The Cuban Conundrum

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The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:09 pm

Well, as so often happens, there is a story behind this story.

From the words of our authority on scents, magic and other such untouchable beauties:


Dinky's foreword:

So I'm not sure if anyone remembers I review indie perfumes from time to time, but I started sharing them with the usual suspects who asked me to do so to try to encourage me to start blogging and writing again after real life threw me a few curveballs.
After posting this one review about a scent whose name created such drama with Paypal and the USPS/US Government, this "idea" sort of spawned from the usual suspects demented minds...

...dear sweet Lord I never imagined that one of my nutty perfume reviews would spiral down the rabbit hole like this. I'm still having gigglefits.

Presented here for your bemusement, my review of 'the unmentionable':

(San Cristóbal de la Habana)
A Perfume That Tells a Story About My Daughter But Had a Name That Made Our Payment Processors All Feisty and Stuff So Now We Have To Change It and This is the New Name Yay


(Cubas white ginger blossoms, guava pulp, and mango with a touch of white tobacco and sea salt.)
White ginger blossoms, guava pulp, and mango with a touch of white tobacco and sea salt.

This scent is being renamed, rewritten, and re-everything because PayPal doesn’t recognize poetic license, and neither does the US government.

Nothing in this perfume comes from the Island Country That Shall Not be Named; nothing except the photo, the story, and a life experience. None of the components of this oil come from the Island Country That Shall Not be Named. There is nothing in this product that has an origin in the Island Country That Shall Not be Named. If you order A Perfume That Tells a Story About My Daughter But Had a Name That Made Our Payment Processors All Feisty and Stuff So Now We Have To Change It and This is the New Name Yay, please do not reference it by its previous name.


So yeah, this scent caused no end of grief to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab...over a name. These scents were only available during the month of their daughter's birthday and never again. They create special limeted edition perfumes in her honour every year.
Thousands of Paypal accounts were frozen for days until the owners in a fit of...annoyance, changed the name on the website. I got my bottle secondary market, and so avoided it all.


In the BPAL community, it's known as the "Lilith Scent-that-must-not-be-named".

In the Bottle: Fruity nectar with ginger.

On Me: It is a memory. A dear Aunt for the first and only time, went alone on a trip to Hawaii to visit friends. She had Ginger Blossom water that smelled a lot like this.
The mildly aquatic undertone and tobacco scent was like being in my Grandparents house being told of her Holiday.
My son declined to try this one as "too salty waters smell"

Dinky's Notes II: This scent is no longer available from the company, but I linked to it so you can see it was not an imagined thing.

Oh, and ah...don't mention the real name.

************************************************************
When she brought this up and told us (the author’s circle) about it, the reaction was electric – sparky, even.

Glytch remarked, “We need to write a story called “The Cuban Conundrum” just to set off the paranoia filters.” All of us laughed, and the discussion moved on.

Then…thinking started to happen, and little idea sketches….and it snowballed from there. We were laughing and writing all at the same time – which is inevitably a sign that fun is being had.

So, ladies, gentlemen and whoever else wanders by, welcome to “The Cuban Conundrum”, presented for your amusement and the confounding of NSA’s Carnivore imperative.

This is the product of the Usual Suspects – mostly Sarge, Glytch and myself, with much moral support and plotline assistance from Shneekey The Lost and Dinky Inky (who is still giggling. Further note I did not bother to segment who did what – this is a glorious blender-full of additions by all of us.

As always, if you have comments please use the comments thread... -Al
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:21 pm

Danger Is A Bored Engineer

Bored.

Gods, he was bored.


With that thought, the old warrior turned from his computer screen, repository of his latest report to the suits at MIB.

It wasn’t that he had nothing to do – Gods forbid, there were back-shop projects in line waiting for him, not to mention things to do in the front shop – but everything was going smoothly, and none of it was urgent.

“Computer. Play back last three minutes of report 9802 chapter latest.”

The computer, ever obedient, began to replay his words as-dictated. Hearing his own voice droning on about isotope ratios, nuclear analysis, dating methodologies and surface erosion patterns filled him with an acute sense of nausea and a thoroughgoing lack of enthusiasm for continuing the project.

“Computer. Store file, translate to text. File name 9802. Store. Report completion.”

“Working.” With that, the background processes began, turning the hours of dictation into a document suitable for submission to MIB.

Al stretched, rubbed his face with his hands, and thought. There was nothing that was catching his fancy this morning – these reports certainly weren’t, the shop work was well in hand between Ari and the mechanics, and his presence would be tolerated but not welcomed anywhere there.

He turned to the clock. 11:55 local time. Coming up on lunchtime, it is.

An idea oozed into the bottom of his consciousness – maybe a bit of an outing for lunch was in order. He could drive into Minneapolis, or just go for a run in the Aston and stop wherever. Or do that with the 86 or Clara – neither of them had had a decent run of late.

Hmmmmmmmm…..

With that, he pulled out his phone. Keying up his email (RE had very nice encrypted servers, thank you) he typed, fingers flying rapidly over the keyboard.

TO: Glytch, Greg
FROM: Al


Subject: Lunch and a change of scenery.

I am bored witless. Meet me at Alexander House in a half-hour or so and we’re off to the Caribbean for a sandwich and a cold lime squash or two. Strictly stag – a quiet lunch with some beautiful scenery to enjoy appeals to me.

You in?


With that, he sent it off.

The twang of a Banjo Minor chord caught Greg's attention- he fished his phone out of his pocket and found the 'text' screen (his brother-in-law having shown him how- Greg is at best marginally 'computer friendly'). Reading it with a smirk, he went to his closet and fished out a Hawaiian shirt in green tropical colors, a pair of cargo shorts and an old pair of canvass Hiking boots- stuffing this into a old OD haversack, he then turned to his bride and said,
"Pretty Lady, I'm off for a second breakfast with Al and Glytch unless you got something for me to do."

"Really? Where are you going that you need an AWOL bag? You got a girlfriend going on?"

"Faugh! No, Al's talking about going someplace Caribbean- not sure where, but these heavy togs probably won't work for squat."

"Git outta here you raggity old fart! And make sure you have a good time... don't be pickin' up any floozies, you hear me? There are dangerous predatory types looking for a 'Sugar Daddy' in that part of the world,"

Sweeping her up in one arm, he smooched her passionately enough to make her breath heavily.

"As if I would have any stamina for it after you- besides, I doubt there's any NEAR as dangerous as you..." he teased, swatting her butt.

The standard hike up to the old outhouse caught Roger Oyler's attention- he watched his 'crazy neighbor' slog thru the rotted snow to the derelict privy at the end of the field- there was a bit of conflict going on inside... did he pursue or not? Looking at the weather, he decided... not...

Glytch was getting frustrated. He thought he had managed to synthesize an exciting new molecule - a nitrogen fullerene, N20, with a multitude of nitro groups hanging off of it... from pentazole ions and 99% hydrogen peroxide. Unfortunately, it was a REALLY exciting molecule…as in even the slightest disturbance and it would realize its dream of becoming a rapidly expanding cloud of hot nitrogen gas.

Given what it was made from and the fact that it was nigh impossible to transport away from its building blocks... Glytch was having a decidedly difficult time gathering any data on it.

Glytch had devised a system of kinetic buffers using superconductor magnetic levitation, a liquid helium cooling system using aligned polymers for one-way heat conduction and a sample of Jotun blood as the near-infinite heat sink, and a motion-scaling and tremor-filtering system not unlike the Da Vinci Surgical System... Which also gave Glytch the welcome advantage of not having to come within the blast radius of the chemical.

After several attempts... And several repairs to the robotic arms... Glytch had managed to not only synthesize the chemical and put it into an analysis dish, he had actually managed to pick up said dish and was about to put it into the slot for the infrared spectrometer when an unexpected email made his phone vibrate.

Glytch had already long since focused his concentration to the near exclusion of all else, and was in the zone, as though he were in the middle of a particularly vexing boss battle or final puzzle in a video game.

Of course, this meant that when his concentration was broken in the middle of such an focused task, it was shattered. With violent results. First to go was the analysis sample. Which blew a hole in the infrared spectrometer, sending shrapnel at relativistic speeds through the rest of the system... Ripping the robot to shreds, breaching containment, peppering the liquid helium coolant tubes. The resulting cloud of shrapnel, of course, immediately punched through the containment wall of the main quantity of synthesized substance.

Which, of course, did not take kindly to being so rudely poked, and flew apart with a ferocity, vindictiveness, and bald-faced malice few chemicals could ever hope to lay claim to.

Several floors above, separated by several layers of hardened concrete and structural steel, Brandi felt the floor tremble, and heaved a long-suffering sigh and picked up her phone, a small smile on her face. "Glytch, did you blow yourself up?"

"Um. Almost. Yeah, I'm gonna go with almost. I'm not bleeding yet. There's a titanium shard stuck in the wall behind me, but I guess that's a ricochet. Hang on..." Glytch stood and looked himself over. "Ok, nope. No new holes. I'm good."

"Ok. Next time, try only synthesizing enough for the current test."

"...yeah, well... The synthesis is pretty risky, and I was on a roll, so... Yeah. Ok. I'm... Gonna take a break from this stuff. I need to rebuild my setup anyway..." Glytch glanced at his phone and saw the email preview from Al. "Think I'm gonna go have lunch with Al."

"Alright. Have fun, dear. Try not to cause too much more trouble today, please."

"I'll try. See you later, babe. Bye." Glytch hung up and opened the email. "Oh, Sarge is coming too. Wonder if I should tell Brandi... Nah, shouldn't be a problem. It's just lunch.”

When they arrived on Al's phone the answers, of course, were predictable.

From Greg, a terse OK. This is about all Al expected, as his blood brother and technology were sworn enemies unless they were pertinent to armaments manufacture.

Good – one down, he thought, then his phone vibrated again.

A quick check showed Glytch’s reply. On my way – need to repair the lab anyway, so I’m at a good stopping point. Caribbean, huh? Any place in mind?

Glytch had a point. He hadn’t had any place in mind, but the words just kind of came to him. With hardly a hesitation – blew up the lab again? – Al responded.

No bloody idea whatsoever. The idea just came to me. We’ll talk at Alexander. I’m on my way now.


With that Al sheathed his phone, grabbed his coat and fedora, and headed for the Aston, with a word to Ari on the way. Sticking his head into her office, he announced “Off to lunch. I’m likely going to be off for the afternoon – going back to Alexander to meet Glytch and Sergeant Howard.”

Ari looked up from her work, smiled and waved cheerily, then the guest list percolated in. Hesitantly she remarked, “Greg – AND Glytch? What’s going on?”

“Nothing is going on, you nosy angel. What is actually happening is that I am terminally bored at present and am going to lunch with two of my closest friends, no more. Why can’t a man meet friends for lunch without causing suspicion?”

Ari snickered – this was an old argument. “Because when the three of you get together, it’s never that simple. It’s a quiet lunch with conversation, then things are scribbled on napkins in pencil, then the three of you spend the next week locked in the machine shop coming up with some outlandish device.”

“And this is a problem for any particular reason? I have you to mind the store, so to speak, and you have to admit that our flights of fancy do pay off on occasion. Witness the Dixie Flyer and its derivatives – they’ve produced a nice bit of coin for this organization, if I recall correctly.”

“Oh, I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t do it – just be careful. The energy when the three of you get together is off the scale – and you don’t exactly discourage each other.”
Al scoffed. “We’re just going out for a small road trip and a nice sandwich. What could possibly go wrong? We have a few laughs and we’ll be back in a few hours.”

Ari laughed. “Famous last words. I’ll see you tomorrow – I don’t expect to see you back. Have fun!”

With that, Al went down to the Aston and headed to Alexander. While he drove, he thought.

Hmmmm. What to eat – where to go? Jamaica? No, not up for jerk chicken – and the damn tourist trade has ruined the place.

Not up for chicken in general. Beef? Not so much – spoiled with Rosalita’s cooking.

Roast pork….

Suddenly it hit him – both the destination and the delicacy.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:24 pm

Particles Collide:

Glytch divested himself of his ballistic carbon nanotube, non-Newtonian fluid impregnated, anti-chemical Teflon coated lab coat and gloves as he carefully picked his way through the structural rubble and shattered scientific instrumentation to the containment dome's exit. Saul was waiting outside, arms crossed and an expression on his face that seemed to be a combination of amusement and annoyance.

"You knocked over my flask of muriatic acid."

"Sorry about that. I did get some possible ways to calculate the yield of the explosion, though. There's plenty of shrapnel... Maybe we can get some good data from that. Damn stuff keeps breaking the actual yield data collection setups and calorimeters."

"We're gonna have geologists poking around outside if this keeps up."

"Nah, the containment domes are built on a floating foundation. They're kinetically isolated from the rest of the earth." Glytch flipped his coat over his shoulder and walked back alongside Saul to his office. "The only reason the building feels anything is because the last contractor who built that new office wing accidentally used the domes as a solid foundation because he didn't know what they were, then connected that to everything else. Any shockwaves that do get out end up garbled and really muted. They look more like interference."

"Mmh. Headin' out?" Saul glanced at Glytch's lab coat. "When are the rest of those coming in, by the way?"

"Yeah, gonna grab a bite to eat with some friends. And they shouldn't be more than a few days."

"Y'know, when I heard we were getting a mad scientist, I didn't expect him to spend half his time revolutionizing lab safety equipment." Saul shook his head in wonder. "I thought we'd all be dead, retired, or transferred out for our own sanity by now."

"How do you think I'm still alive? When I was a kid, I used to make my own chemically-resistant oven mitts when I started distilling hydrogen peroxide. Drove my parents up the wall, and scared the shit outta my chemistry teacher when I got to high school. Heh. The look on his face was priceless. He bought several extra sand buckets and a real fancy foam fire extinguisher within the week."

"...are you sure you're human?" Saul furrowed his brow at Glytch. "Because I really think you should have gone to Gryphon."

"Pretty sure, yeah." Glytch unlocked the door to his office. "Hey, do you need some muriatic acid? I've got some in here-"

"Oh, no. No no no. Not yours. I'd have to dilute it, and I'd really rather just get some of the regular stuff from the supply closet." Saul backed up, waving his hands to emphasize his reluctance. "Have a good lunch, don't end the world."

"Alright. See ya." Glytch grinned before entering his office, hung up his lab coat, collected a few things, and teleported first to his house for a quick change of clothes (Jean shorts, Keen closed-toe sandals, and a lightweight, quick dry, light gray, hooded, button-up tshirt, left open at the top few buttons), and then to Castle Alexander.

Upon his arrival, Al parked the Aston in the garage, then traipsed to the kitchen door.

As expected, Daisy and Rosalita were sitting down to lunch and chatting. Al walked in and hugged his dam, trying hard not to interrupt.

Daisy turned to him, a question on her face and in her voice. “What’s up? Not like you to play hooky.”

Rosalita asked, “Would Señor care to join us for lunch?” When he hesitated, the female population of the room automatically assumed he was Up To Something – a condition that a man, married or not, could be tried and convicted of in a millisecond no matter how little-deserved.

Al, what are you up to?” The tone in Daisy’s voice brooked no argument.

Al took a deep breath. “In order, no thank you Rosalita, I am going out to lunch. And to answer you, you evil suspicious quadruped I am going out to lunch with Glytch and the Sergeant. I am thoroughly bored at work and have given myself the afternoon off.

The lads and I are if I have any say on it going to take in the sights of Havana for a few hours and have a sandwich and a couple of cold drinks in some street restaurant.”

Daisy looked concerned. “Havana? Why Havana? They’re not all that friendly to Americans there even now.”

“Well understood, dear, but what’s the harm of three men having a quiet lunch and watching the scenery go by? Completely harmless way to pass an afternoon.”

Daisy looked uncertain. “Where you three are concerned there is NO such thing as a harmless way to pass an afternoon. Go on with you, then, and be careful.”

With that, Al made his way to the Great Room. Greg and Glytch were already there, having found their way in when they arrived.

"Shorts, eh?" Al said, examining the sartorial lack of splendour of his colleagues. " I haven't seen this much white meat since last Thanksgiving. Someday you lot will discover the splendour of simple khakis - comfortable in all temperatures, easy care, and sheds chocolate pie, bloodstains and other such mishaps with a simple laundering.”

Glytch smirked at Al. "I thought you were doing a public service, keeping your legs covered so everyone else doesn't lose their appetite. Besides, if you think I'm going to the hot and humid Caribbean with long pants on, you are very mistaken."

“OK, so we’re off to Havana!” Al said, rubbing his hands. “Everyone ready?”

The two comfortably ensconced on the couch looked at each other, then at the gesticulating madman.

“Havana?”

“Really?”

“And why not, then? About time we go and get some use out of this portal system. Tropical breezes, Cuban sandwiches, cold citrus drinks served by lovely señoritas with large breasts – what else could you possibly want?”

Again the pair on the couch stared at each other.

“You figure he’s lost it?”

“No. This time he might be on to something. To be honest he had me at the señoritas….”

“Annie is gonna shoot you if you even THINK about it.”

"My eyes may wander, but never my flesh... Annie knows that rather well... besides, I make sure to be more obvious with the ones that look like her. In any case, I wouldn’t talk. Annie may be dangerous, but that doesn’t even register on golem scale….”

Al interrupted. “Gods, you two are so under the thumb. We are going to LUNCH, not a brothel. Beautiful blue skies, clear air, marvelous old cars…”

“AHA! You’re on a shopping expedition! I KNEW IT!”

“Not a bit. See previous comment on scenery. If I wanted 1950s American stuff I can find it here. Now get your lazy carcasses OFF the couch and let’s go. I crave roast pork.”

With that, Al grabbed the hands of his friends and persuaded them off the couch. With a stop by Al for a light bush jacket and a Panama in the hall closet, the three headed for the stable door and the Library portal.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:53 am

Bliss, Breezes And Beauty

With a few steps they exchanged the cold, clear weather of a Minnesota Winter for the balmy breezes and tropical temperatures of Cuba’s capitol. Looking back, Al realized they had exited one of the nave doors of the Cathedral Of the Virgin Mary, right in the centre of Old Havana. From here, they exited into the square, coming down the narrow street between the cathedral and an adjoining modern building.

Breathing deeply, he savoured the heat, the humidity, and the sound of a quintessentially Spanish Caribbean island. The sound of a bustling city surrounded the three, and Al led the way into Cathedral Square itself.

The buildings there were as remembered from a long-ago visit, exuding the curious timelessness of an old tropical capital city. The stone lintels and solid architecture contrasted but worked well with the pastel coulours of the paint on exposed iron work, window and door frames. A jarring note was set by the shoring and scaffolding around some of the buildings, as Havana fought its own worst enemies – lack of investment and the damp tropical climate.

The reaction of his companions was no less dramatic. Breathing deeply of the warm, moist air, Al could see their shoulders visibly slump as the warmth seduced away their cares.

Greg, looking over, said “You know, old man, this is one of the better ideas you’ve had this week.” Glytch stood, eyes closed, face to the sun and enjoyed the warmth and the gentle breezes.

Around them bustled the life of the city, mothers with their children in prams, couples strolling, the inevitable tourists with cameras ascending the stairs into the cathedral. At an open-air bistro in the plaza people sat at tables under umbrellas, enjoying the scenery and coffee or drinks.

Breathing deeply again, Al oriented himself, then pointed northwest. “From here, we’re nearly at Havana’s harbor. If we walk out that way, there’s a string of interconnected parks along the ship channel that will bring us out to the join to the Florida Straits. From there, it’s 90 miles to Key West if you feel like a swim.” Al grinned, the tension leaving him as well as the warmth soaked into his bones.

After his initial moment of savoring the pleasant weather, Glytch began to rubbernecking at the buildings. It was only a short moment before Sarge caught a glance at Glytch's eyes beneath his hood. Brow furrowing, he nudged Al. "If that ain't the most dangerous look ah've ever seen on his face, ah'll eat mah belt buckle."

"Oh, dear... Glytch, what has so thoroughly captured your attention, and is it lethal?"

Glytch giggled, his eyes sparkling. "Scaffolding." Glytch pointed at one particularly elaborate setup, starting at the ground and making his way up to the rooftop above. "It's like I've died and woken up in an Assassin's Creed game. Look, I could totally hop and vault from that pile of cement bags to the mixer, to the first scaffold layer, at which point it's basically just a more rickety, more entertaining version of a jungle gym... I can get all the way up to the fourth floor before using that rope and counterweight to fling myself up and over to that clothes line and then to that next scaffold system there, and I'd be on the roof in less than sixty seconds." Glytch flashed a completely unrestrained mad grin at the two older men. "It's beautiful. I love construction areas. My favorites are some of those buildings in Venice being restored and having their foundations repaired... And don't even get me started on museum renovations... Unnnf."

Greg and Al grinned at each other – their companion’s enthusiasm was infectious.
“Shall we go for a walk, then decide where to have lunch?” With that, the three walked out of the square, heading down San Ignacio to Calle O’Reilly. About them the bustle, noise and smells of a typical city roared, with touches of the Caribbean.

“Helluva name for a street in Havana, eh, Al?” Greg kidded. “Sounds more like a back alley in Dublin.”

“Not surprising, as it was named after an Irishman.” Al lectured. “Alejandro O’Reilly was in the service of the Spanish crown and served it with distinction, ending up a count. He served as Spanish governor of Louisiana, then served with distinction militarily in reworking the defenses of Havana and of Puerto Rico for the Spanish Crown.

He married into a prominent Cuban family and spent the rest of his life in government service.

While Governor of Louisiana he put down the Creole revolution, earning himself the sobriquet of “Bloody O’Reilly”. He revolutionized the government of the area, doing a stellar job of cleaning up the mess left by the French when they ceded the area.

Brilliant man, and an inspired legislator.”

“How do you know so much about him?” Glytch was curious. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Al had read of it with his tastes in literature, but this sounded more like a personal passion.

“Well…I’ve been here before. Did a lot of studying before I came here, and the history and characters caught my fancy. The later history under Batista and then the current regime isn’t the stuff of legends.” Al then went silent, strolling and saying no more.

Smells of cooking food and the perfumes of tropical flowers mixed with the stench of exhaust both Diesel and petrol, dust from the streets and the occasional bark of a stray mongrel. Occasionally, their path was detoured – the scaffolding of repairs and shoring in place and blocking the sidewalk.

Each time one of these scenes of construction was passed, the glow in Glytch’s eyes intensified, and the manic grin became if possible a bit wider. Greg and Al, seeing this, wondered not for the first time at the irrepressible attitude and love of life of their colleague, and grinned to each other.

“Five bucks says we pass something really good and he goes for it.” Greg said, smiling.

“No, I think not. Our young friend has self-control – bags of it – and well realizes that this would be less than welcome to the local authorities.”

Glytch turned back to them. “You two do realize I can hear you, right?”

“Oh, of course. We’re just thoroughly enjoying watching your mind work, and speculating at its next dive into the blue.”

Glytch grinned. “Al’s perfectly right – I’d hate to start something here that would ruin the day. “ Here the twisted grin became a little wolfish. “However, I can sure THINK about it.”

As they continued their walk the streets opened out, becoming less claustrophobic as they reached the shore of the ship channel and the connected plazas. Ahead of them and to the left was an angular stone structure, surrounded by a fence but open, with people strolling in and out and the inevitable tourists.

Al smiled. “Ahead of us there, and bordering the parks, is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. It was one of the harbor defense forts, but never really served as such. By the time it was finished they realized some engineer or six had done his sums wrong and it was too small to do anything useful, as well as being too far back from the harbor entrance to do any good against attacking pirates.

It ended up many things, among them the residence of a few governors of Havana. Now I’m told it’s an armaments and marine museum. Perhaps we’ll take it in after lunch.”

“Speaking of lunch…where are we going to eat? I’m getting hungry – all this fresh air and sunshine is giving this old man an appetite…as is the scenery.” He nodded appreciatively to two young ladies in sundresses who crossed their path, and they in turn giggled and moved on, strolling casually in the bright Havana sunshine.

“Letcher. Cad. I’ll tell your wife on you if you keep that up. I realize you’re a cradle-robber but aren’t they a bit young even for you?” Al snickered, then began to scan the area as they walked. A few places suggested themselves as they walked, but none seemed right.

Finally, after they’d walked nearly to the Gulf, they spotted a place backed up on the packed buildings but facing the sea past the parks.

“El Corazon Del Toros…sounds interesting. As long as that’s not what’s on the menu, this has possibilities.”

Greg snickered. “Waaaallll, if it’s cooked right that might be right tasty.”

Al looked disgusted. “I forget who I’m talking to. For a redneck if it has a face there’s a recipe for it. I still remember your attempt to feed me creamed chipped possum for lunch – it stunk up the refectory at 2 for days.”

“Now, you can’t blame me for the can going bad – that was NOT my fault.”

Innocently, Glytch asked, “How could you tell it went bad?”

“No taste. No taste at all.” Greg grumbled good-naturedly, as they took seats facing the street and the parks.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:56 am

Snitches and Stress

Muttering into the phone, another of the waiters described the three at the outside table.

“Si, tres gringos. The Brit introduced his friends as 'Canadian', but you'd have to be el loco to not hear the capitalist pig's deep southern accent. The third is wearing a hood and keeping his face concealed at all times in this heat and humidity, and speaks some oriental. Maybe Japanese? The Brit speaks of Tel Aviv, and they all move like soldiers. They don't have the swagger to be La Familia. Didn't even try to make a pass at the boss' daughter, and who ever heard of an off-duty soldier who didn't make a pass at los chicas bonitas?" If they looked like on-leave soldiers, but didn't act like on-leave soldiers, and one of them had an American accent, and a deep south one at that?

The phone muttered back. “Keep an eye on them. I’ll send an officer to check them out.

“They just ordered. They won’t be going anywhere for a while – they seem to be settling in for a long lunch. I’ll keep an eye on them.”

Bueno.

Unaware of the trouble headed in their direction, the three relaxed in the shade of the umbrella and chatted.

Al sighed. “This was a good idea. Always have loved the Caribbean, though most of it’s gone stupidly tourist over the past 20 years or so. Too many small places that have no other way to bring in exchange live on the tourist teat – but it is what it is. That’s why I wanted to come here – some tourists but the place doesn’t live on it.”

Feeling puckish, Greg asked “So, why were you here? Vacation, assignment or you doing your James Bond thing again?” Utterly ignoring him Al settled back in his chair and leaned back, eyes closed and enjoying the atmosphere.

A minute later, the waiter returned with their drinks. Tall frosty glasses were filled with a mixture of ice, muddled mint and lemonade made at the bar. The condensation of the moist atmosphere jeweled the outside of each, and they were each topped with a slice of lemon and orange.

“Ahhhhh.” Al stripped the paper from a straw, inserted it into the drink, and took a deep draught. The other two followed suit, and the appreciation for the cool, crisp liquid was evident on their faces.

After a few minutes refills of the drinks arrived as did their meals. Sitting, sipping and enjoying their lunches and the plate of fried plantains, all was perfect until Glytch spotted the policeman walking toward them.

Showing no overt reaction, he said “Guys, we have a cop on Sarge's six. Totally looking right at us, making a beeline. Parked down the street in some ugly little car... Armed, arm back, shoulders and neck tense, gait is prepped for pursuit. Definitely not a happy camper."

Al nodded. “Let me lead off. I have my UK passport on me and hopefully that and a fifty quid note will quiet him down. Did either of you grab a passport?”

“Nope. Didn’t occur to me.”

“Me neither.”

“Doesn’t matter. None of us have visas anyway – hoping the usual gratuity will settle him.”

By this time the policeman had walked up. Tall, lean and suspicious and equipped with a revolver on his hip, he wore the blue and grey of the Policia Especializada, beret shoved under an epaulet in the British fashion. Disconcertingly, he had the restraining strap on his holster unsnapped and his hands were being held clear.

Using his eyes, Al pointed out the officer’s body language. Glytch had already noticed it but now that he was close the details were obvious – and quite disconcerting.

Polite but brooking no nonsense, the officer walked up and said, ”Good afternoon gentlemen. Papers, please.”

Al reached to his breast pocket and pants pocket at the same time. The officer’s eyes missed nothing – the UK passport from the shirt pocket and the hand with the bills coming from the pants pocket, and the cash slipping into the passport as it changed from one hand to the other to be presented to the officer.

“Good afternoon, officer. Lovely weather – so much nicer than home in England, even at this time of the year. Can I offer you a lemonade? Please do join us.”

Glytch lifted his hood slightly to get a better look at the cop while Al spoke. Trim fingernails. Clean shaven. Pressed uniform, no stains, beret in good condition. Well-cared for holster and belt. Polished badge. Gun appears to be in very good condition. Creases around lips, eyes, brow indicate a predisposition for frowning over smiling. Straight back, curled fingers, almost fists. Toes curled inside self-shined shoes. Slight tremor due to elevated heart rate, compounded by stress. Tan line on ring finger, marriage troubles or recently divorced. Likely is choosing job over marriage. Takes job very seriously and is not laid back. Bribe success likelihood: low. Prepare to take action.

Ignoring Al’s prattle utterly, the officer leafed through Al’s passport. Not finding the entry stamp from Cuban Customs and finding the bribe, his eyes hardened and the politeness disappeared from his manner. Placing the passport in his shirt pocket and turned to the other two.

“Passports. Now.” His right hand dropped to the revolver on his hip.

Uh-oh.

Glytch cleared his throat and stood with a slight bow, focusing the attention on him so Al or Sarge could figure something out, and deepening his accent in an effort to cover his fight or flight urge. "My apologies, officer, but I lost the photocopy of mine on my way here. I left the original in the safe at the hotel."

With the shift of his head and attention to Glytch, Greg took his chance. The officer did get the gun out of leather, but not before Greg locked up the cylinder with his right hand.

The officer was tough and well trained, but nothing could prepare him for the experienced old NCO as Greg pulled the revolver around the man's back, then snagged his pistol hand with the left hand and wrist-locked him hard. Relieving him of the pistol, he then snagged up a set of cuffs from a holder on the front of the Officer's duty belt with a free finger- it was a quick motion that did not allow the man time to react. Pitching the gun to Al, Greg then slapped the cuffs on the officer, pulled the man's baton and used that to lever the remaining free arm into position to apply the other half of the cuffs- he then found the second pair of cuffs (most law enforcement carry two sets) and after 'escorting him to the ground', locked him to the table they had been sitting at. Then Greg proceeded to frisk the fellow, especially at the back of the belt and around his polished duty shoes.

"What the devil are you looking for?" Al asked.

"Any savvy officer will hide keys where he can get them in this situation... AHA! Here we are!"

“Get my passport while you’re there, be a good lad? Thanks.” With that, Greg extracted the passport from the officer’s pocket, and Al extracted one of the notes and dropped it on the table. After a second’s thought he extracted another and dropped it on the table alongside the first.

The inhabitants of the street and of the restaurant had barely begun to react. Greg looked at the pair and said, “Time to go. Now. Anywhere but here.”

Glytch looked around and said “Inside. Off the street.”

With that the three piled through the door.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:18 am

Pursuit And Evasion

Once in the door, the three were shocked at the scene of normalcy. The tables along the back wall were full of people eating, drinking and chatting. The bartender behind the bar was still serving drinks, and the waitress spun from the bar with her laden tray, heading for the room beyond this one to serve the patrons.

However, not all was tranquil. A few people sitting by the front window were beginning to react, and an oily little man came forward screaming.

“ASSASINS! KILLERS! WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE POLICEMAN YOU GRINGO BASTARDS! I ARREST YOU IN THE NAME OF THE REVOLUTIONARY POLICE!” As he screamed he charged toward them, drawing a small pistol from under his stained waiter’s jacket.

“First off, my good man, we did nothing until the unfortunate gentleman drew his pistol on us-“ As the pistol came out of the jacket the man came into range, his bravado with the pistol and inexperience not holding him in good stead.

Effortlessly, Greg’s left hand shot out, collected the pistol, and his right impacted the point of the oily little man’s jaw, knocking him backwards onto the floor and out cold.

“What’ve you got there, Greg?” Al asked, the S&W copy the policeman was carrying ensconced in the back of his belt.

“.22 Makarov. Nasty little thing, Czech made copy of the Walther PPK. He should be glad I took it from him before he hurt himself with it.” He checked the safety and dropped it into his pocket.

“Back door – where?” The barmaid, still holding the tray, gestured and the three followed.

“Sincere apologies, m’dear, if that gentleman back there meant anything to you. He did draw on us. Should be fine, though – nothing but a nasty headache when he awakes.”

The barmaid snorted. “Cerdo!” She feigned spitting on the floor. “Not a problem - little squealing pig finally got what he deserved.” She stopped, gestured toward a narrow passage. “There’s the back door. There’s another – we will tell them you went out the other. Go into the garage across the street – the back door there will get you lost in old Habana. Just stay out of sight and head for your Embassy – it’s a few miles west of here. Vaya con Dios.“ She waved them at the passage, then turned back to her task.

With that, the three went down the passage and out.

The street was relatively quiet – a few pedestrians but none near or looking in their direction. They hurried across the street to the cinder-block building and hurried through the open bay door.

Greg called to the nearest mechanic, “¿Dónde está la puerta de atrás?” Carefully without looking up, he waved to the rear of a darkened bay and the corridor beyond.

The three hurried off.

Down to the bay, into the passage then into a bay beyond, heading for the back door.

Al slowed then stopped, the others’ footsteps echoing on the concrete of the storage bay they found themselves in.

“No time to stop now, old man – we need to be elsewhere. You heard the barmaid – that misdirection’s not going to last more than a few minutes.”

“I know, Greg, but we need to plan, not go running off willy-nilly. If they think we’re gringo spies – really? – then they’ll be expecting us to head for the Embassy and sanctuary. Thankfully, we want to be going in a different direction to get to the portal out of here.”

"Hold on, now that we're alone..." Glytch grinned and took his phone from his pocket with a flourish. "I can have us all back home in juuuust a sec-" As Glytch unlocked his phone, his smug and mischievous expression was abruptly replaced by one of horror and frustration. "I don't have access."

Greg and Al exchanged glances, their own surge of hope turning to confusion. "What?"

"I have signal, but the service here is locked down. Somebody has added a new clearance level here, I'd need the Behemoth to get through it."

"Who the Hades can create local clearance levels?"

"I'm not even sure I can pull that off. Must have been someone with a deep, intimate knowledge of the system." Maybe it was Brandi? Glytch furrowed his brow as he looked at his phone. "What the..." He looked up at the two old noncoms. "The last change was made in... October of 1962."As he put the phone back in his pocket, Al and Greg caught a glimpse of Brandi's face on the screen. "Looks like we're doing this the hard way."

"Aw, heyall."

With that bit of gloomy news, they started looking for the back door. As they looked along the walls past the silent cars, Al saw a shape that chilled his heart even in the dim light.

Huge, black, heavily chromed, the car fit perfectly among the old American cars. However, its origins were from a place half a world away from Michigan. Cyrillic letters ran along the bottom of its huge bonnet, and the stance and layout spoke of a design ethic foreign to Detroit.

“It can’t be.”

As if in a trance, Al wandered toward the big sedan despite his comrades’ entreaties to come away and hurry.

“Al, we don’t have time to shop. Come ON!” Glytch grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away.

Al shook him off and wandered in toward the car.

“1981 GAZ-13 Chaika – one of the last ones built, unless I miss my guess. Beloved of the KGB as a staff car because of its saloon layout and the 5.5-liter V8 engine, not to mention sheer indestructability. I KNOW THIS ONE.”

“Al, there's no waaa..." Glytch petered off as his eyes fell on the Chaika, and a chill went down his spine. Laborghinis were aggressive, Alfa Romeos and Aston Martins were sexy to the point of artistry, McClarens were cold and ruthless... Cars had personalities. And this one, Glytch could tell, was a Cold War relic... and it carried that same sense of ever-present nuclear dread. "Ok, yeah, it's creepy, but I doubt it's the same exact-"

Al grabbed Glytch’s arm and pointed to the Chaika’s grille, at a bullet hole in the ornamental metal.

“I put that hole there, when this belonged to the KGB chief of station here. Vladimir and I had a…difference of opinion… about the exit of three persons of interest from this tropical isle.”

Glytch and Greg were stunned. It was far too easy to forget the soldier in service to Her Majesty when you dealt with the amiable old man with the biscuit obsession – but here was Al’s past come back to haunt him.

Al shook himself and turned away. “If Vladimir is still here – and I’ll lay odds he is, given that’s thing’s got Cuban plates – we need to be elsewhere – now.”

“If you tell me why and what you’re doin’ here, you may survive to do just dat.” A strange voice floated through the air, and a figure moved from a nearly black passage.

Nearly six feet tall, its eyes reflected the light while the rest of it was in shadow. The three comrades froze, Al’s and Greg’s hands reaching to their confiscated weapons but not drawing them. Glytch dropped into a ready stance, as his nerves were already on edge, and the Chaika wasn't helping.

“Relax. Just tell me what’s goin’ on. You t’ree don’t look like the local lowlife, so we’re not talking a purse-snatching, mugging or moider. I’m guessin’ political from the sound of you t’ree.”

The voice was odd – with the music of Spanish intonation but a definite Brooklyn accent.

The figure moved further from the passage, being revealed in the dim light.

Fiftyish, balding, in a wife-beater topped with a tropical shirt and a pair of stained khaki shorts, his feet were clad in black socks and brown sandals.

“Murray. I own dis place.”

“Murray, pleased to meet you. I’m-“

“NO NAMES.” Murray interrupted emphatically. “I’ll show you a way out. Head for de Embassy – I’ll give youse directions. You never saw me, you don’t know nuttin’, and you’re leaving.”

Something clicked in Al’s head. The glowing eyes, the hirsuite chest, the tall stature and powerful legs visible under the shorts all added up.

”Lepus Paranormalis Harvey. My instructor at Gryphon would be proud of me – I’ve never met one of you.”

Glytch cocked an eyebrow at the old Brit. "I dunno how you can pull that off in this kind of light, Al."

Murry smacked his forehead and slowly drew his hand down his face.

“Oh, God. Paranormals. GREAT. My damn horoscope warned me today was gonna suck. Lemme guess, you t’ree morons wandered trough a gate and didn’t get ya passports stamped?”

“In essence. We desperately need to avoid the local gendarmerie for obvious reasons.”

Al looked up from the Chaika and immediately felt his heart drop. "Where did he go?"

"Huh?"
"Glytch. Where did he go?"
"Oh... Crap. I didn't notice him leaving..."

Glytch spotted a cop almost as soon as he left the garage and immediately went to work. Melting into the crowd, he tripped people up, stubbed toes, bumped and jostled groups... Misdirection, sleight of hand, and illusion... Nothing unusual for a crowd, but he was in control of it all... And thus was able to take advantage. Every time someone's attention was directed toward something, Glytch stripped off his shirt and swiped one off of a man who was wearing his unbuttoned. Next came a hat. Then, he twirled around the legs of a younger fellow and took off their flip flops as they walked, and was gone before the owner managed to look down for his missing sandals. Finally, he bumped hard enough into another man to knock his sunglasses off, and quickly plucked them from midair.

He was already long since finished and gone by the time the crowd in that area collectively began to suspect a pickpocket was around.

Glytch then carefully approached the police officer, white fedora pulled low and his jaw thrust forward to change the shape of his face and imitating some kind of bastard child of an English, Scottish, and Irish accent. "'Scuse me, office-air, d'ya knoo whare aye c'n get a qooality pint aroond heare?" He pulled out a map and pantomimed the motion of drinking a beer. "This bloody heat's got me absolootlay paaarched."
The officer hesitated, struggling to understand Glytch's mutilated English, before pointing to a corner on the map and then pointing down the road.
"Greeeat, thahnks!" Glytch bounded off toward the bar before once again melting into the crowd and returning to the hideout.

"Oh, nice of you to join us aga- What are you wearing?" Al was completely derailed not only by the fact that Glytch was wearing a nearly completely different outfit, but that he looked like the most stereotypical tourist to walk the earth. Socks and sandals, an undershirt beneath a blatantly and hilariously Cuban shirt that did not match his usual dress sense at all, cheap plastic sunglasses and a white fedora that looked like it came out of a souvenir shop, all tied together by skin too pale to belong to anyone south of Pittsburgh.

Greg took one look at Glytch and broke down laughing, struggling to keep it quiet. "What the heyall did yew do, mug someone for their clothes?"

"Of course not. I don't have any weapons to mug someone with. I pick pocketed all this out of a crowd."

"You... Picked... Clothes?"

"It takes practice. I also talked to the cop who saw us and listened to his radio while I asked for directions with this map. Dispatch doesn't have enough local cops on duty to form a perimeter yet, so they're just covering these main roads here, here, and here." Glytch spread the map on the hood of the Russian limo and pointed out the main thoroughfares. "I also noticed there's a lot of alleyways in this area, and we will be able to get beyond the perimeter radius before off-duty cops arrive... But we'll have to deal with possible abduction by human traffickers and muggers in those areas. If nothing else, we can use them to pick up some weaponry. We need to get back to the Library portal before the military is informed or called in. I don't know if this government has the ability to shut down portals, and I don't know if there are rules that might force the portals to close if there is a disturbance here... and I'd rather not find out."
"Like the fact that they are missing elements of their wardrobe, I suppose? Faugh! Rather like your 'leech' program, I'm afraid that was a 'one trick pony'... a GOOD one, but we'd have to strike another part of town for you to pull it off again," Al commented, "... so how do we get past PC Lackwit and his brethren out there?"

Greg spotted the coveralls hanging from the hook- "Al, yew reckon one o' thems might fit yew?"

Al eyed the garments in question. “Perhaps, perhaps not – but someone skulking about wearing full coveralls on a day like today would stand out to even the most untrained eye – and the case of institutional paranoia here means that this lot are HARDLY untrained.

We are up against some very smart, experienced police and security – and I for one do not plan to end up a guest of the locals for whatever time it takes our MIB friends to extract us – if they do.”

Al turned to Murray, who’d been an interested bystander to the interplay between the three.

“Murray, my sincere apologies, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to improvise some cover if we’re going to make it to the gate in the Cathedral. We’ll happily pay for whatever we need, or we can return it afterward. My sincere apologies for this, but we’ve little choice it seems.”

Murray looked nettled, then relaxed and the beginnings of a smile began to dawn across his face.

“Ain’t nuttin’ ta be done about it. If ya can send da stuff back, great. If not, make good and it’s all good. Do it.”

With that, Greg and Al began to search the area. Examining the contents of the parked vehicles each thought of the possibilities in each item.

Greg hooted, a sound of delight strange in the quiet. Reaching into the back of a sedan, he pulled out a battered case, and from that a six-string of dubious parentage and less care.

“Waaaaalllll…this here’s got some possibilities. You still remember yer routine with hand grenades, old man?”

“Perhaps. The makings of that routine are hardly available here but the thought has merit. Let’s have a dig about.”

Scanning the area further, Al unearthed a dusty box from a pile of such items. Digging in it, he made a sound of satisfaction and extracted a half-dozen bevel gears of approximately the same size and weight.

Dropping them on the top of a crate he extracted a rag from another pile and wiped each of the gears, cleaning it of the dust of storage and restoring the shine of the brass and steel. He then began to juggle them, first three, then four and five.

“Street performers. Great idea!” With that Glytch ran lightly, stepped up to the bumper of a truck, and flipped completely backwards, landing lightly near the spot he’d started. He grimaced. “These sandals don’t have good adhesion – keeping them on is going to suck if I do anything too hard. I’ll have to be careful.

What are you two going to do for a costume change?”

Greg pondered… “Simple ‘nuff.” He took off his shirt. “Al, give me yer jacket, lose the khaki shirt n’ put this on.” He held out his shirt.

“Admirable thought, mate, but I’m afraid my girth and your shirt will simply never work.”

Murray stepped forward. “Fugget dat. Here.” Murray removed his own shirt, and passed it along. “It’ll be a little too long for youse, but leave it out and it’ll woik fine. Never t’ink that Murray Salas-Rivera won’t give ya the shoit off his back.” The large rabbitmorph smiled broadly, revealing a pair of buck teeth in a wide, friendly smile.

Al smiled – perhaps they’d survive this after all.

“Murray, Al Richer. That’s Greg Howard, and the young gentleman flipping about is Glytch.”

“Pleased ta meetcha. You gotta get goin’ though – da guy runnin’ security ain’t stupid and bein’ as youse ‘gringo spies’ are runnin’ ‘round he’s gonna be in it up to his elbows.

When youse go out da back, you’ll be about a mile from da Plaza De La Catedral. Stick ta da main streets – if youse gonna pretend to be street performahs ya gotta stay where da tourists are.

Stay on da move, but perform. If dey see youse on da move and fast it’s gonna attract attention, capisce?”

“Capisce, indeed. What do you need from us for cover, my friend? We don’t want to leave you in any trouble with the locals.”

“Don’t need nuttin. Da locals know me – I been here forevah, and dey know I’m good . Dey ain’t gonna mess wit me. Vaya Con dios, you t’ree. Go.”

With that, the three stepped from the back door and out to the main street. They made an incongruous trio – the old men carrying a guitar case and a shoulder satchel, and the young man in the tourist garb.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:21 am

And for those who might have been wondering... THIS is a Chaika.

chaika.jpg
chaika.jpg (232.48 KiB) Viewed 1906 times






Jugglers, Musicians And Clowns

Immediately Greg launched into a rendition of 'La Maraguania', catching the attention of people on the street. Getting a nod from Greg, Al started pulling out an assortment of cogs and began doing a simple routine with three while trying to keep rhythm with Greg's tempo on guitar. There was a bit of back and forth before the two could stay synchronized, but once that happened the real magic began.

Whispering to Glytch, Al instructed the younger fellow to add to the routine- pretty soon, five cogs were flying through the air in a series of patterns while Greg continued to hammer out classical Spanish guitar. Glytch then threw a battered Panama hat on the ground and 'primed' it with a small handful of coins. Al relaxed his style slightly to pace himself- Greg responded by playing "Girl from Ipanema", and Glytch began his routine.

Stretching, the young man in the nondescript tourist garb momentarily melted into the crowd, leaving the attention to drift to the old men at the front. Then, leaping, he assaulted the wall behind the old men, running up it and into a perfect somersault, landing on his hands. With that, he strode along on his hands in front of the performers, adding his visual madness to the performances of the others.

Popping back upright, he popped to the top of the wall and wandered along its length with the ease of a trapeze performer, bending down to swap the hats of the two men below without their missing a beat.

Amazingly, the hat started to fill. They wandered in the general direction of the Embassy as they performed, Glytch moving the hat at critical moments while playing the crowd with his acrobatics.

Al by this time was limbered up, doing back passes as he effortlessly kept the scrap metal floating in the air. Once they got to where the scaffolding was in progress, he finished up with a flourish and gave Glytch the nod. Glytch in turn looked expectantly towards the old Hillbilly, who then fired up with 'Classical Gas', setting the stage for his routine.

With the ease of an old world Gibbon, Glytch basically used the scaffolding much as a playground, laughing and shouting as he flew from one bar to the next. There was a lot more "gymnastics" in the mix than Glytch's usual style of movement - technical moves, twists, flips, and spins punctuated with holds and sudden stops in difficult positions. It had been too long since he had really gotten to play instead of working to preserve the continuation of his life, so as he went through the improvised routine, a wide, bright smile spread across his face as he very nearly forgot the point of all the fun he was having. There was a crowd following the antics of the young man, gasping at some moments, laughing at others and all the while clapping and throwing coin. The slow migration towards the embassy went unnoticed by the few law-enforcement types present, making progress easy if slow.
Several cycles later, the Embassy was in sight – and they’d made more than a few pesos, dollars and other currencies in the process. The hat was pleasantly full, and had been emptied into the pocket of the jacket Greg wore at least once.

One more iteration would see them at the gates of the Embassy, and a call to Brandi would get them out (and a tongue-lashing for being stupid, as well).
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Mon May 01, 2017 4:08 am

Capture And Crisis

Suddenly, Al stopped, dropping the cogs to the ground. A round, hard object had been thrust into the base of his spine, and a heavily accented voice reeking of garlic remarked in his ear, “Allan Armandovich…how pleasant to see you again. Raise your hands, and do not move. Warn your friends not to as well – they are covered by my men – and there will be no warning shots.”

Al spoke. “Hands up, lads, they’ve got us. No fast moves.”

With that Greg stopped playing and Glytch stopped, hanging from a strut by one hand, swinging slightly as he looked around, stopping goons and mooks a-plenty.. Suddenly Greg’s hands shifted on the guitar and he swung it up and swung about…to come face-to-muzzle with the blued barrel of a Makarov PMM. He stopped, releasing the guitar to fall to the ground with a dissonant BONG. As Greg drew attention, Glytch muttered "Lockdown Protocol Psi!" at his thigh. His phone buzzed a distinct pattern, letting him know the command was recognized and had been carried out.

Al spoke again. “Section Chief Vladimir. Same old Vladimir, down to the flaming halitosis and taste for the dramatic. I would have thought your lords and masters in Moscow would have shot you by now.”

Each of them were now approached by plainclothes security, some Cuban and some with the distinctive stamp of Slavic origins. They were efficiently and ruthlessly searched, then cuffed.

With the application of the cuffs, Al was then roughly spun about, to come face to face with his captor.

Tall, thin, bald, ascetic in appearance with a glimmer of the fanatic in his eyes, Vladimir faced his old enemy, finally laid low.

“Sergeant.”

“Sergeant-Major, Vladimir. Retired, of course.”

With the speed of a striking snake Vladimir slapped Al hard, staggering him slightly. A trickle of blood flowed from the Sergeant-Major’s mouth, staining the corner of his moustache.

“You will speak when spoken to. I arrest you for espionage and revolutionary activities against the sovereign nation of Cuba, you and these military pigs that are with you.”

“Ah ain’t no pig there Ivan. Y’all seem a lot closer to the dayumm sty than ah am!” Greg spoke angrily, the handcuffs doing little to curb his anger or indignation.

Glytch snarled audibly and jerked and struggled against the men holding him when Vladimir hit Al. "How about you release us and we can fight like men, instead of you beating us while we're bound like the dickless yellow-bellied knave you are, ya commie pile o shit!"

One of the men holding Glytch punched him in the gut, knocking the wind out of him with a HUUUF. Glytch doubled over for a moment, gasping and slumping into the goons' arms, before he forced himself to straighten, a dangerous light in his eyes. "Imma kick your ass first."

Vladimir regarded Greg and Glytch with the clinical attitude of a veterinarian about to castrate a bull. “We shall see who is the pig and who is the butcher here, old man, and you, boy, need to be spanked and sent to your room for your language - so neukulturny. Two old men and a boy on a military mission – has the United States no strong young men to serve the Motherland – they have to send striplings and old men?”

Al spoke again, the anger in his voice tightly checked but audible to those who knew him. “Vladimir, had I been here to do a job I would have stopped first thing and put you out of my misery before doing anything else. I for one had no idea you still breathed.”

“Well, Sergeant-Major, you now know I exist – and I for one am going to rectify the fact that you still do. All perfectly according to the book, of course – your country will of course disavow your actions, as they have before.”

Greg and Glytch looked at each other. Disavow his actions? Country denied him? What the Hell is going on here?

“Vladimir – Section Chief. My friends here are entirely blameless. I am as well, but if you feel the need of entertainment you only need one toy, not three. Release my friends to the custody of the Ambassador and we can then converse.”

The Russian chuckled, in good humour for his capture of an old enemy. “Oh, no, Sergeant. You and they will be spending some time in jail, then I have a LOVELY wall to put you up against for your espionage actions.

This time, I will not be denied.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Mon May 01, 2017 4:14 am

Each To His Own Fate

Vladimir dismissed the local LEO's and left with Al, leaving Sarge and Glytch to be wrangled into cuffs and tossed into separate cars. Evidence bags were filled with their personal effects and kept in the front passenger seats.

Glytch spent his ride in the cop car being industrious. He inserted the edge of the single curved section of one of the cuffs into the opening of a buckle and twisted... After plenty of work, and after garnering ugly bruises on both of his wrists, the plastic casing for the buckle snapped open at the seams, like a stubborn clam. The springs within immediately flung themselves out, shooting the plastic and metal pieces all over.

Glytch froze and stared at the window into the front of the car for several seconds... Once his heartbeat calmed back down, he scrabbled around quickly, placing the pieces of plastic and metal into his pockets, placing the small springs into his mouth under his tongue, and shoving the rest of the ruined buckle into the crease between the cushions to hide the damage.

Upon arrival, Glytch and Greg were dragged from their respective cars and escorted through the building. Glytch came quietly, focusing on observing everything he could, craning his neck to see through doors and windows into other sections. Paddy wagon. Several cars. Used motor oil. Oxyacetylene torches, welding equipment. Advanced repairs shop. Tools, Food. Break room. Sub-par sanitation. Probably pest control efforts. Simple cooking appliances. Sparse security cameras. Offices are that way, simple stud and drywall construction, normal doors...

Finally, the both of them were pushed into a holding room - reinforced walls, a steel bar door, a concrete bench, and an old style incandescent lightbulb hanging just outside the bars.

"They don't seem too interested in us, do they?" Glytch asked after they were unceremoniously cuffed into a holding cell.

"Whelp, that can mean they don't consider us a threat, or they don't consider us a prize- if the former, we might do well- if the latter... well, we might see this wall that Rasputin promised Al... they did a right proper shake-down on you, didn't they?"

"Yup- bastards took my phone, but I've locked it down, so it's safe... But I busted up a buckle-" Glytch removed the springs from under his tongue and took the rest of the pieces from his pockets, laying them out on the bench for Sarge to see. "Not much, but it might be useful."

"And my Leatherman... assholes... but they missed my souvenir..." Greg responded.

"Souvenir? The Hell are you talking about?"

"Remember when I took down Barnito Fifzoles?"

Glytch's face went into a perfect question mark while Greg whistled a catchy tune called "the Fishing Hole", better known as the theme music for "the Andy Griffith show". Momentarily he had both hands in front where he was removing the last cuff from his right wrist.

"... how... Oh, the cop! Nice work..."
"SHHH!!!"

In the next room, Sgt. Alvarez and Officer Belize were quite happy with their catch- two American spies and one English operative of immense importance to the Russian. Antonio Alvarez, 200 pounds and tough as nails, was looking forward to an extra rank to his retirement fund- Pedro Belize, all 132 doughy pounds and still getting used to his lanky and awkward body, thought this would fast track his career immensely. The reedy youth had ambition, if not brains- his report was a shameless self-promotion. He took great pleasure in gut-punching the mouthy American kid in handcuffs, but made it sound as if the move was against and armed opponent.

From the cell-room, there suddenly erupted the sound of drunken song-
"MAYAMO PANCHO VILLA, YO TENGO GONNARHEEEEEEEEEEEYAH!!!!..."
"TRANQUILO!!!" yelled Alvarez.
"TUES MADRE ESTA PUTAH!!!!"
Pedro looked at his superior- "I'm not finished with my report, why don't you have a bit of fun with them?"
With a maniacal gleam in his eye, Antonio grabbed a cattle prod and went into the other room. There was more drunk-sounding insults, the buzz of the prod, a yelp, another buzz, another yelp, an extended buzz... then a quavery voice in Spanish asked "Dammit... Can you come back here?... I think I killed the old one...."
"Dammit, this better not cost me a promotion..." Pedro muttered to himself, " more damn paperwork because he gets a hard-on beating prisoners!!! Santo Christo, Tonyo, we need them alive..."
... the last thing Pedro saw on the other side of the door was Glytch, right before the young prisoner's foot slammed into his sternum, splitting his rib cage cleanly in half and sending the younger cop flying into the wall opposite the cell door, smacking his head and knocking him out cold.

Glytch regarded the incapacitated officer coolly, slowly putting his foot back on the ground. "I told you I'd kick your ass first."

Greg cocked his head to one side at Glytch as he stepped over the still-twitching Antonio, carrying the cattle prod. "Dayum, son."

Glytch cracked his neck and grinned, savoring the adrenaline and testosterone rush. "I don't like bullies, and I especially don't like them when they have badges." He gathered the bits of the busted buckle and turned to Sarge. "Ok, so... We need our stuff, I need to remove the reports from the system, and probably cause a fair bit of havoc, and we need to get Al. What's your play?"

Greg eyed the two- physically, they were of similar build and age compared to Glytch and himself. They also had keys- keys to everything on the compound. And guns. And ammunition. Doubtless one or more of those keys amounted to an ignition switch key for some form of transportation.

"Glytch... I'm thinking you would look good in gray... and I am very tempted to try it myself,"

Glytch mentally debated for a moment. "Ah, isnt that going to get us into more trouble?"

"More trouble than disassembling a police officer?"

"Oh... right... well then... what the hell, eh? I guess I'll be wearing the coward's outfit. How do we dispose of the two of 'em?"

"Heh... lock them in their own jail. There's probably an evidence camera in the big guy's desk, we ought to pop a few shots so that the lab turns them out for the whole department to see..."

"Sarge, you are so old school..." Glytch muttered with a grin as he rummaged through the big man's pockets and produced a cell phone. After both Officers were stripped of their clothes, pulled into the cell and cuffed, Glytch took several shots with the cell phone and sent them to one of his own dummy accounts. It didn't take more than fifteen minutes to retrieve their personal effects from the main desk (Greg found both Glytch's Swiss and his own Leatherman in the Sgt.'s pants pocket, the thieving bastard) and procure duty belts and weapons.

"OK- uh... just so you know, you really don't want me using this thing," Glytch poked his gun gingerly with an outstretched finger, as though it were liable to bite him. "I'm not trained at all with guns."

"Well, lemme give you a crash course just in case... Good lord they don't take very good care of these things..." He mumbled with distaste before giving Glytch a ten-cent tour on firearms safety. "More'n likely, you won't need it... I'll cover you."

Glytch nodded, took a deep breath, and turned to the desk. He picked up the evidence camera, an old film clunker that he barely knew how to operate, and handed it off to Greg. "You'll have more luck with this dinosaur than I will. I'm gonna take a look at... Oh... Oh, this..." As he tapped the mouse, a wide, toothy, and extremely dangerous grin spread across Glytch's face as he took in the beautiful sight on the CRT monitor as it crackled to life. "Mmhmmhmmhmmhmmuahahahahahaaa..."

Greg's face paled at the sight of the madboy grin and the sound of the evil genius laugh. "Ah, heyall... What in tarnation are you up to now?"

Glytch licked his lips in anticipation of what was going to happen next. "Go take the pictures, then come back here and translate what's on the screen for me..."

Still highly disconcerted, Sarge went to take the pictures, returning to find Glytch sitting at the desk, an unsettling gleam in his eyes. "Ok, what's going on?"

"This, Sarge, is a bootlegged copy of Windows 98. At one point it was a highly ubiquitous Operating System, but now it's a dinosaur... And it has so many holes in its security these days it's worse than Swiss cheese after getting hit with buckshot. I have a majority of the glitches, exploits, backdoors, and workarounds for this memorized." The madboy looked up at Sarge, still smiling like a predator. "In short, Cuba's about to have a very bad day. Here's what I need... Can you-"

"HEY!" Another officer had apparently seen Pedro and Antonio.

"Dammit!" Sarge launched himself out of the office and rendered this latest antagonist helpless, fastening him to the bars near his prone colleagues. Hearing the cry and the scuffle, a few other officers rushed in and opened fire. Sarge dove into the office and began to layer out suppressive fire. "GLYTCH?" he roared.

"Ok, time to work quickly! Translate!" Glytch started reading the Spanish words on the screen, and Sarge, in between shots, yelled back the English translation. Slowly, Glytch made his way into the BIOS, then Safe Mode with Networking, and finally got himself a new password and admin account. From there, he logged in and, still yelling back and forth with Sarge, eventually navigated his way to the language options and switched the computer over to English.

And now the fun begins...
Glytch interlaced his fingers and stretched them out with a series of cracks and pops before getting down to business: first was a round of random phantom calls to dispatch from a variety of unregistered phone numbers from all over the precinct. Next was a flood of even more phantom calls from all over the city, requesting additional backup from any available unit. These would catch the attention of anyone who had heard of the two Americans and the Brit. Once he had a good pile of calls to keep the cops busy, he noticed less and less shots coming from the hallway, until finally only one officer remained, who was quickly tagged by Sarge in the shoulder. He dropped, groaning, and unable to call for backup as his radio's mic had been destroyed by the bullet.
"...Ok, what the hell did you do?"

"Oh no, the city is erupting in chaos, those American pigs must have staged a criminal uprising!" Glytch whisper-shouted dramatically. "What ever shall we do? Hee hee hee hee hee." Next, Glytch moved on to the weather service, cracking into their network and corrupting their data before setting off hurricane, tsunami, and storm warnings over the entirety of Cuba. It was at this point several counter-hackers and cyber-security so-called "experts" from the Cuban military took notice and decided to try to stop Glytch.

Glytch's response was to overclock their CPU's to such a high percentage they burst into flames. He got a slight reprieve after that point and decided to spend some time printing a map for new officers of the precinct building, then turned every computer in the Cuban police department (besides his own) into a super-dedicated spambot. Literally no other processes were left capable of running besides the ones that kept the computer on and sending emails to Nigerian Princes.

Finally, cackling with glee, he sent a series of particularly vicious worms, Trojans, viruses, and other malicious programs into the still-reeling Cuban military's network - corrupting data, shutting down communications, setting keyboard formats to reversed DVORAK layouts, and forcing them to play endless loops of Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up.

The city outside erupted into utter chaos within five minutes of Glytch first touching the computer. Sirens were blaring everywhere, horns were honking, tsunami warning sirens were wailing in the distance... Dogs and cats started living in harmony, pigs began to levitate, tourists started tipping properly...

Glytch stood abruptly and opened the back of the computer, exposing the innards. "Ok, Sarge? I need you to put a round here, here, and here." He pointed to the hard drive, the RAM, and the CPU. "And we need to get moving..."

Greg nodded and shot the computer three times, very completely destroying it, then looked at the map Glytch had printed. "Ok, Vladimir's office is over here... And the vehicle workshop looks like it's on the way there."

Glytch and Sarge looked at each other, their dangerous grins reflecting one another. "Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Just Old Al
 
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Mon May 01, 2017 6:30 pm

There Is Always Boom

Glytch grinned, and in a quavery falsetto voice said, "I think so Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking? I mean, what will the children look like?"

Sarge, missing not a single beat, said “Tsillah. Any questions?” and returned to finding their way to the vehicle bay.

Sarge led the way, Glytch hunched behind him with one hand on his back to let Sarge know he was still there. They made fairly quick progress rough the building, as most of the officers had gone out into the city on the phantom dispatches. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing.

As they passed a door, a particularly dangerous-looking fellow with lots of shiny decorations on his uniform charged the door and smashed it off its hinges, pancaking Glytch beneath the wooden plank. His pistol already drawn, he took aim through the door, his finger on the trigger.

Sarge, however, was fast enough to wheel about and get a quick shot off. The round miraculously impacted the decorated officer's elbow, reducing most of the joint to the consistency of crushed gravel in jello.

The cop roared in pain as blood splashed from his now useless arm, and the gun dropped.

Glytch flinched at the sound of the gunshot and adrenaline surged - he wasn't sure if it was him, Sarge, or the officer who had just been shot. With a titanic heave, he pushed the door off of him, rolling the officer onto the ground, with the door now on top of him. Glytch's primal demon Beast roared within the depths of his mind and Glytch followed suit, rearing back and punching through the cheap door, efficiently rearranging Officer Christmas Tree's face.

The shock of pain to Glytch's hand cleared his mind and he blinked, more than a little stunned. "Ow. Oh, hey, he didn't shoot me. Cool." He got up and nodded to Sarge, shaking and flexing his hand as his knuckles started to hurt, sending little droplets of blood flying, cursing under his breath. "Same friggin' hand as last time... Thanks, Sarge."

"Yup." Sarge nodded curtly, keeping his focus on the mission, as it were.

The pair made it to the garage and their twin grins reappeared. "Look at that van. Poor thing, it's missing all the excitement happening outside. Too bad its owners for the day are snoring in a cell..."

On the other side of the building, Antonio stirred and opened his eyes... And immediately regretted doing so. He had a splitting headache, and he felt like he had pulled every muscle in his body. His vision still a bit fuzzy, he sat up and looked around, spotting Pedro, who was now wide awake and lying very, very still.

Oh, no...

Elsewhere, Glytch chuckled madly, looking at his key ring. He stepped forward and tried a few before Sarge tried his - one of his worked, and opened up the van without issue.

Glytch cackled. "Ok, here's what I'm thinking - we put a tank of oxygen and a tank of acetylene into the van, open them up to a moderate leak, and then... Hmm... Not really sure how to ignite that at a safe distance..."

Sarge picked up where Glytch left off, pointing at a rat trap tucked behind a toolbox. "I can make an igniter with that. You set the bomb up, I'll work on the detonator."

"Deal."

Glytch immediately went to the gas tanks and awkwardly rolled one acetylene and then one oxygen tank to the back of the van. It took a bit of work to heave them up into the prisoner compartment, but the task was accomplished, the cylinders propped on the benches in the back.

Once they were both inside, Glytch looked around and spotted several plastic gallon jugs of used motor oil and a few tanks of gas. Perfect. He quickly piled both on top of the van, buckling the sheetmetal roof somewhat, then used extension cords and duct tape to hang even more over the sides of the van by their handles at varying heights.
With the priming of the bomb in process, Sarge strode over to the bench, eyeing the available materials.

"Ah, this here'll do jest fine..."

Grabbing the rat trap, he threw it onto a vise, then pulled back the striker. Pulling a round from his pistol, he disassembled it, retaining the powder and the slug.
Measuring by eye, he grabbed a drill and perforated the base of the trap under the striker's path and jammed the casing into it, leaving it flush with the base. Digging further, he turned up a ball bearing in the debris on the bench. Releasing the trap from the vise, he clamped the ball bearing in place on the striker where it would hit the primer, then using a length of wire and a car battery, spotwelded the bearing to the wire.

Satisfied, he drilled the trap lever and the base, threading a wire through the base and fastening it to the trap lever. Once set, the ball bearing would fire the primer, sending a jet of flame and hot gas out of the round and into the air.

At that point, Sarge returned, gingerly holding his detonator and a collection of items from the bench.

"Hooooboy - that looks like fun. How're we gonna set it off?"

"Raht simple - Ah'll show ya." Walking to the back of the van Greg opened the door, positioning the base of the trap on its side and securing it with a C-clamp from the bench rack. Using a piece of paper he funneled the powder back into the open shell casing.

The wire from the lever was run out the door and the door closed gently on it.

"Hol' the wahr. Don't jerk it." Greg then fastened a weight to the wire, which would sit just under the bumper. He then used the twine and tied a loop of it to a jack point, so the weight dangled with no tension on the wire. Wrapping the weight with a rag, he then soaked the rag and twine with solvent.

"Light that, the twine burns through and up she goes!"

"How long is that gonna give us?"

"Damn if I know. Minute, maybe?"

"Won't the flame set off the truck?"

"Nope. Gas inside fire outside. Be different when that powder goes, though - she'll go raht up."

"Great, ok... Are you ready for this?"

Sarge took a look at the van and smiled. "Hellno, but that's part of what makes it fun!"

Glytch opened the valves on the tanks and quickly shut the doorsbefore the two of them quickly and carefully beat a hasty retreat through several hallways until they found a bathroom. Sarge handed Glytch a couple wads of cotton and a tub of grease and the two quickly plugged their ears.

The two huddled in a corner, looked at each other briefly, awaiting the explosion. A minute went by, and Greg again stood. “Damn fire must’a gone out. I’ll have to-“

*ka-WHHHOOOM-BOOOOSH!*

While not a perfect stoichiometric ratio, the oxyacetylene mixture inside the van was potent enough to detonate with enough force to generate a moderately powerful shockwave, shaking the entire building to its foundation, blowing out windows, and even perforating a few eardrums here and there. Outside, old air-pressure activated car alarms were set off, dogs started barking and howling, and people scurried and ran away screaming while cars pulled over and bewildered drivers got out, fearing something terrible had just happened to their engines.

The force of the explosion split the van at its seams, sending metal and plastic shredding through the oil jugs and gas cans at high velocity, aerosolizing them both. The gas, atomized, evaporated and ignited quickly as well, which then ignited the flying droplets of oil. The burning oil splashed everywhere, coating everything within a wide radius and line of sight of the van and setting most of the workshop on fire.

The burning acetylene, gas, oil, and plastic produced a great cloud of thick, choking black smoke which quickly began to fill the building and belch out from shattered windows.

Several tiles jumped off the floor of the bathroom Sarge and Glytch had chosen for their improvised bunker as mirrors leapt from the walls and shattered. One of the toilets cracked, spilling water over the floor, and a sink came loose from the wall, wrenching and splitting the rusty pipe it was attached to, spraying them both with water. Ceramic shards gave them both a fair few cuts and scrapes.

Despite the cotton and grease, Glytch's ears were left ringing. "AH! Holy SHIT!"
"HOO-AH! Ha haaa!" True to form, Sarge bellowed out the traditional US Army battle cry.

Greg sniffed, his near-feral nose already starting to detect hints of the smoke. He dragged Glytch up onto his feet, shaking him a little to get the young man to regain focus. "We need to move, now!"

Glytch nodded, still a little numb, and resumed following Sarge. They passed a few officers who were lying on the floor, their eyes rolling around randomly due to their ruined sense of balance, clutching their bleeding ears. Other officers were too busy worrying about the explosion to notice other very, very non-Hispanic officers who were also in a hurry, and passed by without so much as a second look.

They were about halfway to Vladimir's office when they encountered a group of four panicked officers. One of them in the back immediately lined up a shot at them.

Sarge dove into the fray with a yell while Glytch jumped up and over the entire group, straightening his body to clear the comparatively narrow gap between everyone's heads and the ceiling before landing on his hands directly behind the cops, whose attentions were mainly focused on Sarge and hadn't quite registered they were also dealing with the human equivalent of a racquetball.

Scrunching up his body to absorb the impact, Glytch allowed his body to fall just a few degrees before forcefully straightening himself back out, catching the rear officer in the shoulder blades with his heels, sending the hapless fool flying into one of Sarge's opponents. They landed in a heap - Glytch's initial victim was left with a very low motivation to move, as he had just had the wind very thoroughly knocked out of him. Sarge's punch, originally aimed at the cop directly in front of him, ended up catching another cop right in the ear as the cop Glytch had mule-kicked bowled over Sarge's intended target.

The fourth and final cop watched, frozen with fear, as the young acrobat and the old American NCO made short work of his colleagues. Both of the Americans turned their eyes on him, both in low, combative stances, only to watch as the final officer turned tail and ran away.

The two exchanged glances and shrugged wordlessly before continuing. For the rest of the way, the building was empty - everyone was either busy on phantom calls or had already evacuated.

When they got to Vladimir's office, they faintly heard Al's voice within. With that confirmation, Glytch pantomimed his plan to Sarge, who nodded and took position.

Glytch braced himself in a low stance and back-kicked the door with all his might, utilizing the largest set of muscles in his body to violently bust the door wide open, making way for Sarge to charge in for a classic, if slightly improvised, breach-n-clear.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Just Old Al
 
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Mon May 01, 2017 6:35 pm

“…I Want You To DIE!”

Moments before, the two old antagonists faced each other over the ornate desk.

Vladimir's office was much like Vladimir himself - very old-fashioned and Russian in its layout. A samovar for tea with its paraphanaelia stood in the corner, and a glass ashtray with the remains of Vladimir's signature black cigarillos stood on the desk blotter.

The rest of the room had the same stamp. Wainscoting, pictures in frames and Party slogans also framed decorated the walls along with the obligatory portraits of Fidel and Rahul Castro.

All of this Al noted peripherally as he was hustled into the office and secured to a straight chair by two of Vladimir's security men. With that and an exchange of orders with the men (they didn't want to leave Vladimir alone with the "dangerous spy" and he ordered them out) they left, and Al was alone with his captor.

Vladimir lit one of his cigarillos, then went to the samovar and drew himself a glass of tea. Returning to his desk he toyed with his letter opener - an old Spesnatz combat dagger with its triangular blade and round metal case.

"So, we meet again, Sergeant Richer." he said, deliberately not noting the correction Al had told him previously.

"Yes, we do, Section Chief. Or to what level of ineptitude have you risen to in the new order?" Al deliberately baited the Russian, hoping for a show of temper. In this he was disappointed, though the effect he'd hoped for did appear.

"Yes, as I am sure you realize I am no longer a member of the KGB - after the change of government in Belarius I decided that...my previous activities might not be appreciated.

I am now the head of Security for the capitol - I became a citizen of this Caribbean worker's paradise" here, he pulled a wry face "and took on the task of defending my adopted home from the likes of you and the pigs you seem to have allied yourself with.

Americans, really? What possessed you to ally yourself with them? I don't remember you being so desperate for employment back in your heyday - though that has no doubt changed given your advanced age and obvious senility.

I will almost regret putting you up against a wall when the time comes - it's obvious you have little time left anyway, and I'll obviously be doing you a favour."

Al chuckled. "Vladimir, do tell me a few things before you think about putting me up against a wall. Last I saw you were lying on the ground in a pool of your own blood. Where did I err? I left you for dead."

"Ah, you did err. In that fight we had you managed to miss the artery in my leg despite your determined efforts to find it. I awoke quickly enough to get a compression bandage on it and stanch the flow till my men arrived. I do notice that you no longer seem to limp - why is that?"

"I got some very good specialist help with it. I take it those were your men in Sierra Leone? I might have known - they were even stupider than the local run of the mill thugs. A gang of them against one lightly-armed man and they still failed to accomplish their mission."

"Tsk, tsk...harsh words from a man in your position. You did manage to kill the ones who didn't escape, so I hardly see that you have any grounds for complaint. I doubt any of them were expecting you to be armed with that relic of empire you carry - what is it - a Webley? I can assure you, though, that the ones you did not deal with were punished for their ineptitude."

Al chuckled again. "It seems neither of us can finish a job properly. You need to hire a better grade of thug, and I need to sharpen my knife a bit, it seems. I have to say, this is a considerable come-down for you. That Volkswagen you were using for a command car is a considerable comedown from the Chaika I thoroughly wrecked for you."

Vladimir sipped his tea, then puffed at his cigarillo. "You failed even there. It too survived your ministrations, though the engine block and radiator had to be replaced where your rounds pierced both. When I left KGB employ it was 'scrapped' locally and a few payments in the right hands ended it up in Cuban livery. I'd love to show it to you, but you're not going to live that long."

Al tensed. The time for idle chat was over, it seemed, and the serious business about to begin. He redoubled his efforts on the cuffs - the lockpick he'd removed from his collar working against the stubbornly resisting cuffs.

"Other than having bested you a few times what do you plan to execute me for? Even your senile synapses have got to realize that I am long retired from the business, as are you, really, in your post as chief bureaucrat."

"Ah, the question. To be honest, I don't need a reason other than those events - even you have to realize that in this worker's paradise I have considerable latitude for my actions - and eliminating an annoying spy working for the American is not an issue. You will disappear, your companions will disappear, and that will be the end of it."

Vladimir stood behind his desk, the cover coming off the commando dagger. He walked around and leaned on his desk, a few feet from the handcuffed old man in the chair. Waving the dagger idly, he spoke again, and all of the feigned affability was gone from his voice.

"You have been a thorn in my side for too long. I thought I was done with you by now - retired in America in...Minneapolis, I believe? Men our age and in our profession often have regrets - and one of mine was that failure in Sierra Leone. I thought it my last chance to eliminate you.

Then, like a gift from the gods, you drop into my lap. How providential. It almost might make me believe in those saints my mother prayed to." He leaned forward, the motion accompanied by the sound of alarms from outside the office. Vladimir looked outward, annoyed by the interruption.

He walked back around his desk, picked up the phone handset, and pressed a button or two. "Like everything else in this tropical sinkhole the phones are not reliable. Oh, well - no matter." He walked aback around, leaned against the desk, and idly played with the dagger. Its triangular blade glinted in the light, and Al's eyes followed it.

"Somehow, I prefer it this way. Just you, and me, and my little toy, here." He began to wave it in the air, getting closer and closer to Al's face. With that, the alarms redoubled in the hall, but Vladimir was oblivious to anything but the deadly game he played.

"Vladimir, I thought better of you. Cold-blooded murder? Really? This is simply neukulturny."

Vladimir leaned forward, shoving his face inches from Al's. "Oh, trust me, Sergeant-Major. This is anything but cold-blooded. I have long fantasized about this situation, and decided long ago that I could not have it. Now, I am going to enjoy eliminating you from my existence."

The two adversaries stared at each other across a gulf of years, times and games won and lost. One moment stretched to two, then to three, and Al saw the cold-blooded killer in Vladimir's eyes. He tensed…

The floor rocked with an explosion, smoke billowing up outside the building and the windows in the room shattered. Al threw himself forward, reaching for the combat dagger still clutched in Vladimir's hand. The deadly dance began, with the sound of shattering glass and falling bits of masonry a counterpoint to the silent duel of the two old men.

Face to face, nearly eye to eye the two struggled against the desk. Al clutched the wrist that held the dagger while Vladimir tried to bring it to bear, their opposite hands clutched in an effort to control the other.

Al head-butted Vladimir, raising a cut over his right eye. Blood began to drip down, partially blinding the Russian. Slowly, determinedly Vladimir's hand reached closer and closer to the Makarov holstered in his armpit, despite Al's efforts to stop him. With the strength borne of desperation Vladimir's hand inched toward the pistol and Al's quick dissolution.

With a convulsive motion Al slammed the arm holding the dagger against the corner of the desk, bruising the nerves in the carpal notch and causing Vladimir's hand to spasm, dropping the dagger. Al's hand then flashed like a striking snake, appropriating the pistol and jamming it under Vladimir's chin.

The room suddenly became still, Vladimir bent back over the desk, pistol jammed to his throat, Al leaning over, still nearly face to face.

Looking into Al's eyes Vladimir saw nothing but death. No passion, no gloating - just the implacable determination of a combat hardened veteran. He felt movement at his throat - the motion of Al's finger tensing on the trigger of the Makarov.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Just Old Al
 
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Tue May 02, 2017 6:51 pm

Final Confrontation

Al’s finger continued to apply a slow pull. A few more pounds of pressure and the Makarov would bark – and the mission would be done.

His mind cleared from the fog of combat, clearing hampered by the blood smell of copper in the air.

Mission? WHAT Mission? Nonsense.


Al stood slowly back, holding the gun steadily on Vladimir’s heart.

“Stand up.”

Moving like a man who expects to die at any second, Vladimir stood, uncertainty written in every line of his posture.

Al backed away, and pointed with the gun. “Pick up the cuffs, sit in the chair, and secure yourself. Yes, I know you can be out of them quickly, but it will serve my needs for the moment. Move it along…I have little time, and would hate to have to shoot you this way.”

Doing as he was told, Vladimir was soon secured to the chair. The fear was still in his eyes, but so was a rapidly blooming curiousity.

Al sat on the edge of the desk, having collected the Spesnatz knife on the way along with its sheath. Casually, he spoke.

“Vlad me old cock, had I known you were alive and well here I would have gone anywhere else. I never intended to resume our old battle – that was the fight of two men defending their countries as they could best do. Those men are gone – and the two old men here don’t need to resume it. We’ve both won and lost, and those battles are over.”

Al bent down, staring Vladimir in the eyes.

“IT ENDS HERE. We will likely never see each other again, but even if we do, IT ENDS HERE. If you attempt to resume this I am going to assume this will be a threat to my wife and family – in Minneapolis, as you say – and I WILL kill you. Unreservedly, wholeheartedly and with no compunctions.

You become a threat to me and you will be dead by the end of the day I realize it.

Am I understood?”

Comprehension bloomed, and with it the power of speech.

“Why? I do not understand.”

“I took a…vow, for want of a better word…never to kill again except in defense of life and family. I am going to honour this, no matter how hard it is in your case. You and I were simply soldiers doing as our masters bid us – and that is no longer the case. I refuse to hold the hate.

Next we meet I expect will be on the other side of the Veil. When we do, I will buy the first round, and we can tell each other all of the old lies.”

As he said that the office door burst open, and Greg and Glytch ran in.

Al said “Where in Hades have you lot been? I was about to go looking for you! It’s been at least a week since that firecracker.”

“Lookin fer us? Hayll, we come straight here from the bay – the Revolutionary Po-lice are gonna be needin’ a new garage.” Greg looked disgusted – come charging in guns drawn and Al was complaining how long it took!

Glytch consulted his phone. “Al, it’s been a little under 4 minutes since we set off that explosion. Most of that was involved in getting up here.”

“Oh, very well then. Let’s be off. I have a feeling that Vladimir’s minions will figure out he hasn’t been seen sooner rather than later – and we need to be somewhere else.”

With that, the three trooped for the door. Al turned back, returned to the desk and faced Vladimir again, holding the pistol in front of him. Vladimir's eyes tracked to the open end of the barrel, and then to Al's face.

Al looked back, expressionless, and said “Proshchay, Vladimir. Idi s Bogom.” (Farewell, Vladimir. Go with God.)

One second became two, then three, and with a swift motion Al stripped the clip, ejected and pocketed its rounds and the round in the breech and tossed the now-useless pistol to the desk. Clapping him on the shoulder in passing the three left the office, after Al retrieved his satchel.
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Tue May 02, 2017 6:58 pm

As We Leave This Wonderful Isle…

Stepping out into the daylight, Al turned around and saw the smoke billowing from the building. He also noted the general confusion of the local law enforcement types, the many shattered windows, the bleeding eardrums and mass hysteria.

"Think ya used enough dynamite, Butch?" Al asked his blood brother.

"Whelp. they didn't have nothin' where Ah could measure... so Ah went fer broke..."

"Indeed- you 'broke' it alright. Now what?"

"Simon says, "put yer Gringo hands in th' air", 'cause we'uns is transporting 'dangerous capitalistic ass' t' sumplace safer than where we is- Glytch, you follow, I'll take point. Embassy is THAT way, as I reckon..."

“Not going to work on foot – we are a few kilometers from there. We’re basically back where we started – a block or two from the restaurant.”

“Well, then, Sergeant-Major Wiseacre – what do we do? Can’t stand around here with your hands up.”

“Simple, as you are uniformed the three of us walk down to that unattended cockroach with POLICIA written on it” he indicated the car, sitting at the curb a half-block away “and you make it go while I stand here with my hands behind my back and your young partner here holds his weapon on me.”

In a wicked imitation of Al’s accent Greg replied, “Well, where’s the fun in THAT, then?”

Wheeling about he headed for the car, his partner herding a contrite looking old man as they went.

Nobody gave the trio a second glance- civilians saw the two officers with a non-Cuban and immediately went someplace else. Mothers took their children to safety. Other officers looked only at Al, not his 'captors'.

"Seems to be going smoothly enough," Glytch commented as Greg, combat knife in hand, efficiently ripped the steering lock out of the column and began on the wiring.

"Too smoothly," hissed Al, "Too smoothly by half. Keep on your toes, I have no idea how long this charade will..."

"HALTO!!!" bellowed a senior police officer who had just noticed this odd troop, "A donde vas?"

Greg looked the man over- his instincts spoke loudly about this fellow- he decided to roll the dice- "Vamnos a la Embajada de los Americanos," he replied.

The man looked Greg over with an odd expression- "Porque?"

Greg then gave a very frightened look, glanced left and right to see who might be observing or listening... then walked right up to the officer and stated quietly, "Queremos defecto-" and anxiously awaited the reply.

The man was quite stunned. He looked at the three, then back at Greg.

"Que pasa con su Familia?" he asked, looking concerned.

Pointing at Glytch, Greg replied, "Es mi hijo- Yo tengo ninguna Familia."

"Quien es?" he asked, pointing at Al.

"El es un preso Americano- El nos ayudara en la Embajada,"

There was an odd, tense silence for about ten heartbeats- finally the officer said, "Por favor- lleveme con usted!"

Greg then turned to his two confused compatriots- "We will have us an escort- and ought make good time."

"Did you just tell that gentleman that we are defecting?" Al asked incredulously.

"Wahl, Glytch an' ah are defecting- YU'RE just ESCAPIN'- but he wants t' join the party..."

"Huh... glad we have THAT clear..." All muttered with a roll of the eyes.

"Hablas Ingles?" the officer asked, somewhat surprised.

"Si... y hablo Aleman- vamnos!" With that, the Cuban officer opened the back door and Glytch prodded the old man in, following with the gun held carefully on his charge. Closing the door, the officer grabbed the top of the front door and swung down into the driver’s seat…

…straight into the impact of a hard, callused fist propelled by a thoroughly annoyed retired U.S. Army Sergeant.

The thud was quite audible in the car, and its effect immediate in sending the officer peacefully to sleep.

Greg was rubbing his hand. “Damn knuckle – I broke that finger playing shortstop and I keep hurting it. Elixir didn’t do a thing for it.”

Al spoke up. “We are still far too close to the Commandancia here. Will you please save your whining for a more auspicious moment and get us the Hades out of here?”

“Look, you mangy old relic of the Empire, I will have you know-“

“OI! Mission first, argue later!" Glytch employed a slight tinge of Command Voice (having heard enough of it from both Sarge and Al to emulate it fairly well) to make sure he got their immediate attention - once they started bickering, it could take some effort to make them stop. "Sarge, you need a hand with our friend?” Glytch asked. Now was not the time for these two to be scrapping.

“No, I can handle him. Bench seat, I’ll just slide him over…oh, shit. I’ll unlock the doors – we’re about to get into a fight. Enemy approaching from six o’clock.”

Al and Glytch turned around, and Glytch sunk into a lower stance. Approaching them was the huge, sinister bulk of the Chaika, its chrome and polished paint sweeping through the smoke on the street in front of the Commandancia General like a panther through a mist.

Greg, reaching for his gun, relaxed. “Hold up – be ready but I think this is help coming. Wait one, and stay where you are.”

With that, he confidently stepped out into the street and motioned for the car to pull up to where he stood. As it reached his spot the driver’s window rolled down, to reveal Murray, the garage owner.

“It IS you. Ya had me worried for a minute. What t’hell did you t’ree do – blow da whole damn place up?”

Greg chuckled. “No, just one section of it. You are likely to be seeing a lot more work from them – we pretty thoroughly fried their vehicle garage. What are you doing out here?”

“Holy shit. Youse guys are CRAZY. What I’m doin is tryin’ta save yer asses. Get in – we gotta be somewhere else. I got somewhere we can hide youse out till da heat dies down.”

Greg, recovering his equilibrium and confidence, showed it in the resumption of his drawl. “An’ y’all had ta come lookin’ fer us in this commie Packard?”

Murray grinned. “An’ dat’s ex-zactly why I did. Everybody on de island knows dis ting – and its owner. Nobody but nobody is gonna mess with dis ting or anybody in it – specially if dey wear cop uniforms like you two. Now get in – we gotta get out of here.”

Al had emerged from the police car, and walked to the driver’s door. “No, my friend. You need to get in the back with the nice officer here, and I’ll drive.”

“Nah – dis ting’s a handful – ya better let me.”

“No – we need to give you plausible deniability. Please get in the back with the nice officer. We’ll drive.”

Nodding, Murray vacated the front seat, moving to the back. Glytch joined him there, and a predictable argument began in the front as Greg tried to slide behind the wheel.
“Keep moving – over to the other side for you.”

“No – the uniform will help. You need to ride shotgun –“

Al waved to the controls – all labeled in Cyrillic. “Go ahead – put it in drive, then release the parking brake.”

There was a slow moment as Greg attempted to understand the dash and it's components- a half-hearted approach of his hand to the shift buttons was aborted midway as he looked in various places for the parking brake. It was no use. Grumbling, Greg slid over, while a smugly grinning Al sat behind the wheel. Fumbling a bit, he put the big car in drive, then asked Murray where they were headed.

“We needa get outta town. I gotta friend back in da hills where ya can hide out till we can getcha to da gate at da Cathedral. Best I can do for youse.”

Al pondered. There had to be a better way than this.

Glytch spoke up. “Murray, do you have a cellphone?”

“Sure. Android knock-off. Woiks fine, not dat dere’s a lot ta use it for udder dan makin’ phone calls n’ texting. Why?”

“Excellent, less security features. Data plan?"

"Pfff, nah." Murray scoffed.

"Alright, I can still piggyback - simple number proxy signal bounce. Would you please unlock it and hand it over?"

“Sure.” He pulled his phone from a pocket in his cargo shorts, tapped and swiped, then gave it to Glytch, who punched in a particularly long key code into his own phone to take it out of lockdown, then began working with both phones simultaneously as he set up the connection. "What's the username and password you use with your carrier?"

"Bunnyboy, password Elmer."

“Elmer? Really?” Glytch was amused.

“Youse tink wit an accent like dis I haven’t hoid every damn Bugs Bunny joke on da planet? “ Shuddup!’ He grinned.

Glytch nodded, still grinning a little, and kept working - it took a bit of extra trickery as piggybacking off of Murray's phone to use the local carriers caused the US MIB network to not recognize his phone and, as a result, tried to block him. Unperturbed, Glytch simply started trying to log into his own computer at work until someone from the cybersecurity department noticed. They detected the signal was being bounced and traced it back, only to discover it really was Glytch!

After a moment, both Murray's and Glytch's phones rang, and Glytch answered his own. "Hello? Ah, Jeffrey, good, can you patch me through to Brandi? Yeah, uh, long story, time is of the essence so... Great, thanks." Glytch gave a thumb's up to the others in the car as he waited for Brandi to pick up. "Heeeey babe! So, uh, funny thing happened... Actually a lot of things happened, and one thing led to another... No, you probably can't let us go anywhere together, but that would be too boring. Yeah, we need an exit. Can you... Oh, Poit is outlawed by the Embargo? Yeah, I can't get VORP to work here, somebody from the Cold War screwed with the system back in the day and... Ok, that could work, but we're kinda in a hurry so... Ok, that'll be perfect. Great, give us a long hall to stop. Thanks hon, sorry!"

He rebooted Murray's phone and handed it back over. "Ok, we've got a Portal into the Library. She's gonna put it off of Avenida 31, at the end of Calle 62. She called in a mage and he's scrying us, so the gate will open as we get there, then close after we're through. Fergus says the next time we throw a party he's not going to help bail us out if he's not invited along."
Al grinned. "Damn Scotsman. He'd 'a been damn handy in this party, though he wouldn;t have been able to tap the land for power - no permission from the landowners."

With the destination in mind and directions from Murray, Al pushed the big car out of the city, staying to smaller roads. Small towns were reached and passed – Bejucal, Cuatro Caminos. Soon after Al turned down a secondary road.

“Avenida 31 – here we are. How far down is the turnoff to the portal, Glytch?"
"Uh... About ten kilometers. Then we’re on a goat path for five kilometers or so before we come to a shed – the main door of that is going to be the portal."

“Good man. Sounds like we’ll do quite well. How are you holding up back there, Murray?”

“Well enough. Gonna have a lot of explainin‘ ta do when I get back, but hey, that’s part o’ the game.”

“Well, we’re going to help with that. When we said plausible deniability we meant it – we’re going to deal with that here shortly.” Al looked over at Greg, who grinned back wolfishly.

Slowly, they proceeded down the road, stirring up little dust and attracting as little attention as possible. As they passed the local population that was out and about melted away, to reappear after the car passed.

Greg spoke. “You OK, old man? That was a helluva fight you got in.”

Al nodded. “As we got in. You two and your little improvised munitions stunt were most welcome. If I hadn’t had the distraction I might not have succeeded against Vladimir. You’re not exactly fresh from the shower yourself. Hopefully most of the grime and blood on you is not yours.”

“Nope. T’aint. Between Glytch and I we account for moren’a few of the local po-lice. They’re gonna know they been in a fight.”

“However, they aren’t gonna be able to prove it!” Glytch replied, gleefully. “While Sarge held ‘em off I gave ‘em hell through their computer network – and made damn sure any records they had on us were gone.”

Murray chuckled. “Youse guys are nuts. I t’ink I'm gonna end up spendin’ a little time wit the police, but hell, dey got nuttin’ on me.”

“Murray, I do sincerely apologize for that, and now is the time we’re going to give you a cover. Just remember ‘You ain’t seen nuttin and you don’t know nuttin’ and they’ll have nothing on you.”

With that, they drove past a small fuel stop, dusty and deserted but open. After a half-kilometer Al pulled over, turned to the rabbitmorph in the back and said “This, my friend, is where we part company. We are forever in your debt – and this is a debt I mean to repay. If you ever need or want anything contact Alexander Harvesters and tell them Al Richer sent you. The word will get to me – and I will be there to help.

For now, though – run.”

Murray looked confused. “Run? Whyinhell would I wanna do dat?”

Sarge turned in his seat, pulling back the slide on his pistol and releasing it with a CLACK that filled the car. “Plausible deniability.”

Murray looked quite nervous. “You sure you know whatcha doin wit dat ting?”

Grinning, Greg said, “Y’all better hope so. Now, RUN!”

Like a flash Greg was out of his seat, as was Glytch. Both began to fire – Glytch upward into the treetops, and Sarge at the fleeing man. The rounds peppered the ground just behind the fleeing man’s feet. In answer to this, Murray displayed his leporine origins by moving RIGHT out, rapidly reaching the fuel stop.

As Murray reached the station, Greg blew out two of the lights over the fuel pumps, shattering the globes and knocking the fixtures off to hang by their wires.

The effect on the occupants of the station was electric. First, they heard the shots being fired, and screaming. Then, the lights were blown out, spattering the shack with glass and metal bits as the source of the screaming bolted inside, slamming the door and diving behind the counter.

“AAAYYYEEEE!!!! Locos! Tres hombres locos!!! Asenios!!! Recietemente me escapade! Estaba entregando in coche al Comandante en la Havana, y tres hombres loco me agarro!!! Ellos me tiraron en el coche y se la robaron!!! LLAMA A LA POLICIA!!!”

Back at the car, the three men laughed, and re-embarked. “That should do it. They’ll find the bullets, the shattered fixtures, and I don’t think poor Murray’s going to calm down for a bit. Think you might have been a bit close, Greg?”

“Hayull no. Gotta make it look good for the rubes, less’n they bother Murray.”

“True enough. Let’s be off, then – we have a date with a portal.” With that they drove away.

With that, Al turned to Glytch. “Can you call back into MIB now?”

“Yeah – they patched a few things and got me a routing. What do you need?”

“Kindly call that delectable goddess you’re going about with and ask her a question. How big is the portal?”

“Don’t need to call her for that. It’s a large portal – 3.3 meters. They thought we might be coming in hot and didn’t want to deal with single file or anything. It’s the size of the main door of the shed we’re aiming at.”

With that statement, a low, evil chuckle emanated from the front seat of the car. Glytch and Greg looked at each other, puzzled by the emanation of mirth.

“Uhhhh, Al…what’s so funny?” Greg asked.

“Greg, the hardest thing in the world I have ever done was back there in that office. I honoured my promise to Emerauld, and Vladimir lived to see another sunrise. Finishing him would have been the work of a second, and not one of my old colleagues would have blamed me.”

“True enough. Damn hard thing to do, break old conditioning like that. However, what’s so funny?”

“He’s not coming away unscathed for his little attempt on my life.” Al began to chuckle again, and bestowed a loving pat on the chrome and wood dashboard of the big Russian saloon.

The meaning of his words and the affectionate gesture began to sink in, and within seconds Greg and Glytch were smiling, then the laughter began.

The kilometers rolled by, and the Calle reached - a rough dirt track. Wallowing down that, the Chaika finally came to the shed, a deserted, sad-looking structure that hadn't seen a coat of paint since Batista was in power.

"Glytch - where's the portal?"

"Main door." he said, pointing to the front of the structure.

"Lovely - but WHERE? Do we need to open it?"

"Nah. They were expecting pursuit - it's right there at the interface - the front of the frame, I expect."

"Very well, then!" Al aimed the big car for the door and tapped the fuel - the Chaika shot forward at the shed. All three in the car cringed, expecting the sound of splintering wood, but at the last moment the shed disappeared replaced by a momentary fragmented view of a hallway. This then disappeared and with a tremendous lurch the car and its three occupants found themselves exiting RE Building 2's main vehicle door into the parking lot.

Al tapped the brakes and circled back, to be confronted by a man and his car. The car was an LTD, somehow dwarfed by the big KGB car, and the man was Billens - dwarfed by no one.

And Billens was angry. VERY angry.

Stopping in the parking space next to Billens' LTD, Al shut the engine off and began to shake. The stress of the hours of flight, the fight with Vladimir and the escape from custody had told heavily on all three of them.

Opening the doors and exiting, all three looked at Billens, his expression if possible even stormier.

"Inside."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Wed May 03, 2017 6:48 pm

We Are Not Amused

Obediently they trooped inside, with the air of schoolboys being taken to task by a harsh schoolmaster.

In the conference room, Billens stared at the three.

"You...IDIOTS. If ANY - ANY of you had thought the slightest ahead none of this would have happened. We have stamps and such in place in the Library for exactly this purpose. FIVE - FIVE LOUSY MINUTES - of preparation would have dealt with this. Three passports, three stamps and done. NO PROBLEMS.

You three went in Fat, DUMB and HAPPY. By the time you got out of town you left behind a police station full of broken officers WHO WERE JUST DOING THEIR JOBS, a damaged building from an EXPLOSION, and a diplomatic incident that is going to take a LOT of smoothing over before Rahul takes this to the UN as a sign of American imperialism."

He swung around, pointing at Al. "YOU! THE LEAD CHAOS DEMON. WHAT POSESSED YOU TO GO TO A PLACE YOU LAST LEFT ACCOMPANIED BY GUNFIRE! WELL?"

Al, looking somewhat but not terribly chagrined, answered. "Billens, if I had had ANY idea that Vladimir was still alive in that tropical pesthole I would never have gone there. What possible motive could I have had for stirring up that level of grief? Who in Hades could possibly have foreseen that my old nemesis was still alive, and that he'd even remember me? It’s been decades!"

"Oh, I don't know. You DO make an impression on people - something about shooting them and/or chopping them up with that nasty little toy you used to carry!"

"NOT fair! First off, the Sykes-Fairbairn is an elegant bit of cutlery, and I was doing my duty to Queen and Country - you can hardly fault me for that!"

"No, but I CAN fault you for being stupid enough to not CHECK." Billens swung about onto the other two.

"Ah, yes. The other two demons in this unholy triad. Passport? Papers? ANYTHING? Not to mention tearing up half the on-duty police staff at the Comandancia General? WHAT THE HELL POSESSED YOU TWO TO DO THAT?"

Sarge began to speak, but Glytch beat him to it. "SImple - the first two we dealt with - where these uniforms came from - were not 'just doing their jobs.' They were bullies with badges. I know the difference, especially after all that went down with Justin. When we were apprehended, on top of the fact that Ivan the Has-Been fully intended on putting us up against a wall and giving us each a chance for one last cigarette, the one who had me cuffed took great pleasure in sucker-punching me in the gut. Then, when they had us locked up, they tried to fry us with a cattle prod. I'd say we showed a fair amount of restraint regarding those two."

"That's all well and good - but what about the rest? You two didn't kill anyone - but you left a path of destruction the size of 494!"

Greg spoke up, face reddening a bit as he carefully controlled his temper. "Billens, we were locked in a cell. We took out the two pigs that tried to torture us, then we did what we needed to - no more. That Russian had Al, and he'd already made it VERY clear what the end of that was going to be. We didn't kill anybody, and the Commandancia had a rat problem anyway so a redecorating won't hurt. No harm, no foul."

Glytch picked up where Greg left off, leaning forward onto the table with a serious expression and pulling his hood back a little to look Billens in the eyes. "Anyway, they don't have ANY documentary evidence - The best they've got are a bunch of panicked, delirious, and discombobulated beat cops, some dubious hearsay from a few cybersecurity folks who heard me over a spotty connection, and an old Russian with a long-standing grudge against a Brit. There's not a single reliable witness anywhere in that mix. All of their computers are scrambled, and their systems were so old, everything I did used code known and used widely around the world, so it's not gonna be traced back to me or even America through style. Even the most moronic diplomat will be able to completely dismantle any attempt by the Cubans to call this an attack by the Americans, and you and I both know Brandi is far more capable than that."

" 'sides which, Mother Russia tain't all that fluffed 'bout Cuba anymore, so's it's not like Putin's gonna send nukes our way over it," Greg muttered.

"Just as arrogant as your old man," sighed Billens, obviously at his limit and a bit beyond with his penitents.

"WHUT D'Y'ALL MEAN BY THAYT?!?" demanded Greg.

The two squared off in a rather menacing manner. Jaws set, eyes burning, fists clenched. Greg snatched his bifocals off his face and dropped them on the desk. There was a tense moment where Al was about to intervene- but too late.

Greg, having lost his temper now, threw a heavy straight punch right at Billen's face, putting his back into it. Billens dropped his stance, leaned to the right, and executed a flawless outward wrist block with his left arm, redirecting the force of the impressive punch instead of trying to stop it. His mind already clouded with rage at the three walking natural disasters, and taken right up to the brink by the strong resemblance of Greg to his longtime adversary, was pushed over the brink by the attack. Acting now primarily on instinct, he responded in the blink of an eye with a sharp right-hand jab across Greg's cheek and jaw, which was blocked by the old man.

Glytch could almost hear the fight bell ring. Al sighed wearily. It was on.

Glytch asked, "Shouldn't we stop them?"

Al laughed. "Not by a long chalk. First off, neither of them's doing the other any damage." True enough, the two skilled combatants were swinging, weaving, blocking and generally engaging in great effort - but neither was doing significant damage to the other. Billens' knuckles were bleeding and Greg had a cut on his arm, but this was peripheral damage from the combat.

"I dunno. They're serious - if either of them gets through to the other somebody's gonna get hurt."

"No, Greg will run down here momentarily... his stamina is not what it used to be."

"I heard that! You're next!"

Even with that bellow of bravado, it was obvious both combatants were running down, from the triparate reasons of testosterone venting, heavy physical exertion and oxygen defecit.

After a minute or two they both stood there, breathing heavily and glaring at each other. Greg looked at Billens and muttered "Had enough?" Billens, no less tired than the old man, answered "If you have."

Al snorted. "Are you lot DONE? Wretched heathens the pair of you. I'm next, indeed - could blow you over with a stiff breeze. Now, behave."

Greg sat back down, as did Glytch and Al. Trying not to look winded Billens began to pace again, the rumpled black suit doing little to improve his dignity.

"All right. Enough. Admittedly, once they grabbed you three the die was cast - and Al, you have a point about your old enemy. HOWEVER, it is obvious that you three are dangerous. For the next six months, none of you is allowed to use the Library system to go anywhere new without checking in with me first. This means NOWHERE. You want to do the routine stuff you're doing, all well and good.

Now, go home and TRY FORGOD'SSAKE NOT to blow anything up between here and there. Dismissed."

That said, he turned and left the room, pinching the bridge of his nose like a man trying to stave off a migrane.

The three looked at each other, secretly glad to be rid of Billens. "Let's head back to Alexander. You need to portal out of there anyway, and I for one could use something to eat."

Opening the door, Al bowed low and waved his compatriots through. "After YOU, my good men..."

Once out of the office and thankfully shut of Billens the conversation began again.
"Al....A'm think'n next tahm we jus mayht mosey on down to th' Colonel's fer chicken... whut chu think, Glytch?"

"I dunno- d' you think we can do 'boring'? I must admit, it was rather fun before it went to shit... the parkour opportunities were certainly fun. Is there some exotic locale where we CAN'T POSSIBLY cause an international incident? I think I heard someone mention Monica and Jin had this island..."

"FAUGH!" groused Al, "YOU heard Billens- I doubt we could visit Toledo Ohio after this little filibuster. 'Mother may I?' for the next six months... we've been short-leashed!"

" 'Grounded' is th' term yer lookin' fer there, SgtMajor... an' Ah hain't been 'grounded' since 1968..."

"What did you do in 1968?" asked Glytch.

"Well, there was this girl..."

"ENOUGH! Glytch, he will try to make this sound like a confession, but if a girl is involved he will wind up bragging. Don't encourage the man."

Glytch smirked. "...I should have seen that coming, honestly. Last time I was 'grounded' it was because I had accidentally hacked into the state police dispatch. I was only trying to make my own police scanner..."
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Re: The Cuban Conundrum

Postby Just Old Al » Wed May 03, 2017 6:50 pm

Home Again, Home Again

The Chaika rolled through the gates, Al having to have resorted to the intercom and camera to gain access. After having been unceremoniously dumped into the RE parking lot by the emergency portal and the subsequent chewing-out by Billens, the ride to the portal at Alexander was strangely silent. Thankfully the local gendarmerie were nowhere present - explaining the Russian car with its Cuban license tags would have been entirely too difficult after the earlier tribulations.

Motoring up the drive, the long black car came to a halt in the portico and face to face with a welcoming committee - that seemed anything but welcoming.

Stern-faced, three women waited there, their apron bedecked attire almost comical, were they not staring daggers at the men as they exited the car. Behind them, peering out the door, was Rosalita, Ialin perched atop her head.

"Esto va a ser bueno, eh Rosalita?" she said puckishly, offering a bag of popcorn.

"Hush! No puedo oír por el sonido de sus alas!” replied Rosalita, not wanting to be caught, yet taking the proffered bag in complicit agreement.

First to move was Brandi, turning to face the three squarely. She stared at the three of them, gaze flickering from one to another to the third – till she settled on Glytch. The level gaze went on and on, till Glytch began to squirm visibly. She then spoke, her voice loud and clear even in the open, with more than a little of the panther bleeding through into her visage.
"You three MORONS nearly caused an international incident - thankfully they have nothing concrete to pin this on. We WILL talk later on this breach of protocols."
She then turned to Glytch and hugged him, recoiling at the smell of smoke, grime and unwashed uniform with Glytch recoiling at the feel of the forgotten rolling pin pushed onto his back during the hug. “You STINK. What sewer were you rolling in?”

"I'm really sorry, honey... We got to talking about where to go and then one thing led to another, and I didn't think ahead. And then... Well, it was kinda all downhill from there. I'll get cleaned up as soon as I can... By your leave." Glytch shrank under Brandi's glower, but not excessively so, and he maintained eye contact.

Annie, dressed as she would be at home, and brandishing her rolling pin, reached up and grabbed Greg by his ear with her free hand. "YOU THREE CANNOT GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT RESPONSIBLE ADULT SUPERVISION!!!”

Greg, resigned to his fate, merely mumbled “Yes, ma’am.”

"WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!? HAVANA?!? Next time you want something 'exotic', you can go to OMAK or WENATCHEE!!!"

“But dear…”

"Any other woman would have you on a short leash, Mister!!! I have NO CLUE why I put up with your shenanigans... YOU DO UNDERSTAND YOU COULD HAVE STARTED A WAR, RIGHT?"

“Yes, dear.”

"It would have been Brandi, Daisy and myself to the rescue- Daisy fielding that shoulder artillery you designed, Brandi who's indestructible and you KNOW what I pack- how much of the island do you figure would be left intact?"

“Not much?”

"If I had to go down there and fetch you three out, there would be no war to worry about- HAVANA WOULD BE LEVELLED!!!”

“Yes, dear.” The look on Greg’s face said it all – he realized that the doghouse was going to be a bit cramped for a while – as he was moving in.

The last two - Al and Daisy - looked at each other across a space of meters. Their expressions were interesting - Daisy's was the look of a mother catching her child with a hand - yet again - in the cookie jar, and Al's the mien of injured innocence projected by a saint about to be martyred.

"Well?" Daisy said, staring down all three of them, like a lioness stalking her prey. This one word contained a crushing weight of scorn, with an equal weight of "This better be VERY good" on top.

"Well....It was like this..." Al began, only to be interrupted by his spouse.

Changing gears, Daisy started with, "Before we get to that, I guess you three haven't had dinner, have you? Let's get you washed up and fed, because if you three fools stink up the house, I WILL shoot you, and toss you in the compost bin! Brandi, be a dear and go grab your beau a change of clothes, will you?"

Greg, not one to stand on ceremony, asked, "Great! Whut's for dinner?"

Annie, having none of it, said “In your case, crow. Now, go get cleaned up and get your winter togs back on – you’re fogging the place up with the smell. Get on with you.”

With that, the tableau broke and the men and women headed back for the house, narrowly missing Ialin and Rosalita who had hurriedly scurried back to the kitchen seconds ahead of discovery.

The dinner table was silent. With the serving of a salad course, the only sounds were the scraping of utensils against plated, and the rustle of greenery as it was stabbed on to forks.

Finally, Daisy broke the silence.

“Dear, what was…that…you drove up in?”

“Drove up in? What do you mean, dear?” Al tied to look innocent, or as innocent as possible when one is contemplating an accusation of car theft.

“Love, I am familiar with everything that lives at Building 2 – and that is not one of the denizens.” Steel wrapped in velvet entered her voice with the next line. “Spill it – what’s with the Packard?”

“Al lifted his glass, sipped at his tonic water, and sighed. That, dear, is a GAZ-13 Chaika. It…..followed me home.”

“Followed you home? How does two tons of steel follow you home?”

Al sipped from his tonic water again, and began to explain.

“Simple enough, actually. This car was the property of the chief of Security for the capitol district. As part of our escape a friend there picked us up in it – knowing that no one – especially the local gendarmes – would question a mixed part of civilian dress and police uniforms in that car.

Before we returned, we gave our friend plausible deniability-“

Greg chuckled. “With two full pistol loads of ammunition fired in his general direction. Poor Murray is never gonna be the same after that.”

Al continued, his salad forgotten. “We gave our saviour plausible deniability, then we came home.”

Brandi spoke up. “Al, that’s going to have to go back. You stole it.”

Sipping again at his water, Al said one word.

“No.”

Brandi pressed. “Al, I can’t see how you can possibly consider that a legitimate acquisition of-“

“I said…no.”

Brandi was nonplussed, as were the other occupants of the table. Al’s manners were normally impeccable – this intransigence was simply unlike him.

“Ohkayyyyyyyyy…why? Give me a good reason why it doesn’t go back other than your magpie tendencies toward cars.”

Al sat back in his chair, and in his motion every one of his years showed. He sighed, ran his hands over his face, sighed again and spoke.

“That car – and its owner – and I have a very, very long history. The first time we met I blew the engine block out of it, along with its radiator. It still bears the scar – I showed Glytch the bullet hole in the grille.

Today, its owner tried to kill me – not only me, but my two closest friends – my brothers in all but blood.

Thanks to their skill and inventiveness he did not succeed even though he was playing with a Spesnatz combat knife inches from my face.”

With that bald statement Daisy and Annie inhaled. Neither of them was a stranger to arms, Annie more so than Daisy, but the picture of the threat was a graphic one.

“When the explosion happened I had it out with Vladimir hand-to-hand. It ended with me holding his Makarov to his throat with my finger tightening on the trigger.”

He sipped again, and fiddled with his butter knife, the consummate professional working a crowd. All eating had stopped, and people were just watching him.

“I didn’t kill him. I honoured my vow to Emerauld and by all the Gods I didn’t kill him. He was alive and well when I left, and there is no reason he will not continue to be so. I wish him well, as he and I are no longer the men we were.

Al suddenly smiled, a wolfish grin that startled his dinner partners. He sat forward, thumping his hand on the table so hard his place setting rattled.

“HOWEVER, I will be DAMNED if that son-of-a-bitch is not going to PAY for what he did to me and my blood brothers! And his payment is out there.” He gestured toward the hall, and by extension the drive and the car hidden in the portico.

With that, Glytch and Greg, who had been following the description raptly, broke out in spontaneous applause.

Al looked calmly at Brandi, a successful barrister resting his case. She stared back just as calmly, appreciating but not being swept away by his story.

“When you phrase it that way…I can understand. It’s not right…but let me talk to Billens about the paperwork.” She sat back in her chair, giving Glytch’s hand a squeeze where it rested on his thigh.
After another silent pause, Greg, never a wilting flower, remarked “Yeah, well – least we deserve, though we did make one helluva mess of the Commandancia. Now that we’re done with all of that, what’s for dinner?”

“Done? DONE? You are nowhere NEAR done with this, mister. You are going to be hauling rabbit raisins for the next week fertilizing my garden. Oh, STOP with the puppy eyes…I’ll let you eat first.”

Rosalita and Edward had wheeled out a cart with covered servers. The savoury smell wafting from the cart filled Al with a sense of dismay – and a ravening hunger.

Daisy, smiling sweetly, took up the conversation. “What else would we be having?”

“Cuban pork.”
"The Empire was founded on cups of tea, mate, and if you think I am going to war without one you are sadly mistaken."
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Just Old Al
 
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