-British. My father was a full-blood Roma."
 
"Romania? How interesting. How much of your father has rubbed off onto you?"
 
"Much, in fact, such as his tolerance for the drink."
 
Finishing her glass, Nyromi once more snapped her fingers loudly calling for the waitress.
 
"However, being of Romanian blood would be a godsend. In fact, he was...as you would put it, a gypsy."
 
Frédéric nodded. "I know not all Romas are gypsies - I have had friends in my high school who were of Romanian descent. Sometimes they were picked on - and I often had to defend them, even at risk of being suspended myself for getting into a fight. 
 
The hazing from some of the meaner students was horrible. But I refused to let a friend go, Roma or not."
 
"Then you are a Saint among men, Frédéric. However, most are not, and those of The Service are especially not so."
 
The Frenchman sighed. "It is the harsh reality of the world, Nyromi. Frog, Tommy, Gypsy, Kraut - I've heard all the insults, and it sometimes made me want to crack. But I knew I had to stay strong. You and I have; I just pray for our future successors."
 
"Agreed, and this is why I believe I am here. Make no mistake, I had no intention of giving your Lt. Biasion the bum's rush."
 
"I know. He's only gone for the month, and you are filling in for him. But I think the lads and I will come back stronger, much like how a cub climbs back to its father, thanks to you."
 
"Hmph...then that saddens me. All the more it confirms what I have suspected."
 
Leaning in just a bit closer to Frédéric, Nyromi whispers to him gently.
 
"I do believe my superiors have transferred me here to command you lot, under the guise that you all will abhorr my command and disobey at a moment’s notice."
 
"Well, we are a well-oiled machine, but we never have had a change of guard. This would be the ultimate test, but it would sadden me too."
 
"There is that loyalty I spoke of. I am assured that your mates share the same loyalty for Lt. Biasion as you do. Should my command fail, than I shall return to Credenhill and they will have no reason to not grant my promotion and thus remove me from service. Do you understand now why I believe I am here?"
 
"All of it, Nyromi."
 
"I thank you, and you alone I shall prepare. For I do believe I may be here until the brass gets what they so desire."
 
Frédéric nodded. "Best of luck, then. One more thing, though."
 
"Yes?"
 
"We’ll have to keep this relationship a secret from the others. I don't want them to think that you favor me over them; so we'll act like we're pureblood rivals, until you dictate another leave for a few of the drink."
 
"I do believe that is the best course of action. Also, I am not sure how Lt. Biasion conducted your assignments, but be assured that I do not shy away from the fight."
 
"Then I look forward to fighting alongside you, Nyromi."
 
"And I you, Frédéric."
 
Giving her a quick peck on the cheek, Frédéric finished off the last of his ale and slammed the mug down.
 
"Ready to call the boys back?"
 
"Yes, do tell the 'choir' that it is time to turn in, as they are sounding quite dreadful now. In the meanwhile, I shall pay the tab.
 
"Very well." He quickly turned over to his squad-mates, and exclaimed, "Hé, vous salauds! Faites vos ânes paresseux au large des chaises! Nous vous rentrer à la base!
 
("Hey, you bastards! Get your lazy asses off the chairs! We're heading back to the base!")
 
Turning back to Nyromi, he remarked with a wink, "I'll see you back at the compound first thing in the morning, Nyromi."
 
"First thing it is, Mr. Loeb. I am glad we could see matters accordingly."
 
"Much the same, Ms. Lautani."
 
Frédéric hauled back his teammates shoulder-to-shoulder. As he and co. departed, Nyromi thought one thing to herself...
 
'At last...a team of my own.'
 
-----------------------------------------
 
"So essentially, that's how a normal day, and how my first meeting with Nyromi, went."
 
Jean's expression betrayed no obvious emotion besides a slight hint of boredom. "I'm sure that was quite the surprise for you, but command reassignments happen all the time. And as I said, the agency attempts to select the best available handler candidates, so it's no surprise that Nyromi attracted our attention." 
 
Frédéric nodded. "I do understand that reassignments happen every now and then, but this one did take me by surprise. Plus, the lady was out of my sight. But that's another story for another day. Now, then, shall we prepare Rico, Jim and Jamiebel for the shooting range?"
 
"Yes." Jean turned to Rico and nodded, his unspoken order more than enough of a prompt for her to ready her pistol for training. "And I assume you're finished with story time for the foreseeable future, because it would be beneficial to your cyborgs if you were more attentive in your training of them than the level of attentiveness you obviously related to me in your story."
 
"For the forseeable future, yes. Right now, my focus will be on training these two. I'll see you in a while, Mr. Croce."
 
"Indeed, I hope. Make sure they can hit the targets, chest and head, reliably at 40 meters. Ideally they should be near perfect at that range even with a pistol."
 
"Understood. I'll also assign them training for the Verifica della Competenza Operativa, a test I wish to assign them in 2 weeks' time."
 
The blond-haired handler pondered Frédéric's statement for a few moments. "I appreciate your eagerness in getting your cyborgs operative. If two weeks indeed is your goal, given the fact they awakened only yesterday, then I will admit right now that you have a lot of work ahead of you. I will remind you now that you should administer the Verifica only when you're confident they are ready and will pass it."
 
Frédéric nodded, and turned to his cyborgs.
 
"Two weeks, huh?" he said to himself. "How hard can the Verifica be?"
 
Ch.5 end


Last edited by topgearbrzgt86 on Tue 5 Aug 2014 - 21:34; edited 1 time in total

topgearbrzgt86

Male

Forum Posts : 452

Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

Comments : You have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!
-Fernando Alonso

Registration date : 2013-03-29

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by Thescarredman on Sun 3 Aug 2014 - 0:30

TG, I see a definite advance here, both in the development of your characters as people and in your craftsmanship as a storyteller. Keep it up.
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Thescarredman

Male

Forum Posts : 1851

Location : Toledo, Ohio, United States

Fan of : Rico, Bice

Original Characters : Kristal & Verotrois / Doc; Angel / Jack Keaton; Tiffany/Stefan

Comments : .
Mario Bossi would make a better handler than Marco Toni. Come to think of it, so would Christiano.
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Elizaveta didn't jump - she was pushed.
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Sofia was pregnant. It would have been a boy.

Registration date : 2012-02-04
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OC genger: 40

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sun 3 Aug 2014 - 0:43

Thescarredman wrote:TG, I see a definite advance here, both in the development of your characters as people and in your craftsmanship as a storyteller. Keep it up.
Thanks, TSM, but there are parts I am doing well at (character dev, idea and suggestion incorporation) and one thing I am being assisted on (story telling). In time, though, I should be able to tell a full story on my own.

(Besides, I said at the start I am getting help from someone, didn't I?)

Anywho, any improvements I should make for chapter 6 onwards, or keep the status quo?

topgearbrzgt86

Male

Forum Posts : 452

Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

Comments : You have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!
-Fernando Alonso

Registration date : 2013-03-29

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 3:01

Chapter 6: Hitting the Ground Running (and Gunning)
 
Frédéric gave Jim and Jamiebel each a PAMAS G1 pistol, used originally by the French Army; he told the duo to try and shoot the target 40 meters away, although he never mentioned what purpose it was for.
 
Jamiebel nodded, lifted the pistol, and stared at one of the circular targets hovering dead in the middle of the iron sights; but for Jim, he had a look of concern on his face.
 
"What's wrong, Jim?" asked the Frenchman.
 
Jim's face scrunched, trying to relieve himself the stress of what he was about to say. "I've never held a gun in my life."
 
Frédéric raised an eyebrow. "Is that so?"
 
"Yes. Never had any true experience with them at all."
 
Frédéric nodded. "Hmm, that does pose a problem...I'll help you out for this week, mainly because I want you to do well out there."
 
Jim smiled. "Thanks. Now, shall we begin?" 
 
Frédéric lifted Jim's arms to the same level that Jamiebel's were positioned, extended almost horizontally away from his chest; but once Frédéric released hold of Jim's arms, they began trembling. Perhaps I misinterpreted the magnitude of Jim's problem, thought the Frenchman.
 
"Jim, take a deep breath," he then said.
 
Jim slowly inhaled, holding the breath for a few moments before releasing the air with a soft huff. He soon found his arms beginning to shake less.
 
"Do you see the target in front of you?"
 
Jim nodded slightly.
 
"Take a deep breath, just aim for that target, and fire by pressing down the trigger."
 
Jim did as told; he slowly inhaled and exhaled again, focused the sights between the target, and fired. 
 
The sound may have been loud and unpleasant, but at least he did it. He looked over his shoulder, and the man behind him gave a thumbs up.
 
Upon gradually emptying a magazine and fumbling somewhat on reloading his pistol, he began to find a shooting rhythm to which he could find himself unbothered by the noise of said pistol, and focused on shooting a little faster and more consistently.
 
On Jamiebel's side, however, after firing a couple of rounds, her aim started to stray. Frédéric brought down Jamiebel's arms gently, signifying her to stop.
 
"Jamiebel, your firing rate is great; however, your aim is a little off. What's wrong?"
 
"I'm not sure," she said. "I'm just trying to aim is all."
 
The Frenchman raised an eyebrow. "Trying? Perhaps, to me, you're trying too hard to aim. Try relaxing your arms a little."
 
Jamiebel nodded, loosened her arms and relaxed her grip on her pistol.  When she resumed her firing rhythm, her aim started to get more consistent. 
 
Frédéric smiled at his fratello's progress, feeling pleased at how eager they wanted to learn. All the while, he read through the handbook for the test Jim and Jamiebel will take: the Verifica della Competenza Operativa.
 
So it's four parts; comprehension of the rules, on-the-field shooting test, a CQC test and a two-lap obstacle course. If we fail, we can't test for another two weeks. I want them to score well, perhaps not the top of the charts (and who knows who's at the top), but somewhere in the best 15%.
 
I'll have to have them start off with this; later on, I'll have to find someone to teach them advanced CQC, to prepare them for any close threats - the best I can do is intermediate level.
 
After the target practice time concluded, Frédéric looked at the progress; Jim's shots were clustered and consistent, but only 6cm off the Bull's-eye. Jamiebel's were more scattered, but they were no more than 10 cm off from each shot, showing she has aim, but little consistency.
 
"You guys did well; we've got some room for improvement, though, but not bad," Frédéric replied.
 
"Well, you did help us out. If you hadn't given us advice, we might not have been able to focus more." noted Jamiebel.
 
"True," Jim added.
 
"Anyway, I'm going to head off for today. You two have fun, alright? I don't want you getting in trouble with some of the other cyborgs or handlers."
 
Jim and Jamiebel nodded, and Frédéric waved them off, departing for home again, and Jim and Jamiebel departed for the warehouse.
 
"So, Jamiebel, what do you think of Frédéric so far?" Jim asked.
 
A smile came to her lips. "I like him a lot. Even though I've had some practice at this before, he's really helping me get better at shooting and not get too nervous at wanting to be perfect."
 
Jim nodded. "Sometimes perfection is too much; perhaps consistency could do well in some situations."
 
She started to chuckle as she turned toward Jim. "Well, couldn't we be both consistent and perfect?"
 
"I personally doubt it. Otherwise, we'd be robots or dancers."
 
"There's nothing wrong with dancers, except for the funny outfits." Her playful countenance faded away, and she exhaled a soft sigh. "But, I see your point. We can't really spend forever practicing, especially when actual people don't stand still like those little circles."
 
"That's true. But 'little circles'?" Jim chuckled. "You're not a kid, Jay-bee; they're targets, not little circles."
 
"Well, we're blessed with enhanced vision and muscle control--well, at least once we fully learn how to control our muscles--but a one-meter diameter target forty meters away isn't all that large either."
 
"Definitely true. Do you think we were lucky to be alive again?"
 
Jim's question caught Jamiebel slightly off-guard. "Hm? Oh, absolutely! It's like a brand new start for me. I mean, I loved my previous life, but this one I think will be just as good." She shuffled slightly, looking down for a moment. Her smile had returned once her eyes found Jim again, and it was even brighter than before. "And, I have my best friend with me, so it can't be all bad."
 
Jim's eyes met Jamiebel's, and Jim blushed a little. "Thanks, Jay-bee. Anyway, wanna head to the cafeteria? I'm a bit hungry."
 
"Sure. Even for cyborgs like us, we can't do that much shooting at one time and not get hungry afterward."
 
---------
 
Before arriving at the cafeteria, Jim and Jamiebel ran into a familiar smiling blond-haired cyborg.
 
"Greetings, Rico!" Jim replied with a wave.
 
There was a brief moment before recognition struck the blonde, after which a bright smile tugged at her lips. "Hi Jim! Hi Jamiebel!" she said, returning the wave.
 
"How goes things for you?"
 
"Jean is taking me on a mission to Trento in a few days. I'm really excited about it since I've never been there before."
 
"Cool! Jamiebel and I were just heading to the cafeteria - you wanna come join us?"
 
"Sure!" Her nod was just as emphatic as her statement.
 
Rico joined the duo on the walk to the cafeteria. On the way, Jamiebel asked, "How many cyborgs are there?"
 
"Well..." The question sent Rico into a pensive state for a few seconds. "Um, there are, or were, ten of us first generation cyborgs, but Elsa's been gone for a while now, so that makes nine of us. As for second generation cyborgs, uh... there're a lot of them." She shrugged. "Twenty, I guess? But, then that would make it twenty-two with you guys..."
 
"Well, there were nine of us when we arrived here, so I presume that number will bump almost to the thirty mark."
 
"Wow..." Her eyes widened as the enormity of the number hit her. "Nine, at once?"
 
"I presume so. Although that's just my thoughts."
 
This time her nodding was slow and thoughtful, with a hand cupping her chin for good measure. "Well, if there are nine, and they were all at the same time as you... then... that means you don't have to worry about not having any friends here."
 
"True," nodded Jim. "Who's the oldest of all the gen 2's?"
 
"Hmm... I think Vic--no, not her." A few more moments brought her the answer. "Ah! That's right. Alpha I think is his name. I've only seen him around a few times, though, but he's really old."
 
Jim nodded his head. "Interesting." Making a right turn to the cafeteria, the trio continued talking. "Who happened to be his partner or handler? Do you know?"
 
She shook her head. "I've seen him around with this lady once. They were about the same age, but someone told me that he was actually a cyborg and she his handler. But, sorry, I don't know her name."
 
Jim raised an eyebrow. "What did the lady alongside Alpha look like?"
 
"She was really beautiful, or at least I think so. Her hair was short like mine, but dark brown. And she had dark skin as well, darker than Triela's, but not as dark as Nihad's."
 
"Who's Nihad?"
 
Rico turned a rather meek smile toward Jim. "Oh, sorry, you haven't met him yet. He's one of the members of the support teams. They're all really nice, and they help us a lot in our missions. But, he's from Somalia, not from Italy, so that's why he's so dark."
 
"Ohh."
 
At the serving area, Jim, Jamiebel and Rico picked up a serving of lasagna and baked ziti, and some red wine and aranciata (orange soda) for the boy and two girls, respectively, and sat down at a nearby table, which had three seats occupied by another blonde with pigtails, a raven-haired bespectacled girl, and a girl about Rico's height, with tan hair.
 
"Hi Rico!" A similar greeting was echoed by the other two cyborgs. The smile initially sported by the pigtailed blonde, Triela, disappeared in the haze of confusion that swamped her upon seeing Jim and Jamiebel standing close behind. "Um, who're the new guys?"
 
"I'm Jim," he said, pointing to himself for a moment before then swinging his hand around to highlight his friend.
 
"And I'm Jamiebel." She smiled. "We're rather new here, and Rico has been showing us around."
 
"Ah, welcome," Triela said. "I didn't know we were getting new cyborgs, but I guess the more the merrier, right? Anyway, I'm Triela." She waved an arm toward the bespectacled cyborg sitting alongside her. "This is Claes, my ever-so-lovely roommate." That comment was met by something resembling an annoyed grunt, but slightly quieter. "Over there is Henrietta, and of course you've already met her roommate."
 
"Of course. Nice to meet you all," the boy replied. Rico, Jim and Jamiebel sat together, across from Triela, Claes and Henrietta. "So, how was today for you guys?"
 
Henrietta was the first to respond, lighting up brightly in doing so. "Jose and I are going into Rome to go shopping! Well, we're also supposed to follow this guy around, but he's supposed to be taking this lady shopping, which means we're doing shopping. I can't wait! I hope we--"
 
"Oh, I'm sure that's very interesting," Claes replied, a liberal amount of deadpan snark obvious in her tone.
 
"And, as I said, lovely," Triela said, smirking as she turned to her roommate. "Anyway, today's been rather quiet for me as it's one of those rare off days, and Hilshire's not around. Which means I get to bug Claes a bit more than usual, which may be why she's grumpier than usual."
 
"How very interesting," Jim noted, while taking a bite of his ziti. "Do you happen to know some of the other cyborgs here?"
 
Triela nodded. "Oh, of course. All of us first gen cyborgs know each other very well, and I know a lot of the second gens also."
 
"Can you tell me who of the second-gens you know?"
 
"Um, you mean a list of sorts? That's a rather strange request."
 
"Not everyone. Just ones that stand out to you, or whoever you want to list."
 
"Uh-huh. Well, I could just walk you through cafeteria for about a quarter of the second gens right now, and through the dorms later on tonight for most of the remainder." Her eyes narrowed slightly as she regarded the older cyborg with a more suspicious gaze. "But, somehow I don't think you're interested in any of them, at least not right now." She leaned across the table, closing the distance between them. "What's the name you're looking for?"
 
Jim replied confidently, "None in particular. I am interested in them, in fact. I asked Rico earlier who the oldest gen-two cyborg was."
 
"Ah ha! Knew it." She returned back to her seat, gaze softening but only to be replaced by a slightly smug smile. "And I assume Rico told you Alpha was the oldest, right?"
 
"Correct."
 
"Do you want to know how I knew you wanted to know about him?"
 
"Actually, you're wrong," Jim noted, his expression not changing. "I never said I wanted to meet Alpha in particular; rather, I wanted to hear one of the names of the gen-two cyborgs."
 
"Well, if that's what all you wanted, so you say, then consider that mission accomplished. But, I'll tell you this much, as a freebie. I don't know him nearly as well as the others as I don't really see him around all that often."
 
Jim nodded, but then burst into a small laugh. "That is all what I wanted, in fact! Why seem so tense?"
 
"Welcome to the world of Triela," Claes said, earning a playful dope-slap from the blonde that in turn was met with a glare. After a few moments she sighed and turned toward Jim. "Oh, and if you really wanted nothing more than that, then you shouldn't have set yourself up so well for the mini-interrogation. Having said that, she's actually being quite nice to you, considering."
 
Sipping a bit of his wine, Jim said, "I'm a bit of a tough nut to crack, because I find a bit of fault in Triela's jump to conclusion, and I can do that to others. Thanks for the note, Claes. 
 
By the way, Triela, if I wanted to know about Alpha, how did you know?"
 
"Because you're far from the first one to ask," she said with a knowing smile.
 
"Name ten names who asked about Alpha."
 
She started to laugh. "Oh, now you want me to give you a list of second gen cyborgs."
 
"Correct." He raised his hands in consession. "You caught me in quite the corner, Triela. Well found."
 
"And that's what I meant when I said you were caught up in her interrogation," Claes said. "Her handler is a detective more than anything else."
 
"Now let me ask you this, Triela: if I had the motive to ask about Alpha, what else would you presume I would ask about?"
 
"This can go three ways," Triela replied, her grin remaining fixed. "And we've already covered one of them to the best of my knowledge, so there's no more value down that route unless you want to ask one of the handlers. Jean maybe. And--"
 
"How so exactly, three ways? Name them all."
 
She fell quiet for a moment, crossed her arms in front of her chest, and frowned. "Well, I'd get to the other two if you want to listen, but if you want to talk then I'll let you talk all you want."
 
Jim had a small smirk on his face. "Do tell."
 
"Hmph. You're not going to get me that easily, you know."
 
"Oh, no, I intend on listening to your logic on this going 'three ways' - although, I'm only seeing two."
 
"Well, tell me your two, and I'll let you know what the last one is."
 
"Simple - you tell me, or you don't. The last way, I presume, is myself asking Jean." Jim crossed his arms. "Any questions?"
 
"Yeah, one." Her expression was as flat as her voice. "How the heck did you get so far off base from the line of discussion that you started that it's not even funny?"
 
Jim chuckled, and it gradually turned into a laugh.
 
"No, Henrietta, I don't have the slightest idea what's going on here between these two," Claes said before the brunette could even ask the question.
 
"And if you ask me, I haven't the slightest either - I got lost at the 'three ways' part," Jamiebel added.
 
"I'll get there if Mr. Ultimatum here actually wants me to," Triela said. "But I haven't actually gotten to the other two potential lines of inquisition yet. I was just expanding on the one we've already discussed."
 
Jim's laughter gradually subsidized, and he said, "I am all ears; you've just prompted me into an ultimatum, Triela."
 
"No, I didn't. You said you knew two of the other things you would ask about Alpha. And I said I would tell you the last. That's hardly prompting you into an ultimatum."
 
"You said that I wasn't going to get you that easily. Did you honestly believe I was going to list the two things I would ask about Alpha?"
 
"I'm not an idiot, but that's hardly means for shutting down the discussion. You could be a lot more subtle about things."
 
"I bluffed it," he stated. "I wanted you to tell me, but you had to go silent on me. So that's why I posed a challenge." He relaxed his arms and took another sip from his goblet of red wine. "I couldn't believe you didn't see through that."
 
"That's because you interrupted me. And, because of that, I'm not going to say anything more, Mr. Smarty Pants."
 
"Fair dos, but you must have thought I wanted to do something with Alpha, correct?"
 
Triela looked around as if something strange had piqued her attention. "What's that buzzing sound? Do you guys hear anything?"
 
"How petulant and immature of you. Can't even take a joke?"
 
Claes looked at Triela, at Jim, and back at Triela, and then sighed. "Anyway, I believe that's a common thing among the second gen cyborgs," she said.
 
Jim had a small smile on him again. "Written all over your face, Triela. When you asked me how I wanted to know about him, that expression on your face wrote it all." He turned back to Claes. "Is that so?"
 
"Apologies for my roommate and her wounded pride at the moment. But, yes, it's very much the case. Also, in case you wanted to know, I think I've figured out the three questions she was implying."
 
Triela turned a shocked gaze toward Claes. "Wait! Don't tell him that."
 
"Go ahead. Don't listen to that fly buzzing over there."
 
Claes shrugged. "Why he's not around, why he's so much older than the other cyborgs, and who his handler is."
 
"Dammit, Claes! He needed to earn that!"
 
"Well played, Claes; but sadly, only two of those questions are correct."
 
"Well, maybe to you, but that's what she was thinking nonetheless." Claes ignored the burning glare emanating from the girl sitting to her right, taking a sip of water before speaking again. "Please tell me what your questions would have been."
 
"In fact, her second and third questions are correct; the one she missed was, 'when did he first arrive at the agency?'. Because he's older than most of us, I wished to know how old he was when he first arrived, and what happened to him beforehand. 
 
Although she earned points for referring to Jean, because our handler does happen to know the man himself."
 
"As does every other handler, and every other cyborg for that matter," Claes said, unimpressed by the attempted name drop. "But, to get to your questions, I don't think anyone other than a hander could ever give you a true answer to what happened to Alpha, or when he first came to the agency. He was here when most of us became cyborgs."
 
"Quite fortuitous."
 
"It is what it is."
 
"I don't believe I led her on a wild chase, but I kept the cards pretty close - I doubt you agree with me though, Claes."
 
"Her grumpiness aside, you two are extraordinarily similar, I see." She took a larger swig of water from her glass. "It's quite amazing, really."
 
"How so?" Jamiebel asked.
 
"There wasn't much of a deck that she was revealing to Jim either, and still to this exact moment she's keeping secrets," Claes replied. "And, the two of them are fit for a good battle every so often, as it seems. If I didn't know Triela so well, Jim would still be going at it with her on that point. Or not, maybe a different point. But from what I see, he doesn't take to losing very well."
 
"Well, I personally hate losing when racing against someone, except when I accept defeat, but I kinda do - it just depends on my mood," Jim noted. "Good reading of my actions."
 
Claes merely nodded. At the same time, Henrietta was drawn by the first part of Jim's statement. "Racing? There's another cyborg that likes to race. But, Jose's not really much happy about driving too fast, even though he has a much better car than her."
 
"I know who this cyborg is, Henrietta - it's Allison. Thank Rico for telling me."
 
"Oh." Her cheeks turned a pale red as she looked back down at her plate of food, picking at a noodle with her fork. "Well, you two should meet one another, then."
 
"I will. But first, Jay-bee and I have to do some things first. And don't be ashamed - you tried to tell me something, and I thank you for that.
 
"Well... you're welcome." She punctuated her sentence with a friendly smile, but it didn't last for long. "But, what is it... oh, you have to do your Verificas, right? I've heard some cyborgs talking about that before."
 
"Exactly. Jay-bee and I are training hard for it, and we hope to do very well in it. Who are some of the best cyborgs that completed the Verifica?"
 
Claes was the first to reply. "It depends on what you consider best in a cyborg, but at the end of the day the final scores aren't really so important. Not that we know first-hand about what is required in the Verifica, but what I heard is that it's really easy."
 
"Well, I consider the 'best' as in all-around ability. The scores are there as just a measure to us, just so we can learn where to improve." 
 
"Well, that certainly is quite important. Your handler and Jamiebel's handler certainly will help the two of you figure out what it is lacking so you can serve them better."
 
"Didn't I already say we share a handler?"
 
"No, you didn't. As soon as we were introduced to you two, you and Triela started your, ahem, discussion. But, that fact is quite interesting."
 
"It's true, we do share the same handler. Jamiebel and I are, in fact, part of the same fratello."
 
"Oh, that's amazing!" Henrietta replied.
 
Claes was less enthusiastic. "And who would be the handler for you two?"
 
"A Frenchman by the name of Frédéric Loeb."
 
Having taken the final bite of her rather light meal, Claes placed her fork aside and, while rising from her seat, reached into the pocket of her dress. "Well, if I may say so, the poor man has quite the difficult task ahead of him to wrangle two cyborgs instead of just one."
 
"He claims to like the challenge of having two, apparently."
 
"I'm sure he did." She found the item she had searched for, a blister packet of pills. Pushing the plastic with the thumb of one hand allowed the two round tablets to fall into the palm of her other hand. "We'll see how long that sentiment lasts."
 
Jim nodded. "I'll be surprised to see him last the year with us. But I presume he'll make us eat our words, Claes."
 
Claes placed both pills in her mouth, washing them down with what water remained in her glass. After grimacing, she turned a curious gaze to the older girl. "And, do you think the same thing Jamiebel?"
 
"I think he can do it. Dunno why, but I think he can."
 
"Interesting." She picked up her tray and turned toward the trash cans. Right before leaving, she spared the pair one last glance. "Maybe I'm wrong after all."
 
"See ya, Claes!" replied the boy.
 
"Hope we meet again," Jamiebel added.
 
Jim looked back at Triela, with a bit of discernment on his face. "Sorry about earlier - I totally didn't mean to--"
 
"Eh. It's alright." She grinned, and it seemed to be the first moment of levity in their conversation for a while. "If anything, I find it interesting to have a sparring partner of sorts. Though, I did somewhat lose myself there in the heat of the moment."
 
"Happens to the best of us, Triela. I sometimes end up blanking out after focusing so much on something. Though, in all honesty, I have a feeling you have something on me."
 
"I sure do. But that much will have to wait for a little while since I have to continue my preparations for my upcoming mission." She stood from her seat and lifted her tray, preparing to take it to the trash. "You're a smart guy, though, so I have a feeling my advantage won't last for long, right?"
 
"Perhaps - but I had to kinda bluff and wing it at the last moment; some say I was just born lucky. But I have a good feeling you could beat me the next time around. Plus, preparing for Verificas is never easy, even if it is easy."
 
"You better believe I'll try." That time it was more of a smirk than a grin. "Anyway, Don't worry too much about it, as all that will do is cause you too much stress. Frédéric will have you guys ready."
 
Jim nodded. "Two weeks should probably be enough for us. Best of luck on your mission, Triela."
 
"Thanks! If you need any help, at least in the next few days before I go, don't hesitate to ask. I may be busy, but I'll alway at least try to make time." With that, she departed.
 
"Alright." Jim finished what was left of his food and drink, and quickly tossed the debris in the trash can, and also putting the tray on top. "Jamiebel, I'll wait up at our room. I'll see you then."
 
Jamiebel nodded, still getting through another bite.
 
"I'll see you 'round, guys!" Jim said before leaving in a huff."
 
"Bye, Jim," Rico replied, albeit rather softly given her mouthful of noodles.
 
Henrietta turned to Jamiebel with an inquisitive expression on her face. "I wonder why he's off in such a hurry? He didn't happen to forget anything, right?"
 
"It's just his way of doing things, Henrietta. Trying to get things done quickly and on the trot," replied Jamiebel.
 
The young brunette gave a slow nod "Oh." 
 
"I think he likes Triela," Rico said, somewhat offhandedly, after swallowing.
 
Jamiebel's eyes widened.
 
"Excuse me?" the black-haired girl asked in surprise, blushing.
 
"Well, I've heard that when a boy and girl argues a lot, it means that they really like each other." Rico turned her eyes toward the ceiling as she fell deep into thought. "Though, I can't seem to remember where I've heard it, though."
 
Jamiebel's face turned cherry red in embarassment at the thought of Jim and Triela together... as a couple, no less.
 
"Are you sure about that, Rico?" Henrietta asked. "I mean, Claes said once that sometimes what happens in her books doesn't really happen in real life. But, then again, that was also after she caught you in her stash of books. She seemed really angry about that for some reason." Then, Henrietta noticed the distinct color change of her newest friend and turned to face her. "Um... what's wrong, Jamiebel?"
 
"Huh?!" Jamiebel gasped, her face returning to that of her normal almost-white tone. "Oh, sorry, it's nothing, 'Etta. Just shocked at the fact of Jim and Triela as a couple." She quickly put her hand over her mouth, accidentally revealing what she was thinking.
 
"I think Jamiebel likes Jim as well," Rico said while giving the older girl an aloof smile.
 
"Um, well- er- I- er- I- uh- you see, I- I- I- I- I--"
 
Somewhat grasping what was going on, Henrietta hurriedly stood, gulped down the last bit of her water, and grabbed a hold of her roommate's arm. "Oh, Rico, I forgot that we have to hurry up and meet with Jose and Jean at the kill house."
 
"Huh? But I thought we--" 
 
"It was nice to meet you, Jamiebel. Good luck with your training." With that rapid sendoff she dashed off with a very confused Rico in tow.
 
Jamiebel breathed a sigh of relief, putting her hand over her chest. "That was too close...although they don't know it's the other way around..."
 
----------------------
 
Over the next two weeks, Frédéric taught Jim and Jamiebel the basics of how to fight against enemies, such as the Padania; he also taught them what they will cover in the Verifica, without telling them its true purpose (the aforementioned test).
 
Over time, the duo learned quickly and efficently, even practicing what they learned in the dormitory's gym, reading up at the library, and essentially working almost non-stop to achieve their goal of being among top of the charts of the Verifica.
 
The day of the Verifica was at hand. The Loeb fratello had done all they could to train hard. Now it was time to show the fruits of their labor, arriving at the testing grounds, where Jean and his brother Jose, awaited them.
 
"Signore Croce, buon giorno," Frédéric replied.
 
"Before we begin the Verifica," Jean said, "I will ask you once again if you truly believe your cyborgs are fully prepared for the examination. You do have the option of giving them more time to train."
 
"I have full confidence in them, Jean. If they did not train endlessly, then we would not be here," answered the Frenchman with full confidence.
 
"Fair enough. Shall we begin?"
 
The Croce brothers led the way to the room where the written comprehension exam would be held. It seemed rather small compared to the lecture hall, though it was the room Jean typically used to give his art lessons. Jose handed Jim and Jamiebel a sheet of paper with the exam questions and directed them to their seats. A few minutes later, the lights dimmed and a movie began to play on the television screen.
 
"You should pay close attention to the contents of this instructional video," Jean said moments before he and Jose ushered Frédéric out of the room.
 
It was a short movie of about ten minutes, and it fully described how the cyborgs were to behave in public situations or in the odd instance they may be alone. It also contained the answers to the surprisingly simple questions listed on the forms. Though the pair initially were shocked, it did not take them long to understand their situation. When the film ended and the exam papers were handed to Jose for his inspection, the pair of perfect scores was essentially a foregone conclusion.
 
On the other hand, the shooting portion of the Verifica provided the first real test, if only for the fact that they had a realistic chance of making a mistake. Targets were human-shaped and set out at ranges of forty, one-hundred, and two-hundred meters. However, unlike in a more realistic situation, the targets were completely stationary, and there were no invalid targets such as the hostages in the kill house. Jean explained the goal of the test while Jim and Jamiebel prepared their weapons.
 
"Your goal here is to score the maximum possible score on the targets, given ten shots for each range. Missing three times on any target erases your score for that target." 
 
That seemed easy enough for the cyborgs to understand, and as they took aim with their handguns for the initial round, it seemed equally easy to accomplish. None of the rounds missed the body of the target, and for the most part they passed in a tight cluster around center mass, the region giving the highest score. Duplicating the feat at 100 meters was more challenging for the pair, but while neither cyborg hit center mass every single time all of their rounds did hit the target. On the other hand, 200 meters proved almost impossible for the pair with their handguns. Three misses occurred within the first five shots for both, and that apparent failure ended the handgun portion of the shooting test.
 
Redemption came for Jim and Jamiebel when they switched to their primary weapons, the FAMAS G2 rifle. Unlike for the handguns, 200 meters was well within the effective range of the bullpup rifle, and though again not reaching the perfection they attained at 50 and 100 meters, neither cyborg placed a round astray at the longest distance.
 
"A decent shooting job, 200 meters with the handguns notwithstanding," Jean remarked.
 
"As expected of hard work," Frédéric simply replied.
 
"It could have been improved."
 
"Come off it, Jean," Jose interrupted. "You know that 200 meters is pretty much impossible to consistently hit without a rifle."
 
The elder Croce brother nonchalantly shrugged. "Maybe so, it has been done before. They are cyborgs, after all. Accomplishing the feat would have significantly improved their scores."
 
"No harm, no foul; only one cyborg has done the impossible, correct?"
 
"Yes, but that doesn't mean others can't aspire for the same."
 
"Touche. Onward to the next test."
 
Finally, the group of handlers and cyborgs arrived at the obstacle course, a two-kilometer long run interrupted by seemingly random and haphazard piles of wood. However, those obstacles were specifically designed to stress the physical components of the cyborgs. Some created depressions in the ground, but most of them were vertical impediments to their progress, some of them reaching fifteen meters skyward. As daunting as they appeared to humans, the cyborgs were expected to make short work of them.
 
"The course is wide enough for the both of you to run simultaneously," Jean said to Jim and Jamiebel. "However, you are not allowed to assist one another, nor are you to impede the other's progress. Your times will be tracked electronically. Now, line up at the start and don't move until I give the signal."
 
The signal in this case was a loud beep, after which the pair bolted from the starting line in a full sprint. Barely a few seconds later they encountered their first obstacle, a three meter wall. They both leaped it in a single bound, landing with almost no break in their respective strides. At this moment they were essentially tied. However, as they progressed through the balance beam, hanging bars, and a series of ever larger walls to climb--some deliberately covered in mud or grease--Jamiebel started to pull a slight advantage. With a circular course, the end line was also the starting mark. A sharp beep sounded when Jamiebel crossed that line, followed by another similar beep barely half a second later.
 
Both Jean and Jose stared at the time posted on the display for a few seconds before the younger brother spoke. "That was... impressive. Very impressive."
 
"What's the fastest time around here?" Frédéric asked.
 
Jean turned to Frédéric spoke in measured tones. "Given the types of obstacles we place, we expect a cyborg to complete the course in at most eight minutes The record is seven minutes, twenty-two point two seconds, which no cyborg had met within five seconds."
 
Frédéric winced. "Jamiebel will not be pleased, to say the least - this was her strongest aspect here, she said, and she missed the mark by, what, three tenths?"
 
"I'm just shocked she got within three seconds, let alone three-tenths," Jose replied.
 
"I'm just shocked that Jim got within almost half a second on Jamiebel. Moving on, then."
 
"Just be sure to take a moment to truly appreciate your cyborgs' achievement without the gloating," Jean said with some irritation. "But yes, the close quarters combat trial is already set up for them."
 
The last component of the Verifica occurred immediately after the obstacle course run, with no time set for the cyborgs to rest. That was a deliberate plan, as most of the time they would expected to fight opponents and their exhaustion at the same time. A pair of GIS commandos, trained by Major Salles and fully briefed on what to expect from the cyborgs, awaited Jim and Jamiebel. It was the only way for them to fight at full strength without injuring an Agency member. Here, it was up to the commando to avoid getting injured. All the same, the human members of the match wasted no time in pressing the attack.
 
As with every other mock battle with cyborgs, it didn't work out in their favor.
 
"Well, that was pretty much what we expected to see," Jose said as he watched the two commandos climb to their feet for the third time.
 
In this match, three knockdowns meant the end of the fight. Neither cyborg saw the ground once.
 
"I have to agree with that," Jean said. He turned to Frédéric. "This concludes the Verifica."
 
"Good," he replied. "When and where should I see the results, in comparison overall?"
 
"I can send them to you as soon as I return to my office, if you're interested in seeing the details." Jean looked skyward for a moment before returning his gaze to the newest handler. "However, it suffices for me to say that both of your cyborgs passed."
 
"Like I said, two weeks, and they'd be ready. Thank you very much."
 
"For the Verifica, indeed you have demonstrated that much. But real life combat is far more challenging and dangerous than our simple test. You cannot slack in your training if you want your cyborgs to survive in the field."
 
"Yes, sir."
 
"Anyway, you're dismissed for today," Jean said. "Since there are still plenty of hours remaining in the day, I would suggest continuing their training in core competencies."
 
"Or," Jose swiftly added while turning a quick glare at his brother, "you can feel free to give them the benefit of at least a short break for the remainder of today."
 
"Fair dos. By the way, I don't believe we've met. Frédéric Loeb, former aspirant of the French Army."
 
"Jose Croce, Carabinieri for a few years before joining the Agency. Henrietta is my cyborg, and while this is our first meeting she has told me about having met Jim and Jamiebel."
 
"Interesting. More friends for the pair, then. Anyway, nice meeting you, and I'll see Signore Jean later on. I expect the results are to be posted in the common room?"
 
Jose nodded. "As soon as they're printed out. And it was good to meet you as well."
 
Frédéric departed for the dormitories, and he pulled out a locket, containing two old pictures: one of him and his squad with Nyromi, and the second was one of him and Nyromi at the pub - kissing.
 
"Merci, Nyromi; you really helped me out today," he said to himself.
------
Chapter epilogue:
 
Most of the cyborgs crowded around the bulletin board to see how well the new recruits did. It wasn't long for the pair of Jim and Jamiebel to notice what was occurring, although they didn't know what was really happening. Rico was the first to run into the pair.
 
"Hello, Jim and Jamiebel!" Rico turned to the pair and smiled.
 
"Heya, Rico," Jamiebel replied. "What's happening?
 
"There's a note on the board. It looks like you two passed." She smiled even wider. "I'm glad!"
 
"Whoa! They did that well?!" exclaimed one cyborg.
 
"No one came close to that overall score since Alpha!" remarked another. "That's amazing!"
 
"I'm more surprised that they nearly beat Monty in the obstacle course," said yet another cyborg. "She had us beat by several seconds."
 
"Well, it's about time someone stepped up and took her down a peg, though she's probably not going to be around to see this, unfortunately."
 
"And to think they did this well in just two weeks...their handler must be crazy, but skilled..."
 
"What's all the hub-bub, guys?" Jim asked the cyborgs.
 
Henrietta was standing next to Rico and was the next to notice the pair's presence. "Well, we were just noticing how well you did in the Verificas."
 
"It seems you two have come really close to breaking some old records," Triela said, walking up behind the pair. "It's created quite a buzz around here. Annoyed Claes like nothing else, I'll tell you that much. She's hoping for all the noise to go away so she can paint in peace."
 
Jim and Jamiebel walked to the front of the group, and read the list:
 
Risultati complessivi della Verifica della Competenza Operativa
 
1° Alpha Lautani (maneggiatore: Nyromi Lautani)
2° Jamiebel Angkahan (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)
:
4° Jim Eligino (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)
 
"Whoa, holy crap," Jim whispered. "Jay-bee, are you seeing what I'm seeing?"
 
"I don't believe it either," Jamiebel responded.
 
"Triela, are you sure those results are correct?"
 
"They came straight from Jean's office, so I'm pretty sure." She grinned at the pair. "Congratulations on doing so well. Your shooting may need a smidge of work, but I can't argue with the rest of it."
 
"That's amazing, eh, Jay-bee?" Jim asked. Although, that would be a bit unheard... because she fainted from the shock of the results.
 
"Jay-bee? Jay-bee?"
 
Henrietta looked at the prone form of her new friend with a concerned expression. "Um, is she going to be okay?"
 
"Probably too much to take in for her," replied the boy, as he picked up the unconscious girl. "One of you has gotta spell the news for Jamiebel. Triela, I'll trust you with that job."
 
"You sure about that? I might just accidentally tell her that she ranked dead last." After a few moments she started to chuckle. "Oh, who am I kidding. I'll take care of it, if I don't get beat to the punch."
 
"Alright. I'll see you guys later."
 
And with that, Jim carried Jamiebel to their room.
 
"Oof, she's heavy."


Last edited by topgearbrzgt86 on Fri 5 Sep 2014 - 10:19; edited 2 times in total

topgearbrzgt86

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by Alfisti on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 3:39

Risultati complessivi della Verifica della Competenza Operativa
1° Alpha Lautani (maneggiatore: Nyromi Lautani)
2° Jamiebel Angkahan (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)
3° Monique Blacker (maneggiatore: Jethro Blacker)
4° Jim Eligino (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)

I presume in your version of the universe Monty did take the VdOC then?

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Alfisti

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 11:33

Alfisti wrote:
Risultati complessivi della Verifica della Competenza Operativa
1° Alpha Lautani (maneggiatore: Nyromi Lautani)
2° Jamiebel Angkahan (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)
3° Monique Blacker (maneggiatore: Jethro Blacker)
4° Jim Eligino (maneggiatore: Frédéric Loeb)

I presume in your version of the universe Monty did take the VdOC then?

Yeah, pretty much; I thought it would be fair for all cyborgs to take the VdOC in their own time; the rankings are nothing but show of how well the handler trained them in overall skill.

topgearbrzgt86

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by Alfisti on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 19:24

Honestly I'm not certain, had she taken the VdCO, Monty would have done that well. Her core skill set is, after all, different, and her work-up period short with an appropriately different focus. The Verifica is something which would have been "scheduled in" as a box to be ticked, rather than specifically trained toward. To put it differently: she's a spy first and a cyborg second.

Besides, she would probably consider herself above all that anyway.  Razz

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Alfisti

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 19:31

Alfisti wrote:Honestly I'm not certain, had she taken the VdCO, Monty would have done that well. Her core skill set is, after all, different, and her work-up period short with an appropriately different focus. The Verifica is something which would have been "scheduled in" as a box to be ticked, rather than specifically trained toward. To put it differently: she's a spy first and a cyborg second.

Besides, she would probably consider herself above all that anyway.  Razz

Well, spies do have good agility, plus they have a good range of skills. Whyever not would she do that well? Razz And anyway, if she considers herself above it, then I'd presume she'd do pretty well in it.

Remember, rankings are just for show in the Verifica. It's whether or not you pass that matters. Wink

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by Alfisti on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 20:27

topgearbrzgt86 wrote:
Alfisti wrote:Honestly I'm not certain, had she taken the VdCO, Monty would have done that well. Her core skill set is, after all, different, and her work-up period short with an appropriately different focus. The Verifica is something which would have been "scheduled in" as a box to be ticked, rather than specifically trained toward. To put it differently: she's a spy first and a cyborg second.

Besides, she would probably consider herself above all that anyway.  Razz

Well, spies do have good agility, plus they have a good range of skills. Whyever not would she do that well? Razz And anyway, if she considers herself above it, then I'd presume she'd do pretty well in it.

Remember, rankings are just for show in the Verifica. It's whether or not you pass that matters. Wink
The pass is indeed what matters (to be honest, my own take the VdOC wasn't even ranked) which is why, had Monty done it, I imagine she would have turned up on the assumption she would pass. Don't get me wrong, Monty likes to be good at what she does, but when it comes to prioritising "my job" and "not my job", "my job" wins.

As to why she would not be up in the top rankings? Well, while the written component doesn't really pertain to her she could memorise the presentation easily enough, and her agility/balance is indeed excellent. Everything else however... if you've read AtAC you'll know that action and gunplay are not really J+M's chosen routes, they're thinkers rather than fighters... so while she's a crack shot with her PPK, that is only a short-range weapon, and anything else she is decidedly average with by cyborg standards. That's true also for hand-to-hand combat so, in an examination geared toward, or to include, those latter two, a more "standard" cyborg skill set as it were, well...

...it's one of the reasons I originally had her skip the VdOC. Her yardstick to be measured by is a different one, and having the SWA the standard examination was partly intended to help show that. As Chiara notes (probably a few too many times, looking back sweat ) in MiI: Monty's world is a different one from that inhabited by the other cyborgs'. Waiving the Verifica also helps isolate her further from her peers by removing a shared experience, and gives some idea that the SWA was a) in a rush to get her and Jethro deployed and b) weren't fully organised or planned out in the fratello's creation, instead having to make a few tweaks to the existing Gen02 chassis, with the rest left to her handler, for a more "suck it and see" approach.

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sat 30 Aug 2014 - 20:53

Alfisti wrote:
topgearbrzgt86 wrote:
Alfisti wrote:Honestly I'm not certain, had she taken the VdCO, Monty would have done that well. Her core skill set is, after all, different, and her work-up period short with an appropriately different focus. The Verifica is something which would have been "scheduled in" as a box to be ticked, rather than specifically trained toward. To put it differently: she's a spy first and a cyborg second.

Besides, she would probably consider herself above all that anyway.  Razz

Well, spies do have good agility, plus they have a good range of skills. Whyever not would she do that well? Razz And anyway, if she considers herself above it, then I'd presume she'd do pretty well in it.

Remember, rankings are just for show in the Verifica. It's whether or not you pass that matters. Wink
The pass is indeed what matters (to be honest, my own take the VdOC wasn't even ranked) which is why, had Monty done it, I imagine she would have turned up on the assumption she would pass. Don't get me wrong, Monty likes to be good at what she does, but when it comes to prioritising "my job" and "not my job", "my job" wins.

As to why she would not be up in the top rankings? Well, while the written component doesn't really pertain to her she could memorise the presentation easily enough, and her agility/balance is indeed excellent. Everything else however... if you've read AtAC you'll know that action and gunplay are not really J+M's chosen routes, they're thinkers rather than fighters... so while she's a crack shot with her PPK, that is only a short-range weapon, and anything else she is decidedly average with by cyborg standards. That's true also for hand-to-hand combat so, in an examination geared toward, or to include, those latter two, a more "standard" cyborg skill set as it were, well...

...it's one of the reasons I originally had her skip the VdOC. Her yardstick to be measured by is a different one, and having the SWA the standard examination was partly intended to help show that. As Chiara notes (probably a few too many times, looking back sweat ) in MiI: Monty's world is a different one from that inhabited by the other cyborgs'. Waiving the Verifica also helps isolate her further from her peers by removing a shared experience, and gives some idea that the SWA was a) in a rush to get her and Jethro deployed and b) weren't fully organised or planned out in the fratello's creation, instead having to make a few tweaks to the existing Gen02 chassis, with the rest left to her handler, for a more "suck it and see" approach.

That is indeed a very interesting thought, there. Considering that the VdCO would be filed under "not my job" for Monty, it does make good sense why she wouldn't take it (plus Fact A). On the fighting aspect, I kinda like to think of it not just being physical fighting, but more strategy and how quickly they can think on their feet (anticipation). Gunplay, I can also understand why.

I personally think that agility and movement are probably what makes up big time for the shortfalls. Plus, it's better (in my opinion) to be agile and three-dimensional (like J+M) than be strong and two-dimensional.

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by taerKitty on Sun 31 Aug 2014 - 20:41

I'm going to be the wet blanket and say this:

My cyborgs didn't take the VdCO, and this is why.  

It's fine if you want your OCs to be the best (or here, "the best, second only to the one whose schtick is I AM THE BEST.")  Don't drag other OCs into it w/o the author's consent.  The Gunslinger Girl OC Wiki allows the authors to say, "Yes, you can use my OCs willy-nilly," "No, get your mother-ing hands off my OCs" and everything in-between.  I'm in the latter part, but I can easily see, were I to somehow say, "yes, I did this," then others might feel it is fair game to say (either) "I did better" OR "I did worse."

See, for me, the point isn't that you say in your story that your OCs are better than mine.  My OCs actually are pretty crappy, which is intentional.  The point is, by doing so, you're including my OCs in your story w/o asking.  That would not be cool.

Alfisti's taking this much better than I would.  Between this and an aborted attempt to crowdsource Fratello Quarterly, I'd be asking for a ban.  He's a much better man than I am for tolerating this.

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sun 31 Aug 2014 - 20:48

Mm. My apologies, TK. I didn't know at the time; nor did I know that I used them in all honesty. I don't mean to use any original characters without permission. Honestly, I was too hasty in posting this chapter, and I wanted to get it out right away.

Again, my apologies.

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by taerKitty on Sun 28 Sep 2014 - 1:19

Chapter 1

I had a half-dozen examples where your grammar could use some tightening-up, but I realized that an English 101 crit really doesn't get to the meat of the story.  It just focuses on the surface.  Mind you, that's what the reader first sees, and the medium by which the reader experiences the plot, so it is of paramount importance.  However, it's something that can be taught in online courses.  TL;DR: your punctuation, grammar, and syntax need a lot of work.

It's a very brief scene, and has a stylistic decision common among many fanfic authors - to intro the OC to CC and get him or her situated as quickly as possible.  Here in GSGland, I see more than a few stories starting with the recruitment.  As I said before, it's a matter of style.  I would prefer we know the characters more as people than as assigned roles.

Perhaps that will happen in later chapters.

===

Chapter 2

I didn't catch much of an attitude in the previous chapter, but I see it here in their 'compromise' to use pseudonyms on-the-job, but to retain the cyborgs' original names in private.  That pretty much subverts the intent of Jean's suggestion to rename them - he doesn't want the cyborgs to encounter echoes of their past, so renaming them removes one possibility.

That said, I see Jean as a pretty absolute fellow, so I have a hard time seeing him allowing Fredric to even be considered once he caught hint of any attitude, imagined or not.

Hm, there's a lot of tell-not-show here.  Yes, we have a lot of background we created for our OCs, and we want the reader to enjoy them, but no one enjoys being force-fed.  Remember, a story is a relationship with the reader.  Just as you don't tell all your carnal, craven desires on a first date, you shouldn't feel obligated to push the details onto the reader.  This is firstly a story, a work of fiction.  It's not a textbook.  If you can't slip the fact into the story with some measure of subtlety, then hold it for another time.

===

Chapter 3

The sentences "At the count of three..." and "Just then, the girl next..." are written in present tense, while the rest of the story is written in past tense.  There may be other tense shift errors in the story, but I wasn't looking for them.  Perhaps it is the fact that these two came so close together that caught my eye.

Well, they remember each other.  This makes the whole "change their name", "no, I'll just use pseudonyms" in the previous chapter void.  However, it's more than that - it is a logical incongruity, and one that can cause the reader to doubt the author's command of the craft.

"Not quite agents..." is dialog, but missing quote marks.

Again, the pace is quite rushed.  They wake up and remember each other - do they remember their parents?  Do they remember the incident that nearly killed them?  Or the seven others that were nearly killed?  Why aren't they surprised they're in a hospital like room with strangers?

Many other OC cyborgs are simply brain-wiped.  They don't remember much of anything besides the basics of communication.  What they do have are some sort of weapons-based training, at least enough to identify the firearm even if they can't shoot it worth a damn (like Claes in the flashback).  They also have that brainwashed "I am here to serve the Agency" mentality.  All of this is absent here.

So, you need to better envision the mindset of someone waking up in their situation.  What questions would they ask, what do they feel, etc.  You also need to better delimit what canon cyborgs (and many other OC cyborgs) know/don't know/have implanted and what these two have and have not in their heads.

You're on the chat, so I'll stop here.

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Wed 1 Apr 2015 - 3:05

It took me a while to gather up some nerve to post the next three chapters, but here they come, one by one!


----------------------------------------------------


Chapter 7: A Link to the Past

Jim sighed as the door closed behind him with a soft click. A now semi-conscious - yet still shocked - Jamiebel rested in her bed on the other side of the threshold. Knowing that she was feeling at least a little bit better and improving by the minute gave him enough peace of mind to leave her be. He walked down the hallway back in the direction of the collection of cyborgs still gawking over the Verifica results. Before he arrive at the group he ran into the individual responsible for placing him and Jamiebel so high on the list.

"I see you've taken a look at the results, young master," Frédéric replied. 

"Yeah. I'm still quite amazed at our placing. I guess I should thank you for training us so well."

"Pas du tout, Jim. It's the least I can do for you two. Speaking of which, where is Jamiebel?"

He turned back and pointed down the hall. "She's resting in bed right now. Seems she was kinda shocked at how well she did and she, well, fainted."

Frédéric nodded. "I thought she'd have been angry that she didn't beat the record, but every cloud and all that." He looked at Jim. "You know, Jamiebel does remind me of a certain girl I met during my army days, and she was the inspiration for me to teach you guys."

"Really?" His tone expressed as much curiosity as it did a sense of awe. "I think I'd want to meet her someday."

The Frenchman sighed, and pulled out his locket. "You can't. She's dead."

"Oh." The news left him somewhat deflated. "What happened to her?"

"I'm not entirely sure, but last I heard, she was K.I.A'd - killed in action; apparently she worked for the Agency as well."

"Wait?" His mind raced back to his previous conversation with Triela. "Was she a handler? I bet she'd had to have been one. Who was her cyborg?"

"I'm not sure. She and I never spoke after a few years, but I have no doubt she might have been."

"Hm..." After a few more moments of thought he shrugged in acquiescence. "Maybe we'll find out more about her sometime, as I really want to know. But, I guess you're here for another reason?"

"That's right. I have something to show you. Follow me to the garage."

Jim did as told, and followed him to the SWA garage. The garage contained a plentitude of cars, ranging from Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis at the very highest end, Mercedes-Benzes and Land Rovers in the mid-range, and even the odd Smart car, Fiat X1/9 or Ford Fiesta for the more frugal agents and handlers. Finally, they stopped at a pair of cars covered with tarp; next to a royal blue Peugeot 208 GTi - a car that Frédéric owns.

"I was planning on saving this after we did our first mission; but, since you did so well on the Verifica, I may as well show it to you right now. Félicitations, Jim, because this is now yours."

He pulled off the tarp on one of the cars to reveal a black and white car with pop-up headlamps, that wouldn't look out of place in a certain anime. 

To say that Jim was surprised would be an understatement.

"Whoa...are you saying this car is mine?"

"Yep. You know what car this is, right?"

"A 1983 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-Apex, codenamed 'AE86' - and in black and white, too! It looks amazing! How did you know I wanted a hachi-roku?"

Frédéric winked. "Spoilers."

"What's under the other tarp?" He walked a few paces over and reached down to lift the tarp from the ground. "I assume this one's Jamiebel's, right?"

"Well, it is yours too, but if you wish to give ownership to Jamiebel - not right now, of course - then go ahead."

"A Mazda RX-7? FD, 1996 Type R. Wow! Hmm... I think that for right now I want to keep a hold of this for myself."

"Cool. And I believe you'll want to name them as well?

"I think I'll name the hachi-roku, um... Takumi. The FD I'll call Keisuke."

"Interesting names, Jim. What made you choose them?

A grin came to Jim's lips. "Oh, just a little something from this show I remember watching before the incident."

Frédéric nodded. "Wanna take Takumi out for a spin? I'll drive it for you, so you can get the feeling of it."

"Absolutely! Though, I hope to get behind the wheel myself as soon as possible."

Jim and Frédéric quickly strapped themselves into the car - Frédéric in the driver's seat, Jim in the passenger's seat - before Frédéric turned the ignition on. The sound of the engine made Jim shiver with delight.

"Classic 4A-G engine. Gets them every time," Frédéric said. "Hang on to the handle straps - it's gonna get fast."

Jim nodded, and did what was asked of him. Frédéric slowly eased the car out of the garage and onto the test track. There, on the main straight, he pressed the throttle down, and tightened his grip on the steering wheel as the car blasted forward with enough force to push handler and cyborg back into their seats. The Trueno left a pair of black stripes behind on the tarmac for about ten meters as it accelerated from first gear. Frédéric kept his foot buried in the throttle and the car continued to pick up speed until the speedometer reached 140 kilometers per hour. That was when he partially lifted off the throttle and, while pressing the brake with the toe of his right foot, intermittently blipped the throttle with his heel while shifting down through the gears. It was for good reason, as the road turned sharply to the left only 150 meters ahead. The Trueno's nose dipped as its brakes scrubbed off speed, but eventually Frédéric got the car slowed enough to make the corner.

In this case, slowed enough still meant a heady 70 kilometers per hour.

Jim could not help but to smile even as the car rolled hard to its right through the left-hand bend. Despite allowing for physics to work, the car's suspension was tuned to give a rather firm ride, which greatly benefitted its handling on the Agency's test track. Frédéric blipped the throttle in the short straight connecting that left to an equally sharp right-hander. The car's weight swiftly transitioned from right to left, yet it never did seem to step out of place.

Another straight followed that left-right series of corners, and Frédéric managed to accelerate the Trueno to 130 kilometers per hour before standing on the brakes once again to tackle the tight left-handed hairpin looming 200 meters ahead of him. The car's tires squealed and hollered as he did his best to maintain 55 kilometers per hour throughout the corner. But, that was the extent of Takumi's complaints as it it found the third bit of straight road.

"Now, for this next set of corners I'm going to do things a little differently," Frédéric said.

As the pair approached the left-right complex of corners, Frédéric braked 150 meters away from the turn-in point as he had done previously. Then, instead of holding the throttle steady while turning left into the apex, he floored the throttle and progressively turned to the right as the rear tires broke grip. Jim gasped in amazement as he felt the car slide to its right when it ought to have been moving left, yet seemingly without losing control. A huge cloud of smoke emanated from the rear tires as the car slid sideways.

"That was awesome!" Jim exclaimed as the car gradually straightened.

"Trust me, Jim," Frédéric grinned, "you haven't seen anything just yet. I've only been going at around 70%."

Speeds continued to increase as the car flowed through the right-left esses up to what formerly was a single apex left-handed corner. Now a chicane was cut from the remnants of that bend, with the intent to slow cars down from a lengthy straight.  Frédéric achieved 135 kilometers per hour by the time he reached his normal braking point. However, instead of actually hitting the middle pedal, he turned the car sharply to the right. This time Jim's loud gasp was emitted less from a sense of awe and more from a mixture of curiosity and outright worry. Almost as soon as he completed the first maneuver, Frédéric spun the wheel sharply left to initiate the drift while still maintaining a significant amount of speed into the corner. The front tires thudded loudly as they climbed over the curbing, causing the whole car to shudder. The typical gray cloud turned brown from the dirt picked up by the rear tires nearly leaving the tarmac. And, yet, Frédéric managed, through some minor miracle, to not slam the car into the inside retaining wall or beach it in the deep gravel trap on the outside of the corner.

"Woah!" Understandably, there was a little bit of fear in his exclamation. However, it subsided very quickly. "How the heck did you do that without crashing us?"

"Two words: gutter run."

"Gutter.." He fell silent for a few moments in thought, and then it hit him. "Oh! I got it now! Yeah, that makes sense now. You used the inside of the curbing to stabilize the drift."

"Exactly. And do you know the other type of gutter run?"

"Um... Ah, with both wheels, right?"

"That does apply to the first one, being corner entry, but not quite; it's corner exit. Using the curbing at the point of the apex onwards to stabilize the car (be it in drift or grip), you can gain extra exit speed out of a corner, if you time the release correctly."

Jim nodded. "I see."

"Now, coming up are a couple of hairpins - what I intend to do is not brake into either of them, or the remaining corners."

As he said that, Frédéric let his foot a few centimeters off the throttle, as to prepare himself to take the corner at a slower but precise speed of 128 kilometers per hour. Approaching the first hairpin, he gradually turned the wheel, while carefully keeping his foot stable. As he did that, the Trueno managed to avoid oversteering into the armco; instead, it stood stable and flat, gripping the inside of the apexes, and coming out with a small slide, which he quickly corrects. The second hairpin had him going slightly faster at 132 kilometers per hour, but his foot did not let off the throttle. Again, gripping the apex, he steadily turned into the next hairpin; still no oversteer, the Trueno was stable and flat again. On the exit of the hairpin, he hit the gas, and again, steady steering, and very little oversteer. Once the car had fully straightened he pressed the throttle fully, feeling the car lean back on its hauches as it rushed toward the finish line. Almost as soon as it crossed he stood on the brakes, this time holding them until the car nearly came to a complete halt. The weight of the car sliding forward dipped the nose dramatically, and yet he still did not let up. He blipped the throttle slightly with each downward gear change, and then slipped the transmission into neutral once the car fully stopped.

"So, what's your first taste of the Trueno?" Frédéric asked.

"I think..." He paused, just to take a moment to soak in the whole experience. "I think I like it very much. Yeah. I can't wait until I'm able to do the same things that you just did."

"Which should be in three days."

Jim's eyes widened with surprise. "Really? That soon? I'm not complaining, but, that's... Wow!"

"Yep; I'm gonna teach you how to drive like that in three days' time - after that, the fast driving training begins."

"What do we do before then?"

"Missions. Because we're a full-fledged fratello now, we'll be assigned a couple of missions during that stint. Anyway, ready to grab lunch?"

"Sure." He unlatched his seatbelt and reached for the door handle. Before pulling the door open he turned to his handler. "But, before we go, could I at least have a little moment behind the wheel, just to know what it feels like?"

"Sorry, Jim, but you're gonna have to wait."

"Thought I'd at least try."

"It's only a few days. You can wait that long, right?"

He shrugged. "I guess I'll have no choice but to wait."

"Don't worry. You'll survive the next three days."

Jim merely groaned in reply.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Triela softly knocked on the door to Jim and Jamiebel's room a few times and waited for a reply. It did not take long to arrive.

"Come in," Jamiebel answered.

The pigtailed blonde pushed open the door and walked inside, an expression of concern scrawled across her face.

"Heya, Triela. What's wrong?"

"Ah, I was just worried about you, that's all." She chuckled a little bit and sported a mischievous grin. "Now that I see you're at least conscious, I probably don't have to worry all that much."

"Yeah, the shock really was that big for me, so I can understand."

"Well, it's not everyday that someone does so well at the Verifica. Heh. Not that I have any experience with that, of course."

"Can you tell me what happened after I fainted?"

"Well, it's nothing all that spectacular really. Jim picked you up from the floor and carried you here to your bed. Then Mr. Loeb came by the dorms and left with Jim." She lifted a hand to rub the back of her neck. "I don't know where they went."

"Oh, that seemed nice of Jim." She blushed when she said that.

Triela stopped and turned her head slightly to the side for a moment. The faintest of playful smiles tugged at her lips.

"So I guess Rico was right after all, huh?"

"Well, she was only half-right - it's not me who likes Jim; rather, he likes me."

"Oooo, I see now. That's very interesting." She meandered around the room for a few seconds. "I wonder if the feeling is mutual. It would be such a tragedy if it weren't."

"Well, it was, but I had a boyfriend beforehand, so I couldn't risk cheating on him for the poor guy. I know he still has a place in his heart for me, but..."

Confusion filled Triela. "Hm. Wait, how do you know that?"

"He confessed to me once before; after I told him, he took it well, and said that."

"No, no... not that." Triela fervently shook her head before walking to her fellow cyborg and taking a light grasp of her shoulder. "I mean, that's interesting as well, but... how do you know? How do you know anything that happened before you became a cyborg?"

"Personally, I'm not sure. I haven't a clue on how the process works of conditioning."

"That's... weird. Very weird. I know pretty much all of us have no clue of our pasts, except for Rico, of course. And not knowing is perfectly okay with me, personally. I assume none of us came here for very nice reasons, so ignorance is bliss as far as I'm concerned." She sighed as she removed her grip of Jamiebel's shoulder so she could sit alongside the other cyborg. "But, anyway, you know, somehow, that Jim liked you. And do you like Jim even a little bit?"

"Um...well, I..."

"Well?"

"I'm..." Jamiebel looked down. "I don't know."

If Triela was confused earlier about memories, Jamiebel's answer left her completely flabbergasted. "Huh? How? I mean, he likes you, and he's a good guy from what I can tell, so I can't really see why not. After all, it's not like your going to be able to see your old boyfriend anymore."

Jamiebel sighed, almost to the verge of tears. "You're wrong...he has to be alive..."

"Huh? What happened to him?"

"He was one of the casualties that brought us here - but I don't know if he's dead or not..."

In an instant Triela knew she had made a serious mistake. "Oh, damn. I'm so sorry. I didn't know about that. Maybe... maybe he survived and is recovering in some hosptial somewhere. Or, um... even better, I guess, he's another cyborg in the making..."

Jamiebel burst into tears, clinging onto Triela for dear life; the thought of her boyfriend dead just brought her down so hard; just thinking about him would put her off.

"l..." Triela exhaled a miserable sigh, then put her own arms around Jamiebel to return the hug and to comfort the sobbing beast before her. "I'm sure he's perfectly fine, but even so... um, let's just forget I brought this up, okay?"

Jamiebel nodded slowly.

"Good." Triela patted Jamiebel's back a few times. "Yes, let's think about good things from now on, like how well you did on the Verificas and how you're very popular now because of it."
---------------
In an attempt to cheer her Jamiebel up, Triela brought Jamiebel down to the cafeteria, where Jim and Frédéric were, much to the former pair's surprise.

"Huh?" Triela said as soon as she noticed them. "I thought you two had left? Did you forget anything?"

"We didn't; we just finished the session," Jim noted. "Good to see you, Tri. I take it Jamiebel's not doing too well?"

Triela couldn't help but to release a nervous chuckle while looking askance. "Well, she's awake, which is better than where she was when you guys left."

"True. But what happened after?"

"Um... I'd rather not really talk about it, if you don't mind." She glanced over at Jamiebel, who seemed to share the same sentiment. "If you really need to know, you can try talking with her directly, sometime much later than right now I'd recommend."

"Ahh; I think I know what's wrong. It's 'that' issue, right?" Jim was referring to Jamiebel's boyfriend.

"It seems you might know already." She grasped the bridge of her nose and shook her head as she exhaled a sigh that was part frustration and part worry. Those sentiments seemed to disappear once she spoke again. "Anyway, I'm not saying any more on that. Besides, we didn't come down here just to yap. Poor Jamiebel here hasn't eaten anything since she finished the Verifica."

"Good point. What's for lunch?"

Triela, Jim, Jamiebel and Frédéric headed down to the lunch line, to check out the food serving now. The current food for today was themed around Western American/Mexican-style food. Grabbing each a trayful of fries, a burger, a quesadilla and steak, and a soda, the four sat down at a nearby table.

"So Triela, how is your day going, besides the obvious?" Jim asked.

"Eh, quite busy as you might imagine." She took a large slurp of her soda. "Lots of work in the kill house, which of course we normally do anyway, but this time with a special focus on noncombatant targets. It's really... different, I guess is the right word. Also, apparently I won't be able to bring along my trusty shotgun this time around, so that sucks. But what can you do?"

"True. We gotta improvise when we have to. No weapons? CQC, and steal their weapons; that's how I would do it."

"Oh, I do have a weapon, two of them actually. Of course I have my trusty P230, but along with that I'm getting a silenced PDW for this mission. An MP-7 to be exact. I don't know if you've ever handled one before."

"Never, really. Besides the Beretta 92, and the FAMAS G2, I've never held a gun, let alone a shotgun."

"Well..." A grin came to her lips as she contemplated her next words. "It's like holding a really big pistol, to be honest."

"Knockback multiplied?"

"Quite the opposite." She chuckled. "I mean, it is literally a really big pistol. A machine gun, actually, with a lot of the mechanism behind the grip. There's also a retractable stock, but you can hold it and fire it like a pistol just fine. One handed, even, especially as a cyborg. Just have to be careful not to fire off all thirty rounds at once."

"Ooh. That's pretty cool."

"Thought you'd like it. Anyway, I have to use the MP-7, or actually hope not to use it, on my mission with Hillshire. The way he explained it is that it's actually more of an investigation, but we're somewhat undercover. So, if a gunfight breaks out, which is quite likely when I think about it, then we're already in pretty deep trouble. But better to be prepared than not."

"Alright. Any news on a mission for us?"

Triela shrugged. "Hey, you're going to have to ask your handler, not me. He's sitting right next to you, you know." For added effect, she then stuck her tongue out at the boy.

"I haven't a clue, either," Frédéric simply replied, returning to his food. "No calls for Jean or Ferro, in fact."

"Damn."

The three cyborgs and handler were still talking; Jamiebel the only abstention, but then... 

"Um..." Jamiebel lowered the french fry that she had been idly nibbling upon back down onto the plate in front of her and lifted her head to stare at the others with a solemn expression. "I was thinking... if any of you ever had anyone you've loved before."

Frédéric, Jim and Triela all looked at Jamiebel.

"Jay-bee, that's the first time you've said anything since we got here," Jim noted. "What's made you speak up?"

"I just..." There was a soft sigh as she slumped forward in her seat, her head resting upon folded arms. "Triela and I talked earlier and... I'm just curious is all."

Frédéric nodded, and again pulled out his locket. Out of pity for Jamiebel, he gave it to her. "Take a look inside, Jamiebel. You'll find my answer."

A hint of a smile created a crack in the melancholic shell that had surrounded her upon taking a glance at the tiny photograph within. "She's beautiful."

The Frenchman smiled. "Who does she remind you of?"

"I... I'm not sure, really."

"Let me give you an easier question. What do you see her as, when you look at her face?"

Jamiebel hummed as she stared into the locket for a few more seconds. "She looks like someone you loved a lot, and... and at the same time respected deeply. A colleague at one point?"

"Indeed. And now, do you think you can answer the first question?"

A tinge of pink came to her cheeks as she gave him a slow nod. "She reminds you... of me."

Frédéric smiled. She's right. "What gave you that impression?"

"I don't really know." She gently closed the locket and extended it toward Frédéric. "I guess, I imagined she would be someone who could be an equal to you, as though anyone lesser wouldn't be worth the attention, or time, or respect. Or love."

He smiled, wiping a tear from his eye. "I knew you would say that she reminds me of you; if you want, after our first mission, I can tell you and Jim a little story of my last day with her on the job."

"Yeah. That would be nice."

"One last question: can you guess what her name is?"

Jamiebel shook her head. "Um... I don't think so. Sorry."

"A girl that reminds me of you has a name just as exotic as yours, Jamiebel. Her name...is Nyromi."

Jim was lucky to avoid the droplets of soda that flew across the table. When he saw Triela pounding her chest and coughing as though nearly to the point of choking, he soon realized the source. The blonde felt the heat of the three stares in her direction and did her best to ignore them while acting somewhat normally. It was an attempt doomed to failure.

"W-what did you say her n-name was again?" Triela said, her voice turned slightly harsh by her coughing fit.

"Nyromi; why?"

"That's a... um... really nice name, that's all." She tried to conceal a nervous smile, but to no avail.

"Indeed. It's a name that stuck in my memory for quite a long time."

A loud buzzing originating from somewhere within Frédéric's jacket derailed the conversation, much to Triela's relief. The handler reached into a pocket within and pulled out his cell phone, looking closely at a message displayed on its screen. After a few seconds a deep furrow dug its way into his brow. That expression remained as he raised his head to direct his gaze at his two cyborgs.

"I got a good feeling, Jay-bee," Jim replied, not looking at the black-haired girl.

"A mission on hand?" Jamiebel responded, a grin forming on her face.

"Showtime," Frédéric simply said to his two cyborgs. "Thanks for the talk, Tri, but we gotta go. We'll see you around!"

"Good luck," Triela replied.

The trio walked out of the cafeteria...until Jim glanced one last time at Triela.

"Thanks a lot, Triela. You helped out Jamiebel when you could; I'm proud to be a friend of yours."

She tossed Jim a playful wink. "It was nothing, really. Just goes with the territory. But, I still appreciate it, and I consider you a friend as well."

Jim nodded, and quickly rushed off to meet with Frédéric and Jamiebel.

"Even still," Triela thought, sighing as she watched him leave, "You've gotta earn that last bit of info. As long as I don't screw up and give it away like I almost did just then."

topgearbrzgt86

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Forum Posts : 452

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Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

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-Fernando Alonso

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Wed 1 Apr 2015 - 3:17

Chapter 8: First Taste, First Mission

The trio of handler and cyborgs stood before the door to Jean's office, waiting with blatant eagerness for any information on the mission to which they had been assigned. Frédéric found it a bit peculiar when there was nobody apparently inside, or at least no one to answer his knocks upon the door. Then he heard his name called by an unfamiliar voice, one filled with urgency, and yet one that belonged to a woman. He swiveled around to see just who had called him.

"Who might that be, perchance?" he asked.

"Ferro Milani." She waved at them, beckoning them to approach. "I'll explain your mission to you while we walk."

"Alright."

Frédéric, Jim and Jamiebel followed Ferro, trying to match her pace.

"Your target is this man, Enzo Favero," she said while essentially shoving the open manila folder toward Frédéric. "Some of our fellow Section One agents spotted him in the south of Rome about, oh, forty-five minutes ago. We don't have much of a window to eliminate him though, so we need you to be expedient. I understand Jim knows how to drive, right?"

"Barely; I merely showed him how I drive - but I will teach him quickly and efficiently, ma'am."

She swapped the folder she held in her hand for another. "Okay, then I guess that plan won't work. I mean, seriously though, I thought you were doing something use--"

Frédéric quickly swapped back the folder he was given for the original folder. "Miss Milani, I'm sticking with your first plan. I shall take Jim's place as the wheelman for the arrival to the site." 

Her glare was fierce, to say the least. "And who's going to drive the other car?"

"Miss Milani," Jim interjected, "I can drive; I barely have enough experience to take the wheel. Damn the consequences, I'll learn along the way. What transmission is the car?"

"You tell me. You've driven in it before while I haven't. But, even then, we're not out to try to injure or kill random civilians. I need someone with skill here. I'd send Brian and Allison out, but they're a few hundred kilometers away at the moment."

"No problem, Miss Milani, I won't do either of the sort."

Ferro peeked a glance at her watch, and its reply forced her to sigh. "Okay, you know what, fine. We don't have time for this argument. We'll go to the cars... wait. Dammit. You guys don't even look like you're remotely prepared yet. Where are your weapons?"

"Armory. Safekeeping. Are we heading there?"

"Well, we sure are now." With that she doubled back and effectively doubled the pace of her footsteps. "What do you shoot?"

"Beretta 92 PAMAS and FAMAS G2; both me and Jamiebel; HK 416 for Frédéric."

"Good." She reached into her pocket for her phone and pressed a few buttons before lifting it to her ear. "Ferro here. I need three magazines and ammunition apiece for two PAMAS G1 handguns, nine millimeter NATO, one Heckler and Kock HK416, and two FAMAS G2 rifles. Have it ready for us by the time we arrive." There was a pause. "No, we'll be there within five minutes. No, I don't care what excuse you might have, just have it ready for us, okay?"

Jim quickly seized the phone from Ferro, and shouted, "Get your damn arses off that high chair of yours right now, and get the guns by the time we get there right bleeding now! Understood?!"

Ferro stopped in her tracks, held out her hand, and affixed upon Jim a whithering stare. "Give me back my phone, now." Her words were slow and forceful.

"My apologies; trying to get a job done quickly, so we can save time getting there."

"It is my job to provide you with your missions and the equipment necessary to complete them. It is your job to perform the missions assigned to you. It is not your job to yell at Agency staff. And it's definitely not your job to interrupt me when I'm doing my job, do you understand me?"

Jim's expression didn't change, but he did as was told of him, and handed the phone back. "Fair dos, but sooner or later, you will need someone to help you with your job when things go wrong on your end. Getting this job done quickly and efficently is all that matters right now." (Like the tension here) ((Same))

"If that is what you believe, then your best bet is to not be a major disruption and let me handle my duties, because no staff member is going to listen to a command from a cyborg." Her narrow-eyed glower became even more intense. "Ever. Now, if you'll please follow me to the armory so we can get you kitted out and shipped out of here in something resembling decent time."

Jim stood, still unwavered from the glare. "Yes, ma'am." Walking quickly, he replied, "Now, moving on and doing exactly as you said."
-------------------------

Frédéric raised his hand to stymie the sunlight from further warming his left cheek, wondering why Peugeot did not make larger sun shields. He had parked his 208 GTI in front of a nondescript apartment building one block away from the complex occupied by Enzo Favero. At least, his target was supposed to be there, but he had not recognized any sign of the balding man. However, he could see the front of Enzo's car, a black Alfa Romeo 159, sitting slightly askew in its parking space, almost as if he had positioned just right to ease his departure. He glanced down at his watch to see that it was five minutes until six in the evening. The intelligence he had with him stated Enzo had entered the apartment fifty minutes ago. It also suggested he might leave at any minute.

"Jim, Jamiebel," Frédéric radioed, "If you see a black Alfa 159, proceed to chase once he passes your position. After that, disable his car as quickly as possible without wrecking yours. Remember; get the job done with the least amount of casualties. Over."

"10-4 - I copy, Frédéric," Jim radioed back. "Panda in position, at the corner of Via Ceasar and Via Gramsci, ready to chase the Raven. Over."

"Roger. Over and out."

Any minute was even more generous of an estimate, for as soon as Frédéric finished the radio transmission he saw his target exit the apartment. Enzo was a paranoid type, for good reason, but he also appeared to have a modicum of skills to back up his desires. Frédéric remained calm, yet ready to respond at a moment's notice, as he noticed the man scan the street up and down for several seconds. Apparently satisfied with his check, Enzo opened the driver's side door and stepped down into the rather large sedan. A faint puff of gray smoke, assuredly from the tailpipe, indicated that he had started the engine. Instead of pulling out into the street, as Frédéric anticipated from his target, Enzo merely waited. The presence of a second individual, a woman younger than the forty-three year-old man by apparently a decade or so, exiting the apartment and entering the front passenger's seat, explained the delay. However, finally they were set to leave. The one-way directionality of the street meant that they would have to drive past Frédéric's Peugeot.

Looking at the car's tailpipe, he said to himself, "3.2 litre V6 engine, twin-turbo, produces 350 hp through the front wheels. I admire what he did with the car, but he does seem a fool to not convert the drivetrain."

He pulled out of the street and did his best to maintain three or four cars between himself and Enzo; the Italian not suspecting anything. Noting every move the target made, Frédéric tried not to let temptation through and chase him down. An intersection soon approached, and Frédéric saw the Alfa turn left. The three cars head of him continued straight, which forced him to slow down and hope for another car to enter the street and separate his Peugeot from the Alfa before his target disappeared. Fortunately, a driver seemed to notice his unspoken desire and provided that very separation. It was an annoying game that seemed to repeat with each intersection, whether the Alfa turned or continued straight. Every time Frédéric estimated he was too far back or too close, he let off the throttle, or gently pushed it. Approaching Via Caesar, the lady in the Alfa noticed something peculiar.

"(That blue car followed us the whole way here; what is he doing?)" she asked.

Enzo, for all his previous paranoia, seemed quite surprised at the news. "(Huh? What blue car?)"

"(That blue car that's right behind us.)"

"(Uhh... Oh, I see it now." He turned a grin to the woman sitting alongside him. "What would I ever do without you, Natale?)"

"(What wouldn't you do?)"

Enzo chuckled for a moment before stealing one more quick glance into the rearview mirror. "(Okay, let's get a little space between ourselves and this guy, why don't we.)"

The Alfa appeared to turn left onto Via Caesar, but instead of accelerating at its previously lackadaisical pace it bolted forward as though the driver just found out he was in a tremendous hurry.

"(Damn, I've been discovered,)" Frédéric muttered. He pulled up the walkie talkie. "Jim, Jamiebel, you still there?"

Jim responded. "Yep. I spotted the guy. Proceeding chase... now!"

Knowing that Jim and Jamiebel were quickly approaching the Alfa, Frédéric floored the throttle, crossing Via Caesar with the intent to find a parallel street. Almost as soon as he crossed, the black-and-white Toyota Trueno appeared from a narrow alleyway, its tail nearly stepping out as it came only a few meters away from the Alfa's rear bumper. Enzo and his 159 had the momentum and horsepower advantage on the straight, allowing him to steadily pull away. At least, that was the case until the typical Rome traffic forced Enzo to slam hard on the brakes before rear-ending an innocent bystander in a Lancia Delta. That allowed Jim and Jamiebel to catch up.

"He's a decent driver, I'll give him that, but he depends too much on power," Jim commented. "I noticed his lines were a bit erratic as we were travelling through the one-way streets."

"So how do you intend to catch him?" Jamiebel asked.

"Simple. The corners. The car looks as though it has too much power, and it understeers, requiring a blip of braking mid-corner."

The Alfa's front wheels chirpped loudly, protesting Enzo's desire to accelerate at nearly full throttle while turning sharply right. No longer was he and Natale on Via Caesar. To his chagrin, he was forced onto a narrow one-lane road, and to make matters worse, the traffic in front of him did not appear very cooperative. He needed to be very inventive, very quickly. A quick glance to his right gave him inspiration, and with a tremendous shuddering of the car's frame he leaped the low curing onto the sidewalk. It was slow, and it was extremely dangerous, but it was the only way he could get around the line of cars to the intersection ahead.

"(What the hell are you doing, Enzo?)" Natale gripped the door handle as tightly as she could while staring straight ahead with an expression of outright horror.

Enzo wasn't exactly calm either, but his deadpan voice and intense concentration did well to mask his fear. "(Just making some space. The traffic is blocking us, so I decided to go around.)"

There was a soft thud against the right front, and Natale could see a man in a blue suit fall to the ground behind them.

"(Argh! You almost ran someone over! This isn't necessary!)" 

"(It is if you don't want to get caught.)"

After a few seconds the Alfa made it to the intersection, though not without leaving in its wake dozens of people who had dove to the ground to escape certain injury and possible death. From that point Enzo turned to the right, whereupon Jim and Jamiebel lost sight of the sedan.

"Damn; gonna have to reset, and try and catch up there," Jim growled. "Frédéric, bad news, we lost Enzo - we're gonna try to catch him down another street; is he coming your way?"

Frédéric radioed back to Jim. "I hear his car, I do believe he is coming down here. Meet me at Via Rossi, I should be able to cut him off there."

"Understood."

Jim swiftly shifted into reverse, trying as best as he could to escape the blockage in front of him while not slamming into any cars that decided to turn onto the street from behind. A silver Fiat Panda nearly made the mistake of doing exactly that, but Jim managed to extract the Toyota from the street before the inevitable collision. It did cause him to lose a tremendous amount of time, however, forcing him to push the car as hard as he could despite lacking the lessons Frédéric was due to teach him. The Trueno's rear tires screamed as he shifted into first gear and dumped the clutch, a consequence of driving upon the slightly slippery cobblestone. Eventually the car heeded Jim's command and launched forward.

Now, all he had to do was catch up to Frédéric and Via Rossi, which was a difficult task given the two-lane road on which he traveled. The dense evening traffic had no real warning of his approaching Trueno, so he had to be careful to not hit any cars, especially those coming toward him. It forced him to choose carefully when to dive out of his lane. Yet he persevered and managed to avoid even a hint of a calamity.

At least, until a slow Renault driver turned into his lane directly in front of him.

"Crap!" Jim exclaimed, before he stood on the brakes and willed the car to stop.

"What do we do, Jim?" asked Jamiebel, nervous of the future outcome.

He glanced to his left, into the lane of oncoming traffic. There was about a fifty meter gap in that lane between the car just passing him and a delivery truck. The Renault was closer at fifteen meters and closing. He weighed in his mind his available options. He could stay on the brakes and hope not to hit the Renault. That was the safe route, but it meant losing a tremendous amount of time to Frédéric, let alone Enzo. Or, he could take his chance. His Trueno still had some momentum as it hadn't yet completely stopped. In the end, it really wasn't much of a decision.

"Ah, to hell with it, I'm gonna live life to the fullest, death be damned!"

He lifted off the brake pedal and, while steering hard to the left, punched the throttle. The Trueno darted past the Renault, missing the hatchback by barely a meter. Jim kept the throttle pinned for an extra second, searching for a gap in his lane of traffic as the truck grew ever larger in his windshield.

That gap did not appear, to his eternal chagrin.

What did appear, however, was an entrance to a parking garage to his left. He stabbed at the brakes yet again and turned into the garage just before the truck would have struck him. There weren't many empty parking spaces available, but that was not his concern as he followed the tight spiral upward as quickly as he could push the Trueno. Eventually he reached the top of the garage and lifted his foot from the throttle, slowing the car. 

He was faced with yet another decision. Via Rossi, a wider four-lane road, was ahead and slightly to the right of him and the garage. And four stories below. 

He could turn around, making his previous decision appear even more foolish. Or he could add yet another foolish decision to the tally. He looked over at Jamiebel.

"Jamiebel, your thoughts?" he asked the girl beside him.

Jamiebel looked at Jim for a few seconds, and a Rico-like smile formed on her face. "Like you said, and what I always say: live life to the fullest!" she answered, filled to the brim with confidence.

It wasn't much of a makeshift ramp, but the pile of leftover construction equipment and asphalt debris from a recent resurfacing of the garage would have to do. He slowly reversed the car until the rear bumper kissed the concrete wall. The engine screamed at full throttle for a few seconds, the car held in place only by the depressed clutch pedal. Then came a tremendous surge of acceleration. The loud thud was the only indication they had hit the ramp, at least until an orange sky filled their view. If they had looked over to their right they could just barely see the sun setting on the horizon.

"Jamiebel, if we die here, I just wanna say this: you've been a brilliant friend, and I wouldn't want to die with anyone but you," Jim replied, grasping Jamiebel's left hand.

"Thanks, Jim. I couldn't have wanted it any other way," Jamiebel agreed, also holding on to Jim's right hand. "You're probably the only one I may admit this to you, so, I'll say it. I --"

Jim, Jamiebel, and the Trueno fell to earth, and they would have reached it sooner had a lorry's trailer not gotten in the way. It was just long enough to provide something resembling a stable platform. It was also, much to Jim and Jamiebel's relief, not filled with large, solid objects. 

Or with anything at all, for that matter. 

The trailer's collapsing roof cushioned the impact just enough to not completely destroy the Trueno. All they had to do now was find a way out of the remnants, which Jim did by using reverse gear.

Unfortunately he hit another car in the process, causing yet more damage to an already beat up car. 

Fortunately, that car just happened to be a black Alfa Romeo 159. The Alfa spun sideways, causing it to slam into one of the trees lining the side of the boulevard. The driver's side door had taken the brunt of the impact. Inevitably, it was not a pretty picture.

"...不幸だ..." (...Fukou da.../Just my luck...) sighed Jim. "Alright, let's finish the job."

Jim and Jamiebel exited the car, and much to their surprise, found Enzo had died as soon as he hit the tree. Luckily for Natale, she was still alive. But as is life...

"You're under arrest, madam," Jim replied, pointing his Beretta at the passenger seat. "Because --"

"ジャッジメントですの!" (Judgement desu no - This is Judgement!) Jamiebel added, opening the passenger door.

Frédéric had arrived just in time, as well; he handed Jamiebel a pair of handcuffs, and locked them onto Natale's wrists.

"(W-who...)" Natale could barely see the dark blobs surrounding her, and her pounding headache--among her many other injuries--didn't help matters. "(Who... a-are... you?)"

"(We're no one in particular, but you will be taken in by the police for questioning. Now, come with us, and no one gets hurt,)" Frédéric answered in the woman's language.

All she muster for a reply was a slow nod before slouching over sideways in her seat.

"Well, that was easier than expected," Jim simply said. He paused for a second before adding, "Um, Frédéric, we may need to work on the car."

"Bottomed out the suspension?"

He covered his face with both hands, slid them down his face, inhaled sharply, and said, "You know it."

"Not to worry; we'll get that done, and get an everyday car for you. I never foresaw that coming, though, you and Jay-bee stopping Enzo by yourself. Anyway, let's get the poor woman to the police. What's the folder say on her?"

"Nothing, actually. Apparently, they didn't tell me about this lady. Guess we'll find out later on. For now, let's just get both her and the cars out of here."

A relentless buzzing pulled Ferro from her laptop and compelled her to answer her cell phone if she wanted it to stop. She saw a code name that corresponded with Frédéric's.

"Ferro here. I assume the mission is complete?" she said with a flat tone.

"Correct, ma'am. Jim and Jamiebel stopped Enzo Favero without my help, apparently."

"I hope there isn't any carnage we need to clean up."

"Nope; if there is (and there isn't much), my cyborgs and I should clean it up, after we drop off this lady who was in acquaintance of Enzo, at the police station."

There was an audible sigh over the phone. "Just let me know where to send the cleanup crew. The last thing we want is cyborgs being spotted by the general public. I'll deal with the woman when you get back."

"Via Rossi. And not to worry, we'll work with the clean-up crew - in disguise. Just to let you know, we will be coming back later than expected; I also plan to reward them for the hard work."

"You don't..." Ferro pinched the bridge of her nose as she stared at the ceiling for a few seconds. "Gah, never mind. Just don't get seen, okay?"

"Understood. Loeb out."

Ferro pressed the on-screen button to end the call, then let the phone take an unceremonious tumble to her desk. Then, with a loud huff, she shook her head and returned to the laptop in front of her. Or at least, she tried. Despite her best efforts, her mounting frustration kept getting in the way. After a futile few minutes she closed her laptop, folded her arms over the desk, rested her head atop those arms, and mumbled.

"I don't get paid enough for this job."

--------------------

Another hour passed, and the cleanup job was done, thanks to some help by a certain French fratello, and Jim's Trueno was currently being repaired (and much unknown to Jim, improved) in a workshop.

"How about I treat you guys to a family restaurant?" Frédéric asked. "My treat, what with how well you did today."

Jim and Jamiebel's faces brightened. "Thanks, Frédéric!"

"Of course, we'll have to rent a quick room and get you new clothes. The old ones are starting to stink - we don't want you to end up like those old-time Frenchmen."

A chuckle emanated from the trio, and they proceeded to do exactly that; they got a room for Jim and Jamiebel to a quick shower, Frédéric went down to the shops and bought a blue Italian rugby shirt, a pair of khaki pants, and a brown-red aviator jacket for Jim. He also bought a blue Italian soccer shirt, color-matching (and rather stylish) blue pants, and a blue biker jacket, to complete a symphony of blue for Jamiebel.

When Jim and Jamiebel had finished showering, and saw the clothes laid on the bed for them, they merely smiled at what fashion sense a certain Frenchman of theirs had. Meeting up outside of the hotel, they arrived at a family restaurant, where they piled on the food (well, only Jamiebel did).

"Hey Frédéric, do you still remember that promise we made?" Jamiebel asked, while her mouth was somewhat full.

Frédéric laughed. "Hold on, there, Jamiebel, just finish off what you're eating, and then I'll tell you the story."

Jamiebel nodded and did just that. "So, tell us what you did with Nyromi during your time with her."

"Well, she and I were in the army..."

And so, the Frenchman regaled in the past with his fellow cyborgs, and soon, they came to understand where their handler was coming from, and where he's going next.

topgearbrzgt86

Male

Forum Posts : 452

Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

Comments : You have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!
-Fernando Alonso

Registration date : 2013-03-29

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Mon 17 Aug 2015 - 20:44

Thanks to boomer_gonz and Jacen Starslayer for allowing me use of their characters (Alpha, Jay and Priscilla), as well as helping me writing this chapter. Only one chapter to go before the end of the first half of the story. Smile

Chapter 9: The Alpha Effect - Between a Frog and a Gypsy


Returning from finishing their mission, the Loeb fratello returned back from Rome, to the compound the next day to turn in their mission report. It read as follows: "Stopping Enzo Favero was not the easiest of missions, nor was it the hardest. Agent Loeb was able to tale him to the swap point; and from there, his cyborgs, Jim and Jamiebel managed to corner Enzo and his partner, Natale. Favero was killed in the ensuing wreck with Jim and Jamiebel, but Natale was knocked unconscious from the impact, and taken into custody." Once they turned in the report, the trio trundled down the hallway...and an odd feeling overcame Frédéric.

"I sense someone familiar; almost like I know this person - even though I don't..." Frédéric replied very warily, turning around to face the person behind him. "I wouldn't suppose you have the last name Lautani, would you?"

Stopping in mid-stride to glare at Frédéric, the person answered, "Indeed, I do. You wouldn't happen to be Roma, would you?"

Frédéric shook his head. "I happen to be French; however, I know this Roma you speak of. I've worked with her before."

"...Then why would you ask me about her?"

"It's not me asking about her - it's my cyborgs themselves." The blonde Frenchman gestured to Jim and Jamiebel. "Jim and Jamiebel are their names. By the by, the name's Frédéric Loeb."

"Alpha Lautani," the SWA field agent said, extending his right hand.

"Nice to meet you." Frédéric shook his hand firmly, as did Jim and Jamiebel. "If anything, to answer your question, you give off her air. It's all too familiar to me."

"I've been told that before," Alpha replied with a smirk. "I suppose she did wear off on me."

Frédéric raised an eyebrow in curiosity, and smirked back. "Hm, same here." Clearly, these two seemed even, when it came to one-upmanship. "Did you ever happen to inherit her tolerance for the drink?"

Now sporting a wry grin, Alpha chuckled and answered, "I've won a small fortune in Nepal."

Frédéric nodded.

I wonder what he means by ‘small.’ Knowing someone of Nyromi’s, ‘small’ would probably be a couple thousand euros. Cheeky liar.

"Wish to share a drink tonight? My treat, in memorandum of her."

"That is indeed a smashing idea,” Alpha chuckled, “but unfortunately, I've been tasked to report to the Director for an assignment. A rain check, perhaps?"

"Fair dos." Frédéric scribbled down his cell-phone number on a slip of paper, and handed it off quickly to Alpha. "Call me when you have time."

"I will. Au revoir, monsieur Frédéric."

"Au revoir, mon ami." Frédéric patted Jim and Jamiebel's backs. "Allons-y, Jim, Jamiebel - let's get you rested for tomorrow."
----------------------------------------------------------------------
-The next day-

It was another day of the normal routine for Jim and Jamiebel: wake up, get dressed, meet with Frédéric at the firing range, practice, then head to classes for two hours. After that, lunch time. Nothing too special there.

Coming out of classes, Jim yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Man, that was a long lecture. Thought I’d never get out of there without dying by boredom. Wouldn’t you agree, Jay-bee?”

The girl nodded and smiled at Jim. “I know, right? I’m not too sure what it was about, anyway. What was it, again?”

“Beats me. Something about imperialism or whatever. I just didn’t like how it was presented is all; too dull.”

“Yeah, it could have been spiced up with laser beams and force powers. Imperials have that... right?”

“Ummm…” Jim chuckled. “I think that’s a bit way off the mark there. Something along the lines of taking countries over by some means. Whatever; it’s not like we’ll use it, right?”

Looking upwards at the ceiling, Jamiebel giggled, and replied, “I don’t know. I think I’d make a good queen, though.”

Jim shrugged. “Well, if I ever become king, I’ll be sure to make you my queen.”

Her giggle turned into a laugh - that was quite the offer from Jim. “Do I get to be the palace wizard, too?”

He laughed back. Whenever she was happy, Jim was too; it was how he liked it. “Why not? Though I’m sure they do exist, a girl can dream, no?”

“I like to dream, but I also like to eat.” She put a hand on her rumbling stomach. “I’m starving! Anything good in the cafeteria today? I hope it isn’t the mystery meat…”

Luckily for Jamiebel, they happened to pass by the cafeteria, and the smell of the food was begging for her and Jim to eat it, with total abandon. That’s because today’s theme: Mexican food. This meant refried beans, hard-shell tacos, nachos, etc. Both of them entered the cafeteria with excitement in their stomachs, their expressions and body language. Each of them picked up a plate of the aforementioned foods, as well as a cup of cola for both of them.

Looking for a table, Jim noticed a boy sitting at the back corner of the cafeteria; he appeared to be American, slightly younger than Jim or Jamiebel, around Jim’s height, had brown hair and brown eyes, and next to him, a massive tray of tacos - of which, he was currently eating (or in his case, munching on). He was dressed in a black tee-shirt and blue denim jeans; a bit of a contrast to Jim’s white tee and blue jeans. On top of that, he was reading a magazine - a copy of the latest issue of “Popular Mechanics”.

“Hmm… I’m gonna go check out the guy over there. C’mon, Jay-bee.” Jim said, walking over to the table.

Jamiebel followed along behind Jim, slyly snatching a taco from a passerby’s plate as they walked past. She waved at the boy before shoving as much food as she could fit into her mouth.

Jim chuckled, as he glanced over at the girl. That’s Jamiebel for you; always hungry, and never shy about it. As usual, he sat by the girl, and for him, he sat across from the other boy. Jim smiled, and said, in his usual friendly manner, “Heya. How’s it going?”

Unfortunately for Jim, the boy paid him no mind; the boy continued to eat, and was deeply engrossed in his magazine. Jim frowned at this. “Hello? Anyone there?”

“I don’t think he’s paying attention,” Jamiebel whispered into Jim’s ear.

“You think?” he whispered back. “You have any ideas?”

“Try speaking his language.” She pointed at the magazine, before turning her attention to the boy. “Popular Mechanics, huh? You like inventions, I take it?”

The boy jumped up in surprise, and dropped his magazine on the floor. “Oh, hello,” he said with a hint of nervousness. “I didn’t see you walk in. Are you guys new?”

Jim chuckled, and looked under the table for the boy’s magazine. He managed to find it easily, and bump his head slightly in the process.

“Ouch…” he muttered, rubbing the back of his head, before handing the magazine back to him. “There you go. To answer your question, we are new, indeed; we just came back from our first mission.” He extended a hand to the boy. “My name’s Jim Eligino.”

“Jamiebel Angkahan,” she said simply, before shoving the rest of the taco into her mouth.

The boy nodded, as he took the magazine back.

"The name's Jay Valentine," he said confidently, as he extended his right hand towards the pair, and shook the hand of the boy in front of him. "I'm not sure how helpful I can be to you two, as I'm part of the reserve unit. But if there's anything that you don't know, just ask and I'll answer what I can."

Jamiebel tilted her head in confusion. “J. Valentine?” she asked. “Was your big sister in Raccoon City, by chance? If so, I’m so sorry.”

Jim chuckled, embarrassed by his friend’s comment. Why did you say that, Jamiebel? Now I have to make up some dumb excuse for this... “Sorry about that. Besides me and someone else, she didn’t quite know there were other male cyborgs. What she actually means is, ‘What do you do as part of this ‘reserve unit’?”

Jay blinked twice before shrugging. "Raccoon City? No, my sister is Priscilla. But yeah, there's only a few of us, as males don't take to the conditioning too well. I'm the infiltration, sabotage and wilderness survival specialist. Mostly, I protect my handler in the field though."

“Huh,” Jim nodded, before taking a bite of his nachos. “Call me a driving specialist,” he said, showing off his key to his car. “Also, you say you have a handler, as well as a sister; so, which is it? Sister or handler?”

Jay blinked, before he replied, "Priscilla is my handler. She prefers that I refer to her as my sister, though. And you say you’re a driving specialist; well, if you are looking for a vehicle specialist, you should talk to my friend, Allison McDonnell."

Jim nodded at that. “My and Jamiebel’s handler, Frédéric Loeb, also knows his way around cars, but I’ll make sure to meet her. She sounds pretty interesting.” He took a sip of his cola. “Also, do you happen to know a guy by the name of Alpha Lautani?”

At the mention of his teacher's name, the boy's eyes lit up.

"Yeah, he trained me in CQC. What do you want to know about him?" Jay questioned.

Jim nodded, before continuing. “Frédéric, myself and Jamiebel all met him yesterday; and Frédéric mentioned someone by the name of Nyromi - do you have any idea how this Nyromi person is connected to Alpha?”

Jay shrugged at the mention of the name. "I've been here for a while, and I've never heard that name before. If Sensei had a handler, it was long before I came to the SWA." He pondered a moment over a soft taco, before he continued. "Perhaps Sis could be of help, as she handles all the paperwork and files for the SWA."

Jim sighed. Well, that’s just dandy and fine. Damn it. “Alright. How did you and Alpha first meet, then?”

"Priscilla asked him to teach me CQC after I woke up in the medical center," Jay explained, before shuddering at the memory. "It was a terrible day for me."

“Hm? How come?”

"Well, male cyborgs were even rarer than they are now. And everyone thought that I was an intruder. I got disarmed and beaten by Claes and Alpha, and almost got into a fight with Triela."

Jim winced. Poor guy. Must be his luck. “I feel your pain there. Speaking of which, how many male cyborgs are there now, besides you and me?”

Jay pondered for a second and began counting mentally, before answering, "I'd say... five."

Jim chuckled in amazement. “Five? Wow, that is rare, indeed. In the meanwhile, have you also checked out the latest Verifica standings?”

"Ah." At the mention of the Verifica della Competenza Operativa, Jay hung his head in disappointment. "I was near the bottom in everything, except CQC."

Jim frowned. Wow. He should deserve better. “My condolences. But you probably won’t believe who came close from knocking Alpha off his top perch.”

"Let me guess, you guys?" Jay said with a chuckle. "Just remember, that record of Sensei’s was set when he first started, so don't let it go to your head. Excessive ego can get you killed...or so Sensei tells me."

“Oh, no, not me,” Jim laughed. “I’m nowhere near his league. No, the one who was right near Alpha’s score…” He pointed to Jamiebel. “Her. She’s second in the rankings.”

Jamiebel stopped eating for a bit, as she looked up at Jay and Jim. “Hmm? What’s up?”

Jay blinked as he looked the new girl over. She’s the one who’s almost as good as Alpha-sensei? How odd. She looks so delicate - she doesn’t look like she could have a hope of taking him on. "Well then, congratulations. Perhaps we will spar together during Physical Education. I've got a long way until I catch up to Sensei."

“Wha--?!” Jamiebel replied in surprise, almost choking on her cola. She cleared her throat before addressing the boy. “Um...fine, bring it on; erm, I’m not sure I’ll win, though. I won, without a shadow of a doubt, during the Verificas. Though, to be honest, I’d like to meet and train with Alpha.”

“Yeah, come to think of it, me too,” Jim replied. “I’d probably wanna get stronger too.”

Jay nodded, and finished off the last of his tacos. “Sure, I’d love to have you guys join me and Sensei, but probably right now, as you’re pretty busy with stuff as is.” Getting up from the table and placing the tray on top of the rack, he motioned for Jim and Jamiebel to come with. “You guys wanna meet Sis? I’m sure she’s busy and all, but I think she can make time for you guys.”

“Sure!” Jamiebel piped up; she was long-since finished, and she also placed her tray on the rack. “Always nice to meet someone’s handler. You coming, Jim?”

“I’ll meet up with you guys in a sec; gonna finish off all this food,” Jim replied simply.

"Alright - well then, I'll show Jamiebel to the administration office." Jay said, with an air of confidence.

Jim nodded nonchalantly and started wolfing down his tacos, as Jay and Jamiebel walked off. He better not take Jamiebel from me - I'm her friend, and I plan to admit to her my feelings. One of these days.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
"Well, my handler isn't like most handlers..." Jay commented sheepishly, scratching his head.

Jamiebel tilted her head slightly. “Hmm? How so?”

Jamiebel and Jay strolled their way down to the aforementioned administration office, where Jay’s handler, Priscilla Meleori, was located. During the time getting there, Jamiebel talked to the boy about Jim, and how Jay reminds him of the other American boy. Finally arriving at the office, they waited for Jim to arrive - and he did, a few minutes later.

Knocking on the door, Jay opened it, and much to Jim and Jamiebel’s surprise, Priscilla was about waist-deep in paperwork.

“Oh,” Jamiebel said. “So that’s why she’s not like most handlers…”

Priscilla, scribbling through papers and sorting them out at the rate of knots, moaned, “Why can't the other handlers fill out their own paperwork? I have enough work to do as is…”

“Um…” Jim replied, “excuse me? Do you happen to be Jay’s ‘sister’, perchance?”

Priscilla looked up from behind the mountain of paperwork on the desk. She looked a little haggard, and asked,  "What did he do this time?"

Jim shook his head. “No, no - he did nothing, this isn’t his fault; it’s more just a favor in part of myself and--”

"I didn't do anything this time," Jay cut in, pride (apparently) hurt. "People don't only ask you that when I've done something..."

Jim put a hand on Jay’s shoulder. “Hold on there, Sir Valentine, let me finish.” He turned to Priscilla. “As I was saying, this was just a favor in part of myself; I just wanted to know something on Nyromi Lautani.”

Priscilla let out a sigh of relief before looking towards the newcomers. With her eyes aglow, she questioned, "Okay. Out of curiosity, why would you be interested in information of Nyromi?"

“Because my and Jamiebel’s handler, Frédéric Loeb, knew her before she died. She was his girlfriend.”

Priscilla grinned as she mentally filed that piece of gossip for later. "Well, I don't have a lot of information on her; but what I can tell you is she was the Agency's first handler, and that she died on a mission. She was also Alpha's partner and handler."

Jim’s eyes widened.

No. There is no way. That can’t be. Surely, she can’t be that same Nyromi…

He thought back to when he saw the Verifica results. One name in particular, read:

1° Alpha Lautani (maneggiatore: Nyromi Lautani)

It was true. Nyromi was Alpha’s handler. Not only that, he thought back to what Frédéric said about Nyromi…

“You can't. She's dead.... I'm not entirely sure, but last I heard, she was K.I.A'd - killed in action; apparently, she worked for the Agency as well….”

And when Frédéric and Alpha met…

"I wouldn't suppose you have the last name Lautani, would you?"

"Indeed, I do. You wouldn't happen to be Roma, would you?"

"I happen to be French; however, I know this Roma you speak of. I've worked with her before."

"...Then why would you ask
me about her?"

There was no denying it. It was all true.

So Nyromi and Frédéric dated in the army, before later on, when she left for the SWA, and she was assigned to Alpha - Alpha is at the top of the charts of the Verifica, and he recorded that time in his first year, judging by what Jay said about him; Nyromi died in action on a mission with Alpha, and judging by Alpha’s initial reaction to Frédéric, prefers to keep the secret of her under wraps! And from inheriting her tolerance for the drink, to giving off her air...

Then... does that means Alpha and I are their successors?!


Jim rushed over to Priscilla in a hurry, eager to put the nail on this coffin. With his hands firmly on the desk, he demanded, “How and when did she die?”

Priscilla looked absolutely shell-shocked to see such energy from someone other than Jay. After a tense few minutes, hesitantly as though biting her lips, she said, "She died on a mission, like Raballo."

Unfortunately for Jim, that was as far as her knowledge on the Roma went; because, unbeknownst to him (and preferably, he’d have been better off not knowing), Nyromi died within six months to a year after she transferred to the Social Welfare Agency.

And it was something neither Alpha, nor Frédéric, would be keen to talk about.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

-A few days later...-

Frédéric, finished with the work at the firing range, walked back to the handler’s lounge, and over to the water cooler. There, he thought he’d never hear her name again, after Jim stood silent on the matter. It’s good he’s not using her name in vain or anything, but that was a tough wall to face. My apologies, Nyromi.

But his hopes were about to take a massive blow.

"So I heard some interesting gossip not too long ago," a woman spoke out. Ferro, standing next to the woman, looked like she couldn’t care less.

As the Frenchman took a drink of water, he heard what he wished was a dead issue…

"I heard that Operative Omega...I mean Nyromi, and the new guy, Frédéric, were an item before she came to the Agency."

Bad time to tell such rumors, Priscilla.

Frédéric stopped drinking his water for a moment - his eyes widened in anger, and crushed the cup he was drinking from. Walking slowly and intimidatingly with fists almost clenched, he asked, “What did you just say?”

Horrified at the Frenchman’s anger, Priscilla spoke in a high-pitched voice and almost without pause. "OmegaandyouwereanitembeforeshecametotheAgency--"

This did nothing to quell is mounting anger. "Word for word. Repeat what you said word for word before. And say her name proper."

There was no hiding it. Embarrassed, Priscilla said, "I heard that Operative Omega...I mean, Nyromi, and the new guy, Frédéric, were an item before she came to the Agency."

Ferro raised an eyebrow. "I would recommend that you calm yourself, Agent Loeb."

He nodded. He'd rather not get on Ferro's bad side, as Jim learned some time back. Sighing, Frédéric pointed at Priscilla and the door. “You. Me. Hallway. Now,” he growled.

Priscilla swallowed hard, before leaving the room. Frédéric, leading her to a corner in the hallway, said, “You think I appreciate the fact that you not only mentioned Nyromi in vain, but try to make fun of my relationship with her?”

Priscilla held a finger up slowly and pointed behind Frédéric. "Can we not talk here?"

Seriously? I'm trying to get my side of the story here, and she wants to tell me not to talk here? Though, to be honest, I better give her the benefit of the doubt. Without turning around, Frédéric said, “Fine. Tell me where you want us to go.”

Priscilla thought for a moment. "Sparring field with our cyborgs, perhaps?"

He nodded sternly, and both handlers walked over to the sparring field; There, almost by some coincidence, Jim and Jay, their cyborgs, were currently fighting, and Alpha was refereeing. In the ring, Jay had the upper hand over Jim, putting the latter in a submission grip, until...

"So before I tell you a story, let me tell you about Raballo..."

Hearing the name of Claes' handler, Jay froze before he could deliver the final blow. With this bout of bought time, Jim was able to break free from Jay’s grip; but instead of delivering the final blow, as his temptation had dictated, he stood up and raised his hands.

“I forfeit the match,” Jim declared. “If I'm gonna be honest, I don’t want to take down someone who can’t pay attention to his own opponent. It makes for a hollow victory; I'd rather take a loss by a better opponent than win by a distracted one.”

Nodding, Alpha said to Jay, "He’s right about you being distracted. Don't allow yourself to be like that on the battlefield; that is how your friends and colleagues die."

Jay hung his head in shame. "I'm sorry, Sensei."

“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” Jim said to Jay. “You beat me fair and square; I should be the one carrying the shame.” Looking over to Alpha, he said, “I’m ready for whatever speech you have prepared for me, Alpha.”

“Mm. You were right in yourself carrying the shame. You may have forfeited, because you wanted a fair fight, but you must realize that life is never fair. If you don’t use the opportunity to defeat Jay by outside means, you will not be able to protect anyone, if you die.”

Jim, unlike Jay, held his head up high, and nodded. “I understand. I just don’t wish to win by cheap shots and gimmicks.”

Meanwhile, Priscilla waved to Jay sheepishly. "Sorry about that, Jay, but, can you keep an eye out for anyone that would take drastic actions?"

Frédéric cleared his throat. “Miss…”

Priscilla turned to Frédéric and said, "Priscilla. Now...if I told you that I was trying to save your life, and that I meant no ill will towards Nyromi, would you forgive my words? I mean that you have every right to be mad… but what I have to say will require you to throw away your honor, in order to keep you and your charges alive and safe. This Agency has a lot of secrets to keep, and a lot of power to ensure that its secrets are kept. People have been killed for these secrets. People like Claes' handler, Raballo...or Nyromi."

Frédéric pulled out his locket at the mention of her name again, and showed it to Priscilla. “She is a part of my life. I have long since accepted her death; I do not know the cause of said death, nor do I wish to know the cause, lest it be under penalty of death. So I will forgive you, but I will tell you this: Casse-toi*. I am proud of my relationship with Miss Lautani, and I wish to respect her grave. If she were alive and I were dead, she would probably say the same about me. So please, do not dig any further into this wound. For her sake.”

Priscilla nodded, understanding his situation. “I only found out about your relationship from your cyborgs. She was a good person and...” She couldn’t bring herself to finish the thought, and broke down in tears.

The Frenchman sighed. I'm guessing I pushed the 'anger' envelope too far. Looks like I have to fix this problem. “They had every right to be curious. They needed to know she was a good person - nothing more. I knew she was a good person. Alpha knew she was a good person. My friends they would have said the same. She called me a saint among men, but I digress. She was the real saint.” Frédéric stood up with Priscilla, and he walked her to the door. There, he held her in a tight embrace. “I’m sorry.”

He escorted Priscilla back to the lounge, and gave her a cup of water. There, they reminisced about the Roma for a good half-hour, before he took her back to her office, and thanked her for the talk.

He walked into the sparring field, sat down, and looked at his locket again. He started to tear up after looking at the picture of Nyromi and him kissing - the thoughts of working with her so much as well as his friends was a image burnt into his mind.

"Nyromi...I know you love me...but why? Why did you go...?"

His musing was interrupted by a sudden buzzing in his pocket. He quickly grabbed his cell-phone and replied with a quick "Hello? Oh, it's you. You decided on a date? Alright; I'll see you then."

Hanging up, Frédéric looked back to the locket.

"I wish you were here...just like we were back then. If God grants us grace...then allow Him to let me be with you again..."

--------------------------------------

*TL note - 'casse-toi' is a polite way (I think) of saying 'bugger off' in French.

topgearbrzgt86

Male

Forum Posts : 452

Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

Comments : You have to leave the space. All the time you have to leave the space!
-Fernando Alonso

Registration date : 2013-03-29

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Re: Roundabout Life (title subject to change)

Post by topgearbrzgt86 on Sun 20 Sep 2015 - 13:02

This is it: the final chapter for part 1! Enjoy!

(Thanks to Boomer and MP5 for permission of use for their characters; all credit to them)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Chapter 10: Mirror Images
 
-That same night Frédéric and Priscilla had their conversation-
“So, Pris gave you a chance to tell you about ‘Omi, and you just said no?”
 
The Frenchman shrugged, and took a few sips of his lager, before he put the pint down. The conversation with Priscilla had taken its toll on him; that, and he hadn’t touched a pint in a while. 
 
“‘Ignorance is bliss,’ as the old saying goes. Why would I risk breaking my own relationship with Nyromi, if they know what happened to her?”
 
Alpha nodded in understanding. He knew firsthand what happened to his former partner, and looking at Frédéric, he though the Frenchman would be better off not knowing what really happened to her and why. “Well, one of your cyborgs, Jim, seems to take the news well, though. You have to be glad though, that he’s not pushing you on the matter anymore.”
 
“That’s true. I have to be honest, I should have thanked Priscilla for that; but she should stay shut on my personal stuff with Nyromi.” Looking at Alpha eye-to-eye again, he smirked. “Remember how I told you that you gave off her air? You also seem to have her eyes and her honesty as well.”
 
Alpha gave off a smirk of his own. “As do you; in fact, you seem to have her spirit as well. You seem to know quite a bit about ‘Omi; how’d you know her? She almost never mentioned you.”
 
His smirk turning to into a wry grin - just like Alpha did with him, when they first met - Frédéric asked, “Short answer or full story?”
 
“We have time - go ahead and entertain me. Want to pull up a few drinks, in the meantime?”
 
Frédéric chuckled, finished his remaining lager in one pull, and shook his head. “Don’t you goad me into a drinking contest. I know damn well you’d drink me under the table - what, with your ‘small fortune in Nepal’ and all that.”
 
Alpha blinked, and chuckled at this reaction. “Never had that intention in the first place.”
 
“Oh. Well, just some sake for me, then. I’ll try to keep it light on the alcohol.” 
 
The field agent nodded, and looked over to the French handler. “Oh, and Frédéric - no hard feelings about a couple of days ago?”
 
Frédéric extended a hand to Alpha with a grin. “Water under the bridge, Alpha. I’d certainly like to be on a mission with you, Jim and Jay-bee  one day, though.”
 
Alpha chuckled, and met his grin with another, as well as shaking his hand. “Just a quick question, Mr. Loeb: is that just nostalgia speaking there, or are you serious?”
 
“Well, call me a nostalgic bastard, then,” Frédéric laughed. “It’s part nostalgia, part honesty.”
 
Another smirk from Alpha. “We’ll see if that comes to be, down the road. For now, let’s just drink and reminisce for a while.”
 
“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”
 
-Two months later-
According to the time shown on Frédéric's watch, the sun should have been at the apex of its travel across the sky. 
 
Looking upward, neither he nor Jim would have figured as much given the thick blanket of gray that filled their vision. In doing so, the former soldier also inevitably found a face full of water, the consequence of a heavy downpour brought in by an otherwise intermittent storm. 
 
But that did not deter either member of the fratello from fulfilling their planned mission for that afternoon. 
 
After all, Jim eventually would need to learn how to handle driving in all weather conditions. Nature merely provided a perfect opportunity for the lesson.
 
"Driving in the rain is a lot different from driving in the dry, as you know," Frédéric noted. "You also know that you have less traction when driving in these conditions, so you'll need to work on accelerator control, as well as smooth driving."
 
Jim nodded. "So, I guess if the wheels start to spin really hard, I should lift to regain control, right?"
 
"Somewhat; lifting off the throttle simply will essentially lose you time; you'll need to learn how much throttle is too much. Your accelerator skills are currently in 5 different levels. By the time this training exercise is done, your skills should double to that; at least 10 different levels."
 
"Ten? I like the sound of that." The grin spread across his lips as he thought about further improvement of his capabilities. 
 
Only when he saw the large puddles strewn across the track did it falter. 
 
"What should I do if I hit one of those puddles and start to spin. I mean, I know how to get out of a spin, but what's the most optimal way to do it so that I can keep the most momentum?"
 
"Turn it into a drift."
 
He sighed. "So, there's not really any special trick you know?"
 
"Well, what I mean is to lift off very slightly, and quickly initiate a drift; after that, just keep the throttle down a fraction, to keep a bit of momentum."
 
"Okay." He closed his eyes for a moment to visualize the motions in his mind. "Got it, I think. Anyway, it's better to put it in practice, am I right."
 
Frédéric nodded. "On y va, Jim."
 
The Trueno's engine started with a loud bark before settling down seconds later into a moderate hum. He allowed the engine to idle for about a minute.
 
"Alright. I want you to go full throttle, to get the idea of how much traction you get just by doing that."
 
The loud roar that filled the cockpit indicated that Jim had pressed the throttle pedal flat to the floor. However, the car seemed to not move at all for several seconds despite the howling complaints from the rear tires.
 
"Now lift off halfway. You should notice a difference in control."
 
Jim complied, and almost immediately the Trueno started forward with a slow lurch. It did not take long for the speed to climb once the tires found their desired grip with the tarmac. "Oh, here we go now," he said as he continued to direct the car forward along the main straight, thought not without the occasional steering correction.
 
"Good; now try pushing it about a couple centimeters."
 
"Huh. Easy to gain speed now." He sneaked a peek at the dashboard. "It looks like we're doing about one hundred kilometers per hour now, but the corner's coming up soon."
 
"You think you can take it without braking? Try it; you might be surprised."
 
Jim turned a smile to Frédéric. "I'm pretty sure I can. After all, you already showed me how."
 
The left-handed corner loomed a mere fifty meters away, but Jim did not bother moving his right foot toward the brake pedal. Instead, he mimicked the motions of his mentor, steering initially to the right to unsteady the car before turning the wheel sharply to the left. Once the Trueno started to slide, he gradually steered rightward to turn an awkward slide into a controlled drift. The front tires approached the inner curbing by centimeters, and the precision he managed to attain only further excited Jim. Then came the transition to the second corner, a right-hander of equivalent radius. He knew exactly what he needed to do to execute the successive drift. He also knew that there was a puddle in the racing line. However, only after lifting the throttle slightly, with the intent to give him enough control to avoid that one puddle, did he see that it was being fed by what essentially was a river crossing the track surface. That must have explained why the car did not seem to respond at all when he turned the steering wheel.
 
"Oh, crap!" he exclaimed as the car proceeded to continue sliding sideways until all four wheels were in the grass. Fortunately his Trueno slowed to a stop before striking the tire barrier protecting the inside wall.
 
"You okay?" the Frenchman asked.
 
He replied with a nod at first. "Yeah, I'm fine. Though, I was sure I had enough control to make it through both corners."
 
"I personally didn't catch it either. Anyway, let's keep going."
 
The rest of the session was essentially Frédéric dictating to Jim how much throttle to use during the corners; i.e. finding a medium between full- and half-throttle (or lift-off and half-throttle), and finding a medium of said medium, and so on and so forth. 
 
Once Jim managed to do a hot lap in the rain without spinning out, the duo pulled up into the garage.
 
"So, what do you think so far?" Frédéric asked.
 
"Except for that one mistake, it was pretty awesome learning how to drive in heavy rain like that. Even though it's pretty difficult, I like the challenge of it. I want to do some more laps the next time it rains."
 
"Glad to hear you're enjoying it. It’s all part of becoming a better driver along the way. Now, let's get some lunch, 'cause I suppose you're feeling hungry?"
 
He gave Frédéric a vigorous nod. "You'd better believe it."
 
Frédéric gave a hearty laugh. "Well, then, let's get going. Nobody wants to live forever."
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Frédéric and Jim, entering the cafeteria, ran into Jamiebel, who had a smile on her face almost as big as Rico's.
 
"Heya, Jay-bee," Jim replied. "What's new?"
 
"Bonjour, Jim, Frédéric!" she replied with a smile.. "Rien de neuf; j'apprends un peu de français de quelques classes." 
 
(Heya, Jim, Frédéric! Not much; I’m just learning a bit of French from some of my classes.)
 
Jim's left eyebrow raised. "Le français? C'est nouveau de tu pour prendre une langue comme le français; Si j’me rappelle correctement, vous avez pris l'espagnol pendant deux ou trois ans.
 
(French? That’s new for you to take a language like French. Last time I heard, you took Spanish for a couple years.)
 
"Eh bien, puisque notre entraîneur est français, il ne peut pas faire mal pour apprendre sa langue maternelle, n'est-ce pas, Frédéric?
 
(True, but since our handler is French, it doesn’t hurt to learn his natural tongue, right, Frédéric?)
 
Frédéric nodded. "C’est vrai. Ainsi, combien d’français vous a-t-il appris jusqu'ici, Jamiebel?
 
(True. So, how much French have you been learning so far, Jamiebel?)
 
"Euh, bien ... c'est assez bon pour tenir une conversation convenable; bien que, je veuille vraiment être fluide dans la langue, comme vous et Jim.
 
(Um, well...it’s enough to get by; although I would really like to be fluent in the language, like you and Jim.)
 
Jim nodded in affirmation. "C’est bon! C’est assez de parler français; j’suis prêt à manger. Allons-y, tous!"
 
(Alright, enough French; I'm ready to eat. Let's go, guys!)
 
The fratello trio walked toward the serving line, where the staff busily tended a short line of cyborgs and loaded upon awaiting trays their current interpretation of French food. Standing ahead of them was the Agency's other driving-focused cyborg, the tall brunette Allison. She scrunched her nose at the tan blob sitting upon her tray, lifting it up closer to her face to allow for better inspection. A few seconds later she half-shrugged and started toward the table where her handler sat. She only took one step before turning toward the Loeb fratello.
 
"I hope you guys are adventurous when it comes to food, cause it's French day today." Then she realized she didn't really recognize the people to whom she spoke. "Oh, I'm Allison, by the way."
 
"Name's Jim," the boy responded. "The people beside me are my handler Frédéric and my partner Jamiebel."
 
"And not to worry, I know what that is; a blancmange- try it; it's kinda like custard," Frédéric added. "Nice to meet you, Allison, by the way."
 
"Likewise," Jamiebel also added. "Nice to meet you."
 
Allison smiled as she nodded, then looked over the two cyborgs once again. "So, I figure you're both together? As, I see two guys of you but only one handler."
 
Jim nodded, then pointed to the chairs beside him and the fratello. "Can we sit here, by any chance? Or are you waiting for anyone?"
 
"It's just Brian and me for now, so I definitely don't mind having a little more company." She rested the tray upon the table and took the seat next to her handler. "Knock yourselves out."
 
"Cool, thanks." 
 
The Loeb fratello took the three seats beside them, and began eating. "So, Allison, what do you do here in the SWA?" Jim asked.
 
"If you asked this guy, he'd say I do my best to scare the hell out of him every time I'm behind the wheel." Her lips formed a mischievous smirk as she pointed her thumb toward her handler, who shielded behind a hand his shaking head. "But, otherwise my job is vehicular pursuit and mobile strikes against whichever Padanian targets we're asked to attack."
 
"So you're the number one driver here in the Agency?" Frédéric asked.
 
"Well, you could say that." She scooped into her spoon a bite-full of the jelly-like blob. "Hmm, not all that terrible, really. You guys should try some of this."
 
Brian laughed. "Heh. Says the girl who has an appetite for quite literally anything remotely edible."
 
"Well, she does have quite the tongue for food," Frédéric commented; then he stuck out his hand. "Frédéric Loeb, former aspirant of the French Army."
 
"Brian McDonnell, SAS," he said as he grasped that hand with his own in a firm grip. "I take it you're new at the Agency."
 
"Me and my cyborgs both."
 
"Cyborgs?" His eyes widened in an expression of moderate shock. "They're both yours? That must be a rather tough job."
 
"For you, maybe. For me...not so much. It is a bit of a tough job, but I'm starting to kinda settle into it. I take it you and your cyborg must hapen to like cars?"
 
There was a nonchalant shrug. "Eh, you might say that.  Allison's a lot more crazy about them than me. I find driving them fun, depending on the car, but I don't consider any of them living beings."
 
Frédéric chuckled. "Jim here is about on the same level of car fanaticism; he even name his first two cars."
 
"Really, huh?" Allison lowered her spoon and leaned toward her male counterpart with lips tugged into a grin. "Oooh, do tell."
 
"Put simply, when I passed the Verifica, I got two cars - a Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-Apex AE86 zenki I nicknamed Takumi, and a Mazda RX-7 type R FD3S I nicknamed Keisuke. I mostly took Takumi out, because I thought I had more of a bond with that car."
 
"I think I know how you feel, but you really shouldn't neglect Keisuke. The last thing you'd want is for him to let you down when you need him because you let him down by not being there for him."
 
Jim took a bite of his steak, nodding. "I agree. One of these days, I'll transfer my skill from Takumi to Keisuke, mainly to see how much of a difference there is between the two. But enough about me. What cars do you have, Allison?"
 
"Sprinter Trueno GT-S, similar to yours--oh, which engine does Takumi have, might I ask?"
 
"The stock 4A-GE right now."
 
"The 4A-GE really is a pretty awesome powerplant, I'd have to say." By then, her half-eaten food had completely lost her interest. "Any thoughts of modifications down the line?"
 
"Not sure; maybe an engine swap? All I know is that the chassis is more rigid and the suspension and brakes are very up-rated."
 
"I'd definitely recommend it. My Trueno's running with the 4A-GZE, twincharged to make two-hundred forty horsepower. That powerplant makes for one heck of a fun ride. Stiffened the suspension and added slightly larger wheels and brakes as well, though I'm sure the chassis works well enough without it. But, why not do it, right?"
 
Jim nodded. "Any other notable cars?"
 
"Hm... oh yeah. I have an MX-5 and a Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione II. Both customized as you might expect. Those are the cars I really consider my babies." She paused for a few thoughtful moments. "Of course, I really like as well the Gallardo Spider I took off of some jerk who had mistreated her. And I have my eye on a few other cool toys to add to the stable."
 
Jim nodded again. "I have a Peugeot 205 GTi as my little runabout; lightly tuned. Suspension, brakes, light weight reduction, chassis rigidity, limited-slip diff, and an engine swap from a 306 GTi. Makes about two-hundred ten at the front wheels. Apparently, my handler and some of his friends worked on it, ever since I nearly wrecked Takumi." He bit again another hearty helping into his steak. "No idea on what to name it, though. Any ideas?"
 
Allison hummed as she turned her gaze toward the ceiling, occasionally mumbling as she contemplated her answer. "Umm... no, not that... oh, this one might work. But, is your 205 GTi a guy or a girl? That's kinda important."
 
"I'll say a girl; my garage is all guys right now, so may as well change it up a bit."
 
She looked at him with confusion. "Don't you know? You don't want to disrespect him... her..." A half shrug marked a moment of understandable perplexity. "Er, whichever one applies, by giving the wrong name."
 
"Mm. Well, what names did you have in mind, gender-wise?"
 
"If your GTi's a girl, then I was thinking Genevieve. It's French, much like your Peugeot, and it has a nice sound, at least to my ears. For a boy, I'd say Rodrigue, especially given how much more powerful your little 205 is now."
 
"Really? I like the girl's name, but I was thinking on naming the 205 after my handler; it feels a lot like my 86, plus he worked on it for me. Plus, I like the ring of his name than Rodrigue."
 
"So, you actually did have an idea after all." She pouted. "Still doesn't answer the question of whether it's a guy or girl. Next time you meet with your GTi, you should pay attention to what it's telling you."
 
"See what I mean, Frédéric?" Brian said with a chuckle. "Totally infatuated."
 
"It seems Jim has been infected with Allison's infatuation." Frédéric laughed.
 
"Not to the same extent." He threw a quick glance toward his cyborg, who replied with a cock of her head.
 
"True. How good of a driver is Allison, in your opinion, by the way?"
 
"Very good, I'd say." The thought brought a wide smile to his lips. "She definitely has natural talent. If anything she's a much better driver than me. All I did was to train her in how to multitask--how to shoot targets with high accuracy while driving at speed. And she excels at that as well."
 
Frédéric nodded. "And if you were to compare her to any driver, living or dead?"
 
"Easy." He smirked. "Stirling Moss."
 
"Interesting. Well, Jim's not as naturally skilled, but he does learn quickly from what I teach him; and as for my comparison, I would have to say he's like Sébastien Loeb."
 
"At that rate, you should get him something a little more suitable to drive. Ever consider a Citroen?"
 
"The Saxo, I presume? Somewhat; I chose the Peugeot because it's more of a training car, like the 86. Plus, I own a Peugeot, so."
 
"Fair enough." He looked over at the girl who, up to that point in the conversation, had been utterly silent. "What about your other cyborg, what's her name--"
 
"Jamiebel," Allison replied.
 
"Ah, thanks." He nodded before returning his gaze to Frédéric. "Does Jamiebel also drive?"
 
"No, not really; she's not into cars that much. If she does drive, she's only doing it on the road, not on track like Jim or Allison." He glanced at Jamiebel's plate; empty. "Although she is quite the eater."
 
"Hey!" Jamiebel cried. "I'm not fat or anything!"
 
"I'm kidding, Jamiebel," he chuckled. 
 
"Hey, nothing wrong with that," Allison said. "By the way, I'm up for seconds if you want to join me."
 
Jim nodded, as he finished the last of his tray. "Gladly. Wait, we can get seconds?"
 
Jim followed Allison and Jamiebel to get seconds, while Frédéric glanced back at Brian. "But you looked like you had a question about Jamiebel, Brian; what was it?"
 
"What does she do? What's her role? Actually, come to think of it, what's your specialty, besides the driving aspect?"
 
"Well, to answer your questions in order, she's like a co-driver with Jim, she's the eyes on our condition when she's alone or with me, and my specialty is leadership and some combat, from my army days." He sipped a bit of his lemonade. "You did say you were from the British SAS, right?"
 
"Yes, 22nd Regiment SAS for a few years before moving into, um, private practice, one might say."
 
"Interesting; one of my former superiors and my first girlfriend was from the SAS too."
 
His eyes widened with palpable surprise. "Oh, really? Name and regiment?"
 
"I think this might be a name you may have heard of: Nyromi Lautani, Staff Sergeant. She led my unit for a month when she came to France. We often had a pint or two at the pub, but we had to hide the relations from our fellow soldiers."
 
"How long ago was Nyromi in the SAS? The name seems faintly familiar."
 
"Not sure, actually; I never asked her. But if the fact that she was 22 when she took the job as Staff Sergeant rings a bell, then be my guest."
 
"Well, how long ago had it been since you left the French Army?"
 
"I was part of the Rapid Response brigade 6 years ago; after two more years, I was promoted to the main camp; so I'd say it's been about a month or so."
 
"Oh, I had long since left the SAS by then." He shook his head. "I have some contacts I maintain within my old unit, which, now that I think of it, is where I heard of her. But I haven't met her otherwise."
 
Frédéric nodded. "Where are you and Allison from, anyway? You sound like you're from Ireland; you're obviously not Dubliners."
 
"Good old Belfast," he replied with a smile. "Though I'm surprised you figured out that much."
 
"It's something I'm just good at," Frédéric mused. "Go ahead and guess which part of France I'm from."
 
"France is rather large, so there's no telling. But... northern France somewhere, I guess."
 
He shook his head. "I wish. Not quite northern; more like southern France - Marseille, to be exact."
 
"Interesting." He gave Frédéric a partial grin, accompanied by an equally half-hearted shrug. "I guess that's more the kind of skill that you learn in the spy trade? I know Allison and I have been working with Sandro and Petra, but maybe I haven't picked up on that yet."
 
Frédéric burst out in a little laugh. "I would be a spy in another life, but I just honed it over high school and college. I know one of my friends in my former group is Belgian, one is also from Nice, after he moved with his parents from Senegal, and a couple others from Le Mans and Paris - Northern France, if you would. Although they moved from the Ivory Coast and Switzerland, respectively."
 
All he could do was chuckle at that. "Well, damn, there goes that guess."
 
"What guess - that I was from Paris?"
 
"That you had any spy training. Looks like the both of us are more familiar with attacking than hiding in the shadows, pretending not to be who we are, and that sort of deal."
 
"Although the both of us have very different approaches to attacking, I presume. I also can pretend not to be who I am, by the by." Frédéric gave a non-chalant shrug. "Theater class and all that."
 
"That sort of thing, so far, has been left to Allison. She's seemed to take to the cloak-and-dagger work well enough." He looked over at his cyborg and sighed. "I just hope it continues to go that way. It's rough enough as it is seeing the outcome of missions that only go slightly bad."
 
Frédéric nodded. "My hopes to you. Now, besides me, have you met any other people from France?"
 
"Can't blame you for wanting to find a fellow countryman, eh?" He smiled as he glanced Jamiebel's way. "Well, your girl there's clearly learning a bit of French, and I happen to be acquainted with her teacher."
 
"Well, Jim is fluent in the language, so I thought things would be balanced if Jamiebel were to--" He said before pausing in shock. "Excuse me? Did I just hear you say that you know Jamiebel's French teacher?"
 
"Yeah. Very interesting dame if I do say so." He hesitated for a moment, studying Frédéric's expression of surprise. "Seems like you know her as well, right?"
 
Frédéric shook his head. "Not a one, my good sir."
 
"Well, maybe I can introduce her to you sometime." Again he paused for a contemplative instant. "Or you can just ask Jamiebel about her. Might be faster that way."
 
"I'll take the former option for another time. Any info on her?"
 
Meanwhile, back at the lunchline, Jim, Jamiebel and Allison continued their discussion on... just about anything and, well, most everything.
 
"So, Jamiebel, who's your French teacher?" Jim asked Jamiebel.
 
"Nicolette Montagne. She's an excellent teacher as far as I can tell."
 
"Is she also from France?"
 
"I think so." She shrugged. "I didn't really ask, and I don't think she told me, but given how well she speaks French and her accent, I'd have to think so. Maybe I'll ask next time."
 
Jim nodded, and turned his attention to Allison. "Are there any languages that you know besides English, Allison?" 
 
"Eh, a bit of Italian and Spanish. Oh, and French too. Come to think, I really should brush up on my French. Think I could join you in your lesson's with Nicolette?"
 
Jamiebel nodded. "Sure! I could always need a good study partner."
 
"In all honesty, I know a fair few amount of languages; my focus is kinda on the Japanese and the French languages, now that we've got a French handler," Jim noted.
 
"Nice!" She turned to Jim. "Japanese? I wonder how hard it was for you to learn that one."
 
"Pretty hard. But usually, all my language studies all stem to international television. Japanese, in this case, was leaning towards anime."
 
Her eyes lit up upon hearing that last word. "Anime, you say? What'd you watch?"
 
Jamiebel tilted her head. "What's anime?"
 
"Really awesome stuff--assuming you pick the right show, that is." She recognized the confused expression and coughed. "Oh, sorry. It's Japanese animation. Guess you could call it cartoons, but it's more than just for kids. Lots of shows of every genre, and thanks to Kara, I've become hooked."
 
"Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh."
 
"Anime technically can be about anything - hell, they can even turn this story into an anime! 
 
"Jamiebel, you would obviously be voiced by a musical idol who also does a spot of voice acting on the side. Her voice range is very varied, even though her speaking voice is very cute, so she'd fit you. 
 
"Allison, you have that spot of casual and awesome - your voice actor would have a delicate voice that can be also mean and authoritative. 
 
"My voice actor would clearly have that cool, deep voice, and he would have voiced a thousand or so characters. He has just a good a range as your guys' voices." 
 
"I'm down with that," Allison said, bending over as she laughed heartily. Her lips were tugged into a wide grin when she turned to her sister cyborg. "But anyway, Jamiebel, you really should join us on our 'Anime Nights.' They're every Friday, if you get the chance. It's always a load of fun."
 
"I kinda got lost during Jim's 'voice actor' monologue," Jamiebel chuckled sheepishly, "but that sounds great - Jim and I would gladly join you guys!"
 
"Excellent! It'll make a nice swap: I join your French lessons on--um, when are they?"
 
"Monday to Wednsday, at 2pm."
 
"Yes, Mondays through Wednesdays... wow, that's actually a pretty long time. Eh, whatever. Anyway, I join you then, and you guys join me on Friday nights."
 
Jim nodded. "Done. Anyway, what's gonna be on your plate for seconds, Allie?"
 
"Well, that blancmange was pretty decent, all things considered, but I want to try something else." She held her tray firmly in her right hand while pointing at a yellow-colored soup. "Hmm, that looks nice, I guess... The sign says it's bisque."
 
Jim quickly picked up a bowl of bisque. "I'll be trying that."
 
"Oh... what the hell, I'll try some too." She reached over and grabbed one of the styrofoam bowls. "Can't knock it without trying it, after all. And even then, sometimes it's still worth trying it even if it's bad." She smiled at Jim as she said that.
 
The trio moved quickly down the line. "And a bowl of pot-au-feu never hurt anyone. I'll gladly try a bowl," Jim mused, before taking a bowl himself and a few slices of garlic bread. Jamiebel, meanwhile had taken a plate of steak-frites and the aforementioned bisque, before they all walked back to their seats.
 
"They really need to make larger trays. I keep asking Brian to ask the higher-up adults about that, and all he does is give me this strange look."
 
"Eh, I like the idea, too."
 
She turned a bright smile to "Yeah, am I right? How else am I supposed to fit all this food on such a dinkly little piece of plastic." A few fries nearly fell to the floor, having been stuffed in the side of a tray containing everything Jim and Jamiebel had selected, combined, along with a crepe for good measure. "Anyway, time to dig in."
 
They took a spoonful of the bisque, and once tasted, their eyes lit up.
 
"Delicious!" they both exclaimed with mouth partially full, and began wolfing down their bowls.
 
"Wow, this is amazing! Who knew French food could be this good?!"
 
"This has to be at least 500 times better than anything Jim cooks!"
 
"You don't have any right to say that, mainly because I don't cook, but this bisque is so good, I don't care. Delicious!"
 
"Delicious! So delicious!"
 
Allison was more restrained in her review. "It's okay. Certainly edible, and believe me I'm finishing it either way. It's not the best thing I've ever eaten though."
 
Having finished his bisque, Jim turned his attention to the pot-au-feu. Taking a spoonful, the bliss he experienced from the bisque turned rather sour. Swallowing the first spoonful, he gasped for air.
 
"(Sacre bleu, how can they manage to make a brilliant bisque, then turn around and make such an awful pot-au-feu?!)" Jim exclaimed in French. "(What a disappointment.)" Taking a swig of his soda, he finally spoke in English. "Man, can't they be consistent in their cooking?"
 
"It looks like they put all their effort into the bisque." Allison cut a piece of the steak and, upon placing the fork in her mouth, twisted her face up in mild disgust. "Yeah, definitely put all their effort in the bisque. The steak is dead and done, that's for sure." Then again, that didn't stop her from taking yet another bite of her steak. Noticing an abrupt motion in the corner of her vision, she then turned her gaze toward Jim. "What's wrong?"
 
The boy hung his head in disappointement, knowing he was essentially duped. "Fukou da."
 
Jamiebel translated, "'Just my luck,' is what he said. Either that, or 'Rotten luck.'" 
 
"Well, you'll learn that the chefs here try their best, but outside of Italian food they're not all that good." She idly tapped the side of her tray with her fork. "At least, that's what a lot of the other cyborgs say. For me, I'm happy to have a good source of somewhat decent food nearby."
 
Jim quickly raised his head. "You're right. I gotta take the positives and the negatives, and just finish the food regardless!" He promptly started to wolf down everything he had on his plate before burping. "Ahh, that feels good."
 
"That's the spirit!" She tilted her head slightly to one side as she stared at Jim. "Though, maybe you shouldn't eat it all that quickly. Anyway, if you've eaten some of the strange things I've encountered then you'll quickly appreciate the finer foods, even if it's otherwise crap."
 
"True that."
 
The rest of the lunch period was taken up by a lot talking...before a familiar buzz interrupted Frédéric.
 
"Sorry, Brian, Allison, I just got a mission call from Ferro. We've gotta go for now. Jim, Jamiebel, are you ready?"
 
"Ready as I'll ever be," answered Jamiebel.
 
"All set," Jim added.
 
"Alright. Nice meeting you guys; we'll catch you later!"
 
"Good luck, guys!" Allison said as she watched Frédéric and his two cyborgs hurriedly rise from their seats. As they neared the exit, she called out, "Oh, and don't forget about Friday!"
 
"We won't! We'll be there!" was Jamiebel's response.
 
Allison smiled as they walked though the threshold. After seeing them leave she looked down and noticed the pair of trays next to hers. The one belonging to Jim of course was devoid of anything other than a few crumbs, but Jamiebel had not quite finished her steak-frites. The smile on her lips morphed into a mischievous grin as she reached over with her fork and pulled the remnants of the steak onto her own tray.
 
"Lucky!" she thought. Upon catching Brian's semi-questioning stare, she swiftly added with a shrug, "Better to not let it go to waste, after all, right?"
 
His sigh was loud, but it conveyed no real disappointment or exasperation. "Let's just finish up with lunch. Then we can head off to the test track. I have some training exercises planned for you that I'm sure you'll enjoy."
 
Meanwhile, Frédéric, Jim and Jamiebel hurried down the hall over to Ferro’s office. It’s been quite a long time since they’ve been called up; what mission could possibly await them there? All we know is...
 
“Jamiebel, do you know what I’m gonna do on this mission?” Jim asked, with a wide smile.
 
“Live life to the fullest, of course!” Jamiebel replied, also with a smile. “You know me all too well, Jim.”
 
Frédéric chuckled. “You two are a load of fun to be around, you know that?”
 
Jim patted the Frenchman’s back in comfort. “Hey, it’s all because of you, Frédéric. We love you, and we’ll gladly fight with you.”
 
Jamiebel followed up Jim’s sign of affection, and hugged Frédéric. “Yeah! When we’re with you, we’ll always stick together, no matter what happens!”
 
“Aww. You guys are great. It kinda makes me feel like I’m living a roundabout life all over again.”
 
Frédéric looked out the window, and the pictured memory of him, Guillaume, François, Luc, Viggo and Nyromi in the army made him smile. He looked back at Jim and Jamiebel, and his smile slowly grew. He could not have granted a better life.
 
These guys are like my family. I never want to forget all of them, no matter what.
 
Thank you, Guillaume... François... Luc...Viggo....
 
Thank you, Jim... Jamiebel....
 
Thank you, Nyromi.
 
And thank you, God.
 
-Gunslinger Girl: Roundabout Life - first half complete-

-To Be Continued->
 
Ending theme: “Roundabout” by Yes


topgearbrzgt86

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Location : Santa Maria, CA

Fan of : Top Gear, Initial D, etc.

Original Characters : Jim, Jamiebel, Davina, Bernan, Frédéric. (More to come.)

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-Fernando Alonso

Registration date : 2013-03-29

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