Over a private evening meal, Laurent Strophes, the Hive Sibellus noble who caused us to come to Sibellus to seek out the fate of his niece Saia, offers answers to our questions and he and his daughter Julia answer some unasked ones as well.
Here in Hive Sibellus, the Magistratum performs the useful function of seeing to the smooth order of the Hive while ensuring the nobility are untroubled as far as possible by petty tyrannies of law. Few among the Magistratum go near the under-Hive.
Personal weaponry is expected of us in our guises, but must relate to our roles. Franz for example in his role as “the noble, Franco” will only be expected to carry his laz-pistol. I, “the noblewoman, Quintilla” will have to conceal my Stub revolver somewhere, if dressed for a party. As “bodyguards” Grimm and Jahr will be able to carry many of their weapons. Laurent will process their paperwork and once blood samples are registered their cover will be complete.
Laurent also hands us local data-slates with maps of the spire and sketchier outlines of the western quarter. Finally, he offers to set up a meeting with the “associate” he had investigate originally, a bounty-hunter named Orday.
The very next day, Julia presides over our socialization and guises. Grimm and Jahr are adjudged passing – even Jahr’s Guardsman’s armor is acceptable – but Zarkov will not be able to attend any noble assembly. I and Franz will play the nobles from Fenksworld. We are both to be distant cousins of the Strophes, and for convenience, we agree to be known as cousins to each other. Any difference in accent will be accounted for by our story that we are from different regions on Fenksworld.
As part of our socialization, Julia explains how not to insult nobles, our costume – outré and revealing – and a bawdy practice known as “spurring” that may be witnessed at a gathering. We all know the dangers of betraying our cover and agree to endure what must be endured.
The next day is given over mostly to leisure and practice, until Laurent sends through bodyguard accreditation and a time and place to meet Orday. It will be “The Barking Saint” in the middle Hive.
It takes us more than an hour to get from the Strophes’ private luxury to the dim-lit noise and industrious fug of the mid-Hive. What strikes me most is the state of ruin that all its denizens seem to accept as normal. Everywhere I look among the poorly-lit open spaces, slabs of ruinous masonry are being used as furniture or shelter.
We move through the throng. We spot a couple of recruiters for the Joyous Choir, trying to proselytize. At present, we are not dressed as nobles, so it seems worth trying to find out something about the Joyous Choir from the street level. I strike up their acquaintance [20 on Fel+20] and they direct me to a nearby chapel.
The service is relatively orthodox. The preacher seems far too happy to me, and I suggest that we interrogate him (and dispose of the body) but I am overruled. Exiting the service without “grilling and killing” anyone, we obtain directions to the Barking Saint, which raises a few eyebrows I observe. Possibly it has a dubious reputation around here.
Under the fallen statue – what else? – of a canine saint, or possibly merely a dog, Silas, a brat guarding the “door” or entry hole, cautions us about starting fights and what weapon can be drawn without drawing a lethal response from all patrons. Fallen masonry forms the interior: slabs of rubble act as “tables” or “benches” for patrons. Obscura smoke scents the otherwise-rank air. Serious drinkers line the bar itself. A ladyboy sashays over but once we explain our appointment, points us over to a curtained alcove. We enter: Orday, a hardened bounty-hunter, is leveling a bolt-pistol at us. We make ourselves known. [And OOC I call dibs on the bolt-pistol.]
Orday warns us that the Choir is well-connected. The cult also has access to and uses farcosia, a very pricey and addictive drug. It may be what killed Saia, he theorizes. I note that Orday has no doubt that she is now deceased. Why the exorbitantly expensive farcosia is being used is open to question – possibly, influence?
I ask Orday to tell us what privy information he has, but the man offers to trade it for 1000 thrones. Disgusted at his mercenary demand, I wait for Franz to shoot him, but my brother Acolyte does no such thing, so I am forced to agree that we will arrange a money transfer. (Laurent offered us his vast resources, and Vaarak set aside some hundreds for expenses as well.)
We arrive back in the Spire to learn that we have been invited to a small, informal soirée hosted by Lady Tanae Borella. Julia is in great spirits, for now she gets to dress Franz and myself in full costume. I discover that the “Aether-weave” garments of a young noblewoman are mostly gauze, with immodestly-placed winking light-strips that – to my eyes at least – are signaling “get it here” over my pudenda.
[The GM gets who’s carrying what at this stage.]
There seem to be only about half a dozen nobles in the large, unlit, open courtyard in the High Spire. To make up for that, there are plenty of functionaries, mainly servants seeing that no guest goes without drink or viands. My brother Acolytes and I enter as a group with Julia, and assess our fellow-guests while we wait for Julia to introduce us.
Our hostess, Lady Tanae Borella, is by far the strongest source of illumination in the courtyard. A well-preserved older woman, she is dressed – or undressed – like a supernova of light. My awkwardness in my revealing attire delights her, and she invites me to meet the Joyous Choir’s founder, Caros Shoal, at Alabaster Court, the “cathedral” of the cult. Borella is accompanied by Cort Abroag, a counselor of nondescript appearance, who is quite eminent in the Joyous Choir apparently. As an ability to not stand out is an asset to an Assassin, I mark Abroag well. I hope “cousin Franco” does the same.
Sorkat Authwaite, a 50ish man clad in Aether-weave featuring a gleaming tabard, is a well-to-do noble with extensive holdings in Gunmetal City. The lads perk up their ears at the thought of face time with a man that might give them weapons! Franz takes on the job of talking to him, and as I glance over later I can see Authwaite is boring the ass off cousin Franco, but they exchange cards and later Franz tells us he has a lead on buying a compact-design bolt-pistol.
Next, I try conversation with a pretty and modestly-attired woman of around my own age. I seem to strike the right note with her [27 on Fel+20] by complimenting her modesty, and learn that Malene Trun does charitable works on behalf of the Choir. She proves a mine of information and I gently draw forth as much as she knows on the Choir’s workings. However, she hasn’t heard anything about Saia and barely recalls her, which suggests some subconscious manipulation. Since we are now bosom friends, I take the chance of learning more about Alabaster Court [04 on Inquiry]. Malene explains that it is the HQ for the Choir, is located mid-tier on one of the noble Hive layers, and is the size of a cathedral.
This has taken some time, of course, and during it, “Franco” has detached himself at last from Authwaite, and has approached a bald, purple-clad androgynous individual who sports Augmetics out the back of his skull. This is Siprit Daneen, and he claims to be a personal assistant to Lady Borella. Franz later reports he could not get a handle on him [Scrutiny 00].
From Malene, I move on to the last apparent noble, an older man who appears to have enjoyed many juvenat treatments, and who is accompanied by a coterie of Aether-weave beauties. I try an appeal to his sense of humor, and luckily this works: and none of the beauties claim “insult” as I successfully detach him from them [18 on Fel]. Lord Raephen Verence is very influential in the Hive, and I discover he is not attached to the Joyous Choir. He’s the type of higher power among the Hive that even the Joyous Choir’s supporters must curry favor with. It’s likely that Borella is seeking to ensure his goodwill.
After an hour’s easy and largely meaningless conversation, the soirée toasts the Emperor with a clear, lightly-refreshing cocktail. [Toughness tests all round, all but Franz fail.] We feel great goodwill to those around us [WP, Int down, Fel up.] [The GM is still smirking and asks for WP tests all round: success. None of us are addicted to farcosia. So far.]
Come morning, we deduce that the cocktail may have been a version of farcosia. Zarkov’s skill set is good enough to perform a urine test [04 on Chem-10] though results take most of the day. When they come back, I am exultant: one of the ingredients is Boraxis, which proves that the Choir must deal in forbidden Xeno trade, possibly in xenotech. I transmit this to Vaarak, for it will provide a certain case should he wish to move against the cult.
That evening, Laurent, who has approved funds, gives us a rendezvous with Orday, along with a valise containing the funds. We are to meet the bounty-hunter beneath the Broken Moon in a market known as The Hustle. [None of us break into a disco stance, which I think merits kudos.]
So it is back to mid-Hive. The Hustle is very large, like a huge bazaar filled with rubble. It smells far worse than the previous mid-Hive locality we explored. We get directions, and make our way over to where the broken shield of a memorial displays a ruined moon. Jahr, who has agreed to be hand-over man, readies himself. Grimm [12 on re-roll] spots Orday emerging from cover, and points him out. [All others fail Perception checks.]
Jahr walks forward. Orday does the same: he’s carrying a similar-sized small valise, presumably with data packs or vox recordings in it. He and Jahr are about 10 meters from one another when Orday’s head explodes!
[And OOC I remind the guys that I called dibs.]