“When in doubt have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.” – Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder
Arion is sitting in the Kiraathan Coffee House and Reading Rooms, known affectionately among the kith as “the K”, trying to make one coffee last an hour and a half while he waits for his contact.
It’s been almost a week now since he was officially fired and unofficially transferred to a Bureau that doesn’t officially exist – a process he now knows the CSB call ‘sheep-dipping’. He’s still wearing his Surveyor’s smart jacket, but its processor has been instructed not to show the Great Archive patches any more; he has settled for looping a video clip of a sunny beach across his torso.
His Augmented Reality processor, recently upgraded to military specifications, tags the thin, bald man approaching the door at a run as his contact, labelling him “Dmitri”. A flashing red icon draws his attention to the pistol in Dmitri’s right hand.
Dmitri glances back over his shoulder as he opens the glass door between the two large plate glass windows fronting the K and makes a beeline for Arion.
“Arion,” he says. “No time to explain. With me.” He looks around for a way out.
“Ray,” calls Arion, “OK to use the back door?”
Ray considers for a moment. It looks like there’s going to be a gunfight if he says “no”, and antique books and glass bottles don’t play nicely with fast-moving lead slugs. He nods his head in the direction of the concealed exit, intended for kith in just such a situation.
Arion leads Dmitri out through the hidden door seconds before two hard-looking men in formal dress burst through the front door and scan the K.
“Anyone just come in?” they want to know.
Ray shrugs. “Nobody here, is there? What can I get you?”
“Must’ve kept running,” says one to the other. “That way!” And with that, they take off out of the K and down the street.
Another customer, sitting quietly in the corner diagonally opposite Arion’s former seat, taps his ear and speaks.
“Captain,” he says, “It’s me. A bald guy just met Arion, they both left in a hurry. Two big guys chasing them. Uploading video now.” There’s a pause while he listens to the response, then: “Understood. I’m on the move.”
The K is in the Charsi district of Mizah’s capital city, Zonguldak, where the kith gather for mutual support and comprehension; 25 kilometres from the starport by monorail. Arion and Dmitri sink into the soft cushions and watch the giant beetle-analogues in the nature reserve below as the train speeds past. Some adventurous tourists are riding beetles through the forest, laughing and pointing. In the distance, the opulent coastal estates of celebrities and merchant princes can be seen. The pair have agreed not to discuss anything further until they are aboard ship.
Neither has noticed the nondescript man at the far end of their carriage, seemingly engrossed in the scenery outside.
Reaching the starport, Arion leads his new colleague to the hardstand where the Dolphin is parked, then aboard ship and into what passes for the crew lounge.
“Have a seat,” Arions says. “Now, what’s going on, exactly?”
“I’m here on leave – no, really, even spies get time off occasionally. I’m in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast, last one before I brief you and we head off, and those two turn up and try to drag me away. I run for the K to meet you and get offworld, which incidentally we should do right now.”
“These thugs: Any idea who they are, or why they want you?”
“You know, in all the excitement I forgot to ask them,” Dmitri grins. “But they were carrying ayloi, did you notice that? Cultural aslan, and a long way from home. How soon can you lift?”
“As soon as I get clearance. Come on.” Arion leads the way to the ship’s bridge. “Anything you need to get before we go? Because if there is, learn to live without it.”
“No, I’m fine, thanks. Set a course for Kov, I have a contact there. Maybe he can shed some light on things. I’ll brief you on what we’re supposed to be doing once we’ve jumped.”
Meanwhile, in an office somewhere, the two goons are reporting to a figure hidden in shadows.
“So, you lost him?” It is a patrician voice, tinged with arrogance. The owner may be stroking a white cat in the shadows, who can tell?
“Yes, Mr Schrodinger.” Schrodinger sighs.
“We will discuss your failure later; time is of the essence and there is still a chance to recover the situation. Either our target has a safe house somewhere nearby, or he will try to get offplanet. If you had thought to check the ships currently in port, you would have noticed a detached duty scoutship called the Dolphin. I trust a peaceful solution will be possible; detached duty scouts are either spies, and thus by nature duplicitous; or poor; or both. Go there and offer him a large amount of money to hand over the target.”
The goons look at each other in surprise. The figure in the shadows laughs.
“Gentlemen, I said offer him a large amount of money. I said nothing about actually giving him a large amount of money. I trust you can fill in the gaps? Good. Be about it.”
A re-imagining of Arion’s first appearance on the blog, some years ago now. Re-reading the first couple of posts reveal they are much less exciting than the vivid imagery in my head, so I tried to do better this time. This is still setup for the next arc, so no dice rolls required.
In hindsight, maybe I should have started off with Arion, Coriander and Dmitri already travelling together, and used Savage Worlds Interludes to reveal how they met in flashback. It took me a long time to understand interludes; they serve to flesh out character backstories in the same way as flashbacks in movies and TV shows.
The most memorable example for me is from the Leverage episode The Two Horse Job; a girl complains to the team’s ‘hitter’ that he never showed up for their date, and asks where he was. “I was busy,” he says, and we cut to a flashback a few seconds long, showing him being dragged along a dark corridor by two soldiers, who are shouting at him in Korean: “Where’s the monkey? WHERE’S THE MONKEY?”
As well as generating a plot hook for later, this sort of thing gives insight into the heroes’ characters, shows they have lives outside their adventures, and helps create the illusion that the world moves on even when the players aren’t looking.
Schrodinger, meanwhile, is so called because he may (or may not) have a cat.