The Intrepids

Chapter 7:
Who DOESN'T want this dingus? And why?

Many phone calls ensue.

Alex calls the office and Frannie picks up.  She is soooo thrilled to hear Alex’s voice since soooo many folk have been calling about the dead bodies at the auction house.  “Bloody Massacre at Auction House” is a headline they’re actively trying to avoid.  Alex considers telling them that ‘it could be worse,’ but refrains.  Instead, she assures them that the ‘item in question’ is both secret and safe, and that she’s continuing the investigation. 

“Be a dear-just reassure him for me.”  The auction is on Saturday, so time is starting to run short and tensions in the office are running high.  Frannie wishes her luck and reminds her to call again if there’s anything the office can do to help.

Alex passes the phone to Clara.  “You gotta call a lawyer about a fisherman, right?”

Rex continues to fiddle with his transmitters: “Look!  It runs off of the body’s own electromagnetic field-we’ll never need batteries!”  Jack begins wondering whether the science guy might consider inventing something even more useful-like a sheep-blasting raygun.

Clara calls Jane Bolin and confirms that the lawyer has accepted the case and begun working on it.  She notes that Mr. Leschende is concerned primarily with getting home in time for the beginning of squid season, but she has managed to convince him to stay around long enough for the verification process and auction.  Clara is simply happy to find that he is being well taken care of, and finishes the conversation.

The group decides that since the OTO can’t seem to follow them worth a darn, that they’ll have to go to the OTO.  Clara offers to drive, but recommends that they take one of the hardtop cars-after all, it is a less-than-savory neighborhood in which the OTO has set up shop.

The sign on the building is distinctive, and the group enters.

Jack: >Knock, knock.<

An old man opens the door and greets them, seeming surprised to find five people at his door.  “May I help you?”

Jack: “Yes.  Several men wearing a pin similar to yours seemed to want to speak to us earlier today.  In fact, they seemed to be following us.  We wondered whether we could come in and – since you’re seekers of truth – perhaps help you with what you wanted to find out?”

Old Man: >glances briefly at lapel<  “One moment.”  >Closes the door<

Jack considers picking the lock if the old man doesn’t return quickly enough.

Old Man: “You need to speak with Brother Poole – follow me.”

The building obviously used to be an office, but not for a while.  A lot of old furniture has been pushed to the side and is gathering dust.  The Old Man leads them several rooms back to a nondescript room which is still in use-a desk and a few chairs are arranged, but the overall ambiance is a bit darker and more morbid than would be standard.  A younger version of the Old Man stands behind the desk.

Brother Poole: “Thank you, Brother Towson.  Please-have a seat.”

Jack: “I assume you’ve been told why we’re here.”

Poole: “You have questions.”

Jack: “Yes, and I’m not alone in that.  It seems everywhere we go we’re seeing doves and roses.”…

Alex: >mumbles< “And pelicans.”

Jack: >???<

Alex: “Lapel pins.”

Jack: “Honestly, you are just not very good at following people, so perhaps it would be easier if we just help you.”

Poole: (impassively) “I can think of no questions that I have for you. (pauses) You are in possession of the item, no?”

Jack: “Yes. Why are you following us?”

Poole: “We’re merely doing what we must in order to fulfill the wishes of our ascendant leader.”

Jack: “And your ascendant leader’s interest in the item is…?”

Poole: “He says it is important.  It is not my role to question.”

Clara: “What does he want with it?”

Poole: “We are simply to keep it in our sights.”

Clara: “Sights or hands?”

Poole: “Sight.”

Jack: “Who is this leader?”

Poole: >bewildered< “The Spaniard.  Senor Rojas.”

*DUN DUN DUNNNNNN!!!*

Alex gasps in recognition and turns to stare meaningfully at Jack.

Poole: “We must follow the will of the ascendant leader.”

Molly: “What happens if you don’t?”

Poole: “It is essential to the ascendant leader’s ascension.”

Clara: “So without the item, he won’t ascend.”

Poole: “I can’t say.”

Jack: “Brother Poole, we do have a connection to your ascendant leader.  If you’d like to have your order’s eyes a bit closer, we’d be willing to consider an arrangement.”

Poole: >raises an eyebrow< “I have other responsibilities.  But I can send someone to you.”

Clara: “Consider this to be an offer of…friendship…perhaps?”

The group returns to the car to confer about the tangled matrix of thugs, societies and leaders (ascendant and non).  They smile and wave at the surprised ‘brothers’ who are returning from yet another failed attempt at tailing the Intrepids.

Major points: Why would an Egyptian-based society be interested in a Mayan/Toltec icon as even a symbolic item? Is it possible that the statue is concealing something?  Regardless, it is time to call Senor Rojas.

“To the Club!”

Clara: VROOOOOOOOOM!!!

Tires: SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Piet, the evening doorman, greets them.  At this point, Molly is certain that she sees one of the thugs from their initial foray along with a few gentlemen of similar style reading the paper across the street.  Jack notices the suspiciousness of their nature, and Clara is perfectly aware that they’re packing.  Piet confirms that they’ve been there since he came on duty.

Jack decides to sneak away and come at the thugs from a different angle while the rest of the team hovers around the car finding things to do. 

Jack: “Hey, any of you guys have the racing form. I was thinking – hey!  I know you – I know your friend Vinnie!”

Guy-in-Charge: “How do you know Vinnie?”

Jack: “We knock around – I try to keep in touch with my roots.”

GIC: “Like knock around the head?”

Thug-lings: (hands to weapons) meaningful grunt

Jack catches the eye of the group.

Jack: “Truthfully, I just wanted to know what you find so fascinating about our little club.”

GIC: “We were looking for you in fact.”

Jack: “Ah…hey-have you ever seen that?  A broad working on an engine!”

GIC: “Hunh?”

Thug-lings: “Hunh?”

Jack: >KA-POW!!!<

 GIC: >staggers back<

Thug-lings: >reach for weapons, pause< Uh…should we grease’em, Tony?"

GIC-nay-Tony: >bleeding from the mouth & nose< “No – we need to ask him some questions first.”"

Thug-lings: “Ok, boss. ” >reach for brass knuckles, grin<

As the carnage is about to commence, the rest of the group leaps into action!

Clara: LEAP!

Alex: LEAP!

Molly: LEAP!

Rex: LEAP!

Thug-lings: “Hunh?”

Molly’s gun: Ka-blam

Thug-ling #1: “OW!” >*falls*, still alive<

Clara: Ka-blam

Thug-ling #2: “OOF!” (falls, flails, hits Tony with brass knuckles, knocking him unconscious)

Alex and Rex: “Woo-hoo!”

Piet: “I’ll get the service entrance for you, shall I?”

The group drags the thugs into the Club in order to bandage them up and have a little sit down chat with them.  Luckily, the Club’s scheduled bingo night has been canceled, so there are enough sub-basement interrogation chambers to use.  Tony is handcuffed to the nearest radiator, and Alex and Jack begin the interrogation.

Jack: “So, Tony, you said you had some questions.”

Tony: >*silent contempt*<

Jack: “Is it like ‘where did I get this snappy suit?’”

Tony: “It was more, how did you know how to impersonate Vinnie so well.”

Jack: “I watch, I learn, you know?  We’re willing to have a civilized conversation here.  I see no reason to keep you in the dark….”

Tony: “You kind of got everyone killed.  Vinnie’s plan didn’t involve getting everyone killed!”

Jack: “If I hadn’t been there YOU wouldn’t have made it out.  And how were we to know it would go down like that?  So no, I didn’t get your friends killed – the other guys killed them.  And I kept you alive.  Any other questions?”

Tony: “What?  You want a thank you?”

Jack:  “I’m not the one that came to find you.  You want coffee, water?”

Tony: “Water.”

Jack goes off to get the water, leaving Alex to be ‘bad cop.’

Meanwhile, one interrogation room over…

Clara and Molly offer the thug-lings water, and ask why they’ve been following them.  Nic and Big Mike insist that they were only waiting for Jack because Tony told them to after Vinnie returned without his clothes.  Vinnie’s in trouble with the boss.  Unfortunately, as back-up foot soldiers, they’re not really in the know about anything.  They’re also a little confused about how they ended up in a sub-basement, chained to radiators, being interrogated by girls.  Clara and Molly decide that it’s futile to ask any further questions.

Back in the serious interrogation room (after being debriefed on the way back from getting water)…

Jack: “What can you tell us about this Baroness?”

Tony: “I can tell you she’s angry.”

Jack: “Have you ever seen her?”

Tony: “No.”

Jack: “I’ll assume Vinnie has.”

Tony: “No.”

Jack: “So, you just came to knock me around for Vinnie, or what?”

Tony: “No – we wanted to find out how you knew what was going on.”

Jack: “Point one – nobody reads the same page of the paper for five minutes.  Point two – If you sit outside a high end art gallery dressed exactly alike, and dressed like a thug, people will notice.  No magic involved.  Do you want me to teach you your job?”

Tony: “You Century Club people think you’re hot stuff, hunh?”  >smiles smugly<

Jack: “You know a lot of the Century Club?”

Tony: “Just you.  And I liked you up until the moment you got all condescending-like.”

The two continue the conversation until a key moment of revelation when Tony casually suggests that their presence has been a ruse to keep them busy while Molly’s apartment has been ransacked and the jaguar stolen.  After all, the boss was VERY angry. The Intrepids let the thugs go and rush to the Ritz.

Back at the apartment…

The first thing they notice is the firetruck out front. 

Firemen: “We’re not sure.  We got a call about some localized fires.  We saw some evidence of it-piles of ashes…”

The group races upstairs.  The door is locked, and they enter to find Rufus and Rama cleaning up the ‘remains’ of the ‘fire.’ 

Rufus: “Madam…you’re safe…I’m so relieved.  You had a number of…callers.  I referred them to your secretary.” >gestures to Rama<

When questioned, it is revealed that three ninjas were successfully killed, several more escaped and when killed caused a neighbor to call the fire department.  Rama is aggrieved that he couldn’t perform his duties more effectively.

The jaguars, inexplicably, are still locked tight in the safe, and Jack confirms that the weights are the same so no switch has been made.  The group looks at each other and wonders…

NOW WHAT???

View
Chapter 8:
Mucho hablar

Alex calls Senor Rojas in order to arrange a meeting to discuss the ‘ascension’ and the OTO’s interest in the jaguar.  He agrees to meet for an early lunch the next day.  The entire group decides to go in order to maximize the usefulness of the experience.

People at the club and the detective agency have been employed to look into the veracity of the Monsieur Lenschende’s claims.  A photo of the pirate code will be dropped off to at least one of Molly or Jack’s cryptography contacts for further investigation.

The jaguars will remain in the safe with Rufus and Rama keeping watch.  Hopefully, their mad ninja-poofing skillz will be enough to thwart any additional attempts on the apartment. [Terribly anachronistic remark – GM]

At the Pierre Café in the Pierre Hotel, a short distance away…

The very crème de la crème of New York Society are busy lunching and being seen.  The maitre d, Msr. Andre greets the group as they arrive.  Alex asks if Senor Rojas has arrived yet.

Andre: “Mlle. Petranko…and friends?”

“Yes.”

Andre calls over a waiter and mutters something unintelligible.  “Follow me, please.”

The group is escorted over to a well-placed table, where Senor Rojas is waiting.

“Mlle. Petranko… and entourage.”

Senor Rojas, non-plussed: “We’ll need another…bottle of wine.”  A flurry of waiters reorganizes the area, much to the dismay of Andre, who is not getting paid enough for this.

“My apologies for any inconvenience.  I should perhaps have mentioned my associates…”

Senor Rojas smiles graciously.

“I’d introduce them, but I imagine the people you’ve had tailing us all this time have apprised you of their names.”

“Your fellow Century Club members are known to many people around the world.  Let me recommend the trout-it’s a specialty of the house.”

A tray of oysters Rockefeller is brought out, which Alex pointedly ignores.  “Interestingly, we tracked those people tailing us back to a place called the OTO, and they indicated that they were being employed by you and you were their ‘leader’.  Which is interesting since you also hired me.  Would you care to comment?”  

“Well, ‘leader’ is perhaps an exaggeration…”

Jack: “That’s not the sense we got from them.”

“They’re loyal.”

Jack: “They said you were their ascendant leader, and that the jaguar had a great deal to do with your ascending.  What exactly is your interest in the jaguar?”

“Just what I told Ms. Petrenko – I wish to own it.”

Jack: “No – that’s not an interest.  We cannot possibly keep this object safe any longer without more information from you.”

“You’ve kept it safe so far.”

Clara: “How do you know that?”

“I fail to see how this piece of information has any relevance.”

Jack: “Did you hire Ms. Petrenko for her skills and expertise?  Why would she request information which she didn’t absolutely need?  She is attempting to do her job, and we are attempting to help her.”

“You, sir, cannot be trusted.  And she does not need this information.  But perhaps Ms. Petrenko can explain exactly why she thinks this information would assist in her job.  Which, by the by, she’s been doing admirably so far.”

Alex is momentarily taken aback.  But she rallies quickly: “Knowing why you want it will help us understand why others may want it, which will help me keep it safe.”

“Your Oriental acquaintances likely want it only because somebody else wants it.  What other information did you need?”  Senor Rojas leans back and smiles diarmingly, still intent on giving nothing away.

Alex rises and extends her hand.  “We’re sorry to have troubled you.”  Senor Rojas does not rise, but accepts her hand in his gloved one. 

At that moment…

She swoons!  Jack, alertly catches her, noting that this is a worse reaction than usual for her.

“Oh dear, it seems as though Ms. Petranko is having an episode!”  Jack dabs at her brow with a cold cloth, and hauls her upright.  “We should leave.”  

They quickly head towards the door.  Molly distinctly notices Senor Rojas’ eyes flash, and that Alex is muttering in German (with a thick NY accent) a quote from Nietzsche: “Beware when you hunt monsters that ye become not a monster, and remember that when you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes also into you.”

Out on the street, Alex begins to recover and recounts her vision…

Somewhere in Europe…possibly Eastern Europe…

Based on context, it is sometime in the past-anywhere between 20 and 200 years in the past.  She sees a gypsy caravan paused along the side of the road.  There’s a road sign, not in Russian, which she cannot read.  Suddenly the scene changes and she realizes that she is now in the guise of a young man, late teens or early twenties, and he is entering what appears to be a library.  There are many impressive looking rare volumes along the shelves.  There is a man ahead in an ornate military uniform whom Alex is approaching.  Again the scene changes, and the caravan is now in the woods, circled up for the evening around the fire.  The gypsies are eating and enjoying the evening.  Yet again, the scene changes.  The caravans are on fire, people are screaming, and in and about soldiers can be seen and gunfire can be heard.  The last thing Alex sees amidst the chaos are her own hands going up as a flaming beam crashes down upon her.  At that moment, she returns to herself.

“Why is there a rag on my head?”

At Molly’s…

Rufus: “Oh madame, you brought…food.  What I believe they call…takeaway.  How…nice.  Dr. Bishop called.  Barring any new developments, a group of Pinkertons will be arriving tomorrow to assist you in transporting the jaguar back to the auction house for Saturday’s auction.  a ‘Detective Jeffries’ called to discuss a time to meet.”

“Thank you, Rufus.  Could you please fluff a chair and light a few candles for Ms. Petranko.”

Rufus: “Do you need a blanket, Madame?”

The one true jaguar is removed from the safe, and Alex prepares herself to touch it.  Jack tosses Alex the jaguar, and…

>>>VERTIGO<<<

The phone rings.

“I’ll get that Madame…”


Beyond the ringing, Alex realizes she is once again among a native population, gazing down from above at a group of people.  The fires in the dark are strictly for heat and light this time.  Initially the voices are incoherent and strange, but within a few moments Alex can understand the babble.  One of the old men around the fire seems vaguely familiar, perhaps from the first vision, and he has a staff leaning against his shoulder.  Their conversation seems to be about what to do about the invaders from the water and their giant war-rafts.  Trade is mentioned, as is war.  The old man interrupts the debate to say that the wisdom of Hunahpu will present itself by morning and they will follow the god’s will.  As he speaks the name, he grasps the staff for emphasis.  Then, speaking directly to the young man advocating full-scale attack, he announces that if the invaders think that they can be victorious they will know the power of Hunahpu.  This is met with cheers and general jumping about.  Alex awakens to the sound of Rufus saying:

“Madame, it’s for you.  Long distance.”

It is a person-to-person call from Nigel Smythe-Waite of the Shrewsbury Smythe-Waites.  Nigel is a journalist (and a former associate from her days at Room 39 during the War), and has heard that Molly is looking into the Levasseur papers.  He still has contacts from the old days and had heard something on the wire which he thought might interest her. 
A Mrs. Savy, the woman in possession of the papers, has had a break-in roughly 36 hours earlier and the papers were the only thing which went ‘missing.’  This in itself is odd, but odder still is that the entire front of the house (or at least sufficient to drive a double-decker bus through) had been dissolved as though by acid.  Luckily Mrs. Savy was out visiting relatives at the time. 

Molly wonders what could be on the real map which was not readily available via the photos.  Clara wonders whether folding the map might change something.

Back to the problem of the jaguar…

Jack recommends that the Pinkertons be called in order to arrange the meeting time to transport the jaguar.  He proposes going on ahead (in disguise) with the real jaguar, surprising Dr. Bishop and getting the real jaguar in the safe.  Meanwhile, Rex will embed a tracking device in the fake jaguar.  When Jack returns, he’ll help escort the ‘jaguar’ in the hopes that it will get stolen and the group will be able to track it. 
Rex sets to building a tracking device.  Molly contacts the Pinkertons about a meeting around noon on Friday. 

Around this time, Alex’s office calls to confirm that Leschende is in fact a fisherman from a long line of fishermen.  Though not well-educated, he appears to be what he claims to be given the needed turnaround time for the investigation.  Checking in with the contacts who were given the pirate’s code, they’re told that nothing yet has been discovered of cryptological significance.

Friday, before noon…

Jack disguises himself as a random guy in a suit (with a satchel) in order to leave the hotel, then does a quick change elsewhere into his delivery man disguise, and (reasonably assured that nobody is following him) sets off to deliver the jaguar to the museum.

“I got a package for Dr. Bishop here.”

“I’ll sign for it.”

“No ’s gotta be the man himself.  Specific instructions from the guy posting the package.”

Doris (the receptionist) calls into Dr. Bishop’s office.  “He’ll be out in a moment.”

Jack looks around idly, noticing what there is to notice.  Knowing that there are evil doers doing the evil he’d be likely to do (be do be do), Jack realizes that changes have been made to the security in the building.  In his professional estimation, these changes make the people making the changes feel better about the changes being made.  He also notices that Doris has a reasonably expensive arrangement of flowers on her desk.  Stealthily sneaking forward to see the attached card, he notices both the name of the florist, a trite message after a Spanish declaration of love and the name “Armando.” 

Armando.  As in Senor Armando Rojas?  Jack is intrigued.

As he considers this, Jack’s thoughts are interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Bishop.

Jack leads him away from the reception desk before revealing the standard delivery clipboard which has a note from Molly on it indicating that they need to return to the office.

“Oh.  Why. Don’t. You. Follow. Me.” Dr. Bishop says with full subtlety.

“Sir, don’t forget your appointment regarding the new catalog….”

In the office…

The ruse is explained in detail, and though Dr. Bishop is initially confused, he is ultimately quite impressed.  Jack reassures him that any future news of the jaguar’s ‘theft’ is to be ignored.  It is simply part of a greater, even more ingenious plan.

“By the way, what can you tell me about the buyers at the auction?”

Dr. Bishop explains what he knows of the potential buyers, which include several universities and an assortment of wealthy businessmen.  Jack waits to watch the jaguar be returned to the vault, and then as he leaves he is able to slip out with a copy of the mock-up of the auction catalog which has been left out on one of the tables.

Jack leaves, returns to Molly’s apartment to be a part of the escort of the ‘jaguar’ and reveals what he knows about the receptionist and Senor Rojas.

The clock strikes 12.

There’s a knock on the door.

Rufus: “Madame, the Pinkertons have arrived.”

To Be Continued…

View
Chapter 9*:
Going Once, Going Twice, Going... DEATH!
* = Regrettably, neither D&D nor porn stars were involved in the creation of this chapter.


It did, however, start with Alex’s final vision of the jaguar.

The Pinkertons have arrived, and it’s decided that the group will take three cars: one to carry the jaguar, one to ride ahead of it and one to ride behind.  Clara is designated as the driver of the jaguar car, after the others have exacted a promise from her to actually let them get caught this time.  For extra insurance, while nobody else is looking, Alex slips a brick underneath the gas pedal. 

The drive from the Ritz to the auction house is uncharacteristically sedate and pleasant.  In fact, it would best be described as entirely without incident.

Jack: “Crap.”

The “jaguar” is escorted into the auction house.  Again, without incident.

Jack: “Crap.”

Doris glances up from her desk to see a dozen, well-armed people approaching her desk.  She buzzes through to Dr. Bishop, who comes out surrounded by security guards.  He appears puzzled, but says nothing, and leads them downstairs to the vault.  The group is looking around alertly for potential ninja-hiding spots; but see nothing.  As they slip the “jaguar” into the vault, Jack stealthily ascertains that the real jaguar is still in the vault. 

The group decides to monitor the auction house overnight in shifts.  The plan for the next day’s auction is thus: Jack will be posing as the auctioneer, Clara will be spending time with Monsieur Leschende discussing the fine art of fishing, Alex will be in the audience being alert and vewwy vewwy still, and Molly will be looking to augment her collection of meso-American art.

The auction begins…

The ‘bargain-hunters’ arrive first, so the auction house is relatively quiet to begin with.  As time passes, more people arrive, and the items grow more valuable.  The auctioneer (Jack) is keeping the pacing comfortable, allowing people time to continue to examine the items from later in the catalog.  As Molly wanders among the items she notices a well-dressed Oriental woman arrive with an entourage of men who are completely not carrying concealed weapons.  They seat themselves on one side of the room.  Shortly thereafter, Brother Poole arrives with an assortment of men wearing matching lapel pins, who are also completely not carrying concealed weapons.  They seat themselves opposite the collection of belaying pins.  The auctioneer glances up and notices a person who may or may not be Tony, but who is most definitely thug-like, arrive and stand in the back surrounded by similarly thug-like people.  Alex, being vewwy vewwy still, notices the favorite friend of her favorite Pinkerton (Freddie Biscoe) arrive; yes, the laconic Ron Livermore is back on the proverbial case.  She considers breaking her decision to remain vewwy vewwy still, but  restrains herself.

Meanwhile, in a speeding automobile somewhere near the Empire State Building…

Clara “talks shop” with Leschende via the lawyer, and besides learning fifteen different ways to prepare squid eyes, she finds out that squid have a very short season, and in the time of his great-great-great grandrelatives there were virtually none at all to be squidded.  Asked about the number of shipwrecks near his home, he mentions that because there are only a few ways into the inlet because of the reefs and islands there have been a number of them.  He can’t give a specific number because it’s difficult even for them to get out to that area.  At this point they have returned to the auction house, and they are about four items away from…the Jaguar.  As they enter, a peal of summer thunder echoes in the distance, startling Clara.  Guiding Monsieur Leschende in, she also realizes that they are standing just behind Senor Rojas – dapper and be-gloved as always.

Auctioneer Jack: “Up now, a mortar and pestle – if you sniff carefully you can still smell the chocolate…and the blood…”

A few more Pinkertons subtly sidle into the room and stand about the aisles looking serious and utterly inconspicuous.

Auctioneer Jack: “Up next, Lot 333 then, a beautiful example of pre-Colombian art, a legendary piece thought to be both missing for hundreds of years.  Authenticated by the greatest minds of science and academia, we shall start the bidding at…ten. Thousand. Dollars.”

Senor Rojas <raises>: “Twelve.”

At this, Ms. Toy nods imperceptibly. 

Auctioneer Jack: “TWELVE thou-”

<poof> <poof> <poof>

A small flock of renzhe suddenly appear from the shadows.

Auctioneer Jack: "-sand "

A herd of pinstripe-suited men stampede in from the wings followed by serious looking Pinkertons shouting “Stop!”

Auctioneer Jack: “doll- oh heck!”

The men wearing the lapel pins leap up, and chanting the while, rush the stage.

Senor Rojas: “sigh

Clara: <sticks> “I believe they said ‘Stop?!’”

The first of the stampede hits the floor, scattering weapons everywhere.  The Pinkertons set upon him while Clara quietly scoops up some of the guns and secrets them on her person. 

Clara: <handing> “Here, dear.”

The OTO and the renzhe converge in front of the stage, and the OTO prove that faith is no real match for a throwing star.  The Pinkertons begin shooting at the pinstripes, who to their credit do not actually shoot back (immediately).  The civilians in the crowd have begun screaming, panicking and fleeing, as is their wont.

<<<Melee, melee, melee>>

Meanwhile, Auctioneer Jack scans the crowd, searching for people who appear too calm or too focused.  He discounts several people who simply appear to be in shock or who are slightly senile and confused.  Nobody appears to be suspiciously calm, though.  Madame Toy has stood up to better conduct her people, and Senor Rojas has resigned himself to the temporary pause in bidding and remains seated.

Auctioneer Jack: <to> “We’ll be returning to the bidding momentarily.  There is coffee in the lobby, if you feel the need.”

<<<Melee, melee, melee>>>

As Clara stands armed and alert in the wings a sound catches her ear.

Annnnnnd…the ceiling explodes!

A woman drops through the resulting hole, trailing an inky cloud of smoke behind her.  Clara immediately realizes that they are now face to face with Baroness (dun dun DUN!) Blackheart.  After Clara’s initial reaction of “Such a tragic, tragic figure – perhaps calamari would make her feel better and reanimate that cold, metallic heart…” she snaps out of it and begins to consider her actual options.

Jack spins around at the sound of the explosion and sees the Baroness moving towards the jaguar in an unusual manner: seeming blurry as if she was skipping space to space rather than moving contiguously.  A Pinkerton attempts to block her progress and is hurled bodily into the audience.  Chairs scatter everywhere, thus confirming Alex’s suspicion that they weren’t attached to the floor.

Molly, seeing that she has a clear shot at the Baroness, pulls out her gun and aims.

Gun: BANG

Heart: Ka-SPANG (ha-ha!)

Clara, realizing that she’s being almost entirely ignored by the underlings around her, decides to shoot at the Baroness.  She pulls out her gun and aims.

Gun: BANG

Leather-Clad Hide: Scuff/Scrape! (ha-ha!)

Alex rushes forward to the pointy sticks that used to be chairs before they came in intimate contact with a Pinkerton.  Grabbing up the pointiest, Alex flings it like a spear.

Spear: Fwing!

Soft, Squishy Bit: Fwump (ow!)

The Baroness pauses, glances down at the pointy stick disdainfully, removes it with a squelching sound, and begins looking around for the source of the annoyance.

Auctioneer Jack:  (to the Baroness) “Baroness, the bidding is at twelve thousand.”

The Baroness turns to face him and Jack throws caution to the wind-and his knife as well.

Knife: Zing! annnnnd Miss!

Baroness: <raises>  “No.  The bidding is over.”

Rex, who has been waiting in the wings, takes the opportunity to shoot.

Gun: Bang annnnnd Miss!

A puff of renzhe drifts by on the breeze.

The Baroness lifts the jaguar gently from its podium and begins an interesting non-Euclidian ascent towards the hole in the ceiling. 

Molly shoots again, intending to knock the Jaguar from her arms.

Gun: Bang

Baroness: Bamf 

Result: Non-Euclidian Fail

Clara shoots from the wings.

Gun: Bang

Baroness’ Unspecified Squishy Bit: Ow!

Alex, feeling the deep-seated angst which is the result of a lifetime’s obsession with this nemesis, and sporting some new broken bits of chair, flings them at the retreating form of the Baroness.

Chair: Fwip, fwip, fwip

Baroness’ Retreating Legs: Owww—quit it!

Jack, in an astounding leap of both bravery and…well…leaping, manages to fling himself…onto a chair, up to the podium, into the air, after the Baroness’ hovering form…nothing…but…BLACKHEART!!!

<<<Woooooooooooooo!>>>

<<<And the crowd pauses in their fleeing and panicking to momentarily go wild>>>

As Jack dangles precariously, he notices Rex tapping at his wrist and looking distracted.  This worries him a little.  After all, even in the 1930s, one should text and shoot.

Clara, realizing that she’s gone almost an entire day without driving at dangerous speeds around town, bolts for the door and the lovely, lovely car (of Molly’s) beyond.

Molly and Rex exchange glances and follow.

Tune in Next Time for the Car Chase of the Flying Woman and a Shocking Turn of Events!

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Chapter 10:
And lo, there came a Baroness...

Clara races to the car, with the rest of the team (except Jack, who is not so much racing as rising) in hot pursuit.  “Follow that villainess!”

They leap in the car, Alex leaps on the running-board, and they peel away into the street.  As Clara drives, Alex, Molly, and Rex scan the skies, ready to shout directions.

As the Baroness picks up speed, Jack’s grip slips slightly and he drops to the level of her expensive, hand-crafted knee-high boots.  She glances down at Jack and asks disdainfully: “Why are you doing this?”

Auctioneer Jack: “I take my job very seriously.”

Baroness: “My quarrel is not with you.”

Auctioneer:  “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to take the jaguar, ma’am.  You did not have the high bid.”

Baroness: >after a pause< “But I have the jaguar already.”

Auctioneer: “Perhaps I should have clarified – I can’t let you keep it.”

Baroness: “Can you wait five minutes?  Then I can let you keep it.”

Auctioneer: >confused< “…ok.”

Jack notices an approaching water tower, and using the sheer strength of his abdominal muscles, heaves his legs up, just barely missing the top of the tower.

Heading Down Lexington…

The Baroness suddenly makes a sharp right turn.

Alex: “Go right! Go right!”

Car Tires: SCRRRREEEECH!!

Clara: Executes epic turn…straight into a hotel.  Manages to stop just in the nick of time, spins beautifully, allowing the doorman to actually open the driver’s side door as soon as the car has stopped.

Doorman:  “Madame.”

Alex and Rex race for the stairs, while Clara and Molly take to the fire escape.  Unfortunately, the fire escape is slippery from the rain, and the inside stairs are currently being dried by a horde of maids whose buckets need to be leapt over as they proceed upwards.

On the Roof of the Hotel…

The Baroness descends, and Jack drops nimbly to the roof in order to avoid getting trampled by the Baroness’ devastatingly glossy, hand-crafted knee-high black boots.  He immediately leaps to his feet in anticipation of the Baroness’ next move. 

The Baroness’ next move:  Reach into one of her many pockets and pull out a vial.

Jack: A vile what?? >rimshot<

Crickets: >chirp<

The Baroness pops the cap from the metal vial and despite Jack’s silver-tongued protestations, she pours the contents of the vial into the depression that’s on the jaguar.Silver jaguar.jpg

Jack: “What is that?”

Baroness: “The lymph of Matthew Hopkins.”

Jack: “Ew.  That’s disgusting.”

The Baroness begins muttering over the lymph-drenched-jaguar.  Jack approaches cautiously, asking a multitude of questions to distract her from her muttering.

Jack:   “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…did you say lymph?  As in lymph?…Because that is just gross…”

>What seems like a horribly, horribly long time later…< “I’m serious…you couldn’t go with black bile?…”

Clara: >very close to the top of the building< “This fire escape is definitely not up to code.  I’ll fix it later.”

Even as Jack continues his patter, he notices that her muttering appears to have brought about…nothing.  No fireworks, no bolts of lighting, no strange glow.  Only the barest hint of a shadow of a microsmile.

The Door from the Stairwell: >BURST!!!<

Alex & Rex: >huff puff huff puff huff puff< Yaaaa! >huff puff huff puff huff puff<

The Fire Escape: >CLANG<

Clara & Molly: >wheeze< Yaaaa! >wheeze<

Baroness: >notices the new arrivals<

Almost simultaneously…Clara decides to shoot the Baroness, and takes aim. Molly decides to shoot at the Jaguar, and takes aim.  Alex grabs a nearby wrench, and takes aim.  Rex decides to shoot the Baroness as well, and takes aim.  Jack continues his patter.

Various Guns: >Pew! Pew! Pew!<

Various Bullets: >Zing! Zing! Zing!<

Wrench: >Fwip! Fwip! Fwip!<

Result: *

The Baroness:  “Mr. Incognito…?”

Jack: “Yes?”

Baroness: “Catch!”

The jaguar (with a small dent in it now) arcs gracefully through the air.

Molly aims again, this time at the Baroness’ head. 

Bullet: “A hit!  A very palpable hit!”

Clara aims again, also at the Baroness’ head.

Bullet: A miss, but only a very slight miss.

Alex pulls some hatpins from her purse and aims.

Hatpins to Shoulder: “Helloooo!”

Baroness: >glaring at Alex< “Petrenko!”

In the time that all this has taken place, the Jaguar has completed its arc and Jack catches it.

Rex aims again as well, but the most that can be said is “Well, at least he didn’t hit Jack.”

The Baroness, having grown weary of being shot, wrenched, and hatpinned, opens the door on her black, black heart releasing a burst of red, red flame.

Molly and Clara duck down again behind the lip of the roof to avoid the blast.  Jack, still carrying the jaguar, exits stage right-right over the edge, that is!  And down, down, down to the happily placed awning below.  Alex, having seen the Baroness’ hand move, and knowing immediately what that entails, executes several flips to propel herself behind the stairwell housing, with only a slightly singed hem to show for her encounter.  Rex drops to the ground, his gun still trained on the Baroness, the flames passing harmlessly above his head.

The Baroness rotates slowly in the air, so she is actually facing the lightning bolt as it streaks from the sky and strikes.  Whether it strikes her, or simply nearby her is not immediately clear as the all the observers are suddenly more concerned with avoiding being either electrocuted or set on fire. 

When the smoke clears, there is a noticeable lack of Baroness. 

Surely, nobody could survive a direct lightning strike…

Tune in Next Time to Find Out!

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Chapter 11:
The Flying Woman

Clara peers up over the side of the building.  Rex is pointing his gun wildly, blinking against the remains of the rain and the lightning flash.  There is decidedly no blackhearted body among the smoldering tar paper.  She scans the skies for signs of a vapor trail.

Pretty clouds.  No Blackheart.

Soggy and bedraggled, the rest of the team appear from their hiding places.  Clara looks concerned: “Where’s Jack?”  The distant sound of a rhythmic whoosh-and-fwump hints at Jack’s current location ten stories down, nine stories down, eight stories, seven….

What the doorman sees…

“…aaaaaAAAAHHHH!!!”  Jack perfectly sticks the landing, one arm upraised in triumph, right in the backseat of Molly’s car.  He bounces once, and lands, left leg crossed over right, jaguar resting in his lap.

“…TA-DAAAAA!!!”

As the team races downstairs they screech to a collective halt at the site of Jack’s nonchalant smile.  He nods in the direction of the stupefied doorman.

“Someone should really tip him.”

Back at the auction house…

The group return to find the aftermath of mass chaos and general hysteria.  The police are attempting to take care of the remaining problems.

“Dr. Bishop, you may want to put a leash on this cat.”

“Oh.  Thank you.  George.  Our Auctioneer.”  A nearby policeman hears this, and becomes interested.

“Don’t go anywhere – the Inspector is going to want to talk to you…”

Jack excuses himself to the restroom and sneaks out to the car, where he’s met by the rest of the team.  Leaping into the car, they head off to the club.  There are no tails, no thugs lurking with intent, and no previously scheduled ambushes to hinder their progress.

As they pull up, Alvin stands a little straighter: “Mr. Griffon has asked to meet you in the…Edison Room.”

They ride the elevator to the 7th floor, where the elevator attendant has to use a special key to open the door.

They open the door to see two gentlemen standing on either side of the door looking utterly chalant.  Molly knocks on the door.  It’s opened by a nondescript, middle-aged man.  Behind him in the room, a number of men in military garb and a few suited gentlemen are arranged in various seats.

Aldous Griffon introduces himself and ushers them in.  He and the other suits (one of whom is a woman) are introduced as the Steering Committee (of the Century Club’s Board of Directors, or words to that effect).  He also introduces General Benjamin D. Foulois, who is known for being the first military aviator.  General Douglas MacArthur (Army Chief of Staff) gets the next introduction.  As it happens, all of these people  were coincidentally meeting to see a practical demonstration of a new advances in Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) technology developed recently by Tesla, Girardeau, and Page.

A bunch of brains and a bunch of brass.

Imagine their surprise when their radar picked up a tiiiiiiny blip, which was later determined to be a single person.  A single FLYING person.

Much chaos and furor and shouts of ’"we cannot allow a flying person…gap!" ensued.  At the moment, all eyes are turned to Alex for an explanation. 

“Yes, it was…Baroness Blackheart…”  Alex proceeds to explain what she knows of the Baroness’ technology.  “Is she still on the RADAR?”

She is not, but the flight pattern would seem to indicate Europe, possibly France.  Ships in the Atlantic have been alerted to keep watch for flying people.  As Alex continues speaking, she overhears one of the brass requesting a particular file to be brought forth.  Alex conjectures that the tag on the file is referencing the case in which the Intrepids first worked together.  Her realization is broken by the revelation that one Senor Rojas has contacted the club in order to offer the services of his personal seaplane in order to pursue…an object…across the Atlantic.  He is waiting in the smoking parlor downstairs for an answer.

The answer from the group is simple: they’re absolutely not taking Rojas’ plane.  Clara takes the opportunity to call around to her various contacts regarding the availability of a seaplane.  Molly takes the opportunity to contact her bank regarding the availability of funds for buying a seaplane.

The folder is produced, which leads the reader to feel a great sense of confidence in the group’s ability to ‘take care of this.’ 

SeaplaneClara has managed to find a super-special-trans-Atlantic-on-a-single-tank-of-gas-seaplane; The group meet it at the Hudson and begin the trip to France.  All eyes are on the skies…and seas.  In the last reported sighting of The Flying Woman, she was on the same course.

As the flight continues, the team scans the horizon.  Way in the distance, surrounded by a cloud formation that has fascinated Jack, Molly notices a tiny little black speck which seems to be descending in a controlled fashion.  Alex, using her ubiquitous spyglass, confirms that the figure (who is likely heading for Paris) is indeed the Baroness.

As Clara prepares the plane for its own descent to Paris’s Orly airfield, all aboard wonder where this next leg of the journey can possibly take them. 

Except for Jack, who’s still enjoying all the pretty clouds.

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Chapter 12:
Planes, Autos, and Towers Eiffel...

Alex: “Is that a plane?”

Clara: “Are those flames?”

Jack: “Damn you, Senor Rojas!”

Clara: “Dodging.”

Jack (Telepathically to Alex in a surprisingly girly voice): We’s gon’ die!

With a trademark screeching of wings against cloud-banks, Clara peels away to the right and upward, barely dodging the fire raining down from the encroaching devil-insignia’ed plane of Senor Rojas.

Clara barks instructions: Alex is to keep an eye on the Baroness and call directions, Molly is to keep an eye on the approaching flame-spewing plane, Rex is to get to the back and start improvising some sort of smoke screen, and Jack is to be both brawn and unbridled enthusiasm as Clara maneuvers in circuitous ways towards the unsuspecting streets of Paris.1934 eiffel tower

Alex: “She’s laaaanding!”

The radio crackles to life and Jack grabs the receiver: “’Allo, ’Allo!”

The voice of Pierre Antoine-Pierre breaks through the static: “Is it you?”

Jack: “It is we!  It is also a Baroness before us, and a Vache Espanol in the rear.”

Pierre: “Quoi?”

Jack: “A Sikorsky blah-blah is harrying us!”

Pierre: “Alas.  Still, we have a message for you from Msr. Griffin in New York….”  Having done some investigation, the big brains back at headquarters have figured out that Senor Rojas does not exist.

Jack: “Clearly somebody exists – he’s shooting at us!”  Pierre has no response for this, so Jack decides to simply request cannon fodd – ahem – reinforcements to meet the Baroness as she descends to within sight of the Eiffel Tower.

Clara steps on the gas in a most epic way.  New G-forces are discovered by unsuspecting internal organs.

Rex continues to make things spark and clang in an interesting yet slightly distressing way.

Staring out the back, Molly is surprised to note that someone appears to be standing on the wing of “Senor Rojas’s” plane.  Dressed in a cloak embroidered with mystic runes and making various hand gestures, this figure is in fact throwing balls of fire.  After hearing this announcement, Clara makes a command decision…

“Hang on, everyone – we’re giving them the slip!  Rex, release the smoke!  Jack, flip the switch!  Jack!  I said… oh….”

In a brilliantly executed maneuver, Clara muscles the plane into the sky, allowing the other plane to slide beneath them in the thick cloud of smoke.  The fuel rains down upon that plane as their pilot attempts a complex turn in order to retain the advantage.  Despite the greater bulk of her plane, Clara confidently matches them turn for turn. 

At that moment, there is a small flash of light in the smoke, and then a resounding  FWOOMP! and a happy   bzzzzzzzzzzzz… (as the flame-hurling figure ignites the dumped fuel and engulfs El Rojas Diablo in flames. It spirals wildly towards the ground.)

With a look of abject and almost childlike glee (wishing idly for a few marshmallows), Jack intones, “I’m going to miss that guy.”

Clara: “Uh-oh.”

Others: “Uh-oh?”

Clara: “Engines one and four are gone.”

Others: “Uh-oh.”

Seine


Clara: “We’re heading for the Seine.”

Jack, helpfully: “Head for the wide part.”

Clara: “Everyone find a seat.”

Epically, Clara not only lands in the Seine…not only lands without a splash…but ALSO is able to execute a perfect 360 degree turn in mid-air six inches above the water.  Regrettably, this last bit of brilliance actually causes the wing to nick the edge of Notre Dame.  The locals, wielding day-old baguettes, are less than thrilled at this intrusion.

At the back of the crowd, Pierre Pierre can be seen making his way forward, carrying a plate of welcoming cheese cheese, wearing a jaunty beret beret, and waving ’Allo, ’Allo.  Behind him, the police are less than amused amused because of the damage damage done to Gaston, the gargoyle.

Molly, with her knowledge of all things linguistic, is able to quickly ascertain that witnesses definitely saw a plane go down, likely in the English Channel.  It is agreed that no one — absolutely positively no one — really, no one — could have survived that.

Pierre Pierre and company attempt to escort the group away from the center of the forming mob.

Pierre: “Perhaps you’d like to freshen up?”

Jack: “Of course!  Just a moment…”  And with that, poof, he’s gone! [exit Kevin Spacey, stage left]

The rest of the group retire to the lobby of a nearby hotel, secure in the care of Collette (Collette: “’Allo!”) They’re assured that local gendarme are on the lookout for the Baroness and that Pierre Pierre will be back shortly with the results of the search.

At the hotel, they receive two messages: 1. Pierre Pierre is on his way back.  2. Nigel announcing that he’ll be there shortly. 

Pierre Pierre:   “Poor Claude, he is morte!”

In addition to their lives, they also lost the Baroness.  When last she was seen it was near La Bibliotheque Nationale.  Possibly she was pausing to pay a fine.  By throwing a car at them.

Clara “chats” with the police about her part in Gaston’s desecration.

Nigel shows up, rather disheveled and in desperate need of tea.  He comes bearing paperwork.  Alex and Molly are elated.

Among the paperwork are the copies of the original papers which went missing during the massive acid attack. 

The pages are double-sided, of course, and as soon as Alex looks at the back of the photo of the code document she is struck by the fact that there are both random lines and fold marks visible on the picture.  After some impressive origami, Alex and Molly are able to not only make Crane-Dancing-On-Lonesome-Waterfall, they are also able to reconstruct an actual MAP!

But when they attempt to pin a location to the map, it becomes apparent that it is actually a part of the ocean at the moment.

At that moment Pierre Pierre rushes in to announce that there is un petit probleme.  The Eiffel Tower appears to be surrounded by a hedge which is impeding pedestrian traffic, and becoming a drawing point for more locals with day-old baguettes.  Since these were also seen carrying lit cigarettes, Pierre Pierre is more than a little worried.

Intending to smooth things over with the locals, Clara happily agrees to drive the team over to investigate the Hedges of Doom.

Citroen convertible 1937a
Cute Li’l French Car: >bzzzz<

Clara: >glares at car<

Cute Li’l French Car: VROOOM…?

Clara: >grins<

Others: Eeeee!!!!

As they come within sight of the Hedge of Doom, they notice the ubiquitous black-robed figures (the black robes also having the insignia of the Ordo Templii Orientus emblazoned on them) standing sentry.

Clara: “Can we just shoot them?”

Clara parks the car and the group gets out to inquire about the situation.  The arrival of the men-in-cloaks coincided with the arrival of the hedge.  There also appears to be a man at the top of the tower who may be conducting all this.

Clara: “Pierre, do you like this car?”

Pierre: “Quoi?  It is my father-in-law’s.”

Clara: “Great!  Pierre, we’re going to the top – are you with us?”

Pierre:  >nervous< “Eeh…”

Clara: “Pierre, go tell them [the gendarmes] that no matter what they see or hear: WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS!”

Others: “Yay!” >collective fist pumping and piling back into the car<

Clara: >whistles Dixie<

34314412762140081
Cute Li’l French Car: MON DIEUUUUUU!!!!!

Black-Cloaked-Men in Front of Hedge: >airborne< Wheeee…..

Hedge: >squish<

Clara pulls up in front of the elevator, and Molly shoots the Black-Cloaked-Man-in-the-Elevator.

The group rides up in the elevator, and notice that the further they climb, the brighter it gets.  In fact, it appears that  the rays of light are actually focused on a single point on the ground.  To pass the time while ascending, Alex touches the hem of the cloak and waits for the vision.View from elevator

She sees a planning meeting which is about the Ritual of Knowing and attaining what they seek.  It appears that even some of the people present aren’t entirely sure about what’s going on.  They’re just there for the tantra. 

>DING< 

Clara: “Top floor-mayhem, carnage, and general tail-kicking.”

Rex: “We may be ambushing the bad guy – in essence.”

Ambushed Badguys: “Reynaldo, why are you….?”

Clara’s Gun: BAM

Molly’s Guns: BAM BAM

Ambushed Badguys: >expire efficiently but not quietly<

Alex: “To the ritual platform!”

Expiring Badguy: >wolf whistle< [He can see up her dress…]

Rex’s Fist: “Hellooooo, sailor!”

Badguy’s Jaw: >crunch<

Clara’s Gun: BAM

Molly’s Guns: BAM? BAM?

Rex’s Other Fist: “Goodnight!”

Clara: “Onwards and upwards!”

Meanwhile, at the top of the ladder, wherein lies the ritual platform, Alex finds…some hostages, yet more Men in Cloaks AND (drum roll), “Senor Rojas!”  Who is looking a bit on the disheveled  yet triumphant side.  High fives all around, while some of the underlings begin extinguishing the candles and tidying up the magic bits and baubles.

Alex takes advantage of her stealthy approach and flings one of the ashtrays at a Man in Cloak.  He staggers forward and goes over the edge. 

Eiffel tower from top platform
As Alex pauses to calculate her next move, in her peripheral vision, she notices a little pig-tailed girl clutching a red balloon quietly singing “Frere Jacques.”  In what can only be described as a distressing revelation which Alex may never successfully erase from her brain, the little girl rises up…and up…and up, revealing an all-too-familiar form.

The last robed figure, sensing something out of the ordinary, turns slowly to look into the eyes of…

Alex: “Jack?”

Jack: “Dormez-vous, m#th#rf##k#r.”

216264 real purpose eiffel tower
Jack’s fist: POW!!

Last Robed Figure: >TKO<

Meanwhile, Alex decides to interrogate her employer…assertively.  Rushing forward with her knife poised, she attempts to simultaneously put him into a pointy headlock and engage her Psychometry.

The vision she receives reveals the ritual: by turning the Eiffel Tower into a divining rod of magical awesomeness, they were able to locate the position of the treasure.  Unfortunately, the shock of the vision allows Rojas to recover and reverse the headlock. 

Seeing this, Jack unsheathes his own knife.  It flashes through the air, whistling past Alex’s ear and embedding itself firmly in Rojas’ shoulder.  Alex can actually feel the handle of the knife vibrate against her earlobe as it enters.

Simultaneously, Molly blows the head off of the final minion and Clara (using her singular engineering skills) shoots Rojas in his other shoulder while carefully avoiding hitting Alex.  Rex leaps to Alex’s ‘rescue’ and the two of them gracefully pirhouette off the ritual place and begin the delicate descent downwards towards the observation deck (?!).

Rex: >cheerfully< “Don’t worry!  I have a plan!”

Alex, gazing up at the receding platform sees only the outline of a lone, red balloon.

Eiffel balloon

To Be Concluded…

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Chapter 13:
Race to the Pirate's Cave!

Previously in the Case of the Silver Jaguar… Rex and Alex were falling off the Eiffel Tower to their DOOM!

The wind rushes past…

Rex: >shouting over the wind< “I’ve been working on isolating the lateral spatial transducers… Let me try something! If we calculate the point at which we hit Terminal Velocity… and then reverse the apogee… Hang on tight!”

The baguette-wielding crowd is amazed to see the falling pair of people suddenly >poof< out of existence, reappear several feet above the ground and resume ‘falling’ upwards to a height even taller than the tower.  At this point gravity stops their “upwards fall” and Rex activates this TVM again and they >poof< back to a level just above the hedge, and with a small “crunch” they land gently.  The crowd takes a collective drag on their collective cigarettes.  (Paris is indeed the best of all possible cities…)

Meanwhile, back on top of the tower, Rojas remains both shot and stabbed.  Molly decides to assist the situation by shooting off his kneecap.  Rojas staggers back and grabs onto one of the railings. 

Clara: “Perhaps you should take a seat and explain.”

Before Rojas can say more than: “Given the circumstances…” the lot of them are tossed back and forth as the tower begins to shake.

Back on the ground, the remaining be-robed minions have begun chanting and gesticulating again.  One of the legs of the tower begins to break free from the ground.  The crowds step back a pace or two, the cigarettes burn a little brighter in the gasps of terror, and there is a general crunching as baguettes are dropped to the ground and trodden unceremoniously underfoot.

Jack: “What the hell is happening?”

Rojas: “My associates have apparently executed the contingency plan.”

Jack: “And that contingency plan is?”

Rojas: “Ripping the tower loose from its moorings.”

Jack: “To what end…?”

Rojas: “So one of you will be kind enough to escort me to the bottom.”

Jack: “Through the air-I’d be willing to take that trip.”

Rojas: “After you, Senor…”

Jack plucks the jaunty hat from off Rojas’ head and flings it over the side.  Wrapping him with a spare piece of cable, Jack drags Rojas off to the stairs.  Molly and Clara keep their guns trained on him as they move towards the elevator.  As they pass the hostages, Jack and Clara explain that they should wait until the tower stops shaking before attempting to take the stairs down.

As they glide gently down, Clara takes the opportunity to grill him further.

Clara: “What was your group looking for?”

Rojas: “Something of interest…to some people.”

Clara: “And where is this object…now?”

Rojas: (chuckles) “With the rest of the pirates’ treasure of course.  That IS of course why Miss Petrenko was hired.  I could have saved a lot of resources if the job had been done right….  Now I’m sadly behind schedule.  And that woman with the oven in her chest appears to be ahead of us.”

Elevator: >ding<

Rojas: “It seems we’ve arrived.”

Jack: “I understand somebody ordered tapas?”

Minions: (outside of the hedge, still gesticulating) ???

Rojas: “Ha.”

The group decides to head to the car and muscle Rojas into the car, as he says “Don’t worry-I can take it from here.”  As they begin to drive, the footing comes completely loose.  Rojas sighs.  “You did want this to stop, no?  Well, thank you, it’s been lovely.”  Resignedly, they pitch him out of the car.

Using the communicator device, Jack attempts to contact Rex and Alex and they are reassured that everybody survived.

As they drive to pick up Rex and Alex, they hope to take down a few more be-robed minions.  Alas, said minions seem to dissolve into the hedge, and the hedge itself sinks back into the ground as though it never existed at all.  The crowds, slightly dazed from the clouds of cigarette smoke hanging in a haze over the ground, stagger off to find new baguettes and possibly have a lie-down.

Without even attempting to find poor Pierre Pierre, they race to the nearest telephone.  Nigel has finished locating the old cave formations which harbor the treasure and Rex has located a bathysphere.

Clara: “One more piece of new technology we can trash.  Woo!”

The Intrepids then race south to il de Re. At the bathysphere, they are greeted by the inventors of the bathysphere, William Beebe (an American biologist) and explorer Auguste Piccard, and a Swiss-born Belgian physicist Jacques Piccard.

Auguste Piccard: “’Allo!  Look at what we have built!”

Clara: “Lovely-how fast does it go?”

Auguste Piccard: >blink blink<

Clara and the inventors discuss important things like “What to do if someone starts bleeding from the eyeballs” and “Brakes-when they fail”  They also mention the sudden appearance of “smokey bubbles…” as though someone were already down there.

Alex: “Blackheart! She’s already down there.”

Clara: “Let’s go.”

As the bathysphere descends, there’s a lot of creaking hissing and popping of ears as they begin the descent.  With little trouble, Clara is soon piloting the ship like a pro.  Soon the cave formation is in sight, and Clara deftly maneuvers the ship into the cave, docking in a cavern which is apparently filled with air.

In the distance, they can see light flickering-apparently flame.  

Jack: >hushed< “Do exactly as I say…” >stealth, stealth, stealth<

Everyone else: >stealth, stealth, stealth<

Amidst the lichen, they see treasure scattered everywhere.  Jack surreptitiously slips a few things into his pocket.

As they move closer to the lights, they notice the sound of voices (yes, plural).  One is clearly the Baroness asking: “Who dares…?”

Peering around the corner, the group is not entirely surprised to see an unharmed ‘Rojas’ standing there as well.  His image flickers, and he says: “Professionally, I’m known as… The Warlocke…”

The Baroness, unimpressed, produces her gun.

Blackheart: “I WILL NOT BE DENIED. I NEED THIS STAFF TO GET THE CAMBRIDGE CRUCIBLE!!”

Warlocke: "The Cambri- Wait, what? Stop for a moment. You need Newton’s Crucible from his time at Cambridge?

Blackheart: “Yes. And you won’t stop me.”

Warlocke: “Wait. Stop. Talk to me a moment. There were 4 Cambridge Crucibles. Do you need a particular one?”

Blackheart: “Well…the Second would be best, but I have a deal going to get the Third one in exchange for this Staff.”

Warlocke: “I can get you the Second Crucible. Make a deal with me. The Second Crucible for the Staff.”

Blackheart: “You’re a liar. Merkeson has the Second Crucible, and he won’t trade with anyone.”

Warlocke: “Merkeson owes me. He owes me big. He will trade with me, and I will trade with you. Make the deal.”

Blackheart: “I can’t trust you. You will betray me.”

Jack’s knife flashes in the darkness, aimed at the staff.

Knife: “Boi-yoi-yoi-yoing.”

In the distance, there’s the sound of rumbling, as though of cannonfire.

Jack: (telepathically to Alex) “I swear to God if this involves time travel I am marching straight back to the bathysphere and clinging to its hull until I die.”

Alex: (telepathically to Jack) “I’m just going to intimidate them all with my boomstick until they make me their queen.”

In the next few minutes, the Baroness and Rojas are both successfully shot twice.  The rumbling continues, still distant, but fairly ominous nonetheless.  The water also appears to be rising in the cave.

As the bullets continue to fly, The Warlock grabs the staff just as Molly shoots it, splintering it into a thousand pieces.

The Warlock: “No, you fool!”

As he is thrown backwards by the magical force, a strange wind blows through the cavern. 

Clara: “To the bathysphere!”

Alex: >grabbing one of Molly’s guns< “Not while Blackheart’s still breathing…”

Jack tackles the Baroness, plunging with her into the water.  She flails ineffectively at Jack’s face, as her horrible heart slowly succumbs to the water.  Alex grabs her legs and pins her further down.  Molly and Clara race for the bathysphere.

When Rex, Alex and Jack emerge from the water it is without the Baroness.

Clara: “Where is she?”

Jack: “She was drifting downward – nobody could survive that…”

Glances are exchanged, as are sighs.

As the cave begins to crash down around them, they race for the exit, pausing only periodically to grab handfuls of jewels along the way.  

The next voyage of the bathysphere is successful, though upon reaching the surface they find an intense storm has come out of nowhere, preventing them from heading towards the mainland any time soon.  Madame Leschende is thrilled to see everyone, especially Clara, and hosts a lovely fishermen’s feast in their honor…

Thus ends the Case of the Silver Jaguar.

The Intrepids Shall Return…


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A New Adventure...
Chapter 1: Turkish Delight

From the private journal of Rex Tesla:

2 Sept 1934

Jack is missing!

Alex received a telegram at the Club, ostensibly from Jack. We were then called before Aldus Griffon and the Steering Committee, as it seems that not only is Jack missing, but so are a cache of pre-Islamic documents from the Anatolia region of Asia Minor, part of the Century Club’s collection that was just recently cataloged. Surely this is a coincidence!

Hypothesis #1: Jack is not, in fact, missing, but has gotten in over his head, and the telegram is a rouse to distract us. Or a clue as to his actual whereabouts.

After some delightful beverages and a discussion amongst ourselves as to whether this “Sophia” mentioned in the telegram was one of Jack’s seemingly endless strings of relatives, or some sort of coded reference to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul (Sophia + Turkish papers = Istanbul? I have seen weaker leads bear fruit…), we decided to head to Jack’s apartment complex (one of the first “mega” apartment complexes – thousands of apartments in multiple buildings – the forces of Progress continues unimpeded). We also jointly realized that while we all knew where Jack lived, none of us had ever been to his apartment…

After some difficulty navigating the various very similar looking buildings and parking lots (?!) we eventually found the correct building and were promptly confronted by the doorman who wanted to know who we were looking for. Some awkward conversation and an overwhelmingly large bribe (courtesy of Clara) later, the doorman let us in and we took the stairs up to the confounding 4th floor. After still more wandering around (indeed there is nothing… intuitive about how these buildings are laid out), we found Apartment #427. Alex attempted to pick the lock, and found it much more complicated than it initially looked.

Working together – Alex worked on the lock, Molly kept a look-out, I used the Inertia Induction Electro-Spanner, and the lock stayed… locked. Alex tried again, Clara kept a look-out this time, then Molly remembered she’d seen a lock like this at some government facility in the past, and thus was able to give me some direction on how to fine-tune the spanner. I did so, and the lock… popped open! (Hurrah!)

Meanwhile, inside the the apartment… We found the place decorated in a classy, yet generic way… nothing that says anything about the owner…

Upon some searching, we discovered a few, small hiding spots and hidden funds, identity documents, etc. Then Alex looked carefully and discovered the back wall of the closet led to another closet, which in turn leads into an entire duplicate apartment (# 429). Further investigation showed many, MANY articles of clothing (suits, uniforms, hats, etc., etc.) In the sea of semi chaos, there is a chair, a small bookcase, a reading lamp, etc. Using her Engineering knowledge, Clara found a hollow space in the kitchen counter, that — after Alex demonstrates where the catch might be — contained a small fortune in diamonds and many more sets of identity papers, deeds, titles, etc.

Molly searched for anything related to Turkey and found that Jack has many books on the current state of many wealthy places.

Also in the hiding place, we found a black box with a big letter “S” on the top, which Molly recognized the family crest as the Starkerforth Family – the “marks” in Jack’s first big con when he was a young lad of ten. The box contained a pocket-watch, a signet ring, and a note addressed to “Jack.” Alex “flashed” on the pocket-watch in the box and got a vision of how Jack’s first con played out. Clara was looking at negative space, to see if any square footage was missing; she didn’t find anything of note.

Molly found a box of Turkish delight that contained (within) a note addressed to Alex. Said note read: [“No, seriously, Don’t Follow Me! Can’t guarantee our safety, etc., etc.”] BUT THEN… Alex “flashed” on the note and saw a vision of Jack writing it in that very room with at least three men with guns on him while he wrote the note. Another man is putting some old scrolls and papers into a valise. As he finished the note and put it in the Turkish delight, “Vision Jack” took a significant look at the ice-box.

Alex rushed to the ice-box… ANOTHER jar of mustard (which Jack hates), and inside she finds a key to a bus locker, a note with a Turkish address, and a man’s ring she had never seen before. Alex put the ring on to get ANOTHER vision, and it’s Hamit Nur (the scholar visiting from the Club’s Istanbul chapter) who’s on the phone (in Turkish) and he’s saying something like, “uh-huh, uh-huh. Just please don’t hurt them.” The key flashed on the locker at the main bus depot in Brooklyn.

Revised Hypothesis (#2): Jack was kidnapped along with the papers (why would they need Jack?) by party or parties unknown (at present) and is leaving us clues to his whereabouts while seeming to do the opposite for his captors. But why?

And then…

Clara heard the opening of the front door in the adjoining apartment (#427). And some stealthy footsteps. Clara rushed to close the secret door between the closets. She then whispered, “Hide!” We did as asked.

Clara listened to the intruders’ progress in the other room. When they seemed to find the hiding spot, Clara used the wrist telegraph to send “They’re coming.” Everyone got ready.

A large thug barreled through the secret partition and came crashing into the room. Clara, having the drop on him, told him to sit on the bed. He replied by looking shocked and pointing his gun at her. Alex threw a shoe at the thug; it rebounded off his shoulder. Molly pointed a gun at the thug and said (in her most chilling voice), “I believe the lady said ‘sit down on the bed.’” The thug complied.

Clara was then hit by a bullet which came from the darkness of the closet. Clara returned fire by applying her masterful grasp of physics to determine exactly where the guy was based on the hole in the door.

“Oof!” and the body hits the floor.

I used the TVM to speed up and dodge the bullet the thug fired at him. A second thug shot at Alex (she dodged). And a third shot at Clara, unfortunately hitting her (Ouch!).

Molly shot the gun out of Thug #1’s hand.

I took a swing at Thug #4, and was blocked by the ruffian.

Clara shot at Thug #4, but missed.

Thug #1 lunged at Molly, but didn’t really accomplish much in the act. Thug #2 shot at Clara and missed. Thug #3 shot at Alex but missed. Thug #4 shot at me, but I was able to dodge.

I then stepped in close, and applied a Bartitsu elbows the guy in a nerve plexus (making him drop his gun) and then punched him soundly in the face.

Clara shot but just barely missed. Alex took up a cane and waded into the fray to smack around Thug #2.

The thugs attacked again and mostly missed except Thug #3 who almost shot Clara, but missed. Thug #4 attacks me with some sort of fancy kick that wasn’t so much so. Points for effort, however.

Molly smashed Thug #1 over the head with a statue. He fell down.

I punched Thug #4 in face again; he hits the back of his head into the wall, which made a sound like a ripe melon, and then slumped to the ground.

Clara shot Thug #2 in the shoulder and he went down (and out!)

Alex swung the cane overhand, clocking Thug #3 in the head, and on the downside hooked his heel, pulling it out from under him and he fell down on tuchus.

Thug #1 (seriously does this guy ever stop?) then jumped up and rushed at Molly. She gracefully pirouetted out of the way and he rushed headlong (and headfirst) into the wall, she slapped him on the tuchus on the way past. (I guess now he stopped).

Thug #2 shot at Alex and missed.

Thug #4 still tried to kick at me, but I stepped out of the way, and somehow Thug #4 wound up on his face.

Molly shot the gun from Thug #2’s grasp and he dropped in the process.

While I mislike striking a downed man, these thugs’ tenacity (no doubt they are well-paid), made it clear he had no intention of surrendering, thus I found myself forced to kick the last Thug (#4) in the head to get him to stay down.

Just then as everyone paused to catch a breath, we heard a slow (nigh-sarcastic) clapping from a mysterious figure, now silhouetted against the light from Apartment #427…

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Case of theTBD, Chapter 2
"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"

From the private journal of Rex Tesla:

2 Sept 1934, Cont’d

The mystery figure turned out to be “the Lark,” a tall, dark and handsome type with a thick Eastern European accent. He said the rest of the of the guys aren’t his. He explains he’s Jack’s “cousin” who Jack had apparently contacted 24 days ago (“some travel time was involved”).

We then decided to interrogate the thugs. The first thug revealed that he is not the ringleader, but points out who the “boss” is. The ringleader is then interrogated and revealed the thugs were hired to break in and steal the bus locker key.

Speaking of the bus locker, we decided to follow up on that next. Turned the thugs over to police by way of the doorman.

We drove to the Brooklyn Central Bus Depot and after a little searching, found the bank of lockers. Alex had the key and so opens the locker while Clara stands watch (she got caught up in some hobo singing “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”). There’s a small Gladstone bag containing a handful of diamonds and a scroll-tube-like device and a bunch of things (knives, saps, etc.) that one doesn’t want to get caught with.

I couldn’t shake the feeling we were missing something, but the singing was somewhat distracting…

After much debate, we headed to “Joe’s Tavern” a watering hole of some repute where not quite everyone knows our names, but close enough. We took the stuff out of the bag to examine more closely. There was a long brass cylinder that has five parts that rotate independently. It’s covered in some sort of mystical writing. Alex handed it to Molly. The other wrapped object is about a fist-sized hunk of quartz crystal. Alex tried to get “a vibe” off of it. As described shortly thereafter, things went poorly as she found herself in the heart of a fire, yet didn’t not feel pain. She heard chanting in an unknown language, and saw the hunk of quartz in the fire with her. Then she was 14 feet tall and fire-smiting the person who did the chanting. Vision ended, but from our perspective Alex was simply thrown across the room by an unseen force.

The Lark and I raced to Alex’s crumpled form. The Lark got to Alex first, saying that he’d heard she had “The Gift,” but he hadn’t realized it was so strong. Alex recounted the vision (per above), and we asked some questions establishing the time period and/or the location (Anatolia, circa pre-Islamic time period).

We then decided to look at the “scroll holder”/cylindrical object. Then we decided to look at the papers for secret writing. Inside the lining of the bag, Alex found some notes in Jack’s shorthand. Clara asked The Lark whether he recognized any of the objects or what he makes of it. He gave some analysis. We decided to split up and have at our respective tasks and meet again in the morning.

The Next Morning at Maury’s Coffee Shop…

3 Sept 1934

Molly’s analysis of the five brass cylinder thingy – she has narrowed it down to a specific village’s local Zoroastrian sun cult. symbols moved
[INSERT CYLINDER INFO FROM PAUL HERE-JAM]

My analysis of the quartz was that it’s a rather non-remarkable example of quartz crystal, and its home location in Turkey is right near where Molly’s places the origin of the brass cylinder thingy. The parchment appeared to be blank by all methods at my disposal.

Molly talked more about the cylinders. [INSERT MOLLY’S ANALYSIS/CYLINDER INFO HERE-JAM]

We then decided the next course of action was to question Hamit Nur, the Turkish scholar. We headed to the Club, while The Lark headed out to the dock to look for a ship.

When we arrived at the club the concierge told us Mr. Nur was in the library.

Clara broke off to ask for permission to use the Icarus. She has to go see Aldus Griffon, head of the club’s steering committee, and after a bit a sweet-talking he signed the form giving her the ship.

The rest of us approached Mr. Nur, and told him they could help him. We went into a side room and talked some more. Nur was clearly on the verge of panicking. Molly reassured him in Turkish.

I then said, “Why don’t you start at the beginning…”

Nur explained that he no sooner arrived here in the U.S., when he received a letter from his wife and it said that his daughter had gone missing. He checked into it via proxy, and it looked like someone had tossed his house and there had been some violence. A day later he got a phone call to take the papers and put them in a satchel and leave them outside of Carnegie Hall. He refused. Then he heard the screams of his wife and daughter. So he did as they asked and dropped the satchel off. But he hasn’t heard from the kidnappers since. He fears he’s only made matters worse. And he knows that Jack is being blamed, but his conversations with Jack were limited to basic and general (and not inappropriate) questions.

The papers themselves are a collection comprised of various papers compiled by a scholar of the time. They range in terms of what they contained (some mundane, but some religious in nature). We asked some questions regarding the papers.

He agrees to come with us (to Turkey, which seems the next logical step in our investigation). The Intrepids will meet at the Airship dock at 5 pm. I wish I knew what we were missing…

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Case of the TBD: Chapter 3
Sky Pirates!!

Everyone shows up for travelling with their gear.  Hamit Nur is last because of taxi drivers and being from out of town.  Trip is uneventful, until… the end…

Electrical storm of large intensity is directly below us.  Five small craft seem to be approaching from behind us.  Molly notices that the airship’s magnetic “drive” while impressive, is about to be affected by sunspots that her colleagues at the planetarium predicted…  We lose thrust and the maneuvering engines are needed to help maintain altitude.

Then we get struck by lightning.

The five planes appear to be air-pirates.

Clara moves the Icarus up and forward, accelerating to maximum speed.  She calls out orders to the rest of the Intrepids, instructing us to begin to repair the damage, man the guns, and work on the engines.

Brief discussion ensues – Molly will assess the damage, Alex will man the guns, and Rex will fiddle with the engines.   Molly puts out a fire, Alex fires on the pirates (some fall back) and Rex is able to increase the engine speed.

Clara tries to take us up to the new max speed but has trouble doing so.  Molly attempts to make some repairs but has no effect.  Alex fires and once again hits her target (he dodges in response, but falls back).  Rex attempts to overclock the turbine by lowering the ramenstein valve, but forgets to disengage the safety first (no change).

Clara tries to pull away and angle away.  Molly goes and joins Alex in the gunnery well; they both fire on the leader.  Rex is able to repair some damage to the ship.

Some hail strikes the windscreen.

Clara tries for speed.  Tries.  Alex helps navigate by pointing out flock of birds.  Molly shoots the pirates.  Rex plugs the TVM into the Vandaley generators.  We all relive the last second and a half or so, fully cognizant of it.  The ship comes back running very smoothly, maximum speed increased.

Clara tries for speed again, and gets up to just shy of maximum.   Alex continues to help navigate.  Molly goes back to Rama to find that he has repaired much of the damage.  Rex mans the guns and shoots the leader.  One of the pirates gets hit by lightning.

Clara finds the ship buffetted by the storm, but heads into a thunderhead hoping the pursuers will take more damage.   Molly works on the repairs with Rama.  Alex mans the guns again.  Rex attempts to use the TVM to move the Icarus through space. 

The lead pirate has a lightning cannon and fries us.  It burns, it burns us…

Clara continues to drive us toward the storm, hoping that the lightning gun will get overcharged and blow up.   Molly mans the guns again and shoots at the lead pirate.  Alex does the same.  Rex uses the TVM and blips us forward.

The lightning gun pirate uses it to zip forward towards us and then disappears.

Clara continues ahead full.  Rex keeps the engines running at full.  Alex shoots at the next lead pirate.  Molly and Rama spot the cloaked pirate leader (briefly).

One of the pirates goes into a dive.  The cloaked pirate leader fires the lightning gun at us again.  Ouch!

Clara holds the ship together.  Rex works on repairs.  Molly calls out bearings for Alex to shot at the cloaked pirate.  Pirates shoot at us again (except for one who crashed and one who gave up).

Clara continues to fly the ship.  Rex and Molly work on repairs.  Alex starts pushing things out the cargo hold in an effort to lighten the load?  The pirate re-materializes right next to the cockpit and shoots Clara with the lightning.  Bzzzzzap.

Rex heads forward after announcing his intention to do so.  He meets Molly and takes the wheel, while Molly attempts to wake Clara.  
Clara wakes up.  The pirate boards the ship, but Alex hears her.

Alex and the pirate battle with crowbars and feet. 

The ship gets struck by lightning three more times.  Clara is able to land the airship just on the edge of the scrubland by the coast.  The goats are surprised.

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