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All the world's a stage


Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.21.2012 , 04:13 PM | #1
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts …
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

A 16-year-old boy stood underneath one of the plaza bridges in central Kaas City, carefully flicking small scraps of scavenged desh metal down into the light emitters of the Spires of Victory scuplture. He was trying to interrupt the photonic flow channels and make precisely timed gaps which would spell out “SKOOL SUX” in triumphantly large letters down the central pillar. The misspelling was deliberately ironic. He had finally managed to get himself expelled from the Kaas City West High School and felt the need to celebrate.

It was mid-afternoon, and most people were either at work, or hurrying around on business and not taking any notice of him. He didn't expect to finish before one of the guards caught him, but he'd been a parkour enthusiast for years and had his escape route well planned. Within 5 minutes he could be 6 blocks away and 11 levels down.

He had got as far as SKO when he became aware that he was being watched. The second O was a little lopsided, as he was flicking the metal scraps while covertly examining the watcher.

Quite young, early 20s. Slimly built, medium height. A narrow face with a noticeably pointed chin. Rather supercilious expression, but neutral, giving nothing away. Dark brown hair, short, combed back and already starting to recede from his forehead. The grey uniform of Imperial Intelligence with rank insignia that he didn't recognise. Whatever the rank was, it was sufficient for a passing guard to take one wary look and carry on walking without interfering. Handy, that. He might finish after all, though the aftermath might be more difficult to cope with.

The man made no move, and the boy began on the L, then SUX. He carried on defiantly, trying to look as relaxed as possible, but could feel his back starting to crawl with uncertainty while the man just stood there, casually leaning on the railing a few yards away, showing nothing.

Half way through the X, his metal scraps ran out.

He didn't notice, but the watcher's expression flickered into a grin for an instant.

With all the bravado of his 16 years, the boy wasn't about to lose face, so he stood there looking up at the sculpture and pretending to admire his handiwork. He heard nothing, but was suddenly aware that the man was now standing next to him. He flinched involuntarily. Bravado was all very well, but if Intelligence took you in, there was no guarantee you were ever going to reappear. And while he might be able to run away now, they said Intelligence could track you anywhere in the galaxy. He was pretty good at tracking himself, having had plenty of practice hacking the holonet records, and knew that probably wasn’t exaggerated.

He stared at the man, trying to make himself look as confident as possible.

The man stared back, cold grey-blue eyes. He was a lot better at staring. The boy's heart started beating so loudly he thought half of Kaas City could hear it, and he could feel himself sweating. Eventually, the man spoke. “So, boy, what exactly are you doing?”

Spoiler
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.22.2012 , 06:17 AM | #2
Even knowing its futility, he was braced for flight, but rather than fleeing or answering the question, the boy went on the attack. "Who are you and why were you watching me?"

"We've been watching you for a long time. You can call me Minder Seventy-two, by the way."

"Watching me? Why?"

"Imperial Intelligence monitors all ... shall we say ... troublemakers? They have potential, you see," said the Minder.

"Potential? What for?" He eyed Minder Seventy-two suspiciously.

"To be useful, or dangerous. Sometimes both." A brief hint of amusement in the Minder's eyes. The boy noticed it, and some of his wariness decreased.

"Which am I then?" he asked.

"Oh, you're certainly in the 'both' category, boy." Definite amusement that time. "Come with me, we'll talk about it."

They walked towards the special taxi, the one that went to the Citadel. The Minder sauntered casually, but the boy couldn't imitate the relaxed assuredness, he was still keyed up, muscles taut and ready to run.

The Minder flashed an authorisation card at the taxi droid and they were immediately taken across, not to the Citadel, but to the only slightly less scary building to the right. Imperial Intelligence Headquarters. The boy was fascinated and terrified in equal measure. He'd never thought to see the inside of it, and not really wanted to either. There were a lot of rumours about what went on in there, none of them pleasant.

There were a lot of interesting-looking displays in the entrance hall including a complete holoprojection of the planet and surrounding stars, and the boy would have liked to stop and stare, but the Minder took him straight through to a turbolift and up several floors. Up was a good sign, generally, the boy decided. Bad things always seemed to happen on lower levels, at least in the books and holovis dramas.

When they got out of the lift, there was a long, featureless corridor full of identical-looking doors. Guard droids were stationed at intervals and several probe droids drifted in apparently random patterns. It was very quiet, and the air had a thick deadening quality which made his ears feel weird, like he was going deaf. He rubbed at them.

"Sound proofing technology, always feels a bit strange if you're not used to it", remarked the Minder as he led the boy a few steps up the corridor and turned into a room with a sign on the door which read: "Primary Interrogation Reception". The boy gulped, partly to see if swallowing would make his ears feel any clearer but mostly from nervousness. Interrogation ....
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Canino's Avatar


Canino
12.22.2012 , 06:26 AM | #3
This is great! I love the details about Imperial Intelligence Headquarters as well. Keep it up!
STATEMENT: I'm just a simple assassin...I mean bodyguard, master. You have nothing to fear.
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Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.22.2012 , 12:39 PM | #4
There was a perfectly ordinary desk inside the room, with a pleasant-faced young woman sitting behind it, and an older man doing something with a pile of datapads and a computer terminal at a table to one side.

"Hallo Minder", the young woman said, smiling cheerfully and tapping at her desk console. "Room 10-B is the closest free, but you might prefer more seclusion for this young one." She smiled at the boy, who was paralysed like a vine cat cub in a searchlight and entirely unable to reply beyond a faint squeak. She tapped a couple more times. "Everything from 92 onwards is free, I'll put you in 117-A on the corner, it's a bit bigger and has a nice view. Plus the drinks dispenser was fixed this morning so I know it's working." She winked conspiratorially at the Minder, who smiled back.

"Thanks Mora, I'm eternally grateful, you know how much I need coffee in this job. Endless hours, impossible subjects, piles of forms to the ceiling." He rolled his eyes dramatically.

The older man looked up from his datapads and grinned. "You want to keep me in a job, surely? What'll I do if I have nothing to file? They might send me back on the streets like you."

"You've done your stint as a Minder, Ruhl, and I don't think they've forgotten the time you brought in that man with the pet yozusks and he wasn't even the right mark. Did they ever get the stains out of the carpet?" The Minder grinned.

Mora giggled and Ruhl scoffed. "He had the same name and fitted the general description, it was a mistake anyone could make. Besides, if I'd left his pets to run freely through the Kaas City streets they'd have hung me out to dry too."

"Like the carpet", said Mora, giggling again.

The boy was transfixed. They were like ordinary people doing ordinary jobs, just joking and chatting. But this was Imperial Intelligence, how could it be ordinary? And with jokes? He was still nearly scared enough to be wetting his pants, but this wasn't anything like he'd expected.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

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bright_ephemera
12.22.2012 , 12:44 PM | #5
Came for the Shakespeare. Stayed for the image of a sixteen-year-old boy vandalizing monuments in Kaas City. I love it! Can't wait to see what else a juvenile delinquent has to say about Imperial Intelligence.
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iamthehoyden
12.22.2012 , 12:55 PM | #6
This is a marvelous start. Love it!
aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?
---------------
Fan Fiction: My Name is Solomon Crae The Man in the Box

Canino's Avatar


Canino
12.22.2012 , 02:05 PM | #7
Yeah you added more. I love how their so normal, and the last line... amazing!
STATEMENT: I'm just a simple assassin...I mean bodyguard, master. You have nothing to fear.
---------

Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.23.2012 , 06:15 AM | #8
"Have a seat, boy." The Minder gestured to the plain hard plastic chairs at the stainless steel table in the centre of room 117A. They were fixed in position, screwed to the floor.

Defiantly, the boy went first to look out of the window, which, as Mora had said, did present an excellent view over Kaas City. His footsteps made no sound. The floor, walls and the inner surface of the door had a seamless grey coating which felt rubbery and gave slightly when touched, and the air had the same thick, deadened quality as the corridor. Small holocams with winking red lights were conspicuous at each upper corner of the room.

Minder Seventy-two busied himself at the drinks dispenser. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee made itself apparent. "Want a drink?" he enquired.

The thought of drugs and poisons flashed through the boy's mind, but his mouth was uncomfortably dry with nervousness and he wanted something. To hell with it, he thought, and cast caution to the winds. "What can I get?" he asked.

"Nothing alcoholic, obviously, and no stimulants stronger than coffee. Other than coffee in all of its varations , it claims to have milk, eight different fruit juices, five different sorts of tea ... or plain water, of course, if you don't trust us." A faint smile.

Faced with so much choice, the boy was paralysed again. The Minder took pity on him. "The coffee is surprisingly good, but if you prefer something cold, I can recommend the mixed forest fruits juice."

"I'll have that juice then." He thought for a moment then grudgingly added, "please".

The Minder pushed a few buttons, then brought over a rather flimsy plastic cup filled with a rich purple liquid. "I can't guarantee that there's any actual fruit in this, but I can assure you it's unadulterated with anything more sinister than artificial colours and flavourings." He smiled amicably and went to sit at the table where he'd left his coffee.

The boy blinked nervously and tentatively sipped at the juice. It was good, tart and refreshing. The moisture eased his dry mouth and the sharp/sweet taste got his saliva flowing again. He started to relax.

"Come and sit down then", said the Minder. "You're welcome to sit where you can stare out of the window, I'm sure you'd rather do that than admire my homely features."

More humour. The boy was completely off-balance by this time, probably as intended. He sat down, and took another swallow of his fruit juice. "This is good, thanks", he said.

"Excellent for dry mouths", nodded the Minder. He leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee.
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.24.2012 , 12:21 PM | #9
Quote: Originally Posted by bright_ephemera View Post
Came for the Shakespeare. Stayed for the image of a sixteen-year-old boy vandalizing monuments in Kaas City. I love it! Can't wait to see what else a juvenile delinquent has to say about Imperial Intelligence.
Quote: Originally Posted by iamthehoyden View Post
This is a marvelous start. Love it!
Quote: Originally Posted by Canino View Post
Yeah you added more. I love how their so normal, and the last line... amazing!
Thank you, glad you're enjoying it

I wish you and everyone else a peaceful and happy Christmas
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.

Syart's Avatar


Syart
12.24.2012 , 12:23 PM | #10
"Look, what's going on?" the boy demanded. "I don't understand any of this. Am I under arrest for vandalism, or something?"

The Minder smiled. "Oh no. I would have stopped the vandalism, if I'd felt it necessary, but I found it rather amusing. Intelligent, too, not many people would think of using the particular conductive properties of desh to short circuit the light flows."

"It won't last long anyway", said the boy. "The maintenance droids will clear it out quickly enough."

"Exactly. I found that interesting too ... damage, but not permanent and easily reversible. Nothing really actionable. Was that deliberate caution on your part?"

"Kind of", the boy admitted, shifting a bit in his chair. "If I'd got caught I had my escape route planned too. I reckoned that if I could get away fast enough and stay hidden for an hour or so, there'd be nothing to arrest me for when I came out again." He grinned, some of his cockiness restored.

"Yes, a useful skill, freerunning. And you planned ahead, thought about what you were doing, and did it very skillfully. Most impressive." He swallowed the last of his coffee and set the mug down on the table.

"You see, boy, I told you we'd been watching you for a while. You're a potential recruit for Imperial Intelligence. You exhibit all the qualities we prize most in our agents: few personal ties; a preference for working alone but will cooperate with others if necessary; a high level of intelligence; a polymath with the ability to analyse, synthesise and use knowledge from multiple areas; physical fitness; determination; forethought; a mind for strategy including backups and contingency plans. And, within reason, a disrespect for authority and a willingness to circumvent the rules to get things done."

The boy listened, not quite open-mouthed, but forgetting to drink his juice.

"We were automatically notified as soon as your headmaster signed off your expulsion order, so I came looking for you. Seeing how you coped with a possible arrest by Imperial Intelligence was a test too."
Control, passion, diligence: these three principles shape your world.

Lord Scourge: To repeat a mistake and expect a beneficial outcome is a sign of insanity.