Previous: Chapter 1
SETTLING THE WESTEdit
- Cheska City, Chelsea Prefecture
- Blackfur Apartment Complex, East 32nd St.
- 4:45 Sunday, June 30th 400BF
Terrence lies prone in his bed. Five hours, seven vodka sours shots and a night of shagging later, he's spent like his credit card.
Suddenly, his phone rings. The lovely, caramel skinned vixen lying next to him rustles back and forth, the loud noise causing her to moan, and not in the good way.
“…I think that's you…” she mumbles.
Terrence slowly but surely rises to his feet, careful not to awaken the 9/10 he somehow went home with last night. Terrence picks up his phone and shuffles off to the side of the bedroom, trying to be discreet. He looks at the receiver:
“CALL FROM: NSF CHELSEA, EXT. 435”
There’s never a good reason for someone from the NSF to be calling this early. So much for taking a day off. There’s no rest for the weary, especially when you’re in the NSF. Terrence clears his throat and steels himself for work.
“NSF Investigator Terrence speaking.”
“Wyatt,” NSF Captain Kirin Cisto says into the receiver. “We’ve got a serious situation. Need you to head down to Greymoor City.”
“Sure thing, boss…just give me a bit to, uh…wake up.”
“Jesus...you sound like shit," NSF Captain Kirin Cisto says into her headpiece.
"I just took in a little bit more to drink than I’d have expected, that’s all…”*ahem* what’s going on down in the Greys?”
“Everyone’s favorite scumbag politician Albert Willow was just found dead at his estate about an hour ago.”
Some people will do anything for power. In this world, water is power. It serves so many purposes: irrigation, energy, life in and of itself. During a previous NSF investigation, he was suspected of embezzling regional funds into illegal excavation projects out in No Man’s Land to recover untapped water resources. If not for some careful legal maneuvering by his excellent legal team, Willow would be in NSF custody a long time ago, maybe even an asset.
He knew this something like this happen eventually and was eager to get to the bottom of it. This might be the big break they would need to finally crack the Underground. However, the sleazeball couldn't have picked a worse time to get murdered. Terrence had never scored so perfect a 10 as he had last night.
“Well shit…looks like the idiot bit off more than he could chew.”
"Yeah, yeah, don't get a boner over this."
“Well, shit, boss – it's a bit late for that. Morning wood’s a hell of a thing. What's the protocol?”
“He had a meeting with us today, about Greymoor funding, of course. I'm caught up dealing with some admin bullshit at the capitol dealing with the backlash, but the orders from the Minister herself are for an investigator on-site A.S.A.P. I think you're the person for the job. Your name came up quite a few times, actually – your investigation impressed her, aside from that dame Isabelle getting the better of you. You think you can do this without blowing your load or is your morning wood gonna get in the way?”
On the one hand, Terrence knew he was up to the investigation and wanted to tear the Underground in two. On the other hand, working with the Greymoor militia again would be challenging. Their Captain in particular, Mert Kaya, was not his biggest fan after he made harsh accusations against some of his men.
“Boss, I've got the situation under control. Just a heads up -”
“Heavy is the head, Wyatt. I know what you're going to say, but you're just going to have to deal with it. You've got the notes from the past investigation freshest in your mind, and I don't think anyone else would be keen to work with these guys.”
“Neither am I, but I see what you mean. I'll be a good boy, but I can't say the same for them.”
“However you or they feel, I’ll need you to put aside your personal feelings about Greymoor…and especially to hold off that I told you so until after the case is resolved. Also…”
Terrence becomes more stern. Part of Kirin's faith in Terrence comes from his insatiable desire to be right, even if he masks it well. However, beyond that, she's found that his nose for dirt is impeccable.
“My suspicions of the militia.”
“Your suspicions. No matter how right you could be, Mert won't work with you if you're stepping on his neck. If possible, we don't want to look like an invading force, so hopefully you'll be all we need. We clear on how we’re playing this one?”
“Yeah, I’ve got this one in the bag. Give you my report when I’m on-scene. I'll send you my feed when I'm on site.”
Terrence ends the call and sighs, sitting back down on the bed and trying to wake up. The vixen has started up a cigarette and has been watching and listening to the call for quite some time.
“Morning…was that work stuff? 'I'll be a good boy.' I'm guessing you secretly do BDSM on the side,” the woman groggily but humorously says, taking a puff and offering Terrence a drag as he sneaks back under the sheets.
“G‘mornin’...” he says, and they meet with a kiss, shunning the offer at a cigarette. “It’s…yeah. Big stuff. ‘I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you’ kind of stuff…” he says with a smirk. Lila giggles to herself.
“I already died and went to heaven last night, Terry…so you’re too late.”
Terrence softly grasps her hand and kisses it with extra gallantry, slowly moving up her body until he reaches her lips. “Me too, love. Wish I could stay, but duty-”
Lila cuts off his chivalrous song-and-dance with a smooch. “By all means, do your thing and save the world. Just call me up when you’re done bringing justice to the west, Sheriff,” she whispers to him, with another peck on the cheek and a wink for good measure. The Tombstone reference is not lost on him. They both share an appreciation for old world cowboy movies, from Leone to Peckinah (to reverse cowgirl), and they bonded quite hard on the subject last night.
Terrence grins. “It’s a date! Or…whatever you wanna call it,” he says, hopping back out of bed. “Bye, beautiful…” he says, quickly buttoning up his dress shirt and buckling his belt. He grabs his keys and wallet and begins to step out of the door.
As he steps to the door, he garners a look. “By the way, it’s Lila.”
“My name, it’s – Lila. Liliana Ma, but Lila for anyone who I've fucked.” Terrence’s sheepish look says it all. Was it that obvious he’d forgotten her name? Terrence usually takes pride in his mental acuity, but he’d met her after shot number seven.
“Eh, Lila, right. Sorry, I was-”
“Heh, don’t worry…I don’t hold it against you. I had the advantage of seeing your badge to remember your name,” she says, sneaking his NSF badge from beneath the sheets and tossing it to him. He grabs it quickly, trying to pretend he hadn't been looking for it. “…and you were pretty sloshed,” she says, giggling.
“Yeah, I guess I was…didn’t slow me down any, did it though?”
Lila smiles, a nice flashback of a few hours past playing in her head. “No, it most certainly didn’t.”
- Fort Greymoor, Greymoor Prefecture
- Albert Willow’s Mansion Estate
- 5:40 Sunday, June 30th 400BF
Terrence steps onto the late Mr. Willow’s estate. Luckily, no private reporters have been found their way to the scene, but people would very soon take note of his absence. No doubt, Kirin and Minister Jernigan's meeting was in regards to that very issue. In the main entrance, several members of his security team are examining the manor. As soon as he (and his NSF badge) are seen, he smells the air of disaproval. One of the officers inspects him as he walks up to the main entrance.
“You the investigator?” he asks.
“Morning. Yes, I'm Inspector Terrence Wyatt, and I’ll be handling this investigation. Where might I find officer Mert Kaya?”
“Hold on,” the soldier, badge reading Flint grumbles. He speaks into his receiver. “The investigator's here, sir.” Terrence can’t make out Mert’s response. “One and the same, sir,” Flint mutters into his headset. It seems, as expected, Terrence has earned a reputation around here. He's not sure if he should be proud or concerned. “Yes, sir.” Flint gestures toward the back of the manor. “He's in the back with the body in the gardens.”
Terrence nods and heads into the building. As he looks around, he notes (beyond the carnage) Albert's unforgivably lavish style of living. He must be hoarding hundreds of thousands in goods that would be better suited in the hands of the Historians League. On the bookshelf, the books are impeccably lined up…all but one. It seems someone decided to check out a book on his way out. He also notes, strangely enough, that despite the grim state of things, the assailant made a point not to break any of artifacts and old-world trinkets.
When Terrence finally reaches the gardens, he regards the dead man of the day in the middle of the gardens. Albert Willow: scumbag, shithead, embezzler, coveter, and politician. The fool lies in his robe, half his face frozen in horror and the other half frozen in horror. Despite the nuance of the savagery, Terrence can’t help but feel the scene has a certain familiarity to it.
Greymoor officers and several technicians document the scene and search for clues. A lumbering, humanoid of a man is standing above the body, talking to another officer. Terrence approaches him carefully, knowing they're both aware that his mere presence meant he's right.
“Morning, Kaya.” Mert is slow to turn and greet him.
“Figures they'd send you to gloat. I got the news from your queen bee, we’re to assist you however you need in this investigation, yeah?” he mumbles in his near-monotone, deep voice.
Terrence shrugs his shoulders, eyes still locked on the cadaver before them both. “I'm not here to point fingers or place blame. Just here to find the guilty. This doesn't have to be a prison sentence, Kaya. We might as well do what we came here to do.”
Mert contorts his face as best as he can. Prosthetic men, no matter how human their brains, always look hilarious when portraying emotion with a false face. “Fine. Then you won't mind letting us do things our way and sitting along for the ride.”
“Like I said, I'm just here to get to the bottom of this. What’ve you gathered so far?”
“At about four, Willow's assistant, Gary Varns came in this morning to pick him up, found the main gate open and the power grid fried. Looks like his security detail went after the assailants and died. Panic room door was wide open too. Looks like, for some reason, he left the panic room and ended up a dead man. We can’t get anything from security footage, since it was connected to the damn private grid.”
“So, no direct footage or witnesses, great.” Terrence sighs, annoyed about the entire situation.
“Closest we have is the assistant, one Gary Varns.”
“Where’s he right now and what's he saying?”
“We took him back to HQ to grill him, but he ain’t giving us nothing useful."
Terrence rubs his fingers across his chin. It's one of his bad tells, though he doesn't have many. It's the sign that he's got something on his mind. Mert turns to him, noticing this. "You've clearly got something to say. Care to share with the class?”
Terrence recognizes his tell and moves his hand away from his chin. He takes a moment to put it in layman's terms. “I think I’ve seen this handiwork before. A few months back, another crime scene. Quite a few dead Underground men in a warehouse. Both impressive…very well trained, almost military precision.”
Mert seems offended by the notion. “You sayin' this was one of mine? Or yours?”
Terrence furrows his brow as well, finally looking up from the body on which he was focusing. “Didn't say that. Anyway, he probably did something to piss off the wrong guy and got some serious revenge coming his way.” Terrence barely has the strength to keep from saying 'I told you so' right then and there.
“Whoever did this really did his homework, knew where the power grid was located. Feels...different than the other scene, though. In the other hit, the assassin did just enough. Here, he...well, he sure took his time carving out half his face-”
“Wait – you, just said 'this guy's handiwork.' These guys might be mercs, but they were good. You saying this was the work of a single guy?”
Terrence nods. “From the wounds, it's a safe bet that the killer's Gifted. Electromancy."
The unis' faces expressed equal parts fear and contempt. Before the point of Expression, how The Gift is still a mystery and something to respect…or fear. A few view it as the mark of the Gods. Others, the mark of the Devil. Terrence isn't sure which way the country will go with regards to the Gifted, but the NSF aims to keep a handle on the situation by having all Gifted people entered into a registry. Unfortunately, some choose to see all these people as monsters. Granted there have been some fair shares of villainous Gifters, the people like Terrence who use their Gifts for good always end up taking the backlash.
“Great, so we're dealing with a freak assassin. So where's that leave us?" Terrence sighs, both frustrated with the comment and the situation. “With a handful of nothing…by the way, you guys test this guy for substance abuse?”
“No, we didn't. You think he's using?”
“It might be nothing…he has some needle holes in his arms, and the body itself, strangely bloodless. I'll need your techs to check out his lividity. If he's not on something, he must be missing something.”
Mert nods, seeing the sense in the prospect. “We'll give it a try. Anything else?”
“…well, one more thing. If his I'll need to talk to Varns.”
Mert scoffs at the notion of Terrence taking over the interrogation. “We're already handling him ourselves. You'll get a piece of him when we're done.”
“Either way, I'll need to talk to him by myself. You guys have already done most of the 'bad cop' work for me.”
Mert gives him a death glare. “Tch. Tell you what. Follow me back to HQ. If our guy hasn't gotten answers out of him already, you'll get your turn.”
Terrence recognizes that is probably his best option at this point. “Lead the way.” Mert walks towards the front of the grounds. “Alright, folks. Clean it up, Minister Willow and his team's new home is in autopsy.” The techs and officers acknowledge this and as Mert walks towards his car, Terry heads to his. As Terrence walks, it feels like he's walking a gauntlet. The Greymoor militia hierarchy is valued very greatly, and when someone (himself) comes to usurp that, said person is not well-met.
- Fort Greymoor, Greymoor Prefecture
- Greymoor Militia HQ
- 6:15 Sunday, June 30th 400BF
Terrence steps into the cluttered Greymoor HQ. There's a chance he would have to make this place his impromptu office for a while, so he'll have to get used to it. Terrence follows behind Mert, and they walk down into interrogation. Mert stops in front of one of the windows, in which one of Mert's men is grilling Varns. Clearly, they've been at a standstill for quite a while. Terrence is surprised that Varns isn't covered in bruises. It seems that, despite their old ways, Greymoor is actually adhering to new NSF protocols.
“I already told you everything I saw.”
“Yeah? Well, I already told you that I don't like your answers. This is murder we're talking about here. You're not not going anywhere until I get something that I like.”
Mert knocks on the window and presses down on the receiver. “Finway, come on out,” he says. After a few moments, a stocky, short man steps out of the room. He sees Terrence's NSF badge and scoffs.
“Handing this off to the feds, Cap? He was sweating,” Finway mutters. Mert shrugs his shoulder.
“Fine, I'll go do some paperwork anyway.” Finway walks out of the room. Terrence wonders if all Greymoor militia is trained to be whiny children.
So, they're still using the Neanderthal training program.
Mert motions for Terrence to step in, which Terrence does. The interrogation room itself is akin to a dungeon, likely to scare their suspects into confession. The lovely ambiance and stuffy temperature has clearly taken a toll on Varns. The sight of a new officer simply makes him more frustrated and worried. Terrence sits down across from him. If not for new NSF laws, he'd probably be covered in bruises right now.
“Are you going to grill me too? I don't appreciate being treated like a suspect,” Gary cracks, impatiently. Terry slightly smirks, though he tries to hide the cockiness behind the smile. Gary doesn't know Terrence, as he was hired after the NSF investigation. Hopefully, this would be easy.
“I'm with the NSF. All I need are the answers to a few questions, simple questions, then we'll be settled.” Gary nods his head, clearly frustrated…or afraid and trying to hide it? Terrence notices his feet slightly twitching. “It's pretty hot in here, isn't it?” Terrence says.
“Kind of, yes,” he says.
Terrence smirks. “These Greymoor folks aren't great with their people skills, I know this from experience. Sorry about that. As if this hasn't been a shit day enough. I know you told the other officers, but for the record…take me through the timeline.” Gary nods, looking at Terrence with a dubious look in his eyes.
“Don't you people record everything?” Gary asks, agitatedly.
Terrence swipes his fingers in the air with a motion of finality. “Last time, I promise.”
Gary sighs and nods. He takes a breath and recalls. “I got in at about four. I got out of the car and everything was quiet, so I checked everything out. I found his team dead. Went to the courtyard, he was dead too…called the police right after that.”
“His security team…how much do you know about them?” Terrence himself knew that the NSF allotted some conscripted men to guard duty, but beyond that, he probably knew as much as Gary did.
“They've been with him for a while. Beyond that, I don't know.”
“Do you always arrive that early?”
“In case he needs me for an emergency, yes…he's a-he was a busy man…he had a meeting with Minister Jernigan today, and I know how stressed he gets, so I decided to come in early.”
“A meeting with Minister Jernigan. Did you know anything about it?”
“He's usually pretty forthright about his meetings, but he didn't say anything This time.”
“Okay…and what about that evening? What had he done?”
“Nothing unusual, drove him to-and-from the city hall, around 23, 23:30.”
Terrence nods and slightly leans onto the table, with a light grimace on his face. “Listen…” he says, quietly. “Between us, you must know what kind of stuff he did behind closed doors…our mutual friend have any bad habits?”
Gary narrows his eyes, looking up from the table to look at Terrence. “I know what happened with him and you people. You're all wrong. He didn't do anything wrong. He wasn't a good man, but he wasn't a criminal.” Gary sighs, rubbing his forehead with his fingers. “Can I PLEASE go home now?”
Terrence sees his bluff at frustration but can sense an underlying fear behind those words. Gary knows something but won't disclose it here. Is he afraid of someone here? Terrence sighs and nods. “You've been very helpful. Listen, I'm going to be making Greymoor my home for a few weeks. If you remember any new details…” He reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a card, placing it on the desk. “Call me at this number. It's a private number, so you won't have to deal with any of these brutes.”
With that, Terrence stands up and pushes in his chair, giving Gary a curt nod, quickly walking toward the door.
“When can I go home?” Gary asks. Terrence stops just before the door and turns to Gary with a very frank look.
“When this makes sense.” Terrence exits out of the room and closes the door. He can tell from Mert's demeanor that he didn't like the direction Terrence took his questioning.
“I want you to release him into NSF custody.”
“You want to say something about my people, say it outright,” he mutters, stepping into Terrence's face.
“I'm not accusing anyone yet. I'm just saying that we're better suited to protect him from the threat that's still out there.”
Mert sneers. “Like your people were suited to handle the killer?”
The comment is enough to chafe Terrence, who also steps into Mert, the two angrily locking eyes. It's almost a romantic sight.
“I told you before, you can either make this work or be an asshole.”
“Hmph. You're either saying my people are incompetent or they're in league with scumbags, and you're calling me the asshole?” Mert spits at Terrence's feet while giving him an indignant, frustrated stare. Terrence has to try really hard not to blurt out I fucking told you so once more, but Kirin's words echoed into his head. He took a breath and took a step back.
“Okay, then what do you suggest?” he quietly mutters.
“I'm letting him go and keeping some surveillance on him.”
“If you're talking about circumventing the law, I can't let you do that.” Mert contorts his face into a grin. “This is my house, fed. You want to send everything you've got to stop me?”
Terrence clears his throat, at his wit's end. Mert's right. Even if he wanted to call for back-up, Greymoor militia and the NSF would mix like oil and water. It's possible they'd get even less done. With this, Terrence shrugs his shoulder. “Fine. Have it your way, but I get to approve who you assign. Otherwise, I will call upon the authority of Minister Jernigan. I'm here for good will, but if you choose not to cooperate with us, things will get very complicated, fast.” Of course, doing so would be an absolute last resort, but Terrence had to play all of his cards.
“Fine, works for me. Wouldn't want you to call mommy,” Mert snipes.
Terrence stands against his car. The morning sun's just about begun blazing the dusty earth, but the natural heat is much more welcome than that mess of a building. Terrence pulls his phone from his pocket and quickly dials, holding the receiver up to his head. After a few rings, Kirin picks up.
“Terry, how's your investigation going?”
“Better than I thought, boss, which really isn't saying much. I sent you my on-site assessment, when you have time to view it. How are things on the bureaucratic end?” “It's a clusterfuck of epic proportions. For now, minister's sending an interim man to run things.”
“Boss…it's pretty bad. It's looking more and more like Underground has found their way into the militia too. Not Kaya himself, as much as I'd love to take him down for something.”
“Well, we already knew as much…what's your next plan of action? Any need to call in some back-up” Kirin asks. She knows that this is motivation enough for Terrence to take care of business himself. Both Mert and Terrence have that independent streak about them. “No need for that. I'm going to keep a damn close eye on our witness and make sure he doesn't slip through our cracks. As blind as Kaya is to it, there's something going on. His people are connected, and I intend to find out just how.”
Next: Chapter 3