The Paxton Gambit

Opportunity Knocks

Liam gets a New Assignment

The closest entry to the Executive Tower on the second terrace was lavish. Six blockish columns stretched upward four stories, flanking the set of eight impenetrable black glass doorways. On either side of the glass, a fountain of clear water emerged from the walls in a small waterfall that ran down a pair of narrow aqueducts that conjoined under a wide bridge built of a dark polished stone material. Two small trees stood on either side of each column, swaying in the desert wind.

The entry was tightly controlled. Liam stood waiting, as various lavishly-dressed executives passed him on their way inside with a narrow look of superiority. Two masked PaxSec officers checked Liam’s identification, running it through various checks. He was sure he was going to be turned away. He’d only been in the Executive Tower twice before. Each time it had taken his breath away. This time was sure to be no different.

One of the black clad officers drew a bright orange bracelet from behind the podium he stood at. He motioned to Liam, who drew closer. “This bracelet will grant you temporary access to the Executive Tower. Don’t take it off while inside. If you choose to remove it, the results will be… unfortunate.”

“You are to report directly to PaxSec HQ on level 23, section A. You will be under surveillance.”

Liam nodded his understanding, then proceeded across the bridge alone. While he’d been inside before, he’d never done so alone, and before he had been in a rush. He walked between the rushing waters to stand before the glossy black doorway. Even this close, he couldn’t see through it. The automated doorway suddenly whisked open and he stepped through into the tower of power.

Exec1The interior was like being in another world. The first thing that struck him was the air. It was like a wall of coolness washed over him. For the moment, it no longer felt as though he lived in a desert wasteland. He went in a little further.

The walls were covered in digital signage that slowly scrolled along, advertising services for the ultra-rich. Everything else was a glossy white enamel. It was a pristine environment. Sanitized. From the glances he received, he felt like he was the one thing out of place. A Peace Officer? Here? This was PaxSec’s domain. He ignored them.

Liam walked to the edge of the glass balcony that stretched for nearly a mile around the cylindrical building of executive suites that stood like an impenetrable pillar of enamel and glass across a chasm of open space. Once at the edge, he looked down, even though he knew the sight would terrify him. He looked down a cliff of glossy white
for nearly a quarter mile, that space punctuated by luxurious hanging gardens and water features. Several vast waterfalls cascaded far below. Somewhere above, a pair of hang gliders meandered with plenty of room to maneuver. A digital blue sky tricked him into believing a tempest hadn’t been here the day before.

It took a moment to find an elevator that would take him the 100 plus stories down to level 23. The glass elevator whooshed him down at an electrifying rate. From here he could see the electric veins that pulsed in Peace River and made the city live. He felt close to the heart of some monolithic organism.

He could tell when he reached the PaxSec offices because all of the glossy white surfaces became glossy black surfaces. He became aware of security cameras stalking his progress as he drew closer, as every few feet he saw a new one positioned in a different corner. Another whooshing black door made way for him and he was inside. The foyer was spacious. Two staircases led up to offices on either side of the building. A receptionists desk was further in, on the main level. An attractive woman stood behind it. As he drew closer, he became somewhat enamored with how beautiful she really was. Her skin wasn’t just smooth, it was perfect – perfectly smooth. It was obviously fake. Some kind of synthetic skin? He wondered for a moment if she might be some kind of android until she addressed him with a cursory nod. She noted his wristband and pointed to an office behind her and far back in one corner. “Room eleven. That’s where the others are gathered.”

Liam discovered that there was a total of seventeen others. All peace officers from various districts who had been directed to come here. They waited. Liam could tell that all of them were fidgety and tense – though they pretended not to be. Liam just pretended a little better than most.

GM
Now that you’ve arrived, what do you want to do?

Me Liam is going to take a seat. he does not care where. he is going to look and memorize everyones faces.

Liam so how are we all enjoying our day off?
Me, liam is just going to make small talk to try to calm everyones nerves a bit before they people come in.

OfficeLiam scanned the faces of each individual, one by one. There were seven women, ten men, and himself. All wore bright orange wristbands. They stood in a stark, oddly shaped office, filled with posh furniture that had unique dimensions. He took a seat next to a young man with sharp, eastern features. Instead of a Peace Officers uniform, he was dressed in a dusky caravaneer’s surcoat, which hung open at the neck, and was cinched at the waist by a leather belt. He sported a thin beard and glanced around warily. Liam sat next to him.

“So, how are we all enjoying our day off?” Liam asked. Some scowered, but the young man just smirked. “Seems like PaxSec wants us for something, but is working up the nerve to ask.”

Liam nodded, still scanning faces. The young man stuck out his hand in greeting. “Niko Lasseur.” Liam shook his hand. “Liam Mason.” After a moment of empty silence, Liam asked, “So… you don’t seem to match everyone around here…”

Niko smiled. “I don’t, do I? Probably why I’m a bit edgy. I… have had some bad run-ins with your Peace Officers before. I’d really rather not be here.”

“Yeah? Who sent you an invite?” Liam asked, wondering.

“Let’s just say that this is an option of community service I was offered. It beats cleaning, office work, and jail time.”

Liam wondered at that. Why were they here? He suspected that question would soon be answered when a dark-skinned man walked into the room. His head was shaved and he work the black uniform of a PaxSec officer, inverted peace emblems and all. The crowd made way for him and he stopped behind the white desk that dominated the room, preferring to stand rather than sit. The man scanned the room for a moment, apparently counting heads. He didn’t waste time getting to it.

“You’re probably wondering why you’re here. Your departments have identified you as ‘extras’. Those they could spare, off-duty, or in a transitionary period. Right now we need extra boots on the ground, and you’re it. So listen up.”

“You may have heard of the delegation coming from Basal. For those of you who don’t watch the news – Basal is a city-state in the Eastern Suns and is currently engaged in a bitter civil war with that lunatic, Masao. Their leader, Nigel Shirow, is sending some of his people to do business with us. They are expected to be here for a week – maybe a little more. During that time, we need to see that their people are safely accommodated. That’s where you come in. You’re on security detail. You may consider yourselves directly under the command of Colonel Lenaris and I am his liason to you at this time.”

There was some conspiratorial whispering at the name of Colonel Reichter Lenaris – Niko turned to Liam, “Who’s Colonel Lenaris?”

“He’s the commander of PaxSec.” Liam answered quietly.

“All Paxsec?” Niko asked.

Liam nodded in confirmation.

Blayne continued, “You’ll report to the Executive Tower airport tomorrow morning at 13 am. Are there any questions?”

GM
Captain Blayne will field questions for the next few minutes. In addition, you can talk to Niko, or try to meet a few other people. If you have direct questions for me about what’s been presented, let me know.

Liam
what possible threats are we dealing with here? bombs, sniper fire, all out assult?…have there been any threat letters sent?

me
Liam is going to talk to Niko some more and see if he has a place to stay, if he doesent he can stay with him. i am going to talk to all the people there and invite them to the bar later that night just to get to know eachother a little bit more and get some trust and a feel for their team. if there are any threat of bombs then i am going to bring duke with me in the morning.

It was a moment before anyone had a question. Liam was the first.

Captain Blayne nodded toward him. “Sergeant?”

“What possible threats are we dealing with here? bombs, sniper fire, all out assault?”

Blayne shook his head. “Victorya Hiro, the leader of the delegation from Basal, is the official consort of Nigel Shirow and it’s she that will be brokering a deal on their behalf. As such, she’s a high profile target, and we’re just trying to take precautionary measures.”

“That being said, we’re mostly concerned with insulating the delegation from any BRF activity. The BRF might like to take potshots at her to ruin the deal, or just make us look incompetent. Be assured though, if something did happen to her, there would be major political ramifications, so we have to tread carefully.”

The captain fielded a question about where the delegation would be restricted to as Niko leaned over to Liam, whispering, “This is a prime opportunity for the Patriarch. One he may not want to pass up.”

Blayne was clarifying that the delegation wouldn’t be restricted and did have their own private security force, but the plan was to steer them away from anywhere lower than the second terrace.

Thinking about Niko’s comment to him, Liam had a follow up question for the captain. “Have there been any threat letters sent?”

Captain Blayne nodded, “The usual thing, but nothing out of the ordinary. Most are just citizens with something against Basal for one reason or another. As you know, Peace River gets people from all over and the Suns is no exception. There are some here who have had close ones killed in the fighting down there and have a grudge they’d like to repay. PaxSec is actually following up a few leads there, along with a few TRG teams, including your own, Mister Mason. If we find anything noteworthy, we’ll let you know.”

A tall lean man glanced meaningfully at Niko as he asked, “It seems like not all of us here are natives to Peace River, or even Peace Officers. What’s up with that?”

Captain Blayne moved, as if to answer the question, then promptly closed his mouth and stood ramrod straight nodding to someone in the back of the room who had silently joined them. The electronic door whisked silently shut behind the stately older gentleman who had just entered. His gray hair had a military cut to it, and he wore a black PaxSec uniform with no markings of insignia or rank. In his right hand, he held a thin black cane that tapped on the sleek flooring as he drew closer to the taller man. The older man answered on Blayne’s behalf.

“We’re currently short-handed right now, Mister Ellerman. Otherwise none of you would have been offered this assignment. As such we’ve had to draw on resources we normally wouldn’t. As for Mister Lasseur, he is a Badlander who hails from near the Eastern Suns and thus brings a level of insight that the rest of you lack.”

The last word seemed to issue some kind of challenge, which Ellerman wisely let drop. Captain Blayne merely nodded. “Colonel.”

The Colonel acknowledged him, then addressed the room. “Those of you who have been called here today are some of the finest Peace River has to offer. Though you may just be on ‘guard duty’, don’t let it lull your senses. Be alert. I need people who can think – and act.” He looked around the room, as if to say something more, then dropped it, finishing simply with, “That is all.”

Realizing they were dismissed, the room emptied among excited whispers of “Lenaris!” “Eastern Suns?” and “Hiro?” The Colonel spoke once before they had all departed. “Miss Eris.” A woman with a serious air and brown hair glanced back, her eyebrow arching – a question.

“A word please.”

She went back into the room, and the doors whisked shut, leaving the Colonel and her alone.

NikoLiam and Niko trailed towards the back of the group, which meandered through the busy hive of PaxSec officers and workers. “That was interesting.” Niko said, indicating the woman’s private audience. Liam nodded in agreement. He wondered why the special attention.

“You have a place to stay?” Liam asked.

“Yeah. Well – not really.”

“Why don’t you come stay with me then? I have a nice place on the second terrace with some extra room.”

“Second terrace, huh?” Niko grinned dubiously. “Well I normally wouldn’t be seen below the first terrace, but I suppose I could deign to hang out with the commoners for a short time.”

Liam laughed.

Just as they were about to step back into the Executive Tower commons, Niko stopped, looking back into the grandiose complex that was Paxsec HQ.

“What is it?” Liam asked.

“Just… remembering. There are some things and places that you only ever get to see once.”

Liam took another moment too.


On their way back up, Liam invited a few of them to them to the Second Sky later that evening. He wasn’t sure how many would show with the non-committal responses he received.

One woman on their elevator – Maryson – couldn’t stop talking about Lenaris. “I heard he ran hit squads in the Southern Republic before becoming Peace River’s spymaster. That was before the Judas Syndrome and the War. I heard he got his position for assembling a resistance network in the Badlands. Guy’s a legend.”

Degado, a bulky guy whose uniform didn’t fit well rolled his eyes. “That’s executive propaganda. He’s just another exec who got a cushy job handed to him. He puts on his pants just like we do.”

Maryson shook her head in disagreement. “Hmph. Regardless, he’s known for fast-tracking careers.”

“And crushing them.” Degado added moodily.

Niko and Liam glanced at each other, but said nothing.

GM
You initially told me that your dawg’s name was Max. Has that changed to Duke now? Also, are there any other questions you want to ask these people, or do you want to do anything before you leave the Executive Tower? Do you have any questions for Niko? Otherwise, I’m just going to skip to the bar scene.

ME sorry no i ment max.

LIAM If pax sec was like any other goverment agency i would agree with you completly Degado, but its not. its one of its own. it does not tollarate failure or incomptance. i dont know what is or what is not true about him. but one thing is for sure…he as seen and done some serious shit in his time. and from the look of that man…his mind is still in its prime.

GM
Probably won’t update more tonight, but keep in mind, that you can ask me questions as the GM in here. What you see, further explanation, skill checks, that sort of thing. You can also ask questions past tense for the section that just occurred since I cover a chunk of story at a time, such as ‘Did I notice…’ etc.

Liam shook his head in thought. "If PaxSec was like any other government agency I would agree with you completely Degado, but its not. It’s one of its own. It does not tolerate failure or incompetence. I don’t know what is or what is not true about him. One thing is for sure…he has seen and done some serious shit in his time. and from the look of that man…his mind is still in its prime. "

Maryson cast Degado a pointed look, then shut up.


Chesseur Apartments

The door to his apartment was unlocked. Liam was troubled. His door shouldn’t be unlocked. Liam stepped into the entry and listened. There was no sound from Max. Only street noises from outside pervaded the gloom. Responding to his entry, the home immediately began to illuminate the entry and the main room, betraying his entry.

Liam swore in his mind, and unclipped the holster clasp, gently pulling his firearm free. Niko watched the movement in silence behind him. Niko reached into his shirt and withdrew a short dagger. He twisted it in his right hand, holding it backward, hidden under his palm. “Visitors?” he whispered.

Liam shook his head once, and drew closer into the main room. Max should have come to greet him by now. Where was he? A soft flickering light came from the hallway to the left. A silhouette moved in the darkness there. Liam flipped off the safety. He could feel Niko close behind him, watching his back.

A loud “pop” suddenly rang out from his room and Liam’s heart rate spiked as the silhouette moved into view for the briefest instant. Valeri stood exposed there, dressed only in satiny violet lingerie, holding a just opened bottle of wine as Liam leveled his weapon at her.

When her eyes lighted upon Liam’s guest, her eyes flashed in surprise and embarrassment, and she immediately mumbled, “Oh!-” and retreated back into the bedroom.

GM
What are you doing?

Liam laughs as he puts his weapon back into his holster. turns to niko and tells him to make him self at home. hands him a dead lizard and tells him its for bribery. hell understand soon enough. walks into the bed room picks valeri up in a sweeping hug and kisses her tells her about damn time and that she has the worst timing ever.

GM
I don’t follow the part about the lizard. You’ll need to elaborate there, or I am going to skip it.

Liam smirked, chuckling quietly to himself as he re-holstered his firearm. He turned to Niko. “Make yourself at home.”

Niko was hesitant. “Should I go?”

Liam really wanted to tell him yes, but didn’t for the time being. “No, just chill out here for a bit. There’s food in the kitchen if you’re hungry.”

Niko nodded, and headed that way as Liam walked into his bedroom, closing the door behind him. Valeri sat on the edge of the bed. She already had her pants back on and clasped her bra as she turned to face him. “… I’m sorry, Liam, I should have called first.”

Liam embraced her, kissing her neck. “It’s about damn time.”

Her hands locked in place around his neck and she leaned back, looking into his eyes. She breathed in purposefully, gauging her next words.

“I have to go.”

It wasn’t what he wanted to hear. “You have the worst timing ever.” He said, laying a tender kiss on her forehead.

“Yeah? Well at least I made a move! I wanted you to come over, not just call.” She said, somewhat exasperated with him.

“Sorry.” Liam said.

She withdrew from his arms, picked up her shirt from where it hung, folded over the back of a black and chrome chair in the corner. It was a cream-colored button up blouse that hung long in the back. She shrugged it on, buttoning up the wooden toggle buttons up the front.

“Who’s your friend?” She asked, as she collected the rest of her things.

He explained, all the while, trying to think of a way she could stay.

“Thanks for setting this up for me.” He said, apologetically.

Valeri wondered if she should tell him that it was mostly Elizabeth’s idea. She decided against it. He needed to suffer for embarrassing her and ruining their night a bit more. She smiled wistfully, and simply said, “You’re welcome. That’s what friends are for.” She emphasized the word ‘friends’.

Liam grimaced inwardly, just as Valeri knew he would. “Friends, huh?”

Valeri scored a point for herself as she saw his hurt reaction, but she wasn’t done just yet. She strapped on her underarm holster, settling her own weapon, in its place, then gave him a quick peck on the cheek and teased, “I’ve been waiting for a season now. Maybe it’s time I moved on…”

Liam’s eyes widened, telling her every which way that that was not okay.

Valeri finally put on her jacket over her holster as she opened the door, finally adding, “… at least until someone indicates more than just a passing interest.”

Liam reached out to close the door, thinking, I’ll show you more than passing interest - , but she was already through it, heading toward the door.

She stopped at the threshold. “Liam. Be careful on this one. Peace River usually steers clear of polar engagements. If they decide to get in bed with the Basalites – someone is sure to be unhappy about it. Watch yourself.” With that, she left, her heels clicking on the walkway.

GM
I hope I covered everything with Valeri okay – if you wanted to ask her any questions, just let me know and I can append it. This is also your chance to learn more about Niko and ask any questions or do anything else before heading out to the Second Sky that evening for drinks. Or, you can skip it entirely. What are you doing?

ME what i meant with the dead lizard was for niko to bribe my dog with, so he would not be backed up into a corner with a crazy dog trying to kill him. haha. and i don’t think liam would have let her put her cloths back on but that’s just me haha. ummm i want to ask niko the basic questions. family, how long he has been a badlander. and what are his plans after he is finished. and what his areas of expertise are. i want to know my team and what they can do if shit hits the fan.

GM
Ah, I see. Well, there’s no way that Valeri is sticking around with someone in the other room. Super-awkward. Valeri is one of the few people that Max would be fine with. Knowing that she’s here, you would know that she kenneled him in your small garage. (He has a small cage for when you have visitors.) It’s the only explanation for why he didn’t burst out when you got home, so Niko would be fine. Even so – you point out to Niko where he can get treats for your dawg.

Niko was sitting on the couch, busying himself with polishing some small carvings that rested on a small leather mat. He looked up when Liam entered the room. “Problem?”

Liam was lost in thought, but finally came to himself, shaking his head. “No. No problem.” He walked to kitchen and poured a drink of water from the sink, then returned to the living room where Niko sat busily engaged.

What did he know about Niko? He was from Vy-Lazan, the city of slaves. What did that make him? An escaped slave? “So… you’re from Vy-Lazan.”

Niko nodded, “Not originally, but, basically – yes.”

“So where are you originally from?” Liam asked.

“Okavango.”

“Eastern Suns?”

Niko nodded.

So that was the accent. “What’s it like?”

Niko eyes traveled back in time as he thought. “Different. It’s a bunch of floating rafts, bridges and islands. Vines from the swamp around it cover everything. It’s suffered a lot from the revolt. Emir Bhravo runs the place – he’s a young, inexperienced child, so – there are naturally problems stemming from that. Food, medical supply shortages, that sort of thing. Even so – I have fond memories from there.”

“What made you leave?” Liam asked.

“The Emir and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye.” he said wryly.

“Oh yeah?” Liam challenged.

Niko grinned. “I was pressed into service by some of his guardsman. Not sure for what really – work, soldiering, maybe the arena? Anyway, I realized that Okavango was no longer the best place for me and took it upon myself to depart.”

“You escaped?” Niko nodded.

“Lucky man.”

“I like to think so.” He said.

“Any family?” Liam asked.

Niko shrugged with his eyes. “None that I am particularly attached to. I have a sister who is probably still there – or dead. Probably the latter. We were never close.”

“And Vy-Lazan?”

“A sad place.”

“Were you…?”

“Was I what?”

“… a slave?”

“Oh – goodness, no. I was a slaver.” He paused, and Liam recognized the bittersweet memories – he had felt that himself, and often. “I worked for a powerful, wicked man called Kestro. I fell in love with a beautiful young slave girl – Emria – she was being sold, and I couldn’t allow it. So we tried to escape. I succeeded. She didn’t.”

Listening to Niko’s story, he could only put himself in that position, thinking of what he might do for Valeri, or other friends if he was in that situation. “She was recaptured?”

Niko shook his head almost imperceptibility. “No. She was killed. I… held her in my arms as she died. She told me to leave that place. Touched my face one last time – then she was gone.”

The conversation had turned much heavier than Liam had intended. All he could say was, “I’m sorry.”

Niko smiled. “It’s past. The future awaits.” He seemed at peace with his past rather than lost to it. Mourning had clearly taken its toll, but what had emerged from his culminated experiences was clearly a man who relished life, didn’t waste time, and seemed better for them.

“So how long have you been a Badlander?”

Niko’s eyebrows arched. “Never really considered myself one – more like a dispossessed wanderer.”

Now it was Liam’s turn to grin. “Sounds like one of the better descriptions of a Badlander to me.”

Niko shrugged and nodded, “I guess so. Around two cycles.”

“What are your plans?”

Niko replied without pause. “Find a cause. Fall in love. Save the world.”

It was abundantly clear that Niko had given the matter some thought. “And you’ve found your way to Peace River, huh?”

“I have.”

“Well that’s good – we’re in the business of saving worlds.” He said brashly, alluding to Peace River’s unexpected assistance in liberating Terra Nova during the War of the Alliance.

Niko laughed, and Liam chuckled.

“So what do you do? Other than polishing rocks?”

“This?” He said, picking up one of the small pieces – a tiny jade colored man, with his arm held aloft. “This is just a hobby. What you’re probably asking is why PaxSec wants me to work for them. I’m a passable bladesman and knife fighter. I’ve also been told that I’m somewhat observant.”

Liam could tell he was likely being modest.

“You ever use a gun?” Liam asked.

“Never really seen the need to.” Niko said, “But yes. I’m familiar with them. Why do you ask?”

“I just want to know what my team can do in case the shit hits the fan.” Liam stated flatly.

“Your team? I thought it was Lenaris’ team.”

Liam smiled impishly.

Niko wasn’t phased. “Well then – I hope I passed the interview.”

Liam took another sip of his water. “We’ll call if we’re interested.”

GM
Anything you wanted to add? Did you want to go for drinks that evening, or just call it a night? Once the next day starts, you have to be up bright and early. It’s time to go to work!
ME
no thats good lets kill some stuff!!

GM
Well alrighty then! =)

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