Monday, January 30, 2006

Walking Death, Chapter 11

The debriefing took place in another storeroom in a different business, but the impression of the location was the same. Completely anonymous. Rachel and Liberty listened as Frieda gave a no nonsense account of her part of the mission.

“You are certain of the address?” he asked.

“My memory is very precise. I often found myself where I could not take the information with me, and I prefer not to rely on cameras whenever possible. A simple address is hardly a challenge.”

“Was there any technical data on the Ambulamort itself?”

“No, that information is not important in respect to the deployment of the weapon, so it was not provided to the squadron.”

“We know that the Imperials have a facility at that location, but none of our agents have been able to find any word as to what goes on there.”

“Are you considering an assault on the facility?”

“I had, briefly, but there is an army garrison less than half a mile away. The perimeter defenses will have to be circumvented and their communications cut off so that they can’t call for help.”

Rachel chimed in.

“Sounds like you need someone to go in all sneaky-like.”

“That’s right. I want you to bluff your way in, Rachel. I believe you already have a costume and identification?”

“Oh, I’m sure I can throw something together. I even know which face I’m going to put on.”

“Excellent. Dr. Kellner, I need you to back her up. We don’t know how much more of the stuff they have, or even what other surprises they may have stored there. Your job is to secure a sample of the Ambulamort for analysis, find any records of antidotes, and take samples of any other projects.”


By the next night, Rachel had provided Dr. Kellner with a very smart looking skirt and jacket set, perfectly appropriate for a serious minded scientist. She also produced an impressive forgery of a Bureau of Advanced Sciences identification card in the name of Helga Messner.

For her part, Rachel had donned an Imperial uniform: black with red trim and major epaulets. Frieda recognized the meaning of the red in the uniform. It meant membership in the Imperial Demonic Forces. Frieda had met members of those ranks in the past. There was no doubt that Rachel was going to be the center of attention, even if she evoked dread in her admirers. The basic details of Rachel’s face were the same, but now they composed themselves into a beautifully austere visage. Gone was the little girl Frieda first met, replaced with a mien worthy of Athena.

Frieda saw to transportation. One of the neighbors, a few blocks removed, unknowingly provided an official looking vehicle for the night. The work of the night should be just that, with the car returned before it was missed.

The first test of their disguises came at the checkpoint on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Empire kept a tight rein on travel, particularly between the baronies of the troubled County of New York. The bridge was typically crowded at the checkpoint where soldiers scrutinized travel authorizations. The early evening traffic only made the wait longer.

Frieda had to school her tension as the line crept slowly along the bridge. The wait stretched her nerves. She was certain that the tension showed on her face, marking her with anxiety that would rouse the soldier’s suspicions.

Rachel on the other hand, seemed as calm and collected as if she were out for a leisurely drive in the country. She chatted away on various topics ranging from the men at Club Hades to the latest fashions to her complaints about some gangsters who seem to think that they own whatever crosses their eye line.

Rachel was in the driver’s seat for the trip, playing the part of the military escort for a newly arrived scientist. Frieda had reservations about the arrangement up until they approached the checkpoint. Rachel’s chatter scarcely paused as the car pulled into earshot of the roadblock. Her face went from animated into annoyed iciness.

“Papers,” demanded the sergeant as the car pulled up.

Rachel looked out the window and cleared her throat. Even that she did with a quiet authority that caught up the sergeant’s eyes.

The man snapped to attention.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am. May I please have your papers?”

“Of course,” said Rachel as she handed over the forged documents. Frieda did her best not to look like she was holding her breath.

The sergeant scarcely looked away from Rachel’s gaze. The examination he gave the papers was cursory at best, and he handed them back as if he were ashamed to have had them in the first place.

“Everything is in order, please drive through.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.”

“Ma’am,” he said with a salute.

She returned the salute and pulled out onto the remainder of the bridge. Once the checkpoint was safely in the rearview mirror, Rachel turned toward Frieda.

“I really enjoy scamming soldiers. They’re so darn predictable. Could you light me a cigarette, please?”

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